Red Sox finalize 2021 Opening Day roster

April 1st, 2021

The Red Sox answered most of their Opening Day roster questions Tuesday morning when they activated Franchy Cordero from the COVID-19 injured list while optioning infielder Michael Chavis and reliever Colten Brewer to the alternate training site in Worcester, Mass.

Cordero made up for lost time earlier in camp by getting a bulk of at-bats and innings in left field in recent days. That left Chavis or Christian Arroyo up for the final spot on the bench.

Chavis, once Boston’s No. 1 prospect and a semi-regular in the lineup the last two seasons, had a strong Spring Training, belting six homers in 60 at-bats. However, Arroyo, who doesn’t have options, had a good camp of his own, hitting three homers while displaying solid defense all over the infield.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez -- already ruled out for Opening Day -- will start the season on the injured list. No. 7 prospect Tanner Houck was recalled from the alternate training site to fill in for him, at least for the first turn through the rotation.

Here is a look at the 26 players who made the Opening Day roster:

Catcher (2): ,
Vázquez had a late-spring scare when he was belted under the left eye by a throw during a team drill, suffering a laceration and a contusion. But everything has been trending upward, and the veteran catcher thinks he will be ready to go for Thursday’s 2:10 p.m. ET opener against the Orioles at Fenway Park. The Red Sox like what they have in Vázquez offensively, defensively and from a leadership perspective. In Plawecki, Boston has a solid veteran backup, particularly on defense. It will be interesting to see if he can hit as well as he did last year over a full season.

First base (1):
Not only has Dalbec cemented his spot as the first baseman on Opening Day, but he looks like an American League Rookie of the Year Award candidate. The right-handed-hitting slugger belted seven homers in Spring Training, including two grand slams. Sure, he is strikeout-prone. But the Red Sox will take the K’s if they are accompanied by 30-plus homers. Boston is confident that the natural third baseman will make a smooth adjustment at first base.

Second base (1):
After three years of instability at second base, the Red Sox think they've finally replaced Dustin Pedroia with the free-agent signing of Hernández. Before Spring Training even started, Hernández told manager Alex Cora he wanted to be the team’s leadoff hitter, and he rose to that challenge with a strong camp. There are times that Hernández will start in center field and then move to second base for the late innings.

Shortstop (1):
Bogaerts started Spring Training with concern over right shoulder soreness that he developed in the offseason. But the team’s veteran leader is completely over the issue and should again be a rock at shortstop and in the batting order. This is his seventh full season in Boston and most consider him to be the team leader.

Third base (1):
This is a big year for Devers. Is he the star-in-the-making he played like two years ago or the inconsistent player (on both sides of the ball) that he was last season? With Cora back as manager, the expectation is that he will again find a way to get the most out of Devers. The final missing piece for Devers at the plate is to control the strike zone more. It’s a bit of a tricky situation because the lefty slugger is one of the best bad-ball hitters in the game. But there are also times he gets himself out by whiffing at pitches in the dirt.

Utility (2): , Arroyo
Versatility. Cora loves it and spoke about it all spring. And that’s the reason Gonzalez and Arroyo are his two rovers on the bench. Gonzalez will play everywhere but catcher and center field. Arroyo plays second, short and third at an above-average level. He has also made some strides with his offensive approach that could pay dividends.

Outfield (3): , ,
Give Cordero credit: The Red Sox seemed skeptical he would be ready in time for Opening Day after missing the first couple of weeks of camp, but he worked hard each day once he was cleared and is good to go. Just don’t expect to see him in the starting lineup on Opening Day with lefty John Means pitching for the Orioles. Cora has been doing a lot of mixing and matching with Verdugo in center and right, so it’s hard to know which direction he is going. It could depend on which ballpark the Red Sox are at on a given day. There could also be times when Verdugo plays left, with Hernández in center and Renfroe in right.

Designated hitter (1):
After a poor 2020 season, Martinez vowed that he would go back to the lab and fix what ailed him, and there's no reason to think that he won't, especially now that players can review video of their at-bats in-game again. When everything is going right, Martinez is an elite power hitter. Traditionally, Martinez hasn’t been one to waste good stats in Spring Training. That was again true this spring, though it was a good sign to see him go deep for the first time on Monday.

Starting pitchers (5): , , , ,
There are two big names missing here: Chris Sale and Rodriguez. While Sale’s absence will extend months, not weeks, as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, the expectation is that he will return at some point this season. Rodriguez shouldn’t be out long at all -- maybe a turn or two through the rotation. The team is just taking precautions due to the “dead arm” he experienced in his Grapefruit League start on March 22. After not pitching at all in 2020 due to myocarditis, Rodriguez is pumped to lead the staff again once he is activated.

Eovaldi has always had great stuff, but he’s still trying to have better command of his entire arsenal. The same can be said for Richards, a free-agent acquisition over the winter. Last year, the Red Sox unfairly needed Pérez to be their No. 2 starter. He will be in a role he is better suited for this season -- the fourth or fifth spot. The Sox just want him to keep them in games, which he did a nice job of last season.

Pivetta is the unknown, but the Red Sox are optimistic about the strides he’s made since he was traded from the Phillies last August. Houck, who dominated in three starts at the end of last season (3-0, 0.53 ERA) is a nice temporary fill-in for Rodriguez. The Sox feel far better about the depth of their rotation than they did last year.

Relievers (9): , , , , , , Garrett Whitlock, ,
Cora hoped to have the closer’s role settled before the end of Spring Training, but there was a bump in the road when Barnes had to be quarantined for two days after testing positive for COVID-19 last weekend. Barnes kept testing negative after that and MLB’s COVID Committee ruled that he had a non-infectious case of the virus, clearing him to return to action. It will either be Barnes or Ottavino, two established veterans, pitching the ninth inning for Cora. Whichever one isn’t the closer will be the lead setup man.

Ryan Brasier started camp recovering from a fractured right pinkie finger, and at the end of camp, he suffered a left calf strain. Either way, he was going to open the season on the injured list, but now he’ll be out longer. With the righty out, others will have to step up in the seventh inning. The great unknown is Sawamura and how effective he might be after spending his entire career in Japan. One thing Sawamura struggled with in camp was commanding his splitter. That will need to change if he is going be the weapon the Red Sox are banking on.

In a feel-good story, Rule 5 Draft pick Whitlock -- who had Tommy John surgery two years ago while with the Yankees -- cemented his spot with a stellar spring. Andriese should be invaluable as a long and middle man, as well as a potential starter. Hernandez and Taylor were slowed by COVID-19 last year, but both should re-emerge as important lefties in Cora's bullpen