Josh Winckowski allows 6 runs as Red Sox manage just 5 hits, fail to finish off sweep of Pirates in 8-2 loss

The Red Sox were unable to complete a three-game sweep over the Pirates on Thursday night. Boston fell to Pittsburgh by a final score of 4-2 at PNC Park, thus marking the end of its three-game winning streak.

Josh Winckowski made his 12th start of the season for the Sox after Nathan Eovaldi was scratched due to trap soreness. The rookie right-hander allowed six earned runs on seven hits and one walk to go along with just two strikeouts over five innings of work.

The Pirates got to Winckowski right away in the first inning. After Kevin Newman reached base on a one-out single, Bryan Renolds crushed a two-run home run to give his side an early 2-0 lead for the second night in a row.

Winckowski managed to retire the side in order in the second, but ran into more trouble in the third by giving up back-to-back two-out singles to Newman and Reynolds. Ben Gamel followed by lacing a two-run double over Tommy Pham’s glove in deep left field, scoring both Newman and Reynolds to make it a 4-0 ballgame.

The Newman-Reynolds combination got to Winckowski again in the fifth, as the former ripped a one-out single to center field before the latter clubbed another two-run home run. Reynolds’ 20th homer of the season gave Pittsburgh a commanding 6-0 lead. Winckowski’s night came to an end after he recorded the final out of the fifth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 83 (53 strikes), Winckowski managed to induce just six swings-and-misses while averaging 94.1 mph with his four-seam fastball. The 24-year-old hurler was ultimately charged with the loss and saw his ERA on the season rise to 5.19.

In relief of Winckowski, Austin Davis received the first and only call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. The left-hander surrendered two runs, both of which came in the bottom of the sixth inning.

After issuing a one-out walk to Greg Allen, Davis gave up an RBI double to the pinch-hitting Michael Chavis (who he was traded for last July). Chavis proceeded to score from second on an RBI single off the bat of Tyler Heineman, which made it a 8-0 contest in favor of the Pirates.

It took until the seventh inning for the Sox to put a runner in scoring position. After being completely held in check by Pirates starter J.T. Brubaker, Alex Verdugo advanced to second base with one out in the seventh on a throwing error by shortstop Oneil Cruz.

Verdugo was stranded at second in the seventh, but the Boston bats finally got on the board in the eighth. Reese McGuire and Bobby Dalbec greeted new reliever Zach Thompson with back-to-back one-out singles. Jarren Duran then drew an eight-pitch walk to fill the bases for Pham, who plated McGuire on a chopper to third base.

Rafael Devers promptly drove in Dalbec on a sacrifice fly to center field before Xander Bogaerts re-loaded the bases by drawing another walk off Manny Banuelos. But Verdugo struck out on six pitches to extinguish the threat.

Down to their final three outs in the ninth, J.D. Martinez, Christian Arroyo, and McGuire went down quietly against Colin Holderman to wrap up another lifeless defeat in which the Red Sox tallied just five hits. None of those hits went for extra-bases.

With the loss, Boston drops to 58-59 on the season and 8-10 in interleague play.

Next up: Baltimore awaits

The Red Sox will next travel to Balitmore to take on the Orioles in a three-game weekend series that concludes in Williamsport, Pa. with the annual Little League Classic on Sunday night. Kutter Crawford is slated to get the ball for Boston in Friday’s opener while fellow right-hander Jordan Lyles is expected to do the same for Baltimore.

First pitch from Camden Yards is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Red Sox lose Yolmer Sánchez on waivers to Mets

Two days after designating him for assignment, the Red Sox have lost veteran infielder Yolmer Sanchez on waivers to the Mets, the club announced earlier Thursday afternoon.

Sanchez, who is out of minor-league options, lost his spot on Boston’s 40-man roster when utility man Enrique Hernandez (right hip flexor strain) was activated from the 60-day injured list ahead of Tuesday’s series opener against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

Signed to a minor-league deal back in March, Sanchez appeared in 14 games for the Red Sox, batting just .108 (4-for-37) with two doubles, one run scored, five walks, and 13 strikeouts while exclusively playing second base.

Boston first used Sanchez as a COVID-related substitute in late June. The switch-hitting Venezuelan was then called up again on July 22, shortly after fellow second baseman Trevor Story was placed on the injured list with a right hand contusion.

In similar fashion, Sanchez will likely serve as infield depth for a banged up Mets team who are currently without Eduardo Escobar and Luis Guillorme due to injury. New York opened up a spot on its roster for Sanchez by designating catcher (and Springfield, Mass. native) Patrick Mazeika for assignment.

Sanchez, won the Gold Glove Award for American League second basemen in 2019 while with the White Sox. Since then, however, the 30-year-old has been limited to 25 big-league contests over the last three season with Chicago and Boston.

(Picture of Yolmer Sanchez: Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)

Red Sox promote power-hitting prospect Niko Kavadas to Double-A Portland

The Red Sox have promoted power-hitting prospect Niko Kavadas from High-A Greenville to Double-A Portland, per the team’s minor-league transactions log.

Selected by Boston in the 11th round of last year’s draft out of the University of Notre Dame, Kavadas began his first full professional season with Low-A Salem. The left-handed hitting first baseman proceeded to slash .286/.453/.609 with 14 home runs and 48 RBIs in 59 games with the Red Sox, prompting a promotion to Greenville in late June.

From there, Kavadas turned things up a notch by batting .308/.472/.592 to go along with four doubles, 10 home runs, 28 RBIs, 27 runs scored, 32 walks, and 42 strikeouts over 37 games (161 plate appearances) with the Drive leading up to Thursday’s promotion.

Among South Atlantic League hitters who have made at least 160 trips to the plate this season, Kavadas ranks second in walk rate (19.9%), 10th in batting average, first in on-base percentage, third in slugging percentage, second in OPS (1.064), third in isolated power (.283), and first in wRC+ (184), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Kavadas has seen all his playing time this year come at first base. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder has logged 612 total innings at the position between Salem and Greenville and has committed seven errors. It is safe to say he has a bat-first profile.

A native of Indiana, Kavadas is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 30 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The 23-year-old was previously unranked but has certainly put himself on the map this season.

Kavadas, who turns 24 in October, becomes the latest notable Red Sox prospect to make the jump from Greenville to Portland this year, joining the likes of Shane Drohan, Brian Van Belle, Alex Binelas, Nick Northcut, and Ceddanne Rafaela.

(Picture of Niko Kavadas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox promote pitching prospect Luis Perales to Low-A Salem

With Wikelman Gonzalez and Luis Guerrero making the jump to High-A Greenville, the Red Sox have promoted pitching prospect Luis Perales from the Florida Complex League to Low-A Salem, according to SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

Perales, 19, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 24 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks ninth among pitchers in the organization. The Red Sox originally signed the Venezuelan-born right-hander for $75,000 as an international free-agent coming out of Guacara in July 2019.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic wiping out the 2020 minor-league season, Perales did not make his professional debut until last July. But he was limited to just two innings in his first and only start in the Dominican Summer League because of a minor arm injury.

Despite being shut down for the remainder of the 2021 campaign, Perales began the 2022 season in the rookie-level Florida Complex League. From there, the righty posted a miniscule 1.08 ERA and 2.34 FIP to go along with 34 strikeouts to nine walks over nine appearances (seven starts) spanning 25 innings of work for Boston’s Fort Myers-based affiliate.

Among FCL pitchers who have thrown at least 20 innings to this point in the year, Perales (as of Thursday morning) ranks 19th in strikeouts per nine innings (12.24), fifth in strikeout rate (36.2%), 16th in swinging strike rate (35.9%), third in batting average against (.119), fourth in WHIP (0.76), sixth in ERA, fifth in FIP, and 18th in xFIP (3.13), per FanGraphs.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, Perales throws from a three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a mid-90s fastball that tops out at 96-98 mph, an advanced curveball that sits in the mid-70s, and a developing changeup.

On top of all that, SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall recently tweeted that, according to some scouts, Perales has been the best pitcher in the FCL this year.

Perales, who does not turn 20 until next April, still has plenty of room to grow physically and developmentally. With that, if all goes well to close out this season, he will likely return to Salem next spring if he remains in the organization through the winter.

(Picture of Luis Perales: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Red Sox promote pitching prospects Wikelman Gonzalez, Luis Guerrero to High-A Greenville

The Red Sox have promoted top pitching prospect Wikelman Gonzalez from Low-A Salem to High-A Greenville, as was first reported by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

In addition to Gonzalez, fellow right-hander Luis Guerrero has also been promoted to Greenville.

Gonzalez, 20, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 14 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks sixth among pitchers in the organization. Fresh off being named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Week on Monday, the Venezuelan-born righty has posted a 4.54 ERA and 3.85 FIP with 98 strikeouts to 48 walks over 21 starts (81 1/3 innings) for Salem this season. That includes a 1.69 ERA (2.76 FIP) in the month of August.

Among Carolina League pitchers who have accrued at least 80 innings, Gonzalez ranks third in strikeouts per nine innings (10.84), fourth in strikeout rate (27.4%), second in batting average against (.209), and seventh in FIP, per FanGraphs.

Boston originally signed Gonzalez for $250,000 as an international free-agent coming out Maracay in July 18. The 6-foot, 170-pound hurler now “features an easy, compact delivery” and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 93-94 mph fastball that tops out at 97 mph, an 87-89 mph changeup, and a 78-80 mph curveball, according to his Baseball America scouting report.

Guerrero, meanwhile, was selected by the Red Sox in the 17th round of last year’s amateur draft out of Chipola College in Marianna, Fla. The native Dominican signed with Boston for $122,500 last August.

Now 22 years old, Guerrero made his pro debut in the Florida Complex League earlier this summer before making the jump to Low-A in June. He has since pitched to a 4.18 ERA (3.54 FIP) to go along with 37 strikeouts to 14 walks across 18 relief outings spanning 23 2/3 innings of work with the Salem Sox.

Unlike Gonzalez, Guerrero is not regarded by any major publications as one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. The 6-foot, 215-pounder does, however, work with a 92-94 mph fastball that tops out at 96 mph, an 80-83 mph changeup, an 81-83 mph slider, and a 75-79 mph curveball, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

(Picture of Wikelman Gonzalez: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Red Sox’ James Paxton pulled from first rehab start after facing just 2 batters due to lat tightness

UPDATE: Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters (including The Eagle-Tribune’s Mac Cerullo) at PNC Park on Thursday that Paxton will be seeing a doctor on Friday. The team will know more after that.

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Red Sox left-hander James Paxton began a rehab assignment in the Florida Complex League on Thursday. His first start did not last long.

Starting for the FCL Red Sox in their contest against the FCL Rays at JetBlue Park, Paxton was forced to exit after facing just two batters due to left lat (latissimus dorsi muscle on the back) tightness, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Paxton was slated to pitch three innings on Thursday afternoon. It was his first start at any level since April 6 of last year, when — as a member of the Mariners — he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery one week later.

The Red Sox, per Cotillo, are optimistic that Paxton’s latest injury is a minor one. Boston signed the 33-year-old southpaw to a unique one-year, $6 million contract last December. The deal includes a two-year, $26 million option that the club can pick up at the end of the season. If they decline it, Paxton could then exercise a $4 million player option for the 2023 campaign.

Given that he started a rehab assignment on Thursday, August 18, Paxton could have been on track to make his Red Sox debut at some point in mid-September. With this latest setback, though, it remains to be seen if the Canadian-born lefty will be able to pitch this season.

As noted by Cotillo, it is still too early to determine if Paxton will need to be shut down from throwing due to this lat injury. On their end, the Red Sox have not yet said if Paxton will return to the big-leagues as a starter or reliever.

A veteran of nine major-league seasons between the Mariners and Yankees, Paxton has traditionally been a starter throughout his career. In his lone appearance for Seattle last April, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound hurler hovered around 92-96 mph with his four-seam fastball. He also works with a curveball, cutter, and changeup.

(Picture of James Paxton: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Red Sox have No. 11 farm system in MLB, per Baseball America’s latest rankings

The Red Sox have the No. 11 farm system in Major League Baseball, according to Baseball America’s midseason organization talent rankings.

Ranking behind the likes of the Orioles, Dodgers, Guardians Diamondbacks, Reds, Rangers, Cardinals, Mets, Pirates, and Rockies, the Sox are exactly where they stood prior to Opening Day.

In their most-recent top 100 prospects rankings, Baseball America placed three Boston minor-leaguers within its top 30. Shortstop Marcelo Mayer leads the pack at No. 12, while right-hander Brayan Bello and first baseman Triston Casas follow at No. 21 and No. 28, respectively.

Ceddanne Rafaela, who is in the midst of a breakout season and represented the Red Sox at the All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles, entered Baseball America’s top 100 last month and is currently regarded as the 82nd-ranked prospect in the game.

Nick Yorke, Boston’s first-round draft selection in 2020, was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 31 prospect in baseball coming into the 2022 season but has since fallen off the list completely. He is, however, batting .294/.342/.529 (127 wRC+) in his last eight games with High-A Greenville.

Baseball America notes that Mayer “looks even more like the potential star many pegged him as in the 2021 draft,” while adding that Rafaela’s breakout “has lessened the blow” of Yorke falling off the top 100.

Beyond Mayer, Bello, Casas, Rafaela, and Yorke, “there is solid depth throughout the Red Sox system, but a majority of the upside lies among a group of teenagers in rookie ball.”

Some of those teenagers in rookie ball would include Dominican outfielder Miguel Bleis, 2022 draft selections Mikey Romero, Cutter Coffey, and Roman Anthony, right-hander Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz, and shortstops Freili Encarnacion and Luis Ravelo.

Though he is no longer in rookie ball, Blaze Jordan does not turn 20 until December and is ranked by Baseball America as the top power hitter and No. 10 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

(Picture of Marcelo Mayer and Chaim Bloom: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox scratch Nathan Eovaldi from Thursday start with sore trapezius muscle; Josh Winckowski will face Pirates in his place

Nathan Eovaldi was scheduled to make his 19th start of the season for the Red Sox in Thursday’s series finale against the Pirates. That will no longer be the case.

Following Boston’s 8-3 win over Pittsburgh at PNC Park on Wednesday night, manager Alex Cora told reporters (including The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham) that Eovaldi has been scratched from his start due to a sore trapezius muscle. Fellow right-hander Josh Winckowski will pitch in his place.

Winckowski was originally slated to work in relief of veteran left-hander Rich Hill, who allowed two runs over five solid innings, on Wednesday. Cora instead opted to have Ryan Brasier, Hirokazu Sawamura, and newcomer Jeurys Familia record the final 12 outs of the Sox’ series-clinching victory.

Eovaldi, meanwhile, last pitched against the Yankees on Friday, yielding two runs on eight hits, two walks, and three strikeouts across six innings. The 32-year-old missed time on the injured list earlier this season because of low back inflammation. Since returning on July 15, he has posted a 6.32 ERA (4.42 FIP) with 24 strikeouts to eight walks in his last six starts while showing diminished fastball velocity.

If it were up to Eovaldi, he would pitch on Thursday. But the Red Sox are playing it safe and will have him skip his next turn through the rotation. He is now lined up to start against the Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

“I feel I feel like I could pitch [Thursday], but we’re playing it safe,” Eovaldi said. “Just going to skip this turn and be ready to go Tuesday against Toronto. I feel like I could pitch, but we don’t know how I’ll rebound afterward. So, we’re just trying to be cautious right now.”

Winckowski last pitched for Boston last Thursday. The 24-year-old rookie made his major-league debut in late May and has since produced a 4.69 ERA and 4.94 FIP to go along with 34 strikeouts to 20 walks over 11 starts spanning 55 2/3 innings of work.

Following Thursday night’s finale in Pittsburgh, the Red Sox will travel to Baltimore to take on the Orioles in a three-game weekend series. Righties Kutter Crawford and Michael Wacha will start the first two games at Camden Yards, while fellow righty Nick Pivetta will start the Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pa. on Sunday.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Christian Arroyo and Alex Verdugo combine for 6 hits as Red Sox get back to .500 with 8-3 victory over Pirates

The Red Sox once again took care of business against the Pirates on Wednesday night. Boston defeated Pittsburgh by a final score of 8-3 to take its third straight series and improve to 59-59 on the season.

Rich Hill made his 18th start of the season for the Sox and turned in a solid outing despite struggling out of the gate. The veteran left-hander allowed two runs on three hits and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts over five innings of work.

Both of those Pirates runs came right away in the bottom of the first, when Hill followed a leadoff single from Kevin Newman by serving up a 416-foot two-run home run to Bryan Reynolds.

That put the Red Sox in an early 2-0 hole, but they quickly responded against opposing starter Roansy Contreras in the top of the second. Alex Verdugo led off with a single and J.D. Martinez followed by drawing a four-pitch walk. After Eric Hosmer flew out, Christian Arroyo stayed hot by ripping a two-run double to right-center field past a sprawling Reynolds. Arroyo’s ninth double of the season drove in both Verdugo and Martinez to knot things up at two runs apiece.

Reese McGuire kept the line moving with a one-out single that put runners on the corners for Enrique Hernandez, who collected his second RBI in as many games by plating Arroyo on a softly-hit single through the right side of the infield. Rafael Devers was intentionally walked with two outs to fill the bases for Xander Bogaerts, who struck out on four pitches to end the inning, but not before Boston had taken its first lead of the night at 3-2.

Hill, meanwhile, settled in nicely by retiring nine straight batters from the middle of the second through the end of the fourth. He gave up a single to Rodolfo Castro in the fifth, but ended his night on a positive note by sitting down the final three Pirates he faced.

Finishing with an efficient pitch count of 57 (43 strikes), Hill induced three swings-and-misses with his four-seamer and three more with his slider. The 42-year-old hurler also picked up his fifth win of the season while lowering his ERA to 4.68.

Moments before Hill had recorded the final out of the fifth inning, the Red Sox tacked on additional run in the top half of the frame. Bogaerts, after reaching base via a one-out single off Contreras, scored all the way from first on an RBI double down the right field line off the bat of Verdugo.

Taking a 4-2 lead into the sixth inning, Ryan Brasier received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. Brasier punched out the side on 14 pitches before making way for Hirokazu Sawamura, who faced the minimum in a scoreless bottom of the seventh.

In the eighth, Verdugo led off another inning with a hard-hit single. Back-to-back one-out singles from Hosmer and Arroyo allowed Verdugo to move up to third base. The pinch-hitting Rob Refsnyder drove him in by drawing a bases-loaded walk off Pirates reliever Eric Stout, thus giving the Red Sox a 5-2 lead.

Sawamura picked up where he left off by retiring the side in order in the eighth. The same can be said for Arroyo, who knocked in his third run of the night on a bases-loaded single in the top of the ninth.

Kevin Plawecki, who took over behind the plate for McGuire, made the most of his first and only at-bat of the night by driving in a pair on a softly-hit two-run single to shallow right field.

That sequence of events saw the Red Sox jump out to a commanding 8-2 advantage. It also afforded them the opportunity to have veteran reliever Jeurys Familia make his club debut. Signed to a minor-league deal earlier this month, Familia had his contract selected from Triple-A Worcester on Saturday.

So it took four days for Familia to make his first appearance for Boston. The former All-Star closer surrendered hits to three of the first four Pirates he faced, including an RBI single from Ben Gamel.

Familia did not allow the Pirates to get any closer than that, though, as he got Kevin Padlo to ground out before punching out Castro on six pitches to secure an 8-3 victory for the Red Sox.

All told, Verdugo and Arroyo led the way offensively by combining for six hits (two doubles), four RBIs, four runs scored. Verdugo and Martinez combined to draw five walks as well.

Next up: Sox look to break out the brooms

The Red Sox will go for a three-game sweep over the Pirates on Thursday night. They last swept an opponent in a multi-game series on June 26, when they did so against the Guardians.

Rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski will get the ball for Boston after Thursday’s scheduled starter — Nathan Eovaldi — was scratched with a sore trap muscle. Fellow righty J.T. Brubaker is expected to take the mound for Pittsburgh.

First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ James Paxton set to begin rehab assignment in Florida Complex League on Thursday

Red Sox left-hander James Paxton will make his organizational debut when he starts a rehab assignment in the Florida Complex League on Thursday, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Paxton, per Speier, is slated to pitch three innings when the FCL Red Sox take on the FCL Rays at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. It will be his first start at any level since April 6 of last year.

Then a member of the Mariners, Paxton tore his left ulnar collateral ligament in the second inning of his start against the White Sox. He underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery one week later.

Boston signed the 33-year-old southpaw to a unique one-year, $6 million contract last December. The deal includes a two-year, $26 million club option that the Red Sox can pick up at the end of the season. If they decline, Paxton could then exercise a $4 million player option for the 2023 campaign.

While injuries have hindered him throughout his big-league career, Paxton has proven to be an effective starer when healthy. With the Yankees in 2019, for instance, the Canadian-born hurler posted a 3.82 ERA and 3.86 FIP with 186 strikeouts to 55 walks over 29 starts spanning 150 2/3 innings of work. He has been limited to just six outings since then because of injury.

It remains to be seen how many rehab appearances Paxton will need before he is able to join the Red Sox’ starting rotation. Last year, fellow lefty Chris Sale made five starts across three levels while rehabbing from Tommy John before making his season debut for Boston on August 14.

Using that same sort of template, Paxton could potentially be back in the majors by early September, though that is no sure thing. In the meantime, it should be interesting to see how Paxton responds as he returns to competitive action. Last April, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder sat between 92-96 mph with his four-seam fastball. He also traditionally works with a curveball, cutter, and changeup.

When the time comes for the Red Sox to activate Paxton, they will presumably need to clear a spot on their 40-man roster since he has been on the 60-day injured list since March.

(Picture of James Paxton: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)