The Boston Red Sox have an uphill climb in 2024, playing in a talented division and looking for a number of young players to prove their worth.

Entering the season, a few expectations were given. Boston has legitimate run-producers in Rafael Devers and Triston Casas. Jarren Duran, Trevor Story and Masataka Yoshida can elevate the group further if they rise to the occasion. In the bullpen, Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin are dependable veterans with Josh Winckowski fresh off of a breakout season as a multi-inning reliever.

That leaves the rotation, where far less is proven.

Lucas Giolito offered the only notable addition to the staff in the winter. Since then, the former All-Star suffered a season-ending elbow surgery. That leaves Brayan Bello, Nick Pivetta, Kutter Crawford, Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck to set the tone for Boston. The rotation, unlike the 2023 staff, has to find a way to consistently go deep into games and internally improve to have a chance at contention.

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Though it has only been two games, that question has been answered out of the gates, showing signs of progress. Ultimately, that needs to continue for the next 160 games if Boston is going to snap a two-year playoff drought.

Bello got that started on Opening Day, allowing just two runs while pitching to contact and trusting his arsenal across five innings in a 6-4 Red Sox victory. The following night, Nick Pivetta turned in a rather sensational performance. The righty struck out 10 Seattle Mariners across six innings while inducing 17 swings-and-misses. Pivetta took the undeserved loss after allowing the game’s only run on a homer to J.P. Crawford while Boston got shut out to the tune of four hits.

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That’s two sizeable efforts, especially given the standard the Red Sox entered the season with.

Boston operated with only three healthy starters last July, tallied the fourth-fewest innings in the sport and struggled to produce in the final two months. It’s way too early to set standards for the 2024 season, but Bello and especially Pivetta showed signs of taking steps forward for the Red Sox.

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“It’s just building a good structure for the guys,” Pivetta told reporters after Friday’s start, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “I think everyone is equal. We’re all here. We all have a job to do.”

It’s unrealistic to ask for that level of excellence from Pivetta every time he takes the ball. What it does show is that if the Red Sox starters can say healthy, Andrew Bailey and the new pitching regime could really find success in elevating returning arms.

“That’s a pretty good two nights for the starters,” Alex Cora shared on Friday, per NESN’s postgame coverage. “We (want) three more starts of five or more (innings). If we do that, we’ll have a chance to win a lot of ballgames.”

The next progression comes in the work of a young trio in Kutter Crawford, Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck. All three have had experience as swing-starters in the majors, though putting together full seasons remains ahead.

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The Red Sox left their season in the hands of these five right-handers. The (very, very) early signs are encouraging.

Featured image via Stephen Brashear/USA TODAY Sports Images