Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi Strikes out Side in Scoreless Second Inning in Rehab Outing with Triple-A Pawtucket

After being sent out on a rehab assignment earlier in the day, Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi twirled a scoreless second inning for Triple-A Pawtucket in their game against the Louisville Bats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, on Tuesday morning.

Seeing his first real in-game action since April 17th, the 29-year-old needed 19 pitches, 11 of which were strikes, to punch out the side on Tuesday. He also yielded a one-out walk and allowed that runner to advance to third on a passed ball and balk in consecutive order, but was able to strand said runner.

According to the PawSox’ Mike Monaco, Eovaldi topped out at 98 MPH with his four-seam fastball and 94 MPH with his cutter. Monaco also notes that Eovaldi got a pair of strikeouts looking on his curveball, a pitch he threw two times.

Placed on the 10-day injured list on April 20th and transferred to the 60-day IL on June 25th, Eovaldi underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies in his right elbow back in April.

The initial plan was for Eovaldi to rejoin the Red Sox rotation once healthy, but that changed earlier this month when manager Alex Cora announced that the righty would move to the bullpen.

Since Thursday appeared to go well for Eovaldi, the likeliest outcome is that he will be activated off the injured list sometime this weekend while the Sox are in Baltimore.

In eight career regular season appearances as a reliever, the Texas native is 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA and .188 batting average against over 14 total innings pitched.

This past Saturday, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski likened Eovaldi’s return to a trade deadline acquisition, saying that, “We are going to add Nathan Eovaldi. For some reason, people seem to, not, like, grasp on to that. He’s a big addition for us coming and we feel he’ll be ready to go within about a week to join us on a full-time basis out there.” 

Given where he is at, it will be interesting to see whether or not Cora uses Eovaldi in high-leverage situations out of the ‘pen immediately, or instead opts to ease his pitcher back into things.

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Red Sox Acquire Right-Hander Andrew Cashner in Trade with Orioles

Before taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second of a three-game weekend series on Saturday night, the Red Sox acquired right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner in a three-player trade with the Baltimore Orioles. The club made the transaction official earlier Saturday.

Cashner, 32, had started 17 games for Baltimore this season, where he posted a 3.83 ERA and .234 batting average against over 96 1/3 total innings pitched.

With a contract that runs through 2019 and has a team option attached for 2020, Cashner appears to be the man to take over the fifth spot in the Red Sox’ starting rotation.

Originally signing a two-year, $16 million deal with the Orioles in February of 2018, the Texas native had a rough first go around in his first full season with Baltimore, posting an ERA of exactly 5.00 in 28 outings, but has rebounded nicely so far this year. That much is evident by his 1.41 ERA and .168 batting average against in five starts since the beginning of June.

When all the dust is settled, expect Sox manager Alex Cora’s rotation to look something like this:

Chris Sale
David Price
Rick Porcello
Andrew Cashner
Eduardo Rodriguez

In his career at Fenway Park, Cashner is 1-1 with an ERA of 7.20 over a small sample size of two starts and just 10 innings pitched.

On the other side of this trade, Boston sent two minor leaguers in the form of 17-year-old infielder Noelberth Romero and 17-year-old outfielder Elio Prado. Both signed as international free agents out Venezuela during last year’s signing period and both were assigned to the Red Sox’ Dominican Summer League team.

Per president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, Cashner’s first start in a Red Sox uniform will come on Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Red Sox Release Tyler Thornburg After Reliever Refused Minor League Assignment

The Red Sox have released right-handed reliever Tyler Thornburg, per the club’s official Twitter account.

Thornburg, 30, was returned from his month-long rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday without being activated from the 10-day injured list with a right hip impingement, meaning the Sox had two days to decide whether to add the righty back to the active roster, designate him for assignment, or outright him.

On Tuesday, WEEI’s Rob Bradford reported that Thornburg would not accept a minor league assignment, so this outcome seemed the most likely before it even occurred.

Acquired by Boston from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for infielder Travis Shaw and minor leaguers, Yeison Coca, Maurico Dubon, and Josh Pennington in December of 2016, Thornburg’s tenure with the Red Sox did not go according to plan.

Given his reputation as one of the better setup men in the National League in his time with Milwaukee, Thornburg was seen as part of the bridge out of the Sox bullpen that would make way for Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning.

Instead, the Texas native missed all the 2017 season due to thoracic outlet syndrome in his throwing shoulder and did not make his Red Sox debut until July 6th of the following season.

There, Thornburg appeared in 25 games for Boston, posting a dismal 5.63 ERA and .901 OPS against over 24 innings pitched before being shut down for the remainder of the year on September 26th.

This year, the former third round pick made his first Opening Day roster as a member of the Red Sox, and allowed 16 earned runs on 21 hits and 10 walks to go along with 22 strikeouts over 16 appearances and 18 2/3 innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 7.71 and OPS against of .972. Not great.

Thornburg yielded two runs on two hits and two walks in the sixth inning of a 10-3 loss against the Toronto Blue Jays on may 21st, two days before he was placed on the IL.

While rehabbing with the PawSox, Thornburg posted a 12.66 ERA and 2.44 WHIP over 11 outings (one start) and just 10 2/3 frames pitched.

As mentioned before, his reputation while with the Brewers should give Thornburg another shot with another club, but it was clear that the marriage between him and the Red Sox was never going to work out. Perhaps a change of scenery will do him better.

Out of all the trades Dave Dombrowski has made since taking over as the Red Sox’ president of baseball operations in 2015, this particular one he made with David Stearns should go down as one of the worst.

The Red Sox virtually got nothing of value out of Thornburg while he was with the club, nor could they flip him for any sort of asset(s) either.

Instead, Travis Shaw, despite being demoted to Triple-A San Antonio last month, has gone on to have two 30-plus home run seasons with the Brewers.

Mauricio Dubon, meanwhile, worked his way to becoming Milwaukee’s fifth-ranked prospect before getting the call up the majors on July 7th, where he will look to provide infield depth to a team competing for a National League Central crown.

All this transpiring while the Red Sox continue to deal with struggles in their bullpen and may even trade for a reliever of Thornburg’s perceived caliber before he arrived in Boston.

Red Sox Reportedly ‘Casting Wide Net’ in Search of Adding Starting Pitcher Before Trade Deadline

The Red Sox are reportedly ‘pushing’ to add a starting pitcher, and they are looking to do it ‘sooner rather than later,’ according to the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

This report comes less than a week after Sox manager Alex Cora announced that right-hander Nathan Eovaldi would be moving to the bullpen once he is activated off the injured list in the coming weeks.

With that impending move to the ‘pen, Eovaldi’s spot in the rotation, which had been occupied by the likes of Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Ryan Weber, and so on, became more of a pressing area of improvement for Boston.

Per ESPN.com, the Red Sox’ rotation owns an ERA of 4.70 and batting average against of .257, the seventh and eighth best in the American League, respectively.

Last Friday, when speaking with The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said, “We built our ballclub for (the starting rotation) to be our strong suit. I don’t think it’s been what we expected or hoped.”

Dombrowski also added that, “They’re a very talented group of pitchers…They’re the guys who are supposed to carry us, really. That’s why I think they’ve been fine. They’ve been okay. But I can’t say they’ve really carried us at any point.”

Names the Red Sox could pursue in trade talks include San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner and Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman, although they are more of the premium targets.

Detroit Tigers southpaw Matthew Boyd and Texas Rangers left-hander Mike Minor, two hurlers Boston was scouting late last month, could be made available as well, but it has been reported that Boyd has a high asking price, while the Rangers remain in contention for a wild card spot.

The situation the Red Sox are in reminds me of what happened last season right before the club acquired Eovaldi from the Tampa Bay Rays. All the speculation pointed to the Sox pursuing a reliever like Zach Britton to bolster their bullpen, but they went out and traded for a starter instead.

We’ll just have to wait and see what Dombrowski has in mind leading into the July 31st trade deadline, and how said plans could affect any luxury tax implications.

Red Sox Activate Heath Hembree off Injured List, Option Trevor Kelley to Triple-A Pawtucket

Before taking on the Toronto Blue Jays in the finale of a three-game series on Thursday, the Red Sox reinstated right-handed reliever Heath Hembree from the 10-day injured list. In a corresponding move, right-handed reliever Trevor Kelley was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. The club made the transaction official earlier Thursday.

Hembree, 30, had been shelved since June 14th due to an extensor strain in his throwing elbow suffered the night before, when the Red Sox went through all their relievers besides the right-hander, and Josh Smith wound up recording his first career save in a 7-6 win over the Texas Rangers on the 13th.

Sent out on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on July 2nd, Hembree struck out two in a scoreless seventh inning against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. 12 of the 16 pitches he threw Tuesday went for strikes.

On the 2019 season as a whole, the South Carolina native has posted a 2.51 ERA and .189 batting average against through 31 appearances and 28 2/3 innings pitched.

In his last 17 appearances leading to the IL stint, Hembree had only yielded one earned run in his last 15 frames of work dating back to the start of May.

Given the current state of the Red Sox bullpen, Hembree should be a welcomed addition after he missed nearly a month of action.

Kelley, meanwhile, had a big league debut to both forget and remember in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 10-6 victory over Toronto.

Recalled from the PawSox the day before, the 25-year-old surrendered three earned runs on two hits and a walk before picking up his first career strikeout to secure the four-win victory for his side.

First pitch for the Red Sox Thursday is scheduled for 7:07 PM EDT on NESN.

In Defense of Matt Barnes

It’s been no secret that Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes has been struggling as of late.

Since the turn of June, the right-hander has posted a 7.82 ERA over 12 2/3 innings pitched, allowing runs in five of his last 14 appearances while also blowing three saves in that span.

He entered the month with an ERA just over two at 2.08 and a batting average against of .160, but those numbers have since skyrocketed.

The main issue involved with these regressing statistics would have to be that Barnes has been used more frequently out of the Red Sox bullpen by manager Alex Cora.

In that span where his ERA was at 2.08 heading into June, the UCONN product appeared in 22, or 40%, of Boston’s first 55 games this season.

Since the beginning of the month though, as previously mentioned, Barnes has appeared in 14, or 58.3%, of Boston’s last 24 games, which is where those struggles have arisen.

As things stand right now, the 29-year-old is on pace to make 71 relief outings in 2019, which would be eight more than he made all of last year. His previous career-high in that category was 70 back in 2017.

With that recent workload comes not much rest, and the numbers back up the sentiment that Barnes has struggled when asked to come out of the ‘pen on consecutive days.

Per Baseball Reference, Barnes has made 10 appearances on zero days rest, another career-high for him. In those 10 games, he has posted an ERA well over 10 and batting average against of .351 over 8 2/3 total innings.

With one or more days of rest, however, the former first round pick has fared much better. That much is evident by how his ERA shrinks from 10.38 with no days off down to 2.16 over 25 frames with anywhere from one to five days off.

If Barnes continues to work at the rate he is now, he is only going to wear out quicker. He’s already walked nine batters in June, more than he had in March/April and May combined.

Clearly, whatever plan president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had in place for his bullpen has not panned out and is just not sustainable for a deep postseason run.

Barnes has struggled at closing games, yes, but was he ever named the Red Sox’ closer to begin with? No.

What the Sox need is an actual closer. Someone with saving experience to fill the gap Craig Kimbrel left from last year’s team.

As long as they figure out some way to upgrade their bullpen, there’s no need for this team to sell.

So, as I have already mentioned, Matt Barnes and the Red Sox bullpen needs some help, or else the Yankees are just going to keep on widening that gap for first place in the American League East until it’s out of the picture.

 

5 Relievers Red Sox Should Target Before July 31st Trade Deadline

I wrote on Sunday about how this Red Sox bullpen needs help from the outside. With the way things are trending, the three relievers Boston has frequently turned to so far this season will be burned out later in the year.

Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier have seen their share of struggles in June, Brandon Workman is averaging nearly seven walks per nine innings this season, and Heath Hembree has been missed during his time on the injured list.

It’s been well stated that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski should look to upgrade his bullpen before the July 31st trading deadline, so here are five names I think he and the Red Sox should target.

LHP Will Smith, San Francisco Giants

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As the featured image would indicate, Giants closer Will Smith first comes to mind for upgrading the Red Sox’ bullpen situation.

Set to turn 30 next month and become a free agent this winter, the left-hander has had a fantastic year in his second full season with San Francisco, posting a 2.01 ERA and 2.10 FIP over 32 appearances  and 31 1/3 innings while averaging more than 13 strikeouts per nine innings and holding opposing hitters to a .157 batting average against.

Given that Sox manager Alex Cora has decided to go without a traditional closer so far in 2019, Smith could provide the reigning World Series champs with what they have been missing in that traditional ninth inning man.

LHP Tony Watson, San Francisco Giants

Colorado Rockies v San Francisco Giants
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Another left-handed Giants reliever, Watson’s current contract runs through the end of the 2019 campaign and includes a player option for next year.

Now in his second season with San Francisco, the 34-year-old hurler hasn’t picked up a save in a game since he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2017, but he can still provide help and experience to a club that is in need of it.

Through 33 appearances and 30 2/3 frames of work in 2019, Watson owns an ERA of 2.64 and a slightly higher FIP of 3.87. He is averaging nearly seven strikeouts per nine and opponents are hitting .250 off of him.

Obviously, these numbers are not as elite as Smith’s, but I think it would be worth the Red Sox’ time and effort to look into acquiring Watson, especially if the former has a hefty asking price.

LHP Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals

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The third and final southpaw on this list, Doolittle has a team option attached to his deal that runs through the end of this season.

The 32-year-old has been a bright spot in what’s been another disappointing year for the Washington Nationals to this point, posting a 3.13 ERA and 2.87 FIP over 33 relief outings and 31 2/3 innings pitches.

A one time Oakland Athletic, Doolittle has converted 16 out of a possible 19 saves while averaging nearly 11 punchouts per nine and holding opposing hitters to a .254 batting average against.

With plenty of late-game experience in hand, Doolittle is another option that could alleviate some stress for the back end of the Boston ‘pen.

RHP Shane Greene, Detroit Tigers

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Now on to the American League arms, and we’ll start with Tigers closer Shane Greene.

Acquired from the New York Yankees in December of 2014 when Dombrowski was still at the helm in Detroit, Greene has evolved from a failed starter to one of the better relievers in the AL in his time with the Tigers.

The 30-year-old righty, who still has one year of arbitration left, owns a minuscule ERA of 0.93 to go along with a FIP of 3.56 through 29 games this season. He has converted 21 of a possible 22 saves while limiting the opposition to a .154 clip.

In his time running baseball operations with Boston, Dombrowski has built a reputation of going out and acquiring or signing players he has had a history with. David Price, J.D. Martinez, and Ian Kinsler all come to mind. So, why not do it again by bringing in Greene to be the new Red Sox’ closer? The asking price may be high given the years of control and what not, but this is an avenue that at least needs to be explored.

RHP Ken Giles, Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles
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Finally, someone the Red Sox just saw this past weekend in Blue Jays closer Ken Giles.

Like Greene, the 28-year-old right-hander still has another year of arbitration remaining before hitting free agency following the 2020 season.

Since being acquired by Toronto from the Houston Astros last July, Giles has been solid, especially this season with an ERA of 1.33 and FIP of 1.07 through 27 appearances and 27 innings of work.

In those 27 outings, Giles has averaged 15.7 punchouts per nine innings while holding opposing hitters to just a .202 batting average against. He has also converted 12 of a possible 13 save opportunities.

Giles missed a little more than a week of action earlier this month due to inflammation in his right elbow, so that may be something to monitor.

The trade deadline is just over a month away and the Red Sox currently sit eight games back of the New Yankees for first place in the American League East.