Garrett Whitlock more likely to make first MLB begin Saturday as Crimson Sox reshuffle rotation forward of Tanner Houck (unvaccinated) lacking Toronto collection

BOSTON — The Red Sox plan to re-shuffle their starting rotation in the coming days, and that will likely result in Garrett Whitlock making his first career major league start Saturday at Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox plan to push back lefty Rich Hill, who is on the bereavement list after losing his father, Lloyd, last week, to Sunday, giving him an extra day of rest after spending a couple days away from the team for his father’s services . That means there’s an open spot Saturday night in St. Petersburg, and in all likelihood, it will belong to Whitlock.

“Saturday’s the one where we have to decide what we want to do…,” Cora said before testing positive for COVID-19 and leaving Fenway Park. “There’s a good chance he’ll start that one.”

If Whitlock starts, he’s likely to pitch three or four innings, according to Cora. Whitlock has dominated in a multi-inning relief role so far this year, posting a 0.93 ERA while striking out 11 batters in 9 ⅔ innings.

On Sunday, Hill will be backed up by righty Tanner Houck, who is moving to the bullpen on a temporary basis because he’s unvaccinated against COVID and is ineligible to make his scheduled start Tuesday in Toronto. If all goes to plan, Hill and Houck will piggyback the series finale against the Rays before Houck leaves the team for its four-game series north of the border.

That leaves Tuesday as the “TBD” day for the Red Sox. With Houck out, the Red Sox will have to turn to an irregular option to start against the Jays. That pitcher could come from the bullpen or from Triple-A Worcester. Cora hasn’t given any hints about what Boston is thinking.

While having to re-shuffle the rotation due to a player’s refusal to get vaccinated is surely frustrating, Cora remained diplomatic. about the situation Thursday. The Red Sox are expected to be missing multiple players in Toronto but Houck is the only name known so far.

“It’s just that we have to make adjustments,” Cora said. “That’s it. From my personal perspective, you have to respect their decisions and we have to adjust. That’s the bottom line. Obviously, it’s not perfect but it’s where we’re at. Going to Toronto, this is what it’s going to be now and probably the rest of the season.”

Houck, who told the Boston Globe last weekend that he was not vaccinated, once again referred to his decision as a “personal choice” Thursday. He said he has tried to avoid confronting any backlash to his decision about him.

“No matter what side of the fence you’re on, there’s always going to be positives and there’s always going to be negatives,” Houck said. “I’ve got a job to do and focus on what I’ve got to do.”


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