Big four finally cleared for game action

Porcello, Sale, Price, Eovaldi slated to make spring debuts

March 5th, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox are at last getting ready to send their big four in the rotation out there for game action.

will lead the charge on Sunday when he starts in Port Charlotte against the Rays. With the Sox having an off-day on Monday, ace will pitch that day in a Minor League game. Lefty will make his debut on Tuesday at home against the Tigers, followed by on Wednesday versus the Twins.

The reason the starters have been held back for this long in Spring Training is two-fold: The first being that manager Alex Cora saw benefits by deploying a similar program last year. The second is that the club played in the World Series in 2018, and those four starters worked a heavy load which included bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen.

Porcello ramped up on Tuesday by throwing live batting practice in front of a large group of teammates and also former players Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe.

The conservative schedule has left the competitive veterans antsy to do more.

“It was like I couldn’t sleep last night knowing I was going to throw live BP and actually face hitters finally,” said Porcello.

Pedroia likely to debut Thursday

Cora had said Monday that he might hold ’s Spring Training debut to Friday because he didn’t want the second baseman to overdo it on a nationally televised game on ESPN. But it sounds like he has had a change of heart and Pedroia likely will start Thursday at home against the Twins.

“Most likely Thursday,” Cora told reporters in West Palm Beach, where the Red Sox were playing the Nationals. “I texted with him today and he said he feels good. We’ll see how the medical department feels. If he’s OK today, we’ll most likely play him on Thursday.”

From there, the Red Sox will gradually ramp up Pedroia. The second baseman played in just three games last season due to discomfort in his left knee.

“We have to build him up to seven [innings],” said Cora. “We don’t play nine down here. You run a marathon, you don’t run the whole thing before you get there. So seven innings, but we’ll take it step by step.”

E-Rod on ‘same page’ with Cora

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez was not offended by Cora calling him out to the media for his inefficiency in Monday’s start against the Mets.

“Yeah, I mean like I told you yesterday, I was really upset with the lefty when I went to 3-0,” said Cora. “Lefty-lefty, two outs, we’re up by four runs and went 3-0 with him, and that got me mad, too. And then he told me when I got in the dugout. We’re on the same page, though. Just need to improve that and attack the hitter. That’s the point to be a starter. When you score four runs, you’ve got to go out there and get three outs and get back to the dugout. That’s all.”

While Cora is definitely more candid than previous Red Sox managers with some of his postgame comments, he has typically said the same thing to the player before he speaks to the media.

“I like that he’s honest all the time, even if he tells you or told me. I like that,” Rodriguez said. “That puts me on pace to work to make everybody happy. I like it because I know he’s worried about me and he says things like that because he likes me.”

Porcello learns pitch from … E-Rod

Rodriguez might be the youngest member of Boston’s staff, but he can occasionally impart some wisdom on the veterans.

Porcello is working on a new changeup grip this spring that he learned from Rodriguez.

“I wasn’t really happy with my changeup the second half of last year, and Eddie’s got a great changeup,” Porcello said. “And I knew that he threw a two-seam changeup grip and that was something I thought could possibly work for me. I just kind of asked him about his grip and he showed it to me, and I started playing catch with it with him. And each day I got a little bit more comfortable with it and felt better and better, and now that’s the grip that I’m going to go with this year.

“It’s funny, he was really excited he taught me something because all of us are usually trying to keep him in line. You can always learn something from somebody. He’s got a great changeup. Hopefully it will help me out a little bit too.”

Up next

World Series MVP Steve Pearce will play in his first Grapefruit League game in Wednesday’s home matchup against the Pirates. After taking the two-day road trip to the east coast of Florida off, Boston’s starting outfield trio of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts should all be in the lineup. Righty relievers Tyler Thornburg and Colten Brewer, both trying to win a spot in the bullpen, will see action. Minor League righty Josh Smith will get the start. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.