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Red Sox will stretch out Franklin Morales

The Red Sox hope to use Franklin Morales as a starter once he recovers from a back injury.

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

The Red Sox hope to use Franklin Morales as a starter once he recovers from a back injury.

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Lefthanded reliever Franklin Morales, who has been out for much of spring training with a back injury, will work as a starter before he rejoins the Red Sox.

The plan is to get Morales in position to take a spot in the rotation if a need arises. If not, he would slide back into a relief role.

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The 27-year-old Morales was 3-3 with a 4.14 earned run average in nine starts last season. The Red Sox intended to use him as a starter in spring training, but he appeared in only one game before straining his lower back. He eventually received an injection.

Morales will throw off the mound on Saturday for the first time since the injury. The Sox will have him pitch in extended spring training games before starting a 30-day minor league rehabilitation assignment.

The Sox have several younger pitchers who will be in the rotation at Triple A, including Allen Webster, Chris Hernandez, and Steven Wright, but no veterans.

If Morales is not needed as a starter once he is ready, he would return to the bullpen and only start in an emergency.

“The one thing that we made clear to Franklin was the shifting of roles in season, [which] became very taxing on him, that was the one thing we were very clear we would stay away from,” Farrell said.

“It gets really taxing for guys when that shifts. Sometimes you can’t avoid it. But when you can, the health of the individual is much more stable.”

Wrapping it up

Ryan Dempster went four innings in Friday’s 8-3 loss to the Twins in his final start of the spring. He allowed three runs on three hits and three walks. He struck out four.

Dempster had a 3.74 ERA in six starts.

“Had a solid spring, got through it healthy, gained arm strength as the spring went along. I thought today used all his assortment of pitches. I think he goes into game No. 3 at the start of the year in good shape,” Farrell said.

Dempster will face the Yankees on Thursday. He is 0-4 with a 7.62 ERA in five career starts against the Yankees. But this will be his first time as a member of the Red Sox.

“I think it’s exciting. It’s probably a really unique experience that you don’t really experience playing for another team,” Dempster said. “At the same time, you’ve got to control those emotions and go out there and treat it like any other game even though the players are the only ones who really do that.”

Sweeney wants out

The Red Sox informed Ryan Sweeney on Thursday night that his contract would not be purchased. The outfielder asked for his release and is expected to become a free agent . . . Outfielder Mitch Maier, who has been out with a sprained left wrist, has the right to opt out of his contract but has told the Red Sox he will remain in the organization. Maier has started taking batting practice on the field.

Opening nod

The Yankees announced that Lou Piniella would throw out the first pitch on Monday. Constantine Maroulis, star of the Broadway musical “Jekyll & Hyde,” will sing the national anthem . . . The Yankees played in Washington on Friday, and on Saturday will play Army at West Point. The Red Sox leave Florida after their game on Saturday. Yankee Stadium will be available for any players wanting to work out on Sunday.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.
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