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Cora expects competition for bullpen roles

New manager doesn't want players taking jobs for granted
Special to MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox had one of the best bullpens in the Major Leagues last season.

Boston's relievers had a combined ERA of 3.15, which was second only to the Indians. The Sox's opponents' average of .226 was fifth and their 1.14 WHIP was fourth, percentage points behind Cleveland's Major League-best 1.14.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox had one of the best bullpens in the Major Leagues last season.

Boston's relievers had a combined ERA of 3.15, which was second only to the Indians. The Sox's opponents' average of .226 was fifth and their 1.14 WHIP was fourth, percentage points behind Cleveland's Major League-best 1.14.

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Many of the roles in the Red Sox's bullpen are set, but that's not to say there won't be competition.

"We've got to see how healthy we are first and we go from there," first-year manager Alex Cora said. "But there's a lot of spots out there and it's a lot different when they're going through Spring Training -- and that's always good. We've still got plenty of time and a lot of things can happen from here to the end of spring.

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"As far as competition, I think everybody's competing, because, like I said before, we take 25 in that first series to Tampa, [Fla.]. But throughout the year, we might need somebody else, and then you can't take spots for granted. ... I'm still learning who they are, I'm still learning what they've got and visualizing how I'm going to use them. So I don't want to get ahead of myself, but as far as competition, I think everybody's competing. Obviously, there's people that we know that they're going to be part of that roster and others, they will be part of the roster later on in the season."

In the former group is closer Craig Kimbrel. But what about the days when he's not available?

"There's a few of them," Cora said. "They have the experience. The one guy that with his stuff and uniqueness, has caught my attention and at the end of the season last year, is Carson Smith. Joe [Kelly] obviously with his stuff, that plays. [Matt] Barnes. We got options. And I think at the end of the day, those last three outs, when Craig is not available, we'll see who matches up better with that part of the lineup.

"If it's people who have trouble with balls down in the zone, then we'll go to that guy. If they have trouble with pitches outside of the plate, we'll go to the other guy. If they have trouble with velocity, well obviously you know where we're going. It's a matter of mixing and matching and know who's coming up with the information that will be provided and we'll go from there."

Nunez a healthy scratch
Eduardo Nunez was in Wednesday's original lineup and playing second in the Red Sox's 8-1 loss to the Twins, but steady rain in the morning led Cora to scratch Nunez from the lineup as a precaution. Nunez, who ended last season with a right patellar tendon injury, is expected to play second base Thursday and Saturday, against the Rays and Twins, respectively, and serve as the designated hitter on Sunday against the Orioles.

Pomeranz progressing
Left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who was diagnosed with a mild flexor tendon strain on Saturday, began throwing on Wednesday, playing catch from 60-90 feet.

"It went fine. Good day for him," Cora said. "So the next one might be 120 in a few days. No pain today, which was great. So we'll see the next time he throws and then we'll go from there."

Up next
The Red Sox host the Rays on Thursday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Left-hander Brian Johnson is scheduled to make his third Grapefruit League start. In four combined innings, he has not allowed a run or a walk, with two hits and two strikeouts. Right-hander Chris Archer is expected to start for Tampa Bay. Fans can watch all the action live on MLB.TV.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox