Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 4/6/12

The Red Sox had a number of potential concerns coming into 2012, including a bullpen bereft of it most reliable arms.  With former closer Jonathan Papelbon now a Philly and Daniel Bard moved into the starting rotation, the club had to wait and see whether its off-season acquisitions could be suitable replacements.

One game in the concerns remain. 

No relief for the Red Sox as bullpen fails in the 2012 season opener (Halip/ Getty)

Of course, the first game of the year is hardly grounds for any serious judgment, and in many ways, Boston had a successful road opener.  Jon Lester pitched a strong game despite some control issues, going seven innings and allowing just one run.  He walked three and struck out four and went to a few too many full counts, but in general it was an encouraging performance.  And though the offense was shut down (predictably) by Justin Verlander, the Sox rallied off of Jose Valverde to put themselves in a position to capture Game 1.

Unfortunately, the combined efforts of newcomer Mark Melancon and interim closer Alfredo Aceves weren’t effective.

Andrew Bailey, brought in this winter from Oakland in a trade that sent Josh Reddick west, was to be Boston’s finisher this year.  But a significant thumb injury has him out until July, leaving Melancon and Aceves as the likely candidates to pitch the ninth.  In this instance, Melcancon took the mound first and allowed a pair of singles before Aceves came on to ensure the loss.  A hit batsman and a third single gave Detroit a relatively easy win in what was otherwise a hard-fought contest.

It’s certainly not a big deal to drop one game, particularly when facing off against the AL’s MVP.  But the relief pitching has faltered; a flaw that had fans worried before Spring Training even started has already taken center stage.  Can these guys hold up?  Can the club survive a season with questionable relief?  With Aceves as the closer, who’s the long man, Vincente Padilla? 

It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.  But let’s not dwell on the failures of a single day, lest this post turn into a Dan Shaughnessy column.    

The Sox will get a chance to bounce back on Saturday thanks to MLB’s ludicrous scheduling (we’re still trying to figure out why Seattle and Oakland had to open in Japan a week before every other team).  Said David Ortiz to redsox.com, “Like I told everyone after the game, ‘Come back on Saturday and play.’ Actually I said Friday, I said Friday (an off day) but somebody tells me, ‘You’re going to be all by yourself tomorrow.’” 

Don’t worry Papi, your way would have made more sense.

Saturday’s title will feature Josh Beckett against Doug Fister.  Boston still has an opportunity to win the series and start the year off on a much better note than it did in 2011.  Still, until the relievers offer some proven consistency, the bullpen is going to be a source of concern.

*****

Sweeney's RBI triple helped give the Sox life (Osorio/ AP)

It was good news in the outfield as Ryan Sweeney was healthy enough to man right.  Then again, good news is relative.  When Ryan Sweeney is your starting right fielder, its debatable whether or not that term should even be in play. 

On Thursday he collected a pair of hits and an RBI in his Boston debut; while he may not be a household name, he was the team’s offensive highlight.  Across the diamond, left-fielder and fellow newcomer Cody Ross went 0 for 4.

Both are going to be necessary for some time yet, as Carl Crawford is now expected to be out until May.  Ryan Kalish, recovering from last year’s torn labrum, is still out until June.

 

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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