Red Sox’ Chris Sale to Start 2020 Season on Injured List

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale will start the 2020 season on the injured list, interim manager Ron Roenicke announced Thursday.

Sale had been recovering from a bout with pneumonia as camp broke earlier in the month, which set him back about two weeks in his preparations for the 2020 season. Because of that setback, it had already been determined that the 30-year-old would be unable to get the six spring starts the Red Sox wanted him to make before Opening Day.

Roenicke did say that the reason for Sale’s soon-to-be IL stint is completely pneumonia-related, and has nothing to do with the build-up of his arm, which is going “great.”

According to The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey, Sale has “been throwing bullpens and has progressed to simulated games with a chance of appearing in his first game next week.”

Entering his fourth season with Boston, Sale is coming off an injury-shortened 2019 campaign where he made just 25 starts and threw 147 1/3 innings, the lowest totals of his career since he became a starter in 2012.

The Red Sox shut the lefty down in August due to inflammation in his left elbow, and he received a PRP injection from Dr. James Andrews that same month.

Another visit with Dr. Andrews in November resulted in Sale being cleared to throw with an eye towards spring training, so in terms of where he is at with his arm, everything appears fine.

Sale is set to earn $30 million in the first year of the five-year, $145 million extension he signed with the Sox last march.

As MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith notes, “IL stints for pitchers will increase from 10 days to 15 days this season.” Meaning that Sale will likely remain sidelined for the first two weeks of the 2020 campaign.

Sale’s absence to begin things means the Red Sox now have three viable starters — Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez — in their rotation.

Right-hander Ryan Weber looks like an early favorite to take David Price’s spot, but who the Sox turn to to fill in for Sale will be interesting to see.

 

Predicting the Red Sox’ Opening Day Roster

One month from Wednesday, the Red Sox will open their 2020 season with the first of four against the Toronto Blue Jays north of border. As things stand right now, a solid portion of the club’s 26-man Opening Day roster is set, but with questions surrounding injuries and depth aplenty, there could still be a handful of spots up for grabs.

With that, I thought it would be a good time to take a crack at what the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster could look like this time next month. Let’s get to it, shall we?

The Starting Rotation:

Eduardo Rodriguez
Nathan Eovaldi
Martin Perez
Ryan Weber
Kyle Hart

According to interim manager Ron Roenicke, left-hander Chris Sale might need to throw two live batting practice sessions before throwing in an actual game, leaving the 30-year-old’s status for Opening Day up in the air since he wouldn’t have a ton of time to ramp up his workload.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding Sale, that leaves two spots in Boston’s rotation up for grabs. Right-hander Ryan Weber seems like a likely candidate, and I went with left-hander Kyle Hart over pitching prospect Tanner Houck for the fifth spot.

Hart, 27, was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November, while Houck, who is not on the 40-man roster, could use more time to develop as a starter in Triple-A.

Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson have prior experience starting for the Red Sox, although Johnson would need to be added back to the 40-man roster after being outrighted in November.

The Bullpen:

Matt Barnes
Ryan Brasier
Brandon Workman
Darwinzon Hernandez
Josh Taylor
Heath Hembree
Marcus Walden
Austin Brice

As far as I am concerned, Barnes, Workman, Hernandez, Taylor, Hembree, and Walden are all locks to make the Opening Day roster.

Brasier struggled at times last year and has minor-league options remaining, while Brice, who was acquired from the Marlins last month, is out of options.

Outside candidates on the 40-man roster include Yoan Aybar, Matt Hall, Chris Mazza, Josh Osich, Mike Shawaryn, Jeffrey Springs, and Phillips Valdez.

The Catchers:

Christian Vazquez
Jonathan Lucroy

Although Kevin Plawecki is on a guaranteed deal for the 2020 season, it is only for $900,000, so it would not be a huge financial loss if the Sox went with Lucroy instead.

The two-time All-Star signed a minor-league deal with Boston earlier in February and has a far more impressive offensive track record than Plawecki does. He also appears to have a solid relationship with Roenicke from when the two were with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Infielders:

Mitch Moreland
Michael Chavis
Jose Peraza
Xander Bogaerts
Rafael Devers
Jonathan Arauz
Tzu-Wei Lin

Lin is out of options, and as a Rule 5 selection, Arauz would have to be offered back to the Astros if he does not stick on Boston’s 26-man roster, so I believe those two will make it, especially with the defensive versatility Lin offers.

Bogaerts has been dealing with a sore left ankle since workouts began nearly two weeks ago, but it looks like that is a non-issue as far as his status for Opening Day is concerned.

Top prospect Bobby Dalbec is not listed here, but I would personally love to see him make it if he were to get adequate playing time at the big-league level. With Devers manning third and Moreland and Chavis handling first base duties though, that does not seem likely at this point.

Also, Dustin Pedroia will begin the year on the 60-day injured list.

The Outfielders:

Andrew Benintendi
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Kevin Pillar
J.D. Martinez

With Alex Verdugo likely to start the season on the injured list due to a lower back stress fracture, Kevin Pillar is likely to slide in as an everyday outfielder, which he is more than capable of doing.

As I mentioned, Lin, and even prospect C.J. Chatham, are capable of playing a little outfield if necessary. And the Red Sox may need a temporary fourth outfielder during Verdugo’s absence if they do not want Martinez to spend too much time in the outfield.

So there you have it. 26 roster spots. 26 predictions with a whole lot of other possibilities as well. I’ll leave you with my guess for what the Opening Day starting lineup could look like:

  1. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  2. Rafael Devers, 3B
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH
  5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  6. Christian Vazquez, C
  7. Michael Chavis, 2B
  8. Kevin Pillar, RF
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
    Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP

 

Red Sox Claim Right-Hander Phillips Valdez off Waivers From Mariners, Place Dustin Pedroia on 60-Day Injured List

The Red Sox have claimed right-hander Phillips Valdez off waivers from the Seattle Mariners, the club announced Sunday. In order to make room for Valdez on Boston’s 40-man roster, second baseman Dustin Pedroia was placed on the 60-day injured list.

Valdez, 28, was claimed off waivers by Seattle back in November and designated for assignment on Friday.

The Dominican Republic native spent the 2019 campaign with the Texas Rangers organization, where he made his major-league debut in June and posted an ERA of 3.94 and xFIP of 4.64 over 11 relief appearances and 16 innings of work.

While in the minors in 2019, Valdez worked as both a starter and reliever, and owned an ERA of 4.92 over 26 outings (14 starts) for the Rangers’ Triple-A club in Nashville.

An original international signee of the Indians back in 2009, Valdez’s pitch mix includes a sinker, changeup, slider, and four-seam fastball, per Statcast.

The Red Sox will be Valdez’s sixth organization, as the righty rounds out Boston’s 40-man roster for the time being.

As for Pedroia, the 36-year-old veteran suffered a setback with his surgically-repaired left knee last month and has yet to report to big-league camp.

The move to put him on the 60-day injured list is probably more of a formality than anything at this point, but it is still not great nonetheless.

As things stand right now, the Red Sox should have 67 players at major-league camp once Valdez and outfielder Cesar Puello arrive. That clubhouse is going to be crowded.

 

Red Sox Officially Name Jerry Narron Bench Coach

The Red Sox have hired Jerry Narron to serve as the club’s bench coach under interim manager Ron Roenicke. The club made the move official following Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Narron, 64, had served as bench coach for the Diamondbacks under old friend Torey Lovullo for the last three seasons, but left the organization at the conclusion of the 2019 campaign after Arizona decided to promote Luis Urueta to the position.

If Narron’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he had previously been the Red Sox’ bench coach going way back to 2003, when Grady Little was at the helm in Boston.

It was a brief stint, but Narron said that he “had a great year here and enjoyed it.”

Prior to that, the North Carolina native managed the Texas Rangers from May 2001 until the conclusion of the 2002 season, where he posted a record of 134-162.

After spending the 2003 campaign with the Sox, Narron joined the Reds’ coaching staff as bench coach under then-manager Dave Miley before being named interim manager in June 2005.

That ‘interim’ tag was eventually removed, but Narron was fired by the Reds a little more than two years after his initial promotion. He went 157-179 while in charge in Cincinnati.

From there, Narron returned to the Rangers in 2008 to work as a front office consultant before being hired as the Brewers’ bench coach prior to the start of the 2011 season.

The manager who hired him at the time? Ron Roenicke.

Narron served as bench coach under Roenicke throughout his entire tenure as manager in Milwaukee and remained with the club even after Roenicke was fired midway through the 2015 season.

“He’s got a great baseball mind.” Roenicke said of Narron when speaking to reporters Saturday. “He’s a lot smarter than I am which helps me to go to him when I want to. All of that helps make things go smoother here.”

Upon being named interim manager earlier in the month, Roenicke was left without a bench coach, the role he had previously held under Alex Cora.

There was plenty of speculation that Roenicke, along with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran, were going to go with an internal candidate for the position. But, going with someone who is familiar with Roenicke and his style isn’t too bad, either.

“I wouldn’t do it just because [Narron’s] familiar with me,” said Roenicke. “I’d do it because he’s really good.”

Narron should also be somewhat familiar with at least one player on the Sox’ 40-man roster in J.D. Martinez, who spent the latter half of the 2017 campaign with the Diamondbacks after coming over in a July trade from the Tigers that year.

We should see Narron on the bench for the first time on Sunday afternoon, when the Red Sox take on the Orioles in Sarasota.

 

New Red Sox Catcher Jonathan Lucroy: ‘I Feel a Lot Better Than I Have in a Long Time’

New Red Sox catcher Jonathan Lucroy is entering uncharted territory as he enters his 13th season in professional baseball. That being a veteran on a minor-league deal when just a few years ago you could argue he was one of the top catchers in the game.

When speaking to reporters at JetBlue Park for the first time on Thursday, the 33-year-old backstop did not make light of how he ended up in his current predicament.

“It’s a little strange,” Lucroy said on attending big league camp as a non-roster invite. “This is the first time I have had to do this. But, it’s OK. It’s just a part of the business side of baseball. Honestly, it’s what I deserve. I haven’t played good. So, it’s kind of where we’re at. You make your bed, you got to sleep in it. It’s just something I have to deal with and that’s OK. It’s a part of life.”

Spending last season with the Angels and Cubs, Lucroy posted an unimpressive .232/.305/.355 slash line to go along with eight home runs and 36 RBI over 101 total games played. He also ranked as one of the worst defensive catchers who caught at least 500 innings, according to FanGraphs.

The Florida native did miss time last year due to a broken nose and concussion, and he underwent major neck surgery earlier in the offseason to replace a cervical disc that he discussed in detail on Thursday.

“I had a herniated disc in my neck the past three years,” said Lucroy. “I’d like to sit here and make excuses to say that was the reason I haven’t played good, but I’m not going to. It did effect me, but I got it taken care of and I feel a lot better than I have in a long time.”

Going back to his days with the Brewers, Lucroy does have some familiarity with Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke, who served as Lucroy’s skipper from 2011 until May 2015.

“I’ve known Ron for a long time,” Lucroy said. “We had a lot of good times together. He’s a really good guy, a really good manager. He’s a quality pickup for the Red Sox. Speaking from experience with him, he’s a huge positive for the Red Sox for sure.”

Lucroy also said that before signing with Boston, he received a call from Roenicke to essentially recruit him.

“He called me and wanted me to come,” Lucroy said of Roenicke. “He was like ‘Look, you got an opportunity here. You come here and you got an opportunity to make a team’ and right now, that’s all you can ask for as a guy in my position.”

The two-time All-Star also mentioned how enticing it was to get the chance to work with Jason Varitek, as the former Sox captain “is very respected in the catching world.”

The road for Lucroy to break camp on Boston’s Opening Day roster is not an easy one, with the club already having former Mets and Indians backstop Kevin Plawecki on its 40-man roster and on a guaranteed deal for the 2020 season, albeit for only $900,000.

Lucroy did not sound all that concerned about playing time in the majors for the time being though, as he emphasized how he has to “make the team first and contribute where he can to help the [Red Sox] win.”

For someone who has the kind of résumé Lucroy does, you might think he would be one to feel disrespected by the notion of not receiving a major-league contract offer, but as previously mentioned, he was brutally honest about his recent performance over the last few years.

“Analytically, I’ve been terrible,” he said. “Seriously, I’m not trying to make excuses. So, I’m not surprised I didn’t get a big league offer. Not at all.”

If he is able to regain some of the form he put on display during the middle parts of the previous decade, Lucroy could be an intriguing addition to a Red Sox team that dealt Sandy Leon to the Indians back in December.

According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Lucroy would earn $1.5 million if he plays in the majors this season. He will be wearing the No. 12.

Red Sox Still Appear Interested in Acquiring Wil Myers, Prospects From Padres

Even after dealing Mookie Betts to the Dodgers last week, the Red Sox are still talking to the Padres about acquiring former All-Star outfielder Wil Myers, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee.

Per Acee, the Sox are also interested in Padres right-hander Cal Quantrill, in addition to top prospects Luis Campusano and Gabriel Arias, while San Diego is interested in offloading ‘about half’ of the $61 million owed to Myers over the next three seasons.

In initial trade talks revolving around Betts, it was reported that the Padres wanted Boston to assume more than half of Myers’ remaining salary due to the money San Diego would be taking on for the 2020 season.

Now, with Betts out of the equation, it seems as though Padres general manager A.J. Preller is more interested in ‘attaining the salary flexibility moving Myers would create.’

Because of that notion, any return the Pads would get in a potential trade with the Red Sox is ‘unclear’, according to Acee.

After shipping both Betts and left-hander David Price to Los Angeles, the Sox are a little more than $13 million below the $208 million luxury tax threshold, so they would be capable of assuming a portion of Myers’ 2020 salary without going over.

Speaking of that, the 29-year-old Myers is set to earn $20 million this coming season in the fourth year of the six-year, $83 million extension he signed with San Diego in 2017. But, since the average annual value of that deal comes out to about $13.8 million, that is the amount that will count towards the luxury tax in 2020.

Myers was coming off an All-Star season when he inked that extension with the Padres, but he has fallen off since, most recently slashing .239/.321/.418 with 18 home runs and 58 RBI over 155 games played in 2019.

The North Carolina native is capable of playing both first base and all three outfield positions, and he does have a history with Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom when the two were with the Rays.

If this deal were to happen, it would be interesting to see who Boston parts ways with. Jackie Bradley Jr. comes to mind when considering the signing of Kevin Pillar, but he is owed $11 million in his final year of team control before reaching free agency in the winter.

Anyway you put it, it looks like Bloom and Co. are in pursuit of pitching, which is a positive development given the current questions surrounding the Red Sox’ starting rotation.

Red Sox Reportedly Add Jonathan Lucroy on Minor-League Deal

The Red Sox have reportedly agreed to a minor-league deal with free-agent catcher Jonathan Lucroy, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. The deal is pending a physical and includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Lucroy, 33, will join Jett Bandy and Juan Centeno as veteran backstops the Sox have added on minor-league pacts this offseason.

The two-time All-Star slashed .232/.305/.355 with eight home runs and 36 RBI over 101 total games between the Angels and Cubs last year.

Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Lucroy underwent major neck surgery earlier in the offseason to replace a cervical disc that had been bothering him for ‘a couple years.’

Back in July, when he was with the Angels, Lucroy was left with a concussion and broken nose and had to be taken to a local hospital after colliding with then-Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick at home plate in Houston. He was sidelined for a little more than three weeks because of it.

A former third-round pick of the Brewers back in 2007, Lucroy should have some familiarity with the Red Sox already, as interim manager Ron Roenicke was his manager in Milwaukee from the start of the 2011 season until May 2015.

Lucroy also has some experience as a first baseman, and is expected to report to Fenway South on Wednesday for his physical, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.