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Tomase: Predicting the Red Sox roster as Opening Day looms

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After the first major round of cuts claimed a promising youngster (Jarren Duran) and the star of camp (Ryan Fitzgerald), the Opening Day roster of the Red Sox is coming into focus.

Manager Alex Cora has already declared that he will open the season with 15 pitchers and 13 position players, at least until expanded rosters shrink back to 26 on May 1. And we now have a pretty good idea of who those players will be, so let's run down the roster.

Starting pitchers (5): RHP Nathan Eovaldi, RHP Nick Pivetta, RHP Tanner Houck, RHP Michael Wacha, LHP Rich Hill

The skinny: There's still a chance that right-hander Garrett Whitlock wins the fifth spot, but given his value in an uncertain bullpen, let's assume that Whitlock opens the season in relief.

That leaves an experienced group, along with Houck. Eovaldi would've gotten the Opening Day nod even with a healthy Chris Sale in all likelihood, because such is the respect he commands after an All-Star 2021.

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Pivetta is hoping to build off a promising postseason, while Houck could easily swing back to the bullpen when Sale returns. Both Wacha and Hill possess swingman capabilities, although the latter has remained so effective into his 40s that we shouldn't be surprised if he takes a rotation spot and keeps it.

One other name to remember is James Paxton, the former Yankees left-hander who's recovering from Tommy John surgery. He could return later this summer.


Bullpen (10): RHP Matt Barnes, RHP Garrett Whitlock, RHP Ryan Brasier, LHP Jake Diekman, RHP Hirokazu Sawamura, LHP Matt Strahm, LHP Austin Davis, LHP Darwinzon Hernandez, RHP Eduardo Bazardo, LHP Derek Holland

The skinny: As usual, the Red Sox don't quite know what to make of their relief corps. Is Barnes over whatever afflicted him last fall and ready to reclaim his role as closer? He has looked more like his old self this spring. Will Whitlock start or relieve? Can Brasier hold up for a full season? Is Strahm the pitcher who wowed in postseason workouts or the one who posted an 8.10 ERA last year?

Change should be coming sooner than later, with workhorse left-hander Josh Taylor nursing a back strain that will likely sideline him for Opening Day, and right-hander Hansel Robles delayed by visa issues.

The more immediate question is how the last couple of spots shake out. Right-hander Phillips Valdez is a possibility, but we're leaning toward veteran left-hander Derek Holland, a non-roster invitee who actually played with manager Alex Cora and pitching coach Dave Bush more than a decade ago in Texas.

Catcher (2): Christian Vazquez, Kevin Plawecki

The skinny: Though the Red Sox made some inquiries on the catching market this winter, they ultimately decided to stand pat with last year's backstops. Vazquez needs a bounceback year after backsliding both offensively and defensively, while Plawecki is a solid backup with surprising pop, but a weak arm. Prospects Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernández aren't a threat to take anyone's job at the moment.

Infield (6): Bobby Dalbec, Trevor Story, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Christian Arroyo, Travis Shaw

The skinny: The addition of Story solidifies what should be one of the best offensive groups in baseball. Story, Devers, and Bogaerts have all been All-Stars and Dalbec has looked like one of the best hitters in camp. Arroyo is a capable backup who will see significant at-bats against left-handers, while Shaw has demonstrated a penchant for pinch-hitting prowess that makes him an attractive left-handed bat off the bench and/or platoon partner with Dalbec.

Prospects Triston Casas and Jeter Downs aren't ready to contribute yet, and former Gold Glove second baseman Yolmer Sanchez provides organizational depth.

Outfield/DH (5): Kiké Hernández, Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rob Refsnyder

The skinny: Another body would help here. As things stand now, Martinez will see a fair amount of action in right field, Cora said, and that's risky, because the 34-year-old performs best when limited to full-time DH status.


The rest of the outfield is athletic, with Hernández playing like a Gold Glover after shifting from second last year, and Verdugo settling in nicely in left. On the days that Bradley plays right, the Red Sox should catch everything, at least.

That leaves the final spot for Refsnyder, formerly of the Yankees, who feels like more of a placeholder. Chaim Bloom will undoubtedly keep tabs on the trade market in pursuit of another right-handed-hitting outfielder.