Red Sox catching prospect Ronaldo Hernández heating up at the plate with Triple-A Worcester

It was a slow start to the season for Ronaldo Hernandez, but the Red Sox catching prospect has picked things up as of late for Triple-A Worcester.

In the WooSox’ most-recent series against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in Allentown, Pa., Hernandez went a ridiculous 13-for-22 (.591) at the plate with three doubles, two home runs, seven RBIs, six runs scored, one walk, and two strikeouts over five games and 24 plate appearances.

Hernandez very well could have been named International League Player of the Week were it not for the efforts of Royals prospect Vinnie Pasquantino, who had quite the week himself for the Omaha Storm Chasers.

Regardless of that, Hernandez has seen his stock rise lately for good reason. After struggling to the tune of a .132/.132/.245 slash line (-9 wRC+) in April, the right-handed hitting 24-year-old comes into the final day of May batting a stout .309/.367/.491 (131 wRC+) with six extra-base hits, eight RBIs, eight runs scored, four walks, and 17 strikeouts across his last 15 games and 62 trips to the plate.

This is Hernandez’s first full season with Worcester after he was promoted there from Double-A Portland last September. One of four catchers on the WooSox’ active roster, the 6-foot-1, 247 pound backstop has logged 189 innings behind the plate thus far while throwing out five of the 28 base runners who have attempted to steal off him.

The Red Sox originally acquired Hernandez and fellow prospect Nick Sogard from the Rays last February in exchange for pitchers Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs. Since then, the native Colombian has been regarded by publications such as Baseball America as one of the top two catching prospects in Boston’s farm system alongside Connor Wong.

While Wong has appeared in eight games for the Sox over the last two seasons, Hernandez has not gotten that same opportunity. Hernandez spent one day on Boston’s major-league roster last month, but he did not get into a game and was quickly optioned back down to Worcester when Christian Vazquez returned from the COVID-19 related injured list.

As a member of the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, Hernandez can easily be shuttled between Boston and Worcester this season when the need arises. That being said, it definitely seems as though Hernandez is squarely behind Wong (also on the 40-man) as far as the big-league club’s catching depth is concerned.

Hernandez, who does not turn 25 until November, has just one minor-league option remaining. So, if he remains in the organization throughout the off-season and into the spring, he will need to make the Sox’ 2023 Opening Day roster or will otherwise lose his 40-man spot since he will then be out of options.

With that, the 2022 season obviously holds some significance for Hernandez, who is represented by CAA Sports. On top of that, both Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki can become free-agents at the end of the year.

In short, Hernandez has but a few months to show he has what it takes to stick in the major-leagues. Offense has always been his calling card, so he will need to continue to hone his skills as a defender if he intends to stay behind the plate for the long haul.

(Picture of Ronaldo Hernandez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox reinstate Kevin Plawecki from COVID-19 related injured list, option Connor Wong to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have reinstated catcher Kevin Plawecki from the COVID-19 related injured the list, the team announced before Monday’s series opener against the Blue Jays in Toronto. In a corresponding move, fellow backstop Connor Wong was optioned to Triple-A Worcester.

Plawecki, who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, initially tested positive for the virus last Monday and was placed on the COVID-related IL as a result. Since he is vaccinated, the 31-year-old was eligible to return sooner than 10 days so long as he registered two negative PCR tests, showed no signs of a fever, and received approval from the joint COVID medical committee.

In total, Plawecki missed seven games while sidelined due to COVID-19. Before that, the right-handed hitter appeared in four games for Boston and went 1-for-10 with one RBI, one run scored, one walk, and four strikeouts. He will be batting ninth and catching Nathan Eovaldi to begin things on Monday at Rogers Centre.

Wong, meanwhile, was called up for the first time this season when Plawecki tested positive on April 18. The 25-year-old caught two games in the Sox’ last series against the Jays at Fenway Park and went 1-for-6 with one RBI and one strikeout.

With Plawecki being reinstated, the only Red Sox player who remains on the COVID-19 related injured list is infielder Jonathan Arauz, who tested positive one day after Plawecki did.

Elsewhere, Sox manager Alex Cora has yet to re-join the team after testing positive last Thursday. Acting manager Will Venable told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ian Browne) earlier Monday that Cora is feeling better and has not been ruled out for the Blue Jays series, though he has not yet been cleared to return either.

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Red Sox reinstate Christian Vázquez from COVID-19 related injured list, option Ronaldo Hernández to Triple-A Worcester

Before Wednesday’s contest against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park, the Red Sox reinstated Christian Vazquez from the COVID-19 related injured list. In a corresponding roster move, fellow backstop Ronaldo Hernandez was optioned to Triple-A Worcester.

The Red Sox originally placed Vazquez on the COVID IL on Tuesday after he tested positive for the virus. Because the 31-year-old is vaccinated, though, he was able to return as soon as he cleared Major League Baseball’s protocols, which include registering two negative PCR tests and not showing signs of a fever.

Even with Vazquez back in the fold and active, Connor Wong is still slated to start behind the plate for Boston and catch right-hander Nick Pivetta on Tuesday night.

By reinstating Vazquez on Wednesday, the Sox now have just two players on the COVID-19 related injured list in catcher Kevin Plawecki and infielder Jonathan Arauz.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Connor Wong comes through with game-winning sacrifice fly as Red Sox hold on for 2-1 victory over Blue Jays

Three hits was all the Red Sox needed to take care of business against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Tuesday night. In their first home game under the lights, Boston squeaked out a 2-1 victory over Toronto to improve to 6-5 on the year.

It was a grind for Nathan Eovaldi, who made his third start of the season for the Sox on Tuesday. The veteran right-hander allowed just one run on seven hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings of work.

The lone run Eovaldi surrendered once again came by way of the home run ball. To lead off the top of the second, the righty served up a solo shot to Zack Collins that gave the Jays an early 1-0 lead. That is already the fifth homer Eovaldi has surrendered in 2022.

The Red Sox, however, did not take long to respond. While still matched up against Blue Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi, Enrique Hernandez reached base via a one-out double in the third and immediately came into score on a game-tying, RBI double off the bat of Trevor Story.

With things knotted up at one run apiece, Eovaldi maneuvered his way around a pair of hits in the fourth inning and retired two of the first three batters he faced in the fifth. With the potential go-ahead run at first and Collins due to hit for Toronto, Boston manager Alex Cora gave Eovaldi the hook in favor of Matt Strahm.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 95 (61 strikes), Eovaldi turned to his four-seam fastball 44% of the time he was on the mound on Tuesday. The 32-year-old hurler hovered around 96.4 mph with the pitch while also inducing a game-high four swings-and-misses with his curveball.

In relief of Eovaldi, Strahm stranded the lone runner he inherited by punching out Collins on four pitches. The lefty then sat down the side in order in the sixth before making way for Hansel Robles, who did the very same in the top of the seventh.

Following a Blue Jays pitching change that saw Yimi Garcia take over for David Phelps, Bobby Dalbec — representing the go-ahead run led off the bottom of the seventh by reaching first and advancing to second on a Bo Bichette throwing error. Jackie Bradley Jr., who was pinch-hitting for Arroyo, advanced Dalbec another 90 feet by grounding out to short.

With a crucial run just 90 feet away from scoring, Connor Wong stepped up to the plate for a third time. One day removed from being called up from Triple-A Worcester for the first time this season, Wong came through when it mattered most by driving in Dalbec on a 298-foot sacrifice fly to right field.

Wong’s first RBI of 2022 — and just the second of his big-league career — gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 2-1. Robles then picked up where he left off by notching the first two outs of the eighth on a pair of strikeouts. Jake Diekman got the final out of the inning.

Looking to secure a hard-fought win, Cora deployed Garrett Whitlock for the ninth inning. Working on two days rest, Whitlock needed all of 12 pitches to retire Alejandro Kirk, Raimel Tapia, and Santiago Espinal in order to close things out and pick up the save. The right-hander came up gimpy after going into a slide to get Tapia at first base for the second out, but appears to be fine.

Some notes from this win:

From The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey:

From the Red Sox’ J.P. Long:

The Red Sox won on Tuesday despite going 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and leaving five men on base as a team.

Four different Red Sox relievers (Strahm, Robles, Diekman, and Whitlock) combined to toss 4 1/3 scoreless, one-hit innings in Tuesday’s win. Here is what Cora had to say about using Whitlock in the ninth, via MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

Next up: Berrios vs. Pivetta

The Red Sox will go for their second consecutive victory over the Blue Jays at Fenway Park on Wednesday night. Nick Pivetta is expected to get the ball for Boston, while fellow righty Jose Berrios is in line to do the same for Toronto.

First pitch from Fenway Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network. The Sox will also honor the late Jerry Remy in a pre-game ceremony.

(Picture of Connor Wong: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox call up top catching prospect Ronaldo Hernández, place left-hander Rich Hill on bereavement list

In addition to the moves they made earlier Tuesday, the Red Sox also recalled catcher Ronaldo Hernandez from Triple-A Worcester and placed left-hander Rich Hill on the bereavement list before taking on the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

The move to call up Hernandez was expected and comes in the wake of fellow catchers Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki being placed on the COVID-19 related injured list within the last two days.

When Boston placed Plawecki on the COVID IL on Monday morning, they recalled Connor Wong from Worcester. Wong will start behind the plate and catch Nathan Eovaldi in Tuesday night’s series opener against the Jays. Hernandez, meanwhile, will serve as the Sox’ second catcher.

The two backstops will likely split time behind the plate in the absence of Vazquez and Plawecki. Since both Vazquez and Plawecki tested positive for the virus, they could be out for the next 10 days. That said, Major League Baseball’s health and safety policy for 2022 dictates that players who test positive can return to action sooner if they clear certain protocols.

As for Hernandez, the Colombian-born catcher was originally acquired by the Red Sox from the Rays in the February 2021 trade that sent pitchers Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs to Tampa Bay. He came into the 2022 season regarded by Baseball America as the No. 27 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking first among backstops in the organization.

After spending the majority of the 2021 campaign with Double-A Portland, Hernandez earned a late-season promotion to Worcester and posted an .844 OPS in seven games with the affiliate.

Coming off an off-season in which he played six games in the Dominican Winter League, Hernandez broke camp this spring with the WooSox and has batted .143/.143/.214 with two doubles, four RBIs, and three runs scored across seven games spanning 28 plate appearances.

The 24-year-old right-handed hitter was already on Boston’s 40-man roster and is now in line to become the first member of the 2022 Red Sox to make their major-league debut as he takes Hill’s roster spot for the time being.

Hill — who was placed on the bereavement list — lost his father, Lloyd, at the age of 94 last week. The veteran left-hander made his second start of the season just three days after his father’s passing on Monday and is still slated to make his next scheduled start against the Rays in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

That being said, Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) that he is not yet committing to Hill, who will be away from the team for the next few days while attending his father’s services in Milton.

(Picture of Ronaldo Hernandez: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Red Sox expected to call up top catching prospect Ronaldo Hernández from Triple-A Worcester, per report

The Red Sox are expected to call up catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez from Triple-A Worcester, reports Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com. As noted by Cotillo, Hernandez has been active on Instagram, sharing stories of people congratulating him on getting promoted.

The timing of Hernandez’s call-up is certainly interesting, as the Red Sox just recalled fellow catcher Connor Wong from Worcester after placing Kevin Plawecki on the COVID-19 related injured list due to a positive test ahead of Monday afternoon’s loss to the Twins at Fenway Park.

With that, it seems likely that Hernandez — who is already on Boston’s 40-man roster — could be replacing either Wong or Christian Vazquez on the major-league squad before Tuesday’s series opener against the Blue Jays.

Hernandez, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 27 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking tops among catchers in the organization. The Red Sox originally acquired the native Colombian (and infielder Nick Sogard) from the Rays in exchange for right-handers Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs last February.

After spending the majority of the 2021 campaign with Double-A Portland, Hernandez was promoted to Worcester in late September. He played winter ball in the Domincan Republic and broke camp this spring with the WooSox.

In seven games for the WooSox thus far, the right-handed hitter has gone 4-for-28 (.173) at the plate with two doubles, four RBIs, three runs scored, no walks, and eight strikeouts. He has also thrown out one of three base runners who have attempted to steal off him.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 247 pounds, Hernandez is known more for his abilities as a slugger than a defensive stalwart behind the plate, though he does possess plus arm strength. Still, with just one minor-league option year remaining, this could prove to be a worthwhile opportunity for Hernandez, who is in line to become the first member of the 2022 Red Sox to make their big-league debut.

(Picture of Ronaldo Hernandez: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Red Sox place Kevin Plawecki on COVID-19 related injured list after catcher tests positive for virus; Connor Wong recalled from Triple-A Worcester

Before taking on the Twins on Monday morning, the Red Sox placed Kevin Plawecki on the COVID-19 related injured list after the catcher tested positive for the virus.

In a corresponding move, fellow backstop Connor Wong was recalled from Triple-A Worcester and will be active for Monday’s series finale, the team announced.

In addition to Plawecki, two unidentified Red Sox staff members (not coaches) have also tested positive for the virus, manager Alex Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) prior to Monday’s contest against the Twins.

Plawecki, who is fully vaccinated, arrived at Fenway Park Monday morning per usual but was seen leaving in street clothes approximately one hour before first pitch.

The 31-year-old could be out for the next 10 days, though he could return sooner if he has two negative PCR tests, no fever, and receives approval from the joint COVID medical committee since he is vaccinated.

In the midst of his third season with the Sox, Plawecki has gone 1-for-10 with one RBI, one run scored, one walk, and four strikeouts through his first four games of the 2022 campaign.

Wong, meanwhile, made his major-league debut for Boston last year and went 4-for-13 (.308) with one RBI, three runs scored, one walk, and seven strikeouts over six games. So far this season, the 25-year-old has appeared in four games with the WooSox.

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox make second round of spring roster cuts: Jarren Duran among 3 optioned to Triple-A Worcester; Ryan Fitzgerald among 10 reassigned to minor-league camp

Following Sunday afternoon’s 6-3 loss to the Twins, the Red Sox announced their second round of spring training roster cuts.

Three players on the club’s 40-man roster — catchers Ronaldo Hernandez and Connor Wong and outfielder Jarren Duran were all optioned to Triple-A Worcester.

Elsewhere, 10 non-roster invitees — catchers Roldani Baldwin and Kole Cottam, infielders Ryan Fitzgerald and Roberto Ramos, and right-handers Silvino Bracho, Taylor Cole, Michael Feliz, Darin Gillies, Geoff Hartlieb, and Zack Kelly — were all reassigned to minor-league camp, the club announced on Sunday.

Duran, the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system according to Baseball America, will start the 2022 season in Worcester. The speedy 25-year-old has batted .333/.429/.389 in nine Grapefruit League games this spring. He also scored from second base on a sacrifice fly in Sunday’s loss to Minnesota.

Hernandez and Wong, on the other hand, figure to form the primary catching tandem for the WooSox as both backstops prepare to embark upon potentially pivotal 2021 seasons. Hernandez, 24, is Baseball America’s 27th-ranked Boston prospect. Wong, who turns 26 in May, is Baseball America’s 29th-ranked Boston prospect.

Of the 10 minor-leaguers who were cut from the Sox’ spring roster, it is worth mentioning that the likes of Bracho, Cole, Feliz, and Hartlieb all have prior big-league experience. That said, Fitzgerald being reassigned comes as somewhat of a surprise.

The versatile 27-year-old had an interesting case to make the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster after hitting a stout .313/.450/1.063 with a team-leading four home runs and nine RBIs through his first 11 games of the spring. He, like Duran, will instead start the year out in Worcester.

Following Sunday’s series of transactions, Boston now has 30 players on their major-league roster. They will need to make a few more subtractions (not including an injured Chris Sale) before Opening Day against the Yankees on April 7.

(Picture of Ryan Fitzgerald: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Daniel McElveny is the latest Red Sox prospect working to become a catcher

The Red Sox are working to convert infield prospect Daniel McElveny into a catcher, former minor-league catching coordinator (and current Double-A Portland manager) Chad Epperson tells Peter Gammons of The Athletic.

McElveny, who turns 19 in April, was selected by Boston in the sixth round of last year’s draft out of Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista, Calif. He signed with the Sox for $197,500 that July as opposed to honoring his commitment to San Diego State University.

Before drafting him, however, the Red Sox had McElveny fly in to Boston and work out at Fenway Park. There, the 18-year-old who had played both infield and outfield in high school shifted between right field, second base, third base, shortstop, and behind the plate.

“I don’t know how that’s going to play out in the long-term,” director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni said of McElveny’s versatility last summer. “But for now, he’s going to have a lot of ways to keep his bat in the lineup and hopefully string together some really quality at-bats.”

Of the 612 prospects taken in the 2021 amateur draft, McElveny was the only individual to receive the designation of utility player. After officially signing with the Red Sox as a shortstop on July 24, the right-handed hitter made his pro debut in the rookie-level Florida Complex League on August 10.

In just nine FCL contests, McElveny batted .174 (4-for-23)/.367/.217 (85 wRC+) with one double, one RBI, five runs scored, three walks, and 10 strikeouts across 33 plate appearances. He was also hit by a pitch on four separate occasions.

Defensively, the 6-foot, 190 pounder did not see any time behind the plate in the FCL, but he did log 37 1/3 innings at second base and three innings in left field.

Epperson, who spent the last 12 seasons (2010-2021) as the Red Sox’ catching coordinator before being named the Portland Sea Dogs’ new manager earlier this month, told Gammons that the club is “optimistic” about McElveny’s conversion and that “it’s worth a try.”

If McElveny is to make the switch to catcher to some degree, he would become the latest in a slightly long line of Boston minor-leaguers to do so. Alex Erro was drafted as an infielder in 2019 but caught 57 games for Low-A Salem last year. Stephen Scott was drafted as an outfielder that same year but caught 19 games between Salem and High-A Greenville last year. Alex Zapete signed out of the Dominican Republic as an infielder in 2018 but is now working to become a catcher.

Connor Wong, one of three players the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the famed Mookie Betts trade, played several positions at the University of Houston and while coming up through Los Angeles’ farm system.

Last year with Triple-A Worcester, Wong caught 372 1/3 innings but also made one appearance at second base. The 25-year-old backstop made his major-league debut in June and appeared in a total of five big-league games behind the plate. In each of those outings, the Red Sox took note of how well Wong collaborated with the pitchers he was working with.

“The first thing is that the young player has to really buy in, he has to want to make the change,” Epperson said of the conversion process. “He has to be very quiet when he goes back there. Selfless, like Jason (Varitek). The mindset is really important.”

While someone like Wong will be looking to make his mark in the majors this year, McElveny is preparing to embark upon his first full professional season. The Southern California native is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 campaign back in the FCL, though he should have the opportunity to earn himself a promotion to Low-A Salem at some point in the spring or summer.

(Picture of Daniel McElveny: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox’ decision to pick up Christian Vázquez’s 2022 team option was ‘not a no-brainer’, per report

The Red Sox may have exercised Christian Vazquez’s club option for the 2022 season back in November, but it apparently was not a simple decision for the team to make.

As part of the three-year, $13.35 million contract extension Vazquez signed with the Sox before the 2018 season, there was a team option attached for a potential fourth year in 2022.

The value of that option was dependent on the number of plate appearances Vazquez accrued during the 2020 and 2021 campaigns. Since he fell short of the threshold he needed to reach, the veteran catcher’s option for 2022 decreased from $8 million to $7 million.

Coming off a season in which he batted .258/.308/.352 with 23 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 49 RBIs, 51 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 33 walks, and 84 strikeouts over 138 games (498 plate appearances) while leading all big-league backstops in innings caught (1,051 1/3), the Red Sox were put in a position where they had to decide if they wanted Vazquez back for $7 million.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. ultimately decided on having Vazquez return for 2022, but that resolution may not have been reached unanimously within the organization.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “sources indicate the decision to pick up Vázquez’s $7 million option was not a no-brainer, and that there was internal debate over whether he was worth that salary after a down year in 2021.”

The idea that Boston would decline Vazquez’s option and allow the 31-year-old to become a free agent can be backed up by a recent report from the Miami Herlad which states that the Red Sox made an offer “and at one point thought they had a deal” to acquire Gold Glove Catcher Jacob Stallings from the Pirates.

Stallings, who was dealt from the Marlins to the Pirates in late November, is slightly older than Vazquez as he turns 32 next week. He was also the best catcher in baseball this season when it comes to Defensive Runs Saved (21) and is under team control through the end of the 2024 season.

Because of the Sox’ reported interest in a controllable backstop such as Stallings, Cotillo writes that it would not be surprising if “the Red Sox make a surprising move to upgrade at catcher — and add a controllable player — sooner rather than later.”

At present, the Red Sox have four catchers on their 40-man roster between Vazquez, Kevin Plawecki, and prospects like Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez.

Although Vazquez and Plawecki are seemingly locked in to begin 2022 as Boston’s top two catchers with Wong and Hernandez waiting in the wings at Triple-A Worcester, the expectation seems to be that Bloom and his staff are not done adding.

Once the Major League Baseball lockout ends and the transaction freeze is lifted, it appears as though the Red Sox will continue to explore upgrading at catcher. And while the free-agent market may be decimated in that department, the trade market certainly is not.

The Padres, as noted by Cotillo, also have four catchers on their 40-man roster in Jorge Alfaro, Luis Campusano, Victor Caratini, and Austin Nola. The Athletics, who are expected to tear down their roster once the lockout is lifted, represent another intriguing match since they could offer Sean Murphy.

Murphy, 27, won the Gold Glove Award for American League catchers this season and is not slated to hit free agency until after 2025. His asking price would presumably be high, but it could be something worth exploring for the Red Sox.

(Picture of Christian Vazquez: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)