Red Sox sign infielder Edwin Díaz to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have signed infielder Edwin Diaz to a minor-league contract for the 2023 season, per Melissa Lockard of The Athletic. It is unclear if the deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Diaz, 27, is not to be confused with the All-Star closer for the Mets. While they both hail from Puerto Rico, the Diaz the Red Sox are signing has yet to break in at the big-league level.

A native of Vega Alta, Diaz was originally selected by the Athletics in the 15th round of the 2013 amateur draft out of Ladislao Martinez High School. He made his professional debut in the rookie-level Arizona League that July and has since appeared in a total of 717 minor-league games across nine seasons.

After reaching free agency for the first time in his career at the conclusion of the 2021 campaign, Edwin signed a minors pact with the Astros during the lockout that December. The right-handed hitter missed the first two months of the 2022 season with an undisclosed injury. He then batted .168/.254/.376 with two doubles, one triple, nine home runs, 24 RBIs, 20 runs scored, two stolen bases, 17 walks, and 60 strikeouts in 44 games (169 plate appearances) with Double-A Corpus Christi before moving up to Triple-A Sugar Land in late August.

With the Space Cowboys, Diaz slashed .227/.277/.373 with five doubles, one triple, three homers, 17 runs driven in, 12 runs scored, eight walks, and 46 strikeouts over 30 games (120 plate appearances). All told, he is a lifetime .215/.296/.394 hitter in the minor-leagues. That includes a .217/.295/.405 line at Double-A and a .175/.242/.299 line at Triple-A.

On the other side of the ball, Diaz — who is described by Lockard as slick-fielding — has experience at every infield position besides pitcher and catcher. This past season, for instance, the versatile 6-foot-2, 223-pounder logged 18 innings at first base, 191 1/3 innings at second base, 104 innings at third base, and 276 1/3 innings at shortstop between Corpus Christi and Sugar Land.

Diaz, who turns 28 in August, should provide Boston with experienced infield depth regardless of where he starts the 2023 season (Portland or Worcester). If he receives an invite to big-league spring training, he would become the ninth player to get one thus far, joining the likes of Jorge Alfaro, Greg Allen, Narciso Crook, Niko Goodrum, Caleb Hamilton, Ronaldo Hernandez, Oddanier Mosqueda, and Norwith Gudino.

In the meantime, Diaz is coming off a solid offseason in the Puerto Rican Winter League in which he batted .229/375/.418 with eight homers and 29 RBIs over 48 games (192 plate appearances) for the Criollos de Caguas (Alex Cora’s hometown team). Ramon Vazquez served as Diaz’s manager in Caguas before being named Red Sox bench coach back in November.

(Picture of Edwin Diaz: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox finalize 2023 coaching staff by making addition of new first base coach official

The Red Sox have have finalized their coaching staff for the 2023 season, the team announced earlier Wednesday morning. As part of Wednesday’s announcement, Boston officially named Kyle Hudson the club’s new first base coach and outfield instructor.

Hudson, who spent the previous three seasons with the Guardians as a member of Terry Francona’s coaching staff, is the only outside addition the Red Sox made this winter. Boston had a vacancy at first base coach after Ramon Vazquez was promoted to bench coach in late November. That promotion came about after Will Venable left the organization to become the Rangers’ associate manager under Bruce Bochy.

Outside of that, Alex Cora’s coaching staff from 2022 will remain largely unchanged. Vazquez is the new bench coach and Hudson is the new first base coach/outfield instructor, as previously mentioned.

From there, Dave Bush (pitching coach), Kevin Walker (bullpen coach), Pete Fatse (hitting coach), Luis Ortiz (assistant hitting coach/interpreter), Ben Rosenthal (assistant hitting coach), Carlos Febles (third base coach/infield instructor), Andy Fox (field coordinator), and Jason Varitek (game planning coordinator/catching coach) will all resume their previously-established roles.

(Picture of Alex Cora: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox to hire Kyle Hudson as first base coach, per report

The Red Sox are hiring Guardians outfield coach Kyle Hudson as their new first base coach, according to Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam.

Hudson, who turns 36 next week, has spent the last three seasons in Cleveland working as an assistant under Terry Francona. He originally joined the Guardians organization as a minor-league coach in 2017 and served as the bench coach for Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate in Columbus in 2019 before making the jump to the major-league level in 2020.

A native of Mattoon, Ill., Hudson played both football (as a wide receiver) and baseball (as an outfielder) at Illinois. He was selected by the Orioles in in the fourth round of the 2008 amateur draft and debuted for Baltimore in September 11. As part of a brief 14-game cameo, the left-handed hitter went 4-for-28 (.143) at the plate with two RBIs, three runs scored, and two stolen bases.

For his minor-league career, Hudson spent time with five different organizations (Orioles, Phillies, Rays, Angels, and Dodgers) over the course of eight seasons (2008-2015). He briefly coached at his alma meter before first joining the Guardians as a coach in 2017.

The Red Sox had a vacancy at the first base coach position after Ramon Vazquez was promoted to bench coach. That promotion came in the wake of Will Venable leaving the organization to become the Rangers’ associate manager in mid-November.

With the addition of Hudson, Boston has finished filling out its coaching staff for the 2023 season. Hitting coach Pete Fatse, assistant hitting coaches Luis Ortiz and Ben Rosenthal, pitching coach Dave Bush, bullpen coach Kevin Walker, third base coach Carlos Febles, field coordinator Andy Fox, and game-planning coordinator Jason Varitek will all be back in the same roles on Alex Cora’s staff.

(Picture of Kyle Hudson: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Former Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez agrees to one-year, $10 million deal with Dodgers, per report

Red Sox free agent J.D. Martinez has agreed to a one-year contract with the Dodgers, according to FanSided’s Robert Murray. The New York Post’s Jon Heyman reports that Martinez will receive $10 million in 2023.

Martinez, 35, spent the last five seasons with the Red Sox after originally signing a five-year, $110 million deal with Boston in February 2018. Then-president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wanted to inject some life into a lineup that scored the sixth-most runs in the American League in 2017 and he got exactly that in Martinez, who he already knew from his days with the Tigers.

In his debut season with the Sox, Martinez made a strong first impression by batting .330/.402/.629 with 37 doubles, two triples, 43 home runs, a league-leading 130 RBIs, 111 runs scored, six stolen bases, 69 walks, and 146 strikeouts over 150 games (649 plate appearances). He played a key role in helping Boston cap off a historic campaign with a World Series title and became the first player to ever receive two Silver Slugger Awards at multiple positions (designated hitter and outfielder) in the same season.

Martinez built off the success he enjoyed in 2018 by putting together another impressive season at the plate in 2019. The veteran slugger slashed .304/.383/.557 with 33 doubles, two triples, 36 homers, 105 RBIs, 98 runs scored, two stolen bases, 72 walks, and 138 strikeouts across 146 games (657 plate appearances). He finished 21st in AL MVP voting and elected not to exercise the first of three opt-outs in his contract that winter.

The COVID-shortened 2020 season was one to forget for Martinez, whose usual in-game routine of watching film was disrupted by Major League Baseball’s virus-related dugout protocols. The right-handed hitter struggled to the tune of a .213/.291/.389 line with 16 doubles, seven homers, 27 RBIs, 22 runs scored, one stolen base, 22 walks, and 59 strikeouts over 54 games (237 plate appearances). It came as no surprise when he once again decided against opting out of his deal that November.

Martinez, like the Red Sox, bounced back last season. In the process of being named an All-Star for the third time in four years with Boston, Martinez hit .286/.349/.518 with a leage-leading 42 doubles, three triples, 28 home runs, 99 runs driven in, 92 runs scored, 55 walks, and 15o strikeouts over 148 games (634 plate appearances) for a team that was two wins away from a World Series berth.

After opting into the final year of his contract, Martinez got off to another hot start in 2022. Towards the end of May, he was batting a stout .369/.429/.573 through his first 40 games. Though his power numbers were down (five home runs in 177 plate appearances), Martinez was named to the AL All-Star team as a reserve.

Back issues hindered Martinez during the second half of the season. He was not moved at the trade deadline in August and instead batted .233/.301/.400 after the All-Star break to finish the year with a .274/.341/.448 slash line to go along with 43 doubles, one triple, 16 home runs, 62 RBIs, 146 runs scored, 52 walks, and 145 strikeouts over 139 games spanning 596 trips to the plate. In what would turn out be his final home game in a Red Sox uniform, Martinez went deep twice in 6-3 win over the Rays at Fenway Park.

Although the Red Sox did not extend a qualifying offer to Martinez last month, they remained interested in a reunion. Rather than come back to Boston, though, the Boras Corp. client will now reunite with former Red Sox teammate Mookie Betts and former hitting instructor Robert Van Scoyoc in Los Angeles.

Martinez, who turns 36 in August, served strictly as a designated hitter this past season and has not seen any playing time in the outfield since 2021. That being said, he should be a welcomed addition to a Dodgers lineup that has lost the likes of Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger, and Joey Gallo in free agency.

Looking back at his time with the Red Sox, Martinez is undoubtedly one of the greatest free-agent signings in franchise history. In 637 career games with Boston, Martinez slashed .292/.363/.526 with 130 homers and 423 RBIs. He won two Silver Sluggers and was named an All-Star in four of his five seasons with the club.

With Martinez headed west, the Sox have now seen one-third of their 2022 Opening Day lineup leave in free agency this winter. In addition to Martinez, shortstop Xander Bogaerts has signed an 11-year, $280 million contract with the Padres while catcher Christian Vazquez inked a three-year, $30 million deal with the Twins. Nathan Eovaldi, who started against Gerrit Cole and the Yankees on that faithful April afternoon, remains unsigned.

How the Red Sox go about replacing Martinez in the lineup next season should be interesting. Masataka Yoshida figures to see the lion’s share of his playing time come in left field but could slot in at designated hitter from time to time as well. It seems likely that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and manager Alex Cora will utilize a “DH-by committee” approach as opposed to committing to just one player as they have in years past. That would allow for more versatility on the roster while also giving more players the opportunity to get off their feet by not playing the field on certain days.

(Picture of Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Xander Bogaerts leaves Red Sox, agrees to 11-year, $280 million deal with Padres

Former Red Sox shortstop has agreed to an 11-year, $280 million deal with the Padres, according to The New York Post’s Jon Heyman. The deal does not include any opt-out clauses or team options, though it does come with a full no-trade clause, per MLB.com’s Jon Morosi.

Bogaerts, 30, became a free agent last month after opting out of the final three years and $60 million of the extension he signed in April 2019. The Red Sox had extended Bogaerts a qualifying offer (which he declined), so they will receive a compensatory pick that falls between the fourth and fifth round of next year’s draft after exceeding the luxury tax threshold in 2022. The Padres, on the other hand, will forfeit their second- and fifth-highest picks since they, too, spent past the threshold. They will also have their international signing bonus pool reduced by $1 million.

By agreeing to a monstrous contract with the Padres, Bogaerts puts an end to an impressive tenure with Boston. The Red Sox originally signed Bogaerts for $410,000 as an international free agent coming out of Aruba in 2009. The Oranjestad native made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League the following year and quickly emerged as one of the brightest prospects in the organization.

After rising through the ranks in the minor-leagues, Bogaerts was called up by the Red Sox for the first time on August 20, 2013. At just 21 years old, Bogaerts helped Boston in winning its first World Series title at Fenway Park since 1918. Bogaerts endured a sophomore slump of sorts in 2014 but bounced back in 2015 by winning his first Silver Slugger Award. He repeated as a Silver Slugger Award in 2016 while also making his first All-Star team. In 2017, Bogaerts’ production took a dip due to a right hand injury.

Bogaerts broke out in a big way in 2018, which was also Alex Cora’s first year at the helm in Boston. The right-handed hitting infielder clubbed a then-career best 23 home runs and collected 103 RBIs en route to finishing 13th in American League MVP voting and winning another World Series. The following April, he inked a six-year, $120 million contract extension to remain with the Sox. His agent, Scott Boras, subsequently negotiated an opt-out clause that would allow Bogaerts to hit free agency at the conclusion of the 2022 season.

For the next three seasons, Bogaerts continuously ascended and put himself in the conversation for the top shortstop in the game. After another stellar offensive campaign in 2021, it became apparent that Bogaerts was going to opt out as long as he remained healthy.

Knowing this, the Red Sox attempted to re-sign Bogaerts to another extension this spring. Rather than make a respectable offer, though, Boston lowballed Bogaerts with a four-year, $90 million offer that effectively tacked on an additional year and $30 million in salary to the remainder of his contract. Bogaerts expectedly rejected the offer, and the two sides did not talk at all during the regular season.

Bogaerts, for his part, batted .307/.377/.456 with 15 home runs and 73 RBIs over 150 games this season while playing some of the best defense of his career at shortstop. From the time the regular season ended in early October until free agency opened in November, the Red Sox were able to exclusively negotiate with Bogaerts, yet they could not come close to an agreement.

As a result of hitting the open market for the first time in his career, Bogaerts drew widespread interest from a number of teams this offseason. On multiple occasions, Red Sox officials described retaining Bogaerts as the club’s No. 1 priority.

When the Winter Meetings commenced in San Diego earlier this week, there seemed to be a growing sense of optimism that the Sox would be able to hammer out a deal with Bogaerts. On Wednesday morning, The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham reported that the two sides had met and that there was momentum towards an agreement. It was only hours later that Heyman broke news of Bogaerts coming to terms with the Padres.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Boston’s final offer to Bogaerts was in the range of $160 million over six years. While the average annual value of that proposal ($27 million) surpassed the $25.5 million per year Bogaerts will be receiving from San Diego, the difference in the number of guaranteed seasons led to a $120 million gap between the two offers.

Some within Bogaerts’ camp believed the Sox would raise their offer. Regardless of that though, it has become apparent that Boston was not comfortable paying Bogaerts a high salary into his late thirties. The Padres, meanwhile, have committed a whopping $280 million to Bogaerts through his age-40 season.

All told, Bogaerts certainly left his mark on the Red Sox in his 14 years with the organization. He played 1,264 games for Boston, which are the 15th-most in team history. His 1,192 appearances at shortstop are also the most in team history. In total, Bogaerts slashed .292/.356/.458 with 156 home runs and 683 RBIs across 1,264 games in a Red Sox uniform. He won two World Series titles, was named to four American league All-Star teams, and won five Silver Slugger Awards in his first 10 seasons as a big-leaguer.

Bogaerts will take that impressive resume out west to San Diego. The Padres, under general manager A.J. Preller, have been aggressive in free agency this winter and finally landed the star they coveted in Bogaerts. Bogaerts will join a talented core in San Diego that includes Manny Machado, Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis Jr. The Padres reached the National League Championship Series this fall and came up three wins short of a World Series berth.

While the Padres got their guy, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox will now have to look elsewhere when it comes to filling the void at shortstop left behind by Bogaerts. Speculation within the industry would seem to suggest that in-house options such as Trevor Story or Enrique Hernandez could overtake those responsibilities. Bloom and Co. could also look to free agency and pursue the likes of Carlos Correa or Dansby Swanson to take over for Bogaerts.

With Bogaerts gone, the Red Sox should now turn their attention to star third baseman Rafael Devers, who is under club control for one more season and will be a free agent at this time next winter.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox officially promote Ramón Vázquez to bench coach

UPDATE: The Red Sox have officially named Vazquez as their next bench coach, the club announced on Tuesday. Vazquez becomes the fourth different bench coach Boston has had since the start of the 2018 season.

The Red Sox are promoting Ramon Vazquez from first base coach to bench coach, according to reporter Edwin Hernandez Jr. (@LBPRCinEnglish) on Twitter.

Vazquez, who has been managing the Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason, will be taking over for Will Venable. After serving as Boston’s bench coach for the last two seasons, Venable left the club earlier this month to become the associate manager of the Rangers under Bruce Bochy.

A native of Puerto Rico himself, Vazquez first joined manager Alex Cora’s coaching staff as a statistical analysis coordinator in November 2017. He remained in that role for three seasons before taking on more responsibility as a quality control coach in 2021. When Tom Goodwin’s unvaccinated status kept him off the field, Vazquez filled in as the first base coach for the entirety of the Sox’ postseason run. He was named the full-time first base coach last December after the club elected to part ways with Goodwin.

Prior to joining the Red Sox as a coach, Vazquez spent three seasons (2014-2016) in the Astros organization. He served as Houston’s developmental specialist from 2014-15 and then managed its High-A minor-league affiliate in 2016. The following season, Vazquez got his first taste of life as a big-league coach with the Padres while working under Andy Green.

Going back to his playing days, the 46-year-old Vazquez is a veteran of nine major-league seasons (2001-2009) between the Mariners, Padres, Red Sox, Guardians, Rangers, and Pirates. In July 2005, Vazquez was traded from Boston to Cleveland in exchange for a fellow infielder (and Puerto Rican) in Cora.

In becoming the Red Sox’ next bench coach, Vazquez has opted to step down as Caguas’ manager in order to focus on his new duties. This comes just 10 months after he became the third manager ever to win four titles in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

With Vazquez taking over for Venable as Cora’s top lieutenant, the Red Sox now have an opening at first base coach. It remains to be seen how they will go about filling that vacancy. As far as internal candidates are concerned, major-league field coordinator Andy Fox and Triple-A Worcester bench coach Jose David Flores could garner consideration since they have prior experience at the position. Fox was the Marlins’ first base coach from 2007-2009 while Flores served in the role with the Phillies in 2018.

(Picture of Ramon Vazquez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Should the Red Sox be in the mix for Cody Bellinger?

The New York Post’s Jon Heyman reported on Friday that free agent outfielder Cody Bellinger has drawn interest from up to 11 teams. Could the Red Sox be among this group? If not, should they be?

Bellinger, 27, was non-tendered by the Dodgers last week after spending six seasons with the club. The former fourth-round draft pick was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $18.1 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility, which would represent a 6.5 percent increase from the $17 million salary he received in 2022.

Rather than give him a raise, the Dodgers elected to make Bellinger a free agent by not tendering him a contract. The left-handed hitter is coming off a disappointing season in which he batted just .210/.265/.389 with 27 doubles, three triples, 19 home runs, 68 RBIs, 70 runs scored, 14 stolen bases, 38 walks, and 150 strikeouts over 144 games (550 plate appearances). His 6.9 percent walk rate and 27.3 percent strikeout rate were the worst of his career.

When he first broke in with the Dodgers as a 21-year-old in 2017, Bellinger quickly established himself as one of the best young players in baseball. He took home National League Rookie of the Year honors in his debut season and was then named league MVP two years later. From 2017-2019, Bellinger slashed .278/.369/.559 with 111 homers and 288 runs driven in across 450 total games.

Bellinger’s production began to fall during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, as he hit .239/.333/.455 with 12 home runs and 30 RBIs over 56 games. During the Dodgers’ run to the World Series that October, Bellinger dislocated his right shoulder in Game 7 of the NLCS against the Braves while celebrating a home run with former teammate and current Red Sox utility man Enrique Hernandez. He was able to play out the rest of the postseason, but underwent arthroscopic surgery that November.

Despite missing some time the following spring, Bellinger made Los Angeles’ 2021 Opening Day roster. But he fractured his left fibula in early April and was sidelined until late May as a result. He also missed time with left hamstring tightness and a left rib fracture. Those injuries played a role in Bellinger posting a career-worst .542 OPS in 95 games. The Dodgers were optimistic that Bellinger would be able to bounce back this season, but that never really happened.

“Obviously, it’s been a unique path for Cody as he’s battled through injuries and worked diligently over the past few years to return to his All-Star-caliber performance,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters (including MLB.com’s Juan Toribio) earlier this month. “However, it hasn’t played out as well as we would’ve hoped or expected, and therefore we had to make a difficult decision of non-tendering.”

While the Dodgers opted to make Bellinger a free agent, Friedman and Co. remain interested in bringing him back at a cheaper price, which could prove to be difficult given the reported number of potential suitors. Heyman lists the Astros, Cubs, and Giants as three of the 11 teams who are in play for Bellinger’s services.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say this is the closing of the chapter of Cody and the Dodgers,” said Friedman. “We still very much believe in the talent of Cody and his competitive makeup, and we have interest in a reunion and will continue talks with Cody and his group. And he gets to discuss this on his end.”

Bellinger, who does not turn 28 until next July, is represented by super-agent Scott Boras. Last weekend, Boras told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that Bellinger has already received a number of multi-year deals, but he wants his client to take a one-year deal so that he can reset his value and hit the open market again next winter.

“I’ve already been offered multi-years,” Boras said. “Most likely, because of his age, we don’t want a multi-year.”

Going back to this month’s GM meetings in Las Vegas, Boras believes that Bellinger’s lack of production over the last two seasons has more to do with the lack of strength in his shoulder as opposed to his level of talent.

“Talents are so hard to find,” Boras said, via The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya. “You just don’t find talents like this. He’s 26, 27 years old. It’s really about getting his strength back so he can repeat his skill level.”

Even with the lackluster numbers at the plate in recent years, Bellinger has still proven to be one of the sport’s better defensive center fielders. This past season, the 6-foot-4, 203-pounder was worth seven outs above average at the position, which ranked 13th in Major League Baseball, per Statcast.

The Red Sox already have Hernandez in the fold as the everyday center fielder in 2023, but adding Bellinger to the mix would allow Alex Cora to move Hernandez back to the infield on occasion if necessary. If, for example, Xander Bogaerts were to leave Boston in free agency, Hernandez would provide the Sox with insurance at shortstop. Bellinger also has prior experience at first base and at both corner outfield spots, so he and Hernandez could always share the outfield grass.

As a former early draft pick and top prospect who grew up in the Dodgers organization, Bellinger — in certain respects — represents the kind of player the Red Sox have coveted under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. If healthy, his potential is through the roof. And he has the versatility to play multiple positions — and one important one in particular — at a high level.

Bellinger’s 19 home runs this season would have ranked second on the 2022 Red Sox. His 14 stolen bases would have led the team. So, if Bloom and Co. are looking to inject more power and speed into their lineup heading into the spring, bringing in Bellinger on a one-year deal makes all the sense in the world.

(Picture of Cody Bellinger: Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox keeping 7:10 p.m. as standard start time for Fenway Park night games in 2023

The Red Sox will keep 7:10 p.m. as their standard first pitch time for weekday home games at Fenway Park, according to The Eagle-Tribune’s Mac Cerullo.

A team spokesperson confirmed to Cerullo on Tuesday that the club’s default start times for the 2023 season will be 7:10 p.m. on weekdays, 4:10 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1:35 p.m. on Sundays, just as they were in 2021 and 2022.

There are still a number of games with start times to be determined, but the Red Sox are planning on trying out an earlier 6:10 p.m. start time for at least three midweek night games next season, per Cerullo. Those will happen against the Blue Jays on Thursday, May 4, against the Marlins on Thursday, June 29, and against the Rays on Wednesday, September 27. All three of those games will take place before the start of a road trip.

The Red Sox also plan on hosting two midweek, non-holiday games that will start at 1:35 p.m. The first will come against the Pirates on Wednesday, April 5, and the second will come against the Twins on Thursday, April 20. Both of those contests fall on getaway days as well.

As far as holiday games are concerned, Boston will be hosting the Angels on Patriots’ Day (April 17), the Cardinals on Mother’s Day (May 14), the Yankees on Father’s Day (June 18), and the Rangers on Independence Day (July 4).

The decision for the Red Sox to keep start times the same as they have been comes at a time when other clubs across Major League Baseball have elected to do the opposite. The Rays, for instance, experimented with a 6:40 p.m. start time for the majority of their home games at Tropicana Field this past season and will keep things the same in 2023.

Clubs have begun starting night games earlier in an effort to keep fans at the ballpark for entire games. Team president and CEO Sam Kennedy acknowledged last month that the Red Sox were looking into a similar change after averaging the second-highest time of game (3 hours and 11 minutes) in the American League.

“We’re looking at start times in the context of what’s best for our fans, what’s best for the baseball operation,” Kennedy told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) at the club’s end-of-season press conference. “We’ve had lots of discussions with players and (Alex Cora) and his staff and baseball operations. We are looking at potentially some different start times next year.”

Though they ultimately decided against moving up the start time of weekday night games in 2023, the Red Sox are optimistic that MLB’s new pace-of-play initiatives (such as the pitch clock) will enhance the in-game viewing experience for fans beginning next season.

With that being said, the Red Sox are scheduled to open the 2023 campaign against the Orioles on March 30 at Fenway Park.

(Picture of Fenway Park: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Will Venable leaves Red Sox to become Rangers’ associate manager

Red Sox manager Alex Cora is going to need a new bench coach in 2023.

Will Venable, who held that title in Boston for the last two seasons, has been hired by the Texas Rangers to serve as associate manager on Bruce Bochy’s coaching staff next year, the club announced on Wednesday.

“Will is highly-regarded within the game, and I am very happy to have him on the staff as we prepare for the 2023 season,” Bochy said in a statement released by the team. “Will has acquired extensive coaching experience in a short period of time since his playing career ended, and that experience will be invaluable to me as we work to build a winning environment in Texas.”

Venable, 40, was originally named Red Sox bench coach in November 2020 after spending the previous four years with the Cubs as both an executive (2017) and base coach (2018-2020). Although he lost out to Cora in the managerial interview process that fall, Cora elected to tap him as one of his top lieutenants in the dugout.

Over the last two seasons, Venable was responsible for coordinating major-league spring training in Fort Myers and for coordinating Boston’s outfield instruction. He also stepped in as interim manager on two separate occasions while Cora was away for his daughter’s high school graduation last May and while Cora was out with COVID-19 this past April.

At the conclusion of the 2021 campaign, Venable — a Bay Area native — interviewed for the Athletics’ managerial opening before Oakland decided to hire Mark Kotsay. The New York Post’s Jon Heyman reported last month that Venable had emerged as a candidate for the Royals’ vacancy, which ultimately went to Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro.

Venable has connections to Texas. The former big-league outfielder spent part of the 2015 season with the Rangers and was teammates with general manager Chris Young for parts of three seasons (2008-2010) with the Padres. Both Venable and Young attended Princeton University.

With Venable’s departure, the Red Sox now have an important vacancy to fill on their coaching staff. It remains to be seen if Cora will look internally or externally to find Venable’s replacement. First base coach Ramon Vazquez, third base coach Carlos Febles, and game-planning coordinator Jason Varitek all represent strong internal options. Major-league field coordinator Andy Fox and Triple-A Worcester manager Chad Tracy could be considered as well.

Vazquez is currently in Puerto Rico serving as manager for the Criollos Cagaus while Febles is in the Dominican Republic serving as bench coach for the Tigres del Licey. Varitek, on the other hand, recently signed a multi-year contract extension to remain with the Red Sox. According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, that deal is good for two years and includes a team option for a third.

In addition to Vazquez, Febles, Varitek, and Fox, all other Red Sox coaches are expected to return to the club next season. That includes pitching coach Dave Bush, bullpen coach Kevin Walker, hitting coach Pete Fatse, and assistant hitting coaches Luis Ortiz and Ben Rosenthal.

(Picture of Will Venable: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Will Red Sox protect Christian Koss from Rule 5 Draft by adding him to 40-man roster?

By this time next Tuesday, the Red Sox will have added a number of minor-leaguers to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from December’s Rule 5 Draft.

Ceddanne Rafaela will almost certainly be protected. Wilyer Abreu, David Hamilton, Chris Murphy, Brandon Walter, and Thad Ward are also eligible and have interesting cases to be made. The same can be said for Christian Koss, who MLB Pipeline recently identified as Boston’s toughest Rule 5 decision.

Koss, 24, spent the entirety of the 2022 season with Double-A Portland. The versatile right-handed hitter batted .260/.309/.430 with 22 doubles, five triples, 17 home runs, 84 RBIs, 69 runs scored, 16 stolen bases, 25 walks, and 137 strikeouts over 125 games (532 plate appearances) en route to being named the Sea Dogs’ Most Valuable Player.

Among qualified Eastern League hitters, Koss ranked fourth in hits (125), third in RBIs, 11th in runs scored, 19th in stolen bases, 18th in batting average, 16th in speed score (6.5). He also ranked 35th in strikeout rate (25.8 percent), 57th in walk rate (4.7 percent), 43rd in on-base percentage, 35th in wRC+ (99), 60th in line-drive rate (14.4 percent), 57th in groundball rate (48.9 percent), and 48th in swinging-strike rate (14.7 percent), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Koss saw playing time at five different positions in 2022. The 6-foot-1, 182-pounder logged 214 1/3 innings at second base, 185 innings at third base, 601 2/3 innings at shortstop, nine innings in left field, and 37 innings in right field. This year marked the first time he had ever played the outfield in his professional career.

Koss’ pro career dates back to June 2019, when he was selected by the Rockies in the 12th round of the amateur draft out of the University of California, Irvine. The Red Sox acquired the Riverside native from Colorado in exchange for left-hander Yoan Aybar the following December.

The Red Sox made that trade in order to clear a spot on their 40-man roster. Koss now finds himself in a similar position. As noted by MLB Pipeline, what makes Koss appealing is the fact that he “has solid raw power and speed, not to mention a high baseball IQ.” At the same time, however, Koss’ high strikeout rate and low walk rate indicate that “his lack of plate discipline could be a problem at higher levels” of the minor-leagues.

Koss, who turns 25 in January, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 20 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The former Anteater has spent his offseason playing for the Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League. There, he has been under the watchful eyes of Red Sox first base coach Ramon Vazquez (Caguas’ manager), WooSox bench coach Jose Flores (Caguas’ infield coach), and Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who hails from Caguas.

If the Red Sox were to add Koss to their 40-man roster by next Tuesday’s deadline, they would retain his rights moving forward. In that scenario, Koss would be in line to make the jump to Triple-A Worcester while providing Boston with infield and outfield depth in 2023.

If the Red Sox do not add Koss to their 40-man roster by November 15, another club could acquire him for $100,000 during next month’s Rule 5 Draft. That team would then be responsible for carrying Koss on their major-league roster for the entirety of the 2023 season. If they were unable to do so, Koss would have to be offered back to the Red Sox for $50,000.

(Picture of Christian Koss: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)