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Saturday, March 31, 2012
Takeaways: Roster spot roulette

By Gordon Edes





PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Takeaways from Port Charlotte, where Bobby Valentine staged his 25th Man Competition while keeping mum on the status of his rotation:

The rotation announcement will come Sunday, he said. He has yet to inform all the principals, he said. Best guess from here: Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront in the rotation, Alfredo Aceves in the bullpen. If that indeed proves to be the case, the Red Sox will have four starters in the rotation who have never pitched for another big league team -- Bard, Doubront, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz -- for the first time since 1988.

That's according to the Elias Sports Bureau (through ESPN's crack Stats and Info department) who said the last time the Sox used four Sox-only pitchers in their first five games was when they ran out Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst, Oil Can Boyd and Steve Ellsworth in '88. Ellsworth, the son of former big league pitcher Dick Ellsworth, was a former No, 1 draft pick who went 1-6 with a 6.75 ERA in eight starts for the Sox, and never pitched in the big leagues again.

Boston Red Sox
Darnell McDonald, right, couldn't make the play as Sox roster hopefuls Pedro Ciriaco, left, and Nate Spears, center, gave chase on a Rays' hit.
Final roster spot update: Valentine had infielders Pedro Ciriaco and Nate Spears change positions in each of the first three innings as they remained in competition for the final roster spot. Ciriaco led off and started at shortstop, then switched to second base, going 1-for-3 with a double and 2 runs scored. For the second straight game, Ciriaco scored from second on a sacrifice bunt. Spears batted second and started at second, then went to third base, finishing 0-for-4 with an RBI. Outfielder Jason Repko, meanwhile, started in center field and batted sixth, going 2-for-4 and scoring a run.

Valentine confirmed what had been apparent for some time, that he did not intend to carry a third catcher, meaning Ryan Lavarnway will start the season back in Pawtucket.

Jon Lester was "terrific, ready" in his final spring training tuneup in minor league camp, Valentine said. Lester struck out 6 and did not walk a batter in 4 innings. Rich Hill, making another encouraging step back from Tommy John surgery, pitched two innings in a Double-A game.

Nick Punto, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Ryan Lavarnway all took at-bats in minor league games. Ortiz hit a home run.

GM Ben Cherington offered little on the Theo Epstein compensation issue in the aftermath of Chris Carpenter's elbow surgery, saying the Cubs are "aware of the situation -- we've talked to them.'' Carpenter had a strained elbow last summer but told reporters Saturday upon his return to Fort Myers that he was having no issues until making his second spring appearance for the Sox. Valentine said the other day that Carpenter "had never said a word" that his elbow was bothering him until shutting it down. Customarily, after surgery to remove a bone spur, it is 8 to 10 weeks before a pitcher can resume throwing, Cherington said.

Cherington said the team had exercised the $100,000 payments called for in the new collective bargaining agreement to keep Vicente Padilla and Aaron Cook with the team until May 1, when both players can opt of their contracts to sign elsewhere if they choose.

Cherington reiterated that Carl Crawford will remain here to continue working out -- he is now taking swings against a batting practice pitcher in the cage -- until he is sent out on a rehab assignment. Cherington said the team will sit down with Crawford to talk about how many at-bats he needs before joining the big-league club.

A decision has not been made yet, Cherington said, on where pitcher John Lackey will continue his rehab. He may split time between Boston and Fort Myers.

Michael Bowden gave up a long home run to Evan Longoria, and after a strong start was trying to keep a tenuous grip on a roster spot that is likely to evaporate when left-hander Andrew Miller is ready to join the team.