Notes: Makeup of 'pen to be determined

Updated: February 16, 2010, 7:26 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It's subject to change, but the Red Sox are likely to begin the season with 12 pitchers, according to general manager Theo Epstein. That's the same as they opened with last season.

There may be one or two jobs open for competition in the bullpen, he said.

There would appear to be five locks for a relief spot: Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard, Ramon Ramirez, Manny Delcarmen (who is out of options). To be determined is how the Sox resolve the six-starters-into-five-slots situation, especially since Epstein said that it appears that Tim Wakefield, who had offseason back surgery, is a go to begin camp at the same pace as the rest of the staff.

Wakefield has made it known he doesn't want to pitch out of the bullpen, but it hardly makes sense for Clay Buchholz to return to Pawtucket.

If manager Terry Francona wants another lefty, he'll have four to choose from in camp: roster players Dustin Richardson and minor league free agent Fabio Castro, and nonroster invitees Kris Johnson and 41-year-old Brian Shouse, on his second go-round with the Sox.

As usual, the Sox have plenty of right-handed arms from which to pick, including Boof Bonser, the former Twin who is out of options, and nonroster invitee Joe Nelson, who had a big season for the Marlins two years ago before flaming out with Tampa Bay last season.

Other roster competition: Epstein said you could say the bench is up for grabs, though Jason Varitek would appear to be a lock as backup catcher and Jeremy Hermida as fourth outfielder.

Jed Lowrie, if healthy, could compete to be a backup infielder, but Bill Hall's versatility as infielder and outfielder -- Epstein said though he hasn't played first base, he probably could -- may make him another given.

That would leave just one job, with infielder Tug Hulett, acquired from Kansas City in November, having the inside track.

The Lowell quandary

Mike Lowell will not be ready to swing a bat when regulars report, Epstein said, and may need a couple of extra weeks as he recovers from thumb surgery. That will only prolong the distasteful business of the 2007 World Series MVP being in a camp where he's no longer wanted.

"I don't know that it'll be that dicey," Epstein said. "Like I said, it's one of those things that will take care of itself. Mike's priority is our priority, just to get him healthy, and until that happens, there's not much [to be done].

"He's going to be a little bit behind everybody else because of the surgery he had, but we're going to do everything we can to get him healthy.

"If he's really impressive and impressive to other clubs, then maybe something can be worked out. If not, I'm sure there's nowhere else Mike would prefer to take a lesser role than here."

Lowell has not been heard from publicly since before the winter meetings and his aborted trade to the Texas Rangers, who called off the deal when they determined he needed thumb surgery.

Beckett on board

Josh Beckett, fresh from attending the Daytona 500, was among the newcomers who worked out Monday, though he is not likely to address his contract situation until camp officially opens Thursday. … Francona also showed up, having driven down from Boston. Bard, Buchholz and Okajima were among the other big leaguers to join the workouts Monday. … The Sox have more than 70 minor leaguers working out in a voluntary minicamp, including Cuban shortstop Jose Iglesias. … Epstein said the Sox are keeping an open mind on the outfield alignment, though at this stage, he said, proceeding with the shift of Jacoby Ellsbury to left to make way for newcomer Mike Cameron in center is the best way for the club to go. … Agent Scott Boras did not make a late pass at the Sox regarding the still-unsigned Johnny Damon, Epstein said, nor did the Sox make any calls to the agent.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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