While you might debate their exact order on any given day of the regular season, their the undisputed top four.
That leaves the number five spot up for grabs this Spring Training and who is going to pluck the day?
Candidates are numerous but there are just a few of interest when looking at the pitchers out of options and considering the need for a fifth starter, or not in the first month.
This week Chad Jennings spoke with Manager Alex Cora who revealed the Red Sox would need two or three starts from their fifth in the rotation during the first month.
"If you look at the schedule, it may be early April (when a fifth starter is needed)", said Cora.
Initially the fifth spot in the rotation would be for Eduardo Rodriguez and knuckleballer Steven Wright to determine during their Spring Training performances. Unfortunately, Rodriguez is still recovering from his knee surgery and was expected to start the season on the disabled list. He's not even scheduled to throw his first bullpen until next week.
That gave Wright hope for the fifth slot, as expectation was that he might be ready to go from the very beginning of the season. As of a few weeks ago, he was still not throwing from the top of the mound. He's working his way up there, but he acknowledged the recovery process was fairly uncertain. This week he's still not at the top of the mound for his sessions.
“It’s not a cut-and-dried rehab,” Wright confirmed.
Cora was pretty certain they both would not be ready for opening day and is looking to the rest of the battery he's assembled at Spring Training. Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez and Roenis Elias are now the front runners for that fifth starter job.
“They’re taking their steps where they’re looking healthy,” Cora said. “But obviously it’s getting into March, and they need their repetitions. We’re not going to jeopardize their careers for one start to pitch them early.”
The Red Sox open with six games in a row, then three of the next six days are off days. The fifth starter is needed on April 2nd, and then two weeks later on April 14th. That gives Wright and Rodriguez an additional two-plus weeks of rehab while costing them only one start.
The Red Sox conceivably get through April using their fifth starter only three times.
The good thing is that all three in the running for the fifth starter role have major league experience. Johnson threw a memorable shutout at Fenway Park last season and would seem to be a front runner going into Spring Training.
Cora was not going to provide any hints, "We’ll see. We’ll get there when we get there, but I think that's the group we're taking a look at."
Playing a bit of arm-chair manager, who's your fifth starter if you had to pick today?
Eric is a contributing writer since 2013 and a true Overseas Fan of the Boston Red Sox living in the Netherlands. He's spent years on baseball fields around the world pitching. His weekends are now spent helping the next generations of pitchers to find their passion and love for the sport. More articles by Eric: https://www.redsoxlife.com/search/label/ericschabell