Red Sox Manager Ron Roenicke on Nathan Eovaldi: ‘He Probably Would Be Ready for a Season in a Week’

Before MLB spring training was suspended in mid-March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi was putting together an impressive string of exhibition outings leading into what would have been his second full season in Boston.

Over three starts spanning 12 innings of work, the 30-year-old hurler had yet to surrender a run while scattering just four hits and one walk to go along with 12 strikeouts against 29 total batters faced.

It was just Grapefruit League play, sure, but in the midst of Chris Sale undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery and David Price being dealt to the Dodgers, a resurgent Eovaldi would have been a welcome sight for a Red Sox pitching staff with plenty of holes.

Five days after his start against the Blue Jays in Fort Myers, spring training sites across Florida and Arizona were shut down due to the aforementioned pandemic, and players were allowed to go back home, where they would have to stay prepared for the 2020 season on their own outside of phone/video conference calls with their respective coaching staffs.

Flash forward from March to where things stand right now, and Red Sox pitchers and catchers, along with the rest of the team, are ready to report to Fenway Park on Wednesday for ‘Summer Camp,’ as it has been dubbed by MLB.

When speaking with reporters via Zoom on Wednesday, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke provided some updates on his pitching staff, which included the fact that guys like Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Martin Perez have already begun to ramp up their workloads while at home these past few weeks.

“You look at guys like Nate Eovaldi and what he’s done so far, “Roenicke said. “He probably would be ready for a season in a week.”

It’s unclear whether Roenicke meant a 60-game or 162-game season, but it still an encouraging update pertaining to an important member of the Red Sox’ starting rotation nonetheless.

After signing a four-year, $68 million deal to stay in Boston two Decembers ago, Eovaldi struggled to stay on the field at times in 2019.

Last April, after just four starts, the Houston native required surgery to remove loose bodies in his right elbow, a procedure that cost him just about four months of the season.

Upon his return to the Red Sox as a reliever in late July, Eovaldi proved mostly ineffective out of the bullpen, as he posted an ERA above five over 11 appearances before closing out the season as a starter once more from August 18th on.

Due to his contract and lackluster 2019 campaign, Eovaldi has drawn the ire of many a Red Sox fan.

The 2020 season may be a truncated one, but if healthy, the flame throwing Eovaldi could prove his doubters wrong and emerge as a key cog on an overlooked Red Sox pitching staff.

Red Sox Placing Plenty of Emphasis on Undrafted Free Agent Market

The window for teams to sign undrafted free agents opened up a week ago Sunday. Since that time, the Red Sox have signed 13 undrafted free agents for no more than $20,000, according to Baseball America. That’s the most of any club thus far.

Not only that, but Boston, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni, are making sure they get the guys they want.

That being the case because two of the 13 UDFAs the Sox have signed so far have been recruited by a pair of All-Stars.

St. Joseph’s University (Philadelphia) right-hander Jordan DiValerio, a senior, already had the Red Sox at the top of his list after he realized he was not going to get drafted. A call from Chirs Sale last Sunday morning all but solidified which club the Nescopeck product was going to sign with.

“I was definitely nervous,” DiValerio said of his conversation with the Red Sox ace. “But he’s just a normal dude. When it boils down to it, he’s really normal, easy to talk to. We talked about Pennsylvania a little bit. He said he’s excited to have me as part of the club.”

On that same Sunday, Boston reached out to another undrafted college player in the form of Grand Canyon University’s Cuba Bess.

A first baseman by trade, the redshirt junior out of Fruita, Colo. received a call from Red Sox area scout Vaughn Williams that was accompanied by a recruitment video pitch from Xander Bogaerts.

One day later, Bess made the decision to forego his senior season and sign with the Sox.

“I took about a day to discuss it with family and coaches and even some of my teammates and former teammates,” Bess told WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “It was a tough decision, especially having eligibility back. It took about a day to say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to sign with you guys.'”

Along with DiValerio and Bess, the Red Sox have reportedly signed Jacinto Arredondo, Graham Hoffman, Jake MacKenzie, Juan Montero, Cole Milam, Henry Nunez-Rijo, Jose Garcia, Merfy Andrew, Brian Van Belle, Maceo Campbell, and Robert Kwiatkowski to undrafted free agent contracts.

Red Sox Open Fenway South Complex for Players to Prepare for 2020 Season, If There Is One

The Red Sox have opened the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers back up for players to once again prepare for the 2020 season, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

The important distinction here is that before this week, the complex was only available to players who were working their way back from injuries, such as Alex Verdugo and Chris Sale.

Now though, I would imagine the facility surrounding JetBlue Park is available to Red Sox players and staff in the same capacity it was before pitchers and catchers reported to camp back in February.

Per Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the complex was open on Wednesday and Thursday to a handful of players that included Jackie Bradley Jr. and Tzu-Wei Lin, and he expects that the exact number of players who show up “may vary day to day.”

This news comes at a time where the club is debating on whether to hold a second version of spring training in Boston or Fort Myers if baseball does indeed return this year. Of course, that all depends on the ongoing negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLBPA.

As Abraham notes, if the two sides can reach an agreement on starting the season relatively soon, “formal workouts would begin approximately June 10th and last three weeks.”

These preseason workouts would more than likely consist of intrasquad games, so it would seem like it would be in the Sox’ best interest to hold a second version of spring training in Fort Myers rather than Boston given the volume of players who would be on hand in this scenario.

Red Sox’ Chris Sale on Handling Criticism: ‘I’ve Never Paid Attention to What People Say About Me, Because It Doesn’t Matter’

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale underwent successful Tommy John surgery seven weeks ago.

Before Tuesday, the 31-year-old had only spoken to the media once since undergoing the procedure in Los Angeles, but he spoke with ESPN’s Mary Rivera in an extensive one-on-one, presumably over-phone interview earlier this week.

Topics covered in said interview included Sale’s recovery from Tommy John, criticism from fans over his contract, the Red Sox trading Mookie Betts and David Price, thoughts on a disappointing 2019 season, the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017, and Alex Cora’s departure from Boston.

You can read Rivera’s conversation with Sale in full here, but I wanted to hit on a few highlights, starting with the Florida native being asked if it’s “hard to handle the criticism” from people who believe he has not lived up to expectations under his new contract.

“When I got to Boston, my first year was really good,” Sale said. “My second season was decent but I ran into some shoulder issues. We ended up winning a World Series, so I’d even call that a relatively good season with a little hiccup. Then, 2019 was an absolute disaster. But in the end, I’ve never paid attention to what people say about me, because it doesn’t matter.”

Prior to the start of the 2019 season, Sale inked a five-year, $145 million contract extension with the Red Sox while Dave Dombrowski still served as the club’s president of baseball operations.

Dombrowski has since been removed from that post and was effectively replaced by former Rays executive and current chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, whose first major move at the helm in Boston was dealing Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in February.

That sort of transaction, which significantly hindered the Red Sox’ chances of winning in 2020, could have upset a veteran like Sale, whose first priority is to win no matter who he plays for, but he did not seem to take too much offense to it.

“Very rarely in this day and age, you get to play with the same team for a long time,” Sale told Rivera. “We have to adapt and go with it. We don’t make decisions; we don’t trade players. We show up to spring training and we do our best to win with the players we have.”

At the time Betts and Price were dealt to Los Angeles, the 2020 MLB season really wasn’t in question. That has obviously changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though, and Sale isn’t too sure there will even be a season at all. Not like that matters much for him anyway since he is still recovering from Tommy John.

It still is a concerning matter for players who can play this year though, and Sale certainly feels for them while the MLBPA remains in active negotiations with the league.

“There’s too many moving parts with all this right now,” he said in regard to getting baseball back this year. “There’s obviously negotiations between the players and the owners, and that’s what I hope we can iron out sooner rather than later. On my end of it, I’m not missing any games that everyone else isn’t missing. Plus, I’m not getting paid, so no one can call me an overpaid asshole right now [laughs].”

For the time being, Sale will continue the process of coming back from Tommy John surgery. He’s been one of the few players to work out at Fenway South in Fort Myers since the complex opened back up earlier in the month.

“I’ve been doing a shoulder program and we’re doing soft-tissue stuff but I’m starting to get into some pushing stuff, some rows,” Sale said of the rehab process. “A lot of this actually is a lot of shoulder work too, which is good.

“We can kind of start, as they say, tearing it down to the studs. I can work from the ground up. I can completely tear my body down and build it back up. Right now, since I’m not really working out to achieve anything, I can really focus on the little fine details that sometimes might be overlooked getting ready for a big, bulky season. I love the guys I’m working with and I know I’m in good hands.”

If all goes according to plan, Sale should be able to return to a big league mound sometime in June or July 2021.

On This Day in Red Sox History: Pedro Martinez Leads off With Immaculate Inning

On this day in 2002, Red Sox right-hander Pedro Martinez took the mound at Fenway Park for his eighth start of the season, this one coming against the 29-12 Seattle Mariners.

Entering that dreary and cold evening in Boston, Martinez owned a 4-0 record to go along with a 3.49 ERA and .616 OPS against through his first seven starts and 38 2/3 innings pitched of the ’02 campaign.

As indicated by their record, the Mariners were a pretty decent club up to this point in the 2002 season. They had just taken two out of three from Boston in Seattle the previous weekend and took the opener of the three-game set at Fenway the day before Pedro took the hill.

That said, Martinez dominated the M’s in the Sox’ lone win in the Emerald city, and he followed suit with another impressive outing in his third consecutive start against an American League West foe on that faithful Saturday.

What was even more splendid about this performance from Martinez was how he led it off: With an immaculate inning.

That’s right, by getting Ichiro Suzuki, Mark McLemore, and Ruben Sierra to all fan on three pitches each, the Dominican national became the 11th pitcher in American League history to record an immaculate frame. In other words, three batters faced, nine pitches thrown, and three punchouts. Not too shabby.

That set the tone for Martinez to best the Mariners once more, as he went on to surrender just one run over eight solid innings while scattering six hits and one HBP to go along with nine strikeouts on the night.

Improving to 6-0 on the year thanks to this start, Martinez went on to finish second in American League Cy Young voting and 20th in AL MVP voting in 2002.

Since Martinez accomplished the feat on this day 18 years ago, Clay Buccholz, Craig Kimbrel, Rick Porcello, and Chris Sale have been the only Red Sox pitchers to also toss an immaculate inning, with Sale doing it on two separate occasions last season.

Koji Uehara, Chris Sale Reflect on Recording Final Outs of 2013, 2018 World Series for Red Sox

Despite being born on opposite sides of the world 14 years apart and despite throwing with the opposite hand, Koji Uehara and Chris Sale have something in common: They both recorded the final out of a World Series for the Red Sox in the last 10 years.

Uehara, then 38, did so for Boston against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2013 fall classic at Fenway Park, while Sale, then 29, did so for Boston against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the 2018 fall classic at Dodger stadium.

Uehara, a right-hander, got the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter swinging on a 2-2 splitter on the outer half of the plate, while Sale, a left-hander, got the Dodgers’ Manny Machado to corkscrew into the ground and whiff on a 1-2, 84 MPH slider.

Both hurlers wrapped up historic seasons for the Red Sox with those respective punchouts, and both hurlers recently spoke to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal in separate conversations about what they recall from those special nights in late October of 2013 and 2018.

Starting with Uehara, the Japan native was coming off a dominant season in which he didn’t even start the year as Boston’s closer.

Season-ending surgeries for Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey resulted in Uehara sliding into that ninth-inning role in July, and he did not look back from there all the way until coming into the final frame of Game 6 of the 2013 World Series with a 6-1 lead to protect.

With the chance to secure the Sox’ first World Series win at Fenway Park since 1918, Uehara retired Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso in simple fashion, leaving Carpenter as the lone obstacle remaining.

Upon fanning the Cardinals infielder on the seventh and final pitch he would throw in 2013 to secure his club’s eight World Series title in franchise history, Uehara reveled in what he and the Red Sox had just accomplished.

“I realized that I didn’t need to throw anymore,” he said, through team interpreter Mikio Yoshimura. “It came purely from my complete satisfaction…how fulfilled I was. I can still feel the ultimate happiness when I look back at that moment.”

According to Rosenthal, Uehara considers recording the final out of the ’13 World Series the ‘pinnacle of his’ professional baseball career.

Turning to Sale now, the Florida native was slated to start Game 5 of the 2018 World Series for Boston, but that responsibility instead went to fellow left-hander David Price while Sale would be available to pitch out of the bullpen that night.

“We were like, ‘We’re in,'” Sale recalled him and Price’s meeting with then-manager Alex Cora following Boston’s Game 4 win over the Dodgers. “Me and DP high-fived, hugged it out. I looked at him and said, ‘We’re going old-school tomorrow.”

Price delivered with seven-plus quality innings of work in Game 5, while Joe Kelly finished the eighth and the Red Sox entered the ninth with a comfortable four-run advantage.

Sale had begun to warm up in the eighth, but after Kelly got through the frame unscathed, he sat back down until he got the call for the ninth.

“I remember running in from the bullpen,” Sale told Rosenthal. “The only two things going through my mind were, I have a four-run lead and I have three outs to get. Don’t trip on the way in.”

Sale did not trip on the way in, and he mowed down Justin Turner and Kike Hernandez in consecutive order before fanning Machado on four pitches to secure the series victory.

“It was like the chain didn’t catch. It happened so slow for me,” Sale said of the first few moments after recording the final out. “It was almost like strike three, OK, click-click, game’s over, click-click, holy shit, we’re world champions, we just won the World Series. It was like a delay for me. I got the third out. I took a couple of steps. Then boom, it hit me.”

Just recalling what happened that night gave Sale chills, he told Rosenthal. As it should considering how the 119-win, World Series champion 2018 Boston Red Sox are one of, if not the greatest team in the franchise’s storied history.

 

Cape Cod Baseball League Cancels 2020 Season Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has put the sports world on hold, the Cape Cod Baseball League decided to cancel its 2020 season on Friday.

Per an official release, the league’s executive committee “voted unanimously to cancel the 2020 Cape Cod Baseball League season.  The decision was based on the health concerns and safety needs of all involved. Following CDC guidelines and medical recommendations, the league determined it would be impossible to guarantee the safety of players, coaches, umpires, host families, volunteers and fans during this unprecedented health crisis.”

Made up of 10 teams scattered across the cape, the Cape League was founded in 1885 and has become one of the top summer collegiate baseball leagues in the country.

Notable Red Sox players and prospects who spent their college summers on the cape include Chris Sale, Mitch Moreland, Matt Barnes, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brian Johnson, Bobby Poyner, Brandon Workman, Bobby Dalbec, and Cameron Cannon to name a few.

“We would like to thank all our dedicated volunteers and sponsors for their support and look forward to playing again in 2021,” the aforementioned statement read. “Thank you for your continued support and stay safe and healthy.”

On a personal note, this news stinks. Going to a handful of Cape League games every summer was always something I looked forward to. Now, it looks like we’ll have to wait until 2021 for the CCBL to return.

Red Sox’ Chris Sale Speaks on Tommy John Surgery for First Time Since Undergoing Procedure Last Month

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale spoke with the media on Tuesday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery late last month.

Speaking via a conference call with several reporters, the 31-year-old said that he’s “really happy” with where he’s at right now and he’ll get his cast taken off sometime on Thursday.

From there, Sale said that he will “probably” begin the rehab process at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, but if worst comes to worst in regards to the nationwide COVID-19 pandemic, he could start working out again at his own house in nearby Naples.

“We could have done this six months ago,” Sale said in regards to the procedure. “But I’m okay with that. I didn’t want to jump the gun, I wanted to make sure this was something that needed to be done.”

After being shut down last August due to inflammation in his left elbow, Sale was eventually given the go-ahead to begin throwing again right around Thanksgiving.

Heading into the start of spring training, Sale was completely healthy outside of a bout of pneumonia he dealt with earlier in the year.

“I truly thought I was in the clear,” the hurler said. “I had all the confidence in the world coming into spring training that my arm was going to be as good, if not better, than it was my entire career.”

That turned out not to be the case though, as Sale experienced soreness in his left elbow in early March, shortly after he faced live hitters for the first time since before he was shut down last August.

Later diagnosed with a flexor tendon strain, Sale was prescribed a two-week period of rest and did not begin throwing again until the middle of March.

Even after that period of rest, Sale again experienced discomfort in his left elbow while throwing and that’s ultimately how the decision for the Florida native to undergo Tommy John was reached.

“It was a punch to the gut,” he said. “It was tough to let my teammates down.”

As tough as it may have been, Sale did say that he “sleep[s] easier knowing we did everything we could. We turned over every stone.”

Sale’s rotation-mate Nathan Eovaldi has undergone Tommy John surgery twice in his career. When seeking advice from Eovaldi, Sale was advised to “set little goals” for himself and to not look at the recovery process as a year-long endeavor, but instead focus on two weeks at a time.

“I have a chip on my shoulder,” Sale said. “Well, I guess I have a chip in my elbow, too.”

The typical recovery time for Tommy John surgery is usually 14-15 months, so we probably won’t see Sale on a big league mound again until June 2021 at the earliest.

On a positive note, Sale did say that he throws a “mean” right-handed cutter with a wiffle ball to his sons, so that’s pretty neat.

Red Sox’ Chris Sale Undergoes Successful Tommy John Surgery in Los Angeles

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale has undergone successful Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, industry sources have told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

The typical recovery time from this procedure is anywhere between 14 to 15 months, so Sale will likely be out of commission until sometime around June 2021 at the earliest.

The Red Sox announced that Sale, who turned 31 on Monday, would undergo Tommy John surgery on March 19th, six days after he began throwing again and felt more discomfort in his left elbow following a brief session outside that following Tuesday.

Per Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, Sale had experienced enough pain then to shut things down once more, and “the decision after that became clear.”

Since the club announced that the Florida native would be undergoing Tommy John, things had been relatively quiet surrounding the matter before Monday. That is mostly due to the fact that many states have put limitations on elective procedures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting healthcare facilities across the country.

As Speier notes in the attached article above, “Among the doctors who have stopped performing Tommy John procedures in response to the pandemic is Dr. James Andrews. An Andrews Institute spokesperson said on Monday that the institute had suspended elective procedures, including Tommy John.”

The Red Sox themselves just announced via Twitter that Sale’s procedure to repair his left UCL was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, CA, so there’s that.

Entering the first year of the five-year, $145 million extension he signed with Boston last March, Sale is set to earn approximately $30 million in 2020.

What If the Red Sox Traded for Sonny Gray in 2015?

Truth be told, I’m stealing this “What if” idea from The Athletic, whose various writers are ‘exploring what might have happened if things had gone differently at significant points in sports history.’

The Athletic’s Chad Jennings began by looking back as recently as the Mookie Betts and David Price trade, and in accordance with that, I thought it would be interesting to look back at a time in Red Sox history prior to the club signing Price to a then record-setting seven year, $217 million contract in December 2015.

Yes, this point in time was just a few months before that, in October to be more specific.

The Red Sox were coming off their second consecutive last place finish in the American League East, marking the first time they had done that since the 1929-1930 seasons.

Under new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, who was hired to replace Ben Cherington that August, the club was in desperate need of front-line starting pitching help coming off a 2015 campaign in which they ranked 13th in the American League in starters’ ERA (4.34).

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, before Dombrowski had even been hired, the former Tigers executive identified soon-to-be free agent left-hander David Price as a potential target to pursue that winter in an interview with Red Sox brass.

Potential trades for names such as the White Sox’ Chris Sale, the Indians’ Corey Kluber, and the Athletics’ Sonny Gray seemed possible as well.

Come October, per Speier, “the Red Sox tried to quantitatively compare the cost of a trade for an ace versus signing one in free agency. [Director of major league operations Zack] Scott oversaw the production of a sixteen-page memo, in this case exploring a hypothetical deal for the A’s Gray, in exchange for a five-prospect package of Rafael Devers, Blake Swihart, Manuel Margot, Henry Owens, and Javy Guerra.”

Based on the projections used in this memo, “the Red Sox considered such a trade a $230 million proposition, with the prospects carrying a projected future worth of $200 million on top of the roughly $30 million that the team anticipated it would have to pay Gray in salary over his remaining four years of team control.”

Gray, at the time, was entering his final year of being a pre-arbitration player.

The results of the assessment, however, did not sway the Sox to swing a trade for an ace, as they “believed it would cost less simply to sign a free-agent starter than it would to trade for a rotation solution.” That was especially the case in the event that including Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts in a trade for a starting pitcher became a must for another team, like the A’s.

In the end, Dombrowski and Co. chose giving up money over giving up prospects and wound up signing Price to that then-record-setting seven-year deal that December.

Although it does not appear that the Red Sox were all that close to acquiring Gray from Oakland, it is fascinating to look back and wonder what could have been.

Out of those five prospects listed above, Devers would be the one missed the most, as the major-league careers of Swihart, Margot, Owens, and Guerra haven’t really panned out to this point for various reasons.

It’s also compelling to look back because Gray in Boston would have been no sure thing. That much was made evident by a rather tumultuous 1 1/2 year tenure with the Yankees, although he has since bounced back nicely after being traded to the Reds in January 2019.

Price’s tenure with the Red Sox wasn’t picture-perfect either, but he did play an integral role in the club’s march to a historic World Series title in 2018 before getting traded to the Dodgers last month.

All in all, handing out massively lucrative contracts and involving top prospects in blockbuster trades both involve a great deal of risk. In the case of acquiring the services of a front-line starter when they most desperately needed one in Dombrowski’s first offseason as president of baseball operations, the Red Sox went with the former over the latter.

Note: If you haven’t already, you should read Homegrown by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. This piece would not have been possible had it not been for the information provided in that terrific book about how the Red Sox built a World Series champion from the ground up.