FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The seeds of a potentially dominant back-end bullpen unit were on display at Red Sox camp on Saturday, with Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey and Daniel Bard all throwing live batting practice sessions on the back fields.
The Red Sox are hoping for bounce-back seasons from Bailey, now fully recovered from last season's thumb surgery, and Bard, now locked into a relief role after last season's unsuccessful starting bid. Hanrahan comes aboard after two All-Star seasons as the Pirates' closer.
"We have a lot of closers here," Bailey said. "Or guys who can close."
Bard is a subject of particular fascination, given his travails in 2012. Manager John Farrell said he wants to see Bard stay aggressive with his pitches, even in live BP. General manager Ben Cherington stressed that Bard should simply be viewed as one of the guys.
"One of the things we've talked with Daniel about is, let's not make this a story every day," Cherington said. "He's a healthy pitcher getting ready for the season. I understand what happened last year, so he's of interest. But there's a lot of other guys just like him, getting ready for the season, and he's back in a role that should be comfortable to him."
The depth of bullpen options in camp isn't likely to coerce Cherington and Farrell to carry 13 pitchers and only 12 position players on the Opening Day roster.
"You can't rule it out," Cherington said. "But especially with David [Ortiz] on the team, we've always felt our team works better with 12 pitchers. We've carried 13 at times, due to extenuating circumstances."
Cherington addresses former Red Sox's comments
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Between Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford taking swipes at the chemistry in the Boston organization to Jonathan Papelbon speaking out about the club's former trainer, the Red Sox have seen no shortage of ugly headlines emanating from elsewhere.
General manager Ben Cherington addressed those comments on Saturday, emphasizing that his focus is on the here and now.
"These stories that have been out there," Cherington said, "are really about things that have happened in the past and not things going on now."
Papelbon told ESPNBoston.com last week that he and other members of the Red Sox were regularly injected with Toradol, a legal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is controversial because of its side effects. Papelbon also made negative comments about former Red Sox trainer Mike Reinold, who was dismissed after last season.
"As everyone knows, we've gone through quite a bit of change the last two years," Cherington said. "It's been a two-year process of reorganizing the medical staff. It was all done with the intent of putting not just the most talented group together, but a group that would earn the players' trust and develop credibility with players."
Meanwhile, in Dodgers camp, both Gonzalez and Crawford had negative things to say about their time in Boston, with Crawford telling the Los Angeles Times it was a "toxic" atmosphere and Gonzalez telling USA Today there was not organization-wide chemistry.
In response, Cherington merely reiterated that the Red Sox did not make the mega-trade with the Dodgers last summer because of chemistry issues.
"It was a trade we felt made sense for the team at the time," Cherington said. "It was not about the players involved, in terms of any issues we had with them. Some of those guys have done a lot for the Red Sox over a long period of time. At the time we said we wish them well, and we still wish them well. We're focused on the guys we have here now."
Sox don't expect Ellsbury's contract to be distraction
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Two young girls, probably in the 12- to 13-year-old range, gave Jacoby Ellsbury the Justin Bieber treatment at Saturday morning's workout, screaming his name as he passed by and breaking out in tears of joy when he waved to them.
It was one of those happy Spring Training sights made possible by the ease of access on the back fields at the Red Sox's complex. Of course, the obvious storyline with Ellsbury in 2013, as he nears free agency at season's end, will be whether or not his days in a Red Sox uniform are numbered.
General manager Ben Cherington addressed the Ellsbury contract situation on Saturday, saying he doesn't expect it to be a distraction.
"He's a very routine-oriented, regimented player who takes care of himself," Cherington said of Ellsbury. "He's obviously talented, knows what he needs to do to get ready for the season. He's missed time in two of the last three seasons because of traumatic injuries. We can't fault him for that. I think he's excited to feel good, motivated to play this year. I don't see it being a distraction at all."
One thing is for certain: There are at least two young Red Sox fans who are really rooting for him to stick around.
Wakefield to tutor knuckleballer Wright
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A familiar face will be back in Red Sox camp next week to help out a not-so-familiar face.
Tim Wakefield has been summoned by John Farrell to come to JetBlue Park and meet with Steven Wright, the knuckleball-tossing right-hander the Red Sox acquired from the Indians last year. Though Wright throws his knuckler harder than Wakefield did, there is a benefit, Farrell believes, to having the two team up.
"Understanding what worked well for Wake is not to say it's going to be the same set of checkpoints for Steven," Farrell said. "But that's a tight-knit fraternity. To have Wake as a resource, he's more than willing to share some of his thoughts and talk about it."
Wright, 28, reinvented himself as a knuckleballer three years ago, after a demotion from Triple-A to Double-A had his career going backward. He was a respectable 10-7 with a 2.54 ERA in 25 starts at the Double-A and Triple-A levels last year, so he's an interesting option for the Red Sox.
"I think it's a little premature to talk about Steven, not knowing him very well," Farrell said. "It's going to take a few outings to get a feel for him."