Red Sox add utilityman Danny Santana on minor-league deal, per report

The Red Sox have signed utilityman Danny Santana to a minor-league deal with an invite to major-league spring training, according to The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams.

Santana, 30, had worked out for teams in Miami this month and the Red Sox were obviously among the teams who were interested.

The Dominican native became a free-agent this winter after getting non-tendered by the Rangers — who he had spent the last two seasons with — in December.

In his time with Texas, Santana truly experienced the ups-and-downs of being a major-leaguer.

Across 130 games in 2019, he slashed .283/.324/.534 to go along with a career-best 28 home runs and 81 RBI over a career-high 511 plate appearances en route to being named the Rangers’ player of the year.

Following up that successful campaign, Santana fell back down to earth in 2020, as he appeared in just 15 games and posted a .511 OPS before going down with a season-ending right elbow sprain in late August.

Rather than pay Santana the $3.6 million he was projected to earn in his final year of salary arbitration, the Rangers cut the veteran switch-hitter loose over the winter.

Originally signed by the Twins as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, Santana has proven capable of playing multiple defensive positions since making his big-league debut in 2014.

With the Rangers alone, the 5-foot-11, 195 pounder played 53 games at first base, 17 at second base, eight at third base, nine at shortstop, 17 in left field, 31 in center field, and 15 in right field.

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman was the first to report that the Red Sox were ‘in the final mix’ for Santana’s services.

As Heyman notes, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom clearly values versatility given the fact he has brought in the likes of Santana, Enrique Hernandez, and Marwin Gonzalez this offseason.

Heyman also tweeted that Santana’s deal with Boston consists of $1.75 million in a base salary, $1 million in potential incentives, a $100,000 bonus if he starts the year in Triple-A, and an opt out if he is not promoted by a certain date.

With the addition of Santana, Boston will now have approximately 34 non-roster invitees at camp, which pushes the size of their major-league spring training roster to 74 players. The maximum number of players teams can carry this spring is 75.

That means that the club will have to clear at least one spot on their spring training roster when catcher Kevin Plawecki and outfielder Franchy Cordero are ready to be activated from the COVID-19 related injured list.

(Picture of Danny Santana: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Red Sox free agency: Jackie Bradley Jr. in agreement with Brewers on two-year deal, per report

In case you missed it, now-former Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is reportedly in agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers on a two-year, $24 million contract, according to The Boston Globe’s Julain McWilliams.

Per McWilliams, Bradley Jr.’s deal with Milwaukee includes a player option after the first year.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal adds that Bradley Jr. will net $13 million in 2021 with the chance to earn an additional $11 million in 2022 if he decides to not opt out. Some of the money will also be deferred.

Bradley Jr., who turns 31 next month, was the top position player free-agent on the market leading up to Thursday morning’s news.

The former first-round pick spent the first eight seasons — and first 10 years of his professional career — with the Red Sox, most recently posting a .283/.364/.450 slash line to go along with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 55 games in 2020.

Despite putting up those impressive offensive numbers in addition to his usual superb defense in center field, it took a little while for Bradley Jr. to find a job this winter.

One reason behind that likely had to do with the fact that the Scott Boras client was reportedly seeking a “significant contract, perhaps beyond four years” as recently as February 3, according to The New York Post’s Mike Puma.

With the number of potential suitors dwindling down, the Brewers jumped in on the Bradley Jr. sweepstakes in late February and ultimately wound up acquiring his services with just weeks to go until Opening Day.

Last season, the Brewers outfielder ranked 25th in baseball in terms of Defensive Runs Saved (-11) and 17th in Ultimate Zone Rating (0.1), which translates to an Ultimate Zone Rating of -0.1 over 150 games.

Bradley Jr., who figures to slide into center while Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich patrol the corners, should help improve Milwaukee’s overall defensive numbers in 2021.

Now that his time with the Red Sox is likely over, here is a brief list of what the Virginia native accomplished in his time in Boston:

  • Two-time World Series champion (2013, 2018)
  • One-time American League Championship Series MVP (2018)
  • One-time All-Star (2016)
  • One-time Gold Glove Award winner (2018)

Assuming he does not return to the Sox anytime soon, Bradley Jr. will likely go down as one of, if not the best defensive centerfielder in franchise history. He will be missed and we wish him all the best with the Brewers.

(Picture of Jackie Bradley Jr.: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Yairo Muñoz among Red Sox’ most impressive performers early on in spring training

In his first traditional spring training with the Red Sox, Yairo Munoz is off to a hot start.

Following a 1-for-3 performance against the Rays on Tuesday that was highlighted a hard-hit two-run home run to the opposite field, the 26-year-old came off the bench as a pinch-runner in Wednesday’s contest against the Twins and collected another RBI by lining a run-scoring single in his only trip to the plate in the sixth inning of an eventual 14-6 victory for the Sox.

Through his first four Grapefruit League games of the year, Munoz is 5-for-9 (.555) at the plate with that one homer, one double, and four RBI while playing left field and third base.

The Dominican native is coming into the spring without a spot on Boston’s 40-man roster, meaning he is one of 33 non-roster invitees currently at big-league camp in Fort Myers.

The Sox outrighted Munoz off their 40-man roster in December. That decision was met with much surprise considering the fact that the utilityman impressed over the course of the final month of the 2020 campaign and the team had just signed him a one-year contract for the 2021 season.

After spending a healthy chunk of July and the entirety of August at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, Munoz was called up by Boston on August 31 and made his team debut on September 1.

From that point forward, the right-handed hitter — listed at 5-foot-11 and 200 lbs. — slashed an impressive .333/.333/.511 to go along with one home run, five doubles, four RBI, and two stolen bases over 12 games played before a lower back strain prematurely ended his year on September 19.

Given the fact he performed well and proved more than capable of playing multiple defensive positions (was worth positive-4 defensive runs saved in left field), it, again, was somewhat shocking to see Munoz stripped of his 40-man roster spot three months ago.

Having said that, it might be even more shocking that the ex-St. Louis Cardinal managed to clear waivers without getting claimed by another organization beforehand.

At just 26 years old, Munoz is still relatively young, under team control through 2024, and has one minor-league option remaining. All while just a few years removed from being one of the top prospects in the Athletics’ farm system, which is the organization he originally signed with back in 2012.

In Chaim Bloom’s tenure as chief baseball officer thus far, the Red Sox have clearly placed an emphasis on bringing in — whether by trade, waiver claim, or free agency — versatile players who can be put to the test on the field. Christian Arroyo, Enrique Hernandez, and Marwin Gonzalez are among those on the team’s projected Opening Day roster who fit that mold.

While Munoz may have taken a step back this offseason and still has some work to do in order to crack Boston’s Opening Day roster, he seems to fit that mold, too.

At the end of the day, it’s as MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith wrote earlier Wednesday: “The Red Sox are lucky Yairo Munoz remains in the organization.”

Smith also wrote that Munoz “is one of the top outfield depth options heading into 2021. He will play for Boston at some point this season.”

(Picture of Yairo Munoz: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Jarren Duran, top Red Sox outfield prospect, homers in second start of spring: ‘He lifts, he sleeps, he eats, and he plays baseball’

Outfield prospect Jarren Duran started his second game of the spring in center field for the Red Sox on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old, hitting out of the two-hole, went 1-for-3 with a solo home run and a walk before being lifted at the start of the seventh inning.

That homer, which came on a 1-0 breaking ball from Rays right-hander David Hess, was belted deep to right field — well over the Boston bullpen, for Duran’s first big fly of the spring.

Even without a minor-league season last year, Duran still got plenty of time to develop between spending time at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and playing winter ball in Puerto Rico.

Over 16 regular season games for Criollos de Caguas, a team managed by Red Sox quality control coach Ramon Vazquez, the California native slashed a modest .236/.386/.273 to go along with two doubles, six stolen bases, and 10 RBI.

Duran did turn things around in the Puerto Rican postseason by posting a 1.046 OPS en route to being named the Most Valuable Player of the league’s championship series.

The fact that Caguas won its respective league allowed the club to represent Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series, which led to Duran becoming a Caribbean League All-Star after going 10-for-25 (.400) at the plate with one double, one triple, one home run, and three RBI over seven games played.

While continuing to develop at the alternate site and in winter ball these past few months, it’s clear that Duran has grown stronger, as evidenced by his uptick in power as well as physique.

“He’s strong,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday. “That’s the Puerto Rican diet: rice and beans and chicken the whole offseason. And two brunches with the manager. I took care of that.

“Like I said earlier, he lifts, he sleeps, he eats, and he plays baseball,” continued Cora. “That’s what he does. And he enjoys it.”

It wasn’t too long ago when it seemed like Duran — who Boston took in the seventh round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Long Beach State — was going to be someone who relied on his speed more than anything. He did after all steal 46 bases between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2019.

Taking his speed into account, Cora told Duran that as a left-handed hitter, he should consider dropping down a couple of bunts because of where the Rays were positioning their third baseman.

“It’s funny, because we were talking about certain situations,” the Sox skipper said. “With the third baseman back early in the count, with his speed, it would be good for him to drop a few bunts down just to get on base. And then he hits a home run.”

Cora’s first exposure to Duran as Red Sox manager came during spring training in 2019. The speedy outfielder appeared in seven games back then, but it’s safe to say he has grown a lot in the last two years.

“He’s a lot stronger than what he was two years ago,” stated Cora. “He’s in-tune with the game, and he’s going to keep developing and he’s going to be a good one.”

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, Duran has one of the best speed tools among Red Sox minor-leaguers, according to FanGraphs.

The second baseman-turned-outfielder is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

If all goes according to plan, Duran — who last played at Double-A Portland in 2019 — could make his major-league debut at some point this summer, if not sooner.

For now, he will have the chance to continue to dazzle the masses in Grapefruit League play in southwest Florida.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox unveil new Twitter account dedicated to team’s farm system and player development department

The Red Sox have introduced a new Twitter account dedicated solely to their farm system, the team announced Tuesday.

Many teams have begun rolling out similar accounts recently, and the Sox are the latest to do so.

“We’ll be coming at you with all the player development updates & highlights, so follow, and stay tuned,” the account, given the name ‘Red Sox Player Development,’ tweeted earlier Tuesday morning.

With no minor-league season in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it would appear that the Red Sox — and Major League Baseball in general — are going to put more effort into promoting its minor-league pipeline this year.

“MLB is doing more in this space,” Red Sox executive vice president and chief marketing officer Adam Grossman told BloggingtheRedSox.com via email. “We think the minor league information and content will grow with time.”

Grossman also credited Kelsey Doherty, the team’s director of marketing, “for putting this together and overseeing the process.”

You can follow the Red Sox’ player development account, which already has more than 2,700 followers, by clicking here.

As currently constructed, Boston’s farm system is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 20 farm system in baseball, which is the same ranking they received at this time last spring.

“I do think we are in a better place,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said last month in regards to where the organization is at in regards to compiling young talent. “I know the public ranking hasn’t moved. And I know some of that probably has to do with us, for instance, in the draft, using our first pick on a player (Nick Yorke) that we felt stronger about than a lot of the publications did. But I also think some of the players that we acquired over the course of this time that can be part of this core are not necessarily prospect eligible.”

Under Bloom’s watch, the Sox have bolstered their minor-league pipeline by adding or acquiring in trades the likes of Yorke, Blaze Jordan, Jeter Downs, Connor Wong, Connor Seabold, Hudson Potts, and Jeisson Rosario, among others.

They have also acquired players who previously graduated from their prospect status, but could still help the Sox for years to come, such as Alex Verdugo and Nick Pivetta, both of whom are under team control through the 2024 season.

“Obviously we’ve also gotten prospects,” Bloom added. “But we’ve gotten players who aren’t going to boost our farm system ranking but hopefully will help us significantly toward sustaining some really good performance for a long time.”

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Nick Yorke, the youngest player at Red Sox camp, makes solid first impression in spring debut

Red Sox infield prospect Nick Yorke was in the midst of his senior year at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose at this time one year ago.

On Monday afternoon, the 18-year-old made his spring training debut for the Sox as a defensive replacement at second base for Marwin Gonzalez in the fifth inning of a Grapefruit League contest against the Braves.

Playing the final three innings of Monday’s eventual 5-3 loss to Atlanta, Yorke got the chance to step up to the plate for the first time with one out in the bottom half of the fifth.

His opposition? Only Braves right-hander A.J. Minter, who is coming off a 2020 season in which he allowed just two earned runs over 22 relief appearances and 21 2/3 innings pitched.

Going up against that caliber of competition is no easy task, especially for a teenager who had not gotten a legitimate, in-game at-bat in well over a year.

Having said that, Yorke held his own, and after looking at and fouling off a handful of pitches, golfed a single to right-center field that found a nice patch of grass to land on.

Fast forward to the seventh, and the California native again showed discipline at the plate by drawing a walk to cap off what was an impressive 2021 debut.

“That was the highlight of the day, having that kid play,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Yorke during his postgame media availability. “It’s funny because I told him before the game, ‘Hey, you’re playing second base.’ He’s like, ‘Ok, cool.’ I asked him, ‘Are you nervous?’ He’s like, ‘Nope.’ I said, ‘Ok, good for you.’ I was probably more nervous for him, so that’s a good sign.”

Boston selected Yorke with the 17th overall pick in the 2020 amateur draft last June, which at the time was viewed as a somewhat surprising selection considering the notion he was not projected to go that early.

Since then, though, the right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing second baseman has been turning heads on a consistent basis — whether it be at the Red Sox’ alternate training site or fall instructional league — to the point where he is entering the 2021 season as Boston’s ninth-ranked prospect according to Baseball America.

He’s also entering the 2021 season in better shape than he was in the fall, as he explained when speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon.

“In Pawtucket (alternate site) and instructs I wasn’t in the greatest shape,” Yorke explained. “Going into my first offseason, we made a goal to lose 10-15 pounds before I came back, and just focusing on that I came back and lost 25 (pounds).”

Yorke, who turns 19 in just over a month, is far and away the youngest player at Red Sox camp. While he may not be playing for a spot on the club’s Opening Day roster this spring, he is using this time to learn as much as possible by following around the likes of Enrique Hernandez and Xander Bogaerts.

“I’m working out with all the big-league infielders and just trying to be a sponge,” he said. “They’ve been in this game a lot longer than me, so I’m just trying to take what I can from them and piece this thing together.”

Cora himself echoed this same sentiment as well in regards when detailing why Yorke is at major-league spring training in the first place.

“He’s here to learn,” said the Sox skipper. “He’s here to be around big-leaguers and learn how to act in the clubhouse and be a professional, but you can see. He controlled the strike zone, controlled his at-bats.”

One thing that aided Yorke in his ability to control the strike zone and his at-bats on Monday was the fact that he did not let his nerves get to him, which is something the Red Sox coaching staff helped him with in getting him ready for in-game action.

“Once they said, ‘Play ball,’ I was ready to go,” Yorke said. “We haven’t been able to play on the field a lot the last year, so to get on the field, it’s just exciting. You get to go do what you love. I didn’t have a lot of nerves. It’s baseball at the end of the day. It’s just a game. I was just trying to go and have some fun.”

Listed at 6-foot and 200 pounds, Yorke is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem, whose season is slated to begin on May 4.

For the time being, though, Yorke is looking forward to continuing to show what he’s got under the watchful eyes of Red Sox management these next few weeks in southwest Florida.

“Any opportunity they give me to touch a baseball field, I’m going to try to run away with it,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity and just trying to get better.”

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Garrett Richards makes Red Sox debut as sloppy defense leads to 5-3 loss at hands of Braves

The Red Sox opened the home portion of their Grapefruit League schedule on Monday by falling to the Braves by a final score of 5-3 in seven innings at JetBlue Park.

Newcomer Garrett Richards, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with Boston last month, made his first start of the spring for Boston in this one.

Working two “full” innings, the veteran right-hander surrendered two earned runs on three hits and two walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Atlanta runs came in the top half of the first, when Richards managed to record just one out before the rest of the inning was called off for pitch count purposes.

The 32-year-old was able to rebound in the second inning, however, as he retired the Braves’ 7-8-9 hitters in order to end his day on a more positive note.

Ultimately hit with the losing decision in what was his Red Sox debut, Richards will look to pick up where he left off in his next time out, which should come against the Braves once again on Sunday.

In relief of Richards, left-hander Kyle Hart, a non-roster invitee, came on for the third and yielded two runs — both of which were unearned thanks to a Bobby Dalbec fielding error — on a pair of walks and a two-run single.

From there, right-hander Kevin McCarthy — another non-roster invitee — worked a scoreless top half of the fourth, while right-handed pitching prospects Thad Ward and Connor Seabold combined to toss a pair of shutout frames in the fifth and sixth innings.

Zac Grotz, a right-hander, was responsible for the seventh, and he gave up one unearned run before being injuring his elbow on a pitch that required him to leave the game immediately.

All in all, Sox pitchers allowed five total runs, but only two of those runs were earned due to sloppy defensive play that resulted in five errors being committed; one from Dalbec, one from Ward, one from Marwin Gonzalez, and two from Jeter Downs.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup featured the likes of Christian Arroyo, Gonzalez, J.D. Martinez, Dalbec, Michael Chavis, Yairo Munoz, Cesar Puello, Jeisson Rosario, and Jett Bandy.

Matched up against right-hander Huascar Ynoa — one of the top pitching prospects in Atlanta’s farm system — Bandy kicked off the scoring for his side by drawing a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the second.

Fast forward to the fourth, and the bases were loaded once more. This time with one out as Rosario, one of the two prospects Boston acquired from the Padres in the Mitch Moreland trade, came to the plate to face Touki Toussaint.

Rosario managed to pick up an RBI, but only by dribbling a grounder to the right side of the infield that gave Chavis enough time to score from third and make it a 4-2 contest in favor of Atlanta.

In the seventh, a leadoff double off the bat of catching prospect Kole Cottam resulted in another Boston run crossing the plate when Jonathan Arauz grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

That sequence cut the Sox’ deficit to two runs at 5-3, and it allowed the tyring run to come to the plate in the form of Roldani Baldwin, who stuck out against Jasseel De La Cruz to put this one to bed.

Some notes from this one:

Nick Yorke, the Red Sox’ first-round pick in the 2020 draft, made his spring debut on Monday. The 18-year-old infielder went 1-for-1 off the bench with a walk and a fifth-inning single off Braves reliever A.J. Minter.

Ward and Seabold, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 10 and No. 11 prospects in Boston’s farm system, were probably the two most impressive pitchers the Red Sox threw out there on Monday.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by veteran righty Michael Wacha.

Garrett Whitlock, Joel Payamps, Ryan Weber, Josh Winckowski and Andrew Politi are also expected to pitch for the Sox.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on ESPN, which means we are in for nine innings of baseball since this will be a nationally-televised game.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox outright right-hander Marcus Walden to Triple-A Worcester, add him to spring training roster

After being designated him for assignment last Wednesday, right-handed reliever Marcus Walden has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Worcester, the Red Sox announced Monday afternoon.

Despite losing his spot on Boston’s 40-man roster, Walden has been added to the club’s major-league spring training roster.

The 32-year-old was initially DFA’d last week so that the Sox could clear a 40-man roster spot for veteran utilityman Marwin Gonzalez.

At that time, the Red Sox had seven days to either trade Walden, release him, or sneak him through waivers, which they ended up doing.

In 15 appearances out of the Boston bullpen last season, Walden struggled to the tune of a 9.45 ERA and 8.59 FIP over 13 1/3 innings pitched in two separate stints with the club.

Going into the 2020 campaign, the California native was coming off a solid showing in 2019 in which he compiled a 3.80 ERA and a 76:32 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 70 relief appearances spanning 78 innings of work.

Walden proved to be one of Alex Cora’s most reliable relievers in ’19, and the Red Sox manager recently acknowledged that it was a difficult decision to cut the righty.

“It’s a tough business,” Cora said last Thursday. “There are certain situations that we like the player, we like the person but it’s a tough one. He didn’t have the best season last year, but at the same time, there’s a lot of good arms out there. It’s tough to make a decision like that but it’s a decision you have to make.”

Walden ultimately returns to the Red Sox in a lesser capacity, but he remains with the organization nonetheless and will look to return to form with the WooSox to begin the 2021 season.

With the addition of Walden, Boston’s spring training roster now stands at approximately 72 players.

Catcher Kevin Plawecki and outfielder Franchy Cordero remain on the club’s COVID-19 related injured list.

(Picture of Marcus Walden: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts dealing with shoulder soreness, Alex Cora says

Xander Bogaerts is “a little bit banged up” and dealing with some right shoulder soreness, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Monday.

The 28-year-old shortstop arrived to camp in Fort Myers on time a little more than a week ago, but had been shut down from throwing at one point on account of that aforementioned soreness.

That said, it sounds like he is starting to make some progress towards a full recovery.

As for the reason why Bogaerts has been hindered by a sore shoulder, that has something to do with the fact that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affected his offseason workouts in his home country of Aruba.

“He rushed himself with his throwing program during the offseason,” Cora said of the star infielder. “With everything that is going on with the virus, there were a few things he wasn’t able to do in Aruba because of lockdowns or whatever they had going on down there for the right reasons. So it wasn’t a regular offseason on that end.”

Despite those limitations, Bogaerts was still able to hit, but he may have overdone things with his throwing program in order to make up for lost time.

“He was able to hit and all that, but his throwing program wasn’t perfect. So he rushed himself,” said Cora. “He was sore for a few days. We shut him down. He should be back to throwing in the next couple of days. He will take groundballs and all that. The hitting part, he’ll be okay in a few days.”

Although Cora did not reveal when Bogaerts would be fit enough to make his Grapefruit League debut this spring, he did not seem all that concerned that the two-time All-Star would miss the start of the 2021 season, which begins on April 1.

“We just got to be patient,” the Sox skipper stated. “We got plenty of days — 30 more days. As of now, we do feel that he should be ready for Opening Day.”

Additionally, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato that Bogaerts had an MRI on his sore shoulder, though said MRI revealed “nothing concerning.”

Bloom, like Cora, expects Bogaerts to be ready for Opening Day.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi evaluates his first start of the spring: ‘I was excited and rushing through everything, so it was not as crisp as I would like it’

For the first time in nearly a year, Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi threw in front of fans on Sunday in the team’s Grapefruit League opener against the Twins.

Pitching in front of approximately 2,200 spectators at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, the 31-year-old was able to get some adrenaline flowing even before he took the mound in the first inning.

“Driving into the ballpark, there’s a lot of cars waiting to get in,’ Eovaldi said via Zoom. “They say 24% [capacity], you don’t know what that’s going to look like. Everybody’s spaced out, it looks like a full ballpark. So it’s exciting having the fans in there. They’re heckling a little bit. That’s part of the game, you miss it. Juices were definitely flowing. You’re facing another team in the batter’s box, you’re not facing your guys anymore, and you got the fans cheering. So it’s baseball again. It feels good.”

Eovaldi surrendered two earned runs on two hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with two strikeouts over 1 1/3 innings of work on Sunday. He needed 38 pitches to record those four outs, 23 of which went for strikes.

“I was just excited,” said Eovaldi when asked to evaluate his performance. “I felt like I was rushing through my delivery. For the most part, my offspeed wasn’t very good. I felt like my fastball was good. The cutter I felt like was the best pitch today, I felt like I was locating it pretty well. Curveball was good. The slider and splitter not so much.”

Per Baseball Savant, the Houston native threw 18 four-seam fastballs, 10 cutters, five splitters, and five curveballs. It’s likely some of the sliders he threw registered as cutters.

Out of those 38 pitches thrown, Eovaldi eclipsed 97 mph 14 times, 98 mph nine times, and 99 mph four times. All in all, he topped out at 99.5 mph with his heater and averaged 97.9 mph on the radar gun with it.

“I’ve been feeling good all camp,” said the fireballer. “I feel like the velocity’s been there earlier on in the live BPs. In the offseason I have access to to one of the Rapsodos (performance measurement devices) as well, so I know the velocity’s been there. It’s usually not one of the things I have to worry about when getting ready.”

While velocity was not an area of concern for Eovaldi on Sunday, he did attribute some of his early struggles to how quickly he was moving on the mound, or his tempo, which is something he feels he can improve upon for his next outing.

“We’ll get back to the grind,” he said. “I think I got six days in between now, so I’ll be facing the Twins again at home. Body’s feeling good. I got the work in that I wanted to get. I got to work out of the stretch, deep into counts, all that. So overall, it’s obviously not what I wanted results-wise, but I got the work in and that was the main thing and I feel good.”

As he said himself, Eovaldi’s next start will come against the Twins at JetBlue Park next Saturday since the Red Sox are utilizing a six-man rotation to begin the spring.

“My arm feels good. As long as my tempo is there, the pitches are consistent,” Eovaldi stated. “I had times today where my tempo was there. It’s just the rhythm of my mechanics. It allows me to get out front and execute the pitches well. Today, I was excited and rushing through everything, so it was not as crisp as I would like it.”

Eovaldi, who turned 31 earlier this month, is on track to open the 2021 season — his third full campaign with the Sox — as the club’s No. 2 starter.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)