Friday’s Red Sox-White Sox game postponed due to inclement weather, will be made up as part of split doubleheader on Sunday

Friday night’s Red Sox-White Sox game has been postponed due to inclement weather, the team announced Friday afternoon.

Right-handers Nick Pivetta and Dylan Cease were slated to oppose one another in the first of a four-game Patriots’ Day weekend set at Fenway Park on Friday, but that will now have to wait due to “winter-like” conditions.

Instead of playing four games in four days, the Red Sox are now slated to play four games in three days — something they just did in Minnesota — starting on Saturday.

Friday’s contest between Boston and Chicago has been rescheduled to Sunday evening and will be made up as part of a split doubleheader that day.

The first game of Sunday’s twin bill is scheduled to begin at 1:10 p.m. eastern time, as it has been, while the second game will start at approximately 5:10 p.m. ET.

Per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, “tickets for Friday’s game will be good for the 5:10 p.m. game” on Sunday and “Fenway Park gates will open 45 minutes before at 4:25 p.m.”

Smith also notes that Pivetta is likely to start on Saturday since the Red Sox have yet to name a starter for the second game of their series against the White Sox.

(Picture of Fenway Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Could Red Sox take enticing catching prospect Henry Davis with No. 4 pick in 2021 MLB Draft?

The 2021 MLB first-year player draft is set to begin in just under three months. In case you haven’t heard, the Red Sox will be making their top selection in the draft with the fourth overall pick after finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball last season.

In his latest 2021 draft prospect rankings, The Athletic’s Keith Law listed University of Louisville catcher Henry Davis as his No. 4 draft-eligible prospect.

“Davis has mashed all year, with huge power and a patient eye, and he’s got a plus arm and enough receiving skills to stay behind the plate,” Law wrote earlier Thursday. “Joey Bart went second overall with less bat and more glove; I don’t think it’s a stretch to think Davis could be the first college position player taken.”

Davis, 21, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. Through the Cardinals’ first 30 games of the season, the third-year sophomore is slashing an impressive .389/.514/.676 with eight home runs, 32 RBI, and an ACC-leading nine stolen bases. He has also thrown out 11 of the 20 baserunners who have attempted to steal against him.

In the history of the first-year player draft — which dates back to 1965 — the Red Sox have taken a catcher in the first round on just four separate occasions, most recently selecting Blake Swihart out of Cleveland High School (Rio Rancho, NM) with the 26th overall pick (compensation pick from the Rangers for Adrian Beltre) in 2011.

The last catcher who played his college baseball at Louisville to be selected in the first round of an amateur draft was the Dodgers’ Will Smith, whom Los Angeles took with the 32nd overall pick in 2016.

Since then, Smith has risen through the prospect ranks and has emerged as one of the top young catchers in the National League, if not all of baseball.

Coming into play on Thursday, the 26-year-old is slashing .261/.438/.652 with two home runs and four RBI through his first eight games of the 2021 campaign.

This is not to say that Davis should be compared to Smith at the moment. Both backstops may be right-handed hitters who attended the same school, but one is already establishing himself as an everyday big-leaguer while the other has yet to go pro.

That said, it is worth mentioning that the last University of Louisville catcher to be selected in the first round of the draft turned out to be someone with plenty of potential in the form of Smith.

As for how Davis — a native of Bedford, N.Y. who played for the Cape League’s Bourne Braves in 2019 — is viewed in the eyes of scouts, his MLB Pipeline scouting report goes as follows:

“Davis’ standout tool is his plus-plus arm strength, and he erased 34 percent of basestealers in his first two college seasons while also displaying quick footwork and good throwing accuracy. His receiving still needs a lot of work because it lacks consistency and he sometimes struggles to handle quality stuff, as evidenced by six passed balls in just 13 starts last spring. Though he has below-average speed and conceivably could try an outfield corner, his value comes from staying behind the plate, so he’ll have to improve. 

“While he doesn’t have a pretty right-handed swing, Davis makes it work at the plate and has a higher offensive ceiling than most catchers. He manages the strike zone well and makes repeated hard contact, even if his stroke lengthens and he gets a bit pull-happy at times. His strength and controlled aggression could produce 20 homers per season.”

Whoever the Red Sox take — whether it be Davis, Marcelo Mayer, Jack Leiter, or someone else — with their top selection in this summer’s draft, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, amateur scouting director Paul Toboni and Co. will have approximately $6.64 million in recommended slot value to spend on the No. 4 pick.

On a somewhat related note, The Baseball Prospect Journal’s Dan Zielinski III wrote back in January that during the offseason, Davis caught bullpens for Red Sox relievers Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino.

(Picture of Henry Davis: Louisville Athletics)

Red Sox see 9-game winning streak come to an end in 4-3 walk-off loss to Twins

It turns out winning 10 consecutive Major League Baseball games is actually a difficult task. The Red Sox found that out themselves on Thursday when their nine-game winning streak came to an end following a 4-3, walk-off loss at the hands of the Twins at Target Field.

Matched up against veteran right-hander Michael Pineda, the Sox lineup struggled to get anything going offensively, as they were limited to no runs on two hits in the seven innings the ex-Yankees hurler was on the mound.

Alex Verdugo, the star of Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep, was able to finally get his side on the board in the top half of the eighth.

There, with two outs and the bases loaded, the left-handed hitter greeted recently-inserted Twins reliever Taylor Rogers by putting together what might go down as the best at-bat of any Red Sox hitter this season.

After fouling off a plethora of sinkers and sliders, Verdugo — on the 10th pitch of the at-bat — laced a line-drive, bases-clearing double down the left field line to knot things up at three runs apiece.

Alas, Verdugo’s triumphant three-run double would not turn out to be enough in the end, as the Twins bounced back to walk things off an inning and a half later.

Richards solid once again

While Boston’s winning streak may have been halted at nine games, Garrett Richards became the 10th straight Sox starter to go at least five innings into his start.

Over those five innings of work, Richards held the Twins to two runs on four hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both runs the right-hander surrendered wound up being unearned, as a walk and a throwing error committed by Bobby Dalbec in the second would later result in the Twins plating their first two runs of the day on a two-run single off the bat of Luis Arraez.

From there, though, Richards was able to settle in and actually retired 10 of the final 13 hitters he faced in this one.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (56 strikes) while lowering his ERA on the year to 6.00, the 32-year-old’s next start should come against the Mariners back at Fenway Park on Tuesday.

Bullpen gives up two runs over four innings

In relief of Richards, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen for the bottom of the sixth, and he gave up his first run of the season by serving up a towering 404-foot solo shot to Miguel Sano.

From there, Josh Taylor tossed a scoreless seventh inning and Matt Andriese and Darwinzon Hernandez combined to work their way around traffic in a scoreless bottom half of the eighth after the Sox had battled back to tie things up at 3-3.

After nearly plating a fourth run when Christian Arroyo reached base on a one-out double — and was stranded at second — in the top of the ninth, that set the stage for Adam Ottavino to come on for the bottom half of the frame.

The righty reliever put the first two Twins he faced on base via a leadoff single and HBP, which put a runner in scoring position with one out for Max Kepler, who proceeded to hit a walk-off single on a jam shot of a flyball to center field to win it for Minnesota, 4-3.

Some notes from this loss:

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was ejected from this game in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Andriese appeared to punch out Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers on a swinging strike in the dirt, home plate umpire Jordan Baker ruled that Jeffers had fouled the pitch off, though it was abundantly clear the ball had missed the bat entirely.

Cora came out to argue that was indeed the case, but after convening with the other umpires, Baker upheld the non-reviewable call and the Sox skipper was tossed as a result of his continuous arguing.

For what it’s worth, Andriese fanned Jeffers on the very next pitch.

There was also a siren delay that lasted approximately five minutes during the top half of the fifth inning.

Next up: 10-game homestand

Coming off a 6-1 road trip despite falling to 9-4 on Thursday, the Red Sox will head back to Boston to begin their longest homestand of the season on Friday night.

Welcoming in the White Sox for the first of four to kick off Patriots’ Day weekend, the Red Sox will turn to right-hander Nick Pivetta for Friday’s series opener. He will be opposed by fellow righty Dylan Cease.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN, though the weather does not look particularly promising.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Eduard Bazardo tosses scoreless inning, picks up first career strikeout in major-league debut for Red Sox: ‘For us to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish, he will be a factor during the season,’ Alex Cora says

Lost in the shuffle of the Red Sox sweeping their doubleheader against the Twins and extending their winning streak to nine consecutive games on Wednesday was Eduard Bazardo making his major-league debut.

The 25-year-old right-hander was called up by Boston from the alternate training site to serve as the team’s 27th man in Wednesday’s twin bill.

After not making an appearance in Game 1, Bazardo was called upon to work the seventh and final inning — a point in which the Sox already had a 7-1 lead, making for a low-leverage, low-pressure outing — of Game 2.

Bazardo, donning rec specs, high socks, and the No. 83, faced five Twins hitters in total; walking two, striking out one, and getting two more to ground out.

All in all, the Venezuelan hurler needed 24 pitches — 15 of which were strikes — to work a scoreless bottom half of the seventh and lock down the 7-1 victory for his side.

Of those 24 pitches, 11 were sliders, nine were four-seam fastballs, and four were curveballs. He induced four swings-and-misses with his slider while also sitting at 93-95 mph with his heater.

Though Bazardo was ultimately and unsurprisingly sent back down to the alternate training site in Worcester following Wednesday’s action, Red Sox manager Alex Cora seemed optimistic that this will not be the last time he sees the 6-foot, 190 pound hurler pitching for the Sox this season.

“I think throughout the season, this guy, he’ll help us,” Cora said of the young righty Wednesday morning. “Good fastball. The best breaking ball. Everybody talks about it in the organization, right? A strike thrower. A strike-throwing machine. He’s not afraid. He attacks the strike zone with good stuff. He impressed a lot of people last year. He impressed me in spring training. … For us to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish, he will be a factor during the season.”

Bazardo, who does not turn 26 until September, was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last November on the strength of an impressive showing at the team’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

He is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the 28th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

(Picture of Eduard Bazardo: David Berding/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo had a feeling he would make game-saving catch against Twins moments before it happened: ‘It’s one of those plays that you think about right before it happens’

Before making the defensive play of the day in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s Game 1 victory over the Twins, Alex Verdugo had a feeling the ball was going to come his way.

With two outs in the final inning of the day cap of Wednesday’s doubleheader, the Twins had put the tying run on base when Jake Cave drew a leadoff walk off Red Sox closer Matt Barnes.

Cave also managed to steal second, which put the tying run in a 3-2 contest in scoring position as leadoff man Luis Arraez was due to hit for Minnesota.

The left-handed hitting Arraez had already hit two balls to the left side of the field, which gave Verdugo — who had shifted from center to left field in the sixth — something to think about.

On a 3-1, 86 mph curveball from Barnes, the Twins third baseman swatted a screaming line-drive with an exit velocity of 95.5 mph in Verdugo’s direction.

Verdugo had been playing relatively deep in left field at that moment, so he was forced to charge towards the ball, which was dying quickly and on the verge of landing on a soft patch of grass.

In a matter of seconds, the 24-year-old left his feet, dove head-first, made the proper adjustments, and snagged Arraez’s liner with his Mexican flag-inspired glove all before the ball hit the ground.

Per Baseball Savant, Verdugo had just a 29% chance of making that clutch, game-sealing catch, but he made it look relatively simple all things considered.

One reason behind that would be because Verdugo anticipated making that highlight play well before it actually happened.

“It was actually weird because it’s one of those plays that you think about right before it happens,” Verdugo explained when speaking with reporters Wednesday night. “And it just so happens that it was exactly what I had thought about. I knew the hitter, I knew that he’s been hitting line drives that way and likes to go oppo. So I was kind of already on edge knowing that Barnesy’s throwing hard and going to get after him.

“It was just one of those ones, man,” he continued. “It kind of manifested into my mind, and it came out. We made the play and held onto it. Any game we get a W and clinch one and don’t have to go to extras or waste any more arms, it’s a huge day.”

The diving catch Verdugo made at Target Field on Wednesday afternoon was reminiscent of the one former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi one made at Minute Maid Park to seal a Game 4 victory for Boston in the 2018 ALCS.

What was at stake in the games these catches were made in differs drastically, obviously, but the catches themselves were similar to one person who saw both of them up-close in Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

“Of course,” Cora said when asked if Verdugo’s grab on Wednesday reminded him of Benintendi’s now-famous catch. “That was a great play by Alex.”

The fact that Verdugo was in left field to make that play in the first place was Cora’s doing. As previously mentioned, the Arizona native started out in center field in Game 1 and eventually moved over to left after Kiké Hernández pinch-hit for Franchy Cordero in the sixth.

“That’s why we talk about our defense in the outfield,” said the Sox skipper. “You guys talk about moving guys around late in games. We pinch-hit with Enrique (Hernández) for Franchy and our defense is still good. Alex had a great jump and made the right decision and he caught the ball.”

By the time Wednesday’s doubleheader had ended and the Sox had wrapped up their ninth consecutive win, Verdugo had played all three outfield positions in one day, as he started Game 2 in right field.

It was not too long ago when it looked like Verdugo would be Boston’s everyday centerfielder in 2021, but he has now played every outfield position at least four times since the season began earlier this month.

For Verdugo, not having an everyday position comes as a welcome challenge as he is showing that he can play left, center, and right field at a high level regardless of the opponent or ballpark.

“I feel like at this point now, there shouldn’t really be any questions about versatility or playing any of the different positions at a lower level,” Verdugo said. “I feel like I hold myself to a high standard out there, and I hold it to a high standard in right, center, and left with making plays and throwing people out. So I don’t see any difference with the position.”

(Picture of Matt Barnes and Alex Verdugo: AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Powered by strong performances from Alex Verdugo and Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox extend winning streak to 9 consecutive games with 7-1 victory over Twins to sweep doubleheader

A half-hour intermission between games during Wednesday’s doubleheader at Target Field could not slow Alex Verdugo down, as the outfielder once again played a key role in the Red Sox’ 7-1 victory over the Twins in Game 2 of the twin bill.

After making a game-saving catch for the final out of the day cap, Verdugo picked up where he left off by going 3-for-4 at the plate in the night cap.

Matched up against another tough opponent in Twins right-hander Jose Berrios, it took the Sox offense as a whole some time to get going on Wednesday, but they eventually broke through in the fifth.

There, already trailing by a run, a one-out single off the bat of Bobby Dalbec filled the bases for Franchy Cordero, who proceeded to draw a four-pitch walk to drive in his side’s first run of the night.

The Twins then pulled Berrios for Tyler Duffey, though the stalemate they had put themselves in did not last all that long.

That being the case because with two outs in the frame and the bases still loaded, Verdugo drilled a two-run, go-ahead single to right field to give the Sox their first lead of the night.

A wild pitch from Duffey allowed Cordero to score from third to make it a 4-1 contest, and two more walks once again filled the bases for Rafael Devers.

Devers, who led off the top of the fifth with a double, greeted new Twins left-handed reliever Caleb Thielbar by lacing a two-run single to right, which gave the Red Sox a 6-1 edge in the late stages.

Verdugo provided some insurance in the seventh by taking Thielbar deep to right field on a a down-and-in fastball for his second home run of the season.

The 24-year-old’s 406-foot blast put Boston up 7-1, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.

Rodriguez pulls it together for 5 strong frames

Another game, another Red Sox starter providing five solid innings of work on Wednesday.

This time around, it was Eduardo Rodriguez’s time to shine, as the left-hander held the Twins to just one run on five hits and one walk to go along with five strikeouts in his second start of the young season.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 76 (51 strikes), the 28-year-old ultimately improved to 2-0 following Wednesday’s impressive showing. His next start should come against the Mariners on Tuesday.

Pair of rookies wrap things up

In relief of Rodriguez, rookie right-hander Garrett Whitlock came on for his first appearance in six days and needed all of 10 pitches to retire the three hitters he faced in order in the sixth.

From there, another rookie reliever — Eduard Bazardo — got the call for the seventh inning in what was his big-league debut.

The 25-year-old righty out of Venezuela was called up from Boston’s alternate training site to serve as the club’s 27th man for Wednesday’s doubleheader.

He worked his way around two walks and picked up his first major-league strikeout en route to preserving the 7-1 victory for the Sox.

Next up: Last game of road trip

After sweeping Wednesday’s twin bill and extending their winning streak to nine consecutive games, the Red Sox will go for the four-game sweep over the reeling Twins on Thursday afternoon.

Right-hander Garrett Richards will be getting the ball for Boston in the series finale, and he will be matched up against fellow righty Michael Pineda.

First pitch Thursday (also Jackie Robinson Day) is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their 10th straight win.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: David Berding/Getty Images)

Alex Verdugo comes up with game-saving catch as Red Sox top Twins, 3-2, for eighth straight win in Game 1 of doubleheader

In the first game of a straight doubleheader at Target Field Wednesday afternoon, the Twins had Red Sox closer Matt Barnes on the ropes.

With a 3-2 lead to protect, Barnes had recorded the first two outs of the bottom half of the ninth, but only after putting the tying run on base in the form of a leadoff walk to Cave.

Cave stole second base to advance into scoring position, which brought Luis Arraez to the plate with the chance to knot things up at three runs a piece.

After falling behind in the count at 3-1, Barnes delivered an 86 mph curveball that Arraez — a right-handed hitter — slapped the other way.

Alex Verdugo, having moved from center to left field in place of Franchy Cordero an inning prior had just seconds to react to the screamer heading in his direction.

The young outfielder sprawled out to his right and wound up making a catch that was eerily similar to the one Andrew Benintendi made at Minute Maid Park in Game 4 of the 2018 ALCS.

Verdugo’s was still awe-inspiring snag secured a 3-2 victory for the Red Sox that extends their winning streak to eight consecutive games.

Arroyo, Renfroe stay hot at the plate

Facing off against a tough opponent in Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda, a three-run second inning is what gave the Sox the edge in this one.

Hunter Renfroe stayed hot and got his side in the board first by scoring Marwin Gonzalez from second on an RBI single.

After advancing to second on another single off the bat of Cordero, Renfroe came into score when upon fielding a softly-hit bunt from Kevin Plawecki, Maeda attempted to get the force out at third and instead air-mailed his throw well over Arraez’s head.

That blunder doubled Boston’s lead, and Christian Arroyo tacked on another run by plating Cordero on an RBI base-hit to left field. Arroyo also doubled in the top of the fourth.

Eovaldi improves to 2-1 on the season

The Red Sox continue to get consistency from their starting rotation, and Nathan Eovaldi provided that consistency in his third start of the season on Wednesday.

Over five solid frames of work, the veteran right-hander held the Twins to two runs on five hits, no walks, and one hit batsman to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both runs Eovaldi gave up came in a rather laborious bottom half of the third, but the fireballer rebounded by retiring six of the final seven hitters he faced through the end of the fifth — with some defensive help mixed in there as well.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 82 (60 strikes), the 31-year-old topped out at 99.1 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 34 times. His next start should come against the White Sox back at Fenway Park on Monday.

In relief of Eovaldi, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the middle of the sixth. The 24-year-old needed all of seven pitches to retire the side in order before Barnes came on for the seventh.

Next up: Game 2

Next up, the Red Sox will wrap up this twin bill against the Twins later Wednesday evening.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will make his second start of the season for Boston, and he will be opposed by ace right-hander Jose Berrios for Minnesota.

First pitch of Game 2 is scheduled for approximately 5:25 p.m. eastern time. Red Sox will be going for their ninth straight win.

(Picture of Matt Barnes and Alex Verdugo: David Berding/Getty Images)

Top Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata undergoes Tommy John surgery

Top Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata has undergone Tommy John surgery, the team announced Wednesday. The procedure was done by Dr. Neal ElAttrache at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, Calif. on Tuesday.

Mata, who turns 22 next month, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking tops among pitchers in the organization.

The young right-hander was added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in November 2019 and — after spending 2020 at the Sox’ alternate training site and fall instructional league — came into the 2021 season with the chance to make his big-league debut later in the year.

During the early stages of spring training, though, Mata experienced soreness behind his right triceps and would later be diagnosed with a slightly torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow.

Because of that ailment, the 6-foot-3, 227 pound hurler was shut down for an extended period of time as the Sox initially opted for treatment as opposed to surgery.

After a few weeks of rest, Mata was able to restart his throwing program earlier this month, but must have suffered a recent setback and — as noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith — “was shut down again sometime in the past seven days.”

Originally signed by the Sox out of Venezuela for just $25,000 back in January 2016, Mata has compiled a career 3.40 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 69 starts and 315 total innings of work across four minor-league levels since making his pro debut. The highest level he has reached thus far is Double-A Portland.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Mata’s pitch mix consists of a 94-96 mph fastball that sat at 96-97 mph at the alternate site last year, an 86-90 mph slider, a 78-80 mph curveball, and an 84-86 mph changeup.

Pitchers typically take anywhere between 12 to 15 months to recover from Tommy John surgery, so it’s likely Mata will not be making his return to the field until sometime next summer at the earliest.

(Picture of Bryan Mata: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox call up right-handed pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo to serve as 27th man for Wednesday’s doubleheader against Twins

As expected, the Red Sox have appointed right-handed pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo as the 27th man for Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Twins, the team announced Wednesday morning.

Bazardo, 25, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 28 prospect.

Originally signed out of Venezuela for just $8,000 back in 2014, Bazardo was added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in November after a strong showing at the team’s fall instructional league at Fort Myers.

The young righty “was the most impressive arm at instructs”, per SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

This spring, Bazardo allowed one earned run on two hits, two walks, and four strikeouts over four Grapefruit League appearances spanning five innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 1.80 and a WHIP of 0.80.

Since making his professional debut in 2015, the 6-foot, 190 pound hurler has posted a 2.55 ERA, a .215 batting average against, and a 342:81 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 100 total appearances — 31 of which were starts — and 310 innings of work across six different minor-league levels.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Bazardo’s pitch repertoire consists of a 94-97 mph fastball that tops out at 98 mph, an 83-87 mph curveball that features an 11-5 break, and an 88-92 mph split-finger fastball “that is still in development.”

Though it’s no sure thing Bazardo will make his big-league debut on Wednesday, the Sox called the right-hander up from the alternate training site with the idea that he could get right-handed hitters out, as the Twins usually boast a right-handed heavy lineup.

“This team (Minnesota) is very right-handed,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before Tuesday’s game. “Their best hitters right now are right-handed hitters. We’ll make decisions based on that.”

(Picture of Eduard Bazardo: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Bobby Dalbec goes 2-for-3 with 2 hard-hit RBI doubles in Tuesday’s win over Twins: ‘Today, he stayed with the plan, he was very disciplined, and you saw the results,’ Alex Cora says

Bobby Dalbec’s first weekend in Baltimore as a big-leaguer did not go great.

After struggling and only playing in four of a possible six games during the Red Sox’ first homestand of the 2021 season, the rookie slugger went 1-for-11 at the plate with one double, one RBI, two walks, and five strikeouts during his first visit to Camden Yards.

On paper, those numbers do not translate to success. But there were instances where Dalbec showed signs that he was perhaps ready to break out of the season-opening slump he has been mired in.

On three separate occasions last weekend, the 25-year-old recorded an exit velocity of over 100 mph on balls he put into play. Granted, only one of those balls – a 110 mph double — went for a hit, but the hard contact was promising nonetheless.

In his first game since the Sox left Baltimore, Dalbec — batting out of the nine-hole — went 2-for-3 with a pair of clutch, run-scoring doubles against the Twins at Target Field on Tuesday.

The first double, which came off Twins starter J.A. Happ in the fifth inning, knotted things up at two runs a piece. It left Dalbec’s bat at 105.6 mph and was laced down the right field line.

The second double, which came off Twins reliever Randy Dobnak in the eighth inning, gave the Sox a 3-2 lead. It left Dalbec’s bat at a searing 111.3 mph and also wound up in the right field corner.

The one time Dalbec did not reach base on Tuesday, he lined out sharply to Twins right fielder Jake Cave in the third inning on a line drive that had an exit velocity of 107.4 mph.

To put it simply, Dalbec has been crushing the ball as of late, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora attributed the right-handed hitter’s recent turnaround to what he was able to accomplish against the Orioles.

“I think the at-bats in Baltimore started everything,” Cora said of Dalbec following his team’s 4-2 victory Tuesday. “He hit the ball hard. Today, he stays on a pitch and he drives it the other way against a tough lefty (Happ).”

In addition to hitting the ball hard, Dalbec did not strike out at all on Tuesday, which is something he had only been able to do once through his first seven starts of the year.

The young corner infielder came into the week having swung and missed at 20% of the pitches he has seen so far this season, which ranks as the sixth-highest mark among qualified American League hitters, per FanGraphs. He only whiffed two times on Tuesday.

“When you control the strike zone, and you can control your aggression in the strike zone, you’re going to see results,” Cora said of Dalbec’s offensive approach. “We trust the player. We trust him. We know that there’s going to be a few days that he might swing-and-miss a lot, but we do believe that he can make adjustments and he can go the other way. That’s the most important thing with him: He drives the ball to right-center. So today, he stayed with the plan, he was very disciplined, and you saw the results.”

For Dalbec, the fact that he went to the opposite field three times on Tuesday did not come as much of a surprise. After all, it’s not uncommon to see hitters use the opposite field when they are looking to break out of a slump.

“I think it always ends up working out that way, whether I’m trying to or not,” Dalbec responded when asked about the approach he takes when he is struggling at the plate. “I would say using center, right-center, and right field is kind of a good spot for me to get back in line. I felt like I did that in Baltimore… If I’m thinking that way and react, that’s the way it goes sometimes for me.”

Following Tuesday’s showing, Dalbec is now slashing .179/.258/.286 through his first eight games of the 2021 campaign

Slow starts to a season are something Dalbec has grown accustom to since being drafted by the Sox out of the University of Arizona in 2016, but after showing what he is capable of doing against big-league pitching last year (eight home runs in 80 at-bats), the former second-round pick is hopeful he is about to get back on track.

“I’ve always kind of been a slow starter. Hate to say it, but that’s just kind of the way it is,” said Dalbec. “Obviously, I’d like to work that out in the future. But once I get more comfortable and settled at the beginning of the season, I start to get in a good spot. So hopefully this continues right now.”

(Picture of Bobby Dalbec: Jesse Johnson/USA Today)