Could this unheralded minor leaguer become Red Sox' fifth starter?

Darren Hartwell

If the Boston Red Sox want to have any success in 2020, they'll need contributions from unlikely sources.

Can a 29-year-old journeyman with a career 5.04 ERA be one of them?

The Red Sox kept Ryan Weber on their 40-man roster this offseason despite the right-hander bouncing between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket seven times in 2019.

Weber will make his first spring training start Tuesday, and there's apparently a legitimate chance he'll be the Red Sox' fifth starter when the regular season begins.

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"He's definitely in play going into 2020," Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero told The Athletic's Chad Jennings. "He was identified early as a priority target (last winter). … So, we pursued aggressively."

Weber started in just three of his 18 appearances for Boston last season and served mostly as a middle reliever, with uninspiring results: a 5.09 ERA and 1.377 WHIP with 48 hits allowed in 40.2 innings.

But the Red Sox apparently see something in the former 12th-round draft pick, who spent 2018 with Chaim Bloom's Tampa Bay Rays before coming to Boston in 2019 and relies heavily on a high-80s sinker and slow curveball.

"(Weber) executes better than most," Red Sox vice president of pro scouting Gus Quattlebaum told Jennings. "Obviously, he's not going to wow you - or scouts - with stuff, but he can really pitch and execute."

The Red Sox cobbled together their fifth starter slot last season by rotating through the likes of Hector Velazquez, Brian Johnson and Andrew Cashner while Nathan Eovaldi missed time due to injury.

With David Price and Rick Porcello gone, Boston literally doesn't have a fifth arm behind Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Eovaldi and newcomer Martin Perez.

Interim manager Ron Roenicke could follow the Rays' model of an "opener" on every fifth day, with Weber or another reliever throwing a handful of innings before yielding to a long reliever.

Either way, the Red Sox apparently are hopeful they can rely on Weber for serious innings in 2020 -- which may explain why they're projected to miss the playoffs this season.

Could this unheralded minor leaguer become Red Sox' fifth starter? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston