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Sox set rotation; Sale gets Opening Day nod

Lefty to start March 29 vs. Rays; Price, Porcello to follow
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox will set the tone for the 2018 season with their lefty ace tandem of Chris Sale and David Price.

Sale was officially tabbed by new manager Alex Cora to start Opening Day on March 29 at Tropicana Field against the Rays. This will be the fourth Opening Day start in Sale's career, but his first for the Red Sox.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox will set the tone for the 2018 season with their lefty ace tandem of Chris Sale and David Price.

Sale was officially tabbed by new manager Alex Cora to start Opening Day on March 29 at Tropicana Field against the Rays. This will be the fourth Opening Day start in Sale's career, but his first for the Red Sox.

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Price will follow the next day by starting the second game of the four-game series.

And Rick Porcello, the American League's Cy Young Award winner in 2016, draws the assignment in Game 3. The Red Sox are waiting for answers on the readiness of Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz before determining who will start the finale of that opening series. 

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Lefty Brian Johnson could get a chance to at least open the season as the fifth starter on April 2 in Miami against the Marlins.

The way the rotation lines up, Price would start the home opener on April 5 -- also against the Rays.

Unlike last season, when Price opened on the disabled list and didn't pitch until Memorial Day due to left elbow woes, he will be there from the start this season.

The Red Sox are excited to see how far they can go with two of the most accomplished starting pitchers in the game fronting the rotation. Price was only able to make 11 starts in 2017, but is beaming with excitement about his health this year.

Video: Dombrowski on Price's progress and health

"He's huge for us," Cora said of Price. "He knows it. He's been saying it the whole time. He understands what he means to this pitching staff. You put him with all those other guys and it looks like a dominant rotation. We're going to take care of him. We have to. He understands. Everybody understands. It's not only in Spring Training but throughout the season. We're thinking long term, not just April, May. We're very happy where he's at."

Price tuned up on Tuesday by holding the Pirates to three hits and two runs over five innings, walking one and striking out four in a 12-6 win.

"This is the best I've felt on March 20 of Spring Training," Price said. "I want to continue this trend up until my first game. That's what I plan to do and I'm excited."

Video: PIT@BOS: Price fans Rodriguez to retire the side

Sale actually found out on Monday -- after he had completed a laborious Grapefruit League start against the Phillies -- that he would get the nod for the opener. Sale will also pitch the finale of the season-opening road trip at Miami, which means he will have to hit and potentially run the bases.

"I told him after the game yesterday and he was cool [with it] and excited about it, but he wasn't excited about his performance [against the Phillies]," Cora said. "I told him, 'Hey, tomorrow you run the bases, start getting ready and you got Game 1 and Game 6.'"

Sale is coming off a second-place finish in the American League Cy Young Award voting in his debut season with Boston. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a Major League-best 308 strikeouts in 2017.

The 28-year-old, an All-Star the last six seasons, won all three of his Opening Day starts for the White Sox, notching a 2.45 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 22 innings.

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

Boston Red Sox, Chris Sale