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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
24 Feb 2024
Mac Cerullo

NextImg:Alex Cora lays out state of Red Sox starting rotation competition

FORT MYERS, Fla. — When the Red Sox failed to bring in significant starting rotation reinforcements, it became clear that several of the club’s younger arms would have an opportunity to earn another shot.

That battle began when camp opened and is ramping up now as games get under way, and prior to Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener Red Sox manager Alex Cora laid out how he sees the rotation as of today.

Basically, Lucas Giolito, Nick Pivetta and Brayan Bello are in and two spots are up for grabs.

“As of now, if everything stays the same and they’re healthy, Lucas is in the rotation and Nick is in the rotation. Brayan too,” Cora said. “We believe Kutter (Crawford) is a starter but we have to make decisions accordingly but I believe his future is there, he’s proven it before. So we’re going to give him a lot of chances, or let’s say he has the lead in that one. Then after that we’ll see how it goes.”

Presuming Crawford wins the fourth spot as expected, that would leave Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck and Josh Winckowski battling for the final opening.

How will the Red Sox decide who makes the rotation? Cora said the players’ performance in games will matter, but just as important is how well they attack hitters, how well their pitches are playing, and most importantly, how much progress they’ve made in shoring up their weaknesses.

“We know about all of them and each one of them have their strengths and have shown some weaknesses throughout their career,” Cora said. “Tanner, strike throwing. Kutter, can he maintain his stuff? Whit, can he stay healthy? Winckowski, can he maintain his stuff? That’s something that we’re going to take a look at.”

When the Red Sox took the field for pregame warm-ups at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, they were greeted by a familiar face in Kaleb Ort, who recently joined the Orioles and is battling for a spot in their big league bullpen.

He’s endured quite a journey to get there since leaving the Red Sox last fall.

Officially Ort has been a member of five organizations since the offseason began, being claimed off waivers three separate times before he was acquired by the Orioles last week. He was first picked up by the Mariners on Oct. 13 and spent about a month and a half with Seattle before he was claimed again by the Marlins on Dec. 1.

He then began preparations for spring training and even rented an AirBnb near Miami’s facility in Jupiter, Florida, only to then learn on the verge of camp he was on the move again and would be joining the Phillies. He spent less than a week there before he was designated for assignment and traded to Baltimore in exchange for cash. Fortunately in that instance Baltimore and Philadelphia’s spring sites are close enough Ort didn’t have to seek new housing a third time.

Whether or not Ort can stick with Baltimore remains to be seen, but if he is able to earn a spot and remain with the Orioles it would present a big opportunity. Baltimore is coming off a 101-win season and is considered a potential World Series favorite, and though Ort couldn’t put it together in Boston (6.27 ERA in 65 appearances), he’s always boasted great stuff.

Clearly teams are intrigued enough to bring him. A lot of teams, it turns out.

The Red Sox projected starters are expected to make their spring debuts during Sunday’s split squad games against the Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves, and Cora indicated most will play Monday as well.

Lucas Giolito and Brayan Bello will each make their first starts of the spring, with Giolito scheduled to start against the Twins at JetBlue Park while Bello takes the mound against Atlanta in North Port.

Chris Murphy, Greg Weissert, Wikelman Gonzalez and Luis Perales are all slated to take the mound against the Twins as well, and Joe Jacques, Zack Kelly, Cam Booser and Luis Guerrero will pitch against the Braves.