Red Sox finalize 2022 Opening Day roster: Travis Shaw, Hansel Robles make cut

The Red Sox have finalized their Opening Day roster for the start of the 2022 season, and they made some interesting moves in order to do so.

First off, infielder Travis Shaw and right-hander Hansel Robles were both selected to the major-league roster, while righty Tyler Danish was optioned to Triple-A Worcester.

In order to make room for Shaw and Robles on the 40-man roster, right-handers Eduard Bazardo and Ralph Garza Jr. were both designated for assignment.

Additionally, left-hander Josh Taylor was placed on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to April 4) due to a low back strain, the club announced on Thursday afternoon.

Following Thursday’s series of transactions, the Red Sox ensure that they will be carrying 15 pitchers and 13 position players on their Opening Day roster ahead of Friday’s season opener against the Yankees in the Bronx.

Red Sox roster

Pitchers (15): Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Kutter Crawford, Austin Davis, Jake Diekman, Nathan Eovaldi, Rich Hill, Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta, Hansel Robles, Hirokazu Sawamura, Matt Strahm, Phillips Valdez, Michael Wacha, Garrett Whitlock

Catchers (2): Kevin Plawecki, Christian Vázquez

Infielders (6): Jonathan Araúz, Xander Bogaerts, Bobby Dalbec, Rafael Devers, Travis Shaw, Trevor Story

Outfielders (3): Jackie Bradley Jr., J.D. Martinez, Alex Verdugo

Infielder/Outfielders (2): Christian Arroyo, Kiké Hernández

Joining Taylor on the injured list to begin the season are fellow southpaws James Paxton and Chris Sale.

(Picture of Travis Shaw and Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox add Tyler Danish to major-league roster, place Chris Sale on 60-day injured list in series of moves

Following Monday’s 2-0 loss to the Twins at Hammond Stadium, the Red Sox announced that they had made a series of roster moves.

First off, right-hander Tyler Danish was selected to the major-league roster. In order to make room for Danish on the 40-man roster, left-hander Chris Sale was placed on the 60-day injured list with a right rib stress fracture.

Danish, 27, originally signed a minor-league deal with Boston that included an invite to major-league spring training back in February. The righty has posted a 1.50 ERA to go along with five strikeouts and two walks over five appearances (6 innings pitched) so far this spring.

A former second-round pick of the White Sox out of Durant High School in 2013, Danish debuted for Chicago in 2016 and spent three seasons with the club. The Florida native produced a 4.85 ERA (6.70 FIP) across 11 outings (one start) during that stretch, but has not pitched at the big-league level since 2018.

After being released by the Mariners in 2019, Danish spent the next two seasons pitching in independent ball before latching on with the Angels organization last year. He produced a 3.84 ERA across 32 appearances (three starts) between Double-A Rocket City and Triple-A Salt lake.

Listed at 6-feet and 200 pounds, Danish operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a curveball, a sinker, a changeup, a four-seam fastball, and a slider, per Baseball Savant.

With Danish making the Opening Day roster, the Red Sox created an open spot for the non-roster invitee by placing Sale on the 60-day injured list.

Sale, who turned 33 last week, has been sidelined since late February, when he suffered a stress fracture in his right rib cage while throwing a live batting practice session at his alma mater, Florida Gulf Coast University, during the MLB lockout.

As noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Sale has yet to start a throwing program since sustaining the injury, meaning he will not be ready for game action for quite some time. The Red Sox, in turn, have ruled their ace out until June 6 at the earliest since the 60-day injured list clock starts on Opening Day.

While Danish may have made Boston’s Opening Day roster, three other non-roster invitees in right-hander John Schreiber and outfielders Franchy Cordero and Rob Refsnyder were all reassigned to the minor-leagues.

Cordero and Schreiber have been with the Red Sox organization since last February, when the former was acquired from the Royals in the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City and the latter was claimed off waivers from the Tigers.

Refsnyder, on the other hand, inked a minors pact with Boston back in November and appeared to have a real chance to break camp with the big-league camp this spring as a right-handed hitting bench bat who can handle left-handed pitching.

Alas, neither Cordero, Refsnyder, or Schreiber made the team, though they are all expected to accept their assignments to Triple-A Worcester, according to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

Elsewhere, the Red Sox transferred two of their top pitching prospects in Brayan Bello and Jay Groome from Triple-A Worcester to Double-A Portland. Both Bello and Groome are on Boston’s 40-man roster and were initially optioned to Worcester earlier this spring.

Rather than begin the 2022 season with the WooSox, though, the pair of young hurlers will return to the Sea Dogs’ starting rotation to kick off the minor-league campaign.

With Monday’s transactions made, the Red Sox now have 30 players at major-league spring training with only three days to go until Opening Day. Of those 30 players, only two non-roster invitees remain in veteran reliever Hansel Robles and corner infielder Travis Shaw.

Regardless of who and does not make the team from here, Boston still needs to trim down the size of their big-league roster to 28 players before taking on the Yankees in the Bronx on Thursday.

(Picture of Tyler Danish: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Kutter Crawford makes Red Sox’ Opening Day roster

Kutter Crawford has made the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster, manager Alex Cora announced earlier Monday morning. The right-hander will be one of 15 pitchers Boston carries on its 28-man roster to begin the 2022 season and will be available out of the bullpen for Thursday’s opener against the Yankees in the Bronx.

Crawford, who turned 26 last week, was originally selected by the Sox in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University. The Florida native came into the year regarded by Baseball America as the No. 15 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking eighth among pitchers in the organization.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019 and missing all of 2020 as a result, Crawford put himself on the map last season by throwing harder and limiting his walks.

While the Red Sox were navigating their way through a COVID-19 outbreak in September, Crawford was called up from Triple-A Worcester to start in place of Nick Pivetta on Sept. 5. His big-league debut did not go as planned (5 earned runs in 2 innings pitched), but the righty continued to make strides upon being returned to Worcester and was ultimately added to Boston’s 40-man roster in November to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft.

On the heels of an off-season in which he posted a 0.42 ERA over five starts (21 1/3 innings pitched) for Estrellas Orientales of the Dominican Winter League, Crawford received his first invite to major-league camp and has impressed the Red Sox this spring.

In three Grapefruit League appearances out of the Sox’ bullpen, Crawford has pitched to the tune of a 2.25 ERA to go along with eight strikeouts to just one walk across four innings of work. In his most recent outing against the Pirates on March 29, Crawford struck out five over two scoreless frames while sitting between 95-97 mph with his four-seam fastball.

Cora has previously acknowledged that in terms of stuff, Crawford is one of the best pitchers the Red Sox have. To complement his high-octane fastball, the 6-foot-1, 209 pound hurler also works with a cutter, a curveball, a sinker, and a changeup.

Throughout his minor-league career, Crawford has primarily been used as a starter. The plan now, per Cora, is to use Crawford as a multi-inning reliever out of the bullpen beginning on Thursday.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Kutter Crawford in the mix for spot in Red Sox bullpen, Alex Cora says: ‘Stuff-wise, he’s one of the best that we have’

Although the Red Sox have optioned a number of their top prospects to the minor-leagues in recent days, Kutter Crawford remains at major-league camp and in the mix for an Opening Day bullpen spot, manager Alex Cora said Wednesday.

Crawford, who turns 26 on Friday, enters the 2022 season regarded by Baseball America as the No. 15 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks eighth among pitchers in the organization.

A former 16th-round draft pick out of Florida Gulf Coast University in 2017, Crawford made his major-league debut under unique circumstances with the Red Sox last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Nick Pivetta was scratched from his start against the Guardians on September 5, Crawford was called up and started in his place. The right-hander had a forgettable debut, allowing five runs in two-plus innings.

The Red Sox removed Crawford from their 40-man roster and returned him to Triple-A Worcester the following day. Since he was filling in for a player on the COVID-19 related injured list, though, they did not have to expose him to waivers.

After closing out his 2021 season with the WooSox, Crawford was added to Boston’s 40-man roster in November in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft, which wound up getting cancelled due to the lockout. He then spent part of his off-season pitching in the Dominican Winter League and posted a 0.42 ERA in five starts (21 1/3 innings pitched) for Estrellas Orientales.

Coming into the spring with his first invite to major-league camp in tow, Crawford has made the most of his time in Fort Myers thus far by pitching to the tune of a 2.25 ERA and striking out eight of the 16 batters he has faced over three Grapefruit League appearances.

In the Red Sox’ 6-2 loss to the Pirates in Bradenton on Tuesday, Crawford offered a glimpse of what could make him effective as a reliever at the big-league level. Over two scoreless innings of relief, the 25-year-old righty scattered just one hit and one walk while recording five strikeouts. Of the 38 pitches he threw, 24 went for strikes with his four-seam fastball hovering around 95-97 mph.

“He has good stuff,” Cora said. “He’s throwing 97 mph with a good cutter, good split. He’s in the mix.”

Crawford has primarily been a starter throughout his pro career; only one of his 67 appearances in the minors have been in relief. The Sox, however, believe Crawford can make the transition from starting rotation to the bullpen because of the arsenal he has.

“We’re trying to win ballgames, right?” said Cora. “And we’re going to try to take the best 28 [players] that fit the program right now. Let’s put it that way because, as you guys know, this isn’t the final product.”

With just over a week to go until Opening Day on April 7, Crawford still has some work to do before knowing if he will be traveling with the Red Sox to the Bronx or meeting up with the WooSox in Jacksonville for their first series of the season.

“We do believe that he’s good, really good,” Cora said. “Last year, that outing, he was ahead in the count 0-2 a lot of times and it just happened. But, stuff-wise, he’s one of the best that we have. So, we still have a week, he still has a few innings, and we’ll make decisions when we have to.”

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Hansel Robles set to join Red Sox on Thursday; veteran reliever could make Boston’s Opening Day roster, Alex Cora says

Nearly two weeks after signing a minor-league deal to return to the Red Sox, Hansel Robles could finally be joining the team in Fort Myers as soon as Thursday night.

Robles, 31, inked a minors pact with Boston that included an invite to major-league spring training on March 19. Due to visa issues, however, the right-handed reliever has yet to report to camp and has instead been stuck in the Dominican Republic.

When speaking with reporters (including MLB.com’s Ian Browne) at JetBlue Park on Wednesday, Sox manager Alex Cora indicated that Robles could make the club’s Opening Day roster by saying he “wouldn’t assume anything.”

The Red Sox originally acquired Robles from the Twins in exchange for pitching prospect Alex Scherff before last year’s trade deadline. After a shaky start, the Dominican-born righty settled in and became one of Cora’s most trusted options out of the bullpen.

From the time he made his Red Sox debut on August 1 through the end of the regular season, Robles led the team in relief appearances (27) while posting a 3.60 ERA and 3.37 FIP to go along with 33 strikeouts to 13 walks over 25 innings of work. He also produced a 5.06 ERA (6.73 FIP) in the postseason, though four of his six outings were scoreless.

Since he gained Cora’s trust so quickly last year, it would be interesting to see if Robles could earn a spot on Boston’s Opening Day roster. If Robles does indeed arrive at the Fenway South complex on Thursday night, he would have less than a full week to prepare for the Sox’ season opener against the Yankees in the Bronx on April 7.

That being said, Cora seems to be confident in Robles’ abilities. On top of that, the Red Sox — as noted by Browne — are lacking in right-handed bullpen depth as things stand now.

“We’ll see where he’s at,” Cora said of Robles. “One thing about him, he’s a workaholic. He gets here hopefully Thursday, and maybe you’ll see him [throw live] on Saturday. He’ll let us know where he’s at physically and stuff-wise.”

(Picture of Hansel Robles: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox unveil Opening Day roster, place Eduardo Rodriguez, Ryan Brasier on injured list and recall Tanner Houck from alternate training site

The Red Sox unveiled their 26-man Opening Day roster on Thursday and in doing so placed two pitchers on the injured list.

Both left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (left elbow inflammation) and right-hander Ryan Brasier (left calf strain) were placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to March 29.

Lefty Chris Sale (Tommy John surgery) will also begin the year on the injured list alongside Rodriguez and Brasier.

In place of Rodriguez, righty Tanner Houck was recalled from the Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester. The 24-year-old hurler will make his first start of the season on Saturday.

The Red Sox will go into the 2021 season with 14 pitchers and 12 position players on their major-league roster to start things out in the first of three against the Orioles on Friday afternoon.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Michael Chavis upset about demotion to Worcester, but Alex Cora has no problem with that: ‘Nobody’s happy when they send you down’

Michael Chavis was informed on Tuesday that he would not be making the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster. He was instead optioned to the club’s alternate training site in Worcester, where he will be for the start of the 2021 season.

As it turns out, the 25-year-old was not exactly thrilled with that decision, especially after he put together a solid spring in which he slashed .250/.292/.600 with six home runs and 11 RBI over 25 games and 65 plate appearances.

Chavis had been competing with fellow infielder Christian Arroyo for one of the final spots on Boston’s Opening Day bench. Earlier in the spring, it looked like both Chavis and Arroyo had a chance to make the team, but outfielder Franchy Cordero being activated from the COVID-19 related injured list on Tuesday squashed any chance of that happening.

On top of that, Arroyo — who himself had a decent spring (.771 OPS in 55 PAs) — is out of minor-league options, while Chavis still has options remaining.

Taking those points into consideration, as well as the fact that the Sox like Arroyo’s versatility, Chavis did not stand much of a chance since he, too, is a right-handed hitting infielder.

“Both of them did an amazing job,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said about the pair of 25-year-olds on Tuesday. “They did a good job. Coming into the spring, I knew a little bit about Christian. I knew a lot about Michael. There’s a lot of circumstances that go into the decision. But one thing that we like about Christian, he can play short. We saw it throughout spring. He can do that.

“Michael, he made some strides, and we talked about it,” added Cora. “I’m glad that he was upset, because that’s part of it. Nobody’s happy when they send you down. But we talked about a few things that he needs to do to be the complete hitter that we know he can be.”

Despite putting up decent numbers on the Grapefruit League campaign as a whole, Chavis had been struggling at the plate as of late. In fact, he finishes his spring having gone 2-for-his-last-17 with no homers, one RBI, no walks, and eight strikeouts over his last eight games and 57 plate appearances.

In total, the Georgia native struck out 20 times in his 65 trips to the plate this spring. That translates to a strikeout rate of 30.8%, which is something that has plagued Chavis since making his big-league debut with the Sox in April 2019.

“I think at the end [of spring training], he didn’t control the strike zone,” Cora said. “He was very aggressive chasing pitches out of the zone. So now with his swing — he knows the boundaries of the strike zone up — now we have to make sure, ‘Hey, we’re going to drive pitches in the zone.’ So he’ll work on that.”

Cora, as he has over the course of the spring, emphasized that it takes more than 26 players to win a World Series and that making the Opening Day roster does not ensure any one player will remain on the team throughout the year.

He also pointed out how unexpected circumstances — such as ones caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — can change things in a hurry.

“We never know. We never know what can happen,” said the Sox skipper. “So [Chavis] needs to be ready. Not only him, all those kids down there. We know they can play and I think it will be good for him to go down and play everyday. That’s going to make him a better player.”

Players at the Red Sox’ alternate training site will make their way to Worcester this week before workouts at Polar Park begin on Thursday. From there, the Worcester Red Sox’ (Triple-A) season is slated to begin on May 4.

(Picture of Michael Chavis: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox roster moves: Franchy Cordero reinstated from COVID-19 injured list; Michael Chavis, Colten Brewer sent down to Worcester; John Schreiber designated for assignment

The Red Sox have reinstated outfielder Franchy Cordero from the COVID-19 related injured list, the team announced Tuesday morning.

In a corresponding move, right-hander John Schreiber was designated for assignment in order to make room for Cordero on the 40-man roster.

Additionally, both infielder Michael Chavis and right-hander Colten Brewer were optioned to the club’s alternate training site in Worcester.

Cordero being activated off the COVID-19 injured list most certainly means he will be good to go for Opening Day on Thursday.

Originally acquired from the Royals as part of the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City, the 26-year-old has impressed thus far in Grapefruit League play.

Coming into Tuesday, Cordero is slashing .294/.333/.588 with one triple, one home run, and one RBI through his first six games and 18 plate appearances with the Sox. He played back-to-back games for the first time this spring on Sunday and Monday.

Upon arriving in Fort Myers last month, the Dominican native’s status for Opening Day became cloudy once he was placed on the COVID-19 injured list after testing positive for the virus back home.

The left-handed hitting slugger was not cleared to return to baseball activities until March 11, but it now appears as though he has the green light for Thursday’s season-opening contest against the Orioles at Fenway Park.

“He feels great,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Cordero this past Sunday. “There’s a good chance he will be with us Opening Day. Let’s see how he reacts out of this one. But everything is very positive with the way he has been able to bounce back. The game in Tampa, he hit a triple, he move around in the outfield. He’s in a good position.”

Cordero, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds, has played in just 95 games since making his major-league debut with the Padres in 2017 on account of multiple stints on the injured list. He has been hampered by a right wrist sprain, a right elbow sprain, a tight forearm strain, and a left abductor strain in the past three years alone.

Because of his history, the Red Sox will clearly have to be cautious in how they manage Cordero to ensure that he can stay healthy and play as many games as possible.

With Cordero being reinstated on Tuesday, the Sox needed to clear a 40-man roster spot for the outfielder, and they did so by designating right-hander John Schreiber for assignment.

Schreiber, who turned 27 earlier this month, was claimed off waivers from the Tigers back in February.

The 6-foot-2, 210 pound righty appeared in just two games for the Sox this spring, allowing a pair of earned runs on five hits, one walk, and one strikeout over 1 1/3 total innings pitched in those two appearances. He was optioned to the alternate training site on March 16.

The Red Sox now have seven days to either trade, release, or sneak Schreiber through waivers if he is not claimed by another club first.

Turning to the next move made by the Sox on Tuesday, infielder Michael Chavis and right-handed reliever Colten Brewer were both optioned to the club’s alternate training site in Worcester.

The 25-year-old Chavis had been competing with fellow infielder Christian Arroyo for one of Boston’s final bench spots, and it even seemed like both could make the team’s Opening Day roster if Cordero was not going to be ready in time.

But with Cordero getting the go-ahead, Arroyo and Chavis essentially become redundant since they both hit from the right side of the plate. And with Arroyo being out of minor-league options, the decision became clear that Chavis would be the one receiving a demotion.

This news comes in spite of the fact that Chavis had a solid spring (.892 OPS in 65 plate appearances), but it goes without saying that the Georgia native still has some things to work on at the plate after struggling to the tune of a .212/.259/.377 slash line across 42 games in 2020.

Having written all that, it would not be all that surprising to see Chavis back up with the Sox sooner rather than later. He has, after all, only played 29 career games at the Triple-A level, so perhaps he can use this demotion as a way to better himself once the Triple-A season begins in May.

As for Brewer, the 28-year-old was also embroiled in a spring competition for one of Boston’s final bullpen spots. That competition was ultimately won by fellow righty Phillips Valdez, though neither Valdez (9.35 ERA in 8 1/3 innings) nor Brewer (9.95 ERA in 6 1/3 innings) looked particularly sharp in Grapefruit League play.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “Valdez and Brewer will be easily interchangeable, as both can be optioned to and from Worcester as the Red Sox choose. Brewer (4.59 ERA in 80 ⅓ innings in two seasons with Boston) will likely be one of the first relievers called up if Boston needs a relief arm.”

With all these moves being made, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is at full capacity. More transactions are likely to come — with Eduardo Rodriguez and Ryan Brasier being placed on the injured list among them — but for now, here’s how Boston’s 26-man Opening Day roster should shape up come Thursday morning:

Starting rotation (5): Nathan Eovaldi, Tanner Houck, Martin Perez, Nick Pivetta, Garrett Richards

Bullpen (9): Matt Andriese, Garrett Whitlock, Austin Brice, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, Hirokazu Sawamura, Phillips Valdez, Adam Ottavino, Matt Barnes

Catchers (2): Christian Vazquez, Kevin Plawecki

Infielders (6): Bobby Dalbec, Enrique Hernandez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Marwin Gonzalez, Christian Arroyo

Outfielders (4): Alex Verdugo, Hunter Renfroe, J.D. Martinez, Franchy Cordero

(Picture of Michael Chavis: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Rule 5 pick Garrett Whitlock makes Red Sox’ Opening Day roster; ‘His reaction was priceless,’ Alex Cora says

It goes without saying that Garrett Whitlock has been one of the feel-good stories at Red Sox camp throughout the spring.

Selected from the Yankees organization in the Rule 5 Draft over the winter, Whitlock came into camp with the proposition of having to stick on the Sox’ active roster throughout the entirety of the 2021 season or he would otherwise be offered back to his former club.

That may seem like a daunting task for a 24-year-old right-hander who hadn’t pitched in an organized minor-league game since 2019 and was working his way back from Tommy John surgery, but Whitlock has clearly been up to the challenge.

Through four Grapefruit League appearances this spring, the Georgia native has allowed just one earned run on eight hits and no walks to go along with 12 strikeouts over nine total innings of work.

To say Whitlock has been impressive would be an understatement, and he was informed on Thursday that he made the Sox’ Opening Day roster.

“Yesterday we informed Garrett Whitlock that he made the team,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced Friday morning. “With everything he’s done throughout camp, not only on the field but also the way he acts, the way he conducts himself. That adds to the equation, and we were very pleased to tell him yesterday.”

Whitlock, a former 18th-round draft pick of the Yankees out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2019. His recovery from the procedure coincided with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re going to be careful with him, obviously,” Cora said. “He’s a Rule 5 pick and he hasn’t pitched in a while. But everything we’ve seen has been good. So he’ll be with us. It’s another addition, and obviously we have to make decisions in the upcoming days, but I do believe this is a solid bullpen.”

While Cora added that the game will dictate how Whitlock will be used, it does seem likely that the lanky righty — despite having 38 career minor-league starts under his belt — will be used in a swingman role with more of an emphasis on pitching multiple innings out of the bullpen when needed.

The Red Sox are planning on carrying 14 pitchers on their 26-man Opening Day roster. For Cora, informing Whitlock that he would be one of those 14 pitchers was a very enjoyable experience.

“He can be a Rule 5 or a 10-year vet, but the way he threw the ball — you guys saw it — he’s getting better and better,” said the Sox skipper. “It’s one of those that as a manager, as a president of baseball operations, GM, whatever, it’s a great moment when you tell somebody that you’re going to be a big-leaguer.

“His reaction was priceless,” added Cora. “It’s all about him. The organization did their homework and we decided to draft him. From there on, it was up to him and he did everything possible to make the team. And I know he’s not going to stop. Trying to keep getting better, studying the game, doing all the right things for him to get to the next level.”

It’s been a unique journey for Whitlock to get to where he is today being on the cusp of making his major-league debut at some point next month.

The 6-foot-5, 190 pound hurler mentioned earlier this spring that getting “to play a kid’s game for a living” is extremely fun and that he’s looking forward to embracing whichever role he is given with his new team out of the chute.

“My college coach told me the best pitching advice I’ve ever had,” Whitlock said while reflecting on his time at UAB. “And that was: ‘When they hand you the ball to go get outs, you go get outs until they come take the ball away from you.’ And so whatever role that is, that’s always going to be my mindset.”

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Taking stock of where Red Sox stand 2 weeks out from Opening Day

Two weeks from Thursday, the Red Sox open their 2021 season against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park for what hopefully is the first game of a full 162-game slate.

Because Opening Day is exactly two weeks away and spring training is more than halfway over, it’s a good time to take stock of where the Sox stand heading into the new season. Let’s get to it.

Starting rotation:

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will make his first career Opening Day start and pilot a five-man — not a six-man — starting rotation to kick off the year for the Sox.

Based off the way the club’s presumed starters have been used so far this spring, it’s fair to assume that Boston’s five-man rotation will start with Rodriguez, then right-handers Garrett Richards and Nathan Eovaldi, left-hander Martin Perez, and end with right-hander Nick Pivetta.

Tanner Houck, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects who impressed in three starts with the big-league club last season, was viewed as a potential Opening Day rotation candidate. But he has since been optioned to the Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester, where he will likely start the 2021 season.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo earlier this week, Red Sox manager Alex Cora is “pleased” with what he has seen from his starters since spring training began last month.

“It’s a solid one,” Cora said of the team’s starting rotation on Tuesday. “Everybody has their strengths, obviously they have their weaknesses. We have changeups, we have fastballs at 97 (mph), we have breaking balls. It’s not just velocity, either. For certain teams, you know you’re going to get from 97 to 100 (mph) and you prepare for that. With us, it’s going to be a little different. The constant is we can get people out in the strike zone. It doesn’t matter what stuff you have. We’ve been preaching that and they’ve been doing a good job with us.”

While Houck will more than likely start the year in Worcester, the 24-year-old righty could very well get called up again sooner rather than later.

With Houck beginning the season in the minors and swingmen like Matt Andriese and Garrett Whitlock beginning the season in Boston’s bullpen, the Red Sox certainly have a plethora of starting pitching depth, which is something they haven’t had much of the last two years.

“That’s what makes this group a solid one, because we have options,” Cora said about the club’s rotation depth. “We do believe whatever route we take, it’s going to be a good one. Also, we’re going to have people who are capable of stepping in whenever we need them

“The difference is we’re deeper this year than in previous years,” he added. “And that’s a testament to where we’re at as an organization and what we did during the offseason.”

Bullpen:

The Red Sox have yet to name a closer, though we do know the competition for the role is between right-handers Adam Ottavino and Matt Barnes.

Ottavino, 35, has tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings out of the Boston bullpen so far this spring, while Barnes, 30, has yet to allow a run over 3 1/3 innings of work.

Both veteran relievers are slated to become free agents at the conclusion of the 2021 campaign, so they should be plenty motivated to carve out a significant role for themselves going into their walk year.

Once we get past Barnes and Ottavino, who figure to see the lion’s share of work in late-inning spots, left-handers Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor figure to play key roles for Boston as well.

Like Rodriguez, Hernandez and Taylor were hindered by bouts with COVID-19 last season, though the two southpaws were able to pitch in a total of 15 games.

After Hernandez and Taylor, newcomer Hirokazu Sawamura and Andriese and Whitlock all figure to crack the Sox’ Opening Day roster assuming they are healthy.

Ryan Brasier would be in this mix as well, but it was recently revealed that the 33-year-old right-hander suffered a a small fracture below his right pinkie finger while working out back in November. That fracture put him behind schedule, and it more than likely means that the Texas native will start the season in the injured list.

With that in mind, Cotillo also wrote earlier this week that with two open spots left in Boston’s bullpen, “the three key competitors for those openings are Colten Brewer, Austin Brice, and Phillips Valdez.”

Brice, as Cotillo notes, is out of minor-league options, so that might give the right-hander an advantage over the likes of Brewer and Valdez, who do have options remaining.

“There’s competition,” Cora said of the composition of the Sox’ bullpen on Tuesday. “I can’t tell you if it’s one spot or two. We know we’re going with 14. We can do the math, and in the end, it’s probably one or two spots. It has been fun to watch. That’s the difference, too, this year compared to other camps. We actually have competitions in different spots. They’ve been doing an amazing job.

“First of all, it doesn’t matter if you’re competing with this guy or whatever, they’re helping each other to get better,” he added. “They’re producing on the field, doing everything right in the clubhouse and they’re making it hard on us to make decisions.”

Starting lineup:

The starting lineup the Red Sox drew up for Wednesday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Twins looked like this:

  1. Kiké Hernández 2B
  2. Alex Verdugo CF
  3. J.D. Martinez DH
  4. Xander Bogaerts SS
  5. Rafael Devers 3B
  6. Hunter Renfroe RF
  7. Marwin Gonzalez LF
  8. Christian Vázquez C
  9. Bobby Dalbec 1B

As MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith wrote, this lineup also looks like one Boston could be using on Opening Day if outfielder Franchy Cordero is not yet ready to return to action.

“It’s a good lineup,” Cora said Wednesday morning when asked about this particular lineup. “It’s a deep lineup. When you have Christian Vazquez hitting eighth, that means we have a deep lineup. Somebody had to hit eighth. Somebody had to hit ninth. We feel comfortable where we’re at. The lefty-righty stuff, we’ll see how it plays out. But there’s good at-bats throughout. There’s power. There’s athletes… It’s good to see them together and see what they can do.”

Bench:

Because Cora has already made it clear that the Red Sox will be carrying 14 pitchers to begin the year, that means the maximum number of position players they can carry on their 26-man Opening Day roster is 12.

Taking into account the nine players listed in the above lineup as well as the fact that backup catcher Kevin Plawecki is a lock to make Boston’s Opening Day roster, that would leave the club with two vacancies on their bench.

Among the players still at major-league camp, Christian Arroyo and Michael Chavis have been two of the Sox’ most impressive performers as they compete for a spot on the team’s roster.

Both Arroyo and Chavis are redundant in that they both hit from the right side of the plate and are both limited to playing around the infield. But with Yairo Munoz being reassigned to the minor-leagues and Danny Santana sidelined while recovering from a right foot infection, there doesn’t seem to be much competition for them.

Jonathan Arauz is certainly an appealing option since he is a switch-hitter, but the Red Sox may feel it is in their best interest to start the 22-year-old infielder off at the alternate site this year so he can continue to develop.

Having written all that, here’s an early Red Sox Opening Day roster projection:

Starting rotation (5): Eduardo Rodriguez, Garrett Richards, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, Nick Pivetta

Bullpen (9): Matt Andriese, Garrett Whitlock, Austin Brice, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, Hirokazu Sawamura, Phillips Valdez, Adam Ottavino, Matt Barnes

Catchers (2): Christian Vazquez, Kevin Plawecki

Infielders (7): Bobby Dalbec, Enrique Hernandez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Marwin Gonzalez, Christian Arroyo, Michael Chavis

Outfielders (3): Alex Verdugo, Hunter Renfroe, J.D. Martinez

(Picture of Alex Cora: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)