Red Sox set starting rotation for early part of spring training

Alex Cora and the Red Sox start exhibition play this weekend. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox open Grapefruit League play this weekend — and their major league starters are getting thrown into the fire immediately.

After non-roster invitee Helcris Olivarez starts in the annual exhibition opener against Northeastern on Friday, Boston will start rolling out its big league rotation candidates as soon as the schedule turns to major league opponents Saturday. According to manager Alex Cora, righty Garrett Whitlock will pitch Saturday in Sarasota against the Orioles. Righties Brayan Bello and Lucas Giolito will both start Sunday, which is a split-squad date for the Sox. Bello is expected to pitch on the road in North Port against Atlanta with Giolito making his Red Sox spring debut at home against the Twins. Nick Pivetta will then pitch Monday at home against the Phillies with righty Kutter Crawford and lefty Brandon Walter each pitching Tuesday against the Cardinals in Jupiter. Josh Winckowski will get the ball Wednesday in West Palm Beach against Washington.

Bello, Giolito, Pivetta and Crawford are each locked into rotation spots but there’s an open competition for the fifth spot. Whitlock, Houck and Winckowski are the top three candidates to make the starting five with Walter a long shot the Red Sox are stretching out to serve as Triple-A depth in Worcester.

The Red Sox have not yet named a starter for Opening Day, which is March 28 in Seattle.

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