Nothing new, but from Edes on Boston.com -Timlin, Tavarez and Donnelly figure to be the top setup men, and Okajima and Romero (possibly Lopez) are the lefties. The dollars alone say Pineiro will be on the staff, possibly as the closer, or as the fifth starter. That's six positions in the `pen. With five starters (Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield and Papelbon), that would appear to leave one position open, assuming Terry Francona carries 12 pitchers. Hansack, Hansen and Delcarmen stand to be the leading contenders for that final spot. The competition should be intense.
I had taken it for granted that Delcarmen and Hansen would both start off the year in the 'pen, but barring an injury that doesn't seem to be the case. I expect good things from Delcarmen. Though his numbers weren't great last year, I thought at times he showed a lot of poise and promise. I don't think he'll be our closer, but I think he'll be an effective arm. I certainly feel that Hansen could benefit from some time in AAA, where he can focus on his slider and build his confidence. But again, where will he fit in when he's ready to go?
I'm hoping for good things from Romero and Okajima. Romero supposedly suffered from WBC-induced dead arm last year, and though he's always been a little wild, if he can regain the strength he had in Minnesota he could be solid. Even last year he held lefties to a .202 avg., as opposed to .380 for righties (ugh). My gut is that he was probably extraneous and misused in the Angels bullpen (editors note - Hat tip Allen for pointing out he didn't pitch for the Nationals. Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue...). I think he was a good chance to take. Okajima is a question mark, obviously, and his numbers from Japan aren't as consistent as I'd prefer, but then again Takashi Saito's Japanese numbers were inconsistent, and he worked out pretty well for the Dodgers. If those Romero and Okajima are effective, they could do a lot to neutralize Abreu, Matsui, Cano, Giambi and Mientkiweicz (am I even close t spelling that right?) on the Yanks and the Sizemore/Hafner types around the league. I feel like it's been a while since we've had a couple of good lefty options out of the 'pen.
And if Edes is right and we go with a 12 man pitching staff, then we'll only have a four man bench - WMP, Cora, 'Belli, and Hinske.