Projecting Red Sox's Opening Day roster
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Camp is filling up again for the Red Sox as players are trickling back from the World Baseball Classic.
For manager Alex Cora, his coaching staff and the front office, it is time to start narrowing down the final roster decisions.
“I think it comes down to just a few spots with the position players and probably a few spots on the pitching side of it. That's where we are right now,” said Cora.
Here is a projection of what the roster could look like when the Red Sox take the field for Opening Day on March 30 at Fenway Park against the Orioles.
Catcher (2): Reese McGuire, Jorge Alfaro
McGuire will break camp as the primary catcher, and it looks like Alfaro will be the backup. Connor Wong’s chances to be the backup took a hit when he suffered a left hamstring strain on March 2. He won’t be ready by Opening Day.
First base (1): Triston Casas
Casas has a strong eye with power, and he could be in the mix for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Second base (1): Christian Arroyo
Arroyo is an above-average defender and holds his own at the plate. The biggest issue for the former first-rounder has always been staying healthy.
Shortstop (1): Kiké Hernández
Hernández has the opportunity he has always wanted -- to play shortstop on a near everyday basis. After playing center field for Puerto Rico in the Classic, Hernández will get back in the swing of things at shortstop upon his return to camp.
Third base (1): Rafael Devers
Now the face of the franchise, Devers has already done so much and is just coming into his prime as he heads into his age-26 season.
Left field (1): Masataka Yoshida
Yoshida is having a long run with Japan at the Classic. He has also been swinging a hot bat. Look for Yoshida to hit cleanup for Boston in his rookie season. The Red Sox are confident they made a good investment in the left-handed hitter.
Center field (1): Adam Duvall
Duvall, a right-handed hitter, is starting to take better at-bats after a slow start to camp. Last week, Duvall hit two homers over the replica Monster at JetBlue Park. The Red Sox can’t wait to see him do the same thing at Fenway.
Right field (1): Alex Verdugo
Verdugo has played a key role for semifinalist Mexico in the Classic. The Red Sox are quietly confident their right fielder is poised for a breakout season.
Designated hitter (1): Justin Turner
The scariest moment of camp occurred when Turner was hit in the face by a pitch in a game against the Tigers on March 6. Fortunately, he suffered lacerations instead of fractures, and all his scans came back clean. Turner missed two weeks of game action but is projected to return to the lineup on Monday and be ready for Opening Day.
Bench/utility (3): Rob Refsnyder, Raimel Tapia, Yu Chang
Other than Refsnyder, who is a lock to make the team and will start against lefties, these spots are up for grabs. Tapia is battling Jarren Duran to be the left-handed-hitting outfielder off the bench. Tapia is used to a reserve role, while Duran might get more benefit by getting regular at-bats at Triple-A Worcester. The backup infield spot is between Chang and Bobby Dalbec, who is adding shortstop to his list of positions. Chang plays all four infield spots. It comes down to whether the Red Sox would rather have Dalbec’s power or Chang’s defense.
Starting pitchers (5): Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, Kutter Crawford
When camp started, there were seven pitchers vying for five spots. However, Garrett Whitlock, James Paxton and Brayan Bello will all spend the early part of the season on the injured list. Crawford is battling Josh Winckowski to be the temporary fifth starter. Whitlock (coming off right hip surgery) could be back by mid-April, with Bello just a few days behind him. It’s doubtful Paxton (right hamstring strain) will pitch for the Red Sox before May.
Relief pitchers (8): Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin, John Schreiber, Richard Bleier, Ryan Brasier, Zack Kelly, Josh Winckowski, Ryan Sherriff
For the first time in years, the Red Sox know who their closer is heading into the season. This, after the acquisition of Jansen, who has 391 career saves. There are several candidates for the final two spots in the bullpen, but Kelly and Winckowski appear to be leading the charge. Winckowski offers value as a long man early in the season. Now that lefty Joely Rodriguez will start the season on the injured list due to a Grade 2 strain in his right oblique, Sherriff -- a non-roster invite who was recently re-assigned to Minors camp -- is back in the running to make the team.