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The Red Sox announced Friday that Garrett Whitlock will start the season in the starting rotation. Whitlock joins Brayan Bello, Nick Pivetta, Kutter Crawford and Tanner Houck in the rotation. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

On the final weekend of their time in Florida, the Red Sox solidified their starting rotation.

In addition to Brayan Bello, Nick Pivetta and Kutter Crawford, both Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock have made the rotation.

Meanwhile, Cooper Criswell, who pitched well in his final outing Thursday and overall compiled a 2.95 ERA over 18 1/3 Grapefruit League innings, was optioned to Triple-A Worcester, where he’ll have the opportunity to remain stretched out as a starter and be available if the Red Sox run into injuries or performance issues in their rotation.

“Just where we’re at right now with the roster, with the 40-man roster,” Red Sox Manager Alex Cora told reporters. “(Criswell) did everything possible to make this team. It’s just that we feel we’ve got to keep him stretched out. We don’t know, if he’s in (our) bullpen, how we can accomplish that. He was amazing.

“But we feel comfortable with the rotation. We feel comfortable with these guys. They did an amazing job and threw the ball well. I do believe, without making promises, that Coop will contribute during the season.”

Cora was encouraged by the showings of both Houck and Whitlock, who have shuttled between the Red Sox rotation and the bullpen the last few seasons.


“They’re doing well. They’re healthy, which is the most important thing,” said Cora. “(The media has) been talking about these guys before I got here – with Tanner and then when we got Whit in ’21. People are going to be talk about, ‘Is he a reliever? Is he a starter?’ You know what? He’s a starter. Let’s put that to rest. If he struggles, then we’ll pivot. But we see him as a starter.

“I’ve been saying all along, the days of the hybrids and all that stuff, we’ll wait until October to do that. Over 162 (games), we need these guys to go five or six innings every turn, regardless of the results, for this to happen. And both of them have made huge adjustments – with the repertoire, with the delivery, with everything. They put the work in in the offseason. People forget that they were coming from hip surgery and back surgery (last year)…It’s all about your body. It was tough for them last year, they were behind. They showed trends of being really, really good and at one point, they weren’t good. But we feel very comfortable with them.”

Criswell, meanwhile, will offer some depth at Triple A. And he may not be alone.

Josh Winckowski could potentially join him there, deployed as a starter in reserve. Winckowski learned he failed to make the rotation earlier this week. The team’s starting pitching depth is notoriously thin in the upper levels of the minors.

Asked if Winckowski, who has options remaining, would be part of the major league bullpen, Cora responded: “We still have decisions to make.”

FIRST BASEMAN C.J. Cron and lefty reliever Joely Rodríguez both triggered their opt-outs, baseball sources confirmed, starting a 48-hour process during which the Red Sox must decide on their futures. Neither player is a free agent yet. By Sunday, the Red Sox must decide whether or not to add each player to their 40-man roster. If they don’t both players will be released into free agency.

Veteran catcher Roberto Pérez had the same clause in his minor-league deal but has decided to stay put, according to an industry source. Lefty Lucas Luetge has an upward mobility in his clause that would allow him to leave the Red Sox if another team is willing to guarantee him a major league opportunity.

Both Cron and Rodríguez are in the mix for spots on the Opening Day roster, which must be finalized by Thursday’s opener in Seattle. Cron is battling with Bobby Dalbec for the backup first base job behind Triston Casas. Rodríguez, along with Luetge, has been competing for a spot in the Red Sox bullpen.

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