Red Sox right-hander Garrett Whitlock may not be ready for the start of the season, manager Alex Cora indicated to reporters (including MLB.com’s Ian Browne) on Monday.
Having undergone right hip surgery in September, Whitlock came into camp this spring still in rehab mode. While the 26-year-old has been throwing bullpens like the club’s other pitchers in Fort Myers, he has not yet been cleared to face live hitters or participate in fielding practice, which requires additional movement.
Because the Red Sox are still waiting for that clearance, Cora admitted that Whitlock could have to start the season on the injured list if he is not ready for Opening Day against the Orioles on March 30.
“His next bullpen is up and down again. He’s throwing the ball well, he’s moving well. Not yet doing PFPs. We’re not concerned. We’ve got a plan,” Cora said. “We’ll see where we’re at in the upcoming weeks. If he’s ready for Opening Day, he’s ready. But if he’s not, he’s not going to lose too much time. If he’s not there [for Opening Day], it’s not because he’s hurt or whatever. It’s just the progression of where we’re at, especially moving around.”
In addition to Whitlock, the Red Sox have six other candidates vying for five starting rotation spots this spring in Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Nick Pivetta, James Paxton, Brayan Bello, and Tanner Houck. So, if Whitlock were to miss a few starts to begin the season, they at least have some insurance there.
Though Whitlock has primarily been used out of the bullpen in his first two big-league seasons, the Red Sox have remained adamant that they want the righty to become a full-time starter in 2023. The four-year, $18.75 million contract extension he signed last April that includes significant incentive clauses based on the number of innings he pitches reflects that notion.
Whitlock is not the only Boston starter whose progress has been slowed since camp began earlier this month. Bello was shut down on February 17 due to forearm tightness, but has since been cleared to throw off a mound again. Pivetta has been on the mend following a recent bout with COVID-19 and bowed out of pitching for Canada in the World Baseball Classic as a result.
While the status of those three will remain in question until they can get into games, Kluber will make his spring debut against the Marlins in Jupiter on Tuesday. Houck and Paxton are scheduled to start on Thursday and Friday while Sale is getting close to game action after facing hitters for the first time this year over the weekend.
(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)