Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi to Pitch in Intrasquad Game on Thursday, Could Start on Opening Day Depending on Eduardo Rodriguez’s Status

Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi has impressed thus far at Summer Camp. The 30-year-old tossed a three-inning simulated game at Fenway Park on Saturday where he threw about 45 pitches.

In that sim game, Eovaldi faced Alex Verdugo, Jonathan Lucroy, Connor Wong, and Jett Bandy and utilized his pitch mix effectively, according to Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke.

“The stuff was great,” Roenicke said of Eovaldi on Saturday. “The cutter was good, the slider, the curveball. Threw some really good split-fingers and the velocity was there on his fastball. He got what he needed to do today.”

In terms of velocity, the flame-throwing Eovaldi topped out at about 100 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball. His next outing will likely come in a five-inning intrasquad game at Fenway on Thursday.

Taking that date into account, Eovaldi would be lined up to start for Boston on Openinf Day 2.0 on July 24th. That being said, Roenicke and the Red Sox still expect left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who has been at home in Florida awaiting the results of his COVID-19 test, to get the starting nod on that day.

As mentioned by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Roenicke has been noncommittal on who his Opening Day starter will be to this point. Rodriguez was expected to handle the duty prior to MLB suspending spring training back in March, but his status for the start of the 2020 season is now up in the air due to potential exposure to the coronavirus.

If Eovaldi’s impressive run continues on Thursday while Rodriguez is still absent from camp, Roenicke might not have any choice other than to name the Houston native his Opening Day starter. We’ll have to wait and see on that.

 

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.

 

Dodgers’ David Price Opts Out of 2020 Season Due to Concerns Surrounding Coronavirus

Former Red Sox and current Dodgers left-hander David Price is the latest player who has made the decision to sit out the 2020 Major League Baseball season due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a tweet, Price, who turns 35 next month, writes in part: “After considerable thought and discussion with my family and the Dodgers, I have decided it is in the best interest of my health and my family’s health for me not to play this season.”

Along with four-time All-Star Mookie Betts, Price was dealt to the Dodgers back in February from the Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo, infield prospect Jeter Downs, and catching prospect Connor Wong.

One reason Price opted to not play in this shortened season could be the fact that he has two young children at home in three-year-old Xavier and 11-month old Isabel. Not to mention his wife, Tiffany.

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To paraphrase a section of the March agreement between MLB and the MLBPA, “High-risk players can opt out of the 2020 because of coronavirus concerns and still get paid. Players who are not deemed to be at a high risk can also opt out while surrendering their 2020 salaries and service time.”

If he is not deemed to be at a high risk, Price would have to surrender the $11.9 million he was set to earn in prorated salary this season. Because of this, as The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham notes, the Red Sox should be off the hook for the $5.95 million they would have owed the lefty in 2020.

Back in late May, Price committed $1,000 to every minor-league player in the Dodgers’ organization to help support them during the coronavirus pandemic. Los Angeles is sure to miss his veteran presence during these unprecedented times.

Red Sox Sign Reliever Caleb Simpson, Add Him to Summer Camp Player Pool as Non-Roster Invitee

The Red Sox have signed right-handed reliever Caleb Simpson to a minor-league deal and have added him to their Summer Camp player pool as a non-roster invitee. The club made the signing official earlier Saturday.

Simpson, 28, was released by the Cubs back in May at that time when teams across baseball were parting ways with dozens of their minor-league players.

The former Giants farmhand was a 21st-round draft selection out of Seminole State Junior Colege (Okla.) by San Francisco back in 2013.

Across four minor-league levels spanning five seasons, Simpson owns a career 3.41 ERA and .180 batting average against over 121 relief appearances and 145 1/3 innings of work.

Most recently, the 6’4″, 231 lb. righty posted a 3.00 ERA over 34 outings and 42 innings pitched between High-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond last season.

Throughout his minor-league career, Simpson has dealt with his fair share of injury troubles. He underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, which resulted in him missing the 2015 season and a portion of the 2016 season.

By adding Simpson to their player pool, the Red Sox now have 49 players at Summer Camp, meaning they still have 11 open slots to work with.

Red Sox Left-Handers Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor Test Positive for COVID-19

Left-handers Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor have tested positive for COVID-19, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke announced earlier Saturday.

Per Roenicke, Taylor tested positive during intake screening at Fenway Park earlier this week and is currently isolated from the team at a hotel in Boston. Hernandez, meanwhile, tested positive while at home in Venezuela and has yet to report to Fenway for the start of Summer Camp.

Also worth noting, Roenicke declined to comment on whether either pitcher was exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, but he did say that Taylor “is a little bit further ahead in terms of when he contracted the virus.

Because of their positive tests, both Hernandez and Taylor may have to miss the start of the 2020 season, which would be a significant blow to Roenicke and the Red Sox bullpen considering how effective the pair of left-handed hurlers were for Boston in their rookie campaigns last year.

There could be even more Red Sox players who have tested positive for COVID-19. As MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo notes, the only reason Roencike was able to name Hernandez and Taylor on Saturday was because both pitchers gave him permission to. The team is also awaiting the results of Eduardo Rodriguez’s test.

Red Sox’ Collin McHugh Using Social Media to Document Unique Summer Camp Experience

Red Sox right-hander Collin McHugh is using his platform on social media to document the day-to-day experience of Summer Camp at Fenway Park.

Beginning on Friday, the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers, the 33-year-old took to Instagram to chronicle what it was like to be a professional athlete in the midst of a nationwide coronavirus pandemic.

From daily intake COVID-19 testing at Gate D, to the luxury suites that have been converted to locker rooms to practice social distancing, to the Sam Adams deck in right field that has been converted into a training room, to the infield concourse that has been converted into a weight room/batting cage area, to non-contact food pick up, to shower trailers outside the grandstand, Fenway Park has undergone quite the transformation to accommodate players and staff during these unprecedented times.

Based off a video posted to Instagram and Twitter by McHugh earlier Saturday morning, it would appear that players are required to spit into a vial approximately 15 times every other day while not being allowed to eat or drink anything 30 minutes before said test.

When asked about how optimistic he feels in regards to the uncertainties surrounding the 2020 MLB season, McHugh said the following:

“I’m up here in Boston without my family for three months trying to play baseball, trying to put a game on for three hours a night for people to hopefully give them some rest, give them a break, give them some entertainment. But then go right back to the real world. Obviously our hope is that we can do this safely and we can pull it off, but we’ve seen in different areas in the country and different areas of the world that this virus can be unpredictable and if we aren’t extremely vigilant on our part it doesn’t take a lot for the walls to start closing in on. I think for players, we understand that and we understand both our safety, our health and all the health and safety of the people around us give us a chance to play this game. It rides on that fact, that we are extremely, extremely careful and vigilant about following these protocols. I think if we can do that as players and staff and organizations across the league can commit to doing that I think we can do this and pull this off.”

McHugh signed a one-year deal with Boston back in early March. He is currently working his way back from a non-surgical procedure underwent in the offseason to repair a flexor strain and may or may not be ready for Opening Day later this month.

To follow McHugh on Instagram, click here. To follow him on Twitter, click here.

Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez May Have Been Exposed to Coronavirus While at Home in Florida

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may have been exposed to COVID-19 while at home in Miami, according to manager Ron Roenicke.

The 27-year-old hurler has yet to report to Red Sox Summer Camp at Fenway Park for this very reason, and as things stand right now, him and the team are awaiting the results of his coronavirus test.

Per Roenicke, the Sox have already had “some positive tests” for COVID-19, although he could not specify the specif number of positive tests due to protocols put in place by Major League Baseball.

Regarding Rodriguez, the Boston skipper said via Zoom Friday that , “Eduardo didn’t come in today, and the reason being is that he was at home and was around somebody that was sick. He wanted to just make sure he was fine. We have tested him. We don’t have the results back yet. When we get those results, obviously, you’ll know.”

As the Red Sox embarked on the first official day of Summer Camp workouts to kick off the weekend, it has become abundantly clear that the team is doing everything in their power to promote proper social distancing procedures at Fenway.

A good number of players across MLB have already tested positive for COVID-19 and more positive tests are likely on the way, too.

For Rodriguez, a positive test coming back presumably means that the Venezuela native would not be able to report to Summer Camp at Fenway for at least another two-plus weeks.

Red Sox One of Several Teams Who Could Sign Yasiel Puig, per Report

The Red Sox are among the teams who could possibly sign free-agent outfielder Yasiel Puig, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Per Heyman, who appeared on Thursday night’s edition of MLB Tonight, the Red Sox are one of four clubs “who have been mentioned as possibilities” for the 29-year-old outfielder. The others being the Giants, Padres, and Rays.

Arguably the best free agent remaining ahead of the start of the 2020 season, Puig did have major-league offers on the table prior the coronavirus-induced, league-wide shutdown. The Marlins, for instance, were one of those teams who had offered the Cuba national a one-year deal.

But, as Heyman noted, Puig wanted to hold out in the hopes of playing in front of bigger crowds.

That component to his decision is off the table now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it would appear that guaranteed money and/or playing time would be most prevalent in Puig’s pursuit to find a new club.

Splitting time between the Reds and Indians last season, the one-time All-Star slashed .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI over 149 games played primarily as a right fielder.

The Red Sox, as currently constructed, are a team that has a solid amount of outfield depth at the major-league level. Between Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Verdugo, Kevin Pillar, and J.D. Martinez, it’s somewhat difficult to see how Puig would fit in that crowded outfield picture in 2020.

Of course, as noted quality Twitter follow @RedSoxStats brings up, “If the Sox know they have any room below the tax threshold, they should gobble up any talent [at] any position.”

It’s definitely surprising that Puig is still on the open market six days after MLB’s freeze on roster moves was lifted. On a personal note, I don’t view Boston as favorites to sign the former Dodgers star, but it will certainly be fascinating to watch how things unfold regarding Puig and other free agents in the coming days.

Red Sox Add Jonathan Lucroy to Summer Camp Player Pool

The Red Sox have added veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy to their player pool for the resumption of MLB spring training, or Summer Camp, as a non-roster invitee. The club announced the transaction earlier Thursday.

With the addition of Lucroy, the Red Sox now have 48 out of a possible 60 players in their Summer Camp Pool. 11 of those players, which now includes Lucroy, are non-roster invitees.

Lucroy, who turned 34 last month, originally inked a minor-league deal with Boston back in February and looked to compete with Kevin Plawecki for the backup catcher spot before the COVID-19 pandemic shut spring training down in March.

Since that time, the Florida native was not added to the Sox’ initial 47-player roster pool this past Sunday, but that was only for procedural reasons. More specifically, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, there were “issues related to [an] opt-out to work through” before the Red Sox could add him to the pool.

Those issues have since been worked out, however, and now Lucroy represents the sixth catcher to be added to the Sox’ Summer Camp roster pool. Other backstops who will participate include Christian Vazquez, Kevin Plawecki, Jett Bandy, Juan Centeno, and Connor Wong.

With all MLB clubs allowed to have 30 players on their active roster to begin the 2020 season later this month, teams will likely take advantage of that and carry three catchers to start things out. That being said, Vazquez, Plawecki, and Lucroy are all likely locks to make Boston’s Opening Day roster.

First Wave of Red Sox Players Report to Fenway Park for Start of Summer Camp

The first wave of Red Sox players and staff reported to Fenway Park earlier Wednesday afternoon for the start of Summer Camp.

Based off photos taken by team photographer Billie Weiss, it appears that Mitch Moreland, Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Verdugo, Michael Chavis, Christian Vazquez, Chris Mazza, Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, Tzu-Wei Lin, Brian Johnson, Marcus Walden, Colten Brewer, Ryan Brasier, Martin Perez, Jonathan Arauz, Kevin Plawecki, and Kevin Pillar were among this initial group of players.

Other players, such as Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez, are likely traveling to Boston as we speak and will presumably check in at Fenway Park on Thursday.

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As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, players and staff who check in over the next two days will be subject to individual COVID-19 screening sessions that have been organized by an independent collection service.

Per Cotillo, “Once players arrive, they will be subjected to a three-part collection process that includes:

  • A temperature check with contactless thermometer
  • A body fluid sample (saliva or oral/nasal swab) for diagnostic/PCR testing (this is the normal nose-swab COVID-19 test)
  • A venous blood collection or dried blood spot sample for serology/antibody testing”

Once completed and processed, test samples will be sent to the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah. In the mean time, players and staff will have to self-quarantine from anywhere between 24-48 hours while the Red Sox and Major League Baseball await the results.

If an individual’s test results come back negative, they can report to Fenway for workouts later this week, but if someone tests positive for COVID-19, they will have to self-isolate for up to two weeks and test negative twice before being able to rejoin the team again.

That being said, there won’t be much going on in terms of baseball activities at Fenway Park until Friday, when pitchers and catchers are set to report and begin their workouts for the 2020 season.

Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said Monday that despite players having some concerns about the coronavirus, he expects “everybody to come in.”

The 2020 season, which will consist of just 60 games for teams, is scheduled to begin on July 23rd. It’s not known at this point who exactly the Red Sox will be playing on Opening Day.