Red Sox Left-Handed Pitching Prospect Kyle Hart Retires 18 Hitters Over Five Scoreless Innings in Pawtucket

Red Sox left-handed pitching prospect Kyle Hart did something at McCoy Stadium on Monday that you will probably never see in a major or minor-league game: He retired 18 batters in five innings.

Yes, the 27-year-old got some work in during an intrasquad scrimmage in Pawtucket to kick off the week, and he was dominant, working five scoreless, perfect frames while getting an extra out in each of his last three innings.

In regards to spectators who were in attendance to watch Hart’s outing, PawSox broadcaster Mike Antonellis tweeted that the Cincinnati native “threw well,” while fellow broadcaster Jim Cain tweeted, as previously mentioned, that “the lefty was so efficient that in his final three innings, he stayed out to face an extra batter, and he retired all three.”

Originally drafted by Boston in the 19th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of The University of Indiana, Hart was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last November and their 60-man roster pool last month.

The former Hoosier has never been a big-name prospect since becoming a professional four years ago, but seeing how he is already on the club’s 40-man roster, he certainly has a chance to make the jump to the majors this year.

Regarded by SoxProspects as Boston’s 42nd-ranked prospect, Hart posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.32 FIP over 18 appearances (15 starts) and 100 1/3 innings pitched with Triple-A Pawtucket last season.

The 6-foot-5, 200 lb. southpaw works with an 87-90 mph fastball that can max out at 92 mph, an 85-86 mph cutter, a 76-79 mph curveball, and an 81-82 mph changeup, per SoxProspects.

Given the current state of the Red Sox’ pitching staff at the major-league level, it certainly couldn’t hurt to give a guy like Hart a look out of the starting rotation or as a “bulk” reliever.

One thing Hart has over other minor-league pitchers in Boston’s pipeline, like Bryan Mata or Tanner Houck, is that he is already on the club’s 40-man roster, so getting him to the majors wouldn’t be too much of a hassle if that is the route chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. wanted to take.

Red Sox’ Josh Taylor Threw Sock to Simulate Weight of Baseball While Self-Isolating in Boston Hotel Room

As he works his way back from a bout with COVID-19, Red Sox left-hander Josh Taylor is just happy to be back throwing on an actual feel again.

After testing positive for the coronavirus during the club’s Summer Camp intake screening period last month, the 27-year-old had to self-isolate in a Boston hotel room for two weeks with virtually no physical contact from the outside world. The only time Taylor could open his door was to pick up the meals that were left for him on the hallway floor.

Because he was not allowed to go outside while in quarantine, Taylor had to get creative in staying in shape for whenever he would be able to return to the mound. He did that by using his own laundry.

“You come in ready to go,” Taylor said when recalling what went down in July via a Zoom call on Monday. “You’re ready to throw right away. Having to take the two weeks off and trying to find a way to keep yourself ready – I was throwing into a sock in the hotel room.”

Since that time, the Arizona native has been cleared to return to baseball activities and has been working out at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket.

There, as noted by The Providence Journal’s Bill Koch, Taylor ‘has thrown a pair of live batting practice sessions and is scheduled for one simulated inning on Tuesday.’ He is very much looking forward to that.

“Throwing bullpens you don’t get the sights,” said the southpaw. “You don’t get the hitter to read. I feel really good about how my stuff is coming out right now.”

Coming off a rookie campaign in which he posted a 3.11 ERA and .638 OPS against over 51 appearances and 46 1/3 innings pitched as a reliever in 2019, Taylor emerged as a dangerous left-handed weapon out of the Red Sox bullpen.

Originally acquired by Boston as the player to be named later in a trade with the Diamondbacks that sent Deven Marrero to Arizona, Taylor is itching to get back to the majors and prove he belongs once more.

“I know my time is going to come,” he said. “And hopefully sooner rather than later I’ll be up there to help the team.”

In the meantime, Taylor will continue to work out at McCoy Stadium with the other players in the Sox’ roster pool. He was initially placed on the 10-day injured list on July 14, so there shouldn’t be any problem activating him when that time comes.

Red Sox Reliever Matt Barnes Says He Has ‘Some Stuff to Figure Out’ After Tough Start to 2020 Season

The Red Sox’ first road trip of the 2020 season has not been very kind to one Matt Barnes.

On Thursday, the right-hander needed 37 pitches to work out of a bases loaded jam he got himself into in the eighth inning of an eventual 4-2 win over the Mets at Citi Field.

On Sunday, Barnes was not so fortunate, as he entered the eighth inning of a game his side had a 7-6 lead in. By the time he was done though, the 30-year-old hurler had seen that one-run lead turn into a two-run deficit. The main reason behind that was after issuing a two-out walk to Mike Tauchman, the Yankees No. 9 hitter, Barnes allowed Tauchman to steal second before allowing D.J. LeMahieu to tie the game on an RBI single to center field.

Just a few moments later, Barnes fell behind in the count against the ever-dangerous Aaron Judge, who had already gone deep earlier that night.

After falling behind 2-0 to Judge, Barnes or the Red Sox bench could have opted to put the Yankees slugger on base intentionally to avoid the worst-case scenario. Instead, Barnes hung an 84 MPH curveball on the inner half of the plate, and Judge made him pay for the mistaken location by crushing a 468-foot two-run blast deep to left field.

That put the Yankees up 9-7, and it would result in Barnes getting hit with his first loss and blown save of the season later on. The UCONN product didn’t hold back on the self-criticism during his postgame media availability.

“Can’t walk (Tauchman). Can’t walk the nine-hole hitter,” Barnes said via a Zoom call late Sunday night. In regards to serving up that two-run blast to Judge, Barnes added: “Just a poor sequence of events there.”

Through his first four relief appearances of 2020, Barnes has surrendered four earned runs on five hits (two home runs), four walks, and four strikeouts over four innings pitched. Opponents are currently slashing .313/.476/.688 off the former first-round pick. That’s not going to cut it in the long-term.

“I’ve got some stuff to figure out for sure,” Barnes added Sunday. “Hasn’t been as clean as I would have liked through the first four innings.”

Per Statcast, Barnes has relied on his curveball exactly 61% of the time he has been on the mound this season. Although it’s still relatively early, it’s becoming more clear that Barnes’ curve in 2020 is not nearly as effective as it was in 2019. That being the case because last season, opponents slugged a measly .272 off the offspeed pitch. This season, opponents are slugging .721 off it.

That is just one of several examples showing the decline in Barnes’ curveball, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibilities that the flame-throwing right-hander can bounce back from this slump as long as he figures out what he needs to figure out.

At the top of his game, Barnes is a quality set-up man, and just about every club could use one of those. Especially the Red Sox.

 

Even After Tough Loss, Red Sox Stars Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers Remain Optimistic

In what appeared to be a soul-crushing 9-7 loss to the Yankees on Sunday night, the Red Sox might actually have some positives to take away from a rather disappointing weekend in the Bronx.

Despite blowing a late lead to close out the weekend, Boston enjoyed some decent success on the offensive side of the ball, especially from the likes of Christian Vazquez, Rafael Devers, and Xander Bogaerts. The trio combined to go 7-for-13 at the plate with three home runs, six RBI, and 17 total bases between them on Sunday.

It may not have been enough for the Sox to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of their division rivals, but it could be a sign of better things to come.

“We fought back, man,” Bogaerts said via Zoom in regards to his team’s effort-level on Sunday. “This is one of the games we can take a lot of positives out. Haven’t been (many) games like this. It sucks that we lost but it was pretty fun, honestly. Back-and-forth, back-and-forth. … This game was a nice fight from us.”

Already a sixth of the way through this truncated season, the Red Sox are 3-7, good for last place in the American League East, and are getting outscored by more than one run per game.

That being said, Sunday’s loss to the first-place Yankees offered a glimpse of hope for Boston, according to Bogaerts.

“Coming into today, the energy level was different before the game,” the two-time All-Star added. “Me and (Christian) Vazquez and (Rafael) Devers were talking about that. I don’t know why. But it was just different.”

Speaking of Devers, the 23-year-old echoed the same sentiment Bogaerts did in his postgame Zoom call with reporters Sunday night, saying that, “It was fun out there. I came out there today just a bit more motivated. There was an extra fire from all of us, not just myself. We just continue to just play hard and try to get the results we wanted, but obviously we just couldn’t get it today.”

After their first off day of the season on Monday, the Red Sox will open up a two-game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field beginning on Tuesday night. Perhaps some of that optimism shared by Bogaerts and Devers can carry over to the rest of the team during the final leg of this seven-game road trip.

Red Sox Lineup: J.D. Martinez Batting Third, Starting in Right Field in Series Finale Against Yankees

After getting his first day off of the season on Saturday, J.D. Martinez is back in the Red Sox lineup, batting and third and starting in right field in Sunday night’s series finale against the Yankees.

The soon-to-be-33-year-old slugger is off to a cold start in 2020, as he is slashing just .219/.324/.313 with no home runs and three RBI through his first eight games of the campaign.

“It’s awful,” Martinez said of his swing following Friday’s 5-1 loss to New York. “Yeah, I don’t know. I’m just trying to find it, really. Just grinding away, figuring it out. But I’m sure I’ll get it.”

Through his first eight games of the season, Martinez has primarily hit out of the two-hole for Boston. Sunday will mark just the second time he has hit third in the lineup.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, one reason the three-time Silver Slugger Award winner has struggled thus far could be the fact that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he does not have any access to the Red Sox’ video replay room during games to go over his previous at-bats.

“It’s definitely been an adjustment for me,” Martinez said Friday in regards to the new protocols put in place. “It’s something that’s a big part of my routine. And it’s a big part of who I am — the studying and everything. So it’s kind of one of those things where you’ve gotta kind of find a new routine.”

With left-hander James Paxton, someone Martinez has seen well (7-for-17, 2 homers, five RBI) over the course of his career, getting the start for the Yankees on Sunday, perhaps that could get the three-time All-Star going at the plate.

Here’s how the rest of the Red Sox will be lining up behind right-hander Austin Brice, who will serve as the opener for Boston, and against Paxton on Sunday night. The left-handed bats of Andrew Benintendi, Alex Verdugo, and Mitch Moreland all sit, while Christian Vazquez DH’s and Kevin Plawecki gets the start behind the plate.

First pitch is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. eastern time on ESPN and WEEI.

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom Says Club’s Long-Term Goals Outweigh ‘Any One Player, Any One Decision’

It has been nearly two weeks since Mookie Betts signed a 12-year, $365 million contract extension with Dodgers, and for Red Sox fans, it hurts knowing the 27-year-old will likely finish his Hall of Fame career in Los Angeles.

Even after getting dealt to the Dodgers along with David Price back in February, some still held out hope that Betts would re-sign with Boston this winter seeing how locked in he appeared to be on becoming a free agent while still with the Red Sox.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, though, Betts’ outlook likely changed when considering the possibility that clubs could be strapped for cash or unwilling to spend on big-money free agents this offseason, so he took the best deal that was in front of him. That being a record-setting $365 million deal that included a $65 million signing bonus up front.

The man who traded Betts, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, had been on the job for less than four months when the blockbuster five-player swap with Los Angeles was at last finalized on February 10.

As you may recall, the Sox got back outfielder Alex Verdugo as well as infield prospect Jeter Downs and catching prospect Connor Wong in exchange for Betts and Price. That may be a nice enough return, but losing a player of Betts’ caliber still hurts, even for someone like Bloom who did not even know him that well.

When speaking with ESPN’s Joon Lee recently, Bloom said as much, stating that, “I didn’t get to know him obviously that well in my time in the organization, but certainly know how great a player he is. And even in just the short time I got to know him, I got to see why everybody thinks so highly of him.”

On top of that, Bloom also congratulated Betts on his extension with the Dodgers.

“He is a wonderful person, great teammate, great player and I’m very, very happy for him,” he added.

As happy as Bloom may be for Betts, the former Rays executive had an interesting response when asked by Lee if he is ‘philosophically opposed to mega-contracts like those given to Betts.’

“I do think this is a tough question to answer in the abstract,” he said. “Every move you consider you need to consider the merits of that particular move and you need to make sure you have a good process for looking at that and assessing how it fits into where you are as an organization and your larger goals. I think it’s a difficult thing to talk about in the abstract because of that.”

By trading Betts, it seems the Red Sox are trying to kick-start a new kind of rebuild where they can remain consistently competitive over a long period of time. In order to accomplish this, Bloom says, it’s important to not get too emotionally attached to any one player or decision, such was the case with trading Betts.

“It’s very painful when you’re attached to a player, especially a great player, to see him in another uniform,” said the Sox’ CBO in regards to trading away Betts. “I know that’s not something that really my words or anybody’s words are going to make less painful. As I said, I think our job as a front office is to set ourselves up to win as much as we can over the long haul and 2020. That’s a picture that’s much bigger than any one player, any one decision.”

 

Zack Godley Gets Taken Deep Twice, Red Sox Manage Just Two Runs in Second Straight Loss to Yankees

For a second consecutive night, a Red Sox starting pitcher only managed to pitch 3 1/3 innings in a loss at the hands of the New York Yankees. Ryan Weber did so on Friday, and newcomer Zack Godley followed by doing the same on Saturday in the Bronx.

More specifically, the veteran right-hander yielded five runs, all of which were earned, on six hits and two walks to go along with just one strikeout over those 3 1/3 innings pitched.

All five of those runs for New York off Godley came by way of the home run ball, as Aaron Judge crushed a 455-foot solo shot off the 30-year-old with one out in the first, and Gio Urshela, after seeing Luke Voit, Mike Tauchman, and Gary Sanchez reach base safely to lead off the second, clobbered a 412-foot grand slam over the center field wall. Just like that, the Yankees had themselves an early five-run edge.

If there’s any positives to take away from Godley’s first start with the Red Sox, it would be the fact that he retired seven of the next eight hitters he faced after serving up that grand slam, but two straight one-out walks of Urshela and Brett Gardner in the bottom of the fourth marked the conclusion of a rather disappointing outing.

Finishing with a final pitch count of a not-so nice 69 (39 strikes), Godley primarily remained on his cutter and changeup in this one, turning to the combination of pitches 69% of the time he was on the mound Saturday. He also topped out at 91 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw just three times.

Hit with his first loss of the year five days after tossing four scoreless innings of relief in his Red Sox debut this past Monday, Godley’s next start, assuming he gets another one, will likely come against the Blue Jays next weekend.

In relief of Godley, right-hander Chris Mazza got the first call out of the Boston bullpen with two outs in the fourth, and after escaping a bit of a jam in the inning to clean up Godley’s mess, the 30-year-old actually put together a solid performance in what was his Red Sox debut.

That being the case because Mazza, who was claimed off waivers from the Mets back in December, surrendered just one hit while fanning three and scattering two walks over 2 2/3 scoreless frames of work to to hold the Yankees at five runs scored heading into the seventh inning.

From there, Ryan Brasier punched out a pair in a perfect bottom half of the seventh and left-hander Josh Osich worked his way around a leadoff single in an otherwise clean eighth.

All in all, Sox relievers held the Bronx Bombers scoreless 4 2/3 combined innings pitched, but it was not enough in the end in what would turn out to be a 5-2 defeat.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in the form of Yankees veteran right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who was making his first official start of 2020 after sustaining a concussion in an intrasquad game last month.

With that in mind, Tanaka did not stick around very long in this one, but the Boston bats were able to get to the 31-year-old hurler prior to his early departure.

That came in the top half of the third inning, when after falling behind by five runs early on, the top of the Sox lineup got itself together for Tanaka’s second time through the order, as a one-out walk drawn by Andrew Benintendi followed by a Kevin Pillar single put runners at first and second.

Rafael Devers, the next man up, was unable to do anything with that seeing how he flew out to center for the second out of the inning, but Xander Bogaerts did not let a prime scoring opportunity go to waste, as he drilled a two-run double to the opposite field that was just a few feet shy of being a three-run homer.

Still, Bogaerts’ extra-base hit, which was later ruled just an RBI double on account of a missed catch error committed by Gleyber Torres, brought the Sox to within three runs of the Yankees at 5-2.

A las, just like the Boston bullpen, the New York bullpen didn’t give an inch in this one, either.

Tanaka was relieved by left-hander Luis Avilan after giving up that Bogaerts two-base hit, and the Yankees wouldn’t have to look back from there.

The only other time the Red Sox sent more than four batters to the plate the rest of the way came in the top half of the ninth, when Jackie Bradley Jr. and Tzu-Wei Lin reaching base with two outs in the inning off David Hale brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Benintendi.

With a skidding Benintendi at the dish in a rather huge spot, Sox manager Ron Roenicke had the option to go with J.D. Martinez off the bench. But, considering the fact he wanted the slugger to get the entire day off, he stuck with Benintendi, who proceeded to punch out on four straight strikes to kill the rally and this one with a final score of 5-2.

Some notes and observations from this loss:

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

From The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey:

The Red Sox are averaging just over three runs per game on this road trip. Poor pitching aside, that’s not going to get the job done most nights.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this three-game weekend series against the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball.

Right-hander Austin Brice will get the start and likely serve as the opener for Boston, while left-hander James Paxton will do the same for New York.

Brice, 28, has never started a game at the major-level before in his career, but he does have 114 career minor-league starts under his belt.

Paxton, meanwhile, owns a lifetime 2.88 ERA and .604 OPS against in eight career starts against the Red Sox spanning 50 total innings pitched.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. eastern time on ESPN and WEEI. Red Sox looking for win No. 4 in game No. 10 on the young season.

 

Myocarditis Shuts Down Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez for Remainder of 2020 Season

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will not pitch this season, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom announced Saturday.

The announcement comes as Rodriguez has been dealing with myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, while recovering from COVID-19, which the 27-year-old tested positive for while at home in Miami early last month.

Although mild, the myocarditis Rodriguez is dealing with is still present, resulting in him being shut down for the remainder of 2020. As noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, “the prognosis hasn’t changed but the timetable has.”

Bloom said as much when speaking with reporters Saturday, stating that, “While we remain very optimistic he will make a full recovery, due to the fact that it is persistent, and the amount of care we need to take with this, he’s not going to be able to come back and pitch this year.”

Again, the Sox fully expect Rodriguez to recover from this seeing how the myocarditis has not damaged the Venezuela native’s heart “and is not expected to impact him over the long-term,” That being said, “The recovery should be complete. It’s just a question of time.”

Heading into the season, Rodriguez was slated to be Boston’s No. 1 starter with Chris Sale going down for the year due to Tommy John surgery and David Price getting dealt to the Dodgers.

Even when the idea of Rodriguez starting on Opening Day against the Orioles last month was thrown out the window due to his bout with COVID-19, it still appeared likely that the southpaw would be a welcome addition to the Sox’ rotation sometime later in the season.

Now, the Red Sox will have to endure as they have for the first week of the 2020 campaign. That being without their best left-handed starter.

“It certainly makes the mountain a little bit higher,” Bloom said in regards to being without Rodriguez for the remainder of the season. He also mentioned the fact that the Sox are ‘monitoring the market and also working with pitchers in Pawtucket.’

While the Red Sox scour the market for more pitching, here’s to wishing Eduardo Rodriguez the best and hoping he undergoes a full recovery so that he is all systems go in 2021.

Red Sox Lineup: J.D. Martinez Sits in What Will Be Zack Godley’s First Start of Season

After pushing across just one run in a 5-1 loss at the hands of the Yankees to snap a two-game winning streak on Friday, the Red Sox will look to bounce back against Masahiro Tanaka and the Bronx Bombers on Saturday night.

Opposing Tanaka for the Sox will be veteran right-hander Zack Godley in what will be his first major-league start since last June.

The 30-year-old initially signed a minor-league deal with Boston late last month after getting cut loose from the Tigers and made his 2020 debut this past Monday, working four scoreless innings of relief against the Mets.

That effort earned Godley a spot in the Sox’ starting rotation, as he’ll be taking over for left-hander Josh Osich this time through. He has never pitched inside Yankee Stadium before, and has only pitched against the Yankees once before in his six-year career, which came as a reliever for the Blue Jays last August.

In what will be their first game of August 2020, here’s how the Red Sox will be lining up behind Godley and against Tanaka to begin things on Saturday.

Among the notable things to point out here, a slumping J.D. Martinez will start this one on the bench in favor of Kevin Pillar. Martinez owns a lifetime 1.226 OPS in 23 career at-bats against Tanaka, but seeing how he is 2-for-23 over his last six games, perhaps Sox manager Ron Roenicke felt it was best to give the slugger a day off.

Mitch Moreland is back starting at first and batting fifth after missing the last two games on account of sore legs that were “just barking from being on them a lot.”

Christian Vazquez, Alex Verdugo, and Jackie Bradley Jr. follow the veteran first baseman, while Tzu-Wei Lin makes his first start of the season at second base and bats ninth.

Among these nine hitters, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, and Xander Bogaerts have seen Tanaka the best, as they are a combined 29-for-87 (.333) off the Yankees right-hander with five home runs and 11 RBI between them.

If the Red Sox want to win their fourth game of the season on Saturday, it will be imperative that they score more than the 3.7 runs per game they have averaged since embarking on this seven-game road trip on Tuesday.

First pitch against the Yankees Saturday is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on FOX and WEEI.

Red Sox Reliever Phillips Valdez Pitching Himself ‘Into Bigger Role,’ Ron Roenicke Says

One week into the 2020 season, Red Sox relievers own the 15th-best ERA (4.54), the 15th-best FIP (4.21), and the 20th-best fWAR (0.0) in baseball. Put simply, the Boston bullpen has been rather mediocre to begin things this year, which is understandable given the current state the starting rotation is in.

Despite that ‘mediocire’ notion, there have been a handful of Sox relievers who have stuck out in a positive way thus far, and one of them worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees on Friday night. His name? Phillips Valdez.

Yes, the right-hander scattered three hits and struck out three batters in relief of Ryan Weber in Friday’s series-opening loss to New York. With that outing in mind, Valdez has yet to give up a run through his first three appearances and 5 2/3 innings pitched as a member of the Red Sox.

Originally claimed off waivers by Boston from the Seattle Mariners back in February, the 29-year-old hurler has struck out more than 27% of the 22 hitters he has faced so far this season while holding them to a .200 clip.

Because of his strong first impression, Valdez could find himself in more high-leverage spots out of the Red Sox bullpen in the near future. His manager, Ron Roenicke, said as much when speaking with reporters Friday night.

“He’s pitching himself maybe into a bigger role,” Roenicke explained. “That’s why we stuck with him today because he’s been throwing the ball well when he starts going through some of these really good hitters and getting them out.”

Some of those “really good hitters” Valdez has gotten out thus far include Aaron Judge and Luke Voit, who both fell victim to 84 mph changeups from the Dominican Republic national on Friday.

Signed by the Indians as a 17-year-old out of the DR back in 2008, Valdez made his major-league debut with the Texas Rangers last June and is under team control with Boston through the end of the 2025 season.

Per Statcast, the slender 6-foot-2, 160 lb. righty primarily works with a changeup and sinker, while his slider and four-seam fastball lean more towards secondary pitches.

At the time he joined the Sox during the first version of spring training earlier this year, Valdez seemed like a long shot to make Boston’s Opening Day roster. But, coming out of the pandemic-induced layoff, the club obviously liked what they saw during Summer Camp and he was in there pitching against the Orioles last Friday.

Now, after getting off to a hot start with his new team, Valdez could become a legitimate weapon out of the Red Sox bullpen if he continues to prove that he can handle tougher situations as a reliever.