Sox Send Four To Pawtucket

The Red Sox optioned four players to Triple-A Pawtucket Monday to reduce the number of players in big league camp to 35.Right-handed pitchers Craig Hansen and Lincoln Holdzkom were assigned to Pawtucket along with catcher George Kottaras and first baseman/outfielder Chris Carter.

None of the moves came as a surprise, though Hansen—a 2005 first-round pick who has fallen on hard times the last two seasons—was bandied about as a potential candidate to fill the lone open spot in the Sox' bullpen. Hansen underwent surgery to correct sleep apnea over the winter and the Sox hoped that procedure would help him rediscover the form that made him the first player in team history to reach the majors the same year he was drafted, but he gave up seven runs on seven hits and six walks in seven innings.

After the cuts were made, Terry Francona said he hoped Hansen could take the type of leap this year that Manny Delcarmen made last year. Delcarmen began last season at Pawtucket—and teamed up with Hansen to give up nine runs in the ninth inning of a game against Buffalo early last May—before he became a vital part of the Sox' bullpen by mid-summer.

"We've got a kid that has had some ups and downs," Francona told reporters Monday. "We hope the ups are on their way."

Hansen recorded a 6.63 ERA in 38 games with the Sox in 2006 and spent all of last season at Pawtucket, where he was 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA and three saves but allowed 90 baserunners (58 hits, 32 walks) in 51 1/3 innings.

"He's growing up—he's one of those other kids that's growing up right in front of our eyes," Francona said. "He's going to be the Manny Delcarmen of this year. He'll go back and do it right and come back and help us."

Holdzkom, whom the Sox lost to the Phillies in the Rule 5 draft in December, hasn't pitched since he re-signed with the Sox last week. Because he's already been a Rule 5 player—Holdzkom was selected by the Astros from the Cubs system in 2006—Holdzkom was allowed to become a free agent when the Phillies decided they didn't want to carry him on their roster the entire season. He allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and four walks while striking out three in 3 1/3 innings over three games for the Phillies this spring.

Kottaras, one of several catchers vying to eventually replace Jason Varitek, hit .313 (5-for-16) with one homer and four RBI this spring. That he's being sent out while Dusty Brown remains in big league camp suggests Brown will rank ahead of Kottaras on the depth chart at Pawtucket this season.

Carter, whom the Sox acquired in the three-way deal that sent Wily Mo Pena to the Nationals last August, opened some eyes by hitting .351 with five doubles and six RBI in 37 at-bats. "He's a very good hitter," Francona said. "He's had a good camp. He's an intense kid, a good hitter. He's a pleasure to have around."


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752.

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