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Historic Fenway Park (Image Courtesy of Boston Herald)

 

The Red Sox open their 2017 regular season campaign at Fenway Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates in less than a week. The long wait will hopefully be rewarded with what should be, at the very least, an interesting season.

Without further ado, let’s go ahead and project what the opening day roster will look like.

Starters:

C​ Sandy Leon, 1B​ Mitch Moreland, 2B ​Dustin Pedroia, SS ​Xander Bogaerts, 3B​ Pablo Sandoval, RF ​Mookie Betts, CF ​Jackie Bradley Jr, LF ​Andrew Benintendi, DH ​Hanley Ramirez

The starters are locked in, for now. The only changes expected, barring injury, is backup catcher Christian Vasquez battling to win that starting catcher job, and the platoon at first base between Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez.

Manager John Farrell has said that Ramirez will play first base against left-handed pitching, and then backup outfielder Chris Young will most likely substitute as the DH against left-handed pitching.

Backups:

UTIL ​Brock Holt, INF ​Josh Rutledge, OF​ Chris Young, C ​Christian Vasquez

Brock Holt is the ultimate utility player, as he has played every position on the diamond, except pitcher and catcher. Having him on the roster is a huge plus.

The battle between Rutledge and Marco Hernandez is very close, and it would not surprise me if Hernandez does end up beating him out for the roster spot. But, Rutledge is the more experienced man, and Farrell may end up sticking with him just for that.

Chris Young will get his fair share of at-bats, since he will most likely be playing at least 30% of the games at DH against left-handed bats.

Christian Vasquez is your perfect backup catcher. Great defensively, knows how to dictate a game. It’s a shame his ceiling at the plate is around .230.

Starting Rotation:

RHP ​Rick Porcello, LHP ​Chris Sale, RHP ​Steven Wright, LHP ​Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP Drew Pomeranz

With David Price starting the season on the disabled list, the back trio of Wright, Rodriguez and Pomeranz must step up and be healthy (and capable) enough to eat up some major innings. Unfortunately, all have had (some still have) serious injury concerns.

I said it from day one, and still will say it, the decision to move Clay Buchholz will impact this team. By how much remains to be seen, but if one more starting pitcher gets hurt, your next man up is journeyman Kyle Kendrick, can’t-find-the-plate Henry Owens and Brian Johnson, who has anxiety issues that may not even allow him to pitch in the major leagues.

While Buchholz was no doubt frustrating and far from reliable, he was a capable major league arm, who has a high upside. He went 5-1 in his last 8 starts of the 2016 season, with a 3.2 ERA. None of the previously mentioned trio of Kendrick, Owens or Johnson has that capability, and that is a major flaw in this roster.

Bullpen:

RHP ​Craig Kimbrel, RHP ​Matt Barnes, LHP ​Robbie Ross Jr, RHP ​Joe Kelly, RHP ​Heath Hembree, LHP ​Robby Scott, LHP ​Edgar Olmos

The bullpen seemed set, until offseason acquisition Tyler Thornburg was not able to make his most recent scheduled spring training appearance due to a trapezius issue. He looks like he is headed for a trip to the disabled list.

So substituting for Thornburg, is Edgar Olmos, who has had a terrific spring training as a reliever. Obviously, not much stock should be put into spring training performances, but Olmos has performed the best out of the “rest of the bunch” relievers.

Robby Scott beats out last season’s midseason acquisition Fernando Abad, who struggled massively since donning the Red Sox uniform, posting an ugly 6.39 ERA in 18 appearances, compared to the zero runs Scott allowed in 7 appearances. Scott, with his sidearm delivery, has a strong chance at becoming a very effective lefty specialist.

Disabled List:

LHP ​David Price, RHP ​Carson Smith, RHP ​Tyler Thornburg, LHP ​Roenis Elias

In my opinion, I believe David Price will go under the knife and get Tommy John surgery after an appearance or two, similar to what Carson Smith underwent last season.

Speaking of Carson Smith, I can not wait until he is on the mound. His unorthodox delivery and his deadly stuff will help an already really good bullpen.

Thornburg’s ‘trapezius’ issue, is most likely connected to the report that his shoulder did not respond well to the Red Sox strength training program. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has got to hope that not another one of his pitching acquisitions will miss a good chunk of time.

Elias was scheduled to be assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket, until he hurt himself warming up for a spring training appearance. He will most likely be optioned as soon as he is healthy.