Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez in MLB’s COVID-19 protocol due to cold symptoms

J.D. Martinez will not play in Saturday’s game against the Orioles. The slugger is under the weather and is dealing with cold symptoms, which resulted in him being placed in MLB’s COVID-19 protocols.

The Red Sox, however, do not feel that Martinez has COVID.

“With J.D., he’s under the weather,” Sox manager Alex Cora said during his pregame media availability Saturday. “He has cold symptoms. So the protocol has been activated. We’ll have more information throughout the night or tomorrow morning. We feel pretty confident that he’ll be able to be with us tomorrow. But obviously, we have to wait.”

Per the league’s health and safety protocols for the 2021 season, Martinez must test negative twice before being cleared to return to baseball activities. The 33-year-old has already taken a rapid COVID test and has taken or will take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

“I spoke to J.D.,” said Cora. “Obviously, we never know with the virus, but he feels pretty confident that it’s just a regular cold.”

There is a chance that the Red Sox could place Martinez on the COVID-related injured list before Saturday’s game and still have him available to play on Sunday.

In that scenario, Boston would activate one of the five taxi squad players who are currently traveling with the team for their first road trip of the season. Chris Herrmann, Michael Chavis, Cesar Puello, Colten Brewer, and Ryan Weber are those five players.

Again, Martinez’s absence would likely only last one day, as the Sox appear confident that the three-time All-Star just has a cold, not COVID-19.

“From our end, we do believe he’s going to be back with us tomorrow,” Cora said.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox place Eduardo Rodriguez on injured list; Alex Cora hopeful left-hander will be able to rejoin team ‘sooner rather than later. And sooner is like next week’

To nobody’s surprise, the Red Sox placed left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez on the 10-day injured list on Thursday due to left elbow inflammation.

The soon-to-be 28-year-old hurler was originally slated to start on Opening Day for the Sox in their first game of the year against the Orioles, but was scratched from said start after suffering a “dead arm” in the last week of spring training.

Now that he has been placed on the injured list — which was actually backdated to March 29 — the hope is that Rodriguez will be be able to return to the mound in the very near future.

“Him going on the IL is nothing long-term,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said about Rodriguez earlier Thursday. “It’s just [that] we ran out of time to build him up. The hope is for him to rejoin us sooner rather than later. And sooner is like next week.”

Rodriguez will head to Worcester on Friday to throw a simulated game at the Sox’ alternate training site at Polar Park.

Though Cora was unsure of how many innings or pitches Rodriguez would throw in that simulated game, he did place an emphasis on the Venezuelan southpaw’s health in the midst of this latest setback.

“We’ll build him up and see how it goes,” said the Sox skipper. “Like the whole week, the next day is the most important day. Hopefully he’s OK. The goal is for him is to be with us hopefully next week.”

Because his stint on the injured list was backdated to this past Monday, Rodriguez could be activated from the IL as soon as April 8, which — as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo — would line him up to get the starting nod against the Orioles in the Red Sox’ road opener in Baltimore.

Rodriguez, who missed all of 2020 due to a heart condition as a result of contracting COVID-19 over the summer, has not pitched on a big-league mound since September 2019. While he is surely anxious to get back out there as soon as possible, he also understands that he needs to be at his best health-wise before returning to action.

“I’m going to go out there when I’m 100%,” Rodriguez said last weekend. “That’s why we sat together and made the decision. I want to go out there and compete and not think, ‘Oh, my shoulder’ and all that and miss my spots.”

The start of the 2021 season, which for the Red Sox was pushed back from Thursday to Friday, will mark the second consecutive year in which Rodriguez was supposed to be Boston’s Opening Day starter but ultimately was not.

A bout with COVID-19 prevented that from happening last summer, and a bout with left elbow inflammation is preventing that from happening this spring.

“It sucks for him because going into ‘20 he was supposed to be the Opening Day starter,” Cora said of the 6-foot-2, 231 pounder back on March 26. “Going into ‘21, we announced it and now he’s not. But I told him yesterday, I said, ‘Hey, man. The way you throw the ball, the way your career is going, at one point in your career you will be an Opening Day starter. Maybe more than once.’ So he took it as a professional. With him, I think the communication is very clear. It’s very genuine. And for him to accept it and think about the future and not the first game of the season, it is a testament to who he is right now as a pitcher, as a person, as a leader in this team.”

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes cleared to rejoin team after potentially false positive COVID-19 test

After initially testing positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes — as well as the eight people who were in close contact with him — have been cleared to return to action, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

The reason being that Barnes “has had several COVID-19 tests come back negative since the initial positive result on Saturday,” according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

In addition to the negative tests, Barnes has not shown any symptoms, either. With both of these conditions being met, the Joint MLB-MLBPA COVID-19 Committee felt comfortable clearing the 30-year-old right-hander to return to baseball activities.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora confirmed as much following his team’s 4-0 victory over the Braves on Monday afternoon, though he did not get into the specifics on how Barnes was cleared so soon after receiving a positive test.

“He got cleared by the committee,” Cora said via Zoom. “I don’t know about the details. I’m just happy he’s going to be back with us and we’re going to be at full strength in a few days.”

Barnes testing positive for COVID-19 this past Friday led to eight other members of the organization — including pitchers Matt Andriese, Kevin McCarthy, Garrett Richards and Garrett Whitlock — being sent home as well due to contact tracing protocols.

Now that Barnes, who is the only one on the Red Sox to have tested positive thus far, has been cleared to return, so have the others, leaving Cora to feel more at ease with things compared to just a few days ago.

“Having the whole crew together is beneficial, obviously,” he said. “It was very fast the first day (Saturday), in the early part. It seems like it slowed down right away when we got on that bus to go to Bradenton. The guys did a good job staying the course and doing their work. There were no distractions and then we got good news.”

Barnes will finish the Grapefruit League campaign having allowed no runs on two hits and three walks over five relief appearances spanning 5 1/3 total innings of work.

The UCONN product had been competing with fellow righty reliever Adam Ottavino for the Sox’ closer job, while Richards slotted to pitch in this weekend’s opening series against the Orioles and Andriese and Whitlock were to begin the season in the bullpen.

Because of the time they spent away from the team while quarantining, though, it’s unclear if the likes of Barnes, Richards, Andriese, and Whitlock will be ready for Opening Day on Thursday.

“It’s too soon to make a decision, it’s too soon to know where they’re at,” said Cora. “I’m just happy they’re going to be with us. That’s the most important thing.”

Long story short, it looks like Barnes’ COVID-19 test from over the weekend was a false positive.

UPDATE: For clarity’s sake, I’m including this from The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, who tweeted earlier Monday afternoon that “is not regarded as a false positive but was deemed non-infectious.”

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Saturday was a long day for Red Sox manager Alex Cora

Editor’s note: This is a bad title and I will try to be better next time.

The week leading up to Opening Day is typically one filled with optimism around baseball.

This year, though, as has been the nature of things since the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic began last March, those days for the Red Sox are now filled with plenty of uncertainties as April 1 draws closer.

Earlier Saturday morning, Red Sox manager Alex Cora revealed that reliever Matt Barnes had tested positive for COVID-19 and right-hander Matt Andriese was one of several players away from the team due to contact tracing protocols.

Barnes, who was vying for the role as Boston’s closer, took a COVID test on Thursday and got his positive result back on Friday shortly after throwing in a simulated game at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers.

Cora found out about the veteran hurler’s positive test shortly after arriving to JetBlue Park at around 7 a.m. Saturday morning.

While Barnes is not showing any symptoms, he will be away from the team for at least 10 days due to the protocols MLB has in place.

This means that the UCONN product will not be included on the Sox’ Opening Day roster and will miss a minimum of four regular season games before being cleared to return to action.

The fallout of Barnes’ testing positive resulted in a feeling of unease throughout the Red Sox’ clubhouse on Saturday.

“It’s nobody’s fault,” Cora said via Zoom. “That’s the first thing. They’ve been very responsible. We’ve been praising them throughout camp. It just happened. Today, you can feel… you don’t want to hear this. You start thinking about if something else happens or where we’re going to be in a few days. It’s not comfortable but, at the same time, if we keep doing the things we should be doing, the hope is we’re going to be fine as a group.

“It’s just one isolated quote-unquote incident. Let’s hope that’s the case,” he added. “But it’s a different mood, to be honest with you. It’s not a good feeling, but trusting the process, trusting our medical staff, trusting the testing system. We should be OK.”

Despite having a confirmed positive COVID case, Red Sox players and coaches who were slated to travel to Bradenton for the team’s Grapefruit League contest against the Pirates did, but only after taking a rapid COVID-19 test before the bus ride there.

Upon arriving at LECOM Park, not only did the Sox top the Pirates by a final score of 7-4 — which allowed Cora to triumph over his brother Joey, who is Pittsburgh’s third base coach — they also received some encouraging news later in the afternoon.

That being, of all the rapid tests the club’s traveling party took earlier in the day, none came back positive.

“Everybody who was here was negative,” Cora said during his postgame media availability. “We got the results throughout the day. Of course, there were people who stayed back. I’ll get those results, probably, on the way to Fort Myers.”

Taking those words into consideration, Barnes remains the only known player to test positive thus far, though that number could increase as Major League Baseball conducts conduct tracing with those on the Sox who were in close contact with the righty — including Andriese.

“We have a positive, but we did everything we’re supposed to do to keep moving forward,” said Cora. “Everybody was nervous at one point, but when we went through the whole thing, the whole process, you feel better.

“But we’re not out of it,” he continued. “We still have to wait for tonight and tomorrow and the next couple of days. But we got it in, we got our work in. We’ll do the same thing tomorrow. Hopefully we can do it the next three days and go up north.”

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the team at the moment on account of COVID-19, Cora has yet to name a starter for the Red Sox’ next Grapefruit League contest against the Twins at JetBlue Park on Sunday afternoon.

To put it simply, between Christian Vazquez suffering a contusion under his left eye on Thursday, Eduardo Rodriguez being scratched from starting on Opening Day on Friday, and Barnes testing positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, the past three days or so have been a real whirlwind for the Sox skipper. But he understands the problems he is dealing with don’t really compare to other things currently going on throughout the country and the rest of the world.

“This is bigger than sports,” Cora said. “We’ve been living through this since March last year. We’re doing the best possible to put a show out there for the fans and get their minds away from the pandemic. That’s the way I see it.”

(Picture of Alex Cora: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes tests positive for COVID-19

Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes has tested positive for COVID-19, Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced Saturday morning.

Per Cora, Barnes is currently away from the Sox’ Fenway South complex in Fort Myers, as are several other players due to contract tracing protocols.

“As far as the guidelines and the protocols, it’s a fire drill now,” Cora said via Zoom. “So there’s a few people that because of contact tracing, they have to stay away from camp.”

One of those individuals would be right-hander Matt Andriese, who was slated to start for Boston in the club’s Grapefruit League contest against the Pirates Saturday afternoon. He has since been scratched from that start in favor of A.J. Politi.

“We talked about making adjustments yesterday pitching-wise and all that stuff,” said Cora. “Everything happened this morning, so we’re still scrambling as far as what we’re going to do. We know how we’re going to attack this, obviously. There’s some guidelines and the organization is great about stuff like that. It’s unfortunate, but this is the world we’re living in and we have to make adjustments.”

Barnes, 30, is asymptomatic, but protocols dictate that he could be away from the team for up to 10 days before receiving the OK to return to action.

In other words, with Opening Day just five days away now, the veteran right-hander will miss the start of the regular season. He had been competing with fellow righty Adam Ottavino for the team’s closer job.

“He’ll get tested, nonstop, for X amount of days,” Cora said in regards to Barnes’ status moving forward. “The hope is obviously that he’ll test negative and we can go from there. It takes longer than five days.”

Barnes had been pitching well throughout camp and most recently got some work in in a simulated game at the Fenway South complex on Friday, the same day he received a positive result after taking a COVID-19 test on Thursday.

With Barnes testing positive, the Sox are now in a mad dash to determine who else on the team — whether that be players, coaches, or staff members — have been in close contact with the reliever in recent days.

With the help of Major League Baseball, Barnes will be interviewed with the intention of finding out how he may have contracted the virus in the first place.

The league will also use data provided by contact tracing devices each player and coach has been wearing throughout the spring to determine who else on the team was in close contact with Barnes.

“Obviously, they get the information from the trackers but he’ll go over whatever he did from breakfast to dinner, who he spent more time with,” said Cora. “From there, they’ll keep adding people and subtracting people. We just have to be patient throughout the day to get more information about it. Hopefully, instead of adding people to it, we subtract people from our list.”

Barnes is the only player Cora has ruled out for Opening Day thus far. Andriese’s status — as well as the status of others who were in close contact with Barnes — has yet to be determined.

With Barnes being the only Red Sox player to test positive thus far, the team — as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo — “is hopeful it’s an isolated incident.”

“We signed up for this,” Cora said. “This is the world we’re living in. It’s not only the Boston Red Sox. It’s happening everywhere. It’s a bad moment, right? But we cannot blame Matt. The chances were high something like this was going to happen.”

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

What pitching in front of fans again meant for Red Sox prospect Durbin Feltman

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman made his first appearance of the spring against the Orioles in Sarasota on Thursday afternoon.

Working in relief of fellow right-hander Tanner Houck, Feltman came on in the bottom half of the third inning with two outs to get and the bases loaded in what was at the time a one-run game in favor of Boston.

The 23-year-old managed to limit the damage, as he allowed just one inherited runner to score on a sacrifice fly before getting Ramon Urias to ground out to second to retire the side.

For Feltman, who made his 2021 Grapefruit League debut in front of approximately 1,700 spectators at Ed Smith Stadium, it was his first time pitching with fans in the stands since August 2019.

“It was just good to be out there in front of fans,” Feltman told BloggingtheRedSox.com Thursday night. “It brings back the atmosphere of the game and I couldn’t be happier to have people in the stands no matter the capacity. It causes you to have to lock in more during the game, which I think in turn helps you perform better. I love it.”

One of 30-plus non-roster invitees currently at big-league camp for the Red Sox, Feltman should find his way into more games between now and the end of the month.

Boston selected the flame-throwing righty in the third-round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University. He proceeded to post a 1.93 ERA over 22 relief appearances and 23 1/3 innings pitched between three different levels (short-season Lowell, Class-A Greenville, High-A Salem) in his inaugural season as a pro.

Feltman’s first full professional campaign, however, was a different story. The young reliever struggled to the tune of a 5.26 ERA and 5.02 FIP in 43 appearances and 51 1/3 innings of work out of the bullpen for Double-A Portland in 2019.

The inconsistencies Feltman displayed with the Sea Dogs in ’19 likely worked against him when the Red Sox were deciding who to include in their 60-man player pool the following summer after the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

From the middle of July through the end of September, they had the opportunity to invite Feltman to their alternate training site in Pawtucket, but did not take it.

That, in turn, motivated the Texas native as he made preparations to participate in the team’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

“I came in there with a chip on my shoulder and was like ‘Hey, this is what you missed out on at the alternate site,’” Feltman said back in December. “Hopefully I showed enough, I felt like I did. And I’m carrying that into 2021 as well.”

Feltman did indeed show enough at instructs this past fall to get an invite to major-league camp this spring after not receiving one a year ago.

The 6-foot, 208 pounder is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 30 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected to begin the year at the club’s alternate training site in Worcester after the start of the Triple-A season was recently pushed back to May.

2021 could prove to be a pivotal year for Feltman simply because he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December. The Red Sox would need to add the former Horned Frog to their 40-man roster before November 20 in order to prevent that from happening.

“Obviously, I don’t want to have to go through the Rule 5 Draft,” he said. “Because if you’ve been in the big-leagues you’re not getting Rule 5 drafted.”

With that thought in mind, it would appear that Feltman, who turns 24 next month, is shooting to make his major-league debut — or at the very least be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster — at some point this season. He has plenty of time to prove that he belongs.

(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Zachary Roy/Getty Images)

Red Sox bring back right-hander Joel Payamps via waiver claim, place outfielder Franchy Cordero on COVID-19 related injured list

The Red Sox have claimed right-hander Joel Payamps off waivers from the Blue Jays, the team announced Monday afternoon.

In order to make room for Payamps on their 40-man roster, Boston also placed outfielder Franchy Cordero on the COVID-19 related injured list.

Payamps comes back to the Sox a little less than three weeks after being designated for assignment by the club in order to open up a roster spot for starter Garrett Richards on February 3.

The 26-year-old hurler was then claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays a week later, but his stint with Toronto obviously did not last that long.

Prior to getting DFA’d earlier this month, Payamps originally came to Boston from the Diamondbacks via a waiver claim back in November.

In limited action with Arizona the last two seasons, the Dominican native yielded four runs (three earned) on six hits, six walks, and five strikeouts over four total appearances and seven innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 3.86 and a FIP of 4.35.

Now that he is back with the Sox, Payamps will presumably compete for a spot on the team’s Opening Day roster as a mid-inning reliever, assuming he does not get designated and/or claimed by another club again.

Of course, Payamps, who works with a four-seam fastball, slider, sinker, and changeup, does have one minor-league option remaining, so him starting the year with Triple-A Worcester is a legitimate possibility as well. He is also under team control through 2026, for what it’s worth.

Moving on to Cordero now, the Red Sox placed the 26-year-old outfielder on the COVID-19 injured related list, but as noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, “being placed on this list does not require a confirmed positive test.”

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo tweeted earlier Monday that Cordero was not yet with the team and that manager Alex Cora was not sure of the exact reason as to why.

Cotillo later tweeted that the reasoning behind Cordero being placed on the COVID-19 related IL was “unclear,” noting that it’s not yet known if “he tested positive or has a disputed test or what the exact deal is.”

Cordero joins catcher Kevin Plawecki as the only two members of the Red Sox currently on the team’s COVID-19 related injured list. Both players will not count towards Boston’s 40-man roster as long as they are on said list.

The Dominican-born slugger was originally acquired by Boston from the Royals earlier this month as part of the trade that sent fellow outfielder Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City. He figures to see significant playing time in left field for the Sox this coming season, assuming he is healthy.

Following this particular transaction, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is back at full capacity, though some spots may be in jeopardy relatively soon assuming both Cordero and Plawecki return sooner rather than later.

Also, the Marwin Gonzalez signing still needs to be made official, so there’s that.

(Picture of Joel Payamps: Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox release revised Grapefruit League schedule

The Red Sox were originally slated to open Grapefruit League play against the Pirates on February 27, but their spring training schedule has since been revised.

Per a team release, the Sox will now kick off their slate of exhibition games on February 28 against the Twins at Hammond Stadium, and instead of playing just about every other Grapefruit League team, they will only be playing the Twins, Braves, Orioles, Pirates and Rays.

That being the case because all five of those teams’ spring training complexes are located within close proximity to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, and “to reflect the recommendations suggested by medical experts and infectious disease specialists, Major League Baseball has regionalized the matchups between teams to limit travel.”

By the time spring training comes to an end in late March, the Red Sox will have hopefully played 29 games in a span of 31 days, though the rules for those games will be quite relaxed as part of MLB’s health and safety protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, games between February 27 and March 13 can be played as five- or seven-inning games, as long as the managers agree, while games on or after March 4 will be scheduled as nine innings but managers can agree to shorten them to seven if they so choose.

In total, Boston is scheduled to play 15 of its Grapefruit League contests at JetBlue Park and 14 of them on the road in Bradenton, Fort Myers, North Port, Port Charlotte, and Sarasota.

The team plans on having fans in the stands for home games, though only at a limited capacity to allow for proper social distancing measures. From the aforementioned release:

“The Red Sox will implement appropriate physical distancing and safety protocols that would allow fans to return in a limited capacity for 2021 Spring Training exhibition games by operating JetBlue Park at approximately 24 percent of its normal capacity. All tickets will be sold in physically distanced ‘pods’ comprised primarily of 2-4 seats that will allow for at least six feet between groups. Season Ticket Holders will be offered the first opportunity to attend exhibition games and additional tickets may go on sale to the general public depending on availability. All day games at JetBlue Park will start at 1:05 p.m., and all night games will start at 6:05 p.m.”

For the Red Sox’ full 2021 spring training and regular season schedule, click here.

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Matt Barnes on challenges 2021 season could present: ‘Guys know exactly what to expect. That adjustment period of a pandemic is over’

It goes without saying that the 2020 Major League Baseball was unlike any in the sport’s history on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States

Limited to just 60 regular season games with no fans in the stands and plenty of health and safety protocols, players opting out, outbreak scares, and a postseason bubble, the 2020 season being completed was no sure thing.

The season did end on schedule, however, and nearly six months later, players are once again preparing to embark on another campaign that will surely be affected by the pandemic one way or the other.

This time around, though, the players at least have some familiarity with the coronavirus and the protocols it has created working in their favor. That was not the case at all last summer.

“I think one of the hard things about last year was there was so much uncertainty with the pandemic,” Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes told WEEI’s Will Flemming during the team’s live Truck Day stream earlier Monday afternoon. “Going into the season this year, guys know exactly what to expect. That adjustment period of a pandemic is over. Guys are anxious. Guys are excited.”

The Red Sox are slated to begin spring training next week, with pitchers and catchers reporting to the JetBlue Park complex on February 17 and full squad workouts starting on February.

Among the players the 30-year-old Barnes has seen so far are Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Darwinzon Hernandez, Martin Perez, and Nick Pivetta.

Boston’s first Grapefruit League game will come against the Pirates in Fort Myers on February 27. Fans will be allowed to attend games at JetBlue, but the ballpark will only be operating at 24% capacity to allow for proper social distancing measures.

Even with those limits in mind, having fans in the stands should serve as a dose of normalcy for players such as Barnes, who experienced the entirety of the 2020 season in empty ballparks — including Fenway Park — since the Red Sox did not make it to the postseason.

“Fenway’s a special place to play, it really is,” said Barnes. “From just getting to go out to Fenway Park, where so many greats have had the opportunity to play and win world championships… When you see it empty, it’s just different. It’s just not the same. One of the things that gives us an edge at home is our fans and their ability to be loud and make it an intimidating place to play for opposing teams. I’m hoping that we can get as many fans as we can safely this year. I don’t know what the plan is for that, but the fans are definitely missed. It’s not the same playing at Fenway without them.”

While the veteran right-hander may not know what the plan is for having fans in the stands at Fenway in 2021, Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy shed some light on that topic during a virtual town hall event last week.

“We’d love to host fans if the health and safety experts up here and the government officials say it’s okay,” Kennedy told NESN’s Tom Caron this past Thursday. “We have a plan to host fans in a socially distanced environment with all sorts of requirements for masks and hand sanitizing, things like that. We’ve seen around the country, it works, at different venues. We’re hoping to have that but we have not engaged with the state of Massachusetts or the city of Boston… It’s our sincere hope to have fans back at Fenway as early as Opening Day. We’re cautiously optimistic, but again, that is not our decision.”

That decision, as it turns out, is up to the medical community, health experts, and local city and state officials, Kennedy said.

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez will not be opting out of final two years of contract

As had been expected, Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez will not opt out of his contract with the Red Sox this offseason, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Martinez, who just completed his third season with Boston, will instead opt in to the remaining two years and $38.75 million remaining on the five-year, $110 million deal he signed with the Red Sox prior to the start of the 2018 campaign.

Of course, the 33-year-old also has the option to test the free agency waters again if he so chooses next winter, otherwise he would earn $19.375 million in the fifth and final year of his current contract.

Like so many across the game, Martinez endured great struggles at the plate this past season, posting a dismal, overly-uncharacteristic .213/.291/.389 slash line to go along with seven home runs and 27 RBI over 54 games.

One reason the three-time Silver Slugger Award winner had such a tough time of things in 2020 was due to a lack of in-game video and video room access that came as a result of the Astros’ and Red Sox’ sign-stealing scandals as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Guys are struggling and trying to work. It’s tough when you don’t know what to work on or what to do so everyone is feeling for stuff and it’s a tough situation,” he said of the video-related restrictions back in August. “We’re only allowed to be here five hours before game time, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for guys to go in the cage and grind it out and figure it out with the hitting coach. It’s tough. I mean it’s a tough hand. We’ve got to find a way to make it work though. I told my guys anytime they know they have anything they know they can come up to me and ask me questions and stuff like that. It’s just different. I don’t have that time to go in and break down guys’ swings and look at guys’ stuff and really dive into it.”

As underwhelming as Martinez may have been this year, the South Florida native, a lifetime .290/.354/.530 hitter, is certainly a prime candidate to bounce back in 2021 as he prepares to embark on his 11th big-league season while inching closer to accruing 10 years of major-league service time.