FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox have played 11 Grapefruit League games and have 22 remaining before they open the season at Tampa Bay March 29.
Now seems like a good time to predict what the roster will look like for Game 1.
LHP Chris Sale
LHP David Price
RHP Rick Porcello
LHP Drew Pomeranz
LHP Brian Johnson
Explanation: With Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright sure to start the season on the disabled list, Johnson is the best candidate to open the season in the rotation. He’s out of options, which is not the case for Roenis Elias and Hector Velazquez.
He also was an excellent hitter in college, which is a nice bonus considering Game 5 will be in Miami without the DH. The Sox could skip the No. 5 starter until April 14 if they want and use Johnson as a reliever. Rodriguez could be ready by then.
Price has looked good all spring in his side work and seems to have come to grips with playing in Boston. That’s a big development.
Pomeranz has missed a few days with a forearm issue he doesn’t consider serious. But if he is not ready for Opening Day, the lack of depth will start to become an issue. The Sox should sign a veteran to a minor league deal regardless.
Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
J.D. Martinez DH
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Rafael Devers 3B
Eduardo Nunez 2B
Christian Vazquez C
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Explanation: Alex Cora has said he’s not going to worry much about splitting up righthanded and lefthanded hitters. He wants the best hitters to get the most at-bats. This is a very powerful lineup however it shakes out.
Don’t sleep on Bogaerts, who is working well with the new hitting coaches and is healthy. He looks primed for a monster season.
As for Martinez, it’s admirable that he wants to play the outfield. But the Sox had the best defensive outfield in the game last season (48 runs saved), and that is contingent on Bradley being able to cover the gaps and communicating well with Betts and Benintendi.
Breaking up that unit for the sake of appeasing Martinez would be foolish. Martinez wanted the most lucrative contract he could get and it came with three opt-outs. The price he pays for that should be learning how to DH with occasional games in the outfield. He can always leave in two years.
Sandy Leon C
Brock Holt UTIL
Mitch Moreland 1B
Blake Swihart C-LF-1B
Explanation: With Dustin Pedroia starting the season on the disabled list, the Sox have room for Holt and Swihart and may not need to make a decision for 6-8 weeks.
I am against the idea of trading Leon or Swihart. Why carve into catching depth, especially with Vazquez sporting a career .666 OPS? He still has plenty to prove. Swihart could be a very valuable player off the bench and can’t be discounted as the catcher of the future. He’ll be 26 in April, the same age Jason Varitek became a regular.
When Pedroia gets close to returning, Holt could be a good trade chip. As for Deven Marrero, he’s a gifted defensive shortstop but out of options. A rebuilding team might want to give him a shot.
RHP Craig Kimbrel
RHP Carson Smith
RHP Joe Kelly
RHP Matt Barnes
RHP Heath Hembree
LHP Robby Scott
RHP Brandon Workman
Explanation: This unit would look a lot better had the Sox acquired somebody in the offseason. Maybe Tyler Thornburg will come off the disabled list at some point and be what amounts to an addition.
Smith’s sinker/slider combo and sidearm action presents a nice contrast to the four-seam fastballs that Kelly, Barnes, and Hembree feature.
Cora doesn’t seem concerned with naming somebody the primary eighth-inning choice. In Kelly, Smith, and Barnes, there are plenty of options.
I’ve been impressed with Marcus Walden, a minor league journeyman who has been overwhelming hitters all spring. But he likely starts the season with Triple A Pawtucket.