Boston pitcher Ryan Weber is crafty and will not overpower hitters, but he will certainly appreciate being on Boston’s roster for Opening Day. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

 

Not even a sour end to Ryan Weber’s night on the mound could wipe away the Red Sox right-hander’s satisfaction. The circumstances are certainly strange – but he’s made it.

The 29-year-old journeyman with a fastball that can barely scratch 90 mph has not only made the the Opening Day roster for the Red Sox – he’ll be a starter, likely taking the ball for their third game of the season this Sunday against the Orioles at Fenway Park. It’s a feel-good story for a pitcher who once seemed to be a long shot.

Weber was never really supposed to be here. When Martin Perez signed with the Red Sox in December, the rotation seemed set – Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and Perez. Weber, who started three games for the Red Sox last season and appeared mostly out of the bullpen, wasn’t in the picture.

But circumstances changed quickly and drastically. Price was traded, Sale had Tommy John surgery, and Rodriguez’s season is currently delayed after he caught and recovered from COVID-19. Alex Cora left as the manager and then came Ron Roenicke, who just happens to be one of Weber’s biggest fans.

Roenicke kept hinting at his admiration for Weber early in spring training, always mentioning his name when discussing who could fill in as a starter in the back end of the rotation. Now, not only is he filling in, he’s a guy the Red Sox are hopeful they can count on every fifth day of this strange 60-game season.

“It means a lot to me,” Weber said. “This is going to be my first Opening Day roster and to do it as a starting pitcher, I can say it’s a dream come true and especially to be here with the Boston Red Sox doing it at Fenway Park, I can say it’s what I dreamed of as a kid and I’m really excited for this season. I’m going to go out there and compete my butt off for the entirety of the season.”

Weber has certainly earned his place, especially after bouncing around the majors as he continued to chase that dream. The righty had spent time with the Braves, Mariners and Rays before signing a minor-league contract with the Red Sox in December 2018.

When Price went on the injured list last May, the Red Sox called Weber up from Pawtucket. After a few appearances pitching in relief, he got a start against the Blue Jays in Toronto and opened some eyes, pitching six strong innings and earning the win. Against those same Blue Jays in Tuesday night’s exhibition loss, he looked like he belonged.

Weber is never going to blow hitters away – he hit 90 on his fastball just once Tuesday. But when he’s in control of his off-speed pitches and hitting the right spots, Roenicke loves the change of pace Weber provides. He pitched six innings on Tuesday as he struck out six – including fanning the side in the fourth. He gave up a two-run homer to Rowdy Tellez in the sixth on a misplaced cutter, which spoiled what was otherwise a very strong performance – one the Red Sox will certainly take every fifth day with the way their offense can produce runs.

“I tried the backdoor cutter which as you guys know is the pitch I’ve been working on in the offseason and I don’t think it was the appropriate pitch, but I threw it anyway,” Weber said. “It’s definitely something to learn on, but throughout the game I felt like my command of the ball was there with my sinker and my slider, changeup, curveball, all of them.”

If that can continue, the Red Sox might have something. At the least, he’ll have the opportunity he’s always dreamed of.

“I think it’s great and especially when a guy talks like that, you know how excited he is,” Roenicke said. “You fight hard, you’re up and down in the big leagues, you’re changing teams, and then you come to a place where you get an opportunity. He, without a doubt, this guy earned that opportunity. We liked what he did last year for us and he came into camp lights out in the first spring training and came here and threw the ball well.

“I like him. I think he’s got good stuff, I think he commands the ball really good. It’s not the 95s but his fastball is sneaky and when he puts it where he wants it with mixing up all his pitches, I think he can be a good major-league starter.”

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