MESA, Ariz. — Steve Pearce. who exited an exhibition game last weekend due to discomfort in his left calf, will start the season on the injured list for the Boston Red Sox.

Pearce, the 2018 World Series MVP and a right-handed batter, normally platoons with lefty-hitting Mitch Moreland at first base. But the Red Sox will begin defense of their championship Thursday in Seattle without Pearce.

“We have to do it that way,” Manager Alex Cora said. “It makes sense for us, it makes sense for him. He should be back sooner rather than later but he won’t be ready for Seattle, so why take a chance?”

Sam Travis will likely take Pearce’s spot on the roster on Opening Day.

“He’s been swinging the bat, he plays first, he’s a right-handed hitter,” Cora said. “It seems like we’re going to face a lot of lefties on the West Coast. Having a right-handed bat would help us out.”

Pearce was acquired from Toronto in a trade last June and batted a combined .284 with 11 homers, 42 RBI and an .890 OPS in 76 games with the Blue Jays and Red Sox last season. He was 4 for 12 (.333) with three homers, eight RBI and a 1.167 OPS in the World Series against the Dodgers.

Pearce became a free agent and re-signed with Boston for one year and $6.25 million.

BOSTON NEARLY lost another player to a much more serious injury when pitcher Rick Porcello was hit in the head by a line drive during Monday night’s 3-2 exhibition loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Willson Contreras hit a liner that deflected off Porcello’s head in the second inning. Porcello, however, was checked by an athletic trainer, threw a few warmup pitches and stayed in the game.

Cora was doubtful at first about keeping Porcello in the game. The right-hander told the trainer to touch his head where the ball hit him.

“He barked like a dog and scared the living whatever out of me,” said Cora, who jumped off the mound. “I told him, ‘Now I’m going to be on TV for the rest of my career for the wrong reasons.’”

Porcello was able to laugh.

“It ricocheted,” he said. “When you get hit, it takes a second to kind of get your bearings and figure out what’s going on. I stood up, I wasn’t wobbly or anything like that, so it was fine.”

Said Cora: “It’s amazing what they do. They’re so close and these guys hit the ball harder than ever and they throw harder than ever and I’m glad he’s going to be ready for his start.”

This was the first time Porcello has been hit in the head by a baseball. The ball has connected with other parts of his body, however.

“I got hit three times in one game in LA a while back,” Porcello said. “That one, I learned to stop throwing the ball down and away to some of those guys.”

In his final tuneup for the regular season, Porcello gave up two runs and four hits over four innings, including a solo homer to opposing pitcher Cole Hamels in the third.

“He’s tough,” Hamels said. “We don’t have instant replay – and I’m glad we don’t so we didn’t have to relive it. He looked fine when he was coming off.”

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