Garrett Whitlock, Bobby Dalbec help Red Sox's 2024 roadmap after first spring game

Boston Red Sox Spring Training
Boston Red Sox Spring Training / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

Adley Rutschman stood at the plate with a 3-0 count. Garrett Whitlock stared him down from the mound.

During the offseason, Whitlock packed on muscle. The new-look hurler stood ready to pitch to Rutschman — the outcome of his performance could affect his chances of earning a spot in the Red Sox starting rotation.

Whitlock pitched, and Rutschman cranked a deep ball to center field. Boston’s highly-touted center field prospect Ceddanne Rafaela took off at a run and leaped up the wall. He extended and closed his glove.

It looked like he caught the ball. But Rafaela reacted in frustration when his feet touched the ground. Whitlock gave up a homer to the second batter he faced, possibly putting a damper on his chances of becoming a consistent starter for the Red Sox.

He turned his showing around in the second inning of his outing, though. Whitlock ended up posting two strikeouts to finish his first spring training start on a high note. In an interview with NESN's Jahmai Webster, Whitlock showed that he didn't let the rough start get to him — he's confident he could start or come out of the bullpen for his squad.

"It's fun starting for sure," Whitlock said. "I take pride in that I can do both. It's one of those things where it's like I want to be able to have [Alex Cora] in any situation, be like, 'hey, let's give Whit the ball,' and he's happy and wants to give me that ball."

Garrett Whitlock comments on his first start of Red Sox spring training, Bobby Dalbec shows out

Bobby Dalbec was one of the many in Saturday's lineup who has a shot to make the Opening Day roster. Manager Cora has commended Dalbec this offseason for his work and he believes Dalbec could make the team, if all goes well for the infielder. In the first Grapefruit League game of the season, he made his case.

Dalbec is batting 1.000 so far after going 2-for-2 with an RBI against Baltimore. He was the only Red Sox to get on base against Corbin Burnes, the division rival's scariest new addition.

Dalbec singled off Burnes with two outs to keep the first inning alive, but Pablo Reyes followed with a ground out to end the frame with Dalbec stranded.

The Sox came on strong in the third inning — after a homer from Mark Contreras and a single and a steal from Nathan Hickey, Dalbec singled to right to bring Hickey home.

Two likely members of Boston's Opening Day roster had telling performances early in the preseason — Whitlock showed his capability to refocus and Dalbec is already showing signs of meeting the expectations Cora set for him this spring.

Despite the walk-off loss -- Colton Cowser hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth -- there were some encouraging signs in the Sox's official spring opener. Fans need all the silver linings they can get.

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