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Red Sox 2011 Bullpen Preview: Lefties

Felix Doubront (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The Red Sox have five bullpen spots locked up (Jonathan Papelbon, Bobby Jenks, Daniel Bard, Dan Wheeler, Tim Wakefield) and probably two spots left to fill with a number of pitchers. Today, we take a look at the lefties vying for a role in the bullpen. At least one of the following players will fill the role of lefty specialist on the Opening Day roster.

Felix Doubront

One lefty out of the bullpen will be Felix Doubront. Last year as a rookie, he went 2-2 with two saves and a hold. His ERA of 4.32 was high but most of the runs he gave up were when he was making spots starts in June and July. Now that he’ll mainly be in the bullpen (should he make the Opening Day roster), he should have a more comfortable feel for what his role will be this season.

The 23-year-old is still young and has shown that he can be a dependable pitcher as he gave up only four hits and struck out seven in a five-game span last August. Of course, he finished off the season on a tough note by giving up two home runs in an inning in his last outing, but he still has room to grow.

The Venezuelan native will look to be more consistent this season and possibly complement Okajima as the other left-hander in the bullpen. So, what can we expect him to put up in 2011? Assuming he sticks with the Red Sox major league roster most of the season, a record of 3-3 with an ERA of 3.47 shouldn’t be far off. He might get one save and have six holds. Doubront showed he can strike guys out last year (23 k’s in 25.0 innings) and could get around 45-50 strikeouts in 2011, depending on how many innings he logs.

Andrew Miller

Coming over from the Detroit Tigers, this former first-round pick will try and resurrect his career in Boston. Being the sixth overall pick in 2006 out of North Carolina, Miller had a lot of promise in the majors but since then he has struggled to remain relevant at all. For the Red Sox though, Miller could be a major steal. The lefty is able to start games as well as come out of the bullpen.

Now I wish I was able to specify which season was best for Miller, but they have all been mediocre at best. In 2009 with the Florida Marlins, Miller posted a record of 3-4 and an ERA of 4.84 in 20 games (14 starts) and that looks like his best season in the majors. Not too exciting, but maybe he can turn things around in Boston, just maybe.

I envision him starting off the year in either Portland or Pawtucket but eventually being called up for occasional stints in the bullpen. I trust the Red Sox staff and I do think they can work with this kid and not only fix his mechanical problems but give him some confidence as well.

Hideki Okajima

A Japanese native, Hideki Okajima returns to the Red Sox for his fifth season with the team and in the league. This season he’ll look to turn things around after a rough season last year. The lefty had two good seasons to start off his MLB career, but his last two years have been mediocre.

Hoping to be a reliable left-handed source out of the bullpen again, the 35-year-old Okajima needs to be more consistent and cut down on the walks. Since coming to the majors, his numbers have gradually gotten worse, but that doesn’t mean he can’t turn it around. Last season, he went 4-4 with an ERA of 4.50 with 11 holds and four blown saves. He pitched only 46.0 innings but still managed to give up 23 runs and walk 20 batters while striking out only 33. His best season was his first in 2007 when he went 3-2 with an ERA of 2.22 and had five saves and 27 holds. His WHIP was also 0.97, and he had 63 strikeouts in 69.0 innings.

In the 2011 season, we can only hope that Okajima becomes more reliable because the Red Sox need a strong left-hander in the bullpen. A record of 2-3 with an ERA of 3.22 with seven holds would be solid for him. Batters have figured out his side-winding delivery, so it’s unlikely he’ll have more than 35 strikeouts, but hopefully he keeps his walks below 20. If he struggles throughout the season, don’t be surprised if this is his last in the majors.

Dennys Reyes

Dennys Reyes is another lefty hoping to make the roster as a bullpen reliever. His chances? 50-50 at best. The soon-to-be 34-year-old has been the definition of mediocrity in the MLB since he made his debut in 1997, but he has been more successful at the later stages of his career.

Throughout 2006-09, Reyes was very dominant against lefties and as a reliever in general. While with Minnesota in 2006, he posted an ERA of 0.89 with a record of 5-0 and 16 holds in 66 games. That’s pretty impressive. Since then, he has been kind of a roller coaster of a pitcher, with last year not being one of his better years. He posted an ERA of 3.55 with a record of 3-1 with six holds and three blown saves.

So how is he going to far this spring? He’ll probably start off the year in the minors as well. Will he make the call-up at some point during the season? Possibly, but I wouldn’t bet on him to be an every day player for the Red Sox anytime soon. He’s entering his 14th season and also looks like it as well.

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