NEW YORK -- The Red Sox open their 2022 season at Yankee Stadium on Friday, after the original game between the rivals on Thursday was postponed due to inclement weather.
Last week, MLB and the MLBPA announced that teams could carry a 28-man roster to open the season, with no limit on the number of pitchers as part of the expanded roster. On May 2, rosters will go back to 26 players, with a limit of 13 pitchers.
Manager Alex Cora previously said he will go with 15 pitchers to start the season, and on Thursday that decision was confirmed when the club official set its Opening Day roster.
Here is a position-by-position look at how the Red Sox stack up when they are introduced behind the third-base line in the Bronx on April 8.
Catcher (2): Christian Vázquez, Kevin Plawecki
Few teams have had better stability behind the plate in recent years than the Red Sox, who will go with the Vázquez/Plawecki tandem for the third straight season. Vázquez is the unquestioned starter and caught the most innings of anyone in the Majors last year (1,051 1/3). Vázquez would like to get back to hitting effectively against lefties, which he didn’t do in 2021. Plawecki is a strong receiver and the pitchers love working with him. He was an effective bat against lefties last season.
First base (2): Bobby Dalbec, Travis Shaw
The Red Sox are hoping they get the Dalbec who emerged in August of last season rather than the guy who struggled at times over the first four months of 2021. Dalbec grinded through his rookie year and still belted 25 homers. He is hoping to be a season-long force for Boston.
Shaw is the only player on the roster aside from Dalbec who has extensive experience at first base, which solidified him making the roster as a non-roster invite. Fellow non-roster invites Rob Refsnyder and Franchy Cordero have both played first at times, but were reassigned to the Minor Leagues on Monday.
Second base (1): Trevor Story
All eyes will be on Story early in the season as he makes the transition from shortstop to second. Given Story’s athleticism, nobody seems to have any worries about the move being less than seamless. Story also brings production and baserunning to the Red Sox. He is projected to bat sixth against righties and second against lefties.
Shortstop (1): Xander Bogaerts
The unquestioned leader of the Red Sox, Bogaerts is a consistent machine at the plate. Though his defensive metrics don’t wow anyone, he is a dependable shortstop who turns nearly everything he touches into outs.
Third base (1): Rafael Devers
Now entering his fifth full season, Devers is a full-fledged force at the plate and had a monster Spring Training. He belted 38 homers to go with 113 RBIs last year. If Devers wants to stay at third base for the long term, he will need to sharpen his defense. Cora feels confident that Devers will do just that.
Outfield (3): Alex Verdugo, Kiké Hernández, Jackie Bradley Jr.
Verdugo found his home in left field last year as his arm really played from that spot, particularly at Fenway Park. He will still play in right at times, particularly when Bradley is out of the lineup against lefties. Hernández has roved around defensively for his entire career, but has found a home in center and will be the primary starter there. Bradley is working hard to rediscover the offense that abandoned him last season.
J.D. Martinez will of course serve as the club's DH in many games, especially against right-handers, but will also get reps in the outfield against lefties.
Designated hitter (1): J.D. Martinez
The Red Sox have one of the best designated hitters in baseball in Martinez, and it’s not by accident. Martinez works as hard on his craft as anyone in the game. If he’s not at the plate during games, he’s probably in the cage or studying video. Martinez will also get reps in the outfield against lefties.
Utility (2): Christian Arroyo, Jonathan Aráuz
Before the acquisition of Story, Arroyo was projected as the starting second baseman for the Red Sox. Now he will move all over the diamond, and also get some reps in the outfield. Early returns have been encouraging for Arroyo, as he made a fine running catch in right field earlier this week. Aráuz, who had a couple of big hits for Boston late last season, can also move around the infield, plus he’s a switch-hitter and on the 40-man roster.
Starting pitchers (5): Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, Michael Wacha, Rich Hill
For the third straight year, the Red Sox will open with Chris Sale on the injured list. The good news is that the ailment isn’t arm related this time, but rather a stress fracture in his right rib cage that should keep the ace lefty out until at least June (the Red Sox placed him on the 60-day IL on Monday). Eovaldi has been a rock the past two seasons, and nothing has happened in Spring Training to suggest he will drop off in 2022. Pivetta took a step forward last year and the hope is he can do the same in ’22.
Houck, 25, has powerful stuff. Now, he needs to prove he has the command to be a starting pitcher over a full season. Hill is a marvel with how well he still throws the ball at age 42, not to mention how hard he competes. If he stays healthy, the Red Sox have a pretty good idea of what they will get. Wacha is no longer the stud he once was with St. Louis, but Cora is confident the righty can be dependable. In the end, Hill got the nod as the fifth starter over Garrett Whitlock, who was also in contention this spring.
Relief pitchers (10): Matt Barnes, Garrett Whitlock, Ryan Brasier, Kutter Crawford, Hansel Robles, Hirokazu Sawamura, Jake Diekman, Austin Davis, Matt Strahm, Phillips Valdez
The closer’s job is up for grabs. That is, if Cora goes with a set closer. Barnes would like to win back the job he lost down the stretch last year. There’s a chance Cora could play the matchups. Robles, who signed a Minor League deal a couple of weeks ago but didn’t arrive in camp until Thursday due to visa issues, made the roster and is also in the mix.
Cora seems more inclined to use Whitlock as a three-inning pitcher three times a week than as a closer or setup man. On some occasions, however, those innings could be the seventh through the ninth. Brasier, Sawamura, Diekman and Strahm are others who factor into the closer-by-committee approach.
Though the Red Sox are without Josh Taylor earily -- he was placed on the 10-day IL on Thursday with a low back strain, retroactive to April 4 -- they are more than covered from the left side with new additions Diekman and Strahm. Davis, a trade acquisition last July, is out of options.