Garrett Whitlock will make his first career start tomorrow for the Boston Red Sox against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I’m sure he’s excited,” said acting manager Will Venable Friday before their series opener in St. Petersburg. “He’s been in a lot of situations that challenge a young pitcher. He’s handled them all and I think he’ll be normal Garrett out there tomorrow.”

Boston is pushing back the start of Rich Hill, who’s currently on the bereavement list after losing his father, Lloyd, to Sunday. He usually starts fifth in the rotation after No. 4 starter Michael Wacha — who starts tonight — but they’ll give him an extra day on the list.

According to manager Alex Cora, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, the second-year right-hander will pitch three to four innings.

Whitlock, who recently signed an extension with Boston, will make his first career start after 50 relief outings where he’s posted a 1.84 ERA over this season and last, the best mark by a pitcher in a Red Sox tenure. Among the top of that list is Koji Uehara, Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Kimbrel, and Pedro Martinez.

But, that’s not it.

With Tanner Houck and potentially more not vaccinated, he’ll be placed on the restricted list going into Toronto — which requires you to be fully vaccinated to enter. Tuesday is TBD after Houck piggybacks Hill on Sunday, the series finale in Tampa.

Not only will Boston be shuffling some things around in the rotation; the lineup has also seen a difference from the norm as of late. Read today’s lineup here.

Offensive woes

While the hits have been there, the Sox have just five runs through the past three games and have struggled to drive in runs. But Xander Bogaerts, somebody who’s recently broke out of an early-season slump and is catching fire, isn’t worried.

“Obviously, we know that’s definitely one of our stronger points we have going for us. But listen, we had a short spring training,” Bogaerts said. “I don’t want to give excuses, but it’s tough when you’ve got to try to get your timing back and do it up here in the big leagues and be quick about it. Hopefully, we’ll get hot sooner rather than later.”

As Alex Speier from the Boston Globe notes, the five runs in the recent series against Toronto is the lowest total in five seasons. The team is 6-7 and are averaging just 3.8 runs a game, the lowest mark across the first 13 contests since the dreadful 2014 year.

The Sox could have had just three runs, too, if it wasn’t for a late ninth-inning rally Thursday that notched two late runs.

“It was nice to see us battle to the end there,” said Venable. “These guys are grinding. I think it’s obviously an offensive-minded club. We know we have a lot of capable guys and it’s just a matter of time before they get back on track.”

COVID updates, notes

Martinez available

J.D. Martinez is available off the bench tonight, though he’s not in the starting lineup for the second straight day. The designated hitter has been dealing with a left adductor strain suffered in Wednesday night’s loss.

The 34-year-old designated hitter has hit .268/.354/.463 with six homers to go along with seven RBI, five walks, and a 139 wRC+ across 12 games.

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