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Red Sox starter Garrett Whitlock to open season with a rehab appearance for Triple A Worcester

Garrett Whitlock has made two spring training appearances, including one start, for a total of five innings.Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Garrett Whitlock will pitch on Opening Day, but for Triple A Worcester.

The Red Sox were careful not to rush Whitlock this spring following the righthander’s hip surgery late last season. On Friday, manager Alex Cora said Whitlock is roughly a week behind schedule and will likely rejoin the starters’ group the second time through the rotation, after the minor league rehab start.

Throughout most of last season, Whitlock walked with a limp and was visibly pitching through pain. That is no longer the case.

“I feel like a brand new kid again,” Whitlock said. “I’m just healthy. I feel like I’m able to do everything.


“I’m not trying to guard myself or anything. It’s not like I’m limited with anything so that’s pretty much the biggest part.”

Whitlock began the season in the bullpen last season, but then moved to a starter’s role. Following a trip to the injured list, he went back to the bullpen. Now, the Red Sox want to see what they have in Whitlock as a starter. A structured role might help the 26-year-old.

The Sox have maintained confidence in Whitlock’s stuff, believing he has the mix which includes a devastating fastball changeup mix. His third pitch, the slider, will be the real test with Whitlock citing that he’s lacked feel for it, at times, this spring.

“I’m just working on it each day,” Whitlock said. “Just kind of trying to find a consistent shape and a consistent break for everything. It’s definitely important.

“Anytime you can improve your arsenal, that’s important whether it’s a third or fourth pitch. Any opportunity that I can get to try and get a little bit better I’m gonna try to take it. Let’s see how it goes.”


Quality from Pivetta

Nick Pivetta put together a quality outing at JetBlue Park against a Braves team that had most of its starters in the lineup with Opening Day fast approaching.

“It’s nice to have everybody here and everybody out playing together,” Pivetta said. “I think from our side, it’s the perfect kind of game to get ready for the season.”

Pivetta went six innings. He yielded two runs on 10 hits and threw 100 pitches, finishing with 5 strikeouts and 2 walks.

The righthander fell behind in some counts, putting the hitter in the driver’s seat. He also gave up some hard contact. Nevertheless, the starter was able to wiggle out of trouble and make pitches when he needed to.

In the sixth inning, for example, Pivetta found himself in a jam. With two outs in the frame and nobody on, he struggled with the Braves’ Nos. 8 and 9 hitters. Ignacio Alvarez laced a single to left field and Orlando Arcia roped a double down the left-field line to put two runners in scoring position. Next up was leadoff hitter Ronald Acuña, who ultimately struck out for the second time against Pivetta, this time on the minimum amount of pitches.

“Everything I’ve done so far is pretty much exactly what I need to do to continue to move into the season,” Pivetta said.

The biggest damage against Pivetta came in the fourth inning when Ozzie Albies parked a solo shot in the right-field bleachers.


For Pivetta, the outing represented a good test against a formidable opponent.

Pivetta won’t make the trip to Boston with the Sox when camp breaks Tuesday. He has one more outing Wednesday in Fort Myers, then would be in line start the Red Sox’ fifth game, on April 4 against the Pirates at Fenway Park.

Tinkering up top

The Sox continue to tinker with the leadoff spot, something that will carry into the season. “I don’t see ourselves having a Mookie Betts for 156 games,” Cora said. We will mix and match. At one point, obviously, I would love to have structure in the end, but I think we [have] a lot of guys that can do the job.” Alex Verdugo batted leadoff against the Braves. When asked what he liked about Verdugo batting leadoff, Cora alluded to the right fielder’s keen eye, adding that it’s a position he believes Verdugo can handle. Leadoff was a familiar spot for Verdugo during the 60-game 2020 season. He hit first in 33 games that year, batting .304/.362/.442 with an .804 OPS . . . Brayan Bello (forearm) is a week behind Whitlock, so there’s a chance the right-hander could rejoin the starters following their second time through the rotation . . . First baseman/outfielder Daniel Palka and catchers Caleb Hamilton and Ronaldo Hernández were assigned to minor league camp.

Julian McWilliams can be reached at Follow him @byJulianMack.