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Red Sox 2011 Bullpen Preview: Albers, Atchison, Bowden

Michael Bowden has a chance to be an important piece of Boston's bullpen. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)

With only so many spots open in the bullpen and so many arms competing, there will have to be some players left off the Red Sox 40-man roster this season. Most of the players previously mentioned in the other posts are pretty much set in stone to make it. The others? Not so fast.

Matt Albers

Currently, Matt Albers is on the 40-man roster because that was what he signed on for. So, right away he’s making the roster, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be sent down to the minors at some point. He does have potential though, as he’s only in his sixth year in the majors. Regarded as a good ground-ball pitcher, Albers was fairly successful playing for Baltimore the last three seasons and has a career ERA of 5.11.

The one year that really hurt him was in 2007 when Houston used him as a starter and he went 4-11 with a 5.86 ERA and gave up 18 of his career 32 home runs allowed that season. Last year, he went 5-3 with seven holds with an ERA of 4.52, while playing in the tough AL East. So, he is used to the teams in the East and that’s good for the Red Sox.

This season I think he will be used sparingly but will be effective when called upon. A record of 2-2 with an ERA of 3.51 and a pair of holds is in his range.

Scott Atchison

Aside from the position players last year, Scott Atchison was probably the biggest surprise out of anyone on the Red Sox. He hadn’t played since 2007 and was invited to spring training. From there he impressed everyone and translated that into success on the field during the regular season. No I’m not saying he won the Cy Young Award or Comeback Player of the Year, but he pitched well and was fairly consistent throughout the season.

Last year was only his fourth season in the majors and the righty will be turning 35 at the end of March. It took him a while to get where he is now and for that I give him a lot of praise. No one else has to but for anyone to who spent most of their career in the minors to finally get a chance in the majors, it takes that person a lot of perseverance. He didn’t make his major league debut until he was 28 years old, and even then he only played three seasons (collectively) after his first.

Atchison may make the roster and it’s not because the team feels bad for him, it’s because he has the work ethic to try and make himself the best pitcher he can be. Last year, he had an ERA of 4.50 with a record of 2-3 with seven holds in 43 games (one start). This year he’ll be a decent pitcher and contribute when needed, whether it is long relief, spot starts or coming in with the bases loaded, I’m sure Atchison will be ready.

Michael Bowden

Michael Bowden heads into 2011 as one of the younger relievers on the team and hopes to build on a decent season last year. Bowden was once a starter in the Red Sox farm system, but with the need being in relief Boston has turned into a pretty good pitcher out of the bullpen. He has worked this past offseason in the relief role in Venezuela as he will be even more comfortable heading into this season.

First brought up to the majors in 2008, Bowden came up for a spot start for his only appearance that season. 2009 didn’t fare too well for the right-hander as he went 1-1 with an ERA of 9.56 in 16.0 innings of work (one start). Last year was better as he had an ERA of 4.70 and a record of 0-1, but definitely made some improvements in his game.

Bowden is signed to be a part of the 40-man roster this season and his playing time will be determined from how Matt Albers pitches. Both players are young and right-handed and that seems to be a crowded section in the pen, so I’m sure Francona will go with whomever is pitching well at the time. Bowden should see some success this year, so I’m thinking around 4-1 with an ERA of 3.29 and two holds.

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