Boston Manager Alex Cora walks to the dugout before first inning of a spring training game against Baltimore on Thursday in Sarasota, Fla. John Bazemore/Associated Press

Just three years after winning the World Series, the Red Sox have let go all three of their starting outfielders.

It’s Mookie Betts with the Dodgers, Jackie Bradley Jr. with the Brewers, and Andrew Benintendi with the Royals in 2021, not long after their “win-dance-repeat” celebrations were occurring nightly in center field at Fenway Park.

With Thursday’s news that Bradley agreed to a two-year, $24 million deal with the Brewers, Red Sox Manager Alex Cora said changing players is part of the game.

“It’s not crazy at all,” he said Thursday before Boston’s 6-3 exhibition loss to the Orioles. “It’s the nature of the business. We have our plans for this year and we have our plans for the upcoming years. Like I’ve been saying all along, we have a good team. Guys come and go. They contribute and go somewhere else. That’s been happening in baseball forever.

“So yeah, we’re going to miss them. I think from my end, you miss the player on the field, but I think you miss the person, which is the most important thing.

“I’m very excited with the talent that we have, the things that we’re gonna be able to do with what we have, and we’re gonna have a good team. We’re gonna have a good team. I’m very excited about this group.”


The most likely alignment could be Franchy Cordero in left, Alex Verdugo in center and Hunter Renfroe in right, but Renfroe (right-handed) and Cordero (left-handed) could be good platoon partners if Cora wants to play the matchups.

If Marwin Gonzalez looks good at second base, they can go with Kiké Hernandez in center field, with Verdugo playing right field. Or Hernandez could play second, with Gonzales as another option in the outfield.

“We have capable athletes,” Cora said. “When you talk about Marcus (Betts) and Jackie, yeah, they’re freak athletes. But we have a bunch of good athletes, too. It’s not like all of a sudden we became slow and not capable. We are capable.

“I’m fine with what we have. We’re going to move around. It’s interesting to manage this roster. It’s a challenge but a good challenge. I’m up for the challenge.”

Cora said he’s not settled on any one alignment, “I’m settled with talent.”

He suggested that right field has more value than center at Fenway Park, where Betts won several Gold Gloves in right and Bradley won just one in center.


“There’s not too much you can do going to your right as a center fielder,” Cora said. “All you can do is either see it going over the Monster or play it off the wall, catch it, and throw to second base. We think the real value is in right field.”

HEADING INTO his first competitive outing in almost a year, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez didn’t think he’d feel any different than he would before a normal start. But as he warming up Friday near the bullpen with catcher Christian Vázquez, Rodriguez began to recognize the significance of the moment.

After missing the entire 2020 season because of myocarditis (heart inflammation) that developed after a severe case of COVID-19, Rodriguez felt some emotions as he prepared to pitch against the Rays.

“I told him, ‘Bro, I feel chills. I feel all that right now like I’m making my MLB debut right now,’” Rodriguez said. “He told me, ‘Don’t worry.’ I feel that every start, but today was a little more exciting.”

For Rodriguez, his first competitive appearance since March 11 represented an important step in his return. After being shut down from all physical activity for months and working his way back to full strength during the offseason, the fact he was able to throw 2 2/3 innings against Tampa Bay represented a milestone.

“I just enjoyed that I had the opportunity to be back out there,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what I was thinking in the first inning when I went out there. When I threw the first couple pitches, I was thinking of that, and then as the game went on, that’s when I started throwing pitches and doing everything back to normal and how I wanted.”


Other than giving up a second-inning homer to Moises Gomez, Rodriguez had little trouble with the Rays, allowing two hits and striking out two on 47 pitches. The plan was for Rodriguez to go either three innings or 50 pitches, so Manager Alex Cora pulled him as he approached his pitch limit with two outs in the third.

“I was happy he was able to compete at this level,” Cora said. “More than happy he went 2 2/3, to be able to compete, to repeat his delivery. The good thing about Eddie is that it’s very simple with him delivery-wise. Like I used to tell (the media) in ’19, this is a guy we trust can to go deep into games and his pitch count can get up there.”

Boston pitcher Tanner Houck had a rough outing on Thursday, facing nine batters and walking five of them. John Bazemore/Associated Press

TANNER HOUCK had a disastrous first outing of the spring, enough to get pulled from the mound twice in one game.

A rookie pitcher who had three brilliant starts at the end of last season, Houck faced nine Orioles batters on Thursday and walked five of them.

Matt Andriese started and threw two shutout innings before Houck came in to start the third. He recorded one out, walked two batters, allowed a double and walked two more before being replaced by Durbin Feltman.

With spring training rules, Houck was allowed to re-enter to start the fourth, but it wasn’t much smoother as he recorded one out before giving up a single and another walk.


“He was out of his delivery,” Cora said. “He rushed a little bit. He was all over the place, but just like the other guys, this is about repetitions, getting their work in. He did, but in a different fashion, right? Glad that he’s healthy. You can see the stuff. He was throwing 94, 95 mph.”

TOP PROSPECT Triston Casas has returned to Fort Myers. He was in Boston for a non-baseball medical matter.

“He got here last night,” Red Sox Manager Alex Cora said before Friday’s game. “They’re going to actually meet today. So we’ll have more probably after the game or probably tomorrow.”

Casas, a 21-year-old left-handed hitting first baseman, was a non-roster invitee to camp. Cora said Thursday, “They found something medically that we have to take care of. It’s actually not baseball related. It’s actually personal. So I’ll leave it at that. We’re hoping everything is fine.”

Baseball America ranks Casas Boston’s No. 1 prospect. It also has him ranked No. 47 on its Top 100 list.

The Red Sox drafted the slugger 26th overall in 2018. He was named Boston’s 2019 minor league offensive player of the year after batting .256 with a .350 on-base percentage, .480 slugging percentage, .830 OPS, 20 homers, 26 doubles, five triples and 81 RBI in 120 games at Low-A Greenville and two games at High-A Salem.

NOTES: Xander Bogaerts, who has been out because of a sore shoulder, restarted his throwing program on Thursday. Cordero has yet to join the team because of coronavirus-related issues, but he’s in Fort Myers waiting to be cleared. … Top pitching prospect Bryan Mata will have an MRI on his sore throwing arm. … Nathan Eovaldi will pitch on Saturday, Garrett Richards and Martin Perez on Sunday, Nick Pivetta on Tuesday and Andriese and Houck again on Wednesday.

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