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Red Sox at Braves lineups: Really exploring the bullpen space

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With a raft of pitchers out for contract tracing, Tanner Houck and a motley crew will throw on this final Monday in March.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles
Not a lot of options today!
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox, fresh off their Chairman’s Cup victory over the sad loser baby boy Twins, face the Braves on this final Monday in March for a seven-inning game this afternoon at 1:05 p.m. behind Tanner Houck. This one is available for those with an MLB.TV sub.

This is the second-to-last time the teams will see each other this spring, and hopefully the last one where the Sox are hampered by COVID fallout. Houck will make his fourth start of the spring and, despite some struggles, is coming along nicely, as Chaim Bloom told the Globe’s Julian McWilliams:

“In a lot of ways, I think he’s had an encouraging spring,” Bloom said. “Physically, he’s in such a great place. His stuff looks great. Obviously, he wasn’t consistent on the mound. He couldn’t find his delivery on a consistent basis. He wasn’t as aggressive in some of his outings. And that’s to be expected. Development isn’t linear.”

Houck will be followed by Darwinzon Hernandez, Austin Brice, Kaleb Ort and Raynel Espinal, as the Sox really clear the decks in the bullpen to stretch the remaining available pitchers through six innings. Ian Anderson, who is good, starts for the Braves with no backups indicated—looks like they’re solidly in regular-season form.

Their lineup suggests as much, with all the regulars slated to play. The Sox? Well, Franchy Cordero is in there and has a “very solid” chance to make the team, but this isn’t the A-squad. It’s a considerable portion of it but Rafael Devers, among other presumed starters, is out, and Christian Vázquez is still on the mend. Vázquez will catch Eduardo Rodriguez today in what should be a fun time for both of them. One hopes.

Anyhow, here you go. We are extremely close now, friends, but it’s still a weird game where the N.L. has the pitcher hit and the Sox don’t. Rules? Where we’re going we don’t need rules.

Red Sox lineup

1. Kiké Hernández (R) 2B

2. Alex Verdugo (L) RF

3. J.D. Martinez (R) DH

4. Xander Bogaerts (R) SS

5. Marwin Gonzalez (S) 3B

6. Franchy Cordero (L) LF

7. Michael Chavis (R) 1B

8. Kevin Plawecki (R) C

9. Jarren Duran (L) CF

SP: Tanner Houck, RHP

Braves lineup

1. Ronald Acuña Jr. (R) RF

2. Ozzie Albies (S) 2B

3. Freddie Freeman (L) 1B

4. Marcell Ozuna (R) LF

5. Travis d’Arnaud (R) C

6. Dansby Swanson (R) SS

7. Austin Riley (R) 3B

8. Ender Inciarte (L) CF

9. Ian Anderson (R) P

SP: Ian Anderson, RHP