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Garrett Whitlock pitches with urgency and execution in Worcester’s season opener

Garrett Whitlock (right) is expected to make at least one more minor league rehab start before joining the big league rotation in mid-April.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

WORCESTER — For Garrett Whitlock, urgency arrived even before the first pitch of his rehab start with Triple A Worcester Friday afternoon. With rain in the forecast, there was concern about the rehabbing righthander getting in his needed work — and the WooSox kicking off their season at Polar Park.

“The owner came up to me before the game,” said Whitlock. “He was just like, ‘Let’s try and get this in quick.’ ”

Whitlock — who opened the year on the Red Sox injured list while still building up following last September’s hip surgery — accommodated, working at a blistering pace over four solid innings and 75 pitches against a Triple A Mets team that fields one of the top minor league lineups. He allowed one run on six hits while walking one and striking out six in an 11-2 win.


“I’m just trying to work on everything and continue to sharpen the tools and everything to get ready to go,” said Whitlock.

He came out firing in the first inning, sitting at 94 miles per hour with his sinker and topping out at 95 before his velocity ticked down — initially to 92-93 in the second and third innings, then to 91-92 in the fourth — as he worked deeper into the outing.

While that diminishing velocity underscored that Whitlock is continuing to build stamina, he felt satisfied with his pitch mix. He elicited swings-and-misses on his sinker (5) and changeup (6), and eventually incorporated some sliders to lefties to round out his arsenal. He allowed runners in every inning, but mostly proved capable of minimizing harm by getting a steady array of strikeouts and grounders.

Though he’d been scheduled to work into the fifth inning, he reached his pitch count in four, ending his outing. Whitlock will make at least one more minor league rehab start before a potential entry into the Red Sox rotation around April 11.


Does he feel ready to compete in the big leagues?

“Time will tell,” said Whitlock. “Stuff felt good today, so now I’m just building volume and trying to sharpen the tools.”

Prospects get settled

The season-opening assignments for top Red Sox prospects are set.

No. 2 prospect Triston Casas and No. 4 prospect Masataka Yoshida (who retains prospect status in the eyes of Baseball America because he remains eligible for Rookie of the Year voting) are, of course, in the big leagues.

Shortstop Marcelo Mayer, the team’s top prospect, will start in High A Greenville, along with No. 10 prospect Eddinson Paulino, also an infielder.

Third-ranked prospect Ceddanne Rafaela, an infielder/outfielder, will open the year in Double A Portland, where the team wants to see him hone his plate discipline. Rafaela will be joined in Portland by second baseman Nick Yorke (No. 7).

Miguel Bleis, the team’s fifth-ranked prospect, will open in Single A Salem, along with fellow outfielder Roman Anthony (No. 9). They will soon be joined by middle infielder Mikey Romero (No. 6), who is opening the year in extended spring training after a back injury slowed him.

And in Worcester, the rotation will feature righty Bryan Mata (No. 8) and lefty Brandon Walter (No. 10).

Bobby Dalbec also is in Worcester, where he’ll initially play all four infield positions and eventually add the corner outfield spots in an effort to increase his versatility. Dalbec said he last played the outfield in college.


A Pax upon their house

Lefthander James Paxton enjoyed a milestone Wednesday, completing a two-inning outing against Twins minor leaguers in which his velocity was up to 96 miles per hour. It marked the first time since 2020 that he completed an outing without injury.

“It was really nice to get through one and feel good and feel like I’m starting to build some steam heading into the next one,” Paxton said at Fenway Park Thursday. “I’m just really excited to get back out there.”

Though Paxton was disappointed when his spring buildup was slowed by a hamstring injury, he was excited to take part in Opening Day ceremonies while feeling that he may soon be pitching in the big leagues — a contrast to his participation in ceremonies in 2022, when his best-case scenario was a midyear return.

“It’s very different knowing that I can be here very soon,” Paxton said. “I just can’t wait.”

Paxton is scheduled to make a rehab start with an affiliate next week.

Stealing spree

The Red Sox allowed five steals on Opening Day against the Orioles, their most in a single game since they gave up six against the Yankees in September 2013. Reliever Ryan Brasier became the 16th Red Sox pitcher to allow three or more steals in an outing of one inning or less … Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Cousy, 94, addressed the crowd at Polar Park as part of the WooSox’ Opening Day ceremonies. “My name is Bob Cousy,” he said. “If you don’t understand me that well, it’s because my teeth are frozen.”


Alex Speier can be reached at Follow him @alexspeier.