Red Sox Add Jonathan Lucroy to Summer Camp Player Pool

The Red Sox have added veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy to their player pool for the resumption of MLB spring training, or Summer Camp, as a non-roster invitee. The club announced the transaction earlier Thursday.

With the addition of Lucroy, the Red Sox now have 48 out of a possible 60 players in their Summer Camp Pool. 11 of those players, which now includes Lucroy, are non-roster invitees.

Lucroy, who turned 34 last month, originally inked a minor-league deal with Boston back in February and looked to compete with Kevin Plawecki for the backup catcher spot before the COVID-19 pandemic shut spring training down in March.

Since that time, the Florida native was not added to the Sox’ initial 47-player roster pool this past Sunday, but that was only for procedural reasons. More specifically, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, there were “issues related to [an] opt-out to work through” before the Red Sox could add him to the pool.

Those issues have since been worked out, however, and now Lucroy represents the sixth catcher to be added to the Sox’ Summer Camp roster pool. Other backstops who will participate include Christian Vazquez, Kevin Plawecki, Jett Bandy, Juan Centeno, and Connor Wong.

With all MLB clubs allowed to have 30 players on their active roster to begin the 2020 season later this month, teams will likely take advantage of that and carry three catchers to start things out. That being said, Vazquez, Plawecki, and Lucroy are all likely locks to make Boston’s Opening Day roster.

Former Red Sox Manager Alex Cora Speaks on Fallout of Astros’ Sign-Stealing Fiasco

For one of the first times since he was relieved of his duties back in January, former Red Sox manager Alex Cora spoke publicly about the fallout of Major League Baseball’s recent investigation into the Houston Astros.

Cora, who served as Houston’s bench coach under A.J. Hinch during the 2017 season, was handed down a one-year ban in April from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred for the role he played in the club’s illegal stealing of signs, not for what he did in his first year as Red Sox manager in 2018.

From the time he and the Sox parted ways, Cora has kept relatively quiet up until now, and he has a solid reason for that.

“Out of respect for the investigation, I decided to stay out of the spotlight. Talking about it wasn’t going to change anything,” Cora told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. “I deserve my suspension and I’m paying the price for my actions. And I am not proud of what happened. We made a mistake as a group, the entire [Astros] team. What happened was something that, if you ask anyone involved, no one is proud of it. We’re all at fault. Everybody. We’re all responsible. Everyone who was part of the team from around mid-May until the end of the season, we are all responsible.”

One thing Cora takes issue with though, is the notion that he and ex-Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who played for Houston in 2017, were the only two individuals behind the Astros’ misdoings, as has been thrown out there by former ‘Stros general manager Jeff Lunhow.

“There has been a narrative out there of what happened. Ever since mid-November until the commissioner announced the results of the Red Sox investigation, I have read many things that are true and many others that are not,” Cora stated. “Out of this whole process, if there is one thing that I completely reject and disagree with is people within the Astros’ organization singling me out, particularly Jeff Luhnow, as if I were the sole mastermind. The commissioner’s report sort of explained, in its own way, what happened.

“”If there is one thing I am absolutely sure of, it is that it was not a two-man show. We all did it. And let me be very clear that I am not denying my responsibility, because we were all responsible.”

Cora will be eligible to return to baseball in 2021. And with rumors of a potential reunion with the Red Sox ever prevalent, his thought’s on the club’s punishments, which included video replay room coordinator J.T. Watkins also getting suspended, are something I think many would like to hear about.

However, the only thing he really said about the commissioner’s report into Boston’s illegal use of the video replay room in 2018 is that it “speaks for itself.”

Current Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke, who was officially named manager by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom back in February, is under contract with Boston through the end of 2020.

As already mentioned, there has been plenty of speculation that Cora will return to his old post next year, but for the time being, the 2018 World Series-winning manager says “all I care about is my personal life and my family,” and he “absolutely” wants to return to the game in the future.

Potential Red Sox Draft Targets: University of Georgia Right-Hander Cole Wilcox

In his annual 2020 Red Sox draft preview for SoxProspects.com, Mike Andrews profiled a handful of high school and college prospects the Red Sox could select with their top pick at No. 17 overall on June 10th.

Those prospects include some names we’ve already covered on here, such as Jared Kelley, Mick Abel, Garrett Crochet, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Robert Hassell, Patrick Bailey, and Ed Howard.

One prospect that has not been discussed on here but was included in Andrews’ preview was University of Georgia right-hander Cole Wilcox.

Wilcox, a draft-eligible sophomore out of Chickamauga, Ga., is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 23 prospect in this year’s draft class and ranks eighth among college pitchers.

The soon-to-be-21-year-old hurler was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 38th round of the 2018 draft, but he forwent signing with the club to instead honor his commitment to Georgia.

Listed at 6’5″ and 232 lbs., Wilcox posted a 1.57 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over four outings and 23 innings pitched for the Bulldogs this year before the college baseball season was shut down to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Per Andrews, Wilcox’s pitching arsenal includes a 97-98 MPH fastball that  hits “triple digits with sink and armside run,” a plus mid-80s slider, and a mid-80s changeup with “above-average potential” which has “some scouts labeling it a potential plus pitch.”

One thing worth noting is that since he is still just a sophomore, Wilcox will have significant leverage in this year’s draft and will likely be seeking hefty compensation from whichever club takes him since he could go back to school for his junior year.

Still, as multiple scouting reports have reflected, Wilcox certainly has the upside to be a frontline starter in the future.

Since the Red Sox will be limited to just four picks in the 2020 draft, it will be interesting to see how big of a splash chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni will be willing to make with approximately $3,609,700 to spend on their top pick.

Looking Back at Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-Game Hitting Streak

On this day in 2016, Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-game hitting streak came to a close, as the Red Sox outfielder went 0-for-4 in an 8-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Fenway Park.

Hitting out of the leadoff spot for the first time in 2016, the then-26-year-old flew out to right in his first at-bat, grounded out to the pitcher in his second at-bat, flew out to center in his third at-bat, and grounded out to second in his fourth and final at-bat.

Headed into the bottom half of the ninth with his side trailing by six, Bradley Jr. was slated to bat sixth in the inning, and he even made it to the on-deck circle with two outs and two runners on before the pinch-hitting Mookie Betts grounded out to first to end the game.

“It was a fun ride,” said Bradley postgame. “I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. Most of all, the team played really well during it. I’m blessed to be in this situation.”

From April 24th, the day the hitting streak began, to May 25th, the day before it ended, the Red Sox went 21-8 to propel them to first place in the American League East at that point in the season.

Looking at Bradley Jr.’s numbers over that stretch, the South Carolina product posted an absurd .415/.488/.783 slash line to go along with eight home runs and 30 RBI over 29 games played.

By that time Bradley Jr.’s hitting streak came to an end on that faithful Thursday night at Fenway four years ago, he was just five games away from tying Dom DiMaggio for the longest hitting streak in Red Sox history (34 games in 1949).

Despite not being able to reach that mark, Bradley Jr. still became the first major-leaguer since 2013 to have a hitting streak of at least 29 games. The last Red Sox hitter to reach the 30-game plateau was Nomar Garciappara, who accomplished that feat in 1997.

After going hitless for the first time in several weeks, Bradley Jr. got back on track the following day in Toronto and recorded hits in three of his next four games to wrap up a terrific month of May in which he was named American League Player of the Month.

From there, the 2011 first-round pick was named to his first All-Star Game that July and went on to have his best season in the majors in terms of fWAR (5.3).

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo: ‘Whenever the Season Starts I Think I Will Be Ready’

Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo is back working out at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers, and when the 2020 Major League Baseball season does resume, he feels like he’ll be good to go.

Speaking with reporters via conference call on Monday afternoon for the first time since spring training was suspended in March, Verdugo said he is “physically…100%” after fully recovering from the stress fracture in his lower back.

“I feel very good just moving around with everything,” said the 23-year-old. “My swing, my throwing, running. I feel really good. The complex shut down for three weeks when the whole coronavirus and all that started coming out. So I still stayed active at home. I was hitting, throwing a little bit and working out. But obviously didn’t have the amount of resources I do at the facility.”

Here’s some video of Verdugo working out at home in Fort Myers:

From there, Verdugo was able to get back into the facility last week after the Red Sox opened it back up following a brief shutdown period due to a minor-leaguer testing positive for COVID-19 on March 24th.

“When I got back…we took it slow again,” he said. “We just kind of ramped it back up, just seeing how the three weeks, how my body kind of looked and how it felt to my trainers.”

Here’s some video of Verdugo working out at the JetBlue Park complex:

When the Red Sox acquired Verdugo, as well as prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong, from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade in February, they were already aware of the young outfielder’s ailment. Had the 2020 season began as originally planned on March 26th, he probably would not have been ready for Opening Day.

Now, with the start date of the season still up in the air, Verdugo could be ready to start right away.

“I feel like we’re back on track,” he said. “Whenever the season starts, I think I’ll be ready. Whether that is soon, whether it’s a few months down the road or whatever that may be. I think physically I’m ready.”

While he is training every day like there is going to be a season and working out Fenway South four times a week, Verdugo is regularly checking in with Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke “every one or two weeks.” The training staff he is working with at JetBlue is also sending video to Roenicke and hitting coach Tim Hyers.

“I’m going to keep preparing and training and keeping my mind sharp so I’m already mentally locked in and physically ready to go for it,” said Verdugo.

As he came over from the Dodgers earlier in the year, the Arizona native admitted that being traded was at first difficult for him but he now views the move “as a blessing.”

With his new club, Verdugo expects to be as productive as ever, adding “I think I’m at such a good position mentally and physically. I’m just ready to go and just play. I know if I play and I feel the way I feel right now, my numbers will be what they always have been.”

Once touted as one of the best outfield prospects in baseball, Verdugo slashed .294/.342/.475 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI over 106 games played for Los Angeles in 2019.

The centerpiece in the aforementioned deal that sent soon-to-be free agent Mookie Betts to southern California, Verdugo did say that it would be “pretty crazy” and “pretty nuts” if his counterpart never played a game for the Dodgers if the 2020 season winds up getting cancelled. We’ll have to wait and see on that, though.

 

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.

 

Red Sox Interim Manager Ron Roenicke on Not Having Any Games to Manage in Late April: ‘This Is so Strange’

In an ideal world, Red Sox interim manager Ron Roenicke would presumably be in his Boston home right about now, preparing for his team’s 26th game of the season against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

Instead, the coronavirus pandemic that has halted the sports world has led the baseball lifer to have no games to coach or manage at a point in time he would typically be doing so.

“I’ve been through some strikes, some lockouts, some crazy late starts in spring training, but nothing like this” Roenicke told NESN’s Tom Caron in a TV interview Tuesday. “This is so strange. I wake up every morning knowing and know I should be going to the ballpark and I’m at home. That’s just really weird.”

Roenicke was officially named interim manager by Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom on February 11th, so the 63-year-old had a little more than a month to make preparations for the 2020 campaign before Major League Baseball suspended spring training and delayed the start of the season on March 12th.

From that point, Red Sox players, coaches, and staff, for the most part, have all left the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers and returned to their respective homes.

Roenicke, a California native, still has to communicate with his players though, and that has been a lot easier to do now thanks to modern technology.

“With the players, it’s [mostly] texting and phone calls,” Roenicke told Caron. “I know Chaim and [GM Brian O’Halloran] are reaching out to some guys with some things on what’s going on. It’s a lot of text messaging. It’s hard for players also to be sitting at home during this time. Anytime we can be with them in a text or phone call, it’s helpful for them just sitting and wondering what’s going on.”

Although there is no set date for the start of the 2020 MLB season, Roenicke still believes three to four weeks is all his players need to ramp things back up.

“I don’t think we need to go longer than that,” the interim skipper said of the three to four week training period. “If MLB can give us a little bit of a heads up so guys can start getting at it more at their home or wherever they are, it certainly would help to speed this thing up.

“It’s the starting pitching, trying to get them stretched out,” said Roenicke. “If we can get those starters to start throwing some bullpens, even if they’re at home. Some up-downs. And we start up this thing, we won’t need those 3-4 weeks. It will shrink down, and if we can get them maybe three starts or something in a spring….That’s what some of the conversation we had with the commissioner, the managers trying to figure out what we can do and how we can get these starters back in shape.”

Per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, “Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke for one hour [Friday] morning with major-league managers” in which he “offered no specifics on how the season might begin.” That’s the conversation Roenicke was referencing.

Speaking of Manfred, Roenicke, like seemingly everyone else in the Red Sox organization, still does not know when the results of the league’s investigation into the 2018 team will be released.

“I don’t know,” Roenicke said. “I think there’s so many other things that I’m thinking about and just trying to think about getting the season started again. And also obviously concerned about what’s going on in the country with the jobs and with people losing their lives and the people that are sick. These things go on. Sometimes they’re easy for some people and sometimes they last for 4-6 weeks. So, hopefully we can get this controlled.”

That’s the same sort of sentiment Bloom echoed in an interview with WEEI last week, when he said, “It is obviously frustrating that we don’t have that outcome yet. But with what is going on in the last month I think it is understandable. I know the commissioner was on a timetable doing everything he could to wrap it up before the season. Sometime early to mid-March, the coronavirus took over pretty much of every ounce of everybody’s available time and energy. I think we’re still at that stage. We are hopeful at some point when everybody gets a chance to come up for air…I know the commissioner has said the investigation is complete and it’s a question of getting into the report. We’re hopeful there is time to do that so we can all see the results and move forward. I think you have to cut everyone some slack given our industry and everybody has been dealing with something we really haven’t faced before, something for which there is no road map and understandably it has dominated everyone’s attention for the last month or so.”

To watch the full interview between Caron and Roenicke, click here.

Former Red Sox Prospect and Cubs Star Anthony Rizzo Donates Meals to Doctors and Nurses Across Maine

Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo has not been part of the Red Sox organization for more than nine years, but that did not stop the three-time All-Star from keeping his past in mind as part of his efforts to aid in coronavirus containment efforts through the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation.

On Friday, Rizzo donated lunches and dinners to several hospitals across the state of Maine, including the Central Maine Heart and Vascular Institute in Lewinston.

Dr. Paul Weldner, whose family hosted Rizzo when Rizzo played for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs in 2010, is a cardiologist at CMHVI. The two still stay in touch to this day, and Rizzo recently reached out to his former host parent about how he could help in the midst of this pandemic.

“He basically reached out to me and said, ‘Paul I am giving out meals to a bunch of hospitals in your area and I would like your unit to benefit from it,'” Weldner told the Sun Journal’s Nathan Fournier. “So, we arranged it and that happened [Friday].”

Food was ordered from a popular local spot among the nurses, and “They ordered two sets of meals,” Weldner said. “One for the afternoon shift and I guess another meal is coming for the evening shift. And they just ordered a whole bunch of individual meals so people didn’t have to gather in one place.”

Weldner, who went to see Rizzo play in Game 4 of the 2016 World Series in Chicago and attended Rizzo’s wedding in 2018, was also gifted an engraved baseball from the first baseman.

Per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal:

“As of Friday, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation will have delivered approximately 3,500 meals to front-line workers at 23 hospitals in six different states (Florida, Arizona, New York, New Jersey and Maine), according to executive director Abby Suarez.

Friday’s efforts also will include a shipment of 1,000 boxes of medical gloves to Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, with 50 gallons of hand sanitizer set to be delivered to the same facility on Monday. Next week, the foundation plans to expand its delivery of meals to nursing homes. It also is preparing care packages for pediatric cancer families and seeking to purchase a large amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate, Suarez said.”

For a little more background, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation was founded in 2012, four years after Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as an 18-year-old in April 2008, just as he was about to begin his first full season as a professional in the Red Sox organization.

Fortunately, Rizzo was able to overcome that adversity and was told by his doctor that he “could live a normal life” again that November.

The main goal of Rizzo’s foundation is to “support pediatric cancer patients and their families,” but in these unprecedented times, it’s certainly encouraging to see them broadening their horizons.

For more information on the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, click here.

Red Sox Interim Manager Ron Roenicke: Alex Verdugo’s Rehab From Stress Fracture Slowed by Coronavirus Shutdown

Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo has not been able to make as much progress in his rehab as the team was hoping for, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke, who, along with piching coach Dave Bush spoke with reporters in a Zoom call on Tuesday.

Verdugo, who is working his way back from a stress fracture in his lower back, has not been able to progress as much as the Red Sox were hoping for mainly due to the fact that the club had to shut down its facilities in Fort Myers in late March after a minor-leaguer tested positive for COVID-19.

“Unfortunately with the shutdown of the camp in JetBlue, [Verdugoo] hasn’t been able to go and continually progress probably as fast as we’d like him to,” Roenicke said Tuesday. “He is swinging and doing all the things he needs to do. Unfortunately with the shutdown there, we’re having to go basically see him. And then it makes it more difficult for him to work out.”

The Red Sox acquired the 23-year-old outfielder along with prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong from the Dodgers in February in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles.

Upon Verdugo’s arrival to the Fenway South complex two months ago, it was revealed by Roenicke that the Arizona native did indeed have a stress fracture in his lower back.

A plan for Verdugo to work his way back from that ailment was laid out at that time, but it would appear that the league-wide, coronavirus-induced shutdown has since hindered that plan.

Still, Verdugo began taking full swings in March and Roenicke was impressed with his arm strength. The interim manager seems hopeful that if there is Major League Baseball to be played in 2020, Verdugo’s ” going to be able to fit in along with the other guys and maybe be ready for us” by the time spring training activities would resume.

In the interim, Verdugo has remained in Florida, as he believed it was the best place for him to continue with his rehabilitation. He’s posted videos of himself swinging a bat on Instagram as recently as last Thursday and may be in line for another MRI in the near future to make sure that the stress fracture is completely healed before he begins playing in games again.

Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez Picks up First ‘MLB The Show’ Players League Win

After starting the MLB The Show Players League season with four consecutive losses out of the gate last Friday, Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez picked up his first win of the year in the first game he played on Tuesday night.

Headed into his second round of games having yet to score a single run, Rodriguez was first matched up against former Sox pitching prospect Ty Buttrey, who was representing the Los Angeles Angels.

Three innings, which is the standard length of game in this league, was not enough to determine a winner, so the two hurlers headed into extras deadlocked in a scoreless tie.

It wasn’t until the top half of the fifth inning when Rodriguez finally got on the board. There, controlling Mitch Moreland, he took Angels reliever Justin Anderson deep to dead center to break the stalemate.

A few moments later, Rodriguez again went yard with another left-handed hitter, this time mashing a two-run no-doubter off Anderson with Rafael Devers.

That two-run blast put Rodriguez and the Sox up 3-0, and after giving one back in the bottom half of the fifth, Matt Barnes was able to hold on to pick up the save in a 3-1 victory.

Rodriguez was finally able to get in the win column, but unfortunately, the rest of his night did not go as well.

That being the case because in the game immediately following the win over the Angels, the 27-year-old choked away a six-run lead against Rangers star Joey Gallo and ultimately got walked off on in the bottom half of the third inning in what would turn out to be a devastating 7-6 defeat. Gallo is 8-0, by the way.

From there, Rodriguez’s woes continued in a pair of home losses to Braves reliever Luke Jackson and Marlins reliever Ryne Stanek.

A night that started with so much promise ended in somber disappointment, and at 1-7, Rodriguez currently sits at the bottom of the league standings.

The Venezuela native now has 21 games remaining on the season and has plenty of ground to make up. He’s scheduled to play again on Friday night, where he will take on the Mets’ Jeff McNeil, the Tigers’ Niko Goodrum, the White Sox’ Lucas Giolito, and the Mariners’ Carl Edwards Jr.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for around 9 PM eastern time. You can follow Rodriguez on Twitch here.