FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In past Spring Trainings, the Red Sox have typically been one of the last teams to announce who is starting on Opening Day.
But when it was revealed earlier on Wednesday that lefty Chris Sale has a right rib cage injury that will keep him off the roster for the start of the season, manager Alex Cora saw no reason to conceal the obvious: Nathan Eovaldi will take the ball at Yankee Stadium on April 7 when the Sox open their 2022 season.
This will be the third straight year Eovaldi has taken the ball on Opening Day, and also the third straight year Sale will be on the injured list to start the season.
Regardless of how Sale factors in, this is a well-deserved nod for Eovaldi, who is coming off perhaps the best season of his career.
“I’m hoping I can do what I did last year and go out there and be able to make every start,” said Eovaldi. “That’s my goal, is to go out there and be healthy and, again, make every start, and contribute to the team like I did.”
Houck could have the inside track because he has 16 MLB starts under his belt and Whitlock was used exclusively as a reliever last season in his return from Tommy John surgery. Whitlock could also be one of the highest-leverage members of the Red Sox's bullpen, perhaps even the closer.
“I’m ready for whatever the team needs,” said Houck. “If they need me to start, I’ll be ready for that. If they need me to go to the bullpen, I’ll be ready. It’s just like last year -- every man be ready for whatever calls.”
The acquisitions of Wacha and Hill to deepen the rotation look even better now in light of Sale’s injury.
“Not perfect, right?” Cora said of Sale’s indefinite absence. “We’ve been talking about the guys we added in the offseason and obviously a few moves that we have made the last few days. We’re going to be OK. It’s just one of those obstacles for the team, but somebody has to step up and we have some capable guys.”