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Red Sox weigh Minors option in roster build

Hembree, Johnson, Marrero among candidates out of options
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With decisions looming for bullpen and bench spots, the Red Sox have options -- at least for some players.

It's that time of year again, when organizations start to agonize over roster decisions. An overriding factor is often if the player still has Minor League options.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With decisions looming for bullpen and bench spots, the Red Sox have options -- at least for some players.

It's that time of year again, when organizations start to agonize over roster decisions. An overriding factor is often if the player still has Minor League options.

For example, right-hander Heath Hembree's chances of cracking a crowded Boston bullpen competition should be helped by the fact he is out of options.

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If Hembree weren't to make the team, the Red Sox would have to designate him for assignment, and it's doubtful he would make it unclaimed through waivers.

"I know I can't get sent down, but then again, I know if they don't want me, there's going to have to be a roster move," Hembree said. "Then again, I'm not taking it any differently. I've always had competition, I've always expected competition and earning my spot, that's kind of always brought the best out in me. It's just taking it as it is and worrying about myself."

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Brandon Workman, who has similar credentials as Hembree as a righty setup man, might not make the Opening Day roster because, surprisingly, he still has an option left. It seems like Workman, who made his debut for the Red Sox in 2013, would be out of them by now. But he missed two seasons entirely (2015, '16) due to Tommy John surgery, so the team was able to preserve his options.

Left-hander Brian Johnson has come in as a bubble candidate to make the team in previous years, but he is nearly certain to crack the roster this season because of his no-options status.

Video: TB@BOS: Johnson strikes out the side in the 2nd

The fact that Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright all seem likely to start the season on the disabled list also helps Johnson's cause to land an early-season rotation spot. Even before that, it seemed the Red Sox were positioning Johnson for a bullpen role so they could keep him in the organization.

"Obviously, the no-options thing matters," Johnson said. "But you know, with a couple guys being down, you kind of sense it -- this is the time to seize the opportunity. You kind of see that. That's the biggest thing for me."

Last year, Blake Swihart was a late cut in camp even after he hit .325. The biggest reason? He still had options.

This time around, Swihart is out of them and also earning his keep by catching and playing several other positions while hitting .342 entering Friday. He will be on the team on Opening Day.

Video: BAL@BOS: Swihart belts a two-run homer to right

"I'm not really thinking about it," Swihart said. "I come into spring with the same mindset every year, to try to win a job. I think that's how I'll do it my whole career, is just to come in and try to win a job. Nothing's ever set in stone. You just have to come in and play the game -- that's all."

There is a second utility spot up for grabs, and that's where things could get interesting. Deven Marrero, a first-round pick for the Red Sox in 2012, is out of options. While Marrero's defense at three infield spots is solid, he hasn't developed much of a track record offensively.

Video: BOS@BAL: Marrero plates De Jesus Jr. with a double

And if the Red Sox keep Marrero, it would probably have to come at the expense of veteran Brock Holt, who surprisingly still has an option left. Tzu-Wei Lin, who also has options, is another player who is in the hunt for the second utility spot behind Swihart.

Rookie manager Alex Cora can relate to the ramifications of options because he was impacted by it at times during his playing career. But it's different when you're the manager.

"I'm learning that one," Cora said. "Through conversations with [president of baseball operations] Dave [Dombrowski], he's teaching me the right way, how it works. I'm a rookie at this. But that's part of the equation on any roster. I think that plays. You've got to keep your options open when you're dealing with the big league roster.

"Sometimes the roster you take early, it might be a perfect roster. It might not be. It all depends. But it's one that you always feel comfortable with, but it doesn't mean that that's the roster that's going to be the one that you're going to have in the middle of the season or at the end of the season, obviously. I'm learning with Dave on that one."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson, Deven Marrero