FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Boston Red Sox never signed or traded for an established reliever this offseason. That’s how much faith they had in their returning crew.

With two weeks left before the season starts, their hopes are being realized. The Red Sox bullpen is in good shape.

Carson Smith is healthy and a strong candidate for setup and backup closer duties, and Tyler Thornburg also is progressing. Manager Alex Cora was asked this week if the organization ever seriously discussed trading for or signing relief help.

“The organization was comfortable with the bullpen we had,” Cora said. “They did an outstanding job throughout the season, and especially with Carson throwing the ball the way he did toward the end. That was very important. We have guys that, most of them, they’re four-seam guys, they attack guys on top of the zone, and they expand over the breaking ball. With him, it’s a different look. And obviously we’ve got Craig (Kimbrel) for those high-leverage situations late in the game. So, we felt comfortable with it through the offseason, and now that we see them, the way (Joe Kelly is) throwing the ball, the way Carson’s throwing the ball, we’re more comfortable now.”

Cora does not want to define a role for Smith. It’s all about the matchups.

“He’s a guy that, in the last third of the game, he’s going to be important for us,” Cora said. “He can get a ground ball with a man on first with one out, regardless if it’s a lefty or righty. We’ve just got to see where we’re at in the game. But definitely, he’s a guy that will pitch late in the game.”


Cora said Kimbrel’s infant daughter, Lydia, is “doing better” after her recent heart surgery. Kimbrel remains in the Boston area and is still on track to be available Opening Day.

Cora declined to project which of his last three starters – Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright – is most likely to be ready by Opening Day.

“I think everyone’s doing their progress at their pace. I think it would be unfair just to single somebody out,” Cora said. “I don’t want to push somebody to do something because they feel the pressure to be ready the first week, or the first 15 days of the season.”

David Price pitched four scoreless innings in his first Grapefruit League start for the Red Sox in a 7-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.

Price allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out five. He threw 55 pitches, 34 for strikes.

Price struck out the first batter of the game on three pitches and needed just nine pitches total in the first inning.


In the second, he allowed a leadoff single, then a walk, but stranded the runners with a sacrifice bunt, strikeout and fly out.

Price added another strikeout in the third and recorded back-to-back strikeouts in the fourth before finishing off his outing with a fly out to center.

“It feels good,” Price told reporters after his outing. “This is March 15 and I’ve never been able to have a four-pitch mix on March 15. I’ve never been this far along in spring training even though I’ve only thrown in one game. I’m excited about that.”

REDS: Cincinnati hired former Red Sox manager John Farrell as an internal scout who will evaluate players already in the system.

Farrell was fired by the Red Sox after they lost in the AL Division Series for the second straight year. Buddy Bell, who was hired by Cincinnati as a vice president and adviser in the offseason, reached out to Farrell about the scouting role.

“We wanted to get a fresh pair of eyes on the players in our system,” Manager Bryan Price said Thursday. “He is a very good talent evaluator, especially with pitching. You have to understand your players better than any other organization.”


ORIOLES: Slugger Mark Trumbo will start the season on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right quad and miss at least three weeks.

RAYS: Chris Archer was named Tampa Bay’s Opening Day starter for a franchise-record fourth consecutive season.

YANKEES: Aaron Judge wasn’t found guilty of tampering by MLB, but his free-agent pitch to Manny Machado did lead to a call from GM Brian Cashman on Wednesday night, with the GM reiterating the league’s “sensitive” stance on the matter.

“Now I know,” Judge said. “It was all new to me.”

Judge indicated his hope that Machado will join the Yankees in 2019 before Wednesday’s game in Sarasota.

“I told him he’d look good in pinstripes,” Judge said.

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