The Boston Sox’s starting rotation for 2022 remains undefined.
Chris Sale is back and healthy. Nathan Eovaldi is coming off an excellent 2021 and presumably will slot in behind him. And Nick Pivetta was a solid source of innings last season, especially in the playoffs.
Beyond that, the situation is a bit murkier.
The Red Sox added Michael Wacha, Rich Hill and James Paxton before the Major League Baseball lockout. Paxton, who’s recovering from Tommy John surgery, won’t be ready until later in the 2022 season, at the earliest, but Wacha and Hill are candidates to round out Boston’s rotation to open the new campaign.
So are Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck, two up-and-coming hurlers who also could factor into the Red Sox’s bullpen plans if that’s the path manager Alex Cora ultimately chooses.
With four pitchers essentially vying for two spots behind Sale, Eovaldi and Pivetta, Cora was asked Sunday at Red Sox spring training whether he might consider deploying a six-man rotation to begin the year. The skipper was noncommittal while pointing to Boston’s early season schedule.
“I think it’s too early right now for that,” Cora told reporters at JetBlue Park of making such a determination more than three weeks before Opening Day. “I think the schedule will help us. We’ve got an off-day right away in New York. We’ve got an off-day in between Detroit and Boston. So, we’ll play with the schedule, we’ll use it to our advantage. It was actually better starting March (31), of course, but this is where we’re at now and we’re not complaining. We’ll take care of that, and then we’ll decide what we do.”
The Red Sox had been scheduled to begin the season at home against the Tampa Bay Rays on March 31. Now, in wake of the MLB lockout, they’ll kick things off with three games against the New York Yankees in the Bronx beginning April 7.
The Red Sox are scheduled to have an off-day April 8, between the opener and their second game of the regular season. They then won’t have an off-day between their series finale against the Yankees on April 10 and their first game against the Detroit Tigers on April 11, but they’re scheduled to receive a break April 14 before returning to Fenway Park to face the Minnesota Twins on April 15.
“There’s not going to be too many teams out there that are going to lean on five guys right away,” Cora said. “We can be creative. We’ve done it before. So if we have to do it, we’ll do it again.”
The Red Sox probably will exercise caution with their starters early in the season, especially given the unique nature of this year’s spring training due to the lockout. As such, we could see more than five starters toe the rubber for Boston in April — the Red Sox are scheduled to play 17 consecutive days from April 15 to May 1 — but it’s unclear at the moment.