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Rotation remains rock of Sox's 2018 roster

Led by Sale and healthy Price, club on track to boast top-tier staff
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

The Red Sox haven't done any tinkering to their rotation this winter, and for good reason. The feeling within the organization is that Boston's collection of starters is one of the best in the American League.

Ace Chris Sale is a dominant force, and he is in his prime. David Price made just 11 starts last season due to left elbow woes but was healthy going into the offseason. Judging by the powerful way Price threw the ball out of the bullpen against the Astros in the AL Division Series, he remains more than capable of performing at a high level.

The Red Sox haven't done any tinkering to their rotation this winter, and for good reason. The feeling within the organization is that Boston's collection of starters is one of the best in the American League.

Ace Chris Sale is a dominant force, and he is in his prime. David Price made just 11 starts last season due to left elbow woes but was healthy going into the offseason. Judging by the powerful way Price threw the ball out of the bullpen against the Astros in the AL Division Series, he remains more than capable of performing at a high level.

Yet another lefty in Drew Pomeranz is coming off the best season of his career. Righty Rick Porcello needs to bounce back after a tough follow-up season to his Cy Young performance in 2016.

ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Chris Sale, LHP
David Price, LHP
Drew Pomeranz, LHP
Rick Porcello, RHP
Steven Wright, RHP

STRENGTH
The Red Sox don't just have standout performers at the top of their rotation, they have premium power pitchers. Sale led the Majors last season with 308 strikeouts. Before last season's mishap with his elbow, Price was a model of consistency in terms of durability and results. From 2014-16, he averaged 233 innings and 241 strikeouts. In hindsight, it's amazing the Red Sox were able to still win the division in '17 while missing Price for two-thirds of the season. Pomeranz, if less heralded than Sale and Price, was Mr. Dependability last season, going 17-6 with 174 strikeouts and a 3.32 ERA.

QUESTION MARK
It's hard for the Red Sox to know what they will get out of Porcello. The sinkerballer stunned the baseball world by winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2016. Then came the noticeable dropoff of '17, when he gave up a league-leading 236 hits and had a 4.65 ERA. For whatever reason, Porcello's sinker didn't have the same bite last season, and opposing hitters were able to routinely square the ball up. The Sox don't need Porcello to be a Cy Young Award winner again. But they need him to be consistent. The type of season Porcello had for the Tigers in '14 (15-13, 3.43 ERA) would be perfectly acceptable.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
For now, Wright, who agreed to a one-year deal, is projected to be the fifth starter when the season opens. That's due to the fact Eduardo Rodriguez is recovering from right knee surgery. But if Rodriguez can recover quicker than expected, there's a chance he could get back into the rotation by the first week or two of the season. That would leave Wright in the bullpen if everyone else is healthy. Left-hander Brian Johnson, a prospect who has been trying to break through the last three seasons, could also get a chance to compete for the fifth spot in Spring Training.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has been steadfast all winter in saying he's not looking to acquire a starting pitcher. But you wonder if things could change if he's unsuccessful in acquiring J.D. Martinez or another big bat. Could he then re-allocate his resources and go after a marquee free-agent pitcher like Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta? It seems unlikely, but Dombrowski has pulled off surprises before.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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