Rich Hill will open the 2022 season as the Red Sox’ No. 5 starter, manager Alex Cora announced earlier Monday morning. The veteran left-hander will make his first start of the year against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park next Tuesday.
Hill, 42, signed a one-year, $5 million deal to return to the Sox last December. The Milton, Mass. native has posted a 9.35 ERA in three appearances (two starts) spanning 8 2/3 innings of work this spring and is expected to throw a six-inning, 90-pitch simulated game at JetBlue Park on Wednesday.
With Hill being named Boston’s fifth starter, Garrett Whitlock will move to the bullpen to start the season. The two hurlers had been competing for a spot in the Sox’ rotation throughout the spring. And while Hill may have prevailed, the Red Sox will keep Whitlock stretched out in the event they need another starter.
“We’re going to stretch him out. He’ll be ready for Thursday,” Cora said of Whitlock. “We’ll try to stretch him out and go from there. We have to do this. We have to keep six guys stretched out because of the nature of the schedule. I think we can be creative in a sense. Both of them are going to be a big part of what we try to accomplish.”
In terms of being creative, Cora alluded to the fact that the club has entertained the idea of having Whitlock piggyback Hill on days the latter starts.
“That’s something we’ve been talking about since we signed Rich,” said Cora. “We can pair them together.”
Having a hard-throwing righty such as Whitlock come in for a finesse lefty such as Hill could make for an intriguing strategy to win ballgames. Opposing teams who stack their lineup with right-handed bats to face Hill would then be put in a tough spot when Whitlock, who held right-handed hitters to a .522 OPS against last year, makes his way out of the Boston bullpen.
“People are going to mix and match with them,” Cora said. “They’re the total opposite numbers-wise. … It makes sense. Put them together and use them the right way.”
(Picture of Rich Hill: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)