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Roenis Elias pitches in relief; Red Sox insist fifth starter unsettled

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If the competition for the final spot in the Boston Red Sox's starting rotation is down to two pitchers, and if one of those pitchers is used as a reliever in the waning days of camp, it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that perhaps a decision already has been made.

Not so, manager John Farrell insists.

After lefty Roenis Elias struck out two batters in a scoreless ninth inning Thursday to cap a 4-1 victory over a New York Mets split squad, Farrell cautioned against drawing the conclusion that knuckleballer Steven Wright had sewn up the No. 5 starter job, even as he declared that Elias would pitch in relief again over the weekend.

"I think in fairness to our staff and our team, we have to answer some of the potential questions that exist. And just seeing how Roenis bounces back [as a reliever], that's one of them," Farrell said. "We're still fact-finding as we go through this last week."

OK, here are some facts: Wright pitched in relief for two seasons in the minor leagues and has been effective at times shuttling between the bullpen and rotation since joining the Red Sox in 2013. Elias, meanwhile, made only two relief appearances during the past two seasons with the Seattle Mariners, was primarily a starter in the minors and posted a 7.84 ERA with 30 walks in 31 innings in 2008 as a reliever in Cuba.

"In Cuba, it didn't go so well," Elias said through translator Daveson Perez. "I got hit off of a lot. I threw a lot of balls that ended up hurting me in the end. But I took those experiences from Cuba, learned from them and brought them here. What I've learned since being here is that you have to attack the hitters and go after them as a reliever, and that's what I've been working on."

But the Red Sox also like Elias' ability to throw from different arm angles during a game. And regardless of his role, the Sox likely will keep his arm stretched out to throw multiple innings, thereby preserving their starting depth when lefty Eduardo Rodriguez is activated from the disabled list.

"It doesn't matter to me. I just want to be on this team, helping this team win," Elias said. "If that entails being a relief pitcher, then that's what I'll do. I'm just here to do whatever is asked of me, do my job and do the best that I can."

Good to go: Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the eighth inning, continuing his dominant spring. In five appearances, the new Red Sox closer has struck out nine batters and allowed a solitary hit in five scoreless innings.

Asked whether he could've imagined a more perfect spring for Kimbrel, Farrell knocked on a wood table. Considering setup man Carson Smith's forearm strain and the soreness experienced by Koji Uehara, there's no sense tempting fate.

"He's thrown the ball exceptionally well," Farrell said. "He looks in midseason form with the power that he's showing to his fastball. He's thrown some breaking balls that are, like I said, midseason [form]."

This and that: Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. made perhaps the play of the spring -- and proved he can, in fact, play two positions -- when he backed up left fielder David Murphy, fielded a carom off the faux Green Monster, turned and fired a strike to second base to cut down the Mets' Kevin Plawecki in the seventh inning. ... Right-hander Joe Kelly allowed one run on five hits and struck out six batters in seven innings. He has a 1.35 ERA this spring. ... Shortstop Xander Bogaerts picked up two hits, including a solo homer in the eighth inning against Mets reliever Erik Goeddel. ... Left-hander Henry Owens and touted first-base prospect Sam Travis headlined six more cuts. Owens, lefty Brian Johnson and reliever Heath Hembree were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, while Travis, right-hander Roman Mendez and outfielder Ryan LaMarre were reassigned to minor-league camp. ... New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who grew up in Cambridge, Mass., and roots for the Red Sox, was a guest in the clubhouse after the game.

On deck: Ace lefty David Price will return to the mound at 6:05 p.m. ET Friday night, as the Red Sox host the Pittsburgh Pirates at JetBlue Park. Price will be opposed by right-hander Ryan Vogelsong.