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January 10, 2012 at 5:09 PM

First Take: Germano joins battle for bullpen spots

The Move: Red Sox sign RHP Justin Germano to minor league contract with invitation to spring training

To repeat myself from yesterday – do not fret about the continually growing size of the Flying Spaghetti Monster the Red Sox are amassing to compete for the final few spots on the pitching staff during spring training. Ben Cherington is smart to bring in as many potential major league arms as possible to camp, as there is a lot of uncertainty in that staff - more than you may realize. The following are the spots that we can truly consider locked up:

Rotation: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, The soon-to-be-signed fourth starter*
Bullpen: Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon
One or the other: Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves
(* - Yes, this is going to happen. Take it to the bank.)

And… that’s it. In theory, then, there are four spots on the pitching staff that could be up for grabs this spring. Franklin Morales and Matt Albers certainly have the inside track to bullpen spots, but their jobs are not secure enough that they could stink the place up in March and still make the team if they get significantly outpitched by a non-roster invitee.

This is why the Spaghetti Monster is growing larger than it has been in prior years. Germano is the 11th pitcher to receive a non-roster invite, and will be competing with the likes of Felix Doubront, Andrew Miller, Michael Bowden, Scott Atchison, Junichi Tazawa and fellow NRIs Justin Thomas, Jesse Carlson, Will Inman, Doug Mathis, and Tony Pena for a roster spot. Some of those players have better chances than others of making the club, but this is shaping up to be the most wide-open competition for roster spots the Red Sox have had in years.

As for Germano himself, with 253 major league innings, he has a decent amount of big-league experience. He pitched mostly in Triple-A for the Indians last year after making the major league club out of spring training. He was eventually sold to the Samsung Lions in Korea, and the club offered him a $1 million contract to come back this season. However, he is apparently determined to pitch in the majors. Since spending 2009 pitching in Japan, Germano has logged over 100 Triple-A innings, so he is not an obvious candidate for an early opt-out clause, although he may have required one to turn down Samsung’s offer. Although he has started a fair number of games in recent years – even tossing a perfect game in Triple-A last season – he is a reliever at the major league level, and I would expect him to pitch in that role for the Sox no matter the level.

In the end, Germano is another cheap option to throw into the pitching staff competition with the names above, and is probably a better option than many of them. We’ll see what he has this spring.

Others Affected:
See above list of relievers.

Chris Hatfield is the Executive Editor of SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPChrisHatfield.