CHICAGO -- Veteran right-hander Aaron Cook, with 72 Major League wins under his belt, made his fourth and likely final Minor League rehab start Saturday for Triple-A Pawtucket.
Cook, who allowed three runs on five hits and struck out five over 6 1/3 innings for a no-decision in Pawtucket's 6-4 loss, has an opt-out clause in his contract that he can exercise by May 1. Once the Red Sox hear what his decision is, they have 48 hours to decide whether to activate him. Cook has another opt-out clause on June 1.
While there doesn't seem to be an opening in Boston's starting rotation, an alternative scenario could emerge -- one in which Cook could work as a reliever.
Back in Spring Training, manager Bobby Valentine unequivocally stated that relief was out of the question for Cook because of his history of shoulder woes.
But it appears things have changed.
"There have been discussions, yep," said Valentine. "[Pitching coach] Bob McClure thinks that after talking with him, that it's feasible. Initially there was no [thought of it]. I think I told you guys initially in Spring Training that [relief] was a non-factor. It was a non-consideration. Reports are that he's never felt better about his shoulder, or he hasn't felt this good about his shoulder in a long time."
Cook, with a solid sinker and a wealth of experience, could provide some stability for a Boston bullpen that has struggled this season.
"What surprised me was, with Aaron's shoulder, the trainers did such a good job with him this spring that, when I talked to him right before we broke [camp], he said he felt like he could pitch out of the bullpen," McClure said. "Before, I don't think he could have physically -- got up, got down, up. He said his shoulder hadn't felt this way in three or four years.
"That being said, right before we broke camp, I asked him, and he said he could. That still remains to be seen, but if a guy tells you that, you've got to think maybe he could."