Boston Red Sox: Top 3 position battles to watch during Spring Training

Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /
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Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Tanner Houck (89) Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

Boston Red Sox position battle No. 2: Starting Pitcher

The Red Sox seemed like they had their starting rotation figured out, but then Chris Sale picked up a rib injury and threw it all into doubt. Now Boston is going to have to piece together the backend of their rotation until he returns to action. The options aren’t particularly enticing, but at least they actually exist.

The first three starters that are set in stone are Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, and Tanner Houck. Eovaldi was dominant last season, earning a fourth place finish in the American League Cy Young race. Pivetta and Houck were solid throughout the year, and both were particularly useful in their do-it-all roles throughout the playoffs too.

One spot will go to Sale once he returns, but instead of having to fill just one spot heading into the regular season, Cora now has to fill two, which is a bit of a daunting proposition. The good news is that he has options. Whitlock figures to be competing for a starting spot as previously mentioned, with free agent signings Rich Hill and Michael Wacha also figuring to factor into the equation as well.

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Considering how Hill hasn’t made an appearence out of the bullpen since 2014 (2018 if you count playoffs) he seems like a lock for a spot at this point. Unless an unexpected name pops up during Spring Training (potentially prospects Jay Groome and Connor Seabold) the final spot will probably come down to Wacha or Whitlock.

Wacha has spent most of his career starting games, but he has been used out of the bullpen before, and that may be the role he starts the season in. Whitlock will have to prove he can go at least five innings as a starter, but he regularly had multi-inning outings in 2021, so that shouldn’t be an issue. If Wacha struggles early, that will open the door for Whitlock, and as we saw last season, Whitlock probably would take advantage of that and earn the last spot in the rotation.