<
>

Predicting the Red Sox's Opening Day roster, lineup

play
Are Red Sox AL contenders? (0:47)

Buster Olney breaks down why he considers the Red Sox one of the most improved teams and if they can contend in the American League. (0:47)

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If John Farrell was a poker player, he might be accused of showing his hand.

In discussing the Boston Red Sox's plans for split-squad games Wednesday, the manager revealed that third baseman Travis Shaw will play with regular infielders Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, Florida, while Pablo Sandoval will play third against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Florida.

Maybe that means nothing. But maybe it's an indication Shaw will be the Opening Day third baseman and Sandoval will be on the bench next Monday in Cleveland.

As the Red Sox enter the final week of camp, their roster -- and the Opening Day lineup -- is beginning to take shape. The club made several more cuts and disabled-list designations before David Ortiz's final spring-training home game Monday against the Baltimore Orioles (1:05 p.m. ET, ESPN), leaving unresolved only one pitching decision and what appears to be the formality of granting veteran outfielder David Murphy his release by not adding him to the major-league roster.

Here, then, is our latest prediction for the roster:

Starting rotation: David Price, Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Joe Kelly, Steven Wright.

Wright likely will beat out lefty Roenis Elias for the final spot in the rotation, which is vacant only because lefty Eduardo Rodriguez (knee) was placed on the DL. The bigger question is whether the Sox will slot in Wright to pitch the season's third game in Cleveland or have him face the Toronto Blue Jays in the second series.

Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel (closer), Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Robbie Ross Jr., Tommy Layne, Matt Barnes, Noe Ramirez.

By allowing three home runs Sunday, Elias proved he isn't suited for a relief role. And with Carson Smith (forearm) on the disabled list and seven of the season's first 13 games coming against the righty-heavy Blue Jays, the Sox figure to load up on right-handed relievers by keeping both Ramirez and hard-throwing Barnes.

Catchers: Blake Swihart, Ryan Hanigan.

Everyone realizes how much the pitchers love throwing to Christian Vazquez, who has progressed well in his return from Tommy John elbow surgery. But there's no use rushing him back before he's ready, especially with two capable catchers already on the roster. The Red Sox announced Vazquez will begin the season on the disabled list but likely will make a 20-day minor-league rehab assignment. After that, he will either be optioned to Triple-A or added to the big-league roster. Farrell said last weekend the Sox haven't ruled out the possibility of eventually carrying three catchers.

Infielders: Ramirez, Pedroia, Bogaerts, Shaw, Sandoval.

After dealing with a stiff lower back for five days, Sandoval will play third base in a minor-league game Monday and is scheduled to play Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins. But Farrell has been looking for reasons to give Shaw everyday at-bats. Sandoval's balky back seems to be as good as any.

Outfielders: Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo, Brock Holt, Chris Young.

The Red Sox have until Tuesday to put Murphy on the big-league roster. If they don't, he already has informed them he will opt out of his contract.

Castillo is having an underwhelming spring, but president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has repeatedly said the Sox have to find out if the $72.5 million Cuban defector is a viable major leaguer. That means Castillo likely will make the team, but it won't stop Farrell from using him in a three-way platoon with Young and Holt.

With the Sox set to face three right-handed starters in Cleveland, don't be surprised to see a lot of Holt in left field next week.