Boston Manager Alex Cora said Tuesday he will go with a five-man pitching rotation, but did not announce his starter for Opening Day. Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

 

The Red Sox will start the 2021 season with a five-man pitching rotation.

Boston Manager Alex Cora confirmed that plan on Tuesday morning prior to a Grapefruit League matchup with Atlanta. Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Martin Perez and Nick Pivetta are the presumptive starters with Opening Day against the Orioles looming on April 1.

“The constant is we can get people out in the strike zone,” Cora said. “It doesn’t matter what stuff you have. We’ve been preaching that and they’ve been doing a good job with that. We feel very comfortable.”

Rodriguez is scheduled to throw five innings against Minnesota on Wednesday and Richards will work five innings in an intrasquad game on Thursday at JetBlue Park. Eovaldi is set for five innings against Tampa Bay on Friday.

Cora has yet to announce his first starter against Baltimore, but Rodriguez would be in line based on the current schedule. He missed the 2020 season while battling myocarditis and was the favorite to take the ball in July after Chris Sale underwent Tommy John surgery.

Tanner Houck and Matt Andriese were both scheduled to work against the Braves, and they appear to be the odd men out. Houck is likely to begin the season at the alternate site and could serve as the ace for Triple-A Worcester. Andriese could transition to a long role out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he would be capable of making a spot start if needed.

On Tuesday against the Braves, Houck started and lasted 2 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs while walking four and striking out one.Andriese came ion in the fifth and pitched four innings of two-hit ball to get the win as Boston prevailed, 5-3.

“Everybody has their strengths – obviously they have their weaknesses,” Cora said. “But we’ve got changeups and we’ve got fastballs at 97 and we’ve got breaking balls. It’s not just (velocity).”

Boston had discussed using a six-man rotation earlier in camp, and that was likely to protect Rodriguez as he makes his way back to full strength. The left-hander pitched 203 1/3 innings in his breakout 2019 but didn’t work after a pair of bullpen sessions at summer camp. Rodriguez was shut down for three months, and there will be questions about his workload through September and the postseason despite appearing sharp early this spring.

Perez, Pivetta and Andriese are all out of minor-league options, which makes it more likely Houck will be the one to miss breaking camp with the Red Sox. His three starts at the end of the 2020 season all resulted in wins, and the right-hander posted a sparkling 0.53 ERA. Houck loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the first inning against Atlanta on Tuesday before escaping thanks to a 1-2-3 double play and a groundout.

“It’s important for him to keep stretched – and Andriese, too,” Cora said. “That’s what makes this group a solid one. We have options.”

DANNY SANTANA, a utility man with the Red Sox, remains hospitalized in Florida after undergoing surgery this week.

Santana had a minor procedure performed to clear an infection in his right foot. Cora said Santana, who was signed to a minor-league deal after the start of camp, is likely to be released within the next two to three days.

“This is going to take a while,” Cora said. “It is what it is. We just want him healthy and we’ll be patient with him.”

Santana did all but pitch and catch while appearing in 130 games with the Rangers in 2019. He hit 28 home runs, 23 doubles and compiled an .857 OPS. Right elbow surgery limited Santana to just 15 games last season, and he was granted free agency in December.

XANDER BOGAERTS (right shoulder) is expected to make his spring debut at shortstop on Wednesday.

Bogaerts has been limited early by a sore throwing arm, but he’s gradually ramped up to play as the designated hitter. He has also been able to complete defensive drills on back fields and should be in the lineup with no restrictions.

Bogaerts made just his fourth appearance on Tuesday as the DH with the Red Sox playing their 15th game of the month-long schedule. He was 0 for 2 with a walk.


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