Garrett Whitlock made his first start as a member of the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, allowing a single and a walk in three innings against the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers, Fla. Steve Helber/Associated Press

Pitching depth. Teams never have enough of it. Those that come close have the best shot at going deep into October.

Boston manager Alex Cora feels the Red Sox have built up enough depth to contend in 2022. That belief hasn’t changed, even after it was disclosed that Chris Sale had suffered a fractured rib and would miss the start of the season.

Cora believes he’ll have a starting pitcher that gives his team a chance to compete each night. That’s a far cry from just two years ago when the Red Sox posted the highest ERA in franchise history. He also believes he’ll be able to do it the old-fashioned way. With starters expected to pitch into the middle innings and beyond.

Yes, the Red Sox have starters. Not openers — pitchers who throw the first inning (or two) before handing it off to the bullpens. It’s an old-school approach. And Cora is embracing it.

On Sunday, Garrett Whitlock made his first start with the Red Sox. Even though it was spring training, it was impressive. Whitlock cruised through three innings against a Minnesota Twins lineup featuring plenty of regular-season power. He gave up just one single and a walk, striking out two over an economical 47 pitches. Rich Hill was even tidier in three scoreless innings of relief, throwing just 42 pitches and striking out three.

Both could be starters this year. Neither will be openers.


“We’re not doing the opening thing with them,” said Cora. “Whoever starts, starts.”

Whitlock didn’t start a game last year and led the team in relief innings. The Rule 5 pickup from the New York Yankees was one of the highlights of the season, posting a 1.96 ERA over 73 1/3 innings. Yet he was almost exclusively a starter in the minors. All but four of his 42 minor-league appearances came as a starting pitcher.

That’s why Cora wanted to see him start Sunday.

“The structure of the day is different, you have a different mindset,” Cora said. “Preparing for three innings is different than just going out there to pitch, right? He hasn’t done this in a while, and it’s a good time for him to try it.”

The decision won’t be easy for the Red Sox. Whitlock could give the team far more innings in the rotation, pitching five-plus innings every fifth day. Yet Cora could use him more frequently as a weapon out of the bullpen.

Whitlock, only 25 years old but mature beyond his years, said he’s comfortable with whatever role he is given. His quiet calm masks the fierce competitor he is inside. He began the year by unplugging from all electronics for 21 days with his church, and said it allows him to reset mentally and spiritually and give him a fresh outlook on the year ahead.


Whitlock and Hill can start. Tanner Houck is another option for the rotation or the bullpen. Nate Eovaldi will start Opening Day, followed by Nick Pivetta. Michael Wacha, the former St. Louis Cardinals’ firebrand who has given up just two runs in seven spring training innings, has impressed everyone in camp.

That’s six potential starters without Sale. And not one opener.

“It’s a comfort level,” said Cora. “Seeing Michael yesterday go deep, and Nick getting his repetitions in, and Nate … somebody said that (Max) Scherzer is the only guy that can go six right now. I don’t know. I think our guys can go seven.

“We’re in a good spot. We’re deep enough. Obviously we took a hit with Chris, but we’ll be patient and when he’s ready, he’s ready. We had other plans if Chris was in the rotation, but having capable guys who can get 15 outs, 18 outs. It’s great. So far everybody looks good, healthy.”

That can change in an instant, which is why depth is so important. With Opening Day looming next week, the Red Sox feel they are deep enough to get the season started.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN.

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