FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox ace lefty Chris Sale, who threw the wipeout slider to Manny Machado that ended the 2018 baseball season, will throw the first pitch of '19 for the defending World Series champions.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora tabbed Sale on Sunday morning as his Opening Day starter against the Mariners at T-Mobile Park on March 28.
"Obviously, it's an honor," said Sale. "I appreciate the fact that I'm the one he chose to start on Opening Day. At the same time, that doesn't take away from anyone else in our rotation. I think at the end of the year, when the dust settles, it's going to be pretty close all around."
Cora will hold off on naming the rest of the rotation for the Seattle series. David Price, who was scratched from his Grapefruit League start on Sunday against the Rays, is a strong candidate to pitch Game 2.
Though Cora possesses perhaps the strongest rotation in MLB, the manager said that determining who would get Opening Day was not a difficult decision.
"Very easy," said Cora. "What he did last year, obviously he didn’t pitch towards the end [of the regular season]. We took care of him and he pitched every Game 1 in the playoffs. He was having a Cy Young season. You saw him yesterday. He looks pretty good. it was very simple."
This will be Sale’s second Opening Day start for the Red Sox and fifth of his career.
Sale gets the honor following a season in which he was magnificent when healthy, going 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA in 27 starts. Left shoulder woes sidelined Sale for most of the second half, but he was back for the magical postseason run in which the Red Sox went 11-3.
In 2019, the Red Sox will again go as far as their loaded rotation takes them. And Sale will be front and center in leading the group.
"I've been saying all along that they set the tempo for this team and for them to be around together right after the Super Bowl, everybody was here [at Spring Training], obviously Chris and David, they were here the whole offseason," said Cora. "That was great for us to stay in touch with them and know what they were doing, it was great. I do enjoy watching him pitch. The intensity. He's fun to watch."
Sale is fired up every time he takes the ball, but Opening Day will add another layer.
"It's the first one. It's just another game in the year, but it's a big production that goes on," Sale said. "There's always a flyover. Big ceremony before. Yeah, it's the first one, so you obviously get locked in, get more fired up for that."
As far as the way the rest of the rotation stacks up, Cora said he is fine having his two stud lefties pitch back-to-back, but the third one [Eduardo Rodriguez] will be broken up by Rick Porcello or Nathan Eovaldi.
"There’s no rush," Cora said. "I think everybody is where they should be as far as pitches and innings and strength. We just have to make sure everybody stays on a program, and then we'll make decisions."