Red Sox’ Rich Hill, Jason Varitek test positive for COVID-19

Red Sox left-hander Rich Hill and game planning coordinator/catching coach Jason Varitek have both tested positive for COVID-19, manager Alex Cora revealed before Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the White Sox at Fenway Park.

Hill was originally placed on the COVID-19 related injured list alongside Enrique Hernandez on Friday. Both players were exhibiting symptoms at that time but had yet to test positive for the virus.

Since then, Hernandez has been cleared to return to action. Hill, on the other hand, will need to register two negative tests or reach an appropriate CT (cycle threshold) value on-back-to-back days before he is eligible to return.

John Schreiber, who was called up in place of Hill on Friday, remains on Boston’s major-league roster. Garrett Whitlock, meanwhile, will take the veteran left-hander’s spot in the Sox’ starting rotation for Tuesday’s contest against the Braves in Atlanta.

As for Varitek, who tested positive a few days ago, Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) earlier Saturday that the former catcher was “feeling better.”

This should not come as a surprise, but both Hill and Varitek will remain away from the team until they are cleared to return.

(Picture of Rich Hill: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Alex Cora returns to Red Sox after missing last 6 games with COVID-19

Alex Cora has rejoined the Red Sox in Toronto and is expected to return to his post as manager for Wednesday’s contest against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, as was first reported by MLB.com’s Ian Browne.

Cora has missed each of Boston’s last six games after testing positive for COVID-19 shortly before the Sox’ series finale with the Blue Jays at Fenway Park on April 21.

The 46-year-old, who is fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, had already been staying in a hotel upon testing positive after one of his four-year-old twin boys contracted the virus two weeks ago and remained isolated there while experiencing mild symptoms.

In Cora’s place, bench coach Will Venable took over as Boston’s acting manager for the second time in as many seasons and led the club to a 1-5 record to drop the Red Sox to 7-11 on the season.

While losing five of their last six and four straight overall to American League East opponents, the Sox are averaging fewer than three runs per game and have been outscored 26-17 during this rough stretch.

With Cora back in the dugout, though, perhaps the Red Sox’ fortunes will change for the better. They have two more games remaining in Toronto before concluding this lengthy road trip with a three-game weekend series in Baltimore.

As Cora makes his return on Wednesday, it will be right-hander Michael Wacha getting the start for the Sox opposite fellow righty Ross Stripling for the Jays in the third game of this four-game series.. First pitch from Rogers Centre is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Alex Cora: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox manager Alex Cora tests positive for COVID-19

Red Sox manager Alex Cora has tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced during Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

Cora, who is fully vaccinated and boosted against the virus, registered a positive test shortly before first pitch on Thursday and is not managing the team. He is currently experiencing mild symptoms and will not travel with the Red Sox to St. Petersburg for their upcoming series against the Rays that begins on Friday.

Earlier this week, Cora told reporters (including WEEI’s Rob Bradford) that he had been staying at a local hotel after one of his sons had contracted COVID-19.

In Cora’s place, bench coach Will Venable has taken over managing responsibilities for Boston. This will be Venable’s second time filling in for Cora. The 39-year-old did so last May while Cora was attending his daughter’s high school graduation in Puerto Rico.

Besides Cora, the Red Sox currently have two players on the COVID-19 related injured list in catcher Kevin Plawecki and infielder Jonathan Arauz. Christian Vazquez, who tested positive on Tuesday, returned to Boston’s lineup on Thursday after a two-day absence.

(Picture of Alex Cora: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Tanner Houck says he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning he will not be eligible to pitch in Toronto

Red Sox starter Tanner Houck revealed to The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams on Sunday that he is not yet vaccinated against COVID-19. As a result, the right-hander will not be eligible to pitch against the Blue Jays in Toronto.

The Red Sox will visit Rogers Centre for the first time this season later this month. Houck was in line to start the second of that four-game series on April 26, but will instead miss it due to his vaccination status.

“I think it’s a personal choice for everyone whether they get it or not,” Houck told McWilliams earlier Sunday morning. “So, that’s all I really got to say on it.”

Any individual traveling to Canada must be vaccinated against COVID-19. The Canadian government defines this individual as someone who has received at least two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Travelers must have received the second dose of Moderna/Pfizer or first dose of Johnson and Johnson at least 14 calendar days prior to entering the country.

For the Red Sox, these guidelines apply to their series against the Blue Jays in Toronto from April 25-28, June 27-June 29, and September 30 through October 2.

Besides Houck, it is already known that fellow Boston starter Chris Sale is not vaccinated against the virus. The left-hander is currently on the 60-day injured list as he continues to recover from a stress fracture in his right rib cage, so he was not going to be able to pitch in next week’s series north of the border anyway.

Still, unless either pitcher gets vaccinated or the Canadian government changes its rules, Houck and Sale will not be eligible to travel to or play in Toronto this season.

In Houck’s case, the 25-year-old hurler will be placed on the restricted list during the Sox’ series in Toronto. While away from the team, Houck will be placed on the restricted list and will not receive any pay or service time for the games he misses.

The Red Sox will, however, have the ability to replace Houck on the active roster while he is on the restricted list. Although the club has yet to announce who will take Houck’s turn in the starting rotation on April 26, it would not be surprising if that responsibility fell to Garrett Whitlock, who pitched in relief of Houck on Saturday.

“We knew it beforehand,” Sox manager Alex Cora said following Sunday’s 8-1 win over the Twins. “So, we’ll plan accordingly.”

As noted by McWilliams, Cora also indicated that Houck will not be the only player Boston places on the restricted list for their trip to Toronto. According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “the identities of the others are unknown.”

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Who is Jordan DiValerio? Red Sox pitching prospect walked just 5.1% of the batters he faced with Low-A Salem in 2021

Jordan DiValerio was one of 16 undrafted free agents the Red Sox signed in the wake of the pandemic-shortened 2020 amateur draft.

Two days before officially signing with the club, DiValerio received a phone call and recruiting pitch from Boston ace Chris Sale, which made the decision to put pen to paper that much easier.

“It was definitely really surprising,” DiValerio told MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo at the time when describing his conversation with Sale. “It means so much to just be wanted by such a great organization.”

A right-handed senior coming out of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, DiValerio signed with the Sox for $20,000. Due to the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the Nescopeck, Pa. native was unable to make his professional debut in 2020 since the minor-league season had already been cancelled.

Instead, DiValerio got his first taste of pro ball during fall instructs in Fort Myers. He took what he learned there into minor-league camp the following spring and opened the 2021 season with Low-A Salem.

In 31 appearances (one start) for Salem, the righty posted a 5.72 ERA and 4.21 FIP to go along with 72 strikeouts to just 16 walks over 72 1/3 innings of work. The length of his outings ranged from 2/3 of an inning to four full frames.

On the surface, a 5.72 ERA is not exactly an eye-popping statistic. But, in DiValerio’s case, his ERA does not tell the full story when you consider the fact that he also put up a 4.21 FIP and much more respectable 3.95 xFIP.

Among the 35 pitchers who accrued at least 70 innings in the Low-A East last year, DiValerio ranked ninth in FIP, seventh in xFIP, fourth in walks per nine innings (1.99), fourth in walk rate (5.1%), and seventh in swinging strike percentage (14.6%), per FanGraphs. The 24-year-old hurler also yielded a .347 batting average on balls put in play, which suggests he might have been the victim of some bad luck behind him.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, DiValerio throws from a high three-quarters arm slot and operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of an 89-92 mph that tops out at 94 mph, a 77-79 mph curveball, an 80-83 mph changeup and splitter, and an 82-84 mph slider, according to his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Like fellow right-hander Devon Roedahl, DiValerio — who does not turn 25 until October — may not be regarded by any major publication as one of the top pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system. That being said, he is projected by SoxProspects.com to kick off the 2022 season in the bullpen for High-A Greenville.

As is the case with Roedahl, perhaps DiValerio can earn himself a promotion to Double-A Portland before the end of the year.

(Picture of Jordan DiValerio via his Instagram)

After rough 2020 season with Red Sox, Dylan Covey enjoyed success in Taiwan in 2021

Remember when Dylan Covey was one of 27 pitchers the Red Sox used during a dismal 2020 season that only consisted of 60 games?

A former fourth-round pick of the Oakland Athletics who broke in with the White Sox in 2017, Covey was effectively released by Chicago leading up to the 2020 season and inked a minor-league deal with the Rays shortly thereafter.

On the other side of the COVID-19-induced shutdown that placed a freeze on transactions across Major League Baseball, the Rays traded Covey to the Red Sox in late July.

The right-hander was initially optioned to Boston’s alternate training site, but wound up making the club’s Opening Day roster. He made his Red Sox debut against the Orioles on July 25 and was then sent back down to Pawtucket the following day.

On August 8, Covey was recalled from the alternate training site, paving the way for him to make three more appearances out of the Sox’ bullpen before getting optioned eight days later.

Fast forward nearly four weeks, and Covey’s name was called upon once again. He closed out the shortened campaign on Boston’s big-league roster and made four final relief appearances in the process of doing so.

All told, Covey posted a 7.07 ERA — yet a much more respectable 3.91 FIP — to go along with 11 strikeouts to just two walks over eight outings spanning 14 total innings of work in his three stints with the club.

Following the conclusion of the 2020 World Series, the Red Sox outrighted Covey off their 40-man roster, thus allowing the righty to become a free agent since he had already accrued more than three years of major-league service time.

It’s unclear if Covey — a client of CAA Sports — was pursuing big-league opportunities upon hitting the open market, but he ultimately inked a one-year deal with the Rakuten Monkeys of the Chinese Professional Baseball League last May.

Equipped with a five-pitch mix that consists of a slider, four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, and curveball, Covey debuted for Rakuten’s first-team in late August.

In 10 starts for the Monkeys, the 30-year-old put up a 4.01 ERA and 3.14 FIP with 38 strikeouts and 17 walks across 58 1/3 innings pitched. According to CPBLStats.com, he yielded a minuscule 0.84 ERA over his final five starts of the year.

Last month, it was revealed that Rakuten had re-signed Covey to a one-year contract for the upcoming 2022 season, which begins in April.

If Covey — who turns 31 in August — can put together another productive season in Taiwan, it would be fascinating to see if the 6-foot-1, 214 pound hurler could garner enough interest from MLB teams to ponder a return to the United States next winter.

(Picture of Dylan Covey: CPBL Stats)

Red Sox ace Chris Sale tests positive for COVID-19, will miss next scheduled start on Sunday

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale has tested positive for COVID-19, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Sale had been in line to make his next scheduled start for the Red Sox in Sunday’s series finale against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, but that will no longer be the case.

The 32-year-old becomes the 10th Boston player to test positive for COVID-19 since August 27 — exactly two weeks since Friday — and will ultimately become the 12th player the club has had to place on the COVID-19 related injured list since that date.

While Enrique Hernandez, Josh Taylor, and Danny Santana have all been activated recently, the likes of Christian Arroyo, Matt Barnes, Martin Perez, Hirokazu Sawamura, Jarren Duran, Xander Bogaerts, Yairo Munoz, and Nick Pivetta remain sidelined.

Though it appears likely that some of those aforementioned names could re-join the team for their upcoming series with Chicago, Boston’s starting rotation plans for this weekend still remain somewhat disarrayed.

That being the case because Tanner Houck — Friday’s starter — is now the only definitive starting pitcher the Red Sox have named for their next three games, as Pivetta’s next scheduled start would come on Saturday and Sale’s would come on Sunday.

As noted by Cotillo, right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold traveled with the Sox to Chicago as part of their taxi squad and is a candidate to start on either Saturday or Sunday. The same can be said for fellow righty Kutter Crawford, who is slated to start for Triple-A Worcester on Friday but could very well be scratched from that outing.

Pivetta, on the other hand, can’t be ruled out for Saturday quite yet since he is vaccinated against COVID-19. If he is asymptomatic and cleared by Major League Baseball to return to the action, the 28-year-old hurler could still start this weekend, per Cotillo.

Sale, who would have been making his sixth start of the year for the Red Sox on Sunday, has posted a 2.52 ERA and 3.92 FIP to go along with 30 strikeouts to six walks through his first five outings (25 innings pitched) of the season since returning from Tommy John surgery last month.

At the moment, it is not yet known if Sale is vaccinated against COVID-19, though he did have a bout with the virus back in January. As Cotillo notes, “players who test positive for the virus have to miss a minimum of 10 days but there have been cases when vaccinated players return earlier than that timeframe.”

(Picture of Chris Sale: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Yairo Muñoz becomes latest Red Sox player to test positive for COVID-19

Red Sox infielder Yairo Munoz has tested positive for COVID-19, manager Alex Cora said during his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Merloni and Fauria program earlier Wednesday afternoon.

Munoz, who was selected from Triple-A Worcester on Friday, tested positive for the virus on Wednesday morning, per Cora.

The versatile 26-year-old has appeared in five games for the Red Sox since being called up from Worcester, most recently being used as a defensive replacement at second base in Tuesday night’s 8-5 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.

After starting that game on the bench, Munoz was dispatched in the middle of the second inning when — after getting test results back — Cora was forced to pull Xander Bogaerts, as it was later revealed that the star shortstop tested positive for COVID-19.

Because of that, Jonathan Arauz, Tuesday’s starting second baseman for Boston, shifted over to shortstop while Munoz took over at second base for the remainder of the contest.

Within the next few hours, both Bogaerts and Munoz will become the seventh and eighth players the Red Sox have had to place on the COVID-19 related injured list since Friday. They will join the likes of Enrique Hernandez, Christian Arroyo, Martin Perez, Matt Barnes, Hirokazu Sawamura, and Josh Taylor.

Hernandez and Arroyo both tested positive for the virus in Cleveland and remain in quarantine there, while Perez, Barnes, and Sawamura all tested positive for the virus in St. Petersburg and are quarantining at the team hotel.

On top of that, quality control coach Ramon Vazquez and strength and conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose have tested positive as well, while Taylor and first base coach Tom Goodwin have been identified as close contacts and are also in quarantine.

As is the case for all players who test positive for COVID-19, Munoz will have to remain away from the Red Sox for the next 10 days at the very least.

(Picture of Yairo Munoz: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox minor-league coordinators Andy Fox, Darren Fenster filling in on Alex Cora’s coaching staff while Will Venable, Tom Goodwin quarantine in Canada

With bench coach Will Venable and first base coach Tom Goodwin currently quarantining in Toronto, the Red Sox have added Andy Fox and Darren Fenster to their major-league coaching staff, manager Alex Cora said Tuesday.

Venable tested positive for COVID-19 this past Saturday, during the first game of the Sox’ doubleheader against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Despite being vaccinated against the virus, Venable has been placed into a mandatory 14-day quarantine on account of the rules put into effect by the Canadian government.

Goodwin, meanwhile, has also been forced to quarantine since he was identified as a close contact of Venable, though he could return to the club sooner since he has yet to test positive for COVID.

“They’re doing OK,” Cora said of the two coaches ahead of Tuesday night’s game against the Rays at Fenway Park. “It’s not easy. I texted with them today. They’re doing OK. The organization has done an amazing job taking care of their diet plans. Both of them, they’re really good about their nutrition.

“But, all kidding aside, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s where we’re at,” added Cora. “Those two are relentless, they’re working with us, they’re doing their homework, they’re sending in information, and on top of everything that’s going on here, hopefully we can get them back soon here with us.”

In place of Goodwin and Venable, Cora will rely on two minor-league coordinators in Fox and Fenster — both of whom have been with the organization in some capacity since 2011 and 2012, respectively — for the time being.

Fox, 50, has served as Boston’s minor-league infield coordinator since 2011 and as assistant field coordinator since 2019. He also has experience as a minor-league manager and hitting coach as well as a major-league first base and infield coach for the Florida Marlins from 2007 through 2019.

“A person that I really respect and really like,” Cora said of Fox. “He can help [third base coach] Carlos [Febles] while [quality control coach] Ramon [Vazquez] is doing other stuff within the day.”

Fenster, 42, has served as the Sox’ minor-league outfield and baserunning coordinator since 2019 after previously managing the Portland Sea Dogs in 2018 and Greenville Drive from 2014 through 2017.

This summer, Fenster served as Team USA’s third base coach under manager Mike Scioscia and helped the United States baseball team (including Red Sox minor-leaguers Jack Lopez and Triston Casas) win a silver medal in Tokyo.

“I don’t know if the coaches get the medal, but hopefully he did,” Cora joked. “He can bring it here and we can see it.”

While Fox and Fenster will temporarily fill the void left behind by Venable and Goodwin, Cora will still turn to the coaches who have been on his staff throughout the season — such as Vazquez and game planning coordinator Jason Varitek.

“Like I always said, Will is the bench coach but Jason helps me out a lot, too — and Ramon,” said Cora. “Between Ramon and Jason, and Andy running the dugout, they’re going to be trying to get people ready, the lineup card, [mound] visits, and the replay phone.”

When asked if the Red Sox would be able to pull any strings in order to get Venable and Goodwin back to the states sooner than anticipated, Cora could only respond by saying it’s out of the club’s control.

“I think that’s out of our hands, to be honest with you,” he said. “That’s more about the government stuff.”

(Picture of Ernie Young, Darren Fenster, and Mike Scioscia: Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)

Red Sox closer Matt Barnes tests negative for COVID-19, could be activated for Wednesday’s game against Tigers

After a scare earlier in the afternoon, Red Sox closer Matt Barnes tested negative for COVID-19 Tuesday night, manager Alex Cora announced.

Barnes, who was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list prior to Tuesday’s series opener against the Tigers in Detroit, had been feeling under the weather earlier in the day and — along with one other unnamed player — was also exhibiting symptoms that run consistent with the virus.

As a result, the right-handed reliever, who is vaccinated, was forced to quarantine at the team hotel, but he could now be activated off the COVID IL as soon as Wednesday depending on how he is feeling in the morning.

“He tested negative,” Cora said of Barnes following Boston’s 4-2 loss to Detroit. “We’ll check him throughout the night, how he feels and all that. But he did test negative, so hopefully everything goes well tonight and he’ll be with us tomorrow.”

Cora acknowledged that Barnes will likely have to take one more PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test on Wednesday morning before being cleared to return to action.

“That’s the goal. Everything went well today,” Cora said on the possibility of having Barnes available for Wednesday’s contest against the Tigers at Comerica Park. “We’ll see how feels tonight, how he feels in the morning. Probably one more test or something like that. But as of now, that’s the goal.”

Barnes, who is currently in the midst of a career year that netted him his first-ever All-Star selection and a lucrative contract extension last month, had not appeared in a game for the Red Sox since Game 2 of last Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park before being placed on the COVID IL on Tuesday.

This is not the first time Barnes has dealt with COVID-related issues either, as the 31-year-old tested positive for the virus back in March but was cleared to return to the team after missing just two days because of subsequent test results.

When Boston placed Barnes on the COVID IL on Tuesday, they reinstated utility man Marwin Gonzalez from the 10-day injured list as a corresponding move, thus giving them 13 pitchers and 13 position players on their 26-man major-league roster.

Assuming Barnes is activated ahead of Wednesday’s matchup against the Tigers, it seems likely that infielder Jonathan Arauz would be optioned to Triple-A Worcester in order for the Red Sox to go back to carrying 14 pitchers and 12 position players. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)