Morning report: Roster cuts expected today

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Good morning from the Fort, on a day the Red Sox are expected to trim their roster after staff meetings scheduled for later today.

The Sox are playing tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies, with John Lackey scheduled to make the start.

The Sox need to be down to 25 players for the start of the season. Manager John Farrell has said he intends to carry 12 pitchers and 13 position players

The Red Sox still have 46 players in camp, including 13 non-roster invitees. There are still 21 pitchers (6 invitees), 3 catchers, 14 infielders (4 invitees) and 7 outfielders (3 invitees, and one, Ryan Kalish, on the 60-day disabled list). With the Sox still facing three more long bus rides -- Dunedin on Friday, Clearwater on Sunday, Sarasota on Monday -- the Sox will probably reserve their most substantial pruning until next week.

But another significant date is also coming into play: March 26. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, clubs must make decisions by noon on that date on major league free agents who signed a minor-league deal. Red Sox players impacted include Lyle Overbay and Drew Sutton and Mitch Maier.

By that date, the Sox must do one of the following:

* Agree in writing to add those players to their Opening Day 25-man roster or major league disabled list.

* Give those players an immediate unconditional release, which would ostensibly allow them time to catch on with another team.

* Pay the player a $100,000 retention bonus to accept an assignment to a minor-league team, with the added provision that the player would have the right to opt out and be given his unconditional release on June 1 if the team does not add him to the 25-man roster by that date.

Overbay has a clause in his contract that allows him to request his unconditional release if the Sox do not add him to the roster by March 26. His contract calls for a salary of $1.25 million, with an additional $250,000 in incentives. There appears to be an increasing likelihood that Overbay will elect to exercise that option, as Daniel Nava and Mike Carp, both of whom have been used at first base and the outfield, appear to have moved ahead of him in the competition for a roster spot. Overbay has played just once in the last four games while Nava and Carp have split time.

Maier, who badly sprained his wrist making a diving catch last week, would appear likely to wind up on the big-league DL. Sutton, meanwhile, gives the Sox insurance behind Will Middlebrooks at third base and appears to be a likely candidate to be paid the retention bonus and sent to Pawtucket, where he projects as the everyday third baseman.