With all the focus this spring being around the status of the bullpen and the health of Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox deep starting rotation has fallen under the radar.
On March 6, manager Alex Cora said that he needed a few more days to determine who will be the starter on Opening Day against the Seattle Mariners. Yet here we are, six days later, and the Red Sox still don’t have a definitive answer for who will toe the slab in Seattle in just over two weeks. While it seems obvious to go to Chris Sale for the opener, the Red Sox haven’t had a pitcher start back-to-back Opening Days since Jon Lester in 2013 and 2014.
While it’s still undecided, however, why not try and determine who is the most deserving to get the nod on Mar. 28? Because unlike most years, there are a few pitchers very deserving of getting that recognition.
Let’s start with the Opening Day starter from 2018, Chris Sale. The lanky left-hander, from a stuff perspective, is far and away the best pitcher on the Red Sox. His 2.11 ERA, 237 strikeouts, and 1.98 FIP were all the team-lead, despite him pitching less than 160 innings for the first time in his starting career. Sale has thrown a simulated game in which he let go of 45 pitches, and he appears to be in good shape following an injury-riddled second half last year.
Then there’s postseason hero David Price.
It’s still weird to put that on paper. David Price and “postseason hero” were basically used as a joke for the first decade of his MLB career. However, he certainly figured it out last October, posting three consecutive wins to close out the postseason after starting 0-9 in his previous 11 postseason starts. Price started Opening Day back in 2016 against the Indians, allowing two earned over six innings of work. He’s been there before, so we know he’s a very capable pitcher in that situation. In all honesty, he has a stronger case than Sale to this point in Spring Training.
Lastly, Nathan Eovaldi has an interesting case as well. From a talent perspective, he’s probably the “worst” of the bunch. That being said, the Red Sox aren’t holding up their fourth World Series trophy in the 21st century without his contributions. There were a lot of questions revolving around him even being in the postseason rotation, but he quickly settled down the speculation with seven innings of one-run ball in Game 3 against the Yankees.
While he did take a tough loss in Game 3 against the Dodgers, he still turned out one of the greatest pitching performances in postseason history. As a result, he received a four-year, $68 million contract from Dave Dombrowski to stay in Boston.
The verdict: David Price should start Opening Day.
Give the fans what they want. Even though the season opener is in Seattle, Red Sox fans now adore the 33-year-old left-hander. After finally getting the monkey off his back last postseason, he now holds all the cards. On top of that, Chris Sale may not be 100% ready by the time of that game. He did throw a simulated game on Monday, but he only topped out at 93 MPH, which is still a bit concerning. No sense in rushing him back just to make the Opening Day start. Go with the guy who basically won you a World Series last season, even if he isn’t putting up mind-boggling numbers like Sale.