Not much of a surprise here. For the first time in his Red Sox career, Chris Sale will be starting on Opening Day at the Trop against the Rays. With nine days to go until the season starts, I would expect the lefty to make one more exhibition start before preparing for the regular season. He pitched yesterday, so I am going to guess he will pitch again this Saturday against the Houston Astros for the last time this spring.
Sale surpassed 300 strikeouts for the first time in his career in 2017 while finishing second in American League Cy Young voting behind Corey Kluber. With new leadership, it is possible that Sale is a little more reserved with his arsenal to start this new season, compared to how he came out guns blazing last year. If he can extend himself later into the season and the postseason, this change could be very beneficial for both Sale and the team. The Red Sox open the season at 4 PM on Thursday, March 29th, on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays.
On a day where Chris Sale was pitching, I am surprisingly not writing about him. Instead, I am writing about today’s starting short stop, Xander Bogaerts. Before the lineup scored four runs in the bottom half of the ninth, Bogaerts had been the only source of offensive production for the Red Sox. In his three at bats, the 25-year-old Aruba native reached base twice while driving in two runs. The first RBI came on a solo shot in the fourth inning, the second on an RBI single in the sixth. Here they both are in this convenient video:
Today’s performance at the plate now puts Bogaerts’ batting average at .353 for the spring, to go along with an impressive OPS of 1.025.
With less than ten days until Opening Day, the Red Sox have now won seven Grapefruit League games in a row. Craig Kimbrel came back from his family emergency today as well, so things are looking up right now. A healthy Xander Bogaerts could be a big addition to this Red Sox lineup, even more so if he can get his power numbers up. In three full big league seasons, the most home runs the short stop has hit is only 21, which took place in 2016. He has already hit two in 37 plate appearances this spring, so we could be looking at Xander hitting home runs at a much higher clip in 2018. Expecting X to bounce back in a big way this year.
Going into today winning their last five games, Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi did his part in ensuring the winning streak continues. The bats were quiet up until the top half of the fifth inning. After Christian Vazquez led off the inning by flying out to center, the next three Red Sox hitters reached base. A single by Rusney Castillo was followed up by a Mookie Betts RBI double, giving the Red Sox their first and only lead of the game. With the very next at bat, Andrew Benintendi launched a pitch from Brett McKinney of the Pittsburgh Pirates over the right field wall in Bradenton, and hit it over everything.
Benintendi ended the game 1 for 2 with that solo shot, and he is now slashing .433/.486/.900 this spring. That’s an OPS of 1.386. I know they’re just spring training numbers, but it’s hard not to be impressed with what Benintendi has done with the 30 at bats he has gotten this month. I expect a borderline great season from our everyday left fielder in 2018.
The Red Sox celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in style on Saturday. Rocking the green uniforms and clinching their fifth straight win in Grapefruit League play with a narrow 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. The lineup did not do much today, but they didn’t need to thanks to the efforts of two first basemen, Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis.
Trailing by four runs, Moreland put the first Red Sox run on the board in the home half of the fifth inning, taking a 2-1 pitch from Rays pitcher Andrew Kittredge and sending it over the right field wall.
In the very next inning, with runners on second and third, Sam Travis took the game into his own hands and gave the Red Sox a one-run lead by mashing a three-run home run over the Fenway South Monster.
That was all the scoring the Red Sox bullpen needed to lock down this win. With those two home runs, Moreland and Travis now have two and four long balls this spring respectively. The way things look now, it’s difficult to see how Travis will find at bats with the big league club, but performances like the one he had today certainly help his case.
Also, one more shout out to these beauties. I wish they could be worn more than once a year.
After throwing a simulated game last Saturday, David Price finally made his long-awaited 2018 Grapefruit League debut for the Red Sox today against the Blue Jays. The lefty tossed four innings, allowing two total baserunners while striking out five.
He only needed 55 pitches, 62% of which were strikes, to get through those four innings. I expect his next start to come against the Pirates next Tuesday, so if he pitches like he did today, Price could see even more innings of work. Of course, that all depends on if he throws more pitches, but we’ll have to wait and see for that.
Also, here’s a Christian Vazquez home run. Enjoy.
Interesting story developing on a Wednesday evening. After not landing a major league coaching job this offseason, old friend John Farrell has taken a job with the Reds as a scout. Although it’s not clear what his role will be this season, he will start by scouting within the Reds organization starting tomorrow, as can be seen in the attached tweet above.
The five years Farrell spent at the helm of the Red Sox were full of ups and downs, literally. As a team, the Red Sox either finished first (2013,2016,2017) or last (2014,2015) in the American League East. He got off to a great start in 2013 with an emotional World Series win. That was followed by back to back last place finishes in the division with a fight against cancer along the way. The last two years of his managerial tenure were historic, as he became the first Red Sox manager to win back to back division titles in franchise history. Despite that, the team did not find any success in the playoffs, and that is one of the main reasons Farrell was let go after getting eliminated in the ALDS by the Houston Astros.
Now, Farrell is on a new path. Going from managing a team with great expectations to scouting for a team in a rebuild is probably an adjustment. There’s going to be a whole lot less pressure on Farrell’s shoulders in his new role, so hopefully he can enjoy that before deciding to get back in the managerial game or not. So, congrats on getting back on your feet John. Maybe you will be taking over for Bryan Price before we know it.
In his second start of the spring, Red Sox ace Chris Sale was even better than he was in his 2018 debut last Friday. He gave up a run to the Marlins in that start, but he didn’t give anything up to the Minnesota Twins today. Once again, I can’t find any video since the game was not televised, but the lefty did raise his strikeout total up to 12 by striking out seven Twins in only five innings pitched. In those five innings, Sale faced 17 batters and only allowed two to reach base via a single in the first and a triple in the second. Expect the 28-year-old hurler to make his next start against the Phillies next Monday. Maybe we’ll see more pitches from him. David Price gets the start against the Blue Jays tomorrow.
I will put any video here when it is released.