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.

 

Red Sox Top Northeastern 3-0 in Spring Training Opener

For the first time since September 29th, 2019, the Boston Red Sox have won a baseball game, as they opened up exhibition play on Friday afternoon with a 3-0 victory over the Northeastern Huskies in a seven-inning contest.

The plan for the Sox was to use one pitcher per inning on Friday, and that’s exactly what they stuck to.

25-year-old Australian left-hander Daniel McGrath got things started by walking the first two hitters he faced, but settled down with the help of his catcher Connor Wong in addition to striking out a pair to keep things scoreless.

From there, recently-acquired right-handed reliever Austin Brice fanned two more hitters and got more help from Wong in a scoreless second, righty Robinson Leyer struck out two and stranded two runners in a scoreless third, Trevor Hildenberger scattered one hit in an otherwise clean fourth frame, Denyi Reyes retired three of the four he faced in a shutout fifth, and Adam Lau maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk thanks to Roldani Baldwin in a scoreless top half of the sixth.

After his side finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, 24-year-old righty Eduardo Bazardo closed things out for Boston by sitting down the only three hitters he faced in order in the seventh to secure the 3-0 victory over the Huskies.

In total, Sox pitching combined for seven scoreless innings while yielding just four hits and three walks to go along with 11 total strikeouts on the afternoon.

On the other side of things, the Northeastern pitching staff held their own for a while against the Boston bats, albeit without any regulars in the lineup.

It wasn’t until the bottom half of the sixth inning when the Red Sox offense finally woke up.

There, with right-hander Rick Burroni on the mound for Northeastern, Sox prospect Marcus Wilson led things off by drawing a walk in his first and only plate appearance.

The 23-year-old then proceeded to steal second base to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with no outs for Josh Ockimey, who fanned for the first out of the frame.

A Jagger Rusconi groundout back to the pitcher meant that the Red Sox were just an out away from coming away with nothing, but Ryan Fitzgerald made sure that did not happen.

Yes, the 2019 Carolina League All-Star lined an RBI single to right-center field deep enough to plate Wilson from second and put his side on the board first.

Two more walks drawn by Baldwin and Tyler Esplin ended the day for Burroni and filled the bases for longtime PawSox mainstay Jantzen Witte.

Facing off against Huskies right-hander Henry Ennen, the 30-year-old veteran laced a two-run single through the middle of the infield to score both Fitzgerald and Baldwin from second and third.

That clutch two-RBI knock gave the Red Sox a 3-0 advantage, which would go on to be Friday’s final score in the spring training opener.

Some notes from this win:

Top prospect Jeter Downs reached base on an infield single in his first at-bat in a Red Sox uniform. He also committed a fielding error in the top half of the third and grounded into an inning-ending double play in the bottom half.

Downs was not originally slated to start for Boston on Friday, but because infielder C.J. Chatham was scratched from the lineup due to right shoulder soreness, the 21-year-old got the call instead.

Marcus Wilson will presumably begin the 2020 campaign in Double-A Portland alongside fellow outfield prospect Jarren Duran, who went 1-for-2 with a third-inning single on Friday.

The only players with big-league experience who played in this contest were Marco Hernandez, Rusney Castillo, John Andreoli, Juan Centeno, Austin Brice, and Trevor Hildenberger.

Next up for the Red Sox, Grapefruit League play begins on Saturday with an afternoon contest against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park.

Left-hander Brian Johnson is scheduled to get the start for Boston, while Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter.

It had to have been a tough offseason for Johnson, as the 29-year-old was essentially demoted off the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November.

Still, Johnson snuck through waivers and remains with Boston in a lesser capacity than he had been the previous three or so seasons. He’ll have a chance to prove himself and perhaps open some eyes on Saturday afternoon.

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

Red Sox Prospect C.J. Chatham Dealing With Right Shoulder Soreness

Red Sox infield prospect C.J. Chatham was slated to start at shortstop in Boston’s spring training opener against the Northeastern Huskies baseball team on Friday. Instead, the 25-year-old was a late scratch from the Sox’ lineup due to right shoulder soreness.

Jeter Downs, one of three players acquired in the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, got the start in Chatham’s place at short.

Ranked as Boston’s No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Chatham entered big-league camp with the chance to provide the Sox with some depth around the infield a few months after being added to the club’s 40-man roster for the first time back in November.

The former second-round pick out of Florida Atlantic University split time between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last season, slashing .298/.333/.408 with five home runs, 46 RBI, and seven stolen bases over 110 total games in 2019.

Earlier in the week, Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett told The Athletic’s Chad Jennings that Chatham has “been exposed to the outfield and could ‘potentially’ get some third base reps in preparation for a utility role.”

Depending on the severity of the soreness he is dealing with, Chatham could be held out of action for the next few days. There will probably be more news about once Friday’s contest comes to a close.

As for Downs, MLB Pipeline’s No. 44 prospect got the start at his natural position and already collected his first hit in a Red Sox uniform on a first inning infield single. He has also committed a fielding error.

 

New Red Sox Catcher Jonathan Lucroy: ‘I Feel a Lot Better Than I Have in a Long Time’

New Red Sox catcher Jonathan Lucroy is entering uncharted territory as he enters his 13th season in professional baseball. That being a veteran on a minor-league deal when just a few years ago you could argue he was one of the top catchers in the game.

When speaking to reporters at JetBlue Park for the first time on Thursday, the 33-year-old backstop did not make light of how he ended up in his current predicament.

“It’s a little strange,” Lucroy said on attending big league camp as a non-roster invite. “This is the first time I have had to do this. But, it’s OK. It’s just a part of the business side of baseball. Honestly, it’s what I deserve. I haven’t played good. So, it’s kind of where we’re at. You make your bed, you got to sleep in it. It’s just something I have to deal with and that’s OK. It’s a part of life.”

Spending last season with the Angels and Cubs, Lucroy posted an unimpressive .232/.305/.355 slash line to go along with eight home runs and 36 RBI over 101 total games played. He also ranked as one of the worst defensive catchers who caught at least 500 innings, according to FanGraphs.

The Florida native did miss time last year due to a broken nose and concussion, and he underwent major neck surgery earlier in the offseason to replace a cervical disc that he discussed in detail on Thursday.

“I had a herniated disc in my neck the past three years,” said Lucroy. “I’d like to sit here and make excuses to say that was the reason I haven’t played good, but I’m not going to. It did effect me, but I got it taken care of and I feel a lot better than I have in a long time.”

Going back to his days with the Brewers, Lucroy does have some familiarity with Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke, who served as Lucroy’s skipper from 2011 until May 2015.

“I’ve known Ron for a long time,” Lucroy said. “We had a lot of good times together. He’s a really good guy, a really good manager. He’s a quality pickup for the Red Sox. Speaking from experience with him, he’s a huge positive for the Red Sox for sure.”

Lucroy also said that before signing with Boston, he received a call from Roenicke to essentially recruit him.

“He called me and wanted me to come,” Lucroy said of Roenicke. “He was like ‘Look, you got an opportunity here. You come here and you got an opportunity to make a team’ and right now, that’s all you can ask for as a guy in my position.”

The two-time All-Star also mentioned how enticing it was to get the chance to work with Jason Varitek, as the former Sox captain “is very respected in the catching world.”

The road for Lucroy to break camp on Boston’s Opening Day roster is not an easy one, with the club already having former Mets and Indians backstop Kevin Plawecki on its 40-man roster and on a guaranteed deal for the 2020 season, albeit for only $900,000.

Lucroy did not sound all that concerned about playing time in the majors for the time being though, as he emphasized how he has to “make the team first and contribute where he can to help the [Red Sox] win.”

For someone who has the kind of résumé Lucroy does, you might think he would be one to feel disrespected by the notion of not receiving a major-league contract offer, but as previously mentioned, he was brutally honest about his recent performance over the last few years.

“Analytically, I’ve been terrible,” he said. “Seriously, I’m not trying to make excuses. So, I’m not surprised I didn’t get a big league offer. Not at all.”

If he is able to regain some of the form he put on display during the middle parts of the previous decade, Lucroy could be an intriguing addition to a Red Sox team that dealt Sandy Leon to the Indians back in December.

According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Lucroy would earn $1.5 million if he plays in the majors this season. He will be wearing the No. 12.

Brock Holt Bids Farewell to Red Sox in Touching Instagram Post

In case you missed it, former Red Sox utilityman Brock Holt officially inked a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers earlier Wednesday, meaning he will no longer be part of the organization he had spent the previous seven years with.

For both his work on and off the field, Holt emerged as a fan favorite in Boston, and he expressed his gratitude towards the city in a touching farewell Instagram post Wednesday.

“Boston. You turned a Texas boy into one of your own,” Holt wrote in the above caption. “It has been my absolute honor to play for your team and be a part of your city. Baseball is just that. Baseball. It doesn’t last forever. The relationships I’ve built will. I became a husband, a father, and a champion while playing for you.”

While with the Red Sox, the Texas native married his wife Lakyn in November 2013 and the two welcomed their first child, Griffin, in December 2016. He also played an integral role for the Sox during their historic run to a World Series title in 2018.

“I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has been a part of this chapter with us,” Holt added. “And thank you for letting me be a part of yours. It was a damn good time!”

Since the start of the 2015 season, Holt had served as the Red Sox’ Jimmy Fund captain and was the club’s nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award on four separate occasions because of it.

The 31-year-old had become a steady veteran presence in Boston’s clubhouse over the last few years and seemed to have close relationships with several of his teammates, including Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez.

“He was a character in here,” Martinez said of Holt’s departure. “He was fun to be around. You wish him the best, but that’s the business side of it.”

As Holt wrote in his Instagram post, “Baseball is just that. Baseball. It doesn’t last forever. The relationships I’ve built will.” He will be missed and I am already looking forward to the Brewers’ trip to Fenway Park in early June.