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Red Sox make right call on Opening Day starter

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Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced on Tuesday that recently extended pitcher Brayan Bello would be Boston’s Opening Day starter on March 28 in Seattle. 

With Lucas Giolito out for the season after undergoing elbow surgery, the competition was between Bello and veteran hurler Nick Pivetta. They ultimately chose the 24-year-old righty.

Bello is fresh off signing a six-year, $55 million extension with Boston, locking him up past the usual six years of control. The contract buys out his two remaining pre-arbitration years (2024-25), three arbitration years (2026-28), one free-agent year (2029) and the potential of a second free-agent year with the club option (2030). The deal also includes a $1 million signing bonus and contract escalators. 

Bello is positioned to be the future of Boston’s starting rotation, and his extension proves that. Chief baseball officer Craig Breslow mentioned multiple times over the winter that the team wanted to invest more in its young core, and Bello’s contract is a step in the right direction. 

“I do believe he’s in a stage in his career and in the organization that he is the right one for that game,” Cora said, per MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “It’s only [one game], but we made a big commitment with him a few weeks ago. He made a big commitment with us. It goes hand in hand. Last year he proved that he belongs here. Just feels like he’s done everything that we asked him to do throughout the offseason, in spring training. He keeps improving, and he’ll be the guy in Game 1.” 

2023 marked Bello’s first full season in the majors. He went 12-11 with a 4.24 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP, 132 strikeouts and a 3.2 WAR. He also led the rotation in innings pitched with 157. Though the stats may not scream “ace,” Cora believes Bello possesses the skill set that will allow him to become one. 

“Just the baseball IQ. He can make adjustments on the fly,” Cora said on Bello’s potential, per The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham. “He knows what he needs to do to get better and he wants to be great… He’s still a kid but a very mature kid. We trust this guy.”

Pivetta will start the second game of their opening series against the Mariners and Kutter Crawford will have the third. Tanner Houck, Garrett Whitlock and Cooper Criswell continue to compete for the last two spots in the rotation.

Bello is being tasked with stepping up in a big way this season, and if he does, he can cement his status as the ace of Boston’s rotation. 

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