Notes: Pineiro provides some relief

Notes: Pineiro provides some relief

JUPITER, Fla. -- It will take more than one clean outing for Joel Pineiro to win the wide-open derby to be the Red Sox's closer. But that one clean outing, Pineiro's first in three appearances this spring, was enough to give him a little bit of relief.

Pineiro pitched one scoreless inning against the Marlins on Tuesday, walking one and striking out one. Most important was the fact he felt comfortable on the mound.

This has been a Spring Training of transition for Pineiro, his first as a full-time reliever. When he first moved to the bullpen for the Mariners last August, Pineiro made a significant change to his delivery by dropping his arm slot.

It has taken him a while this spring to get the right feel for it.

"Obviously I'm thinking about it and I want to kind of dominate it and not have to worry about [the arm slot] and go out there and pitch and know it's going to be there," Pineiro said. "You still want to go out there and maybe slow down your mechanics and make sure your arm is down. It's going to get to a point where you're just going to get out there and throw it. Whatever happens, get people out. It doesn't matter if it's low, high or whatever."

Pineiro's first two exhibition outings were not pretty, as he surrendered six hits and four earned runs over 2 1/3 innings. This one left a much better taste in his mouth.

"I felt good, it was the best I've felt all Spring Training," he said. "The biggest thing is, you have to throw strikes. Even if you feel good or bad, you have to throw strikes. I thought I did that, I got ahead of the hitters. Just try to put the ball in play, a couple of fly balls, that's about it."

The Red Sox are willing to be patient with Pineiro during Spring Training, particularly if it means a nice payoff once the season begins.

"I think he looked a little more comfortable," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Again, [he was] just trying to repeat that delivery. The more he can do that and have success, it will be good for him. But I thought the ball came out of his hand pretty well."

Sox in Japan? The Red Sox are still hoping to play a season-opening series in Japan in the near future. Red Sox owner John W. Henry thinks the most likely scenario would have the Sox playing in Japan in 2009, though he hasn't ruled out '08.

"I don't know how it's looking," said Henry. "I know it's a possibility, but I don't believe at this point it's a probability. I think it's a probability for the season after next. There are a lot of issues associated with it."

Whenever it occurs, the series would be huge news in Japan, where Daisuke Matsuzaka is a legend.

Hansen set for Friday, Timlin getting close: Craig Hansen, bothered this spring by back woes, is slated to make his exhibition season debut on Friday in Clearwater against the Phillies.

Mike Timlin is also close to seeing his first game action. The setup man, who has been bothered by an oblique injury, will face hitters on the backfield of City of Palms Park on Wednesday morning.

Last minute side work: The Red Sox are still getting used to Matsuzaka's pre-start routine, which is significantly different than they're used to. For instance, Matsuzaka threw roughly 50 pitches in a side session on Monday, which was the day before he pitched against the Marlins.

Francona was asked if it was unusual for a pitcher to have a side session the day before a start.

"Not for him," Francona said. "But our culture and our mentality, yes. It is a continual feeling out process on both sides. We're at a point where we're trying to get to know him and what works. That's what he's done. It's a feeling out process."

Among those on hand to witness Matsuzaka's first start against a Major League team were Henry, general manager Theo Epstein and recently retired National Football League coach Bill Parcells.

Wrong turn: The Red Sox got to Jupiter just one hour and 44 minutes before Tuesday's first pitch, thanks to an ill-fated, wrong turn by the bus driver.

Fortunately, Matsuzaka took up Francona on his suggestion to travel to Jupiter on Monday night.

Coming up: The Red Sox will be back home on Wednesday to entertain the Mets. Tim Wakefield and Jonathan Papelbon will both pitch for Boston, and Chan Ho Park and Aaron Sele will be first out of the chute for the Mets. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.