After a month of spring training games to make their decision, the Red Sox informed Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard that they will be the team's fourth and fifth starters to open the season. Doubront will get the ball in the team's fourth game on April 9, with Bard claiming the fifth starter spot.
The Sox whittled a field of seven candidates at the start of spring -- Alfredo Aceves, Daniel Bard, Aaron Cook, Doubront, Andrew Miller, Vicente Padilla and Carlos Silva -- to four final candidates in Aceves, Bard, Cook and Doubront. However, none of those four candidates fell from contention, leading the Sox to use almost the entire Grapefruit League schedule to determine how to proceed.
"Usually they'll kind of separate themselves by now, which really hasn't happened," McClure told WEEI.com recently. "They've all been pretty good, I think."
Doubront, 24, appeared in four Grapefruit League games, allowing five runs in 16 2/3 innings this spring (2.70 ERA). The left-hander, who has a career 2-2 record and 4.84 ERA in 23 career big league appearances, struck out 10 and walked six this spring. All three of his big league starts came in 2010.
Bard, 26, went 2-2 with a 6.57 ERA in six Grapefruit League appearances while attempting to pitch in the rotation for the first time since his pro debut in 2007. He struck out a team-high 18 batters but also walked a team-high 16 in 24 2/3 innings.
Aceves will return to the bullpen, where he was so effective a year ago. The right-hander logged 18 innings in five Grapefruit League outings. He gave up 11 earned runs in 18 innings (5.50 ERA), striking out 15 and walking just three. The 29-year-old was dominant as a reliever for the Sox last year, going 9-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 93 innings, while going 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA in four starts.
He made little secret about his desire to start last season, and while he said publicly that he would not be disappointed if moved back to the bullpen this year, there was evidently some dissatisfaction with the Sox' decision about how to use him.
"He wasn't happy about it, obviously," manager Bobby Valentine told reporters of Aceves' reaction. However, the manager added that there was a potential health situation in his bullpen that impacted the decision to have Aceves available in relief.
Cook, who signed a minor league contract with the Sox this winter, was held back at the start of spring as a precaution given the shoulder problems he'd experienced in the last two years. But he impressed once on the mound, with his turbo sinker allowing him to forge a 1.93 ERA (2 runs in 9 1/3 innings) with four strikeouts and three walks.
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