Red Sox manager Alex Cora revealed Monday that Rich Hill will begin the season in Boston’s starting rotation, meaning Garrett Whitlock will pitch out of the bullpen to open 2022.
Whitlock, selected by the Red Sox from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft before last season, ultimately pitched in high-leverage relief situations for Boston in 2021. He was a starter in New York’s system, though, and has been building up his innings this spring.
“We’ll try to stretch (Whitlock) out and go from there,” Cora told reporters Monday in Fort Myers, Fla., per MassLive. “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.”
Hill and Whitlock had been competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, behind Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck and Michael Wacha. Chris Sale is sidelined with a stress fracture in his ribcage, while James Paxton won’t be available until later in the year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Hill’s first start will come April 12 against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. The Red Sox begin the season with three games against the New York Yankees in the Bronx before traveling to the Motor City.
Although Hill technically is Boston’s fifth starter to open the season, the Red Sox could use Whitlock to piggyback the 42-year-old left-hander, according to Cora. Whitlock, a hard-throwing right-hander, offers a contrasting style. Plus, teams might stock their lineups with right-handed hitters against Hill, creating a potential matchup advantage in the middle innings for the Red Sox if Whitlock takes over in bulk relief.
All told, Whitlock is expected to be available for Thursday’s season opener at Yankee Stadium. He could follow Nathan Eovaldi — Boston’s Opening Day starter in Sale’s absence — and still pitch the following Tuesday on four days’ rest.