How Will Red Sox Tackle Open Rotation Spot? Ron Roenicke Offers Glimpse

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Trading David Price to the Dodgers as part of the Mookie Betts blockbuster saved the Red Sox some money, as Boston reportedly will pay about half of the $96 million the pitcher is owed over the next three seasons while Los Angeles absorbs the rest of the deal.

It also created a hole in Boston’s rotation.

The Red Sox’s top four is set, provided everyone is healthy: Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez. After that, well, it’s anyone’s guess as to how Boston will fill its post-Price vacancy, as there doesn’t appear to be a clear frontrunner — or an agreed-upon strategy — to this point in spring training.

Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke indicated Friday in Fort Myers, Fla., he’s keeping an open mind about the fifth spot in Boston’s rotation, knowing it’s a fluid situation that could work itself out based on what transpires in camp. The Red Sox ultimately could roll with a traditional starter, or perhaps they’ll deploy an opener, a tactic chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is very familiar with from his time with the Tampa Bay Rays.

?I haven?t really figured out with our personnel what would be a better way to do it,? Roenicke told reporters at JetBlue Park, per MassLive.com. ?We?ve been talking with Chaim and BOH (general manager Brian O?Halloran) in figuring what the possibilities are. And I think we?re just going to play this out through spring. See what we have. We know the different options we have to go through. If you just do one opener, you have to figure out, ?OK, whoever that person is that comes in, how does he fit in, in those days between?’ …. I think if you have a couple openers, it may be easier because you can actually set up something where you have these two guys who fill in on these two days. So I?ll have to figure that out.”

If the Red Sox opt to use an opener — rather than a traditional starter — every fifth day, the decision likely will be driven as much by necessity as it is preference. While there are a few starters who could be considered for the fifth rotation spot — Hector Velazquez, Ryan Weber, Brian Johnson, Tanner Houck and Kyle Hart, to name a few — there really isn’t anyone who jumps off the page. Therefore, Boston might be better off mixing and matching, starting every fifth day with a reliever before handing the keys to a swingman-type for the middle innings.

What would it look like if the Red Sox used an opener? Again, that’s anyone’s guess right now, as Boston’s bullpen formula also remains in flux beyond Brandon Workman likely serving as the closer to begin the 2020 campaign.

“Some of these guys we brought in we really don?t know,” Roenicke said, per WEEI.com. “So if you?re coming from an organization, at least I don?t know — our pro scouts know them well — but we really don?t know them, so we have to get used to them and what they have. The reason we have them in camp is because our pro scouts have seen something in these guys and maybe what their recs say about how they should be pitching.

” … We try and listen to why we get these guys in camp, what we see, what our analytics department can do to help us in terms of what they see works better. And then you go by if we talk to that player and he buys into it and we do something different, maybe all of a sudden he becomes the piece that we?re looking for.”

This is far from an ideal scenario for the Red Sox with Opening Day roughly one month away. It could be fixed in time — based on pitchers’ spring performance, potential acquisitions, etc. — but the sheer volume of possible outcomes makes this a tough code to crack.

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