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Boston Red Sox's Julian Tavarez, center, takes part in his team's stretching exercise before their spring training baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sunday.

The scout has sat behind home plate for the majority of the games played at City of Palms Park this spring. He has seen the promise, the potential, and the pitfalls that go with each and every one of the pitchers trying to claim the role of closer for the Boston Red Sox.

What is the verdict thus far?

"To me, the best closer is in the starting rotation," said the American League talent evaluator who has been assigned to the monitor the Red Sox this spring. "That's not my call and that's not my say. But to see (Jonathan Papelbon) start and see him close, for my money he has the mentality and stuff that you would want in a closer. (Boston) has got some solid sixth- and seventh-inning guys, but I'm not convinced they have got a closer other than the guy in the rotation. I don't think any of them possess closer stuff."

So what are the Red Sox to do? Another scout, this one from the National League who has also tracked the Sox this spring, views it this way: "I would think that (Joel) Pineiro would have to be the leader of the pack. The guy who was throwing the best early on was (Brendan) Donnelly, but knowing the arm, Pineiro has to be the favorite."

But even though the former Seattle starter has taken his performances to a higher level of late, the AL scout still has doubts if Pineiro can piece together the entire package well enough to perform in the bullpen's brightest spotlight.

"If I'm looking at Pineiro being the lead guy on the board, I still have questions," the AL scout said. "I have to question the fact that he doesn't have a history with the role, that ballpark and that environment, which, to me, is a big thing. He obviously is making that transition in going from Seattle to Boston, and, third, he is trying to redo some things and undo some things."

When it comes to figuring out the state of the back end of the Boston bullpen, the questions never seem to end.

Mike Timlin? He's battling an oblique injury.

Brendan Donnelly? "More of a sixth or seventh-inning guy," the NL scout said. "I like him, I just think his stuff has gone backwards a little bit," his AL compatriot said. "He's still going to be fine, and it's not like he couldn't do (closing). But I think he is better off somewhere other than the ninth inning."

And Julian Tavarez? That's where the biggest punch in the gut comes.

"The book on Tavarez has always been the he is too emotional to be a late-inning guy, but the stuff was always there," the AL scout said. "But when I saw him this spring it looked like his stuff had taken a step back. He has still got good stuff, but it's easier to see him as a seventh- or eighth-inning guy."

"Who knows with him," the NL scout added. "It depends on the day. He's the same guy he has always been. When he's good, he's good, but when he's bad, he's awful."

Besides the evaluation of each of the closing candidates, the scouts also agreed that the time might not be right for the Red Sox to be going after help from the outside.

Their takes were along the lines that if Papelbon doesn't slide back into the bullpen, then the optimum time to make a deal might be a month or two, when the other party in a deal might be just as desperate for help.

Example: Arizona in 2003 when it needed Shea Hillenbrand's bat and was willing to give up Byung-Hyun Kim.

"Timing is such a key factor," said the AL scout. "It's hard for me, seeing the club last year and what Papelbon did, to imagine they won't have someone finishing off games. It's a tough one, especially when the rotation is so good."



Joel Pineiro

Why he will be the closer: Arm strength and stock has risen in recent weeks, with his velocity touching 93 mph. If mechanics/arm slot remain constant, he could have best stuff of the group.

Why he won't be the closer: Hasn't shown the consistency over the long haul that manager's desire in that role.



Brendan Donnelly

Why he will be the closer: Gets more swings and misses than any of the other candidates. Has the perfect "devil may care" mentality.

Why he won't be the closer: Doesn't have the electric stuff usually needed to get final outs of a game.



Julian Tavarez

Why he will be the closer: Seems to enjoy big spotlight and has the stuff to get on a hot streak.

Why he won't be the closer: Doesn't have steady demeanor that is often necessary for ups and downs of closer's role.



Mike Timlin

Why he will be the closer: Is manager favorite and has done it with some success in the past.

Why he won't be the closer: Is coming off his worst year and has to show that injuries/ineffectiveness are behind him.



Chad Cordero/Akinori Otsuka/Etc.

Why they will be the closer: Red Sox realize they need some sort of ninth inning certainty heading into the season.

Why they won't be the closer: Teams know Sox need a closer and continue to ask for the Clay Buchholzes of the world.



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