FORT MYERS, Fla. — Alex Cora dropped the news casually, two minutes into his postgame press session on Tuesday afternoon: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day against Tampa Bay. David Price and Rick Porcello will follow in the rotation.
“That’s the way it’s going to be. We’re very comfortable,’’ Cora said. “Everybody’s on board.’’
Rookie lefthander Brian Johnson is being prepared to start Game 4 or 5. The other starter is to be determined. The candidates are Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz, Hector Velazquez, and Steven Wright.
The Sox open the season with four games at Tampa Bay starting March 29, then two at Miami.
As the rotation stands now, Price would pitch the home opener on April 5 against Tampa Bay.
Rodriguez pitched what amounted to four innings in a minor league game on Tuesday. He threw 61 pitches, 41 for strikes, and allowed three runs on five hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
The plan for Rodriguez will be to pitch again in a minor league game on Saturday, this time for three innings.
“Then we go from there, just keeping that door open to see if he’s ready to start the season with us,’’ Cora said.
Rodriguez was held back at the start of spring training as he recovered from surgery to stabilize his right kneecap. He has made rapid progress in the last two weeks, with Tuesday a particularly big step forward.
“Really good,’’ Rodriguez said. “It was the first time in a real game. Every pitch was really good, the changeup, the slider, everything was working pretty good. My knee feels really good; everything feels really good.
“I feel like I’m getting to that point. I’m trying to do the best I can do to get ready.’’
Wright, who is coming back from surgery on his left knee, is a few days behind Rodriguez but also is an option.
Pomeranz strained his flexor tendon on March 2 and has since built up to two innings. He is more likely to land on the disabled list and miss a start or two.
Velazquez is healthy but has not pitched well in four starts.
There are tentative plans for the Red Sox to play a two-game series against the Yankees in London next season. The games would be at Olympic Stadium June 29-30.
“I read the reports; it’s super cool,’’ Cora said. “My mom called me right away. She’s never been.’’
Cora is a supporter of international baseball. He was a member of the 2008 Red Sox, who opened the season with two games in Japan. Cora also was with the Mets when they played in Puerto Rico in 2010.
“I love it. I’m a big fan of the [World Baseball Classic]. I think that’s the coolest tournament ever,’’ Cora said.
Along with Japan and Puerto Rico, MLB has played games in Mexico and Australia. England would be the first country in Europe to host a series.
Price pitched five innings Tuesday against Pittsburgh, giving up two runs on three hits with one walk and four strikeouts. A wind-blown home run by Jordan Luplow accounted for one of the Pittsburgh runs.
Of paramount importance to Price is that a year after he was dealing with an elbow injury, he feels near perfect physically.
“This is the best I’ve felt on March 20 in spring training,’’ he said. “I want to continue this trend up until my first game. That’s my plan and I’m excited.’’
When he was the bullpen coach, Dana LeVangie also was the catching instructor. Now that he’s the pitching coach, LeVangie is too busy for that and the Sox are seeking alternatives.
The plan is to have a catching instructor with the team for at least every other series.
Jason Varitek, who works for the organization as a special assistant, will take on some of the duties. Minor league instructor Chad Epperson is another candidate, although his focus will remain on the prospects.
Advance scouting assistant J.T. Watkins, a former minor league catcher, also can help out.
“We’re working on it,’’ Cora said. “I don’t want to leave [the catchers] by themselves for more than two series.’’
Hit the road
The Red Sox have three road games in a row starting on Wednesday. The travel roster to Port Charlotte to play the Rays includes Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt, J.D. Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, and Blake Swihart. Porcello will stay behind to pitch in a minor league game rather than face the Rays . . . Robby Scott, who played at Florida State, is the only player in camp with his alma mater still in the NCAA basketball tournament.