Red Sox’ 2020 Schedule Revealed

If Major League Baseball is to be played in 2020, the Red Sox will play 60 games in 65 days against American and National League East opponents beginning on July 24th.

The league released this year’s schedules for all 30 clubs on Monday evening via an MLB Network TV special. Here’s how the Red Sox’ season will go over the next two-plus months:

First off, the Sox will open the truncated season with a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. In other words, Boston’s home opener will be on July 24th with first pitch at 7:30 PM eastern time.

From there, the homestand continues with a two-game interleague series against Rick Porcello and the Mets before the club embarks on a seven-game road trip that includes stops in both Queens and the Bronx as well as Tampa Bay.

The Sox’ first set of road games will be followed by a seven-game homestand against the Blue Jays and Rays before again facing off against the Yankees in a four-game set in New York.

Boston’s final trip to Yankee Stadium will be succeeded by a quick two-game series against the Phillies at Fenway and a lengthy trip to Baltimore and then Toronto for seven games against the O’s and Jays.

After getting back home to Boston from Toronto, the Sox will get to enjoy their longest homestand of the season, a 10-gamer in which the club will host the defending World Series champion Nationals, the Braves, and Blue Jays in three separate series.

As it turns out, that homestand comes immediately before the longest roadie of the 2020 campaign, a nine-game venture that features match-ups against the Phillies, Rays, and Marlins in that order. In other words, a trip to southeastern Pennsylvania will be followed by a week-long stay in Florida.

Upon arriving back to Boston from Miami, the Sox will wrap up the home portion of their schedule by welcoming the Yankees and Orioles into town for two separate three-game series. For the Yankees, it’s their lone trip to Fenway on the year.

Finally, the Red Sox will travel to Atlanta and finish their season series as well as the 2020 regular season as a whole against the Braves at Truist Park. That is, if all goes according to plan, of course.

60 games total, 40 of which will come against divisional opponents.

Based off the schedule above, it would appear that 23 of the 30 home games the Red will be playing in start at 7:30 PM eastern time. That doesn’t sound like the best of ideas in my opinion, but hey, the season might not even happen because of this whole global pandemic thing going on, right?

Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez All for Universal Designated Hitter Moving Forward

When J.D. Martinez inked a five-year, $110 million contract with the Red Sox back in February 2018, he did so knowing that he would have the chance to opt out of that deal on three separate occasions.

The first of those occasions arose at the end of this past season. Martinez decided to opt in.

The second of those occasions will come at the conclusion of the 2020 season. This time around, Martinez may decide to test the free agency waters.

Why would Martinez, who turns 33 next month, do that, you ask? Well, the answer is simple. The National League is adopting the designated hitter for the 2020 campaign and will likely keep it that way moving forward.

With the addition of the DH in the senior circuit, several more jobs in baseball just opened up, as Martinez put it.

When asked by reporters via Zoom on Sunday about the new rule change, Martinez said, ““I’m all for it, obviously. I’m a DH. I think you could speak to a lot of pitchers who are for it, too. A lot of pitchers like it and a lot of pitchers in the AL like it because they feel like the pitchers in the NL have an advantage. That’s one less hitter they have to face and one less elite hitter they have to face. I like it. I like to even the playing field across the board. I understand the history of it, so I see the other side of it too, but I’m in favor of it.”

Added the three-time Silver Slugger Award winner: “It’s 15 more jobs around the league. I think it’ll make things really interesting. There wouldn’t be that whole AL (versus) NL argument. It would be what team is the best and how does every team measure up against each other now. Not how every team measures up in each league.”

Because of the shortened season, Martinez will earn approximately 37% of the $23.75 million he was supposed to make this year, or about $8.78 million to be more exact.

This winter, the Florida native will have to decide between returning to Boston for $19.35 million in 2021 or opt out of his deal and become a free agent.

For now though, Martinez is more focused on preparing for a truncated 2020 season in a shorter amount of time than he is used to.

“It’s going to be really, really tough to get everything back, get your body underneath you,” Martinez said when asked about the unique Summer Camp experience with under three weeks to go until Opening Day. “It’s a sprint. You don’t have that month, month and a half to get ready for a season.”

The Red Sox will open the 2020 season against an American or National League East opponent on July 24th. If I were to guess, I would say Martinez starts that game at DH and hits out of the cleanup spot.

 

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo Progressing ‘Really Well’ From Back Injury

For the first time since last September, Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo faced live hitting on Saturday.

Throughout spring training and the COVID-19 pandemic-induced layoff, the 24-year-old was limited to hitting at home and in the batting cages at JetBlue Park while working his way back from a lower back stress fracture.

As excited as he was to get back to seeing live pitching at Fenway Park on Saturday, facing off against flame-throwing right-hander Nathan Eovaldi was no easy task.

“Let’s say I got welcomed real quick to good old 99 MPH,” Verdugo told reporters via Zoom. “The biggest thing for me today was to see the (velocity) out of his hand, see one of the most elite, best pitchers and go from there. I took a full swing, swung and missed and had no pain or discomfort. That was reassuring. That’s what this is about, to get my timing back, to reassure that my body, physically, is handling progression really well.”

The COVID-19 break has physically “done wonders” for Verdugo’s body in terms of endurance and strength. He is now looking forward to making a name for himself in a crowded Red Sox outfield.

“For me, I’m an everyday player,” the left-handed hitter said when asked about the prospect of being part of a platoon. “That’s just that. It’s that simple. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. I want to be out there every single day competing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lefty out on the mound to a righty on the mound. I feel like my splits are reversed. I hit lefties better than I hit righties. So I’m just someone who wants to be out there every single day. I want to play and I want to be a starter.”

Speaking of splits, since making his major-league debut with Los Angeles in 2017, Verdugo owns a career .273/.335/.448 slash line in 355 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, and a career .306/.333/.452 slash line in 133 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers. So, he’s not entirely wrong about having reverse splits.

As currently constructed, the Red Sox have three left-handed hitting outfielders on their active roster in Verdugo, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr. Kevin Pillar and J.D. Martinez represent the opposite side of that coin as two right-handed hitting outfielders.

Despite how amped up he may be to get back on the field, it would not be shocking to see the Sox ease Verdugo back into things, especially when considering how serious back injuries can be.

How Roenicke manages the outfield once the 2020 campaign begins will definitely be something to keep an eye on.

 

2020 Minor League Baseball Season Cancelled Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

This news does not come as a surprise, but the 2020 Minor League Baseball season has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. MiLB released a statement addressing the matter earlier Tuesday evening.

 

Per league president and CEO Pat O’Connor, “This announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, heavy financial constraints were placed on minor-league clubs across the country due to the fact their primary source of revenue comes from ticket sales.

Unlike their parent major-league clubs, minor-league affiliates do not have lucrative television or other media contracts to rely on in the absence of ticket sales and other gameday revenue, so getting through an entire season with teams playing in empty or nearly empty ballparks would have been virtually impossible.

Back in May, the Red Sox committed to paying their non-40-man-roster minor-leaguers $400 per week through the end of August, or what would have been the end of the minor-league season.

Without a minor-league season, it has been reported by Baseball America that some teams will allow their minor-leaguers to pursue opportunities in independent league baseball.

It is also worth mentioning that the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox, were supposed to play their final season at McCoy Stadium this year before relocating to Worcester.

With Polar Park making progress towards its completion before the start of the 2021 minor-league season, it would seem as though the PawSox have already played their last game at McCoy, which they have called home since 1969.

On another note, the short-season affiliate of the Red Sox, the Lowell Spinners, probably won’t be affiliated with the Red Sox for that much longer, as the entire infrastructure of minor-league baseball appears to be headed towards rapid turnover. That much was made evident by this year’s amateur draft, which consisted of only five rounds to make it the shortest in MLB’s history to this point in time.

Minor-league baseball is an important aspect of the game for developing players and young fans alike. Despite that notion, the landscape of MiLB will probably never be the same beginning in 2021 if those aforementioned changed do take place.

Red Sox Prospect Jay Groome and the 2020 Rule 5 Draft

Jay Groome is one of 49 Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter. That means that he will have to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster before the November deadline in order to avoid being eligible for said draft.

On upside alone, the former 2016 first-round pick will presumably make the cut, and will likely be part of the Sox’ 30-man taxi squad in Pawtucket for the upcoming, truncated 2020 season.

That being said, with it looking more and more likely that there won’t be any organized minor-league baseball at all this year, Groome loses the opportunity to further develop coming off an injury-shortened 2019 campaign.

Recovering from Tommy John surgery underwent in May 2018, the New Jersey native was not able to see any in-game action until last August, where he made a total of three starts between the Gulf Coast League Red Sox and short-season Lowell Spinners before the minor-league season came to a close.

A small sample size, the left-hander allowed one run on five hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over four innings of work in those three outings.

Since signing with the Sox out of Barnegat High School in July 2016, Groome has made just 20 starts and pitched 66 innings between three minor-league levels over that time period.

As mentioned earlier, injuries have played a factor in that. Not only did Groome undergo Tommy John surgery in 2018, but before that, he missed time in 2017 due to a strained lat muscle and forearm strain.

Before Major League Baseball shut down spring training in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it seemed as though Groome was looking forward to the full season of work ahead of him at the time.

He told WEEI’s Rob Bradford earlier in the year, “I have my family pushing me because they know I’m back where I need to be. I’m healthy. They just want to see me finally start up a full season again. It has been a long time.”

Things have obviously changed since then, though, and it would appear that the only in-game action the 21-year-old will see this year will be of the intra-squad variety.

Clubs across MLB have until 4 PM eastern time on Sunday to submit their 60-man player pools, half of which will make up the active roster to begin the season while the other half will serve as a taxi squad that will essentially remain on standby.

Many teams have already announced that a number of their top prospects will make up their respective taxi squads.

Although no official announcement has come from the Red Sox yet, expect Groome, Boston’s seventh-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, to be one of the club’s touted youngsters to make the cut.

Jeter Downs, Triston Casas, Bobby Dalbec, Jarren Duran, Tanner Houck, Bryan Mata, Thad Ward, and Marcus Wilson are among the other Sox prospects who could also make up the club’s taxi squad.

Red Sox Injury Updates: Alex Verdugo and Collin McHugh Making Significant Progress as Training Camp Nears

Two of the newest additions to the 2020 Red Sox are progressing well from their injuries, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters in a Zoom call earlier Wednesday night.

Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo, the centerpiece in the February Mookie Betts trade, was coming off a stress fracture in his lower back suffered while he was with the Dodgers last year. It looked as though he would miss quite a bit of the 2020 season earlier in the spring.

Now, with an abbreviated 60-game campaign set to begin late next month, the 24-year-old likely won’t miss any game time at all if all goes according to plan.

“He should be all systems go,” Bloom said of Verdugo Wednesday. “The only limitation on him at this point is what we’ve been able to do by virtue of the fact that we’ve been shut down. He’s handled everything great. He should be ready to roll as we get him ramped up. This applies to everybody but it certainly applies to him given what he’s been through. We’re not going to cut corners. But we’re optimistic that he’s going to be ready to roll.”

With Kevin Pillar and touted prospects like Jarren Duran and Marcus Wilson in the mix, the Red Sox still should not feel the need to rush Verdugo back from his back ailment.

Once the Arizona native reports to training camp at Fenway Park next week, things will presumably become more clear regarding a course of action to take before the season starts.

As for the other new addition, veteran right-hander Collin McHugh has been “doing well” as he recovers from an offseason non-surgical procedure to repair a flexor strain.

While getting back to throwing off a mound in recent weeks, the 33-year-old is “basically progressing towards games,” per Bloom.

“He has tolerated everything really well,” Boston’s chief baseball officer added. “We’ve tried to build him up really responsibility. Don’t know yet on an exact timetable but he is progressing really well.”

The Red Sox and McHugh agreed to a one-year deal in early March that included $600,000 in guaranteed money.

At the time, the one-year pact also included incentives that could bring its value upwards of $4 million, but things have obviously changed now due to a shortened season where players will receive prorated salaries.

McHugh, a native of Illinois, spent the previous six seasons with the Astros and has experience working as both a starter and reliever. That versatility could prove to be quite valuable this year if the hurler is healthy.

In non-physical ailment-related news, an unidentified player on the Sox’ 40-man roster tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month while exposed to the virus in his hometown. As of now, he is not displaying any symptoms, according to Bloom.

Major League Baseball Set to Return as Players Will Report to Training Camps on July 1st

Baseball is officially back. According to the MLB Players Association, “all remaining issues” between Major League Baseball and the PA “have been resolved and players are reporting to training camps.”

That reporting to training camps will take place on Wednesday, July 1st. The 2020 season, which will be limited to just 60 games, will then begin on July 23rd or 24th.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox, with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and manager Ron Roenicke at the helm, have plenty to do before June comes to an end.

The schedule for the upcoming season has yet to be set, but we do already know who the Red Sox’ opponents will be, as teams will be limited to a region-only schedule, if that makes sense.

In other words, Boston will play the Yankees, Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, and Nationals. That’s it.

There’s still plenty do in a short period of time, but at long last, baseball is back. Players and staff report to training camp July 1st.

The Red Sox will utilize Fenway Park, as well as other baseball facilities in the Boston area, for their training camp.

2020 MLB Trade Deadline Will Be August 31st, per Report

With it looking increasingly likely that the 2020 Major League Baseball season will begin in late July, this season’s trading deadline would be on August 31st, according to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark.

This news comes as MLB and the players association continue to hash things out on a potential agreement for the coming season.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the MLBPA  “has agreed to report to training camps by July 1 and play a 60-game season.”

The only thing holding up the finalization of this deal, as noted by Passan, is “one last health-and-safety hurdle to get over.” The hope is that this will be resolved by Tuesday night.

Regarding the newly-implemented August 31st trading deadline for this abbreviated 2020 season, clubs will have a shorter amount of time to determine whether they want to be buyers or sellers at said deadline.

If Opening Day was on July 24th,  teams would only have about 38 days make that crucial decision. And if a club were to acquire a player on an expiring contract at the deadline, they would only have control of that player for 27 days. A little less than four weeks time.

The Red Sox, under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, have four players who are set to become free agents this winter in Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, Brandon Workman, and Collin McHugh.

J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, and Martin Perez, meanwhile, have options for 2021.

With no baseball yet to be played this season, it’s obviously way too early to determine where the Red Sox will stand come August 31st. But, the moving back of the trading deadline, and the fact that there will even be one, is definitely noteworthy.

Blogging the Red Sox Presents: An Interview With Chaim Bloom

When Major League Baseball first suspended spring training and delayed the start of the 2020 season back in March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I sent an email to Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom asking if I could send him a handful of questions pertaining to those aforementioned events taking place.

It took some time, but after sorting things out with the club’s media relations department over the last few weeks, I have in my virtual possession the written responses to the questions I sent him.

Rather than structure this article like a story you would typically see on here, I am instead going to enclose the “transcript” of the “interview” below. So please enjoy, and remember, these questions were sent earlier in the spring, before this year’s draft and before MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he’s not “100%” confident there will be a season this year.

Would you rather the Red Sox host spring training workouts in Boston or Fort Myers?

Chaim Bloom: This is such a unique year – it forces us to rethink everything that goes into spring training. There are certainly benefits to both places and we’re hoping to get a clearer idea of exactly what 2020 will look like before we firm up a plan. In the meantime, we’re working on parallel tracks to make sure we’re ready for whatever makes the most sense once we see the schedule as a whole.

How has it been preparing for this year’s draft with less material to go over than usual?

Bloom: The process to prepare for the 2020 draft really favored those staffs who had done their homework in the summer and the fall. When you have a hard-working staff with a lot of continuity, which we do, that’s one aspect we were well prepared to take advantage of. The biggest challenge for all 30 clubs was how to weigh those spring samples, which were either small or nonexistent. If a player changed dramatically from what he’d been, how much weight do you put on that? Is that who he is now – was it a real step forward or back – or was it just a small-sample fluke? Those types of discussions were some of the most interesting that we had amongst our staff.

Who in the front office or scouting department would be best at convincing undrafted players to sign with the Red Sox for up to $20,000?

Bloom: The decision to play pro ball is a very personal one for a lot of players and this year is no different. We certainly want to make the case to interested players that we’re the organization that can get the most out of them and maximize their potential. But we also want this to be a mutual fit, who see themselves as well-positioned to take advantage of what we have to offer. When those things line up, we will be set up well to have success in development.

Despite the current freeze placed on any sort of roster moves, have you had any conversations with free agents or other general managers during this period?

Bloom: Along with others in the front office, I’ve continued to speak to counterparts and contacts throughout the game, but not to discuss trades or roster moves. That’s just not appropriate right now and there have been many other issues to worry about.

As a spectator, how different would it be for you to watch Major League Baseball be played in empty ballparks? Would that impact the way you view or analyze a certain player since there would be no crowd noise to react to?

Bloom: It would be different, that’s for sure. I don’t think we know exactly how players will react. But I’d be hesitant to give too much blame or credit to the attendance (or lack thereof) when assessing how a player performs. There’s so much that goes into what these guys do that I don’t know how we could separate the signal from the noise. They’re pros and I have every reason to think they’ll be locked in when the time comes to compete.

Finally, how odd has it been to not have any live stateside baseball to watch at this point in the year? There are obviously more pressing issues at hand in this country, but as someone who has been part of a major-league front office in some capacity since 2005, this has to be kind of strange, no?

Bloom: No question. This is not an experience that has been fun for anyone in the game. We’ve done what we can to make the most of the time, but we’re all in this because we love baseball and when there isn’t any, it’s a downer. Having said that, we know that public health and the safety of our players, our staff, and our fans is and should be higher priorities. Those things have to come first, but we’re hopeful that we can provide some entertainment for our fans during this really difficult period.

Thank you to Chaim Bloom and Red Sox vice president of media relations Kevin Gregg for making this possible. 

Red Sox Make Pay Cuts for Employees Making Upwards of $50K; Said One Staffer: ‘People Are Livid’

The Red Sox have begun implementing pay cuts to their non-playing staff, according to The Athletic’s Evan Drellich.

Per Drellich, these pay cuts are for those employees making $50,000 or more per year and are tiered in the following fashion.

“Salary of $50K-99K is 20%

$100 to $499K is 25%

$500K-plus is 30%”

As Drellich notes, the employees who make $100,000 are being treated in just about the same way those making upwards of $500,000 are, which has led to the following statement from a Red Sox staffer:

“People are livid.”

This news was apparently broken at a company meeting held by the Red Sox on Friday night, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. In this particular meeting, the club announced that there would be no furloughs or layoffs, just salary cuts for those employees making upwards of $50,000 as previously mentioned.

Earlier Friday, the Red Sox announced that 22 minor-league players had been released on Thursday, so it definitely appears that John Henry, Tom Werner, and Co. are trying to cut down on costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has put the 2020 baseball season on hold for the time being.