The Red Sox opened Grapefruit League play on Sunday by falling to the Twins by a final score of 7-6 in seven innings at Hammond Stadium.
Spring training rules were altered this year to allow for more flexibility, hence the reason why this game was limited to seven frames.
Nathan Eovaldi, as expected, made his first start of the spring for the Sox in this one.
Working 1 1/3 innings, the veteran right-hander yielded two runs — both earned — on two hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with a pair of strikeouts on the afternoon before reaching his pitch limit in the bottom half of the second.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 38 (23 strikes), Eovaldi turned to his four-seam fastball approximately 18 times and averaged 98 mph while topping out at 99.5 mph with the pitch.
The 31-year-old hurler will likely make his next start of the spring against the Twins once again on Saturday, as Boston is going with a six-man rotation for the time being.
In relief of Eovaldi, non-roster invitee Caleb Simpson came on with one out and two runners on in the second, and he struggled mightily, as evidenced by the fact that he failed to record an out while allowing five runs — three charged to him, two to Eovaldi — before the bottom half of the inning came to an end.
From there, right-hander Eduard Bazardo, who was added to Boston’s 40-man roster in November, needed just eight pitches to work a perfect third inning, while Seth Blair and Stephen Gonsalves — two hurlers who spent a good chunk of time at the Sox’ alternate site last season — combined to toss a pair of scoreless frames in the fourth and fifth, respectively.
Former Oakland A’s righty Daniel Gossett then came on in the middle of the sixth of what was a 6-5 game in favor of Boston, but the 28-year-old was ultimately charged with both the loss and blown save after two Minnesota runs crossed the plate on his watch thanks to a Jonathan Arauz throwing error and sacrifice fly off the bat of Kyle Garlick.
And in the bottom of the seventh, which did not need to be played, right-hander Kaleb Ort, who the Sox selected from the Yankees in the minor-league phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, stranded one base runner by inducing an inning-ending 4-3 double play to wrap up his side’s first exhibition game of the year.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox’ first starting lineup of the spring featured the likes of Enrique Hernandez, Jarren Duran, Hunter Renfroe, Rafael Devers, Christian Vazquez, Bobby Dalbec, Christian Arroyo, Michael Chavis, and Michael Gettys.
Dalbec got the scoring started in the second, when with two outs and the bases empty, the 25-year-old clubbed an 89 mph fastball at the top of the zone from Twins starter Devin Smeltzer and deposited it deep into right-center field for his first home run of the spring.
Two more of Boston’s young infielders picked up the slack scoring-wise later on in the fifth, with Michael Chavis leading the inning off by taking Tyler Duffey deep to right on the very first pitch he saw — a 78 mph curveball at the knees — and Jeter Downs following moments later with a two-run blast to right-center to score himself as well as Gettys.
An inning later, Downs struck once again, this time bringing in Josh Ockimey with two outs on a groundball RBI single back up the middle off of righty Cody Stashak.
Yairo Munoz, who performed well in limited action with the Red Sox last season, followed by plating Arauz on another RBI single. Just like that, Boston had themselves a 6-5 lead.
Six runs is all the Sox offense could manage though, as the Twins tacked on two more of their own in their half of the sixth and 7-6 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.
Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll take on the Braves in their home opener at JetBlue Park to kick off the month of March on Monday afternoon.
Right-hander Garrett Richards will make his 2021 debut for Boston and he will be opposed by fellow righty Huascar Ynoa, who is currently regarded by Baseball America as the 12th-ranked prospect in Atlanta’s farm system.
First pitch Monday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be broadcast on NESN.
(Picture of Jeter Downs: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)