Red Sox Make First Round of Spring Roster Cuts

Before they took on the Detroit Tigers in some Grapefruit League action earlier Wednesday, the Red Sox made their first round of spring roster cuts and reassigned five players to minor-league camp.

Those five players were first baseman Tommy Joseph, left-handed pitchers Daniel McGrath and Bobby Poyner, and right-handed pitchers Bryan Mata and Denyi Reyes.

Joseph has gotten off to a far from ideal start this spring, slashing .133//235/.133 with two RBI through his first seven games played and 17 plate appearances.

The 28-year-old, who has major-league experience with the Phillies, signed a minor-league deal with Boston last August after coming back over to the states from the Korean Baseball Organization. Depending on how the rest of the team’s depth at first base shakes out, he’ll likely start the 2020 season in either Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket.

As for the left-handed pitchers, McGrath has made two relief appearances for Boston so far this spring, allowing two earned runs on four hits, one walk, and one strikeout over four total innings of work.

Signed out of Australia as an 18-year-old back in January 2013, McGrath, now 25, will likely serve as starting pitching depth with the PawSox this season. He was brought back on a minor-league deal last October.

Poyner, meanwhile, was taken off the Sox’ 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket in January after clearing waivers. The 27-year-old does own an ERA of 18.00 through two relief appearances this spring, but it would not shock me if he does make his way back to the majors with the Red Sox at some point this season. Even if it is just a short stint.

Turning to the right-handed pitchers now, I’m going to start with Denyi Reyes because I want to discuss Bryan Mata in more depth later.

Like Poyner, Reyes was designated for assignment and eventually outrighted to Triple-A to make room for another player on the Sox’ 40-man roster. In Poyner’s case, that player was left-hander Jeffrey Springs. In Reyes’ case, it was the re-signing of Mitch Moreland.

The 23-year-old out of the Dominican Republic has surrendered four runs over four innings spanning two relief appearances so far this spring. He has experience as both a starter and reliever since signing with the Sox as an international free agent in 2016, so I would not be against the idea of him starting the 2020 season in the PawSox’ bullpen.

Finally, we’ll end with arguably the most talented player on this list in Bryan Mata, who is the top pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.

Given the current state of the Sox’ starting rotation with Chris Sale’s season currently in limbo, Mata could be one of the names Boston is evaluating to take the left-hander’s spot to begin the year.

Per The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey, the 20-year-old was among a group of hurlers that included Chris Mazza and Matt Hall, all of whom tossed three innings each in an intrasquad game at JetBlue Park on Tuesday, the same day it was revealed that Sale had been dealing with soreness in his left elbow.

Granted, Mata has yet to pitch above the Double-A level in his young career, but the potential is certainly there for him to be a middle of the rotation starting pitcher in the majors in the near future. That much is for sure.

Following Wednesday’s slew of transactions, the Red Sox now have 62 players at major-league camp. That number will eventually have to be trimmed down to 26 before March 26th. More moves are likely to come this weekend, I would guess.

Red Sox Top Northeastern 3-0 in Spring Training Opener

For the first time since September 29th, 2019, the Boston Red Sox have won a baseball game, as they opened up exhibition play on Friday afternoon with a 3-0 victory over the Northeastern Huskies in a seven-inning contest.

The plan for the Sox was to use one pitcher per inning on Friday, and that’s exactly what they stuck to.

25-year-old Australian left-hander Daniel McGrath got things started by walking the first two hitters he faced, but settled down with the help of his catcher Connor Wong in addition to striking out a pair to keep things scoreless.

From there, recently-acquired right-handed reliever Austin Brice fanned two more hitters and got more help from Wong in a scoreless second, righty Robinson Leyer struck out two and stranded two runners in a scoreless third, Trevor Hildenberger scattered one hit in an otherwise clean fourth frame, Denyi Reyes retired three of the four he faced in a shutout fifth, and Adam Lau maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk thanks to Roldani Baldwin in a scoreless top half of the sixth.

After his side finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, 24-year-old righty Eduardo Bazardo closed things out for Boston by sitting down the only three hitters he faced in order in the seventh to secure the 3-0 victory over the Huskies.

In total, Sox pitching combined for seven scoreless innings while yielding just four hits and three walks to go along with 11 total strikeouts on the afternoon.

On the other side of things, the Northeastern pitching staff held their own for a while against the Boston bats, albeit without any regulars in the lineup.

It wasn’t until the bottom half of the sixth inning when the Red Sox offense finally woke up.

There, with right-hander Rick Burroni on the mound for Northeastern, Sox prospect Marcus Wilson led things off by drawing a walk in his first and only plate appearance.

The 23-year-old then proceeded to steal second base to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with no outs for Josh Ockimey, who fanned for the first out of the frame.

A Jagger Rusconi groundout back to the pitcher meant that the Red Sox were just an out away from coming away with nothing, but Ryan Fitzgerald made sure that did not happen.

Yes, the 2019 Carolina League All-Star lined an RBI single to right-center field deep enough to plate Wilson from second and put his side on the board first.

Two more walks drawn by Baldwin and Tyler Esplin ended the day for Burroni and filled the bases for longtime PawSox mainstay Jantzen Witte.

Facing off against Huskies right-hander Henry Ennen, the 30-year-old veteran laced a two-run single through the middle of the infield to score both Fitzgerald and Baldwin from second and third.

That clutch two-RBI knock gave the Red Sox a 3-0 advantage, which would go on to be Friday’s final score in the spring training opener.

Some notes from this win:

Top prospect Jeter Downs reached base on an infield single in his first at-bat in a Red Sox uniform. He also committed a fielding error in the top half of the third and grounded into an inning-ending double play in the bottom half.

Downs was not originally slated to start for Boston on Friday, but because infielder C.J. Chatham was scratched from the lineup due to right shoulder soreness, the 21-year-old got the call instead.

Marcus Wilson will presumably begin the 2020 campaign in Double-A Portland alongside fellow outfield prospect Jarren Duran, who went 1-for-2 with a third-inning single on Friday.

The only players with big-league experience who played in this contest were Marco Hernandez, Rusney Castillo, John Andreoli, Juan Centeno, Austin Brice, and Trevor Hildenberger.

Next up for the Red Sox, Grapefruit League play begins on Saturday with an afternoon contest against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park.

Left-hander Brian Johnson is scheduled to get the start for Boston, while Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter.

It had to have been a tough offseason for Johnson, as the 29-year-old was essentially demoted off the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November.

Still, Johnson snuck through waivers and remains with Boston in a lesser capacity than he had been the previous three or so seasons. He’ll have a chance to prove himself and perhaps open some eyes on Saturday afternoon.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN.

Red Sox Bring Back Six Minor-League Free Agents, Including Austin Maddox and Daniel McGrath

The Red Sox brought back six minor-league free agents on minor-league deals on Saturday, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Depending on how you look at things, the most significant of the six free agents mentioned above who were brought back could either be Austin Maddox or Daniel McGrath.

Starting with Maddox, the 28-year-old right-hander is the only one of the bunch who has seen major league action, which came in five different stints with Boston over the course of the 2017 season.

In those five stints, Maddox yielded just one earned run on 13 hits, two walks, and 14 strikeouts over 13 relief outings and 17 1/3 total innings pitched, which in turn earned him a spot on the Sox’ ALDS roster, where he tossed two innings of one-run ball against the Houston Astros.

With that strong showing, the former 2012 third-round pick out of the University of Florida figured to play a key role in Boston’s bullpen plans for the 2018 campaign, but persistent right shoulder issues prevented that from happening, ultimately leading to Maddox undergoing rotator cuff surgery last September. A procedure that held him out for all of 2019.

As for McGrath, the 25-year-old left-hander was one of the better pitchers in the Eastern League this past season, posting a 1.68 ERA and .184 batting average against over 27 total outings (15 starts) and 112 1/3 innings pitched for Double-A Portland. He also had two brief stints with Triple-A Pawtucket in June and early September, where he allowed a total of six runs over 10 /13 frames of work.

McGrath is fascinating in that he signed with the Sox as a 17-year-old out of Melbourne, Australia back in January 2013. The contract the southpaw signed at that time was good for seven years, and now he figures to vie for a rotation spot with the PawSox in 2020.

These moves come just days ahead of the start of the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Az on Monday.