Pitchers Chris Beck, Tyler Danish, Brad Goldberg and Giovanni Soto were optioned to Triple-A Charlotte, along with outfielder Willy Garcia. Catcher Alfredo Gonzalez was optioned to Double-A Birmingham. Pitchers Aaron Bummer and Blake Smith were reassigned to minor league camp.
We said at the start of camp that the Sox were looking for a second left-hander in their bullpen to complement Dan Jennings, and it looked as if Soto might be one of the top contenders -- if not the leading contender.
Turns out the Sox don't think that much of Soto. He's been optioned after making only two Cactus League appearances.
So, who is left in the mix for that other left-handed spot? Matt Purke hasn't allowed a run this spring over four appearances and 4.2 innings pitched. Brian Clark is getting an extended look -- he's appeared in seven games and fared reasonably well -- a 2.70 ERA in 6.2 innings. But, Clark has walked four, which is a bit of a red flag.
Jace Fry, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, has worked in six games with a 4.15 ERA in 4.1 innings. But again, four walks -- that's a high total. A surprise contender has emerged in veteran reclamation project Cory Luebke. The 32-year-old has 1.35 ERA in five games and 6.2 innings pitched this spring.
Luebke has struck out five and walked two, and the big key for him is proving he has regained his control. Once upon a time, in 2011, Luebke was a big leaguer. He had a 3.29 ERA in 46 games (17 starts) for the San Diego Padres. But multiple Tommy John surgeries kept him out of the majors from 2013 to 2015.
He resurfaced with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016, and he was terrible -- a 9.35 ERA in nine games. He walked 11 in 8.2 innings. To make the Sox, he'll have to continue to avoid walks and show that he isn't susceptible to meltdown-style innings. Luebke has starting experience, so in theory, he could be the second left-hander *and* the long reliever.
Or perhaps the Sox will decide to go with only one left-hander and keep right-hander Michael Ynoa, who is out of options, on the roster.
Under that scenario, the Sox could use right-hander Zach Putnam is certain situations against tough left-handed hitters. Putnam's split-finger pitch tends to be tough on lefties, and when healthy in 2016, he held left-handed hitters to a .546 OPS. (Righties had a .694 OPS).
Knowing that Putnam is an option, perhaps it isn't essential the Sox keep a second left-handed reliever, if they decide they don't want to keep Luebke or give Purke another kick at the can.