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Franklin Morales Sidelined With Back Issues

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The combination starter/reliever isn't pitching for the Red Sox right now, and no one knows when he'll be pitching again just yet

J. Meric

Franklin Morales is expected to be Boston's first line of defense should a starting pitcher go down with an injury, but as of now, he isn't even pitching. The lefty has been temporarily shut down due to lower back pain, and according to MLB.com's Ian Browne, there is no timetable at all for a return to the mound.

Morales is an important piece of the 2013 Red Sox, given he's a left-handed reliever who can face right-handed hitters without causing Boston fans to cringe with each at-bat. Throw that in with the use he has as a starting pitcher, should it come to that, and he has an obvious place in the Red Sox bullpen. Just like last spring, though, it seems as if injury issues might keep him from ramping up in the way he needs to in order to be ready for the start of the season. It's too early to say that for sure, but the fact there isn't a timetable for his return isn't a positive.

If Morales ends up needing to miss any kind of time to start the season, either because his back is still a problem or because he didn't get to throw enough in the spring to prepare for the regular season, then it makes it even more likely that fellow lefty Andrew Miller will make the Opening Day squad. Miller was very productive in 2012, after the Red Sox restricted him to the stretch and shortened his throwing motion to make the big man's path to the plate smoother.

Losing Morales for any period of time isn't a good thing, but if it turns out the back isn't serious, and Boston gets to keep Miller around longer, then things are at least working out even if they aren't going as planned. Of course, if Daniel Bard can't get things together, and has to be optioned to Pawtucket to begin the year, then there is going to be an "extra" slot in the bullpen regardless of Morales' condition.