Sidelined by a back injury after just one spring appearance, John Farrell says that Morales' road back hasn't been as smooth as hoped:
"He's kind of plateaued a little bit," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "While he was feeling some improvement with the medication he was taking, when he was thrown out to 75, 90 feet, he started to feel some tightness there again, so we're backing off him today."
The good news for the Red Sox is that, while Morales has an important role on the team, that role isn't one that needs to be filled immediately. With Morales likely to function as the long reliever/sixth starter, the Sox won't need to call on him unless one of their five starting pitchers misses a start. With Felix Doubront back on the mound, however, the rotation is full for the time being, meaning Morales would function as little more than a mop-up reliever.
In fact, this could end up helping the Red Sox out of a sticky situation in the bullpen if Morales isn't out too long. The Sox have a crowded pen, and losing Morales to the DL would mean they'll have room for one more. Given the improvements seen from Daniel Bard, that likely means that the Sox will be left deciding between Clayton Mortensen and Alfredo Aceves.
Either one can give the Sox a few innings at once in place of Morales, the only question is which one makes makes more sense. On the one hand, Aceves has more experience with longer relief outings than Mortensen, and excelled in that role (albeit with a very low BABIP) in 2011. Mortensen has the same BABIP flag for his successful 2012, but also comes without the baggage of Aceves and has age and ground balls on his side. Neither option is perfect, but this is the last man out of the pen we're talking about.
Perhaps the kicker that pushes Mortensen over the top is this: Alfredo Aceves' $2.65 million contract is non-guaranteed, meaning the Sox can dump him and save some money in the process.