Reyes' contract purchased by Red Sox
Left-hander improves chances to make Opening Day roster
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- His spot on the Opening Day roster isn't official just yet, but veteran lefty Dennys Reyes is now a step closer to sticking with the Red Sox after the club purchased his contract Saturday, changing his status from non-roster invitee to a member of the 40-man roster.
"My agent told me that they put me on the 40-man roster, but the competition is still going on," Reyes said. "They haven't filled those two [roster] spots yet. I'm still competing. They just put me on the 40-man roster."
By having his contract picked up, Reyes is now guaranteed his $900,000 salary for the season. The Red Sox made the transaction just hours before the deadline Reyes had to utilize the opt-out clause in his contract, which would have made him a free agent.
That said, general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona will continue to keep their options open.
"His contract was purchased," said Francona. "We called him in and talked to him today and explained that to him. Saying that, the season hasn't started yet. We still have some guys in camp, and he's one of them. We still have decisions to make. Everybody likes the movement, his track record, his ability to compete. That's kind of what we told him."
In 669 Major League games, Reyes is 35-35 with a 4.18 ERA. He has pitched for the Dodgers, Reds, Rockies, Rangers, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Royals, Padres, Twins and Cardinals.
One thing Reyes has never done is win a World Series. That's why he is hoping to stick with the Red Sox.
"It means everything," Reyes said. "That's what I'm here for. I've got 13 years experience and have been around a lot of teams. Having an opportunity to play on contending teams the last five years of my career, it's really fun to go into September and play for something. I think that's worth it. These four days [left in camp], I can still compete and show them I can be a Major League pitcher."
It has been a while since Reyes has gone to the end of camp fighting for a roster spot.
"The last time was in 2004 with Kansas City," said Reyes. "It went to the last day. After the last game, they decided to keep me. It's tough. The last four or five days, it gets tougher to get to the park. You're used to being around the park and knowing everybody. It is hard, but at the same time, you understand this is a business. You have to give everything you have and see what comes out of it."
There are two roster spots up for grabs in Boston's bullpen, with Reyes seemingly in strong position to get one of them. Assuming Reyes is on the team, the last spot is between one lefty (Hideki Okajima) and two righties (Matt Albers and Alfredo Aceves).
Okajima and Aceves could both be sent to Triple-A, because they have options remaining. Albers is out of options, which might make the Red Sox more compelled to keep him.
What will it come down to?
"It's depth for the organization, how we best set up our team, not being redundant," Francona said. "We're just trying to have ourselves set up as good as we can, and also knowing how many pitchers were probably going to go through [during the season], we at least have to be aware of that."
While the Red Sox have come out of camp with two lefty relievers more often than not in recent years, the overall strength of this year's bullpen could prevent them from doing that this time around.
"I would say that it's always nice to have two, just because it saves wear and tear on the one," Francona said. "You make a good point about the guys we have at the back end. We're not taking [Daniel] Bard out when a lefty comes up. That makes a good point. And you can't have a 14-man pitching staff. Sometimes you have to make those decisions."
Okajima has been a member of Boston's bullpen since the start of the 2007 season, and a vital one until last season, when he struggled mightily.
How has he looked thus far in camp?
"When he pitches like he can, he's terrific," Francona said. "He doesn't have a lot of margin for error, because his velocity is what it is. When he's hitting his spots and changing speeds, he's actually terrific. If he hangs an offspeed pitch or he doesn't locate his fastball, he gives up sometimes a long one. But he manages the running game. The game never speeds up on him. So there's a lot of good things there."
Okajima has added a cutter to his mix this spring.
"I think he's certainly aware that he's not the new guy on the block and they haven't seen him, things like that," Francona said. "He's trying to combat that."
While the Red Sox are still trying to finalize their decisions, performance in Grapefruit League action isn't going to have a large bearing on who makes the club. Okajima is pitching Saturday night, with Albers set to go on Sunday in Sarasota.
"We love watching guys pitch or maybe do well," Francona said, "but I don't think that it's a pitch-off. I think it's maybe more of us trying to determine where we best set up -- not only for now, but for down the road, and how to go about that."