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Crain surprisingly ready for Opening Day

The SportsXchange

It took until the 11th hour, but the Sox were finally able to get over the health hump that plagued them

throughout the spring camp, and able to finalize the Opening Day roster. A lot of that was predicated in

the right adductor strain of veteran reliever Jesse Crain, but when he passed the test over the weekend, he

was given the nod to start the season on the 25-man roster.

Crain, who pitched a solid inning in an exhibition game in Milwaukee on Friday, felt no discomfort when

he arrived at the ballpark on Saturday, and then participated in the Sunday workout at U.S. Cellular Field.

The Sox entered the season feeling like the pitching staff -- including the bullpen -- was a major

strength, and flexing that muscle early would send a message to the rest of the American League.

"Everything's good, so he made the team," manager Robin Ventura said of Crain. "It's a big hurdle for us

to get over as far as making a decision on him. The last couple (of appearances) in Arizona, he was

tentative when he went out there, but (Friday night) he looked like you would think as far as his effort

and velocity. For me, it was a comforting inning to watch him pitch."

Having Crain available also put to bed the rest of the pitching questions, with the Sox deciding that

right-hander Dylan Axelrod would be the No. 5 starter, at least at the beginning of the season, and lefty

Hector Santiago would go to the bullpen. With Crain up and running, that meant the last cut was Brian

Omogrosso, who would have made a bullpen spot if Crain went to the disabled list. Instead, he will begin

the year in the minor leagues.

Crain is a big part of the Sox's bullpen plans as the veteran right-handed setup man to complement lefty

Matt Thornton.

"He was a big part of it last year," Ventura said of Crain. "Last year, we missed not having Jesse at

the start of the year (with a strained oblique). It did progress (Nate) Jones as far as his development,

being thrown into a situation he normally wouldn't be thrown into, but that was the situation we were in.

Nate ended up kind of getting thrown in the fire pretty quickly."

Jones, Crain, Matt Lindstrom and closer Addison Reed will be the bullpen righties. The lefties will be

Thornton, Donnie Veal and Santiago.

Santiago will start off as the long reliever, but Ventura maintained that if the matchup is right or

Axelrod is struggling, Santiago could be switched to the starting rotation or at least work as a spot

starter.
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