FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In his longest outing since 2007, Daniel Bard tossed three shutout innings against the Rays on Saturday night. He allowed two hits and walked two while striking out one.

Of his nine outs, five came via groundballs as he worked his fastball away to right-handers. He also got swings and misses on his fastball, slider and changeup, with the change (which Bard estimated he threw approximately a dozen times) representing a particular point of emphasis.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, now nine months removed from Tommy John surgery, threw a 40-pitch side session on Saturday in which he mixed sliders into his repertoire for the first time since the procedure. After the session, Sox pitching coach Bob McClure suggested that Matsuzaka is progressing extremely well in his rehab, to the point where he looked like a pitcher who never required surgery.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Michael Bowden made his major league debut in 2008, but he has yet to secure a foothold in the major leagues since then. Instead, he has been on an almost constant shuttle between Pawtucket and Boston over parts of the last four seasons.

That shuttle will now stop, as Bowden, 25 is out of minor league options. In all likelihood, the Sox will either have to keep him on their major league pitching staff or make him available to other teams either in a trade or via waivers.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This is the seventh and potentially final spring training for Michael Bowden as a member of the Red Sox.



The versatility of Alfredo Aceves represents part of the challenge in the Red Sox' efforts to sort out their bullpen equation. (AP)FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It is, said Bobby Valentine, the most befuddling aspect of the Red Sox roster. There is no part of the team that has many question marks as the bullpen.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Pirates jumped on right-hander Vicente Padilla for five hits (three doubles) and four runs in the top of the fifth inning as Pittsburgh beat the Red Sox, 7-4.

Starter Clay Buchholz (two runs, three innings) took the loss, but it was Padilla who was hit the hardest, with Pittsburgh doing damage against both his fastball and curve. Scheduled for three innings of work, Padilla ended up contributing just two frames, throwing 29 pitches (22 strikes).

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz, in his second start of the the spring, threw 51 pitches (34 strikes) in three innings of work in which he showed some impressive changeups but also left some fastballs over the plate. Buchholz allowed two runs on three hits (two of which were struck by Pirates star Andrew McCutchen, who lined a single to right-center and launched a majestic double high off the higher-than-the-Green-Monster). He struck out one and hit a batter.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A day after Jonathan Papelbon told a Philadelphia sports talk radio station that Philly fans "know the game better" than Boston fans, Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey -- a lifelong fans of all Philadelphia sports, having grown up 10 minutes from the ballpark -- said he wouldn't distinguish between the two.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox announced that they had reached agreements on contracts for the 2012 season with all 16 of their players who are on the 40-man roster but not yet arbitration eligible. Notable players among the group include reliever Mark Melancon, who was acquired in a trade with the Astros in December, left-hander Felix Doubront (who is competing for a spot in the rotation) and outfielder Darnell McDonald.

The entire group of players who agreed to deals is:

PITCHERS

MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons joined the Mut & Merloni show Friday morning to discuss topics of interest surrounding the Red Sox.

Jose Iglesias has been turning heads with his play at shortstop in spring training, but Gammons said the young Cuban needs more seasoning in the minor leagues.