Tomase: 26 thoughts on Red Sox' 26-man roster entering Opening Day


If ever there was a "who are these guys again, exactly?" kind of roster, it's this year's Red Sox. With familiar faces like Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, and Nathan Eovaldi gone, Red Sox fans will be asked to learn a decidedly new cast of characters.

So in that vein, here's one thought or observation on all 26 members of the Opening Day roster.

RHP Corey Kluber: From the moment he signed, plenty of stories have referred to Kluber as a Winchester, Mass., resident, but those days are over. While his wife still has family in this area, the Klubers have relocated permanently to Florida, he said this spring.

LHP Chris Sale: The left-hander hasn't been healthy for this long a stretch -- two months! -- since the first half of 2018. And before you pooh-pooh the fact that we haven't actually played a game yet, consider that his last three spring trainings included Tommy John surgery, Covid, and a broken rib, respectively. This is progress!

RHP Nick Pivetta: Pivetta's raw stuff consistently grades highly, but it hasn't remotely matched his results. His fastball spin, curve spin, and extension all rate among the top 25 percent of pitchers in baseball, but his hard-hit percentage, barrel rate, and chase rate place only in the bottom 20 percent. Until one matches the other, he's a tweener who could be the odd man out when (if?) the rotation reaches full strength.

RHP Tanner Houck: If there's an award for biggest disappointment of camp, Houck has to be in the running. He allowed nine home runs -- I had to octuple-check that, but it's true -- in just 20.1 innings, finishing with basically half as many walks (12) as strikeouts (25). He'll open the season in the rotation out of necessity, but his fastball-slider combo may best be suited for a run of right-handed hitters in relief.

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RHP Kutter Crawford: And if there's an award for most pleasant surprise, Crawford can make a compelling case. A former 16th-round pick, Crawford is what happens when a player development staff gives every farmhand a chance to excel. He might've been the team's best pitcher this spring, with a mid-90s fastball, excellent cutter, and curve.

RHP Kenley Jansen: One area to watch will be how Jansen handles the elements. A native of Curaçao who spent his first 13 years in temperate Los Angeles and steamy Atlanta, Jansen has never loved pitching in the cold, with particular disdain for night games in Colorado. With the Opening Day high barely expected to crack 40 degrees, Jansen will be thrown right into the fire, so to speak.

RHP Chris Martin: Martin got off to a slow start last year, in part over worries regarding his father's declining health. Matt Martin passed away right before the Cubs traded Chris Martin to the Dodgers, where he dominated. Martin just finished an abysmal spring, so the Red Sox can only hope that he'll turn it on when the games count for real.

RHP John Schreiber: As Alex Cora's only reliable reliever for much of last year, Schreiber finished the season on fumes. He set career-highs at any level in appearances (64) and relief innings (65), and he was wearing it by the dog days of August, when he briefly faltered. His spring training, anyway, suggested a possible regression.

LHP Richard Bleier: If Bleier wants it, a career in media should await, because he's probably the best quote on the team. He proved that while breaking down his weird three-balk game from last September. Self-deprecating and easygoing, yet intense, Bleier can still pitch. He enters his eighth season with a lifetime 3.06 ERA.

RHP Ryan Brasier: Brasier is the roster's resident escape artist, because he keeps finding safe haven just when it looks like his Red Sox career is finally doomed. He has outlasted more touted relievers like Craig Kimbrel, Matt Barnes, and Brandon Workman, but after a mediocre spring, he may very well be on a short leash.

RHP Zack Kelly: Kelly's best pitch is a changeup that he learned by throwing it against quilts in his parents' unfinished basement, per MassLive's Chris Smith. He was one of the few Red Sox relievers to deliver a solid spring, which made the decision to take him north on an Opening Day roster for the first time an easy one.

RHP Josh Winckowski: The Andrew Benintendi trade isn't a total loss yet. Franchy Cordero may be gone, but the Red Sox still have hopes for Winckowski, who believes he has turned a page by focusing less on swings and misses and more on outs, per manager Alex Cora. Winckowski was supposed to be Triple-A starting depth, but he'll instead get the call from day one in the bullpen.

RHP Kaleb Ort: In a perfect world, Ort wouldn't be on the roster. He had an awful spring, posting a 9.64 ERA and allowing five homers in only 9.1 innings, but with three starters down and the Red Sox desperate for arms that won't require 40-man roster manipulation, here we are. At least he throws 100.

C Reese McGuire: McGuire posted numbers completely at odds with his career totals after arriving at the trade deadline last August, hitting .337 in 36 games. That's more than 80 points higher than his lifetime average, and he credits the rise to everyday playing time for the first time in his career. He'll see the bulk of the reps this year, too, so perhaps that performance will carry over.

C Connor Wong: The Red Sox internally believe Wong could surprise this year, although a hamstring strain ended up costing him most of spring training. He still managed to return in time to eke out a spot over non-roster invitee Jorge Alfaro. Wong set a career-high in homers in 2019 with 24 between two levels of the minors, so there is some power there.

1B Triston Casas: It is a compliment to say that Casas is a bit of weirdo. Between his painted nails, outfield sunbathing, and love of cooking, Casas marches to the beat of a very individual drummer. His newest thing is running sprints in short left field between innings when he's DHing, as noted by WEEI's Rob Bradford. At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, Casas can do whatever he wants as he long he brings patience and power to the lineup.

2B Christian Arroyo: Arroyo is determined to stay healthy this year, a goal that has eluded him throughout his career. He's noticeably stronger, and he believes he'll benefit from a ban on shifts that increases the need for athleticism at second base. Over three years with the Red Sox, Arroyo has played the equivalent of a one full season with decent numbers -- .273-15-69 -- that would look even better if he didn't continually get hurt just as he got hot.

3B Rafael Devers: Just a little thing, but Devers went out of his way to make small talk in English with reporters this spring. It shows that (A) he's growing more comfortable in his second language, and (B) he recognizes the more forward-facing role he must now take with the franchise after the departures of Bogaerts, Martinez, and Christian Vazquez. Ready or not, he is the franchise now.

SS Kiké Hernández: The Red Sox have been putting too much on Hernández practically from the day he signed. Cora declared him a leader before his first spring training. The Red Sox made the lifelong utilityman a full-time center fielder and leadoff hitter. Now he's the starting shortstop who is aggressively being featured as one of the team's bigger personalities. He rose to the challenges in 2021, suffered through an injury-marred 2022, and is looking to make amends in 2023.

DH/3B Justin Turner: As a reminder that baseball players are a different breed, Turner only missed two weeks after taking a fastball to the face that left him a bloody mess. That fits with his reputation as a tough-as-nails leader who was widely considered the captain of the great Dodgers offensive attacks of the last five years. The Red Sox will lean on the 38-year-old probably more than they should, batting him third, but he has a chance to fill a leadership void.

Tomase's spring training observations: Keep an eye on this Yoshida stat

LF Masataka Yoshida: The Red Sox can barely contain their giddiness over Yoshida, who has a chance to be Chaim Bloom's best signing if he lives up to the hype. Not only did he dominate the World Baseball Classic, but he returned to homer in his final spring game. The Red Sox aren't messing around with the 5-foot-8 slugger lower in the order – he'll bat cleanup as a vital, if unconventional, run-producing threat.

CF Adam Duvall: Duvall said he devoted much of his offseason to building the stamina it will take to play a full-time center field for the first time at age 34. While he shied away from the wall at times this spring, he did quietly lead the club in home runs with four. Duvall was just getting hot when he suffered a season-ending wrist injury last year, and he believes he can regain that form.

RF Alex Verdugo: Your guess is as good as mine as to which Verdugo we'll see. When he's right, he controls the strike zone and wears out the left-center gap. When he isn't, it's rollover city to second base.

UT Yu Chang: Yoshida wasn't the only WBC standout. Change was named MVP of his group after blasting a pair of homers and driving in eight runs for Chinese Taipei, which failed to advance after losing a byzantine five-way tie-breaker.

CF Rob Refsnyder: Refsnyder rose to the big leagues with the Yankees as a utilityman, but much like Hernández, it turns out all that position-hopping was hiding a really good center fielder, which is important with Duvall potentially needing rest. Refsnyder was extremely productive in 57 games last year, and could even bat leadoff against lefties.

OF Raimel Tapia: Way back in 2004, the Red Sox brought veteran utilityman Terry Shumpert to camp. Red Sox fans knew him as the guy who had golfed a pinch hit two-run homer off of Alan Embree in the disastrous closer-by-committee opener the previous season in Tampa. He didn't make the team and retired.

Tapia has a similar claim to fame, his inside-the-park grand slam while Jarren Duran stood in place being perhaps the defining moment of a lost 2022 season. Tapia's story has a happier ending, however, as the non-roster invitee grabbed the last spot on the roster with a monster spring.

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