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Revisiting Sox's projected Opening Day roster

Club aiming to solidify back end of rotation with Johnson, Velazquez in running
March 13, 2018

So much has changed since we took that first stab at the projected Opening Day roster for the Red Sox on Feb. 9.Prized slugger J.D. Martinez arrived after months of rumors. Eduardo Nunez re-signed on the reporting date for position players, giving the Red Sox a strong replacement while Dustin

So much has changed since we took that first stab at the projected Opening Day roster for the Red Sox on Feb. 9.
Prized slugger J.D. Martinez arrived after months of rumors. Eduardo Nunez re-signed on the reporting date for position players, giving the Red Sox a strong replacement while Dustin Pedroia spends the first several weeks of the regular season on the disabled list.
The final two spots in the rotation are now in flux, with Thomas Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright all fighting an uphill climb to be ready for the season-opening road trip.
Spring Training information
Here is a complete breakdown of the latest 25 that are projected to be active on March 29, when the season opens at Tropicana Field against the Rays.
Catcher (3): Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart
The one interesting wrinkle here is that Swihart has come out swinging and is having a terrific camp. Swihart is healthy for the first time in two years, and he is looking like a full-fledged athlete again. To this point, however, indications are still that he will be the third catcher rather than supplanting the Vazquez-Leon duo that is so popular with the pitching staff. The beauty of Swihart is that he isn't just a catcher. He can also play the corner-infield spots and left field. One thing to keep an eye on is this: If another team covets Swihart enough to offer an elite prospect, the Red Sox might have something to think about.
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First base (2): Mitch Moreland, Hanley Ramirez
These are the same players we listed at first base during the last roster projection, but the situation is now very different with Martinez in the fold. Before Martinez's arrival, Moreland was the regular first baseman, with Ramirez expected to be the primary DH. Now, Martinez is the primary DH, leaving Ramirez and Moreland in a battle for at-bats at first base. New manager Alex Cora seems all-in on a rebound season for Ramirez, to the point he could bat third. That means Moreland will likely be the backup. Cora has stated several times, however, that he likes to keep his bench players in the mix. Moreland is also an excellent pinch-hitter and a strong defender in the late innings. He definitely serves a purpose, even in a reduced role.

Second base (2): Nunez, Brock Holt
Last time we did this exercise, Marco Hernandez was penciled in as the temporary second baseman to spell Pedroia. But Hernandez suffered a complication from the left shoulder subluxation that he had last year and will now open the season on the disabled list. Nunez -- who fit in well at the plate, on the bases and in the clubhouse upon his arrival to Boston last July -- was a welcome readdition. It also takes the pressure off Pedroia to rush back. Holt, a sure thing to make the team the past three years, has a battle on his hands this spring. Deven Marrero, a strong defender, is out of options. Cora is on record as being a big fan of the versatile Tzu-Wei Lin, who can play the infield and outfield.

Shortstop (1): Xander Bogaerts
Bogaerts is healthy again after playing through a painful right hand injury down the stretch last year, and it is evident by the way he is ripping the baseball. He is also working hard on his defense with coach Ramon Vazquez. Once Pedroia returns, Nunez will be able to spell Bogaerts at short so he doesn't get overworked. Holt, Marrero and Lin can all play shortstop as well.
Third base (1): Rafael Devers
Devers appears ready to do damage -- and a lot of it -- at the plate. But his defense remains a concern, as there have been some sloppy errors early in Spring Training. If Devers falters on offense or defense, Swihart could become a bigger part of the plans at third base. Holt and Marrero are also comfortable at the hot corner.
Outfield (4): Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Martinez
Without question, this was the strength of the team even before Martinez signed. Now, it is an overwhelming strength. Look for Martinez to play the outfield a couple of times a week, with Benintendi and Bradley sometimes getting a day off against lefties. Benintendi, Bradley and Betts are as good as gets as a defensive trio. Martinez gives the Red Sox the big bopper they sorely lacked a year ago.

Starting rotation (5): Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Christopher Johnson, Hector Velazquez
The big three of Sale, Price and Porcello are good to go. Beyond that, there are issues. Rodriguez and Wright have been brought along slowly in camp due to their offseason knee surgeries. Though both pitchers have made progress, it's doubtful they can be ready for the first turn through the rotation. The same now goes for Pomeranz, who suffered a mild flexor strain in his left elbow in his first Grapefruit League start and likely won't pitch in a game until sometime next week. That has left a golden opportunity for Johnson to prove he is at last ready to break through. The lefty is also out of options. Velazquez wasn't on anyone's radar when camp opened, but circumstances mean that the former Mexican League pitcher will likely be the fifth starter when the season opens.

Bullpen (7): Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Richard Hembree, Roenis Elias, Brandon Workman
Smith looks like he's ready to be the wipeout righty the team needs now that he's fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. Elias, who has settled on throwing sidearm against lefties, has been terrific in Grapefruit League outings, and he could win the job as the lead lefty.
Look for righty Tyler Thornburg to make an impact early in the season, but he is still likely to start the season on the disabled as he recovers from surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.