USA Today Sports

Don't sleep on Roenis Elias for spot in Red Sox bullpen

Rob Bradford
March 10, 2018 - 12:28 pm

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Roenis Elias is still competing for a spot on the Red Sox' roster, it's just not the one we thought he was vying for.

At the outset of camp, it was believed Elias was in the mix for grabbing the fifth spot in the Red Sox' starting rotation, joining Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez as the viable candidates. But things have changed. Elias now finds himself in a different battle, one which might determine one of the final seats in the bullpen.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora revealed Saturday morning that Elias' sole focus now is as a reliever. If the Sox were looking to keep at least one lefty -- which is no guarantee -- those in the mix are thought to be southpaws Robby Scott, Bobby Poyner and Elias.

What makes Elias so intriguing of late is an alteration made, which paid big dividends during his one-inning stint against the Marlins Friday.

"As you can see, we made an adjustment with him," Cora said. "He’s actually, he dropped down against lefties. For everything I heard about him throughout the years, he’s been very inconsistent with his arm angle against lefties, so we just have to make sure. We told him, do you want to go on top, three-quarters, or sidearm? And he decided, I’m going sidearm against lefties, so that’s where he’s staying and he’s thrown the ball well. He threw a good fastball yesterday at 94 [mph], down. The ability is there, just for him to be consistent with his release point and delivery, but so far so good."

The switch was noticeable, with Elias mixing in a 94 mph fastball and big curve against righties before baffling his final hitter with a flurry of sidearm offerings. The end result was a perfect seventh inning in which he struck out a pair.

While things haven't clicked for the 29-year-old since coming over from the Red Sox two years ago, he does have legitimate big league experience, having pitched 55 major league games (all but four coming with Seattle). In seven innings this spring he has allowed just one hit, striking out six and walking four.

If Poyner was to make the club, the Red Sox would have to find room for him on the 40-man roster, which Scott and Elias are both on. All three can be sent to the minors without clearing waivers.

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