Brian Johnson Tosses Three Innings as Red Sox Win Third Straight

After squeaking past the Braves on Monday night, the Red Sox won their third consecutive one-run contest on Tuesday, as they topped the St. Louis Cardinals by a final score of 3-2 at JetBlue Park to improve to 8-10-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Making his second start and fifth overall appearance of the spring for Boston was Brian Johnson, who recently survived the second round of roster cuts as a non-roster invitee over the weekend.

Working the first three innings on Tuesday, the left-hander yielded two runs, both of which were earned, on three hits and three walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Those two Cardinals tallies came on one swing of the bat right away in the top half of the first inning of this one, when after loading the bases with two outs in the frame, Johnson served up a two-run single to Brad Miller to put his side in an early hole.

Other than that one blip though, the 29-year-old fanned Harrison Bader to retire the side in the first before sitting down four of the final six hitters he faced.

Johnson’s next outing could come within the next few days depending on whether or not he pitches out of the bullpen.

In relief of Johnson, fellow left-hander Josh Taylor got the call in the fourth for his fourth appearance of the spring, and he worked a 1-2-3 inning.

From there, Matt Barnes punched out the side in a perfect fifth, Colten Brewer fanned three and scattered one hit over 2 2/3 innings of work to eventually pick up the winning decision, and Robinson Leyer recorded the final out of the eighth before stranding the tying run at third in a scoreless ninth to secure the 3-2 victory.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland, Kevin Pillar, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Jonathan Arauz was matched up against a formidable opponent in Cardinals ace right-hander Jack Flaherty to begin things on Tuesday.

Despite getting on base five times against him through the first three innings, nothing came against Flaherty. In fact, it wasn’t until Flaherty’s first inning off the mound when the Boston bats got it going.

There, in their second trip through the lineup, Pillar led things off against new Cardinals reliever Johan Oviedo with a double off the left field wall. Vazquez followed with a two-base hit of his own, this one plating Pillar to cut the two-run deficit in half at 2-1.

Fast forward to the sixth, and Jantzen Witte came up to the plate with the bases loaded ahead of him, and he delivered in his lone plate appearance by plating two of those runners on a rwo-run single down the right field line.

That base hit drove in both Pillar and De La Guerra to put the Red Sox ahead 3-2, which would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Xander Bogaerts is 0-for-his-first-12 with seven strikeouts so far this spring.

Kevin Pillar, meanwhile, has a .932 OPS through his first 29 plate appearances this spring.

Jonathan Lucroy on Tuesday: 0-for-1 with one walk. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s another game under the lights against the Rays in Port Charlotte on Wednesday.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Dylan Covey will do the same for Tampa Bay.

Rodriguez is coming off an outing in which he fanned four over four two-run innings against the Braves last Friday.

Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, and Austin Brice are also expected to pitch.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 6:35 PM EDT on NESN.

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.

 

Red Sox Fail to Muster Any Offense in 5-0 Loss to Astros

After falling to the Tigers on Wednesday, the Red Sox saw their losing streak grow to three games on Thursday following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Houston Astros at JetBlue Park. They are now 4-8-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Making his first start and third overall appearance for Boston was Kyle Hart, coming off two scoreless innings of relief in his last time out against the Twins this past Friday.

Working the first three innings in this one, the left-hander surrendered two runs, both of which were earned, on three hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both of those Astros runs came on one swing of the bat in the top half of the third, when after retiring six of the first nine hitters he faced, Hart yielded a one-out walk to Myles Straw and followed that up by serving up a two-run home run to Kyle Tucker.

That mistake gave Houston the only lead they would need, but Hart was able to rebound by getting the final two outs of the frame in order to end his outing on a more positive note.

As one of several candidates still vying for a spot in the Sox’ rotation, Hart, 27, will probably appear in another game sometime early next week.

In relief of Hart, Brandon Workman tossed a scoreless fourth inning and yielded one run on three hits and a sacrifice fly in the fifth before minor-leaguer Tom Windle came on and finished the inning for him.

From there, Marcus Walden sat down the only three hitters he faced in order in the sixth, left-hander Brian Johnson appeared to be on top of things in the seventh and eighth, but ended up being charged with two runs on three hits and a walk in the ninth before Konner Wade relieved him, allowed an inherited runner to score, and finished up the inning by getting Grae Kessinger to fly out to left.

All in all, Red Sox pitching combined to allow five earned runs on 12 hits, three walks, and 10 strikeouts over nine total innings pitched.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured plenty of regulars in Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Michael Chavis, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, and Jose Peraza was matched up against Astros right-hander Josh James to begin things on Thursday.

Despite having all those regulars in the lineup though, the Boston bats could not muster much against James, or any other Houston pitcher they faced for that matter.

Five hits, only one of which went for extra base hits, one walk drawn, and one HBP. That’s it.

That lone extra base hit belonged to Michael Chavis, who doubled off James with one out in the second and was subsequently picked off by Garrett Stubbs at third on a failed stolen base attempt.

Other than that, the Sox sent three batters to hit in five of their nine trips to the plate on Thursday. Not much to write home about in what wound up being a 5-0 shutout loss.

Some observations from this defeat:

This game was not televised, so I really do not have much to add here, but I will say that the Red Sox went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position on Thursday.

Xander Bogaerts in his first start at shortstop this spring: 0-for-2 with another pair of strikeouts.

Out of the 31 players the Astros sent from West Palm Beach for this contest, none were on the team in 2017, so from what I heard on the radio, there didn’t appear to be too many boos from the crowd at JetBlue Park.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll head to North Port to take on the Atlanta Braves at their new spring training facility on Friday afternoon.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is set to get the start for Boston, while Atlanta has yet to name a starter.

Rodriguez impressed in his spring debut against the Yankees last Saturday, fanning six over three scoreless innings at Fort Myers.

Matt Barnes, Colten Brewer, and R.J. Alvarez are among the Sox pitchers who will follow Rodriguez.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST on ESPN.

Connor Wong Crushes Grand Slam as Red Sox Blow out Orioles

In a game that was not televised, the Red Sox improved to 2-2-1 in Grapefruit League play on Tuesday afternoon with a 12-4 win over a split Baltimore Orioles squad at JetBlue Park.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston in this one was Ryan Weber, one of the many names vying for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation with just over a month to go until Opening Day.

Tossing two innings on Tuesday, the right-hander kept the O’s off the scoreboard while scattering two hits and zero walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Baltimore hits came consecutively with two outs in the top of the first, but Weber was able to settle down and get Pat Valaika to fly out to center before retiring the side in order in the second.

In relief of Weber, left-hander Mike Kickham had a tough showing, as he surrendered one run in the third and three more, one of which was unearned, in the fourth due to a wild pitch and passed ball that got through Connor Wong behind the plate.

Hunter Haworth had to come on to try and clean Kickham’s mess up with two outs in the fourth, and he did just that by getting Anthony Santander to ground out to third.

From there, lefty Brian Johnson worked his way around a one-out single in an otherwise clean fifth to eventually earn his first win of the spring, while Domingo Tapia and Denyi Reyes combined for four scoreless frames of work to close this thing out with a final score of 12-4.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured a healthy number of regulars like Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vazquez, J.D. Martinez, and Mitch Moreland was matched up against Orioles right-hander Tom Eshelman to start things out on Tuesday.

Eshelman may not have given up any runs over the course of his brief two-inning start, but he gave up plenty of hard contact, including a line-drive one-out single off the bat of Vazquez in the first.

Two innings later, it was Vazquez coming through again, as he drove in Benintendi all the way from first on a hard-hit double to left off Orioles reliever Zac Lowther for his side’s first run of the day. 1-1.

In the fourth, the Boston bats once again responded to Baltimore, as they countered three more O’s tallies with three of their own on a two-run home run off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr. and RBI single off the bat of Tommy Joseph to plate Bobby Dalbec from second.

Both of those knocks came off Lowther, and they pulled the Sox back even with the Orioles at four runs a piece.

Fortunately, that stalemate did not last long at all, with the first five hitters who came to the plate in the fifth all reaching off Hunter Cervenka on two singles, two walks, and one HBP to make it a 6-4 contest.

Marco Hernandez added on to that with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to score Bobby Dalbec, Kevin Pillar re-loaded the bases with an infield single off new O’s reliever Zach Muckenhirn, and that brought Connor Wong to the plate with the chance to redeem himself after making a few defensive mistakes the inning prior.

On the third pitch he saw from Muckenhirn, Wong did just that, as the 23-year-old crushed a grand slam over the fence in right-center field for his first homer in a Red Sox uniform.

That gave the Sox a commanding 11-4 advantage, and after Nick Longhi scored on a fielding error in the same inning, 12-4 would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Because this game was not televised, I really do not have much to add here. Kevin Pillar went 2-for-2 with a double off the bench and Mitch Moreland hit a triple. Both of those things are nice to see.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll travel to Bradenton to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time this spring.

Left-hander Martin Perez will make his Red Sox debut for Boston, while right-hander Mitch Keller will get the start for Pittsburgh.

Perez is essentially a lock to be the No. 4 starter this year, so I’m looking forward to see how his first outing goes even if it is just an exhibition game. He is no stranger to the Grapefruit League either.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT at LECOM Park. This game won’t be on NESN, but it will be on the Pirates’ network, so if you have MLB.TV, you are in luck.

 

Red Sox Open Grapefruit League Play With 4-3 Win Over Rays

After opening up their spring with a 3-0 seven-inning win over the Northeastern Huskies on Friday, the Red Sox kicked it up a notch and began Grapefruit League play with a tight 4-3 victory over the Rays at JetBlue Park on Saturday.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston in this one was Brian Johnson, who is now off the Sox’ 40-man roster and is at big-league camp as a non-roster invite.

The left-hander only worked the first inning Saturday, and he capped a perfect opening frame off with his only strikeout of the afternoon.

From there, top pitching prospect Bryan Mata worked his way around a one-out single and walk drawn by the Rays with the help of an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play in the second, Colten Brewer fanned three and plunked another in a scoreless third, lefty Josh Osich retired all three hitters he faced in order in the fourth, Mike Kickham got himself out of a bases-loaded jam and kept Tampa Bay off the board in the fifth, Mike Shawaryn punched out one and stranded another in a quick sixth frame, Domingo Tapia did the same in the seventh, and Matthew Kent held his own in the eighth.

By the time this contest reached the beginning of the ninth, the Red Sox had themselves a brand new four-run lead to work with while Kent came back out for his second inning of work.

Despite that comfortable cushion, things did get tight, as the Rays pushed across three runs against Kent and Matthew Gorst before right fielder Tyler Esplin put an end to things on a fly ball off the bat of Vidal Brujan with two outs in the frame.

Had he misjudged the trajectory of the ball, Ryan LaMarre, who was on first, would have more than likely scored and we would have had ourselves a whole new ballgame. Instead, the 2017 seventh-round pick put his athleticism on full display to secure the 4-3 win for his side.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup featured plenty of regulars to begin things on Saturday.

Andrew Benintendi led things off in the first with a single en route to a 1-for-2 day at the plate, Jackie Bradley Jr. fanned twice, J.D. Martnez went 0-for-1 with a walk, Michael Chavis punched out in each of his two plate appearances, Kevin Pillar, Jose Peraza, and top prospect Bobby Dalbec all went 0-for-2, Tzu-Wei Lin went 1-for-2 with a leadoff single in the third, and catcher Jett Bandy followed that with a single of his own in his lone plate appearance of the afternoon.

Similar to Friday’s opener, it was another quiet day for the Boston bats. In fact, it wasn’t until the bottom of the fifth when they finally pushed a run across.

There, with two outs and a runner on second following a walk and wild pitch, Brett Netzer drove in his side’s first run on an RBI pop-up single off of Joe Ryan that did not travel further than the outskirts of the left side of the infield.

A ball that probably should have been caught instead went for a hit, and since there were two outs, the runner, Josh Ockimey, was able to score all the way from second because of it. 1-0.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, and back-to-back run-scoring knocks off the bats of Jagger Rusconi and Nick Lovullo with one out increased that advantage up to three runs.

A walk drawn by Dylan Hardy put runners on the corners for Grant Williams, who grounded out to second base off new Rays reliever Phoenix Sanders while Lovullo scored from third. However, Hardy tried to advance to third on the play and he was tagged out, thus ending the inning with Boston up 4-0.

A late rally from the Rays would threaten that lead, but the Red Sox were able to hold on by the skin of their teeth to take their Grapefruit League opener by a final score of 4-3.

Some notes from this win:

Spring training numbers don’t really matter, so I’ll just say that the Red Sox are undefeated in 2020. Haha!

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll travel out to Sarasota to take on the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez was slated to start for Boston, but he has since been pushed back a day after twisting his left knee in a bullpen session on Wednesday. Instead, right-hander Chris Mazza will get the starting nod.

Claimed off waivers from the Mets back in December, Mazza is in the mix for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke.

Veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc will start for Baltimore.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN.

Red Sox Top Northeastern 3-0 in Spring Training Opener

For the first time since September 29th, 2019, the Boston Red Sox have won a baseball game, as they opened up exhibition play on Friday afternoon with a 3-0 victory over the Northeastern Huskies in a seven-inning contest.

The plan for the Sox was to use one pitcher per inning on Friday, and that’s exactly what they stuck to.

25-year-old Australian left-hander Daniel McGrath got things started by walking the first two hitters he faced, but settled down with the help of his catcher Connor Wong in addition to striking out a pair to keep things scoreless.

From there, recently-acquired right-handed reliever Austin Brice fanned two more hitters and got more help from Wong in a scoreless second, righty Robinson Leyer struck out two and stranded two runners in a scoreless third, Trevor Hildenberger scattered one hit in an otherwise clean fourth frame, Denyi Reyes retired three of the four he faced in a shutout fifth, and Adam Lau maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk thanks to Roldani Baldwin in a scoreless top half of the sixth.

After his side finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, 24-year-old righty Eduardo Bazardo closed things out for Boston by sitting down the only three hitters he faced in order in the seventh to secure the 3-0 victory over the Huskies.

In total, Sox pitching combined for seven scoreless innings while yielding just four hits and three walks to go along with 11 total strikeouts on the afternoon.

On the other side of things, the Northeastern pitching staff held their own for a while against the Boston bats, albeit without any regulars in the lineup.

It wasn’t until the bottom half of the sixth inning when the Red Sox offense finally woke up.

There, with right-hander Rick Burroni on the mound for Northeastern, Sox prospect Marcus Wilson led things off by drawing a walk in his first and only plate appearance.

The 23-year-old then proceeded to steal second base to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with no outs for Josh Ockimey, who fanned for the first out of the frame.

A Jagger Rusconi groundout back to the pitcher meant that the Red Sox were just an out away from coming away with nothing, but Ryan Fitzgerald made sure that did not happen.

Yes, the 2019 Carolina League All-Star lined an RBI single to right-center field deep enough to plate Wilson from second and put his side on the board first.

Two more walks drawn by Baldwin and Tyler Esplin ended the day for Burroni and filled the bases for longtime PawSox mainstay Jantzen Witte.

Facing off against Huskies right-hander Henry Ennen, the 30-year-old veteran laced a two-run single through the middle of the infield to score both Fitzgerald and Baldwin from second and third.

That clutch two-RBI knock gave the Red Sox a 3-0 advantage, which would go on to be Friday’s final score in the spring training opener.

Some notes from this win:

Top prospect Jeter Downs reached base on an infield single in his first at-bat in a Red Sox uniform. He also committed a fielding error in the top half of the third and grounded into an inning-ending double play in the bottom half.

Downs was not originally slated to start for Boston on Friday, but because infielder C.J. Chatham was scratched from the lineup due to right shoulder soreness, the 21-year-old got the call instead.

Marcus Wilson will presumably begin the 2020 campaign in Double-A Portland alongside fellow outfield prospect Jarren Duran, who went 1-for-2 with a third-inning single on Friday.

The only players with big-league experience who played in this contest were Marco Hernandez, Rusney Castillo, John Andreoli, Juan Centeno, Austin Brice, and Trevor Hildenberger.

Next up for the Red Sox, Grapefruit League play begins on Saturday with an afternoon contest against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park.

Left-hander Brian Johnson is scheduled to get the start for Boston, while Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter.

It had to have been a tough offseason for Johnson, as the 29-year-old was essentially demoted off the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November.

Still, Johnson snuck through waivers and remains with Boston in a lesser capacity than he had been the previous three or so seasons. He’ll have a chance to prove himself and perhaps open some eyes on Saturday afternoon.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN.

Chaim Bloom Says Red Sox Have ‘a Lot of Time’ to Find Replacement for David Price

Mookie Betts and David Price have officially been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. While the Red Sox are getting a serviceable replacement for Betts in the form of 23-year-old outfielder Alex Verdugo, they were unable to compensate for their pitching needs in this five-player deal.

As things stand right now, the Red Sox’ starting rotation is composed of Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and newcomer Martin Perez. That’s about it now that Price is out of the picture.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was asked at Monday’s press conference about who could replace the veteran left-hander this coming season.

“As strange as it is to say this right before pitchers and catchers report, obviously we have a lot of time to figure that out,” Bloom said. “We have spent a lot of the winter adding starting depth to our 40-man [roster]. We have some good options off-roster as well.”

Prior to shipping Betts and Price off to Los Angeles, Bloom and Co. kept plenty busy by making a number of smaller transactions. Some of the players who will serve as starting depth that are currently on the 40-man roster include Matt Hall, Kyle Hart, Chris Mazza, Mike Shawaryn, Hector Velazquez, and Ryan Weber.

In terms of pitchers that are not currently on the 40-man roster, Tanner Houck and Brian Johnson immediately come to mind as hurlers who could start in the majors this season if necessary.

“Because of the shoes David leaves behind, we’re going to continue to look outside the organization as well,” Bloom added.

Just because pitchers and catchers report to Fenway South on Tuesday does not mean that additional roster shakeups will be made. Players will be traded, waived, maybe even released.

With the six-plus weeks remaining until the start of the 2020 regular seasons, it would be foolish to think that the Red Sox’ roster won’t look different come March 25th.

David Price will be missed, both on the field and in the Sox’ clubhouse, but despite what you may be led to believe, there is time to implement an adequate replacement or replacements.