Ryan Weber Primed for Spot in Red Sox’ Starting Rotation

At this time last year, Ryan Weber was putting the finishing touches on his best start of the 2019 International League season for the PawSox.

Pitching in front of medium-sized crowd at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, the right-hander twirled seven masterful innings against the Buffalo Bisons, the Triple-A affiliate of the Blue Jays.

Over those seven frames, Weber yielded just one earned run on one hit and three walks to go along with three strikeouts on the night. 54 of the 86 pitches he threw went for strikes, and the strong performance lowered his ERA on the year by six-tenths of a run.

Four days later, Weber was recalled by the Red Sox for what would be his second of four big-league stints in 2019.

The numbers the sinker baller put up while with Boston last year were not phenomenal, but still, he kept his spot on the Sox’ 40-man roster throughout the winter and spring. On Saturday, he got the start for the Home Sox, or Red Team, in the club’s third installment of intrasquad play at Summer Camp.

Despite not always pitching with the right number of defenders behind him, Weber yielded one run over four innings of work on Saturday and finished with a final pitch count of 64, 47 of which were strikes.

With all the uncertainty surrounding Boston’s starting rotation, Weber looks to be the club’s No. 3 starter behind Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez if Eduardo Rodriguez is not ready for the start of the season later this month.

He’s not flashy, he doesn’t have eye-popping velocity, but even so, Weber, a former 22nd-round draft pick, can certainly be effective.

The soon-to-be-30-year-old hurler has been working to add a cut-fastball to his repertoire the last two years, and he believes that pitch, as well as his ability to adequately command the strike zone, can work to his full advantage.

“The command portion is really what makes me effective,” Weber told reporters via Zoom Saturday. “When my command is on, I’m throwing all five of my pitches to both sides of the plate in any count. When I’m out there and everything is working, it’s pretty fun.”

Weber’s pitch mix includes that aforementioned cutter, a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup.

Prior to the coronavirus-induced shutdown in March, the Florida native had impressed the Red Sox in Grapefruit League play, as he fanned 11 over nine scoreless innings through his first three starts of the spring. He’s kept that up thus far at Summer Camp.

“Not much affects him,” Sox manager Ron Roenicke said in regards to Weber’s mental toughness. “He’s pretty low-key. He doesn’t have highs and lows. Those kinds of guys, as starting pitchers, seem to be a little more consistent.”

If he is indeed Boston’s No. 3 starter to open things up, Weber’s first start of the 2020 campaign would come against the Orioles on July 26, two weeks from Sunday.

Red Sox COVID-19 Updates: Bobby Dalbec Cleared to Play, Will Be at Fenway Park on Sunday

Four days after it was announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19, Red Sox power-hitting prospect Bobby Dalbec has been cleared to once again return to baseball activities, manager Ron Roenicke announced Saturday.

Per Roenicke, Dalbec worked out at the club’s alternate training site at Boston College’s Brighton campus on Saturday and the plan is for him to report to Fenway Park on Sunday.

“He hasn’t done much for a couple weeks so we went pretty slow with him,” Roenicke said in regards to what Dalbec has been up to lately. “Just hit some ground balls to him. He threw a little bit and then took some soft toss swings in the cage. He will join us tomorrow.”

Thus far, the Red Sox have announced that four players — Dalbec, Eduardo Rodriguez, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Josh Taylor — have tested positive for coronavirus. Dalbec had been feeling asymptomatic though, so it would appear that he has tested negative for the virus twice within a 24-hour span while also going 72 hours without a fever, as per Major League Baseball’s testing protocols.

Dalbec, who turned 25 last month, is regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 3 prospect behind Jeter Downs and Triston Casas.

The former Arizona Wildcat, selected by the Sox in the fourth round of the 2016 first-year player draft, was included on the club’s initial 47-man Summer Camp player pool.

Capable of playing both corner infield positions, Dalbec’s path to the majors is currenty blocked by the likes of Rafael Devers, Mitch Moreland, and so on. Because of that, he will likely start the 2020 season as a member of the Red Sox taxi squad in Pawtucket.

As for the other three players who have tested positive for COVID-19, Rodriguez remains at his Miami home, Hernandez is currently in Venezuela, and Taylor is self-isolating at a hotel in Boston. In other words, Dalbec is the first of the bunch to be cleared to return to the team.

Red Sox’ Jonathan Lucroy Continues to Impress at Summer Camp

Veteran backstop Jonathan Lucroy has been with the Red Sox for less than five months. He signed a minor-league deal with the club back in February, put up solid numbers in 12 Grapefruit League games, and then the COVID-induced shutdown happened.

During that layoff, the 34-year-old stayed busy and got acquainted with a few of his new Red Sox teammates – Ryan Brasier, Colten Brewer, and Brandon Workman – at a facility in Dallas. There, Lucroy, a native of Florida, caught bullpens for the trio of Texans frequently, thus potentially forging a stronger relationship with those Red Sox relievers.

When the Sox announced their initial 47-man player pool for the start of Summer Camp, Lucroy was not included on said roster, which raised some eyebrows considering how well he looked earlier in the year.

It turns out that the reason Lucroy was not originally included in Boston’s Summer Camp pool was due to contract-related issues. That dilemma did not last too long, obviously, as the two-time All-Star was added to the Sox’ Summer Camp player pool as a non-roster invitee on July 2.

Since then, Lucroy has picked up from where he left off in Fort Myers and continues to prove that when healthy, he can contribute.

You see, one of the reasons Lucroy had to take a minor-league deal this year was because of how poorly he had played the previous three seasons.

Over that span, in 315 games between the Rangers, Rockies, Athletics, Angels and Cubs, the former third-round draft pick has posted a wRC+ of 76 and an fWAR of 0.2, ranking 17th and 19th among 19 qualified big-league catchers.

One of the main reasons for those struggles were injuries. Between a herniated disc in his neck that has been a bother the last three years and a concussion-broken nose combo suffered in a home plate collision with Jake Marisnick last summer, Lucroy, as he puts it, has “played in pain.”

Now, following an offseason procedure to replace the aforementioned herniated disc in his neck with a metal facsimile, Lucroy is feeling much better health-wise. He showed that during the initial version of spring training, and he’s showing it again at Summer Camp.

Through the Sox’ first two intrasquad games at Fenway Park, Lucroy has racked up four hits while also catching a handful of innings behind the plate. If all goes according to plan, he’ll likely be the third catcher on Boston’s Opening Day, 30-man roster alongside Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki.

“I do feel really, really good,” Lucroy said Friday. “I do feel like I can compete at a very high level and be consistent. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and have a chance to do that.”

Red Sox Add Left-Hander Mike Kickham to Summer Camp Player Pool as Non-Roster Invitee

UPDATE: It looks like this move is now official.

The Red Sox have added left-hander Mike Kickham to their Summer Camp player pool as a non-roster invitee, per Major League Baseball’s transaction wire.

Kickham, 31, signed a minor-league deal with Boston back in December and appeared in three games for the club during the initial version of spring training.

Over that stretch, the St. Louis native allowed four runs, only one of which was earned, on six hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over 4 1/3 total innings of relief.

Prior to joining the Sox on said minor-league contract, Kickham spent time in the Giants, Cubs, Rangers, and Marlins’ farm system. The last time he saw major-league action came during the 2014 campaign, when he appeared in just two games for San Francisco.

Per his SoxProspects scouting report, Kickham’s pitching arsenal is comprised of a 90-91 mph fastball, an 88-90 MPH sinker, and an 80-83 MPH slider.

By adding Kickham to their player pool, the Red Sox now have 50 players on their Summer Camp roster, meaning the club still has 10 open slots to work with.

Red Sox to Host Blue Jays in Pair of Exhibition Games Prior to Start of 2020 Season

Before *hopefully* opening the truncated 2020 season against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on July 24th, the Red Sox will host the Toronto Blue Jays in a pair of exhibition games on July 21st and 22nd.

As The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham mentions in the above tweet, both Summer Camp games are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. eastern time, so they will both likely be aired on NESN since the Sox decided to push back the start time of home night games for whatever reason.

Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said earlier Thursday that the team would have an announcement about playing in exhibition game(s) against another club within the next few days.

Major-league clubs are allowed to play up to three exhibition games before the start of the 2020 season. Unless something gets scheduled fairly soon, it appears that Boston will stick to two preseason contests against the Jays at Fenway Park.

Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things, but this news somewhat reminds me of when the Sox traveled to Montreal for a pair of exhibition games hosted by the Blue Jays four years ago, right before the start of the 2016 season.

 

Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi Tosses Four Scoreless Innings in Intrasquad Action at Fenway Park

For the first time in nearly 10 months, the Red Sox played a baseball game at Fenway Park on Thursday afternoon.

Granted, it was a 5 1/2 inning intrasquad contest that was umpired by Jason Varitek and featured a handful of hitters batting for both teams, but regardless of that, it was still nice to get baseball back in some capacity.

As announced by manager Ron Roenicke earlier this week, the two starting pitchers for this game were right-handers Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Mazza, with the former representing the home side and the ladder representing the away.

Making his first in-game start since March 7th, Eovaldi picked up right where he left off in Florida by twirling four scoreless, one-hit innings at Fenway on Thursday.

Over those four frames of work, Eovaldi fanned four hitters while walking one and plunking another. The 30-year-old hurler finished with a final pitch count of 58, 34 of which were strikes. And even though there was no radar gun available on the Red Sox’ live stream of the game, it definitely looked like Eovaldi’s fastball was humming, as per usual.

On having former Red Sox captain Jason Varitek calling balls and strikes, Eovaldi said, “I thought he did good. I liked it. I like having him back there behind the plate and felt like he was making some really good calls for me.”

On the flip side of things, Mazza, one of several candidates the Sox are considering for a back-end starter/opener/bulk role, was also effective in two fewer innings pitched.

The 30-year-old Californian worked two scoreless frames for the Away Sox while walking one and facing the minimum six batters over that stretch. All while rocking stirrups.

Among the relievers who appear to be locks to make Boston’s Opening Day roster, Marcus Walden fanned a pair and walked another in a shutout third inning of work for the Away Sox, Heath Hembree stranded a pair of runners in scoring position in the fourth for the Away Sox, and Brandon Workman got rocked for four runs in the fifth for the Away Sox.

Josh Osich and Colten Brewer, meanwhile, combined to work a scoreless top half of the fifth and sixth inning in relief of Eovaldi to wrap up the 4-0 victory for the Home Sox.

Offensively, all four runs for the Home Sox came off Workman, as previously mentioned.

Worcester native John Andreoli was responsible for three of those, as he took Boston’s closer deep to right for a three-run blast around Pesky’s Pole in the bottom half of the fifth.

Veteran backstop Jonathan Lucroy, who was added to the Sox’ Summer Camp player pool as a non-roster invitee last week, also had two hits.

Following the 4-0 victory for the Red Sox, Roenicke announced that the club is planning on having a six-inning  intrasquad game at noon on Friday and may even “experiment” with some fake crowd noise.

Not sure who the starting pitchers for that game on Friday will be yet, but I will leave you with this quote from Roenicke.

 

Red Sox Release Schedule for 2021 Season

Less than three full days after releasing its 2020 schedule, Major League Baseball released 2021 schedules for all 30 major-league clubs on Thursday.

For the Red Sox, if all goes according to plan, they will open the season up against the Orioles for the second straight year at Fenway Park on April 1st, the first of three games over a four-day stretch. In other words, Opening Day next year is set for April 1st, and according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, all teams will begin their 2021 season on the same day for the first time since 1968.

Boston’s first road trip of the year will feature match-ups against the Orioles and Twins, while the club’s first interleague bout will take place later in April against the Mets in Queens.

Speaking of the Mets, the Red Sox’ interleague opponents will be the teams that comprise the National League East for the second consecutive year.

They play the Mets in New York in late April, the Phillies in Philadelphia and the Braves and Marlins at Fenway in late May, the Braves in Atlanta in June, the Phillies at Fenway right before the All-Star break in July, and the Nationals in the nation’s capital to close out the campaign in early October.

Other notable schedule highlights include:

A Patriots’ Day matchup against the White Sox on April 19th to close out a four-game set at home.

A four-game series against the Rangers at brand-new Globe Life Field in Arlington in late April/early May.

10 straight games against the Astros and Yankees beginning on May 31st (Memorial Day) and ending the evening of June 10th.

Yankees’ first trip to Fenway Park comes in late June.

An Independence Day match-up against the Athletics in Oakland, part of a six-game west coast road trip against the A’s and Angels.

18 straight games without a day off against divisional opponents coming out of the All-Star break and going into August.

Last two home series of the season come against New York teams, followed by a six-game Beltway road trip with stops in Baltimore and D.C. to close out the season, as previously mentioned.

All in all, the Sox will be aiming to play 162 games in 186 days beginning next April. Of course, there’s still a 2020 season to worry about first. You can read about that schedule here.

Red Sox Manager Ron Roenicke on Jose Peraza: ‘I’m So Impressed With What He’s Doing’

Jose Peraza has not gotten a whole lot of attention since signing with the Red Sox back in December, but manager Ron Roenicke has been impressed with what he has seen from the 26-year-old since Summer Camp broke at Fenway Park last week.

“Everyday I watch him, and I’m so impressed with what he’s doing,” Roenicke told reporters via Zoom on Wednesday in regards to Peraza and his swing.

The Sox inked Peraza to a one-year deal for the 2020 season worth $3 million plus more in incentives on December 12th, less than two weeks after the Venezuela native was non-tendered by the Reds.

Because he was cut loose by Cincinnati prior to his first season of arbitration eligibility, Pereza could be under team control with the Red Sox through the end of the 2022 campaign if all goes according to plan.

A once touted prospect in the Braves and Dodgers’ organizations, Peraza has struggled to consistently find his footing in the majors to this point in time.

Since the start of the 2017 season, the right-handed hitter has posted fWARs of -0.3, 2.6, and -0.6 respectively while with the Reds.

Despite those inconsistent tendencies, upside is certainly there with Peraza, who is capable of playing both middle infield positions and even some outfield if need be.

With Boston, the former 2010 international signee figures to split time with Michael Chavis at second while also providing some insurance for Xander Bogaerts if the All-Star shortstop needs time off for whatever season.

Prior to the pandemic-induced layoff that began in March, Peraza slashed .233/.233/.300 with two doubles, one RBI, and one stolen base for the Red Sox in 12 Grapefruit League games.

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts Says Alex Verdugo Is ‘Going to Be a Guy We Lean Heavy On’

Since Summer Camp workouts began at Fenway Park last Friday, Red Sox players have used the ballpark’s luxury suites as locker rooms in order to practice social distancing.

Whenever a player isn’t doing something on the field or in the concourse, you will typically find him in his suite, eating a pre-packaged meal or simply hanging out.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was in that scenario on Monday, and while taking in the view of Fenway from his luxury box, he also had the chance to watch new teammate Alex Verdugo take batting practice. That is something he did not have the opportunity to do in Fort Myers during the initial version of spring training because Verdugo was working his way back from a stress fracture in his lower back.

Now, after watching a healthy Verdugo in his element at the plate, Bogaerts is impressed with what he saw.

“I saw him take BP yesterday,” the two-time All-Star told reporters via Zoom on Tuesday. “He was hitting that ball pretty good, to be honest. I was watching him from the top of my suite. He came here and he was hurt and he was getting treatments so I didn’t see a lot of him while he was with us (in spring training). Obviously only with the Dodgers. But he seemed pretty good and obviously that’s going to be a guy that we lean heavy on. And he’s healthy. So the more guys that are healthy, the better.”

The centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade with the Dodgers from February, Verdugo is hoping to see regular playing time for Boston despite being part of a crowded outfield picture that includes Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, and J.D. Martinez, to an extent.

“I want to play and I want to be a starter,” the 24-year-old said Saturday. “That’s what everybody comes into the big leagues for. That’s what everybody wants to be. So I want to play every day. But, if they want to do what they have to do, then I’ll follow and I’ll play as hard as I can.”

A left-handed hitter by trade who made his major-league debut in September 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. He will be the first Red Sox player to ever don the No. 99 on his uniform.

 

Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez, Bobby Dalbec Test Positve for COVID-19

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and first/third baseman Bobby Dalbec have tested positive for COVID-19, manager Ron Roenicke announced Tuesday.

Per Roenicke, Rodriguez is feeling better and still believes he can be ready for the start of the 2020 season.

“Rodriguez wants to be ready for Opening Day but we’ll have to see how it goes,” the Sox skipper told reporters via Zoom. “The medical team will follow him, give him instructions.”

For the time being, the 27-year-old will remain at home in Miami, where he was orginally exposed to the virus, before traveling to Boston.

As for Dalbec, Boston’s top power-hitting prospect had yet to work out with the team at Fenway Park for the start of Summer Camp, and now we know why that is.

By testing positive for COVID-19, Rodriguez and Dalbec join left-handers Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor as Red Sox players who have contracted the virus. There could still be additional players who have tested positive, but these four have given permission to the Red Sox for their names to be revealed to the public.

According to MLB’s COVID-19 testing protocols, “Players testing positive must quarantine for two weeks and then must be free of symptoms and test negative twice before rejoining their clubs.”