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Red Sox 4, Rays 2: Important pitching debuts

Three key pitchers on the Red Sox staff make their 2022 spring debuts.

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Boston Red Sox Photo Day Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

The Red Sox simply cannot, and will not, lose. After yet another win on Tuesday they are 6-0 on spring. This is our periodic reminder that our celebration of this fact is 99 percent tongue-in-cheek, so just let us have fun with it, okay? Anyway, the Red Sox took Tuesday’s game against the Rays ended with a 4-2 victory in favor of Boston, as well as a trio of important 2022 debuts on the pitching staff. That will lead our notes on the day.

Three important pitching debuts

We are still, of course, in the very early portions of spring training with pitchers still making their season debuts on the mound. Tuesday may have been the most intriguing group of pitchers for Boston, particularly in the early parts of the day, with three key arms on their staff making their spring debuts.

First up was Rich Hill, who signed with the Red Sox for an astonishing seventh time in his career. While the other starters on the staff who have pitched thus far were slated for three innings each, the plan for the 42-year-old lefty was to go two. He did make it through those innings, and without giving up a run to boot. There was a little bit of trouble with Hill allowing two singles and also issuing a walk, but he worked around the traffic while striking out a pair. It remains to be seen how exactly the Red Sox approach things with Hill this season, but if this plan on Tuesday was any indication then they’ll probably be taking it easy with his workload. That would seem to be wise given the age.

Piggybacking off of Hill’s outing in this game was Garrett Whitlock, who was also slated to go two innings and made it through them both. Like Hill, however, there were a few too many runners getting on the bases. Whitlock allowed two singles and a double, and also walked two, though it should be noted the hits generally came on weak contact. There were a few command issues, which is not rare for a pitcher’s first spring appearance, but I would say the line makes his day look worse than it really was. As with Hill, Whitlock’s role is not clear for the coming season as the Red Sox are looking to stretch him out, but after his outstanding performance in 2021 you can be sure whatever role he’ll fill will be an important one.

The final pitcher making his spring debut in this game was Matt Barnes, who went one inning and this one and got the job done. The righty retired all three batters he faced with one strikeout. There’s an argument for Barnes being one of the two or three most important pitchers on the staff this year given how many questions remain in the bullpen. Last season he was among the best relievers in baseball for a good chunk of the season before pitching his way off the postseason roster with his performance over the final two months. There is a ton of volatility here, but if he can harness that performance he showed early last season then the Red Sox bullpen suddenly looks significantly better.

Other Notes

  • One of the coolest parts of spring training is seeing players who otherwise will not get this platform to perform be able to get into televised game action. Wil Dalton fits that bill as a former eighth round pick who has struggled to make headway in his minor-league career. A major-league assignment in his future is unlikely, but he’ll have a story to share forever here as he hit a home run in a major-league spring game in the eighth inning.
  • Jonathan Araúz was arguably the favorite for an Opening Day bench spot prior to the Trevor Story signing, which likely pushed him to a minor-league assignment to start the season. He was the only Red Sox hitter with multiple hits in this game, going 2-3 with a pair of singles.
  • Other pitchers appearing in this game who have not been mentioned were: Taylor Cole, a recent minor-league signing who pitched a scoreless inning, allowing two hits with a walk and two strikeouts; Geoff Hartlieb, a waiver claim from late last season who is no longer on the 40-man, who gave up the only runs for Boston on the day on a two-run home run, also allowing a single and striking out two; and Austin Davis, who finds himself on the fringe of the Opening Day roster (but is helped by the expected expansion of rosters to 28 players to start the season as well as the revelation that Josh Taylor may miss the start of the season) and tossed two scoreless innings on a single, a walk, and two strikeouts.
  • The other Red Sox players to get hits who have not been mentioned were: Bobby Dalbec, who continued his hot spring with a double and two RBI in three at bats; David Hamilton, one of the prospects to come over in the Hunter Renfroe trade who hit a double in his only plate appearance off the bench; Christian Arroyo, who had two plate appearances and had a single and a walk; Pedro Castellanos, a personal favorite prospect of mine who came off the bench and went 1-2 with a single; and Ronaldo Hernández, who was just named our community’s number 18 prospect in the system and went 1-1 with a single.