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Days after signing Bobby Jenks, the Red Sox have inked righthander Dan Wheeler to a one-year deal with a vesting option for a second year (if he appears in 65 games in 2011). Wheeler and Jenks join Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon to form a talented set of righthanded arms out of the bullpen. At times last season, Terry Francona had to rely heavily on Bard to set up Papelbon because he could not trust anyone else.
Wheeler, 33, should show Francona he is trustworthy. Despite the fact he is a righty, he was extremely effective against lefthanded hitters last season. Over 48.1 innings, Wheeler held lefties to a .154/.227/.436/.663 line, and was also strong against righties (.222/.287/.400/.687). He also finished with a 3.35 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 46 strikeouts.
The Warwick, Rhode Island has been pretty effective for several years, first in Houston after a shaky stint with the Mets, and then after he was traded to Tampa Bay in 2007. Four times in his career he has finished with a WHIP below 1.00 (2004, 2005, 2008, 2009), including a career-best 0.87 WHIP in ’09. In that season, he had just nine walks in 57.2 innings and held opponents to a .199 average.
Theo Epstein has inked two righties to help out, but other than Lenny DiNardo and Rich Hill, both of whom were singed to minor league deals, there are no major league southpaws that have been signed. Felix Doubront should figure into the mix, but according to ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes, the Red Sox are still looking for lefties on the open market.
The guys at MLB Trade Rumors offered a few names that are still out there, including a couple the Red Sox have shown interest in in the past: Dennys Reyes, Brian Fuentes, Joe Beimel, Will Ohman, Arthur Rhodes, and J.C. Romero. Reyes is a possibility and the team has been interested in Fuentes, but he wants a three-year deal that could be out of Boston’s price range.
Romero joining the team may be unlikely though, given his prior experience in a Red Sox uniform. In 2007, the Red Sox released him after 23 games. Days later, he was picked up by the Phillies.