Kutter Crawford is part of the Red Sox Opening Day roster

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager Alex Cora has made one of the feel-good stories from spring training official for his team: Righty Kutter Crawford made the club.

A starter going through the minors, Boston’s No. 25 prospect, as rated by MLB Pipeline, wasn’t considered to be in the mix for a spot in the bullpen when camp opened. .

But Crawford, 26, a 16th-round pick from Florida Gulf Coast University in the 2017 draft, earned his place at the big club with a slight boost in throwing speed in a new role.

“He worked hard,” Cora said. “You know, he deserved it. Got into the situation, probably at the start of camp, he probably didn’t have a chance. I don’t mean it that way but he was a guy where we watched him but [thought] it was probably better [to] going to Triple-A and all that. But he kept pushing and pushing and the more we talked about our rotation and what we’re trying to accomplish at the start of the season and throughout the season, he made a lot of sense.

The idea Cora has for Crawford is for him to throw multi-inning stints, which will be invaluable early in the season given the shortened spring training Boston starters have had to ramp up.

“Whatever my role, my job is to throw shots every time I get the ball,” Crawford said. “I look forward to any opportunity I have to pitch in the big leagues.”

Not only did Crawford surprise the Red Sox, he even surprised himself a little.

“I didn’t expect to see the bike jump that I threw with it,” Crawford said. “I was a bit surprised at my first outing. I always expect to succeed when I’m handed the ball. I have great confidence in everything I do. You won’t get this far without having confidence in your abilities. To have the success I’ve had is cool.

If Crawford can replicate the success he had in spring training once the season started, perhaps he can be this season’s Garrett Whitlock, who went from little-known Rule 5 pick to Boston’s top reliever. in 2021.

“With this one, I know everyone is proud. Player development is proud,” Cora said. “The work that everyone has done and this kid is breaking camp with us, it’s one of those accomplishments that the organization feels good about.”

When the Red Sox had their COVID-19 outbreak last September, Crawford was called up without notice to replace Nick Pivetta for a start against Cleveland. It didn’t go well, as he allowed five hits and five runs over two innings. Still, Cora was impressed with how Crawford handled a difficult situation.

“I still remember when I took it out that day,” Cora said. “I said, ‘You’re a great leaguer. You will help us. This is when he will help us. I believe it will be good for us. It adds a different mix. The split will hopefully play out. We will push him to use it.

Hill opens in five holes
Cora also acknowledged Monday that 42-year-old veteran Rich Hill will open the season as the No. 5 starter.

However, Whitlock, who stretched out in spring training to battle Hill for that spot, will also get his share of rounds. There’s also a chance that Whitlock and Hill could switch roles at times, though Cora won’t say more at this point.

“We can be creative in a way. Both of them are going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Cora said. “Rich is going to start this game on Tuesday. [April 12] in Detroit, this one-hour game. He starts this one. Whit is going to be in the bullpen for the opening day and he will be in the bullpen this game [Hill starts].”

In games where Whitlock straddles Hill, this will create an interesting contrast for opposing hitters. Hill has a curveball in the low to mid-60s and a fastball that peaks at 88-89 at this point. Whitlock throws gas.

“It’s something we’ve been talking about ever since we signed Rich. We can pair them together,” Cora said. “It’s something we’ve talked about with Tanner [Houck] and chris [Sale] before Chris was injured.