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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

For openers, it doesn’t get much worse than this

Carson Smith headed back to the mound after giving up a bases-loaded triple to Denard Span (on third) in the eighth.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Wow. What is there to say other than . . .

■  Bring back John Farrell.

■  Wait till next year.

■  Bring back Grady Little.

■  The Red Sox have already played their worst game of the season.

■  How do you blow a 4-0 lead to a team that looks like it is designed to lose?

■  Bring back Bobby Valentine.

OK, let’s all calm down. I am overreacting here. The season is not over. Alex Cora is going to be just fine (we think). This is not going to be one of those Raging Bullpen teams that gives fans heart attacks in the seventh and eighth innings.

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But what in the name of “Launch Angle” went on at the Trop Thursday? In a scene that was wildly reminiscent of the Red Sox’ season-opening disaster here 15 years ago, the Sox wasted a Chris Sale gem, blew a 4-0 lead in the eighth, and dropped a 6-4 decision to a team that looks worthy of a commissioner’s investigation for consumer fraud. The Rays look like they are trying to lose this year, but that didn’t stop them from overwhelming the Sox’ setup-by-committee in the sixth-run eighth.

Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, all this damage was inflicted while Craig Kimbrel sat in the bullpen and never warmed up. This after we were told all winter that he would be used in high-leverage situations before the ninth inning.

Not Thursday. Even though Cora told us Kimbrel was “available,’’ the rookie skipper said that “we decided before the game” that Kimbrel would not be inserted into the middle of an inning.

Did I mention that the Sox ran into a pair of outs? Didn’t think so. And it would have been three blunders if a Tampa relay throw hadn’t bounced off the mound on Eduardo Nunez’s second-inning inside-the-park homer.

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This was, in short, the Full Monty of Sox Suck on Opening Day.

Poor Cora. What a way to start your Red Sox managerial career. Fergie had a better day singing the anthem at the NBA All-Star Game.

The polite manager was ready for the firing squad when the Sox clubhouse doors swung open in the early minutes after the shocker.

First question: Why no Kimbrel?

“We talked about it before the game and I don’t want to put him in that spot right now,’’ said the manager. “We feel he’s ready, but I don’t think it’s fair for him to come into that situation. It’s not a clean inning. We talked about it and we’ll stick to it . . . He was available, but for where we are at right now . . . for what we are trying to accomplish this year, we need him for the long run and not for just Opening Day. If that siutation presents later, probably 15 days, he’ll be in in that situation . . . I’m not going to change my mind because of all the stuff going on out there. We’ve got to plan and we’ve got to take care of players and that’s the way we’ve got to take care of him, especially now.’’

Sorry, but this won’t fly with folks back home. Kimbrel’s spring was limited because he was in Boston for three weeks caring for his infant daughter, but Cora does himself no favors by telling us that Kimbrel is ready, but the Sox don’t want to put him into an inning that is not clean. Kimbrel shouldn’t be here if he’s not available to rescue Joe Kelly once Kelly gets into trouble in the eighth.

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Same with kid lefty Bobby Poyner, who warmed up but did not get in the game. There were a couple of spots for a lefty specialist in the eighth, but Poyner has never pitched in the big leagues and Cora again said, “We’re not gonna put him in a spot like that.’’

Excuse me? Then why is Poyner here? Why is Cora saddled with a couple of relievers — one a rookie and one an All Star — who could not be put in “a spot like that”? This makes it sound like the Sox started the season with a dysfunctional roster. Maybe this loss is on Dave Dombrowski.

Kelly and Carson Smith did all the damage after Sale’s six innings of one-hit pitching.

Kelly: one out recorded, three walks, one hit, four earned runs. ERA: 108.00.

Cora on Kelly: “He had good stuff. You have to keep it in the zone.’’

Ouch. Farrell-esque.

Smith: two outs recorded, one walk, two hits, two earned runs. ERA: 27.00.

“It’s baseball,’’ said the manager. “We know it’s gonna happen. I guess just get it out of the way right away. But it was actually a good game for us offensively. We could have scored more. Defensively we were solid.

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“You always want to get the W out of the way right away. Any loss is disappointing, but to lose it that way, yeah, of course you think about it. But one thing, we have to come back tomorrow and be ready for tomorrow.’’

The ghosts of 2003 were all over this game. In 2003, Pedro Martinez gave his bullpen-by-committee a 4-0 lead and the pen could not hold it. Carl Crawford, of all people, hit a walkoff three-run homer to complete the comeback in Tampa’s 6-4 victory. Same score as Thursday.

Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie, the only person still here who was in a Boston uniform that day, told the Globe’s Alex Speier, “I didn’t want to go back that far. I was living in the moment at the time. Tough one, but that’s why we play the game tomorrow.’’

David Price gets the ball Friday night. Against his old team. In his old office.

With the Red Sox’ season on the line.

Not true, of course. There’s 160 more after Friday. But Alex Cora will certainly feel better if Price rides to the rescue in Game 2.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy