#RedSox Reportedly Place Sandy Leon on Waivers

According to WEEI’s Evan Drellich, the Red Sox have reportedly placed catcher Sandy Leon on waivers.

This news comes as not too big of a surprise, given the fact that Boston was looking to trade or move on from one of Leon, Christian Vazquez, or Blake Swihart since the beginning of the offseason due to them not wanting to carry three catchers on their Opening Day roster this year.

Leon, 30, was initially acquired from the Washington Nationals prior to the start of the 2015 of season in exchange for cash considerations.

In his four years with the Red Sox, the Venezuela native slashed .229/.289/.347 with 19 home runs and 99 RBI over 293 games and exactly 1000 plate appearances.

More recently, he went 7/30 with one home run and five RBI over 37 plate appearances this spring.

A well-respected member of the club and more specifically the pitching staff, Leon’s presence will surely be missed in the Boston clubhouse.

“No disrespect to any other catcher I’ve thrown to, but he’s the best catcher I’ve ever thrown to,” said Rick Porcello after a start in which he allowed one run over seven innings against the Philadelphia Phillies back in August.

“His game-calling, he’s prepared for every start, for every pitcher, starting or bullpen,” Porcello quipped. “He’s kind of the heartbeat of our pitching staff. We rely on him a lot. He’s always on point, he always knows what pitches to throw. Gives guys different looks. He’s as good as it gets as a game-caller and a catcher.”

Regardless of how the players felt, the higher-ups clearly valued Swihart and Vazquez over Leon. That much is evident by the rumors that Boston was shopping the ex-National in trade talks as recently as last week.

Set to earn $2.48 million in 2019, Leon will remain on waivers for the next 48 hours, where he will either be claimed or cleared and then have the choice to remain with the Red Sox organization at Triple-A Pawtucket or become a free agent.

On another note, Drellich also reports that the Red Sox have informed Swihart that he has indeed made the team.

 

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Chris Sale Fans Six in Final Tune-Up Before Opening Day as #RedSox Top Pirates

The Red Sox improved to 12-15-1 in their Grapefruit League finale on Saturday afternoon, defeating the a split Pittsburgh Pirates squad by a final score of 12-3 for their fourth consecutive victory.

Making his final tune-up before the start of the regular season in this one was Chris Sale.

Fresh off inking a five-year, $145 million contract extension, the left-hander looked as sharp as ever on Saturday, holding the Pirates scoreless on just two hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over five impressive innings of work.

In total, Sale faced 16 hitters and needed 73 pitches to get through those five frames and fanned three straight to end his day on a positive note.

As you probably already know, Sale’s next start will come on Opening Day out in Seattle, Wa., two days before the hurler’s 30th birthday.

From the beginning of the sixth inning on, Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson combined to allow three Pirates runs to score on seven hits, a pair of walks, and six strikeouts themselves.

Hembree was the one responsible for all three of those runs, as he served up a one out, three-run home run to Pittsburgh’s second-ranked prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes, which at the time cut Boston’s lead to one run.

Overall, not a great showing from Hembree, but if there’s anything to salvage from this particular outing, it’s that he retired the final two hitters he faced in order after giving up the home run to put an end to the Pirates half of the sixth.

Johnson, meanwhile, had to work his away around a bases-loaded jam in the seventh before eventually settling in and punching out four in three innings en route to securing the blowout win.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Pirates Opening Day starter Jameson Taillon to begin things on Saturday.

Similar to what they did against the Twins on Friday, the top of the lineup set the tone early, with Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, and JD Martinez all reaching base with one out in the first.

Martinez drove in the first Red Sox run of the afternoon on a shallow single to center field to plate Betts, while Xander Bogaerts followed that up by driving in Pedroia on an RBI sacrifice fly to left. And just like that, it was already 2-0.

Fast forward to the fourth, and Bogaerts was at it again, this time leading off the inning with a triple off Taillon.

He would come around to score on a Jackie Bradley Jr. RBI double moments later, and Bradley Jr. would himself come around to score from second on a Brock Holt RBI two-bagger. 4-0.

After the Pirates had cut into that four-run lead in their half of the sixth, the Boston bats would respond almost immediately, with both Blake Swihart and Bradley Jr. capitalizing on a Pittsburgh throwing error and scoring their team’s fifth and sixth runs of the afternoon.

And in eighth, Swihart would wind up being the catalyst of a six-run inning with a two out single.

Jantzen Witte, Joseph Monge, Chris Madera, and Aneury Tavarez all picked up RBI as the Red Sox wold go on to run away with this one, winning their last game of Grapefruit League play in 2019 by a final score of 12-3.

Some notes from this win:

Tzu-Wei Lin was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket following Saturday’s victory, meaning the Red Sox now have 29 players on their active roster. Sam Travis should be next.

Jackie Bradley Jr. finishes his 2019 Grapefruit League campaign with a .333/.409/.667 slash line, three home runs, and eight RBI in 39 spring at-bats.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll head out west to Mesa, Arizona to take on the Chicago Cubs in a pair of exhibition games starting Monday, before the real thing begins.

Rick Porcello will get the ball Monday and both games will be on NESNplus and NESN, so stay tuned for that.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 9:05 PM EDT.

Top Pitching Prospect Darwinzon Hernandez Optioned to Double-A Portland in Third Round of #RedSox Roster Cuts

With Opening Day just five days away, the Red Sox made their third round of roster cuts on Saturday, reassigning two players to minor league camp and optioning three to the minors.

Outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and catcher Juan Centeno, both non-roster invites this spring, were the two reassigned to minor league camp. They will, however, remain with the big league club before they head off to Seattle.

Hernandez, 31, slashed .244/.279/.415 with two home runs and five RBI in 43 plate appearances this spring, while Centeno, 29, slashed .294/.368/.294 with three RBI in just 19 plate appearances. Both figure to start the 2019 season with Triple-A Pawtucket.

On the other side of things, the two surprising additions to Boston’s 2018 Opening Day roster did not make the club out of the gate this year, as left-hander Bobby Poyner and right-hander Marcus Walden were both optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Poyner, who is technically still a rookie, surrendered seven earned runs on 10 hits and three walks to go along with eight strikeouts over seven appearances and 9.2 total innings of work this spring.

Walden, meanwhile, had a much better time of things in his second spring with Boston, as he allowed four runs (two earned) on nine hits, four walks, and 13 strikeouts over seven appearances (one start) and 12.2 innings.

And finally, top pitching prospect Darwinzon Hernandez was optioned to Double-A Portland.

The 22-year-old southpaw really impressed this spring, posting a miniscule 0.82 ERA over six outings (two starts) and 11 frames pitched.

Despite the rumblings that Hernandez could potentially make the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster as reliever, the club ultimately made the decision not to rush things.

Now, the native of Venezuela will have the chance to develop more while in Portland as a starter, presumably.

Following Saturday’s transactions, the Red Sox’ active roster now stands at 30 players.

PITCHERS (13): Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Colten Brewer, Nathan Eovaldi, Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson, Rick Porcello, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velázquez, Brandon Workman

CATCHERS (3): Sandy León, Blake Swihart, Christian Vázquez

INFIELDERS (10): Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Marco Hernández, Brock Holt, Tzu-Wei Lin, Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Núñez, Steve Pearce, Dustin Pedroia, Sam Travis

OUTFIELDERS (4): Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., J.D. Martinez

Assuming that Hernandez and Pedroia start the season on the injured list, while Lin and Travis are optioned, and Leon is either traded or designated for assignment, the Red Sox’ 25-man Opening Day roster is essentially set.

#RedSox Officially Announce Five-Year Extension for Chris Sale

On Saturday morning, the Red Sox made their five-year, $145 million contract extension with Chris Sale official after the left-hander passed his physical Friday night.

Sale will still earn the $15 million he was due in 2019 before this new contract kicks in.

One notable detail about this deal is that it his heavily front-loaded, as the 29-year-old will make approximately $30 million per year from 2020-2022.

Then, we reach the opt-out part of the pact, where Sale will have the opportunity to become a free agent at the age of 33 following the 2022 season, or he could opt-in for the final two years and $55 million of the contract.

This contract also includes deferred money, a full no-trade clause starting in the middle of the 2020 season, and a vesting option worth at least $20 million for a sixth season in 2025 depending on the number of starts Sale makes, notes ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

According to the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier and the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Red Sox chose to announce this extension as five-years/$145 million instead of six-years/$160 million like some initially thought in order to help with luxury-tax payroll.

As Rosenthal states, “average annual value of extension is $29M, but structure of deferrals lowers Sale’s annual luxury-tax number to $25.6M,” meaning the club, at this point, will not be hitting the third tier of luxury tax penalties with their payroll for 2019 still below $246 million.

One final note from Passan, Sale’s extension can increase in value from 2021-2024 and the value of the vesting option in 2025 can also fluctuate depending on where the southpaw finished in Cy Young Award voting in previous seasons.

So, I think I covered just about everything.

Sale, who was scheduled to pitch against the Minnesota Twins Friday, will be making his final Grapefruit League start of 2019 against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday afternoon.

First pitch of Boston’s Grapefruit League finale is scheduled for 1:05 EDT at JetBlue Park.

 

Four Home Runs Power #RedSox to 10-6 Victory over Twins

The Red Sox improved to 11-15-1 in Grapefruit League play on Friday evening following a 10-6 triumph over the Minnesota Twins down the road at Hammond Stadium. This victory marked the  team’s third in a row as well as the final installment of the 2019 Chairman’s Cup.

Initially slated to start for Boston Friday was Chris Sale, but with him agreeing to a five-year, $145 million contract extension in the afternoon and all, the left-hander was scratched in favor of another southpaw in Dan Runzler.

Runzler, 33, recorded the first five outs of this one, surrendering two runs on zero hits and a pair of walks to go along with three strikeouts in his brief outing.

It looked as though Runzler was going to be able to escape the second by following up two consecutive walks with two consecutive strikeouts, but was pulled for Trevor Kelley, who allowed Minnesota’s first two runs of the night to score on a Max Kepler RBI single.

From the middle of the third inning on, Ryan Brasier, Brandon Workman, Colten Brewer, Jenryy Mejia, Andrew Schwaab, Adam Lau, Hunter Smith, and Daniel McGrath combined to give up four Twins runs on 10 hits, three walks, and eight strikeouts over the final seven frames of this one.

Brasier, Workman, and Brewer all appear to be locks to make Boston’s Opening Day roster at this point. Together, they scattered just two hits and fanned five from the third until the conclusion of the fifth.

Mejia, meanwhile, did not do a great job of convincing anyone he deserves a spot in the Red Sox bullpen to start the season, as he allowed two more Minnesota runs to cross the plate on three hits in a rough sixth inning.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson, who figures to serve as the club’s number two starter behind Jose Berrios to start the season.

Despite that reputation, the Boston Bats jumped on Gibson right from the get go, as Andrew Benintendi led things off with a laser of a first inning solo home on the very first pitch he saw.

Three at-bats without an out later, Xander Bogaerts unloaded the bases on a fly ball RBI single to right field to score Eduardo Nunez from third.

After Mitch Moreland struck out swinging, Jackie Bradley Jr. got his hot night at the plate started right with another run-scoring single to plate Rafael Devers from third and give his team an early 3-0 advantage.

Two innings later, following a two-run bottom half of the second for Minnesota, JD Martinez and Bogaerts would wind up being the catalysts for a five-run inning for the Red Sox with back-to-back singles to lead things off.

Following a GIDP off the bat of Moreland, Bradley Jr. would give Boston some breathing room by launching his third home run of the spring to make it a 5-2 contest.

That homer would lead to a Twins pitching change and be followed up by two more long balls from Christian Vazquez (1) and Gorkys Hernandez (2) in consecutive order.

But the third inning rally was not yet done. Not before Rafael Devers drove in Aneury Tavarez from third on an RBI single to give the Red Sox a commanding 8-2 lead.

In total, the Red Sox tallied eight runs on 13 hits before even reaching the midway point of the third inning. Not too shabby.

Going back to the game, Eduardo Nunez and Mike Miller were responsible for the final two runs of Boston’s eventful night, with Nunez collecting his RBI in the fifth and Miller doing the same in the eighth to make it a 10-4 game at that point.

The Twins would try their best to make things interesting in their half of the ninth by pushing across another pair of runs, but the Red Sox would hold on to take this one by a final score of 10-6.

Some notes from this win:

Xander Bogaerts had a scary collision with Twins outfielder Byron Buxton in between third and home during a rundown in the second inning, with his left shoulder taking the brunt of the hit.

“I didn’t want to look down. I don’t know how it looks,” Bogaerts said Friday. “It just didn’t feel right. I didn’t want to look. As I went down, I let one of the trainers take a look. It looked fine. So, I was, ‘All right, lets keep going.”

Bogaerts remained in the game until the fifth inning. Saturday morning will more than likely provide a better indication on how the 26-year-old is feeling with Opening Day looming.

Rafael Devers update: now slashing .404/.417/.596 with one home run and seven RBI through 47 spring at-bats.

According to the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Brandon Workman will pitch once again on Saturday.

Speaking of Saturday, next up for the Red Sox, they’ll wrap up their 2019 Grapefruit League campaign by hosting a split Pittsburgh Pirates squad at JetBlue Park.

Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to start for Pittsburgh, while fellow righty Nathan Eovaldi will be doing the same in his final start before his first full season with Boston begins.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN. Last game before heading out to Arizona to play the Chicago Cubs in a pair of exhibition games.

#RedSox, Chris Sale Reportedly Agree to Five-Year, $145 Million Contract Extension

The Red Sox and ace left-hander Chris Sale have reportedly reached agreement on a new five-year, $145 million contract extension, pending a physical. The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier was the first to report that the two sides were nearing an extension earlier Friday, while the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal was the first to report that the deal is worth $145 million, not $150 million like initially thought.

Rosenthal also notes that Sale will still earn the original $15 million he was due in 2019 before his new pact takes into effect beginning in 2020.

Sale, who will be turning 30 next week, will net approximately $29 million per year from 2020-2024, which is a lower average annual value then some forecasted earlier in the offseason.

It’s been well known that the Red Sox were interested in retaining Sale beyond 2019 since the time the club broke camp in February. Principal owner John Henry made that clear himself when he said, “[Sale’s] a special player. We would like to be able to sign him. I think he would like to as well.”

And what do you know? Just a few weeks later and Sale is set to remain with Boston for the forseeable future.

This extension also means that the Red Sox will be able to keep the majority of their starting rotation in tact for the next few years, with Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodriguez all under contract for at least the next three seasons. Rick Porcello, of course, is set to become a free agent himself this winter.

In his first two seasons with the Red Sox, Sale is 29-12 with a 2.56 ERA and 0.924 WHIP to go along with 545 strikeouts in 372.1 innings pitched over 59 games started. He also recorded the final out of the 2018 World Series, in case you have forgotten about that.

There will be concern about Sale’s durability over the course of a full regular season, I can assure you of that. But, when you have the chance to lock down one of the best arms in the game today for less than $30 million per year, that’s a risk the Red Sox are probably willing to take.

And maybe, just maybe, the club can use the money they saved on this particular extension and use it towards one for JD Martinez, who can opt out of his current deal this winter, Xander Bogaerts, who is set to hit free agency for the first time later on this year, or even Mookie Betts, although he seems unlikely to agree to anything before he becomes a free agent after the 2020 season.

Regardless of that, Chris Sale is here to stay, and that is some positive news heading into the new season.

 

#RedSox Manager Alex Cora on Pitching Prospect Durbin Feltman: “He’s a Work in Progress, but He’ll Be a Good One”

Durbin Feltman retired the only three hitters he faced in order on Thursday night in a perfect ninth inning of work to secure a 8-0 Red Sox win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

In three relief appearances and 2.2 total innings of work this spring, the 21-year-old right-hander has yet to surrender a run on one hit and three walks to go along with five strikeouts.

Those numbers may look good on paper, but according to Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Feltman still has some things to work on.

He’s still learning,” Cora said Thursday night. “Delivery-wise there are a few things Dana (LeVangie) has noticed. He’s a work in progress, but he’ll be a good one.”

The Red Sox selected Feltman out of Texas Christian University with the 100th overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft.

In his first professional season, Feltman posted a miniscule 1.93 ERA over 22 relief appearances and 23.1 innings pitched between Single-A affiliates Lowell, Greenville, and Salem. He also recorded 36 strikeouts over that span while holding opponents to a .207 batting average against.

Compared to just the five walks he allowed in the minors last year, the free passes have been somewhat of an issue this spring, as the Texas native is averaging more than 12 walks per nine innings in 2019, albeit a small sample size.

Still, Feltman, who is ranked as Boston’s fifth-ranked pitching prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has received a fair share of attention at Fenway South.

Given the likelihood he starts his first full professional season in Double-A Portland, it would not be all that surprising if we see the hard-throwing righty up with the big league club at some point later in the year if he continues to impress out of the bullpen in the minors.

The potential is certainly there, but one thing the Red Sox don’t want to do is rush Feltman’s development. The same could also be said for the club’s top pitching prospect in Darwinzon Hernandez.

Both Feltman and Hernandez have opened eyes this spring, but that does not necessarily mean they are ready to contribute on the biggest stage right now.

Granted, with the way the Red Sox bullpen is shaping out, the two could be needed sooner rather than later, but I rather see how they fare without being rushed up to Boston.