New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox minor-league coach Chris Hess joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by one of the Red Sox’ newest minor-league coaches in Chris Hess.

Among the topics Hess and I discussed were his college career at the University of Rhode Island, how he found out he got drafted in 2017, his professional career with the Yankees, what led him to join the Red Sox as a minor-league coach, what it will be like to work with Bianca Smith, and much more.

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Chris for taking some time out of his Thursday night to have a conversation with me. You can check out his 401 Elite Baseball Training program by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Chris Hess: Rhody Rampage)

Red Sox promote Ben Crockett to senior vice president of baseball operations, Brian Abraham to director of player development in slew of personnel moves

The Red Sox announced several major- and minor-league personnel moves on Friday afternoon, highlighted by Ben Crockett being promoted to the club’s senior vice president of baseball operations and Brian Abraham being promoted to the club’s director of player development.

Crockett, 41, previously served as Boston’s vice president of player development from 2016-2020 and has been with the organization since 2007 after interning in their baseball operations department.

His promotion to SVP of baseball ops. comes a few weeks after longtime Red Sox executive Zack Scott left the organization to become assistant general manager of the New York Mets.

Scott has since been named New York’s acting general manager after the club fired Jared Porter on January 19 for harassing a female reporter in 2016.

Crockett, a Topsfield, Mass. native, played college baseball at Harvard University, and emerged as a legitimate right-handed pitching prospect there as evidenced by him getting drafted twice.

The first time around, Crockett — a junior — was selected by the Red Sox in the 10th round of the 2001 amateur draft. He did not sign with his hometown team.

The second time around, Crockett — now a senior — was selected by the Rockies in the third round of the 2002 amateur draft. He went on to sign with Colorado and spend five years in their minor-league system.

Since calling it a playing career, Crockett has undertaken a variety of roles within the Red Sox’ scouting and player development machine. From 2008-2009, he served as an advance scouting coordinator; from 2010-2011, he served as assistant director of player development; and from 2012-2016, he served as director of player development.

That role has now been taken over by Abraham, who, like Crockett, attended a local school in the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.

The 36-year-old was born and raised in Worcester, too, and he got his start in professional baseball by spending six years in the Blue Jays’ organization “primarily working in advance scouting and video operations” from 2007-2012.

With Boston, Abraham has worked as a major-league staff assistant (2013-2014), assistant director of player development (2015-2018), and most recently director of minor-league operations (2018-2020).

In addition to the promotions of Crockett and Abraham, the Red Sox also announced that Chris Stasio has been promoted to the role of manager of baseball development, Shawn Haviland has been promoted to the role of senior pitching coordinator, Kirby Retzer has been promoted to the role of assistant strength and conditioning coordinator, Paddy Steinfort has been promoted to the role of senior mental skills coordinator and Adan Severino has been promoted to the role of Latin American mental skills coordinator.

In terms of new additions, Harry Roberson has been hired as the club’s coordinator of player development, Julio Rangel has been hired as the club’s performance pitching coordinator, and Gabriela Alfonso has been hired as the organization’s minor-league sports dietician.

Minor-league coaching staffs finalized:

The Red Sox’ pipeline of minor-league affiliates will be without the Lowell Spinners for this coming season, while Worcester is now the new home of the club’s Triple-A affiliate and the teams in Greenville, SC. and Salem, Va. have essentially switched places.

With that, here is how each affiliate’s coaching staff will stack up to start the new season:

Triple-A Worcester Red Sox
Manager: Billy McMillon
Additional Coach: Bruce Crabbe
Pitching Coach: Paul Abbott
Hitting Coach: Rich Gedman

Double-A Portland Sea Dogs
Manager: Corey Wimberly
Additional Coach: Ako Thomas
Pitching Coach: Lance Carter
Hitting Coach: Lance Zawadzki

High-A Greenville Drive
Manager: Iggy Suarez
Additional Coach: John Shelby III
Pitching Coach: Bob Kipper
Hitting Coach: Nate Spears

Low-A Salem Red Sox
Manager: Luke Montz
Additional Coach: Frankie Rios
Pitching Coach: Nick Green
Hitting Coach: Nelson Paulino

Fort Myers Complex
Manager: Tom Kotchman
Additional Coaches: Mickey Jiang, Bianca Smith, Chris Hess
Pitching Coaches: Dick Such, Brett Merritt, Jason Blanton
Hitting Coaches: Josh Prince, Junior Zamora

Dominican Republic Academy
Latin American Field Coordinator: Jose Zapata
Managers: Ozzie Chavez, Sandy Madera
Additional Coaches: Juan Hernandez, Claudio Sanchez, Carlos Vallejo, Leonel Vazquez
International Instructor: Amaury Garcia
Pitching Coaches: Oscar Lira, Humberto Sanchez
Hitting Coaches: Eider Torres, Danny Ortega

For more information on the Red Sox’ minor-league coaching staffs, check out this press release from the team.

(Picture of Red Sox logo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox expected to name Will Venable as next bench coach, per report

The Red Sox are expected to name Will Venable as their next bench coach, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Per Cotillo, “the team has not confirmed the move but it is expected to be finalized in the coming days.”

Venable, who recently turned 38, has spent the last three seasons with the Cubs as both a first and third base coach. He was one of several candidates who interviewed for Boston’s managerial opening last month, but that position was ultimately retained by Alex Cora.

At the time of Cora’s rehiring, it appeared as though the Sox skipper would elevate someone from his coaching staff, such as Carlos Febles or Ramon Vazquez, to bench coach, but that now appears extremely unlikely given Tuesday’s news.

In Venable, the Red Sox do not get a bench coach with prior big-league managerial experience, as was the case with Cora’s first bench coach in Ron Roenicke. They do however get someone who, like Cora and Roenicke, has experience playing in the majors.

That being the case because over the course of a nine-year big-league career, Venable racked up 707 hits while playing for three different teams in the Padres, Rangers, and Dodgers from 2008 until 2016.

A native of California, Venable was taken by San Diego in the seventh round of the 2005 amateur draft after excelling as a two-sport athlete in both basketball and baseball at Princeton University.

Given the fact that he has been considered for other managerial openings in the past, one would have to assume Venable will use this opportunity with the Red Sox to further strengthen his resume moving forward.

On another note, it should be fascinating to see how Cora interacts with and uses Venable now that he has a bench coach younger than he is.

First Wave of Red Sox Players Report to Fenway Park for Start of Summer Camp

The first wave of Red Sox players and staff reported to Fenway Park earlier Wednesday afternoon for the start of Summer Camp.

Based off photos taken by team photographer Billie Weiss, it appears that Mitch Moreland, Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Verdugo, Michael Chavis, Christian Vazquez, Chris Mazza, Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, Tzu-Wei Lin, Brian Johnson, Marcus Walden, Colten Brewer, Ryan Brasier, Martin Perez, Jonathan Arauz, Kevin Plawecki, and Kevin Pillar were among this initial group of players.

Other players, such as Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez, are likely traveling to Boston as we speak and will presumably check in at Fenway Park on Thursday.

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As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, players and staff who check in over the next two days will be subject to individual COVID-19 screening sessions that have been organized by an independent collection service.

Per Cotillo, “Once players arrive, they will be subjected to a three-part collection process that includes:

  • A temperature check with contactless thermometer
  • A body fluid sample (saliva or oral/nasal swab) for diagnostic/PCR testing (this is the normal nose-swab COVID-19 test)
  • A venous blood collection or dried blood spot sample for serology/antibody testing”

Once completed and processed, test samples will be sent to the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City, Utah. In the mean time, players and staff will have to self-quarantine from anywhere between 24-48 hours while the Red Sox and Major League Baseball await the results.

If an individual’s test results come back negative, they can report to Fenway for workouts later this week, but if someone tests positive for COVID-19, they will have to self-isolate for up to two weeks and test negative twice before being able to rejoin the team again.

That being said, there won’t be much going on in terms of baseball activities at Fenway Park until Friday, when pitchers and catchers are set to report and begin their workouts for the 2020 season.

Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said Monday that despite players having some concerns about the coronavirus, he expects “everybody to come in.”

The 2020 season, which will consist of just 60 games for teams, is scheduled to begin on July 23rd. It’s not known at this point who exactly the Red Sox will be playing on Opening Day.