Medfield Native Matt Klentak Steps Down as Phillies General Manager

Matt Klentak has stepped down as general manager of the Phillies, the club announced earlier Saturday.

Klentak, a native of Medfield, Mass., had been on the job in Philadelphia since October 2015.

In his tenure as the youngest general manager in franchise history, Klentak saw the Phillies post a .460 winning percentage (326-382) while failing to reach the postseason in any of his five seasons at the helm in spite of facing increasingly lofty expectations.

A graduate of Xaverian Brothers High School in Braintree, Klentak attended and played baseball at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire before earning a bachelor’s degree in economics.

Despite losing the GM title with the Phils, Klentak will remain in the organization and serve a different role within the club’s front office.

“While I am disappointed that we failed to reach our ultimate goal, I am nevertheless very proud of the progress that this organization made over the last five years and of the people who worked so hard to make it happen,” the 40-year-old Klentak said in a statement. “I am grateful for all of the support that I received along the way from Phillies ownership, friends and colleagues, and our loyal Phillies fans.”

As it now turns out, one of the final major moves Klentak made as Phillies general manager was dealing right-handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold to the Red Sox in exchange for righty relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree back in late August.

That four-player swap proved to be very costly for Philadelphia’s postseason chances, as Workman posted a 6.92 ERA and 1.146 OPS against over 14 appearances and 13 innings pitched out of the Phillies bullpen. Hembree, meanwhile, yielded 13 earned runs in just 9 1/3 innings pitched (12.54 ERA) before hitting the injured list with a right elbow strain.

Workman, 32, is now a free agent, while Hembree, who turns 32 in January, has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining before reaching free agency at the end of the 2021 season.

Red Sox Prospect Hudson Potts Made Positive First Impression in Pawtucket This Year, Has Chance To Be ‘Interesting’ Player in 2021

Infielder Hudson Potts was a late addition to the Red Sox’ player pool this season on account of the fact he was acquired from the Padres on August 30.

The 21-year-old arrived at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket in early September and, unlike the majority of players and prospects who were already there, did not have a ton of time to get acclimated to a completely new environment.

Still, Potts impressed and showed glimpses of promises in his first go-around as a Red Sox prospect. PawSox manager Billy McMillon, who was one of the main authority figures at the alternate site these past two-plus months, made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Friday.

“I was really, really impressed with his approach at the plate,” McMillon said of Potts. “He would hit a ball to the pull side 400 feet and then hit a line drive to right-center field. Big, strong kid. He showed a little bit of defensive versatility, too. We played him some at second base. The lion’s share of his work was at third base.”

Originally drafted by San Diego as a shortstop out of high school in the first round of the 2016 amateur draft, Potts is listed at 6-foot-3 and 218 lbs. Those measurements seemed to remind McMillon of a former Red Sox prospect who could play third base.

“If you look at him physically, body type, he kind of reminds you of a Will Middlebrooks,” the Pawtucket skipper added. “That’s the first person I thought about when I saw him. Good kid. Very, very hard worker. I like him. He’s going to be an interesting person when we try to slot him in next year with a full year of Double-A under his belt. We got something from San Diego with him.”

Potts, who along with outfielder Jeisson Rosario was dealt to Boston in the trade that saw Mitch Moreland go to the Padres, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 20 prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

As McMillon mentioned, Potts played a full season’s worth of Double-A baseball last year. In 107 games for the Amarillo Sod Poodles, the Southlake, Texas native posted a .227/.290/.406 slash line to go along with 16 home runs and 59 RBI over 448 plate appearances.

Going back to 2017, Potts has clubbed at least 15 homers in each of his last three minor-league seasons, so he has rightfully earned the reputation of being a power-hitting prospect. On top of that, FanGraphs regards the young infielder’s power tool as one of the best in the organization.

Despite those accolades, Potts is striving to improve his approach at the plate to show that he is capable of being an all-around hitter opposed to just a power hitter.

“I know that’s probably one of the things that has been one of my better things throughout my career,” he said in regards to his slugging abilities back in September. “But, once I learn and make adjustments to my approach that I need to make, I feel like I can be a lot more than just a power guy. I feel like I can be a complete hitter and I just need to work on that and get to that spot I know I’m capable of doing. That’s what I’m striving to be, an all-around hitter, not just a power hitter.”

Because he signed with the Padres as a 17-year-old back in 2016, Potts is now eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December. In order to not expose him to that, the Red Sox will have to add Potts to their 40-man roster by late November.

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom Appears Confident Andrew Benintendi Can Bounce Back in 2021

On the night of August 11, it appeared as though Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi was on the verge of potentially turning his 2020 season around.

Entering the day with just two hits through his first 36 plate appearances of the year, the 26-year-old managed to double his hit total within the first three innings against the Rays that Tuesday with a pair of leadoff singles.

Fast forward to the eighth, and Benintendi again reached base after getting plunked by an Aaron Loup sinker.

An Alex Verdugo single to shallow left field moments later allowed Benintendi to advance to second base, but as the University of Arkansas product rounded the bag to take off for third, he subsequently slipped while on the run and wound up getting caught in a rundown.

As he made one last effort to reach third base, Benintendi slid head first before getting tagged out, but appeared to get up rather slowly after said out was recorded.

On August 12, the Cincinnati native was placed on the injured list after getting diagnosed with a right rib cage strain, which would wind up costing him the rest of the season.

“It’s frustrating,” Benintendi said at the time he was placed on the IL. “I got a few hits. I was feeling good. Felt like I was about to get hot, so, I mean, I’m frustrated.”

With his 2020 season prematurely coming to a close, Benintendi has now seen his on-field performance continue to decline going back to the start of the 2019 campaign.

In his first full two seasons with Boston, the 2015 first-round draft pick got on base 36% of the time while posting an OPS+ of 113 over a 299-game span that saw him nearly win American League Rookie of the Year and become a first-time All-Star.

Since then, though, as previously mentioned, Benintendi has been rather underwhelming, as he slashed .266/.343/.431 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI in 138 games played last year before running into the buzz saw that was 2020.

Still, even as he trends ever so slightly in the wrong direction two years out from free agency, Benintendi is still viewed as a plus-player in the eyes of the Red Sox front office. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.

“I think talent-wise, I wouldn’t factor this year into an evaluation of his talent at all,” Bloom said of Benintendi’s prospects. “I mean, this guy has great all-around ability. It’s just unfortunate how the year started. He actually looked great at Summer Camp, and then for whatever reason the season opened and he wasn’t operating on all cylinders. He had a couple bad weeks and then got hurt, so I wouldn’t let that change anyone’s mind.

“I thought he looked great coming in both in spring training and Summer Camp,” Bloom continued. “This is a guy who has shown the ability to perform at a really high level, including in some really critical situations. Still young, still has all that ability. It’s just a shame that his year kind of got wiped out.”

As he continues to recover from that rib cage strain, Benintendi is expected to undergo a typical offseason where he will not be limited in his activities.

“He’s not full-go at this moment if we were still playing,” said Bloom. “That shouldn’t be a surprise. But, substantively, his offseason should be pretty normal.”

From there, depending on what Bloom and Co. do between now and February, Benintendi should be in line to be a prime bounce-back candidate in 2021, especially with the potential he still brings to the table.

What Does Future Hold for Red Sox’ Jonathan Araúz?

It took until the final inning of the final game of the regular season, but Red Sox infielder Jonathan Arauz collected his first career major-league home run in the top half of the ninth of Sunday’s 9-1 victory over the Braves.

Per Statcast, Arauz’s solo blast traveled 347 feet and had an exit velocity of 93 mph coming off a 1-1, 87 mph cutter at the top of the strike zone from Atlanta reliever Josh Tomlin. Not exactly a moonshot, but the 22-year-old will certainly take it, especially when it wraps up a three-hit afternoon.

By going 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBI on Sunday, Arauz finishes his first full big-league season with a slash line of .250/.325/.319 to go along with that lone big fly and nine total runs driven in on the year.

In remaining with Boston for the entirety of the 2020 campaign, Arauz is now in a position where he could remain a member of the Sox organization for the foreseeable future.

Last December, the Red Sox selected Arauz from the Astros in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft and wound up paying Houston $100,000 to do so.

Because the Panama native made it through the entire year without getting offered back to his previous club for $50,000, though, the Sox can now maintain his services without the risk of losing him to waivers.

Prior to the 2020 season, Arauz had never played a single minor-league game above the Double-A level. With that in mind, it appears that the switch-hitting infielder could be in line to see significant playing time at the Triple-A level in 2021.

Regardless of how the minor-leagues are formatted next year, the Red Sox will still have their Triple-A affiliate in Worcester, Mass. It remains to be seen if the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will also derail the 2021 minor-league season, but assuming it doesn’t, Arauz should be part of a solid mix of infielders there that could include the likes of Jeter Downs, C.J. Chatham, and Chad De La Guerra.

Unlike those three, Arauz already has some major-league experience. And although he did not exactly shine this season, he did show some flashes with the bat (went 12-for-30 at the plate from Aug. 10-23) and proved that with time, he could become capable of adequately playing multiple positions (2B, 3B, SS) around the infield.

Arauz was one of 28 Red Sox players to make their club debuts and one of six to make their major-league debuts this season. Considering he is presumably under team control through 2025, it should it be fascinating to see what Arauz’s role with Boston looks like for 2021 and beyond in the coming months.

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts Reflects on Emotional Final Day of 2020 Regular Season

The Red Sox wrapped up their 2020 regular season with a 9-1 victory over the Braves on Sunday afternoon to finish the year with a record of 24-36.

Before Sunday’s series finale against Atlanta had even started, though, the club announced that Ron Roenicke would not return as manager in 2021, which was the catalyst for an emotional day all around among Red Sox players and staff alike.

For one, Xander Bogaerts, who by all accounts is one of this team’s emotional leaders, did not find out about the news of Roenicke’s dismissal until he arrived at Truist Park.

“It was tough. Coming to the ballpark, no one really expected that, but that’s the way stuff goes in life sometimes,” Bogaerts said when speaking with reporters via Zoom. “He was a huge influence for me personally, in my life and also my baseball career. And I know for sure he’s meant a lot to the other guys… I feel like he was just the perfect guy for the situation with this tough year. It was tough coming to the ballpark, especially losing a lot, and he just found a good way to communicate with us and try to make you feel good and important.

“He’s definitely someone that we will miss,” Bogaerts continued. “It was a tough year, and I remember before the game I was like ‘If I hit a homer today, I’m going to go up to him and give him a big hug before I go into the dugout, before I go to all the other guys.'”

Bogaerts did crush his 11th homer of the season in the top half of the fifth Sunday to put his side up 3-1, but he incidentally forget to give Roenicke that hug as he made his way back towards the Boston dugout after touching home plate.

“Everything just happened so quick and I kind of just forgot,” the 27-year-old recounted. “But I told myself that I would try to hit one for him and try to win this game for him. Obviously, it’s been a tough year, and it was some rough news for sure.”

On top of playing his final game with Roenicke as his manager, Bogaerts may have also played his final game with Jackie Bradley Jr. as his teammate.

Bradley Jr., who went 3-for-6 with a solo shot out of the leadoff spot and dazzled in the outfield on Sunday, is set to become a free agent for the first time in his big-league career this winter. A reunion between the 30-year-old Gold Glover and the Sox does not seem imminent at this point in time.

“He’s been through a lot here,” Bogaerts said of his teammate for parts of the last seven seasons. “We all know how good he is with the glove, we don’t need to speak about that anymore because he is obviously one of the best in the game to do that.”

While providing his typical, superb defensive prowess, which as mentioned was on full display Sunday, Bradley Jr. also enjoyed great success at the plate in 2020, as he finished the 60-game campaign boasting a .283/.364/.540 slash line, much to the delight of his teammates.

“For [Bradley Jr.] to be consistent with the bat this year, I think that was really nice,” said Bogaerts. “I know that’s something he’ll be very proud of going back and looking at the season that he had. He finished on a real strong note and I hope that he can stay here. I wish him nothing but the best for him and his family, because he’s also one of those guys who is a truly great person. He’s a good baseball player, but he’s an even better person and those guys deserve a lot. As I said, he’s been through some rough stretches here, but in the end I think with the season that he had, it was a nice season for him.”

Here’s to hoping that Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. will once again share the same field together in 2021.

Ron Roenicke Will Not Return To Manage Red Sox in 2021, Club Announces

Ron Roenicke will not return to the manage the Red Sox in 2021, the club announced Sunday.

Roenicke, 64, was named Boston’s manager back in February in place of Alex Cora and will have led the club to either a 23-37 or 24-36 record in 2020 depending on how Sunday’s season finale against the Braves goes.

In his lone season as the Sox’ 48th manager in franchise history, Roenicke was put in a number of difficult spots regarding both on and off-the-field issues he really had no control of, such as Mookie Betts and David Price getting traded to the Dodgers, Chris Sale missing the year due to Tommy John surgery, Eduardo Rodriguez missing the year due to myocarditis, and of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, in a statement released by the Red Sox, had the following to say about Roenicke:

“Throughout this difficult season, Ron’s consistency and professionalism kept the environment in our clubhouse productive and gave all of our players room to grow and develop,” said Bloom. “While we believe that, moving forward, we will benefit from new leadership and new energy, that does not diminish how strongly we feel about Ron. He is a man of the highest character who cares about our players and the Red Sox organization. As bench coach, he helped this team win a world championship. As manager, he showed poise and leadership in navigating an extremely challenging year. We are grateful for all of his contributions in our uniform.”

With the dismissal of Roenicke, Bloom and Co. will begin the search for a new manager immediately. As you have likely already heard, expect Cora, who led the Sox to a World Series title in 2018, to be the most popular name linked to the opening before an official announcement is made.

Red Sox Rookie Bobby Dalbec Has Call of Duty To Thank for Tight Relationship With J.D. Martinez

J.D. Martinez is leaning towards not opting out of his current contract and remaining with the Red Sox for the 2021 season. The 33-year-old slugger made that much clear when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Friday.

While alluding to the notion that he will remain with the Sox next year, Martinez also had some kind words for a teammate who could emerge as a legitimate major-league slugger himself. That teammate’s name? Bobby Dalbec.

“He’s definitely got some tools,” Martinez said of the 25-year-old rookie. “He’s a really good kid, always asking questions, very humble, very quiet. He’s got a lot of power. I could see him being an impact [bat] in this lineup for the future, definitely sticking around.”

After making his big-league debut at the end of August, Dalbec came into Saturday with a .274/.361/.603 slash line to go along with seven home runs and 14 RBI through 21 games and 83 plate appearances thus far.

In those 83 plate appearances, the University of Arizona product has struck out 43.4% of the time, which according to FanGraphs is the highest rate among American League rookies who have accrued at least 80 trips to the plate. Getting that strikeout rate down is something Dalbec will need to improve upon as he prepares for his first full major-league season, and Martinez knows that.

“He’s going to have to make adjustments,” Martinez added. “I know he is, just because that’s the league. Once this league makes adjustments on you, that’s the biggest test, if the hitter can make the adjustment back. That’s when you find out, to me personally, if guys can stick around in the big leagues or not.”

Despite punching out at a rather high clip, Dalbec still manages to get on base frequently, as his walk rate (10.8%) and on-base percentage (.361) ranks fifth among AL rookies with 80 or more PAs this season.

“Talent-wise, I don’t see any reason why [Dalbec] can’t be an impact bat,” said Martinez. “You see what he’s been able to do in a short period of time.”

In his brief stint with Boston since his promotion on August 30, Dalbec has made sure to absorb as much useful information from veterans like Martinez, which is something he started doing while at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2019.

“We always talk,” Martinez said in regards to his relationship with Dalbec. “We got close because we used to play Call of Duty together. We used to play Zombies on Call of Duty all the time… and he’d always ask me questions while we played video games. Once he came up here, or even when he was in Triple-A, he would text me about stuff he was struggling with, certain pitchers, certain pitch types, he would talk to me. Up here, it’s been kind of the same thing. He comes to me about pitchers all the time and what I think about certain moves, what I think about certain ideas.”

If Martinez does indeed remain with the Red Sox going into the 2021 campaign, how he interacts with and/or mentors Dalbec certainly could be something to keep an eye on as soon as spring training begins in February.

Red Sox’ Tanner Houck Leaning on Nathan Eovaldi To Help Develop Splitter

As rookie right-hander Tanner Houck prepares to make his third and final start of the 2020 season against the Braves on Saturday, he is also looking ahead to the offseason.

The 24-year-old has impressed during his first two turns through the Red Sox rotation, yielding just one unearned run on three hits and six walks to go along with 11 strikeouts over 11 total innings pitched.

Houck has thrown 171 pitches in those two starts, and according to Statcast, 33% of those pitches have been sliders, 32% have been four-seam fastballs, 30% have been sinkers, and 5% have been split-finger fastballs.

That splitter, Houck’s newest and least-used pitch thus far, is something the former first-round pick is looking to continue to develop over the winter, and he’s seeking out advice from a fellow Red Sox rotation mate in order to do so.

“The main focus is continuing to develop the splitter,” Houck said of his offseason plans when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Friday. “That’s been a pitch that I started throwing during spring training 1.0 of this year. I’ve seen a lot of growth with it. A guy that I’ve talked to a lot about with the splitter is [Nathan] Eovaldi. He’s a great guy to talk about pitching and he has one of the nastiest splits, so I’ve been bouncing questions off him, how he holds it, what he’s thinking whenever he throws it. That’s step No. 1, to just develop that third pitch along with continuing to develop a feel for a two-seam going glove side, a four-seam going arm side, and just being able to move the ball around.”

Per Statcast, Houck is averaging a velocity of 87.1 mph and a spin rate of 1,571 revolutions per minute with the eight splitters he has thrown so far this year. Eovaldi, meanwhile, is averaging a velocity of 87.9 mph and a spin rate of 1,486 revolutions per minute with the 105 splitters he has thrown in 2020.

This isn’t the first time Eovaldi has doled out veteran wisdom to a younger Red Sox hurler, either. Back in August, rookie southpaw Kyle Hart said that the 30-year-old had helped him better understand the system some of the club’s starting pitchers use to scout other teams.

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo on Aggressive Baserunning Style: ‘When You’re Sniffing a Hit, You’re Going to Do Whatever You’ve Got to Do to Get That Hit’

Going into Thursday night’s game against the Orioles, Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo has accrued a team-leading 62 hits so far this season. Out of those 62 knocks, at least three were infield singles where the 24-year-old found himself sliding head-first into first base.

That kind of approach is typically frowned upon due to the potentially painful consequences involved, but that has not prevented Verdugo from being aggressive coming out of the batter’s box. And because said approach is resulting in base hits, it has not been put to a halt by Sox manager Ron Roenicke, either.

“I know he plays all-out and some of that, he’s going to get banged up,” Roenicke said of Verdugo earlier Thursday. “The diving head-first into first. But, it’s hard to tell a guy not to do that. I mean, both times he’s done it lately he got base hits, so it’s hard to tell him not to do that. But, he’s going to get banged up because he plays hard. He prepares hard, he’s emotional, he’s got energy, he’s got all the things you like in a ballplayer that just loves to go out there and get dirty.”

In his first season with Boston, Verdugo has proven to be one of the more energetic players on the field at any given moment whether he is at the plate, on the base paths, or in the outfield. That is the kind of athlete he strives to be, and since that style has produced quality results thus far, the Arizona native is not planning on toning it down with his approach anytime soon.

“I don’t like scaling it back,” Verdugo said during his pregame media availability on Thursday. “I start scaling it back and I feel like I fall into the trend of what a lot of players do and that’s not running down the line hard. For me, I had my times where I did that and my parents would get on me and say that’s not the way to play the game. They’re right. They’re absolutely right. I just figured you got to bust your butt, you got to play hard. There are just times where the play is in front of you, and you feel like you can get there a little quicker diving and I do it. It’s just a natural habit.

“I’m very well aware of the injuries,” Verdugo added. “Your shoulder, jamming it, your thumb, anything like that. I also try not to hit the very front of the bag… I try to get the front part of the bag, but like on top so I slide right over it, so it’s not really like it’s that dangerous. Plus, I feel like I’m somewhat athletic enough to have body awareness and know how to get in there. When it’s out there right in front of you and you’re sniffing a hit, you’re going to do whatever you’ve got to do to get that hit.”

According to FanGraphs, Verdugo currently leads qualified Red Sox position players in runs scored (35), on-base percentage (.383), wOBA (.382), wRC+ (140), and fWAR (1.8). In other words, the former second-round pick has essentially been Boston’s most valuable player in an otherwise down year for the club. He also leads the majors in outfield assists (7) so far this season and could very well be in contention for his first Gold Glove Award.

Nick Pivetta Shows Promise, Offers Hope in Red Sox Debut

It had been well over a year, or 434 days to be more exact, since Nick Pivetta started a major-league game. In that July 17, 2019 contest against the Dodgers, the then-Phillies right-hander surrendered one earned run on no hits and four walks in just 2 1/3 innings of work, but was promptly demoted to the Philadelphia bullpen from that point forward.

Fast forward to Tuesday night and Pivetta, now a member of the Red Sox, got the chance to start in the majors once again against the Orioles at Fenway Park. The 27-year-old took full advantage of this opportunity, as he held Baltimore to one run on four hits and three walks to go along with eight punchouts over five strong innings of work.

That effort eventually netted Pivetta his first win of the year, and the native of British Columbia seemed quite pleased with the way things went in his Red Sox debut when speaking with reporters via Zoom postgame.

“Honestly, I’m just really grateful for this opportunity. It’s been over a year since I’ve been able to start in the big-leagues,” Pivetta said. “To be able to go out there, put up five pretty good innings, I was very elated.”

As elated as Pivetta may have been by the time his outing came to an end, how his evening began was rather shaky with three of the first five Orioles he faced reaching base on two walks and a single, resulting in that lone run crossing the plate on a D.J. Stewart RBI base knock.

With two outs in the top half of the first and runners on first and second, Pivetta found himself in a predicament where his goal was to limit the damage. He did just that by fanning Pedro Severino on four pitches, with the last strike coming on a nasty, swing-inducing 87 mph slider at the bottom of the zone. That proved to be a significant confidence booster for the righty.

“I would have liked to limit that damage a little bit more with some better fastball command,” said Pivetta. “But, getting out of that and moving into [cruise control] after that, getting my legs underneath me, get my confidence back, just relax and have some fun out there. I think that’s the biggest thing. When you get that first inning out of the way, you kind of just move into it and just go out there and compete.”

By the time he had recorded the final out of the fifth, Pivetta’s pitch count had reached 96. Out of those 96 pitches, the former Nationals prospect relied on his fastball 51% of the time, his slider 23% of the time, his curveball 21 % of the time, and his changeup 5% of the time. Relying on a healthy mix of these four pitches is something Pivetta worked to improve upon while in Pawtucket.

“Getting back as a starter, building back up, getting better command with all four of my pitches,” Pivetta continued. “That’s the pitcher that I am. You can’t go out there with two pitches, so being able to have a solid mix of four pitches, which I showcased tonight pretty well, that’s what we’ve been working on and it paid off tonight.”

Speaking of showcasing himself, Pivetta will get the starting nod in the Red Sox’ season finale against the Braves in Atlanta this coming Sunday. Two starts is obviously a small sample size, but that is no reason to believe that the 6-foot-5 hurler won’t be giving it everything he’s got as he heads towards the offseason.

“I think it’s huge,” he said. “I’m given two opportunities to showcase myself and do the best I possibly can. I’m looking forward to every opportunity I have and just moving on from that.”

Pivetta has made seven prior starts against the Braves at Truist Park. In those outings, he owns a lifetime 4.10 ERA and .731 OPS against over 37 1/3 total innings pitched. Sunday’s start in Atlanta will of course be Pivetta’s first outside of the Phillies organization.