Rebuilding Orioles face retooled Red Sox in opener

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The Boston Red Sox will host the Baltimore Orioles in the season opener Friday in a battle of two teams trying to climb back up the ladder again.

Boston comes into this shortened 60-game season after losing a number of key players from last year’s disappointing 84-78 finish. Also, manager Alex Cora, who led them to the World Series title the previous year, is gone. Cora and the Red Sox went their separate ways due to the fallout from the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal which occurred while he was a coach there before taking over at Boston.

Major League Baseball suspended Cora through the 2020 season. Ron Roenicke replaced him as the manager, and the Red Sox are ready to get started. Roenicke, who served as Cora’s bench coach last season, tapped Nathan Eovaldi as the Opening Night starter.

The new skipper still has a power-based offense, but Boston lost a lot in the offseason. Left-hander Chris Sale had Tommy John surgery and is out for the season. Boston also dealt outfielder Mookie Betts and left-hander David Price to the Dodgers in a big trade.

Also, starter Rick Porcello and the versatile Brock Holt left as free agents while 2018 World Series MVP Steve Pearce retired.

Betts made out well, agreeing to a $365 million deal with Los Angeles earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Boston picked up outfielder Kevin Pillar on the free agent market, and designated hitter J.D. Martinez did not opt out of his deal.

There will be some tough bats to face at the top of the Boston lineup, including Andrew Benintendi, Martinez, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts.

“Everybody knows, it’s going to be time to roll,” Boston first baseman Mitch Moreland said. “But at the same time, we’re trying to figure out a way to just take it one game at a time even though it’s 60 games. If we can figure out a way to slow it down day to day and just make it happen, maybe that’ll be the key to getting off to a good start.”

Baltimore is in year two of its big rebuilding project. The Orioles fared better in many ways last year than in a disastrous 2018 season, when they won just 47 games, but they still finished 54-108. The team found a few surprises in 2019, especially rookie pitcher John Means, who earned a spot in the All-Star Game.

Means was scheduled to start on Opening Night but has experienced some arm fatigue, so he is starting the year on the 10-day injured list. Instead, Tommy Milone, joining his seventh team in 10 major league seasons, will become something rare — a non-roster invitee who gets the start in the first game.

“I don’t know the last time a non-roster invitee made an Opening Day start,” said Milone, who will start an opener for the first time.

Also on the Baltimore IL are relief pitchers Hunter Harvey (right forearm strain) and Dillon Tate (right elbow contusion), outfielder Trey Mancini (recovery from colon cancer) and shortstop Richie Martin (right wrist fracture). The latter two are on the 60-day IL.

–Field Level Media

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