FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox’s final tuneup game will be three weeks against the Chicago Cubs.

After that, the games count.

Projecting the starting lineup is fairly straightforward, but it gets tricky when looking to the bench positions. And with injuries scattered throughout the pitching staff, the starting rotation should have some question marks to begin the year.

Manager Alex Cora hasn’t made many declarations about his roster, but we’re taking a shot anyway. Here’s our projected 25-man roster when the Red Sox open up at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays on March 29.


Christian Vazquez, C: It remains to be seen if Chris Sale will prefer to be paired up with Sandy Leon, like he was for every start except one last year. But Vazquez’s strong second half last year could set him up for more consistent playing time.

Hanley Ramirez, 1B: Ramirez said he’s going 30-30 this year. The important thing is that the 34-year-old has two working shoulders and can play first base, which he handled well in 2016.

Eduardo Nunez, 2B: Recovering from knee surgery, he’s still not 100 percent healthy, but the Red Sox will hope he’s ready to play second until Dustin Pedroia returns.

Rafael Devers, 3B: Cora said he’ll likely be in the middle of the lineup near the five- or six-hole. Many expect a breakout year from the uber-talented 21-year-old.

Xander Bogaerts, SS: Only has two years left to reach his ceiling before he hits free agency. Cora thinks he can unlock stronger defense from Bogaerts at short and more aggression will help at the plate.

Andrew Benintendi, LF: With 20 extra pounds this spring, Benintendi is jacking homers by accident. Look for him in the two-hole regularly.

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF: Bradley has expressed a desire to run more often this year. New analytic strategies could help him roam center with even more effectiveness.

Mookie Betts, RF: He could be back in center field for some road games this year. Cora wants him swinging early and often out of the leadoff spot.

J.D. Martinez, DH: The newest slugger would like to play outfield in a regular rotation, but how often will Cora mess with the rhythm of his starting outfielders?


Sandy Leon, C: An elite defender who can throw, catch and block while calling a smart game, Leon will be useful as a second catcher.

Deven Marrero, Util.: One of the best handling shortstop, he can also play second and third while providing value off the bench as a right-handed bat who hit .291 with a .944 OPS off lefties last year. He’s out of options.

Blake Swihart, C/Util.: A switch-hitter who is tied for the major league lead with five doubles this spring, the Sox have to give Swihart a chance as a super utility man now that he too is out of options.

Mitch Moreland, 1B: Strong defender at first base, should see fairly regular playing time, especially at home.

Disabled list

Dustin Pedroia, 2B: Expected to return in late April or May.

Just missed

Brock Holt, UTIL: He’s clearly been a different player after the concussions and case of vertigo last year. He has options if the Red Sox want to stash him in the minors rather than trade him at a discount.


1. Chris Sale, LHP: Keep an eye on his pitch counts early in the year as the Sox try to preserve him for October.

2. David Price, LHP: He pitched well in the postseason after returning from an elbow strain. Can he stay healthy and effective all year?

3. Rick Porcello, RHP: Hopes to be a different pitcher this year after living up in the zone too often (38 homers allowed) in 2017.

4. Brian Johnson, LHP: Out of options, the savvy pitcher with an elite curve should be useful in a swing role.

5. Hector Velazquez, RHP: Had 2.92 ERA in eight appearances last year. With injuries to the regulars, Velazquez could get a start or two to begin the season.

Disabled list

Drew Pomeranz, LHP: Will be re-evaluated Wednesday after suffering a flexor tendon strain last week. Hard to see him starting the season on time.

Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP: Building up strength after knee surgery, the young lefty has a lot to prove and should return soon after the season starts.

Steven Wright, RHP: Also recovering from knee surgery, the knuckleballer should be back sometime in April.


Craig Kimbrel, RHP: Elite closer is entering his walk year. Been away from the team for a week to be with his newborn daughter, Lydia Joy, who has needed multiple heart surgeries.

Carson Smith, RHP: Looks dominant this spring two years after Tommy John surgery. Should handle the eighth.

Joe Kelly, RHP: Fine-tuning a breaking ball to go with highest average fastball velocity in the majors.

Matt Barnes, RHP: Strong arm with setup experience, Barnes just has to avoid unnecessary walks to take the next step.

Heath Hembree, RHP: Career 3.17 ERA despite being used in difficult and uncertain role under former manager John Farrell.

Brandon Workman, RHP: Had a 3.18 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 392/3 innings last year after long return from Tommy John surgery.

Robby Scott, LHP: Situational lefty with looping breaking ball should be useful, though he’ll likely get sent to the minors when others return.

Just missed

Austin Maddox, RHP: Dominant against righties during late-season call-up, Maddox should see time in the majors at some point.

Disabled list

Tyler Thornburg, RHP: There have been grim results for players returning from surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome, but Thornburg has felt strong and hopes to be ready sometime in April.

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