Red Sox Prospect Chih-Jung Liu Being Quarantined Due to Coronavirus Concerns

Red Sox Taiwanese pitching prospect Chih-Jung Liu is being quarantined in a hotel room by the team, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

Per Abraham, Liu departed Taipei on a flight to San Francisco last week, where he, along with all international travelers, was screened for the virus.

Arriving in Fort Myers with the hopes of being ready for minor-league camp, the 20-year-old right-hander is instead “being quarantined in a hotel room by the Sox to guard against the coronavirus.”

The most recent reports from the Centers of Disease Control state that there have been 31 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Taiwan, and according to a team spokesman, the Red Sox are using “an over abundance of caution” with this international issue, as they also quarantined Taiwanese infielder Tzu-Wei Lin earlier in February.

“I had been here for a week and they said I needed to go back to my apartment,” Lin told Abraham. “I was fine. I stayed away for one day and that was it.”

While in quarantine, Liu is “being delivered three meals a day, doing some weight training, and going for an occasional run,” per his Facebook page.

The Red Sox signed Liu as a two-way international prospect out of Taiwan for $750,000 back in October, but according to vice president of player development Ben Crockett, the plan is to have Liu develop as a pitcher.

“We’re just really excited to get our hands on him,” Crockett said of Liu to The Athletic’s Chad Jennings. “This guy has good stuff, and we know he’s athletic, and we’ve heard really good things about him as a person, too.”

According to MLB Pipleine, Liu is ranked as the Sox’ No. 17 prospect. If he is healthy, which he says he is, he is expected to report to Fenway South on Saturday.

 

Connor Wong Crushes Grand Slam as Red Sox Blow out Orioles

In a game that was not televised, the Red Sox improved to 2-2-1 in Grapefruit League play on Tuesday afternoon with a 12-4 win over a split Baltimore Orioles squad at JetBlue Park.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston in this one was Ryan Weber, one of the many names vying for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation with just over a month to go until Opening Day.

Tossing two innings on Tuesday, the right-hander kept the O’s off the scoreboard while scattering two hits and zero walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Baltimore hits came consecutively with two outs in the top of the first, but Weber was able to settle down and get Pat Valaika to fly out to center before retiring the side in order in the second.

In relief of Weber, left-hander Mike Kickham had a tough showing, as he surrendered one run in the third and three more, one of which was unearned, in the fourth due to a wild pitch and passed ball that got through Connor Wong behind the plate.

Hunter Haworth had to come on to try and clean Kickham’s mess up with two outs in the fourth, and he did just that by getting Anthony Santander to ground out to third.

From there, lefty Brian Johnson worked his way around a one-out single in an otherwise clean fifth to eventually earn his first win of the spring, while Domingo Tapia and Denyi Reyes combined for four scoreless frames of work to close this thing out with a final score of 12-4.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured a healthy number of regulars like Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vazquez, J.D. Martinez, and Mitch Moreland was matched up against Orioles right-hander Tom Eshelman to start things out on Tuesday.

Eshelman may not have given up any runs over the course of his brief two-inning start, but he gave up plenty of hard contact, including a line-drive one-out single off the bat of Vazquez in the first.

Two innings later, it was Vazquez coming through again, as he drove in Benintendi all the way from first on a hard-hit double to left off Orioles reliever Zac Lowther for his side’s first run of the day. 1-1.

In the fourth, the Boston bats once again responded to Baltimore, as they countered three more O’s tallies with three of their own on a two-run home run off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr. and RBI single off the bat of Tommy Joseph to plate Bobby Dalbec from second.

Both of those knocks came off Lowther, and they pulled the Sox back even with the Orioles at four runs a piece.

Fortunately, that stalemate did not last long at all, with the first five hitters who came to the plate in the fifth all reaching off Hunter Cervenka on two singles, two walks, and one HBP to make it a 6-4 contest.

Marco Hernandez added on to that with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to score Bobby Dalbec, Kevin Pillar re-loaded the bases with an infield single off new O’s reliever Zach Muckenhirn, and that brought Connor Wong to the plate with the chance to redeem himself after making a few defensive mistakes the inning prior.

On the third pitch he saw from Muckenhirn, Wong did just that, as the 23-year-old crushed a grand slam over the fence in right-center field for his first homer in a Red Sox uniform.

That gave the Sox a commanding 11-4 advantage, and after Nick Longhi scored on a fielding error in the same inning, 12-4 would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Because this game was not televised, I really do not have much to add here. Kevin Pillar went 2-for-2 with a double off the bench and Mitch Moreland hit a triple. Both of those things are nice to see.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll travel to Bradenton to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time this spring.

Left-hander Martin Perez will make his Red Sox debut for Boston, while right-hander Mitch Keller will get the start for Pittsburgh.

Perez is essentially a lock to be the No. 4 starter this year, so I’m looking forward to see how his first outing goes even if it is just an exhibition game. He is no stranger to the Grapefruit League either.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT at LECOM Park. This game won’t be on NESN, but it will be on the Pirates’ network, so if you have MLB.TV, you are in luck.

 

Andrew Benintendi Homers, Nathan Eovaldi Impresses, and Other Observations From Monday’s Red Sox Split-Squad Action

After suffering their first loss of the spring at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, the Red Sox partook in some split-squad action on Monday, sending one group of players right down the road to take on the Twins at Hammond Stadium, and another to Port Charlotte to take on the Rays.

Starting with the contest against Minnesota, Nathan Eovaldi got his first start of the spring for Boston, and he impressed.

Working the first two frames, the right-hander scattered two hits and zero walks while fanning four of the final five hitters he faced on the afternoon. His four-seam fastball also reached upwards of 100 MPH on the radar gun.

From there, left-hander Kyle Hart yielded three runs on a pair of homers off the bats of Gilberto Celestino and Nelson Cruz in an ugly third, Hector Velazquez and Trevor Hildenberger combined to toss four total innings of scoreless relief, and Robinson Leyer worked his way around a leadoff walk in an otherwise clean bottom half of the eighth to keep it at a one-run game going into the ninth.

So, outside of a bad first impression from Hart, who like Chris Mazza is vying for a spot in the Sox’ starting rotation, not a terrible day for pitching.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured plenty of regulars was matched up against newest Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda to begin things on Monday.

Andrew Benintendi did not waste any time greeting Maeda, as Boston’s leadoff man unloaded on a 1-0 fastball and pulled it deep to right for his first big fly of the spring.

That solo shot gave Boston an early advantage, but they were unable to immediately counter after Minnesota tacked on three runs of their own in the third.

It wasn’t until the top half of the ninth when the Sox bats finally got going again, when after reaching base on a one-out double, Roldani Baldwin advanced to third on a wild pitch from Twins reliever Charlie Barnes.

A grounder off the bat of Pedro Castellanos could have gone for the second out of the frame, but a fielding error committed by third baseman Cody Asche allowed Baldwin to score from third and Castellanos to reach first safely.

A Brett Netzer single following a Tate Matheny punchout put the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at first with two outs for Ryan Fitzgerald, who proceeded to ground out to short for the final out of the contest, although he did nearly beat the throw, to wrap this one up with a final score of 3-2.

Traveling north to Port Charlotte now, it was top pitching prospect Tanner Houck getting the start for the Red Sox against the Rays.

The 23-year-old right-hander was temporarily converted to a reliever last year while in the minors, but after going back to starting in the Arizona Fall League, that appears to be the way things are heading in terms of Houck’s development.

Like Eovaldi, Houck worked the first two innings of Monday’s contest, holding Tampa Bay off the scoreboard while scattering one hit and two walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

With the first two hitters he faced reaching base on a leadoff double and walk in the first, it did not look like things were going to go too swimmingly for Houck, but the Illinois native was able to get back on track with the help of an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play and he did not have to look back from there.

In relief of Houck, left-hander Jeffrey Spring yielded one run on a solo home run off the bat of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo over two innings of work, Austin Brice fanned four of the eight hitters he faced from the start of the fifth up until the two-out mark of the sixth, when Rio Gomez came on, walked two to load the bases, and escaped the jam by getting Rene Pinto to line out to left.

From there, R.J. Alvarez sat down the side in order in the seventh, left-hander Daniel McGrath surrendered the tying run on a wild pitch in the eighth, and Eduard Bazardo secured the 2-2 tie by stranding the potential winning run at second in a scoreless ninth.

Again, outside of a few tough innings, not a terrible showing from Sox pitching as a whole.

Offensively, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured names such as Jose Peraza, Tzu-Wei Lin, Michael Chavis, Kevin Plawecki, Jeter Downs, and Jarren Duran was matched up against a familiar opponent in right-hander Yonny Chirinos for Tampa Bay.

Peraza kicked things off right away in the first by reaching base on a leadoff single and coming around to score on an RBI base knock from Plawecki three at-bats later. 1-0.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, and it was top outfield prospect Jarren Duran setting the table against Rays reliever Dylan Covey, as he led the inning off with a single up the middle, advanced to second on another single from Lin, and tagged up to third on a lineout to left field off the bat of Michael Chavis. That is not an easy thing to do.

So, with runners at the corners and two outs in the frame, the pinch-hitting Juan Centeno came to the plate with the chance to put his side in front, and he did just that without even having to swing his bat, as Covey attempted to pick off Lin at first with an errant throw that got past Tristan Gray and allowed Duran to coast in from third.

That beneficial mishap gave the Sox their second lead of the afternoon at 2-1, but the Rays staged a mini-rally of their own to knot things back up at 2-2, which would go on to be Monday’s final score upon the completion of nine full innings.

Some observations from Monday’s tie and loss:

As the leading candidate to lead off for the Red Sox in the wake of Mookie Betts’ departure, it was nice to see Andrew Benintendi crush a leadoff homer against the Twins.

Through five plate appearances this spring, Jarren Duran has an OPS of 1.600. Those numbers may not carry much weight, but I will stick to what I said Sunday in that the 23-year-old is one of the most exciting Red Sox prospects to watch.

If the Red Sox intend to compete in 2020, they will need Nathan Eovaldi to fully contribute to the cause. Monday’s start was a promising step in the right direction, hopefully.

Through their first four Grapefruit League contests, the Red Sox have combined to score 13 total runs.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host a split-squad Orioles team on Tuesday afternoon at JetBlue Park.

Right-hander Ryan Weber is slated to get the start for Boston, while fellow righty Kohl Stewart will do the same for Baltimore.

Weber is another candidate for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation. The 29-year-old did start three games for Boston last year.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. It doesn’t look like this game will be televised at all.

Josh Ockimey Homers as Red Sox Fall to Orioles in First Loss of Spring

After opening up Grapefruit League play with a 4-3 win over the Rays on Saturday, the Red Sox took to the road for the first time this spring and fell to the Orioles in Sarosata by a final score of 11-5.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston was Chris Mazza, who was originally scheduled to pitch in relief of Eduardo Rodriguez, but because Rodriguez was pushed back a day due to left knee soreness, Mazza got the nod from interim manager Ron Roenicke.

Working the first two innings of this one, the right-hander yielded one earned run on three hits and two walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

That one O’s run came in the bottom half of the second, when after working his way around a bases-loaded jam in the first, Mazza allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach base, setting up Stevie Wilkerson to knock in his side’s first tally on an RBI groundout to short.

The 30-year-old Mazza did manage to escape the second without giving anything else up, but it was far from a solid first impression for someone vying for a spot in the Sox’ starting rotation.

From there, pitching did not get any easier for Boston, as newly-acquired left-hander Matt Hall surrendered a pair of runs in the third, Emmanuel De Jesus tossed a scoreless fourth, Bobby Poyner and Yoan Aybar gave up another pair of runs each in the fifth and sixth, Jhonathan Diaz was only able to record the first two outs of the seventh while being walloped for four runs (three earned), Adam Lau retired the only hitter he faced to record the final out of the seventh, and Konner Wade worked a perfect eighth to at least end things on a somewhat positive note.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to surrender 11 runs on 15 hits and eight walks over eight total innings of work. It’s only the beginning stages of spring training, but that does not make those numbers any easier to look at.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured several regulars on Saturday did not look quite the same on Sunday.

A familiar foe in left-hander Wade LeBlanc started things out for the Orioles by working two scoreless frames, and it wasn’t until the top half of the fourth when the Boston bats finally got going.

There, top outfield prospect Jarren Duran led things off against new O’s reliever Brandon Bailey by lacing a leadoff triple to the deepest part of the yard in center field, mere feet away from his first home run of the spring.

That brought Kevin Plawecki to the plate with the chance to make an impact as he vies for the backup catcher spot, and he did just that by driving in Duran from third on an RBI groundout to first. 3-1.

Fast forward all the way to the top half of the ninth, with this one already well out of reach, and the Sox staged a rally similar to the one the Rays put on against them the day prior.

A leadoff double off the bat of Cole Sturgeon, followed by a walk drawn by Ryan Fitzgerald put runners in scoring position with no outs for Tate Matheny.

Matheny may have struck out, but a wild pitch from Orioles hurler Evan Phillips during his at-bat allowed Sturgeon and Matheny to advance 90 feet for Nick Longhi.

Phillips’ wildness persisted, as Sturgeon crossed the plate on another wild pitch and Fitzgerald scored on a run-scoring groundout from Longhi. 11-3.

A walk drawn by the pinch-hitting Keith Curcio marked the conclusion of Phillips’ day for Baltimore, and in came right-hander Francisco Jimenez to replace him.

Jimenez was promptly greeted by slugging first baseman Josh Ockimey, who unloaded on a 2-0 fastball down the heart of the plate and deposited it deep over the fence in right field for the Red Sox’ first home run of the spring.

That two-run blast cut Boston’s deficit to six runs at 11-5, which would go on to be Sunday’s final score after the rally was cut short.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox will not go the entire year without a loss.

Jarren Duran is emerging as one of the more exciting players to watch on this team this spring. With his speed and athleticism, it’s easy to see why he was selected to the Futures Game last year.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s some split-squad action on Monday against the Rays and Twins.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the start against Minnesota at the nearby CenturyLink Sports Complex, while top right-handed pitching prospect Tanner Houck will do the same against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte.

Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, will throw a simulated game on one of the Fenway South back fields on Monday.

For the Twins, it will be right-hander Kenta Maeda getting the start. And for the Rays, it will be righty Yonny Chirinos.

First pitch for both contests is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST, although neither game will be on NESN.

Red Sox Claim Right-Hander Phillips Valdez off Waivers From Mariners, Place Dustin Pedroia on 60-Day Injured List

The Red Sox have claimed right-hander Phillips Valdez off waivers from the Seattle Mariners, the club announced Sunday. In order to make room for Valdez on Boston’s 40-man roster, second baseman Dustin Pedroia was placed on the 60-day injured list.

Valdez, 28, was claimed off waivers by Seattle back in November and designated for assignment on Friday.

The Dominican Republic native spent the 2019 campaign with the Texas Rangers organization, where he made his major-league debut in June and posted an ERA of 3.94 and xFIP of 4.64 over 11 relief appearances and 16 innings of work.

While in the minors in 2019, Valdez worked as both a starter and reliever, and owned an ERA of 4.92 over 26 outings (14 starts) for the Rangers’ Triple-A club in Nashville.

An original international signee of the Indians back in 2009, Valdez’s pitch mix includes a sinker, changeup, slider, and four-seam fastball, per Statcast.

The Red Sox will be Valdez’s sixth organization, as the righty rounds out Boston’s 40-man roster for the time being.

As for Pedroia, the 36-year-old veteran suffered a setback with his surgically-repaired left knee last month and has yet to report to big-league camp.

The move to put him on the 60-day injured list is probably more of a formality than anything at this point, but it is still not great nonetheless.

As things stand right now, the Red Sox should have 67 players at major-league camp once Valdez and outfielder Cesar Puello arrive. That clubhouse is going to be crowded.

 

Red Sox Open Grapefruit League Play With 4-3 Win Over Rays

After opening up their spring with a 3-0 seven-inning win over the Northeastern Huskies on Friday, the Red Sox kicked it up a notch and began Grapefruit League play with a tight 4-3 victory over the Rays at JetBlue Park on Saturday.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston in this one was Brian Johnson, who is now off the Sox’ 40-man roster and is at big-league camp as a non-roster invite.

The left-hander only worked the first inning Saturday, and he capped a perfect opening frame off with his only strikeout of the afternoon.

From there, top pitching prospect Bryan Mata worked his way around a one-out single and walk drawn by the Rays with the help of an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play in the second, Colten Brewer fanned three and plunked another in a scoreless third, lefty Josh Osich retired all three hitters he faced in order in the fourth, Mike Kickham got himself out of a bases-loaded jam and kept Tampa Bay off the board in the fifth, Mike Shawaryn punched out one and stranded another in a quick sixth frame, Domingo Tapia did the same in the seventh, and Matthew Kent held his own in the eighth.

By the time this contest reached the beginning of the ninth, the Red Sox had themselves a brand new four-run lead to work with while Kent came back out for his second inning of work.

Despite that comfortable cushion, things did get tight, as the Rays pushed across three runs against Kent and Matthew Gorst before right fielder Tyler Esplin put an end to things on a fly ball off the bat of Vidal Brujan with two outs in the frame.

Had he misjudged the trajectory of the ball, Ryan LaMarre, who was on first, would have more than likely scored and we would have had ourselves a whole new ballgame. Instead, the 2017 seventh-round pick put his athleticism on full display to secure the 4-3 win for his side.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup featured plenty of regulars to begin things on Saturday.

Andrew Benintendi led things off in the first with a single en route to a 1-for-2 day at the plate, Jackie Bradley Jr. fanned twice, J.D. Martnez went 0-for-1 with a walk, Michael Chavis punched out in each of his two plate appearances, Kevin Pillar, Jose Peraza, and top prospect Bobby Dalbec all went 0-for-2, Tzu-Wei Lin went 1-for-2 with a leadoff single in the third, and catcher Jett Bandy followed that with a single of his own in his lone plate appearance of the afternoon.

Similar to Friday’s opener, it was another quiet day for the Boston bats. In fact, it wasn’t until the bottom of the fifth when they finally pushed a run across.

There, with two outs and a runner on second following a walk and wild pitch, Brett Netzer drove in his side’s first run on an RBI pop-up single off of Joe Ryan that did not travel further than the outskirts of the left side of the infield.

A ball that probably should have been caught instead went for a hit, and since there were two outs, the runner, Josh Ockimey, was able to score all the way from second because of it. 1-0.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, and back-to-back run-scoring knocks off the bats of Jagger Rusconi and Nick Lovullo with one out increased that advantage up to three runs.

A walk drawn by Dylan Hardy put runners on the corners for Grant Williams, who grounded out to second base off new Rays reliever Phoenix Sanders while Lovullo scored from third. However, Hardy tried to advance to third on the play and he was tagged out, thus ending the inning with Boston up 4-0.

A late rally from the Rays would threaten that lead, but the Red Sox were able to hold on by the skin of their teeth to take their Grapefruit League opener by a final score of 4-3.

Some notes from this win:

Spring training numbers don’t really matter, so I’ll just say that the Red Sox are undefeated in 2020. Haha!

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll travel out to Sarasota to take on the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez was slated to start for Boston, but he has since been pushed back a day after twisting his left knee in a bullpen session on Wednesday. Instead, right-hander Chris Mazza will get the starting nod.

Claimed off waivers from the Mets back in December, Mazza is in the mix for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke.

Veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc will start for Baltimore.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN.

Red Sox Officially Name Jerry Narron Bench Coach

The Red Sox have hired Jerry Narron to serve as the club’s bench coach under interim manager Ron Roenicke. The club made the move official following Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Narron, 64, had served as bench coach for the Diamondbacks under old friend Torey Lovullo for the last three seasons, but left the organization at the conclusion of the 2019 campaign after Arizona decided to promote Luis Urueta to the position.

If Narron’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he had previously been the Red Sox’ bench coach going way back to 2003, when Grady Little was at the helm in Boston.

It was a brief stint, but Narron said that he “had a great year here and enjoyed it.”

Prior to that, the North Carolina native managed the Texas Rangers from May 2001 until the conclusion of the 2002 season, where he posted a record of 134-162.

After spending the 2003 campaign with the Sox, Narron joined the Reds’ coaching staff as bench coach under then-manager Dave Miley before being named interim manager in June 2005.

That ‘interim’ tag was eventually removed, but Narron was fired by the Reds a little more than two years after his initial promotion. He went 157-179 while in charge in Cincinnati.

From there, Narron returned to the Rangers in 2008 to work as a front office consultant before being hired as the Brewers’ bench coach prior to the start of the 2011 season.

The manager who hired him at the time? Ron Roenicke.

Narron served as bench coach under Roenicke throughout his entire tenure as manager in Milwaukee and remained with the club even after Roenicke was fired midway through the 2015 season.

“He’s got a great baseball mind.” Roenicke said of Narron when speaking to reporters Saturday. “He’s a lot smarter than I am which helps me to go to him when I want to. All of that helps make things go smoother here.”

Upon being named interim manager earlier in the month, Roenicke was left without a bench coach, the role he had previously held under Alex Cora.

There was plenty of speculation that Roenicke, along with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran, were going to go with an internal candidate for the position. But, going with someone who is familiar with Roenicke and his style isn’t too bad, either.

“I wouldn’t do it just because [Narron’s] familiar with me,” said Roenicke. “I’d do it because he’s really good.”

Narron should also be somewhat familiar with at least one player on the Sox’ 40-man roster in J.D. Martinez, who spent the latter half of the 2017 campaign with the Diamondbacks after coming over in a July trade from the Tigers that year.

We should see Narron on the bench for the first time on Sunday afternoon, when the Red Sox take on the Orioles in Sarasota.