Red Sox Sign Reliever Caleb Simpson, Add Him to Summer Camp Player Pool as Non-Roster Invitee

The Red Sox have signed right-handed reliever Caleb Simpson to a minor-league deal and have added him to their Summer Camp player pool as a non-roster invitee. The club made the signing official earlier Saturday.

Simpson, 28, was released by the Cubs back in May at that time when teams across baseball were parting ways with dozens of their minor-league players.

The former Giants farmhand was a 21st-round draft selection out of Seminole State Junior Colege (Okla.) by San Francisco back in 2013.

Across four minor-league levels spanning five seasons, Simpson owns a career 3.41 ERA and .180 batting average against over 121 relief appearances and 145 1/3 innings of work.

Most recently, the 6’4″, 231 lb. righty posted a 3.00 ERA over 34 outings and 42 innings pitched between High-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond last season.

Throughout his minor-league career, Simpson has dealt with his fair share of injury troubles. He underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, which resulted in him missing the 2015 season and a portion of the 2016 season.

By adding Simpson to their player pool, the Red Sox now have 49 players at Summer Camp, meaning they still have 11 open slots to work with.

Former Red Sox Ace Jon Lester Open to Reunion With Organization He Began Career With

Former Red Sox ace and current Cubs left-hander Jon Lester is open to a potential reunion with Boston this winter, he said in a radio interview with WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

Lester, who turns 37 in January, is entering the final year of the six-year, $155 million deal he signed with Chicago back in December 14. That contract includes a $25 million vesting option for 2021 if Lester were to pitch 200 innings this year or 400 innings between the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Even if those numbers wind up getting prorated due to the coronavirus-induced shutdown, it seems unlikely that he would reach that mark, thus making him a free agent later in the year.

“We’ve got a lot of what-if’s going on right now,” Lester told Bradford. “For me, I don’t know what is going to happen next year. I know I have the team option, the player option, that sort of thing. We’ll figure that out one way or the other. I will either be here or be a free agent. Obviously everything is open. I’m open-minded to anything.”

Drafted by Boston in the second round of the 2002 amateur draft out of Bellarmine High School in Tacoma, Wa., Lester won two World Series titles and made two All-Star teams in his first go-around with the Red Sox.

As you may recall, Sox brass famously low-balled Lester in the spring of 2014 as he was nearing free agency and coming off a 2013 campaign in which he was an All-Star, helped Boston win another World Series, and finished fourth in American League Cy Young voting.

At that time, principal owner John Henry and Co. offered the lefty a four-year, $70 million extension, good for an average annual value of $15 million.

Even after publicly expressing that he’d be willing to take a discount to keep the Red Sox as competitive as possible, that offer was still downright disrespectful, to be blunt. Especially when Lester had just seen the Yankees sign international free agent Masahiro Tanaka, then 25, to a seven-year, $155 million contract that January.

So after botching those extension talks, the Red Sox wound up dealing Lester to the Oakland Athletics prior to the 2014 trade deadline, and the Washington native went on to sign that aforementioned six-year deal with the Cubs a few months later.

As productive as Lester has been since joining the North Siders, his 2019 campaign was not the most memorable.

Starting 31 games, Lester posted a 4.46 ERA and 4.35 xFIP over 171 2/3 innings of work. Not terrible numbers by any means, but it certainly would appear that the southpaw is on the decline at this stage in his career.

Preferably, Lester would like to prove that last year was just a blip and not the way things are trending for him, but his chances to do that are growing slimmer and slimmer as each day passes with no plan for a 2020 season in place.

“On a personal level, this hurts me,” he said of the shutdown. “I’m not getting any younger and coming off a year like I had last year, this isn’t going to help me.”

Because of that uncertainty, I’m sure Lester has had more time to think about different things while waiting this pandemic out from his Georgia home, and it certainly seems like returning to Boston has crossed his mind more than once.

“Absolutely it would be cool to go back and finish my career where it all started,” he said. “But, I’ve got a little time before I really have to sit down and weigh that decision, even if it’s something where they want me back. Hopefully, I’m still a good enough caliber pitcher that the want of my services will still be out there for people. We’ll see.”

We will have to wait and see. I mean, who knows what the market for a veteran 37-year-old left-hander with 2,500+ innings under his belt will look like come free agency? How much would Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom be willing to dish out for someone like that if he feels like Lester fits a team need? Both are unknowns at this point in time.

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 Acquire Catcher Jhonny Pereda From Cubs to Complete Travis Lakins Trade

The Red Sox have acquired minor-league catcher Jhonny Pereda from the Cubs to complete the trade that sent right-hander Travis Lakins to Chicago back in January. The club made the transaction official earlier Monday.

Pereda, who turns 24 in April, was originally signed by the Cubs as an international free agent out of Venezuela in April 2013.

In 98 games with Double-A Tennessee last year, the backstop slashed .241/.336/.305 with two home runs and 39 RBI. He was also the recipient of the 2019 Minor League Rawlings Gold Glove Award for catcher, as he threw out 44 of the 132 (33.3%) of the runners who attempted to steal against him last year.

A right-handed hitter, Pereda also played eight games at first base in 2019 as well as two games at third base in 2017.

As for Lakins, the 25-year-old was dealt to the Cubs in January in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later. Pereda turned out to be that PTBNL, but Lakins has since been waived by Chicago and claimed off waivers by the Baltimore Orioles.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Pedro Strop

MLB Trade Rumors on Tuesday released their annual predictions for where this year’s crop of top 50 free agents will land this winter.

As it is already known, the Red Sox find themselves needing help out of the bullpen. That much is evident by how team chairman Tom Werner said that, ” we’re going to hopefully supplement our relief pitching,” back in September.

Whether adding new arms to the mix comes via trade or free agency has yet to be determined, but that should not stop new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from exploring his options.

Last month, I brought up the idea of the club reaching out to right-handed reliever and Massachusetts native Steve Cishek. Now, I am going to throw out another name who also spent the 2019 season with the Chicago Cubs in right-hander Pedro Strop.

MLBTR has the 34-year-old inking a one-year, $5 million deal with the Sox this winter.

Strop is coming off a 2019 campaign in which he posted a 4.97 ERA and 4.53 FIP over 50 relief appearances and 41 2/3 innings of work. Those numbers may not seem great on the surface, but it is worth mentioning that Strop did spend time on the injured list twice this year due to a left hamstring strain in May and left neck tightness in late July/early August.

Before that though, the Dominican Republic native had established himself as one of the better relievers in the National League since joining the Cubs from the Baltimore Orioles as part of the Jake Arrieta trade in July 2013.

Strop’s pitch arsenal includes a slider, four-seam fastball, cutter, sinker, and split-finger fastball. He certainly appears to be someone who could very well bounce back in 2020.

Although Strop was the only free agent directly linked to the Sox by MLBTR, other named that Boston could be interested in include Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Will Smith, Cole Hamels, Jose Abreu, Daniel Hudson, Brock Holt, and Rich Hill.

Theo Epstein Shoots Down Red Sox Rumors Amid Speculation Surrounding Potential Reunion

In the last few weeks following the firing of now ex-president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, rumors had been swirling that the Red Sox were interested in a potential reunion with former general manager and current Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein.

Epstein himself shut down those reports on Wednesday, telling reporters before the Cubs took on the Pittsburgh Pirates that, “I’m here. We have a lot we need to work on to get back to the level we’re accustomed to. I’m invested in that. That’s what I’m focused on.”

The Brookline, Ma. native’s current contract with Chicago runs through the end of the 2021 season. He initially joined the Cubs back on October 21st, 2011, the same day he resigned from the post as GM of the Red Sox for a second time.

At just 45-years of age, Epstein has already established himself as one of the more accomplished baseball executives of the 21st century, snapping an 86-year World Series drought with the Sox in 2004, winning another in 2007, and snapping a 106-year drought with the Cubs in 2016.

As you may have already guessed, the Red Sox are going to need someone to lead their baseball operations department ahead of what looks to be a crucial winter for the club with plenty of important decisions to be made.

And with that bit of knowledge, Epstein also confirmed Wednesday that, “neither he, GM Jed Hoyer or executive Jason McLeod were linked to the Red Sox position,” per the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer.

“I have really good relationships with a lot of people there,” Epstein said. “And I certainly wish them the best, but there’s nothing to that story.”

So, unless something dramatic happens relatively soon, it seems as though the Red Sox will have to look elsewhere for a new head of baseball operations. Perhaps Eddie Romero, an internal option, is a viable choice?

Blake Swihart Homers and Sam Travis Blasts Grand Slam as #RedSox Fall to Cubs in Spring Finale

The Red Sox wrapped up their spring on Tuesday afternoon with a 14-7 loss at the hands of the Chicago Cubs, meaning they failed to pick up a win in their brief two-game exhibition series in Mesa, Az. before heading north to Seattle for the real thing.

David Price, who we have not seen much of in the past few weeks, made just his second start of the spring in this one.

Pitching into the fourth inning, the left-hander surrendered five runs on six hits and two walks to go along with a pair of strikeouts on the day.

Retiring seven of the first eight hitters he faced, it looked as though things were going swimmingly for Price up until the bottom half of the third, when four straight Cubs hitters reached base, which in turn resulted in their first two runs crossing the plate.

An inning later, a two out solo home run off the bat of Kyle Schwarber would ultimately spell the end to Price’s day, as he would depart from this one following another run of three straight Cubs hits, capped off by an Addison Russell RBI double.

Facing 18 batters in total, Price’s next and first start of the regular season will come against the Oakland Athletics on Monday, April 1st.

From the middle of the bottom half of the fourth on, Trevor Kelley, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Adam Lau, Tyler Thornburg, Colten Brewer, Ryan Weber, and Durbin Feltman combined to give up a whopping 11 runs (10 earned) on nine hits, four walks, two HBPs, and seven punch outs over the final 4.1 frames.

Not great numbers, obviously. Hembree, Workman, and Lau were responsible for eight of those runs in a monster fifth inning for Chicago.

On a more positive note, Weber tossed a scoreless seventh inning, so there’s that.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Cubs right-hander Carl Edwards Jr., who typically pitches in a relief role, to start things off on Tuesday.

After failing to put anything on the board in their first two trips to the plate, Blake Swihart kicked off the scoring for Boston with a one out solo home run in the third inning off Massachusetts native Tim Collins, his first of the spring.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, and Sam Travis got his impressive day at the plate started by belting a line drive RBI double to left that allowed Eduardo Nunez to score all the way from first.

And later on in the eighth, after the first four Red Sox hitters had reached base to lead the inning off, including a Tate Matheny RBI single, Travis capped off his spring in exciting fashion, mashing a bases-clearing grand slam off Cubs reliever Ian Clarkin.

Granted, it ended up not making that huge a difference in the final score, but what a way for the 25-year-old Travis to head into his first ever big league Opening Day. Hard not to be excited for him.

Anyway, the Red Sox would go on to drop this one by a final score of 14-7 to put the finishing touches on what turned out to be a 12-17-1 spring.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s Opening Day as well as opening weekend in Seattle. Here are the starting pitchers Alex Cora is going with for the first series of the 2019 season.

Game 1: LHP Chris Sale vs. LHP Marco Gonzales (1-0, 4.50 ERA)
Game 2: RHP Nathan Eovaldi vs. LHP Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 1.93 ERA)
Game 3: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez vs. RHP Mike Leake
Game 4: RHP Rick Porcello vs. LHP Wade LeBlanc

First pitch Opening Day (March 28th) is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on ESPN.

It’s almost that time.

Rick Porcello Avoids Major Scare as #RedSox Fall to Cubs in Mesa

After wrapping up the Grapefruit League portion of their spring on Saturday, the Red Sox made the trek out to Arizona to take on the Chicago Cubs in a pair of exhibition games before kicking off the regular season up in Seattle later this week.

Facing the Cubs for the first time since 2017, Rick Porcello got the start for Boston on Monday.

Working the first four innings, the right-hander surrendered two runs on four hits, zero walks, and one HBP to go along with three strikeouts on the evening.

More importantly, Porcello avoided a serious scare in the second, when Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras ripped a comebacker that wound up glancing off the hurler’s head and landing all the way in shallow right field.

Fortunately and maybe even surprisingly, Porcello was all smiles afterwards and remained in the game to finish his outing. According to the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, “all concussion tests were negative.”

Back to the game, one of the two runs given up by Porcello came on a third inning leadoff home run off the bat of Cubs starter Cole Hamels.

The other came later in the third on an Anthony Rizzo RBI double.

After fanning the final two hitters he faced in the fourth with a pitch count of 53, the New Jersey native headed out to the Red Sox bullpen to get some additional work in and officially cap off his spring.

If I were to guess, I would say we see Porcello make his 2019 regular season debut in Seattle this Saturday.

From the top of the fifth inning on, Eduardo Rodrigez, Hector Velazquez, Matt Barnes, and Ryan Brasier combined to allow one run on two hits, three walks, one HBP, and six strikeouts over the final four in this one.

Rodriguez impressed in a rare relief appearance Monday, punching out the dangerous Cubs trio of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber while feauturing a nasty changeup in two scoreless frames.

Barnes and Brasier, meanwhile, together tossed a perfect eighth inning, with each recording one strikeout.

On the other side of things, as I had previously mentioned, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Cubs left-hander Cole Hamels to start things out.

Kicking off the scoring for Boston was Andrew Benintendi, who carried over the success he had in Florida spring training with a one out solo shot off Hamels in the top half of the third.

That would put the Red Sox on the board and give them an early lead, but they were not able to do much offensively for the rest of night.

One golden scoring opportunity came in the seventh, after Xander Bogaerts had already plated a run on an Eduardo Nunez RBI single to tie things up at two runs a piece.

With the bases full following a one out Jackie Bradley Jr. RBI single, Blake Swihart, fresh off making Boston’s Opening Day roster, came to the plate with the chance to put his team ahead with some clutch hitting.

A las, the 26-year-old backstop got on top of one from Cubs reliever Randy Rosario and grounded into an inning-ending 5-3 double play, thus killing the rally.

After the Cubs re-took the lead with a run of their own in the seventh, the Red Sox would go on to drop this one by a final score of 3-2 in Arizona.

One note from this loss:

Unrelated to the game, but it was just announced that first baseman Steve Pearce will be opening up the 2019 season on the injured list, presumably due to issues with his left calf. More on that Tuesday.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll face the Cubs once again in the last game before they all start to matter on March 28th.

Left-hander David Price will be getting the ball for Boston, while right-hander Kyle Hendricks will be doing the same for Chicago.

First pitch at Sloan Park is scheduled for 3:05 PM EDT Tuesday.

RECAP: #RedSox use eighth inning to take series from Cubs; win 6-2.

On Sunday night, in primetime, Eduardo Rodriguez and the Red Sox were looking to take two out of three from the reigning World Series champions Chicago Cubs. They did just that.

ERod had himself a solid performance on Sunday, pitching six innings, allowing five hits, striking out nine (every batter), all while only surrendering two walks and one earned run. The one mistake Rodriguez made that cost him was a home run in the fifth inning that came off the bat of Kris Bryant. It’s clear that if the Red Sox want to seriously contend this season, they need Rodriguez to perform the way he did on Sunday night. The Cubs are a team that likes to work the count, and unfortunately for Rodriguez, that shortened his start. With around 100 pitches after pitching six innings, Rodriguez’s day was over. The Red Sox bullpen got off to a rocky start on Sunday, with Joe Kelly walking two out of the first three pitchers he faced. A wild pitch would allow Jon Jay to score from third, and Robby Scott would come in with two outs in the seventh and was able to get out of it. Matt Barnes returned from his suspension, assuming set-up responsibilities and pitching a scoreless eighth. Craig Kimbrel would come in to close things out, even after the Red Sox scored four times in the eighth, but that did not affect him. Nine pitch saves are always good to see, it looks like Kimbrel is really pitching his best right now.

The Red Sox offense got things started right away in the bottom of the first, with Hanley Ramirez mashing another home run over the Monster, his third of the season, which also scored Andrew Benintendi. Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks would settle down after the first, pitching five shutout innings. Like I said, the Red Sox scored four runs in the eighth, and I don’t think the ball left the infield once. Old friend Koji Uehara took the mound to start the inning, and he loaded the bases while failing to record an out. After Mookie Betts struck out, Marco Hernandez managed to score on a wild pitch. Xander Bogaerts would then score on a Mitch Moreland groundout, which led to Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez scoring on a Dustin Pedroia groundout that resulted in a fielding error from Addison Russell.

Based on the way the Red Sox scored those runs to take the lead, you can’t say it was pretty but I’d take it any day against the defending Champs. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon said he’d like to see the season end with seven games at Fenway and Wrigley, we’ll see.

13 down, 81 to go. 

Follow @brendan_camp on Twitter

RECAP: #RedSox blow it as Cubs comeback to win 7-4.

 adam sandler billy madison you blew it GIF

Yup, the Red Sox had a two run lead going into the sixth, a one run lead going into the seventh, and they lost. Poor managing, poor defense, and a lack of runs after the fifth all hurt the Red Sox in this one. Steven Wright was the starter today and he faced off against former Red Sox pitcher John Lackey. Wright got off to a great start, only allowing one hit through the first three innings. However, things would go downhill from there, as Wright gave up five earned runs over the next 3.1 innings. Wright finished the day with a line of 6.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, and 4 K’s. The long ball got to Wright on Saturday, as the knuckleballer surrendered two of them, one to Anthony Rizzo in the fourth, and one to Miguel Montero in the seventh. Wright would be taken out with one out in the seventh, relieved by Robby Scott, who would fail to record an out while giving up an unearned run. Rookie Ben Taylor would come in, still with only one out in the seventh, and he was able to get through the seventh and eighth inning without surrendering a run. After getting the first out of the ninth, Taylor would be replaced by Fernando Abad, who gave up a solo home run to Ben Zobrist before ending the ninth. Certainly not the best performance from the pitching department on Saturday. The defensive performance didn’t help either. Four errors from Wright, Bogaerts, Moreland, and Hernandez was disappointing to see.

At one point, it was actually looking like the Red Sox might win this game. Things started in the second when Jackie Bradley Jr. drove in Mitch Moreland on an RBI single. In the third, Xander Bogaerts scored on a sacrifice fly from Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez mashed his second home run of the season 469 feet over the monster, on to Lansdowne Street. The scoring would conclude for the Red Sox in the fifth with Andrew Benintendi hitting his third home run of the season. Although he did not drive in any runs, it was great to see Dustin Pedroia go 3 for 4 hitting out of the sixth spot on Saturday.

Earlier, I mentioned how the managing of this game may have cost the Red Sox this game. I’m not calling for John Farrell’s head here, but I never think this team will reach its fullest potential with Farrell as manager. Consistently leaving pitchers in the game too long has been frustrating to watch. Take today as an example, Steven Wright’s day should have been done after pitching six innings. Instead, he starts the seventh, and whadda ya know, he didn’t finish the inning. I doubt he’ll get fired, but John Farrell should be on the hot seat for the duration of the first half of this season.

Follow @brendan_camp on Twitter