2023 Starting Rotation

Philip Jeff Frye

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What makes you think Paxton is done?
Stranger things have happened, so hopefully he surprises to the upside, but he has barely pitched in the majors in three years, he couldn't make it through a single inning in his rehab start in the minors last season before hurting himself again, and he was never healthy even when he was healthy (he was on the injured list in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022). To top it off, that he exercised his $4 million option rather than hitting the open market to see if he could get a contract like the one he got the year before would suggest that even he thinks he's not that healthy. He's 34 - between injuries and getting older, there's certainly a chance that he's done.

I think its best to assume we get nothing from him and then be happy when and if its something more than that.
 

iddoc

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I think this is the right way to think about Paxton. Lumping Sale and him together is unfair to Sale, who had a much better track record of durability, albeit before 2018.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Speier in the Glob briefly talks about the plans for the rotation at the start of the season:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/2023/03/13/sports/deep-minors-red-sox-have-prospect-with-eye-catching-potential/

Meeting tomorrow to try to figure some things out:

Red Sox decision-makers will meet Wednesday to share thoughts on the season-opening structure of the pitching staff. “The big conversation starts Wednesday,” said Cora. “I have an idea. Obviously other people probably have an idea. We have ideas, but let’s get in the same room, talk about it, start attacking it, and be ready.”
Issues: Whitlock now a possibility of joining the rotation in mid-April, Bello possibly in late April:
Durability questions surround Chris Sale, Garrett Whitlock (possibly available to join the rotation in mid-April), and Brayan Bello (possibly late April).
No mention of Paxton in this conversation of April rotation.
Good thing we have lots of darts to throw at the dart board (or shit to throw at the wall to see what sticks, depending on how you want to frame it):
As such, the Sox see multi-inning relievers as necessary to manage pitcher workloads to start the year. “We need guys that can go multiple [innings],” said Cora. “It’s not only one. We probably need two.” Cora identified Josh Winckowski, Ryan Brasier, Kaleb Ort, Zack Kelly, and Wyatt Mills as candidates to contribute in such a role at the start of the year …
Whitlock should throw tomorrow in a game situation, Bello will throw 2 simulated innings.
Whitlock is on track to throw two innings in either a big league or minor league game Wednesday, and Bello will throw two simulated innings that day. Sale will pitch in a game Thursday, though with no games in either big league or minor league camp that day, the Sox were trying to figure out the circumstances of such an undertaking. “Maybe it’s going to be at his house,” said Cora.
Later there was a mention of Paxton:
Lefthander James Paxton, who strained his right hamstring in his start March 3, played long toss and is close to getting back on the mound.
Not yet on the mound. See him in May-- Maybe?
 

Sin Duda

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Garrett Whitlock, part of the rotation plan for this season, finally makes his spring training debut today. If he goes 2 innings and, best case scenario, ramps up an inning every 5 days (3 inn on 3/20, 4 inn on 3/25), he does not have enough time to get stretched out to 5-6 innings before Opening Day. I believe he will be left behind for a couple weeks before he joins the big club. What say you?
 

geoflin

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I expect you're right and he will be left behind but he does have time to be ready for 5-6 innings the first time they need a 5th starter (April 4 or 5) if all goes well.
 

Rovin Romine

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Garrett Whitlock, part of the rotation plan for this season, finally makes his spring training debut today. If he goes 2 innings and, best case scenario, ramps up an inning every 5 days (3 inn on 3/20, 4 inn on 3/25), he does not have enough time to get stretched out to 5-6 innings before Opening Day. I believe he will be left behind for a couple weeks before he joins the big club. What say you?
I'm largely indifferent. If he needs an extra week or two, he should get them.

But that assumes there's an adequate starting rotation in place to begin the season. Last year our starters seemed to be in the 70-80 pitch range to start the season (shortened spring training/possible "twice through" tinkering.) In 2021 it was 80-90+ pitches.

Whitlock has a limited data-set for his ML starts. Sometimes he looks very efficient. So if it were a choice of Whitlock with a 50 pitch cap and Wincowski with a 70. . .I'm not 100% sure I'd go with Winckowski. It would depend on the pitching matchups for Whitlock's first scheduled starts and how Whitlock was actually throwing. But I would hold him back if it were Whitlock with a 40 and Winckowski going up to 90 pitches.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Garrett Whitlock, part of the rotation plan for this season, finally makes his spring training debut today. If he goes 2 innings and, best case scenario, ramps up an inning every 5 days (3 inn on 3/20, 4 inn on 3/25), he does not have enough time to get stretched out to 5-6 innings before Opening Day. I believe he will be left behind for a couple weeks before he joins the big club. What say you?
Well what says Alex Speier in the post right above yours is:
Garrett Whitlock (possibly available to join the rotation in mid-April)
 

Sin Duda

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Well what says Alex Speier in the post right above yours is:
Garrett Whitlock (possibly available to join the rotation in mid-April)
Thanks, Gray Eagle. I don't have access to the Globe so I did not read the article you did and that Speier quote does not answer a question I have: Are the Sox more likely to add Whitlock to the bullpen, or to leave him behind in FLA? I think it's the latter. Does the article indicate which way the Sox are leaning?
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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I don’t fully understand why Sale isn’t starting the first game- Cora wants him to be able to enjoy Opening Day? Is the idea that starting game 2 will be less stressful or puts less pressure on him? Maybe he gets too amped up? It’s not like it matters, I guess. Maybe this kind of sets the tone for the rest of the season, though, in that regard I kind of like it.
 
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JM3

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I don’t fully understand why Sale isn’t starting the first game- Cora wants him to be able to enjoy Opening Day? Is the idea that starting game 2 will be less stressful or puts less pressure on him? Maybe he gets too amped up? It’s not like it matters, I guess.
It is clearly time for some unnecessary research...

2012 - started 4th game, 6.2 IP, 1 ER
2013 - started opening day, 7.2 IP, 0 ER
2014 - started opening day, 7.1 IP, 3 ER
2015 - started 6th game, 6 IP, 1 ER
2016 - started opening day, 7 IP, 3 ER
2017 - started 2nd game, 7 IP, 0 ER
2018 - started opening day, 6 IP, 0 ER
2019 - started opening day, 3 IP, 7 ER
2021 - started 119th game, 5 IP, 2 ER
2022 - started 88th game, 5 IP, 0 ER

So in 5 opening day starts, Sale has pitched 31 innings & allowed 13 earned runs (7 in one start), for a 3.77 ERA.

In his 5 seasons where opening day was not his first start, Sale has pitched 29.2 innings & allowed 4 earned runs, for a 1.21 ERA.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Very interesting. Sale does seem like a guy who gets a bit too fired up at times. This also potentially shows that the team has a lot of confidence in Kluber and is counting on him to be a leader. Who knows to what extent any of these things matter, but theoretically, I can see how setting this kind of tone from day one could be important. Have talked myself into this.
 

JM3

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Very interesting. Sale does seem like a guy who gets a bit too fired up at times. This also potentially shows that the team has a lot of confidence in Kluber and is counting on him to be a leader. Who knows to what extent any of these things matter, but theoretically, I can see how setting this kind of tone from day one could be important. Have talked myself into this.
Yeah, who knows? Without the disastrous 2019 start, Sale's ERA is 1.93 on opening day, but it could be Cora remembers something specific about that day that he does not want to repeat.

You might be on to something there, JM3! I'm guessing the Chaim gang did the same "unnecessary" research.
I'm guessing it has more to to with an institutional memory of the 2019 season than any broader look at the statistical patterns.
 

JM3

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Just for fun, though, here's Kluber:

2012 - started 4th game, 4.1 IP, 6 ER
2013 - started 16th game, 4 IP, 0 ER
2014 - started 2 game, 3.1 IP, 5 ER
2015 - started opening day, 7.1 IP, 2 ER
2016 - started opening day, 5.1 IP, 4 ER
2017 - started opening day, 6 IP, 5 ER
2018 - started opening day, 8 IP, 2 ER
2019 - started opening day, 7 IP, 2 ER
2020 - started 3rd game, 1 IP, 0 ER (done for season)
2021 - started 2nd game, 4 IP, 1 ER
2022 - started 3rd game, 4.2 IP, 0 ER

Not a lot that be gathered from this probably, except like Sale, his 1st start came in 2012 & has 5 opening day starts...

In 5 opening day starts, Kluber has pitched 33.2 innings & allowed 15 earned runs, for a 4.01 ERA.
In 6 non-opening day starts, Kluber has pitched 20.2 innings & allowed 12 earned runs, for a 5.22 ERA.

Of course, it's not really a fair comparison because all of his opening day starts were right in the middle of his prime. He definitely doesn't seem to start off the season as hot as Sale, though.
 

JM3

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The Orioles opening day starter from the last 2 seasons, Jon Means, is rehabbing & will not start the season with the team.

I have not been able to find much on who the Orioles expect to start opening day, but probably Kyle Gibson or Cole Irvin. Gibson's only opening day start was in 2021 when he allowed 5 runs in 1/3 of an inning. Irvin has never started on opening day & does not seem to pitch particularly well in his 1st start of the season.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Thanks, Gray Eagle. I don't have access to the Globe so I did not read the article you did and that Speier quote does not answer a question I have: Are the Sox more likely to add Whitlock to the bullpen, or to leave him behind in FLA? I think it's the latter. Does the article indicate which way the Sox are leaning?
They only have talked about Whitlock as a starter so far. The plan seems to be that he will be left behind until he can join the Sox rotation around mid-April.
 

effectivelywild

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I don’t fully understand why Sale isn’t starting the first game- Cora wants him to be able to enjoy Opening Day? Is the idea that starting game 2 will be less stressful or puts less pressure on him? Maybe he gets too amped up? It’s not like it matters, I guess. Maybe this kind of sets the tone for the rest of the season, though, in that regard I kind of like it.
A recent article in The Athletic said that is more or less the reason. A quote from Sale in the article:
"“Opening Day is always a very special day,” Sale told The Athletic Monday. “It’s like Christmas for baseball players, but the last few I’ve been a part of, I wasn’t playing, so it was like showing up on Christmas morning with no presents. It’s still Christmas, but you’re not doing a whole lot. I think (Cora) didn’t want me to be over-amped for it and I think he truly just wants me to be able to soak in Opening Day, enjoy it, appreciate it for what it is and not have to worry about getting ready for a start. It’s a spectacle. It’s an absolute circus, the people, the media coverage, the flyover, the anthem, it’s just everybody on the line, players, personnel, the whole nine.”
The article said that Cora told Sale he would not be the Opening Day starter before Spring Training even began.

Inasmuch that Opening Day is just another regular season game as far as the standings are concerned, it doesn't really matter much. Its more symbolic than anything else and there is some merit to making decisions to either a. take some pressure off a high-intensity player and b. possibly send a message about roles and "culture". If Sale was pissed about it then it would potentially be a problem but it sounds like he understands that he isn't "owed" anything and he should just focus on...trying to pitch well and stay of the IL.
 

jteders1

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I’m sorry, I can’t get excited about opening day starter Corey Kluber. This team has real rotation problems for the first month. Let’s keep expectations reasonable. Battle to .500 ball, and then the Calvary comes in May.
 

Sad Sam Jones

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I’m sorry, I can’t get excited about opening day starter Corey Kluber. This team has real rotation problems for the first month. Let’s keep expectations reasonable. Battle to .500 ball, and then the Calvary comes in May.
I'm sure someone will get crucified by then.
 

sezwho

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I'm sure someone will get crucified by then.
Nice.

A recent article in The Athletic said that is more or less the reason. A quote from Sale in the article:
"“Opening Day is always a very special day,” Sale told The Athletic Monday. “It’s like Christmas for baseball players, but the last few I’ve been a part of, I wasn’t playing, so it was like showing up on Christmas morning with no presents. It’s still Christmas, but you’re not doing a whole lot. I think (Cora) didn’t want me to be over-amped for it and I think he truly just wants me to be able to soak in Opening Day, enjoy it, appreciate it for what it is and not have to worry about getting ready for a start. It’s a spectacle. It’s an absolute circus, the people, the media coverage, the flyover, the anthem, it’s just everybody on the line, players, personnel, the whole nine.”
The article said that Cora told Sale he would not be the Opening Day starter before Spring Training even began.

Inasmuch that Opening Day is just another regular season game as far as the standings are concerned, it doesn't really matter much. Its more symbolic than anything else and there is some merit to making decisions to either a. take some pressure off a high-intensity player and b. possibly send a message about roles and "culture". If Sale was pissed about it then it would potentially be a problem but it sounds like he understands that he isn't "owed" anything and he should just focus on...trying to pitch well and stay of the IL.
I was also thinking it lowered pressure around any setback in development. If was was named starter then he can’t make the opening day lineup then right back in cross hairs.
 

chrisfont9

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re Paxton, I mean, if it works for some people to just write him off, I won't tell you how to think. But he had TJ surgery in late April 2021 and while it's a one year injury before you can pitch again, it's often a two year injury before all the little body parts can get fully back to health. He's coming up on that, his manager has gone out of his way to say how strong he's throwing, and you guys want to write him off because of a slight hammy tweak?

He missed some time in 2020 for a cyst and then the season was over in a blink, before his elbow problem. But then, from 2016-2019 he was quite consistent and good, averaging about 4 fWAR. His last injury is not his new permanent reality. I dunno, there's something about all this knee-jerk injury prone labeling that bugs me. It's just diminishing a guy for not great reasons, in the face of reality where people have these injuries all the time and heal up just fine.
 

trs

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I’m sorry, I can’t get excited about opening day starter Corey Kluber. This team has real rotation problems for the first month. Let’s keep expectations reasonable. Battle to .500 ball, and then the Calvary comes in May.
It will be interesting to see if anyone has risen to the challenge by May, but it is interesting to note that the Sox only have two off days in the month of April. While there are 16 home games and a few others in places where you might see rain and therefore get a postponement or two, it is a rather rigorous opening month calendar.
 

oumbi

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I’m sorry, I can’t get excited about opening day starter Corey Kluber. This team has real rotation problems for the first month. Let’s keep expectations reasonable. Battle to .500 ball, and then the Calvary comes in May.
Or maybe they will try a Hail Mary.
 

RS2004foreever

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Crucifixion? Good, out of the door, line on the left, one cross each.

Tanner "Lord it is the third time through don't fail me now" Houck would be my first candidate.
 

Heating up in the bullpen

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Bello looked great in his first game action today. I was listening to the radio broadcast; Will and Lou were gushing. Here’s from MLB.com:
“CLEARWATER, Fla. -- All along, Brayan Bello said the right forearm tightness he dealt with at the start of Spring Training was nothing to worry about.

But when you hear about a stud young pitcher having any discomfort in that part of the arm, alarm bells get set off, particularly in a market like Boston.

On Sunday, Bello calmed Red Sox Nation when his first pitch in a Grapefruit League game seared in at 96.2 mph for a strike against Phillies left fielder Weston Wilson. Bello struck out Wilson and then Max McDowell, the second batter he faced. Both punchouts were on changeups. The 23-year-old righty got a first-pitch groundout from Cody Roberts and it seemed like his first inning of the spring was over before it started.

In two innings of relief, Bello sent down all six batters he faced, needing just 25 pitches to do so in Sunday's 9-5 win over the Phillies at BayCare Ballpark.“
 

The Gray Eagle

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It's been pretty likely for a while, but Whitlock and Bello will officially not be starting the season in Boston.
https://www.bostonglobe.com/2023/03/20/sports/garrett-whitlock-feeling-strong-hitting-95-he-ramps-up-could-miss-just-one-turn-red-sox-rotation/

In theory, Whitlock could accomplish those goals over two starts in the next 10 days in Florida and then start the fifth game of the regular season April 4. But manager Alex Cora ruled out such a scenario, making it sound all but certain Whitlock will get at least one minor league rehab start.
“We’re not going to cut corners on this,” said Cora. “There’s no rush here. We’ve just got to be patient. Last year, I think we rushed into a few situations and it put us in a bad spot. We learned from it and we’re not going to make the same mistakes.”
But it might not be long before they are ready. Whitlock could be ready as soon as the second turn of the rotation:
Cora said the Sox want both Brayan Bello and Whitlock to pitch in at least five games before they will be considered for the rotation. Both have already had two-inning outings, and Whitlock has now had a three-inning start, with games of four, five, and five innings to come. With a steady progression, Whitlock might miss as little as one turn of the rotation, while Bello might miss as little as two.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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I know it's both unlikely and also a great problem.... but what if Crawford is shredding as a starter? Pivetta is going to have a long leash..... Sale and Kluber even longer. I'm guessing Houck will be the 2nd in line to make way for Bello?
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I know it's both unlikely and also a great problem.... but what if Crawford is shredding as a starter? Pivetta is going to have a long leash..... Sale and Kluber even longer. I'm guessing Houck will be the 2nd in line to make way for Bello?
If they expect Whitlock and Bello to be ready by the second or third time through the rotation, I don't think Crawford "shredding" will be all that evident or relevant. His first start is going to be against the Pirates (relatively soft lineup), then he could theoretically be skipped the next time through because of the off day. At which point, one or both of the others will be ready. I expect it will be an easy decision to send Crawford down or to the pen.

Also, after the first week, they have 19 straight days without a break. They could decide to work a six-man rotation for a couple turns just to manage early work-loads. That could buy them some time before deciding who the odd man out is or to let things work themselves out on their own (injury or ineffectiveness).
 

koufax32

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Kluber, Sale, Houck, Crawford, Pivetta it is.

Whitlock, Bello, Paxton, Rodriguez, and Mills likely to start the season on the IL.

https://nesn.com/2023/03/alex-cora-reveals-bulk-of-red-soxs-opening-day-pitching-staff/
<insert “this is fine” burning house meme here>

We knew the rotation was going to be a revolving door because of all the injury prone/snake bit guys in the rotation. It’s just frustrating that, because of that, we’re beholden to guys like Pivetta and Houck. It would be an extra layer of frustrating if they kept Houck instead of trading him for Kim just because of depth concerns in the rotation. That’s obviously nothing more than speculation but seems like it could play a role if any of those speculation rumors were true.
 

LogansDad

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<insert “this is fine” burning house meme here>

We knew the rotation was going to be a revolving door because of all the injury prone/snake bit guys in the rotation. It’s just frustrating that, because of that, we’re beholden to guys like Pivetta and Houck. It would be an extra layer of frustrating if they kept Houck instead of trading him for Kim just because of depth concerns in the rotation. That’s obviously nothing more than speculation but seems like it could play a role if any of those speculation rumors were true.
San Diego wasn't taking Houck for Kim, can we get over this?
 

Rovin Romine

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Kluber, Sale, Houck, Crawford, Pivetta it is.

Whitlock, Bello, Paxton, Rodriguez, and Mills likely to start the season on the IL.

https://nesn.com/2023/03/alex-cora-reveals-bulk-of-red-soxs-opening-day-pitching-staff/
Just for giggles this is copied from the opening post.

Green is likely bullpen with a short week until opening day. Red is traded/released/claimed, but basically not in the org. anymore. Italics are IL or some other role (including minors).

To unpack some of the bloat in the threads, perhaps we could discuss the pros and cons of our starting rotation here.

Depth (the numbers being a bit arbitrary):
1. Sale
2. Paxton
3. Pivetta
4. Bello
5. Kluber
6. Whitlock
7. Houck
8. Crawford
9+ Wincowski/Seabold/Mata/Walter
A lot less volatility than the bullpen - basically Bloom held onto nearly everyone who was a possible starter, except for Seabold (who is now with the Rockies, BTW).

The expected 40 man jockeying mostly avoided this core group.
 

The Gray Eagle

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The latest timetable for the injured guys:
https://theathletic.com/4347035/2023/03/26/red-sox-garrett-whitlock-brayan-bello-james-paxton/
Whitlock’s on track to join the team during their first trip of the season, and Bello should be only a week behind him. Paxton could be activated a week or so after Bello.
Whitlock's plan:
The next step in Whitlock’s progression will be starting for Triple-A Worcester in their season opener on Friday. After that, he’s scheduled to make one more minor-league start, which should get him up to six innings before he’s activated on or around April 11, the first day he will be eligible.
Bello:
Bello pitched three innings in a minor-league game on Friday and is scheduled to pitch in another minor-league game on Wednesday (the day after the Red Sox break camp). That should get him up to four innings, and put him on track to make a couple of minor-league starts before coming off the injured list a week or so after Whitlock.
Paxton:
Paxton pitched two innings of live batting practice on Saturday and expects to pitch in a minor-league game either Wednesday or Thursday. A natural progression should put him five days or so behind Bello.
The early schedule should be favorable, (though the Orioles are pretty good and not an easy matchup) hopefully they turn those favorable matchups into actual wins. The plan is to be aggressive with the bullpen early:
That promise of incoming talent should allow Cora to lean on his bullpen early in the season — when the schedule seems relatively weak — despite not necessarily having his best possible pitching staff available.
“We’re probably going to be a little more aggressive with the bullpen early on knowing the off days and what we have,” he said.
The Red Sox open against the Orioles, Pirates and Tigers, none of which are projected by FanGraphs to finish above .500. The Red Sox also have two off days within the first nine days of the season and won’t play more than five days in a row until April 13, at which point at least Whitlock should be available.
Good thing there are lots of depth options for the bullpen, since you can't expect to use them all aggressively for the entire season. We probably will to need to use a couple of the AAA starters as relievers in Boston as the season goes along.

For now, there aren't any actual decisions to be made about the rotation-- the current healthy starters will be the rotation at least until Whitlock is back:
In theory, those reinforcements could come at a perfect time, just as the Red Sox are playing 19 days in a row from April 8 through April 26. For now, injuries have left the team without much choice of who to carry on Opening Day. They’re down to only 13 healthy, fully available pitchers on their 40-man. Every other arm is either hurt, still ramping up, already optioned to Triple A, or not currently on the 40-man roster.
 
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