Boston Red Sox

Mother Nature will force one of baseball’s greatest rivalries to begin the next chapter a day late.

Thursday’s scheduled Opening Day game between the Red Sox and Yankees has officially been postponed due to rain in the forecast, as confirmed by the Yankees on Twitter. The teams will now start the season on Friday, April 8 at 1:05 p.m. ET.

The three-game series will continue on Saturday afternoon at 4:05 p.m. ET before the series finale on Sunday Night Baseball at 7:08 p.m. ET.

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Mazz: Five keys to success for the 2022 Red Sox

  • The bullpen

    Oct 5, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez (7) and relief pitcher Garrett Whitlock (72) celebrate the 6-2 victory against the New York Yankees in the American League Wildcard game at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 5, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez (7) and relief pitcher Garrett Whitlock (72) celebrate the 6-2 victory against the New York Yankees in the American League Wildcard game at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Each spring, former Sox manager Grady Little often joked that his wife would ask him the same question: How does your bullpen look? Based on the answer, she could forecast what kind of year it would be for her husband.

    In 2022 – for every team – this now truer than ever.

    And even so, it might be truer for the Red Sox than anyone else.

    Last year, American League relievers pitched a total of 9,162.2 innings – precisely 2,631.2 more than they did 10 years prior – an average of more than 175 innings per team. (That’s basically like taking one quality starter out of every starting rotation.) In the entire major leagues, there were four starters who pitched 200 or more innings; only one (Zack Wheeler) pitched more than 210.

    Mar 25, 2022; North Port, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Matt Barnes (32) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves during spring training at CoolToday Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 25, 2022; North Port, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Matt Barnes (32) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves during spring training at CoolToday Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Get the picture? Individually, there are lots of keys to the Sox bullpen, most notably Matt Barnes, whose second-half difficulties hurt the Red Sox considerably last year. Barnes has looked more like himself this spring and the Sox have added two lefties – Jake Diekman and Matt Strahm – to give Cora more options. This will seemingly allow Cora to try Garrett Whitlock in a bulk role, but there are lots of questions with this group. And the season may depend on the answers.

  • Trevor Story and Jackie Bradley

    Mar 21, 2022; Fort Myers, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) looks on after striking out in the second inning of the game against the Atlanta Braves during spring training at JetBlue Park at Fenway South. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 21, 2022; Fort Myers, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) looks on after striking out in the second inning of the game against the Atlanta Braves during spring training at JetBlue Park at Fenway South. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

    Think of it in these terms: the Sox were fourth in the league in runs scored last year and traded away Hunter Renfroe (31 HR, 96 RBI, .816 OPS) for Jackie Bradley (6 HR, 29 RBI, .491 OPS). That’s a big offensive loss, right? But if Story proves to be anything like the player he was in Colorado, the Sox should gain much of that back – along with any sort of potential rebound from Bradley, whose career OPS in Boston was .732.

    Aug 28, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story (27) reacts after grounding out to end the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 28, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story (27) reacts after grounding out to end the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Now, the obvious questions: will Story be the same player at Fenway that he was in Colorado – or at least something close to it? And was Bradley’s 2021 season the sign of a declining player or just an aberration? The bottom line is that general manager Chaim Bloom has bet on Story to be basically the same player and Bradley to return to something far closer to form. If he’s right, the Sox should have plenty of offense.

  • The defense

    Jun 16, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers (11) cannot handle a ground ball hit by Seattle Mariners center fielder Guillermo Heredia (not shown) for an error in the fifth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 16, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers (11) cannot handle a ground ball hit by Seattle Mariners center fielder Guillermo Heredia (not shown) for an error in the fifth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

    According to fangraphs, the Red Sox ranked 10th in the American League in overall defense last year, though a closer inspection reveals weaknesses that we all witnessed. The Sox ranked 12th among the 15 AL teams at third base and 14th at first base while committing a major league-leading 13 errors in right field.  When Jose Iglesias was picked up to play second base late in the year, the improvement on the right side of the infield was positively striking.

    While the Sox have returned Rafael Devers and Bobby Dalbec at third base and first base, respectively – keep an eye on the play of each – Story (even at a new position, second base) and Bradley should deliver considerable upgrades on the right side of the field. The net gain of Story and Bradley should make the Red Sox a better, more complete team. In theory, that should translate into wins.

  • Chris Sale

    Oct 20, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) reacts after throwing a strikeout for the third out against the Houston Astros in the fourth inning of game five of the 2021 ALCS at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 20, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) reacts after throwing a strikeout for the third out against the Houston Astros in the fourth inning of game five of the 2021 ALCS at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Yes, the Red Sox made the playoffs and reached Game 6 of the AL Championship Series without Sale being a significant factor, but let’s get real. If he can return to something close to what he was before a succession of injuries, the Red Sox should be able to make a run at a title. A rib injury during the offseason was obviously a horrible start, but it will prove nothing more than a blip if he can come back and regain his form.

    Oct 20, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora (13) takes starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) out of the game during the sixth inning of game five of the 2021 ALCS against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 20, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora (13) takes starting pitcher Chris Sale (41) out of the game during the sixth inning of game five of the 2021 ALCS against the Houston Astros at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Last year, Red Sox starters ranked eighth in the league in both innings and ERA. Given the questions in the bullpen, they’re going to need more in 2022. Nathan Eovaldi is a much more complete pitcher than he was four years ago and the Sox otherwise have a collective of decent starters, but pairing a healthy and productive Sale with a healthy and productive Eovaldi would change everything at the top of the rotation.

  • A solid start

    Oct 16, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora (13) looks on during batting practice before game two of the 2021 ALCS against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 16, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora (13) looks on during batting practice before game two of the 2021 ALCS against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

    Seems obvious, right? But it’s important. After rampaging to the 2018 World Series, manager Alex Cora and the Sox took a passive approach in the spring of `19 and stumbled out of the gate, going 1-5 and 6-13. They never truly recovered. In the first month this year, the Red Sox will play New York, Toronto and Tampa Bay a combined 13 times, making it imperative to avoid any significant damage.

    Thanks to a truncated spring, teams will open the season with 28-man rosters, which gives Cora a little more time than usual to assess his collection of pitchers. The problem? The games count. Nobody is saying the Sox have to start out as they did a year ago, when they finished April with a 17-10 record. But given the concerns about the bullpen, they need to hang in there against the good teams and beat the bad ones.

NEXT: Alex Cora talks bullpen concerns with Mazz