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Void a big name starter, Red Sox hope rotation improves with depth this season

 WBN  |    Feb 16th, 2024 4:36pm EST

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — From Pedro Martinez to Curt Schilling to Josh Beckett to Chris Sale, the Boston Red Sox always seemed to have that big-name starter when they were winning four World Series titles in 15 years.

Coming off their third last-place finish in four years and following an offseason that lacked the addition of a high-priced, top-of-the-rotation arm, the Red Sox have many rotation options. But no one is likely to be viewed as an opening-day ace.

“Yeah, we don’t have that marquee name.” 27-year-old right-hander Kutter Crawford said Friday.

Crawford was 6-7 with a 4.51 ERA in 23 starts and also made eight appearances out of the bullpen.

“I think it’s an exciting time and almost makes us hungrier to go out and show the world that even though we don’t have that marquee name, we can make a name for ourselves,” he said.

The Red Sox entered the offseason with some holes: none bigger than needing an ace to eat innings and reduce the load for a bullpen that was overworked most of last year.

“If you look back to the history of the Red Sox, when they’ve been really, really good, the rotation carries the pitching staff,” manager Alex Cora said. “It happened in ’04 when they traded for Curt — him and Pedro — and the rest of the guys carried the pitching staff.

“In ’07, we got Josh before that and the rotation carried that team,” he continued. “In ’13, veterans carried that team; same thing in ’18 and ’21.”

This year, Cora’s message to the starters is simple: They need to be better.

“We can talk about bullpen and all that stuff,” he said. “You cannot rely on the bullpen all the time. Somebody needs to step up and go six, seven innings more than once in a while. … You need five guys that can take the baton and keep on running, running and running, and you can take care of the bullpen.”

The list of candidates is deep with right-handers: Brayan Bello, 22, showed some promise last season, Nick Pivetta, 31, Tanner Houck, 27, Garrett Whitlock, 27, and offseason, free-agent acquisition Lucas Giolito, 29, — along with Crawford and Josh Winckowski, 25, — are in the mix for a starting spot.

But none are hardly big names.

“I wouldn’t say I’m pitching to increase my ego or anything,” Giolito said when asked about the lack of an ace. “At the same time, not too long ago, I was one of those marquee names. The last couple of years have gotten away from that. So, I’m really looking to reestablish myself, show this team and show everybody I can be one of the top pitchers in this league.”

Signed to a $38.5 million, two-year contract, Giolito was 42-38 with a 4.19 ERA from 2016-21 but is 19-24 with a 4.89 ERA since. He posted double-digit wins four times in five seasons with the White Sox from 2018-22.

They hope that success comes from depth.

“If you don’t have solid starters, you can’t get to the dudes in the back end of the pen,” Crawford said. “You’re not going to go too far.”

Notes: Closer Kenley Jansen is dealing with lat soreness and isn’t throwing. “Hopefully he’ll get back on track next week,” Cora said. “Nothing to be alarmed.” The big righty was running with an elastic band being held by a trainer and did his pre-stretch motion work without a ball or glove on a mound.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb