It will be very interesting to see how the Red Sox 25-man roster finally shapes up as the team breaks camp in Fort Meyers.
There will be a few tough calls, in part because some players are out of options and can't be sent down to the minors.
The team will likely carry their customary 12-man pitching staff. Which players ultimately fill out the bullpen is still in flux.
Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima, Ramon Ramirez, and Manny Delcarmen seem to be assured spots. The remaining two are up fro grabs.
Scott Atchison, Boof Bonser, Joe Nelson, Alan Embree and Scott Schoeneweis are all battling for the last two spots.
Bonser, who is out of options, has had some groin problems this spring. So he'll start the season on the DL, which buys both him and the Red Sox some time.
Embree got shelled on Wednesday, and since there is just one more available spot for a lefty (in addition to Okajima), Schoeneweis will likely get the nod. Atchison, who has been praised by Terry Francona, will probably get the other spot.
The Sox will carry 13 position players, which means there are four open bench spots. Jason Varitek will get one of them, as will Jeremy Hermida.
This means that Tug Hulett and Josh Reddick (who have both opened some eyes this spring), plus the versatile Bill Hall and Mike Lowell are competing for the final two spots.
Hulett, who made his debut in 2008, still has options, So, he will likely start the season in Pawtucket, along with newly acquired infielder Kevin Frandsen.
It's unfortunate that Hulett won't break camp will the big league club because he's earned it. The 27-year-old has baited .289 this spring, has two homers (tied for second) and leads the team with 15 RBI.
Another casualty of the numbers game is Reddick. The young outfielder has had a fantastic spring, leading the club with a .393 batting average and a .696 slugging percentage. He also has two homers, nine doubles and nine RBI.
Despite making the case that he belongs on the big league roster, Reddick still has options and will start the season in the minors. Unfortunately for him, he will be the odd man out, though he has proven himself more deserving than other players.
Bill Hall, though he's batted just .196, will likely make the roster due to his versatility; Hall can play multiple infield and outfield positions.
Furthermore, the Red Sox gave up Casey Kotchman for him, so they probably feel compelled to see how the 30-year-old veteran fares over the season's first couple of months. If he doesn't perform, Hulett will be waiting.
If the Sox can trade Lowell, their roster problem is solved. They would just need to receive a minor league player in return, someone who doesn't need to go on the big league roster right away.
However, with David Ortiz's continuing struggles, the club may think twice before dealing Lowell, who seems to have found his stroke at the plate.
The Sox will have to pay at least $9 million of Lowell's salary to any trade partner. At that cost, it may make more sense just to keep the veteran third baseman. If the team is convinced he can occasionally play first, his value to them is only increased.
The roster will be finalized over the next couple days, at least publicly. The team has likely made its decisions internally at this point, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.