not be acquired via a spring training trade and will come from within the Red Sox organization according to GM Theo Epstein.

“I don’t anticipate anything big,” he said. “We don’t have anything going right now with another team. I anticipate we’ll figure something out with guys we have here and build a good bullpen throughout the course of the year.”

“Guys are throwing the ball really well,” Epstein said. “You can’t really evaluate in spring training, especially the first two weeks of games. Guys are getting their feet under them on the mound, performing against hitters. We just want them to get ready for the season. A structure will emerge.”

So basically what that means is this. The closer for the Red Sox this season will be either Mike Timlin, Joel Piñero, Julian Tavarez, Brendan Donnelly, Manny Delcarmen, or Craig Hansen. The latter two will probably not be the closer but their names have been mentioned during spring training. My guess is that both of them may start the season in Pawtucket if Kyle Snyder is not traded.

The Red Sox did explore some trades for a closer during the off-season. The main guy being Chad Cordero from the Washington Nationals. But the price was too high for him. The Nats wanted Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen. A high price to pay. They had also considered signing Eric Gagne, but his price was too high, especially with him coming off of elbow surgery.

Timlin has the most experience of the bunch, having saved 141 games over his career. The problem with Timlin right now is that he has a strained oblique muscle and has been shut down. And on Wednesday, the Red Sox said he won’t begin to throw again on Thursday because a medical examination revealed some tenderness so the Red Sox pushed him back to Saturday for now.

Piñero just became a reliever last season after being a starter for most of his big league career. He is prone to the long ball. And we all know that chicks dig the long ball. He has worked on changing his arm angle to help make him a better reliever and has the pitches to be the closer. What he doesn’t have right now, is a closer’s mentality. If he is the closer, it will be interesting to see how he responds to the Boston media and faithful if he blows a game.

Donnelly is probably the only guy of the four who is crazy enough to do it. He is probably one of the most intense relievers in baseball right now. In his illustrious career, he has a total of 4 saves. He has struggled with his command but has the pitches as well to be an effective closer.

Tavarez, to me, is the biggest question mark. He is a very emotional pitcher and hasn’t really had that good of a spring training. Being an emotional pitcher can be a good thing and it also can be a bad thing. Usually for him, it’s a bad thing. He has closed games before though, having 22 career saves. He does have heart though. But is heart enough to win him the closer’s job.

The darkhorse candidate not mentioned here at all is last year’s closer, Jonathan Papelbon. A shoulder injury caused him to miss the last month of the season. So there is concern that his shoulder might not be able to handle the stress of being a reliever. As a starter, he would be on a regimented throwing program, thus allowing his shoulder to get its rest. As a reliever, he had to be ready to throw on any given day.

So who do I think the closer will be. Honestly, I think it will be Piñero. If he falters, I really could see Papelbon moving back into the bullpen. But that will depend on the health of Jon Lester. If Lester is ready to pitch at the big league level again after his battle with cancer, he gives the Red Sox a viable option as a starter to replace Papelbon in the rotation. Also, as much as I hate to say this, if the Red Sox did sign Roger Clemens, they would have to move a starter to the bullpen anyways. So logically to me, Papelbon would be the one to move.

Given the fact that Papelbon had never closed before, I was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to get the job done. But he proved me and other critics wrong. So while I am not overly concerned heading into this season, the worry I have is that someone won’t step up. The bullpen is going to be critical especially in the beginning of the season when the pitchers won’t be stretched out as far as they would in August. You don’t want to fall to far in the hole at the beginning of the season and have to dig your way back out.

My other worry is that if the starting pitching falters or the bullpen can’t hold a lead, the Red Sox are going to have to score a ton of runs. They have the lineup to do it, but if they have to do it every game, that will wear on them.

My hopes are like I said earlier, that someone steps up and says “Tito, I want the ball at the end of the game.”