Inbox: How many starts for Sale in 2022?

April 6th, 2022

With Opening Day postposed until Friday at Yankee Stadium, this seemed like the perfect time to empty my Inbox and answer your questions about the 2022 Red Sox.

How many starts will [Chris] Sale be on the mound for this season?
-- @alan_provan via Twitter

The plan is for Sale to start a throwing program around the time the Red Sox come back to Boston, which is on April 15. The best-case scenario after the Sox put Sale on the 60-day injured list is that he can make his first start on June 6 in Anaheim. If they could get about 22 starts out of him, that would be a lot better than the last two years. 

And this time, Sale isn’t coming off an arm injury, so there’s a chance he could be dominant from the jump. It is definitely going to be a big story to follow. Sale has taken it hard that he hasn’t been able to give the team more since he signed his contract extension, so he will have the highest motivation possible to get back to his former self. Whether or not he can do that could determine how far the Red Sox go this season.

Any chance of [Garrett] Whitlock being the closer?
-- @cooperhorton via Twitter

In a traditional sense? No. The Red Sox think he is too valuable to use him in one-inning stints. He could close at times in this sense: Say Nathan Eovaldi goes five innings on Opening Day and leaves with the Red Sox leading by a run or two. Whitlock could pitch the last four innings of the game and get the save. You could see Whitlock get used a lot in that type of situation this season. He has been stretched out as a starter during Spring Training, so he also could get some starts.

Do you think they will, at some point this season, have to acquire an everyday right fielder?
-- @JThompson8 via Twitter

I don’t think that Chaim Bloom thinks in those terms. What they want is to get enough production at that position over 162 games. I think it’s more likely they go out and get a right-handed hitter at some point to pair with Jackie Bradley Jr. Keep in mind how important defense is in right field at Fenway Park. Bradley is as good as it gets in the outfield. If he can at least get his offense back to the point it was before last season, the Red Sox can probably live with that when you look at how potent their offense figures to be as a whole.

Early on, you are likely to see Christian Arroyo or J.D. Martinez in right against lefties. This will give Alex Cora the chance of getting other people off their feet and putting them at DH them on those days.

Who is the team’s best option as a right-handed-hitting fourth outfielder?
-- @gsl24fps via Twitter

At this point, it is Arroyo. The question is whether Arroyo actually plays the outfield on those days Bradley isn’t in the lineup. As I stated above, Arroyo could play the infield, with Martinez starting at a corner outfield spot, and one of the other infielders (Trevor Story, Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers) getting a day off their feet as DH.

Do you think Chaim would take a chance, a la Whitlock, on [Jay] Groome or [Brayan] Bello being called up early as a multi-inning relief pitcher?
-- @ShaneRsski90 via Twitter

I really don’t. That would be short-sighted. Whitlock’s situation was different because he was coming off of Tommy John surgery, and he was a Rule 5 pick, so he needed to stay on the MLB roster all season. Bello is probably the most promising starting pitcher in the farm system. He needs to keep developing as a starter. This is a pivotal year for Groome to demonstrate that he can be an effective starting pitcher at the highest level. Both of those pitchers need to round out their development. Could this happen later in the season? I wouldn’t rule that out.

Do we have any shot at [Frankie] Montas or any other mid-tier starting pitchers on the trade market? Would Chaim give up the prospects needed for a deal like that?
-- @WesShaw10 via Twitter

There are a lot of factors involved in something like that. Who are the prospects? Do the Red Sox think this is a player that could put them over the top as a World Series contender? I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. With the Story signing, Bloom proved he was willing to make a big investment in this team. The farm system is getting to the point where the Red Sox might be in position to start dealing a prospect or two in the right deal. This was not the case the last couple of years.

Which prospects have the best chance of being called up this year?
-- @MarcusMarigota via Twitter

Triston Casas is definitely the prospect to keep an eye on this season. He is a very advanced hitter and an impressive physical specimen. He is rated No. 16 among all MLB prospects. Casas got 42 at-bats at Triple-A at the end of last season, and my hunch is that they’d like to get him at least a half-season's worth of at-bats there this year. Depending on the needs on the MLB roster, you could see him in July or August.

Jarren Duran is another prospect to keep an eye on. There was a lot of hype about him last year, and obviously, it didn’t go well in his limited at-bats with the Red Sox. Now that he knows what adjustments need to be made, he can work on those at Triple-A.

What's the plan for Duran? Is he just trade bait now?
-- @brothersjudd via Twitter

The hope is that he can complete his development at Triple-A and be more ready to produce when the Red Sox call him up next. And, yes, he could be a potential trade chip if it helps the team fill another area of need.

Chance of Xander and Devers being extended during season?
-- @XxBosox12xX via Twitter

Both players, particularly Bogaerts, don’t seem interested in discussing their contracts during the season. I think this is good news for the Red Sox as a team in 2022 that these players are more focused on the team than their individual situations. There is less of a rush with Devers, because the team still has him under their control for another season. With Bogaerts, it’s going to be a huge story this offseason. With what he means to the team on and off the field, I expect the Red Sox to make a full-fledged effort to keep him.