Brian Bello expected to be Red Sox Opening Day starter

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – You may have heard that the way the Red Sox roster is currently constructed, there is no established ace in the rotation.

However, they have an ambitious and talented right-hander who wants to take over that role and take over on the team’s Opening Day on March 28 in Seattle.

Speaking during the Red Sox Winter Weekend, Brian Bello, who is 24 and playing his first full season in the majors, didn’t hold back when asked if he wanted to take on that responsibility.

“Yes, after this winter weekend, I’m going straight to Florida to prepare to compete for that position,” Bello said. “Even if I don’t start on Opening Day, I still want to be there as the second starter. “That’s my mentality, to compete to be at the top of the rotation.”

The Red Sox need a similar mentality heading into a season in which they will rely heavily on their young core to take the next step.

What motivates Bello to achieve that position, even at this early stage of his career?

“I think that’s a goal that every beginner has. Something he wants to compete for is pitching on the first day, Opening Day, Bello said. “It’s one of my career goals, not only for this year, but for next season, to try to become the number one pitcher in the Boston organization. So I want to compete for that position.”

Being the Red Sox’s ace is a position that has been occupied by pitchers of the caliber such as Dominican Pedro Martínez (Bello’s mentor), Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi.

After Chris Sale was traded to Atlanta and with little chance of James Paxton returning as a free agent, the top job is vacant. Acquisition Lucas Giolito, who has pitched as an ace at times, is another candidate. Nick Pivetta is the only veteran on the pitching staff.

Then there’s Bello, who knows he has to earn that distinction. That’s why he wants to reach the camps early – three weeks before the first official training session on February 14.

“Yes, it is still early. I think being there will help me focus without distractions,” Bello said. “That’s my mentality now.”

Bello had an ace last year, but his final numbers (12-11, 4.24 ERA in 28 starts) describe someone who will have a lot to prove to Puerto Rican manager Alex Cora.

Bello plans to take the next step in his career. To do this, he looks to add a slider as a solid third pitch.

“At this point, I feel comfortable with the slider command,” Bello said. “We’ll see in the preseason.”

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