Ryan Weber Hurls Four Scoreless Innings as Red Sox Sneak Past Braves

In their first game under the lights this spring, the Red Sox won their second consecutive one-run contest, as they topped the Atlanta Braves by a final score of 2-1 on Monday to improve to 7-10-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Making his third start of the spring for Boston in this one was Ryan Weber, coming off three one-run (unearned) innings in his last time out against the Tigers last Monday.

Working the first four innings this time around, the right-hander stayed sharp as he kept the Braves off the scoreboard while yielding just one hit and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts on the evening.

That one hit was a two-out single off the bat of Freddie Freeman in the bottom half of the first. Outside of that, Weber retired the other 12 hitters he faced in order.

Finishing with a final pitch count of  60, the 29-year-old’s next outing should come sometime early next week depending on how many days of rest he gets.

In relief of Weber, Brandon Workman, in his third appearance of the spring, loaded the bases on the first three Braves he faced in the fifth, but he got out of it unscathed thanks to an unassisted double play from Jose Peraza and a strikeout of Shea Langeliers.

From there, Marcus Walden allowed Atlanta to score their first run of the night on one hit, one hit batsman, and one sacrifice fly in the sixth before tossing a clean seventh, and left-hander Jeffrey Springs fanned three while tossing scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth innings to close out the 2-1 win for his side.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Andrew Benintendi, Tzu-Wei Lin, Kevin Plawecki, Michael Chavis, Jonathan Lucroy (DH), Peraza, Marco Hernandez, Rusney Castillo, and Jarren Duran was matched up against a familar foe in ex-Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez for Atlanta.

Kicking off the scoring in the fourth, a leadoff walk drawn by Lucroy followed by a single from Peraza put runners at the corners with no outs for Marco Hernandez.

On the third pitch he saw from the Braves’ Hernandez, the Red Sox’ Hernandez laced a line-drive RBI single to the opposite field to drive in Lucroy from third and give Boston an early one-run edge.

Fast forward to the sixth, and it was the same part of the lineup getting things done once more, with Lucroy leading off with another walk against new Braves reliever Touki Toussaint, Jose Peraza advancing the pinch-running Kole Cottam to second on a single, and Hernandez taking a pitch off his left foot to fill the bases for Castillo.

Castillo nearly grounded into a double play, but because of a bad throw from short to second on the part of the Braves, he was credited with an RBI on a groundout that brought in Cottam from third.

That simple play made it a 2-0 game, and after Atlanta got one of their own in their half of the sixth, 2-1 would go on to be Monday’s final score at CoolToday Park.

Some observations from this win:

Andrew Benintendi went 1-for-3 with a double and two strikeouts out of the leadoff spot on Monday.

Tzu-Wei Lin returned to the Red Sox lineup on Monday and went 1-for-1 with a single and a sacrifice bunt.

Kevin Plawecki on Monday: 1-for-3 with a walk.

Jonathan Lucroy on Monday: 1-for-1 with two walks and a run scored.

Jose Peraza is looking pretty good at second base.

Through his first nine innings of work this spring, Ryan Weber has yet to surrender an earned run.

It was nice to see top prospect Triston Casas get some playing time at first base in this one, although he did strike out in his lone plate appearance.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s another afternoon game against the St. Louis Cardinals back at JetBlue Park on Tuesday.

Left-hander Brian Johnson will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Jack Flaherty will do the same for St. Louis.

Following Sunday’s roster cuts, Johnson remains one of the notable non-roster invites still in major-league camp. He is surely vying for a rotation or bullpen spot with Boston to begin the season.

Matt Barnes, Colten Brewer, and Josh Taylor are among the Red Sox relievers expected to follow Johnson.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT. This game will not be televised.

 

Nathan Eovaldi Fans Four Over Three Scoreless Innings, Rafael Devers Crushes Two-Run Homer as Red Sox Get Back in Win Column Against Braves

After dropping their last three, the Red Sox got back in the win column and improved to 4-5-1 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday following a 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves at JetBlue Park.

Making his second start of the spring for Boston was Nathan Eovaldi, who impressed in his 2020 debut by striking out four Twins over two scoreless innings last Monday.

Working three innings this time around, the right-hander impressed yet again, as he kept the Braves off the scoreboard while allowing just one hit, an infield single, and zero walks to go along with another four strikeouts on the afternoon, three of which came in consecutive order in the top half of the second.

Out of the 40 pitches Eovaldi threw Sunday, 28 went for strikes. And even though the Red Sox are opting to not use a radar gun at JetBlue Park this spring, it’s safe to say the 30-year-old had his fastball working in his favor in this one.

With two spring starts down and four to go, Eovaldi’s next outing should come next weekend against either the Braves, Phillies, or Blue Jays.

In relief of Eovaldi, Brandon Workman came on for his first appearance of the spring to begin the fourth, and he looked like he was in mid-season form with two strikeouts and four straight swings and misses to close a perfect inning out.

From there, top pitching prospect Tanner Houck followed suit by fanning three and walking one over three two-hit innings, making way for Marcus Walden, also making his spring debut, to begin the eighth.

Walden got his first Grapefruit League appearance off to a strong start by retiring the side in order in the eighth, but the ninth was a different story, as the 31-year-old allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach via a leadoff walk and HBP before recording the first two outs and yielding an RBI single to Braden Shewmake to end the shutout and make it a 4-1 game.

Another plunked batter filled the bases for Shea Langeliers, who drove in his side’s second run and subsequently ended Walden’s day by drawing a bases-loaded walk.

So, with the bases still full in what was suddenly just a two-run game, in came left-hander Emmanuel De Jesus looking to close things out. And the 23-year-old did just that, as he got Ryan Casteel to fly out to right for the third and final out, thus ending this one with a final score of 4-2.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured regulars like Michael Chavis, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, and Christian Vazquez to begin things on Sunday was matched up against Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz.

The Boston bats didn’t waste any time against the Braves hurler, as Chavis led off the first with a walk to bring up Devers, who unloaded on the fifth pitch he saw from Foltynewicz and crushed deep to dead center for his first home run of the spring in just his third plate appearance. A two-run shot put Boston up by two runs early.

An inning later, it was the bottom of the lineup getting things done against Foltynewicz, with Rusney Castillo and top prospect Jeter Downs putting runners at first and second with back-to-back one-out singles and Nick Longhi driving in Castillo from second on a line-drive RBI double to shallow right field. 3-0.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, and a bases-loaded walk with one out drawn by Chad De La Guerra off of Braves reliever Huascar Ynoa brought in Brett Netzer from third to make it a 4-0 contest. And after Atlanta rallied with a pair of runs of their own in the ninth, 4-2 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Mitch Moreland was pulled from this one in the middle of the first inning due to right hamstring tightness. Michael Chavis, meanwhile, only got one at-bat and was pulled after the first inning because he will be part of the group traveling to Lakeland for Monday’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

Rafael Devers in his second spring start: 1-for-2 with that two-run homer and two strikeouts.

Jonathan Lucroy off the bench: 0-for-1. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

Next up for the Red Sox, as I already mentioned, they’ll head to Lakeland to take on the Tigers Monday afternoon.

Right-hander Ryan Weber will get the start for Boston, while left-hander Daniel Norris will do the same for Detroit. Matt Barnes is also expected to make his spring debut for the Sox.

Weber is one of several candidates vying for a spot in Boston’s starting rotation to begin the 2020 season. The 29-year-old struck out one and scattered two hits over two scoreless innings in his last time out against the Orioles this past Tuesday.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. This game will not be televised.

 

Red Sox Avoid Arbitration With 5 of 7 Eligible Players

The Red Sox have agreed to one-year deals with five players for the 2020 season, thus avoiding salary arbitration. Those five players are outfielders Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., and relievers Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Brandon Workman.

On the other hand, two players, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and outfielder Andrew Benintendi, were unable to reach one-year agreements with the Sox, meaning they are both more than likely headed to arbitration hearings come early February.

Starting with the five players who did reach agreements on Friday, here are the figures that were settled upon by both sides.

Matt Barnes – $3.1 million

Coming off an up-and-down 2019 campaign, the 29-year-old Barnes was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $3 million in penultimate year of arbitration eligibility. Instead, the UCONN product received a bit more than that projected figure and even saw a 94% increase in his salary from last year.

Mookie Betts – $27 million

As has already been discussed on here, Betts’ $27 million payday for 2020 marks the highest ever for a player in their final year of arbitration eligibility, surpassing Colorado’s Nolan Arenado’s record of $26 million from last February. The 27-year-old was projected to earn slightly more ($27.7 million) than that historic figure.

Jackie Bradley Jr. – $11 million

This time, MLB Trade Rumors got it right in the dot, as Bradley Jr. and the Sox settled on $11 million nearly three months after the site released that projection. Like his outfield counterpart in Betts, Bradley Jr. too is set to become a free agent for the first time at the conclusion of the 2020 season.

Heath Hembree – $1.6125 million

A potential non-tender candidate back in late November and early December, Hembree has struck around for the time being, earning a $300,000 raise from his 2019 salary.

Brandon Workman – $3.5 million

Another free agent at the end of the 2020 season, Workman enjoyed great success last year and earned a well-deserved 204.3% raise because of it. He was projected to earn $3.4 million by MLB Trade Rumors.

Going back to Benintendi and Rodriguez, the player and team could still theoretically split the difference in their price and reach an agreement, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

With that scenario unlikely to happen, it appears as if the two will take part in individual arbitration hearings by the first week of February. Winter Weekend just a got a bit more interesting.

 

What the Immediate Future Holds for Red Sox’ New Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom

The Red Sox are holding a press conference on Monday afternoon, more than likely to formally introduce Chaim Bloom as the club’s new chief baseball officer. Brian O’Halloran, who had been serving as an assistant GM alongside Eddie Romero and Zack Scott, will also be promoted to general manager.

With these moves coming days before the Major League Baseball season comes to a close, it appears that the Red Sox are headed towards what could be a transformative kind of offseason.

The 36-year-old Bloom hasn’t even been on the job for a day to this point, yet he’ll have plenty of decisions to make and ponder once he officially begins on Monday. Here are five things that the former Rays vice president will have to decide on almost immediately.

1. The future of Mookie Betts

As we all know by now, Mookie Betts has one year remaining on his contract headed into the 2020 season. Per MLB Trade Rumors, the reigning American League MVP is projected to earn $27.7 million in his final year of salary arbitration.

Since the time spring training began in Fort Myers, Fla in February, the notion has been that principal owner John Henry and the rest of the Sox brass would prefer to keep Betts in Boston for the rest of his career. Granted, that came about seven months before Henry also said he would like to see his team get below the $208 million luxury tax threshold for 2020.

Betts himself seems gun ho on reaching free agency and testing the open market rather than agreeing to an extension with Boston.

There are multiple directions Bloom and the Red Sox could go with this. For starters, they could deal the 27-year-old outfielder for a plethora of prospects to improve what’s viewed as a weak, yet improving farm system. They could hold on to him to begin the 2020 season and then decide to deal him at the July 31st trade deadline if they are not in a competitive spot. And among other things, they could somehow convince Betts to agree to a long-term contract extension.

2. The future of Jackie Bradley Jr. 

Jackie Bradley Jr., like Betts, is entering the final year of his contract with Boston before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter. The 29-year-old is projected to earn $11 million in arbitration the coming season, per MLB Trade Rumors.

With the Red Sox wanting to slash their 2020 payroll, Bradley Jr. emerges as a potential non-tender candidate or trade candidate if the former does not happen. At that aforementioned price tag of $11 million, Bloom and co. could decide that Bradley Jr.’s inconsistent play at the place is not worth it despite the fact that he is one of the better defensive center fielders in all of baseball.

3. The state of the starting rotation in 2020

Rick Porcello’s $21 million may be coming off the books, but all of Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, and Chris Sale dealt with injury issues in 2019 and are going to be another year older in 2020.

Per @RedSoxPayroll, the trio of Eovaldi, Price, and Sale will earn approximately $72.5 million all together next season, which is a larger amount than the Tampa Bay Rays’ payroll from this year.

Both Price and Sale were shut down at different points during the 2019 campaign, while Eovaldi, who turns 30 in February, missed more than two months of action from late April until late July while recovering from surgery to remove loose bodies from his throwing elbow.

Depending on the statuses of these three heading into the spring, it may be in Bloom’s best interest to scour the free agency or trade market for affordable starting pitching.

4. The state of the starting pitching pipeline going forward

Speaking of starting pitching, one thing that has bothered me about the Red Sox over the last few years has been their inability to develop any sort of reliable starting pitching options in the minor leagues.

Now more than ever, that needs to change. Whether it be through the amateur draft or international signings has yet to be determined.

5. Exploring contract extensions 

Outside of Mookie Betts, there a few other Red Sox worthy of contract extensions. Rafael Devers, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Brandon Workman all come to mind immediately.

Devers, who just turned 23 last week, broke out in a big way in 2019, slashing .311/.361/.555 to go along with a career-high 31 home runs and 115 runs driven in while providing solid defense at third base for most of the year.

The Dominican Republic native is due to earn somewhere around $650,000 in his final year under team control in 2020, meaning the Sox could factor that into any sort of long-term extension to stay under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, if that is what ends up happening.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, also enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, posting a career-best 19 wins in 34 starts to go along with an ERA of 3.81 and FIP of 3.86 over a career-best 203 1/3 innings of work.

The 26-year-old out of Venezuela is projected to earn $9.5 million in his third and second-to-last year of arbitration in 2020.

Workman, finally, is the oldest of the group, as he turned 31 this past August and is entering his final season of arbitration next year. MLB Trade Rumors has him earning $3.4 million.

In a career-high 73 appearances in 2019, Workman emerged as Boston’s best option to close out games, posting a 1.88 ERA and minuscule .123 batting average against over 71 2/3 innings pitched.

It’s too early to say whether or not Workman will remain the Sox’ closer entering the 2020 season, but he certainly has established himself as a legitimate late-inning reliever out of Alex Cora’s bullpen.

We really haven’t even scratched the surface with this, but it is a start. Looking forward to Monday’s press conference.

Red Sox’ Mookie Betts Projected to Earn $27.7 Million in Final Year of Arbitration, per MLB Trade Rumors

MLB Trade Rumors released their ninth annual salary arbitration projections for all 30 major league clubs pertaining to the 2020 season earlier Wednesday, and according to their initial model, the Red Sox have 12 arbitration-eligible players.

As indicated above, All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts is projected to earn a record-setting $27.7 million in his final year of arbitration before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter.

Since about the time the Sox were eliminated from postseason contention last month, most of the attention regarding the club has turned to what the future holds for Betts.

The recently turned 27-year-old has established himself as one of, if not the best corner outfielder in all of baseball and appears set to test the free agency waters in 2020.

That said, the Red Sox would surely like to keep Betts in Boston beyond next season and have made a handful of extension offers in order to make that happen. There seems to be this notion that Betts does not want to play in Boston even though he has shut that speculation down himself several times.

With how unlikely the chances of Betts agreeing to a contract extension before hitting the open market seem, a trade involving the 2018 American League MVP have come into question.

A player of Betts’ caliber has the ability to replenish Boston’s farm system to a certain extent if that is the direction they so choose, but he is also not a player you come across everyday either.

In regard to analytics, Betts’ has accumulated the second-most fWAR in all of baseball since the start of the 2015 season (35.4), trailing only Mike Trout (44.2) over that time period.

I understand that the Red Sox are hoping to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold for next season, which would require cutting a serious amount of payroll, but if you are still trying to compete for a postseason spot, or you are telling your fans that anyway, then I just do not see how you can deal a player who makes your team seriously better.

Anyway, I kind of went on a rant there, so here are the rest of the Red Sox’ arbitration projections, courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors:

  • Jackie Bradley Jr. – $11 milliom
  • Sandy Leon – $2.8 million
  • Chris Owings – $3.0 million
  • Mookie Betts – $27.7 million
  • Brandon Workman – $3.4 million
  • Steven Wright – $1.5 million
  • Eduardo Rodriguez – $9.5 million
  • Matt Barnes – $3.0 million
  • Heath Hembree – $1.6 million
  • Andrew Benintendi – $4.9 million
  • Marco Hernandez – $700K
  • Gorkys Hernandez – $1.0 million

Out of the names above, some are likely to get non-tendered, while others like Andrew Benintendi and Marco Hernandez are entering arbitration for the first time in their careers and will see decently significant raises in pay.

Red Sox’ Brandon Workman Named American League Reliever of the Month for September

Red Sox right-hander Brandon Workman was named American League Reliever of the Month for the month of September on Monday afternoon.

The 31-year-old wrapped up a stellar season by posting a 0.00 ERA and .326 OPS against over his final 12 appearances and 11 1/3 innings pitched of the year.

On the 2019 campaign as a whole, Workman really did break out in a tremendous way, posting an ERA of 1.88, xFIP of 3.33, batting average against of .123, and fWAR of 2.1 over a career-high 73 outings and 71 2/3 total innings of relief.

From not even being on the World Series roster less than 12 full months ago to becoming one of, if not the most reliable reliever out of the Sox’ bullpen. 2019 was quite the year for Brandon Workman, and he will likely be rewarded with a sizable raise in his final season of arbitration because of it.

Eduardo Rodriguez Falls Short of 20th Win, Rafael Devers Picks up 200th Hit, and Mookie Betts Scores Winning Run as Red Sox Walk off Orioles in 2019 Season Finale

After dropping their penultimate game of the year with a 9-4 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, the Red Sox bounced back and wrapped up their 2019 season in style, as they walked off the O’s in nine innings in a 5-4 victory on Sunday.

Making his 34th and final start of the season for Boston on Sunday was Eduardo Rodriguez, who entered the weekend just one winning decision of 20 and 3 2/3 innings shy of 200.

Tossing seven full innings to surpass that 200-mark on the season, the left-hander surrendered three runs, all of which were earned against his former club on four hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts on the afternoon.

All three of those Baltimore tallies came in the top half of the third, when with one out and runners on the corners, back-to-back RBI knocks from Hanser Alberto and Austin Hays got the Orioles on the board first.

One mound visit from pitching coach Dana LeVangie later, and Rodriguez allowed the third run of the frame to come in on a fielder’s choice out off the bat of Trey Mancini.

Other than that bit of trouble though, the Venezuela native settled in nicely from the beginning of the fourth inning on, retiring 12 of the last 14 hitters he faced leading into the middle of the seventh, the point in which his outing came to an impressive close with an emphatic six-pitch punchout of Richie Martin.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 115 (71 strikes), the 26-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball nearly 48% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing 14 swings and misses and topping out at 95 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Ultimately unable to get that vaunted 20th win due to what transpired later on, Rodriguez finishes his fourth full season with the Red Sox with a 19-6 record, a 3.91 ERA, and a career-high 231 strikeouts over 34 outings and 203 1/3 total innings pitched.

In relief of Rodriguez, Matt Barnes came on for one final time in the eighth with a brand new one-run lead to protect, and he could not do that, as he allowed the game-tying run, which was unearned, to cross the plate on a two-out RBI single from Jonathan Villar.

No 20th win for Rodriguez, all while Barnes was charged with his eighth blown save of 2019.

And in the ninth, Brandon Workman fanned the only three Orioles he faced on just 15 pitches to send this one to the bottom half of the inning with a 4-4 stalemate intact, and that eventually earned him his 10th and final winning decision.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against an old friend in Orioles right-hander Chandler Shepherd, who was with the PawSox up until May of this year before being designated for assignment.

Kicking off the scoring in the third just as Baltimore did, the Boston bats quickly responded from an early three-run hole by plating two of their own on back-to-back one-out, run-scoring hits courtesy of Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, and a leadoff walk drawn by Xander Bogaerts, single from J.D. Martinez, and another walk drawn by Mitch Moreland brought Christian Vazquez to the plate in a one-run game with the bases full.

Up against new Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong, Vazquez delivered with a line-drive RBI single to left to drive in Bogaerts and knot things up at three runs apiece.

An inning later, it was the top of the lineup getting things done once more, this time with Devers reaching base with a one-out double off Evan Phillips, his 200th hit of the season, and Bogaerts scoring him on an RBI single to the opposite field. 4-3.

That probably should have been good enough to get Rodriguez his 20th win, but as already mentioned, the Orioles rallied and tied things up in their half of the eighth.

In the bottom half of that eighth, it looked as though the Sox had jumped in front again, as Jackie Bradley Jr. crushed an 0-1, 95 MPH heater from Mychal Givens with two outs and Brock Holt on at first.

Instead of mashing his 22nd homer of the year though, Bradley Jr. was downright robbed by Stevie Wilkerson in right field, as the O’s outfielder sprawled out to take away what surely was a two-run shot. The .980 xBA on that line drive is quite evident of that statement.

So, the two sides headed into the ninth still in a 4-4 tie, and after Brandon Workman did what he had to do in the top half, Betts did what he had to do to lead off the bottom half.

Yup, the reigning American League MVP drew a six-pitch walk off of Dillon Tate in what very well could have been his last plate appearance as a Red Sox.

That brought Devers up to the plate for a fifth time, and all he did was rip a single through the right side of the infield. One that was certainly good enough to advance the runner on base up to third, but as he is known to do, Betts caught the opposition off guard and made the trek towards the promised land.

By the time the right fielder Wilkerson caught on to this, Betts was well on his way to sliding safely into home, as the Red Sox came away with a 5-4 walk-off win in their final game of 2019.

Some notes from this win:

From Red Sox Notes:

 

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:

So, the Red Sox finish their World Series-defending campaign with a final mark of 84-78, 19 games off the pace of the New York Yankees for the American League East crown and 12 games off the pace of the Tampa Bay Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot.

To say the 2019 season was underwhelming would be an understatement, but there was still plenty to remember and definitely plenty to reflect on and learn from.

As I have said before, there are plenty of questions surrounding this club headed into the offseason, and they’ll have about four weeks to get a head start on those discussions.

Will Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley Jr. be traded? Will J.D. Martinez opt out of his current deal? Will Brock Holt be offered a new contract? These are all uncertainties at the moment, and only time will tell on how these issues are resolved.

That is for another time though. For now, it’s a good time to unpack, reflect, and say thanks.

Pitchers and catchers report in a little under five months.