Nick Pivetta’s struggles against AL East continue as Red Sox see winning streak end in 9-0 loss to Blue Jays

The Red Sox saw their three-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Blue Jays on Friday night. Boston fell to Toronto by a final score of 8-0 at Rogers Centre to drop to 75-82 on the season.

With Friday’s loss, their 14th in 17 attempts against the Jays, the Sox ensured that they would finish this season with a losing record. So this will be the first time Boston has finished with a sub-.500 record under manager Alex Cora.

Nick Pivetta’s season-long struggles against the American League East continued on Friday. In his penultimate start of the year, the Canadian-born right-hander allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and three walks to go along with two strikeouts over five innings of work.

All four of those runs were scored within the first three innings. Pivetta gave up back-to-back singles to George Springer and Bo Bichette to lead off the bottom of the first. Springer then moved up to third base on a passed ball before scoring his side’s first run on an Alejandro Kirk groundout.

An inning later, Raimel Tapia reached on a fielder’s choice and Danny Jansen drew a six-pitch walk to put runners at first and second with one out. Pivetta then uncorked a wild pitch past Reese McGuire, allowing both runners to advance an additional 90 feet. Whit Merrifield took advantage of that blunder by plating Tapia on a sacrifice fly to make it a 2-0 contest.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. doubled Toronto’s lead in the third. After Bichette drew a leadoff walk, Guerrero Jr. unloaded on a hanging changeup from Pivetta and deposited it 447 feet to left field for his 31st home run of the year.

Pivetta, for his part, was able to settle down from there by retiring nine of the last 12 batters he faced after giving up the 117.5 mph blast to Guerrero Jr. The 29-year-old hurler finished with a final pitch count of 100 (62 strikes) and induced 15 swings-and-misses. He was charged with his 12th loss of the season while his ERA rose to 4.51. That includes an ERA of 6.72 against divisional opponents.

Tyler Danish received the first call out of the Boston bullpen in relief of Pivetta and did not fare well. The righty promptly served up a leadoff homer to Tapia to begin things in the sixth before putting two more on base and yielding a 431-foot three-run shot to Springer that gave Toronto a commanding 8-0 lead.

Danish got through the rest of the inning unscathed and also put up a zero in the seventh. Franklin German, on the other hand, surrendered one run on two hits in the eighth. The 25-year-old rookie now owns an ERA of 24.00 in four appearances to begin his big-league career.

Offensively, the Red Sox lineup was completely held in check by the likes of Alek Manoah and Yusei Kikuchi. The Blue Jays starter took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before giving up a one-out infield single to Abraham Almonte. Jarren Duran led off the sixth with a single of his own, but that was immediately snuffed out when Rafael Devers grounded into a 4-5-3 double play.

While Manoah was dominant, so, too, was Kikuchi. The hard-throwing reliever punched out five of the 11 batters he faced en route to tossing three scoreless innings and picking up his first major-league save.

All told, the Red Sox tallied just three hits while going 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and leaving five runners on base as a team.

Next up: Bello vs. Stripling

The Red Sox will send rookie right-hander Brayan Bello to the mound as they look to bounce back on Saturday afternoon. The Blue Jays will counter with fellow righty Ross Stripling.

First pitch from Rogers Centre is scheduled for 3:07 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Red Sox designate Kevin Plawecki for assignment, call up Franklin German from Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox designated catcher Kevin Plawecki for assignment prior to Saturday’s 9-0 loss to the Royals. In a corresponding move, reliever Franklin German had his contract selected from Triple-A Worcester.

Plawecki, 31, spent the last three seasons in Boston after first signing with the Red Sox in January 2020. While primarily serving as a backup to Christian Vazquez, the right-handed hitter slashed .305/.364/.414 with four home runs and 32 RBIs over 89 games in his first two seasons with the club.

While that sort of production earned Plawecki additional playing time during the Sox’ postseason run last October, his numbers have taken a hit this year. Coming into play on Saturday, Plawecki was batting just .217/.287/.287 to go along with eight doubles, one home run, 12 RBIs, 15 runs scored, 14 walks, and 28 strikeouts across 60 games spanning 175 trips to the plate.

On the other side of things, Plawecki had established himself as a quality game-caller who was well-liked among the Red Sox pitching staff. That being said, he only managed to throw out four of 44 base stealers this season.

Taking those factors, as well as the fact that he is slated to become a free-agent this off-season, into consideration, the Red Sox elected to move on from Plawecki now since he is not in their future plans.

With only 17 games remaining on the schedule, the Sox want to give younger backstops such as Connor Wong and Reese McGuire as many opportunities to catch as possible. Wong, 26, is under club control through 2027 while McGuire, 27, is under club control through 2025.

“We’ve got to be thinking about the future,” manager Alex Cora said Saturday. “Reese and Connor, they’re going to be catching a lot the rest of the season.”

German can now also be considered part of Boston’s future plans after making his big-league debut and being added to the Sox’ 40-man roster on Sunday. The right-hander allowed four runs on two hits and two walks without recording an out in the sixth inning, but he is still viewed as one of the more intriguing relief prospects in the organization.

The Red Sox acquired German and Adam Ottavino from the Yankees last January. The former fourth-round draft selection began the 2021 campaign in Double-A Portland’s starting rotation but has not looked back since becoming a full-time reliever.

Upon making the jump from Portland to Worcester in late May, German posted a 2.58 ERA and 3.36 FIP with 46 strikeouts to 16 walks over 32 relief appearances (38 1/3 innings) for the WooSox. He held opposing hitters to a .153 batting average against.

German, who turns 25 later this month, becomes the sixth different Red Sox player to make their major-league debut this season, joining the likes of Brayan Bello, Triston Casas, Jeter Downs, Zack Kelly, and Josh Winckowski. He will wear the No. 71.

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)

With recent promotions of Franklin German and A.J. Politi, Red Sox relief prospect Chase Shugart could take on larger role in Double-A Portland’s bullpen

Red Sox pitching prospect Chase Shugart picked up his third save of the season in Double-A Portland’s 2-1 win over the Somerset Patriots at Hadlock Field on Tuesday afternoon.

Taking the mound for the ninth inning, Shugart worked his way around a leadoff walk by retiring the next three batters he faced in order to secure Portland’s 20th win of the season. 13 of the 21 pitches he threw went for strikes.

In 14 appearances out of the Sea Dogs’ bullpen this year, the right-hander has posted a 2.25 ERA and 4.01 FIP to go along with 20 strikeouts to seven walks over 20 innings of work. In the month of May, he has allowed just one earned run over his last 10 1/3 innings pitched.

Among pitches in the Eastern League with at least 20 innings under their belt to this point in the season, Shugart ranks 20th in batting average against (.194), 22nd in WHIP (1.05), 16th in ERA, and 20th in xFIP (3.57), per FanGraphs.

Shugart, 25, began his professional career as a starter after being selected by the Red Sox in the 12th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Texas at Austin. The former Longhorn had prior experience as a reliever in college, but did not return to that role until this past winter.

Pitching out of the bullpen for Indios de Mayaguez of the Puerto Rican Winter League, Shugart yielded just two runs on five hits, two walks, and nine strikeouts across five appearances spanning 6 1/3 innings. He took what he gained from his time in Puerto Rico and impressed the Red Sox during the team’s Winter Warm-Up program in Fort Myers back in January.

At that point in time, the club essentially decided that Shugart would be a full-time reliever moving forward, and it certainly seems as though the native Texan has embraced that opportunity so far.

Coming into play on Wednesday, Shugart leads the Sea Dogs’ pitching staff in appearances while also ranking first among relievers in number of innings pitched.

Portland has seen its bullpen composition change up a bit as of late, as a pair of other right-handers — Franklin German and A.J. Politi — recently earned promotions to Triple-A Worcester. Taking this into consideration, Shugart should figure to play an even larger role for the Sea Dogs moving forward.

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 198 pounds, Shugart is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 51 prospect in Boston’s farm system. Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the righty operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph fastball that tops out at 97 mph, a 74-80 mph curveball, an 81-84 mph slider, and an 84-87 mph changeup.

Shugart, who turns 26 in October, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this December if he is not added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November deadline.

(Picture of Chase Shugart: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox promote hard-throwing relief prospect Franklin German to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have promoted relief prospect Franklin German from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Worcester, per the team’s transaction log.

German, 24, has posted a 3.18 ERA and 2.21 FIP with 18 strikeouts to three walks over 11 relief appearances spanning 11 1/3 innings of work out of Portland’s bullpen this season. The right-hander’s sixth and seventh outings of the year were separated by more than two weeks (April 26 to May 13) due to a non-baseball related issue.

Among Eastern League pitchers who have accrued at least 10 innings on the mound in 2022, German ranks 15th in strikeouts per nine innings (14.29), 11th in strikeout rate (39.1%), 13th in swinging strike rate (18.6%), 21st in batting average against (.154), 11th in WHIP (0.79), and 17th in FIP, per FanGraphs.

Originally selected by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of North Florida, German was dealt to the Red Sox in the same trade that sent veteran reliever Adam Ottavino to Boston last January.

Traditionally a starting pitcher throughout his professional career to that point, German opened the 2021 campaign in Portland’s starting rotation. But he struggled to the tune of a 5.45 ERA across his first 19 appearances (18 starts) of the season before moving to the Sea Dogs’ bullpen on a full-time basis in late August.

Since then, German has found success as a reliever that can mainly be attributed to an uptick in velocity. Last year, the 6-foot-2, 195 pound righty sat in the low-to-mid 90s as a starter. Upon transitioning to the ‘pen, he began reaching 97-98 mph while topping out at 99-102 mph with his fastball.

Because of this, German has caught the attention of Alex Cora and is firmly on the Red Sox manager’s “watchlist,” according to The Athletic’s Peter Gammons.

German, who turns 25 in September, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 30 prospect in Boston’s farm system. In addition to his high-octane fastball, the hard-throwing hurler also works with a changeup and slider.

By being promoted to Triple-A, German will join a WooSox bullpen that includes the likes of Eduard Bazardo, Silvino Bracho, Ryan Brasier, Taylor Cole, Michael Feliz, Durbin Feltman, Geoff Hartlieb, Zack Kelly, Kaleb Ort, A.J. Politi (who was promoted last week), and Phillips Valdez.

German’s promotion comes at an interesting time when you consider the fact that he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter. The Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by the November deadline in order to proect him, so they could be using this as an opportunity to give German an extended look at the next level before making a decision regarding his future.

(Picture of Franklin German: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Hard-throwing Red Sox relief prospect Franklin German ‘is very much on the Alex Cora watchlist’

Red Sox pitching prospect Franklin German’s first season as a full-time reliever is off to a promising start.

In six relief appearances for Double-A Portland so far this in 2022, the right-hander has allowed one unearned run on two hits, no walks, one hit batsman, and 15 strikeouts over eight innings of work.

Among Eastern League pitchers who have accrued five or more innings on the mound, German ranks second in strikeout rate (57.7%), tied for first in walk rate (0.0%), sixth in batting average against (.080), third in WHIP (0.25), first in FIP (0.27), and second in xFIP (1.36), per FanGraphs.

It’s obviously a small sample size, but still noteworthy nonetheless. German, of course, was the prospect the Red Sox acquired from the Yankees alongside fellow righty Adam Ottavino in January 2021.

While Ottavino provided Boston with experienced bullpen depth at the big-league level last year, German struggled to find his footing as a starter in Portland. The former 2018 fourth-round draft pick out of the University of Florida posted a 5.45 ERA over his first 19 outings (18 starts) of 2021 before permanently moving to the Sea Dogs’ bullpen in late August.

Since moving to the ‘pen on a full-time basis, German has surrendered just three hits and one walk while striking out 22 of the 43 batters he faced going back to last season. One reason behind the success he has enjoyed as a reliever is as simple as an uptick in fastball velocity.

As The Athletic’s Peter Gammons wrote on Friday, German “threw in the mid-90s” in 2021. But “he showed  up in Fort Myers this spring throwing 98-100, and says when he was moved to the bullpen for five appearances last September, he was far more excited and velocity picked up.”

Per Gammons, German has been clocked at 99-102 mph so far this season while putting up big swing-and-miss numbers. Because of the stuff he has displayed, the hard-throwing hurler ” is very much on the Alex Cora watchlist.”

German, who turns 25 in September, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 25 prospect in Boston’s farm system. In addition to his high-octane fastball, the 6-foot-2, 195 pounder also works with a changeup and slider.

Seeing how he is currently dominating at Double-A, one has to wonder how long it will be until German earns a promotion to Triple-A Worcester, or perhaps even the major-leagues. For what it’s worth, he will need to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster by late November if the club intends to protect him from the 2022 Rule 5 Draft.

(Picture of Franklin German: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox)

Is Red Sox pitching prospect Franklin German primed for a full-time relief role in 2022?

It’s been a little more than 53 weeks since the Red Sox shockingly pulled off a trade with the division rival Yankees.

On January 25 of last year, Boston acquired veteran reliever Adam Ottavino and pitching prospect Franklin German from New York in exchange for nothing but cash considerations.

The Yankees made such a move so that they could free up a roster spot for Corey Kluber. The Sox, on the other hand, pulled the trigger so that they could bolster their big-league bullpen while also acquiring a potentially intriguing piece for the future.

While Ottavino proved to be a key member of Boston’s relief corps in 2021, German had to endure his fair share of struggles in the minor-leagues last year.

At the time the trade was made, Red Sox chief officer Chaim Bloom described German as an interesting prospect with a power arm who could work as either a starter or reliever down the line.

To that point in his career, German — a fourth-round draft pick of the Yankees out of the University of North Florida in 2018 — had primarily worked out of the starting rotation while progressing through New York’s farm system.

Coming into his first season with a new organization, German received an invite to major-league spring training and got some run in the Grapefruit League before being reassigned to minor-league camp.

In early May, the right-hander broke camp with Double-A Portland as a member of the Sea Dogs’ starting rotation. He made his organizational debut on May 6 and proceeded to post a 5.45 ERA (5.02 FIP) to go along with 65 strikeouts to 29 walks through his first 19 appearances (18 starts) and 79 1/3 innings pitched of the season.

Following his start against the Reading Fightin Phils at Hadlock Field on August 25, German was permanently moved to Portland’s bullpen for the remainder of the year. As a reliever, he flourished by not allowing a single run on just one hit, one walk, and seven strikeouts over five outings spanning five innings of work.

It’s a small sample size, but German was able to increase his strikeout rate from 17.9% to 41.2% and lower his walk rate from 8% to 5.9% upon moving to the Sea Dogs’ bullpen on a full-time basis late last summer.

In the fall, German was a candidate to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster since he was eligible for the 2021 Rule 5 Draft. Boston opted not to add German as the November 19 deadline came and went, but that has worked in the righty’s favor thus far.

That being the case because German was one of 28 Red Sox minor-leaguers who participated in the club’s Winter Warmup program in Fort Myers, Fla. last week. The 24-year-old, who would not have been able to participate had he been added to the 40-man on account of the ongoing lockout, was among 12 pitchers on hand at the Fenway South complex.

When speaking with reporters last Monday, Sox director of player development Brian Abraham was asked about the seasons German — and others in the organization who struggled as starters but thrived as relievers (like A.J. Politi) had.

More specifically, Abraham was asked by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith if the Red Sox view German and Politi as relievers now heading into 2022.

“I think towards the end of the year, they (German and Politi) were able to get acclimated to that role and it’s something we’ll probably focus with both of them on moving forward,” Abraham said. “Certainly as we’ve all seen with various pitchers throughout Red Sox history, we’d never say never to potentially going back to more of an extended role or a starter role.

“I think pitching out of the ‘pen, even multiple innings, is really valuable these days,” he added. “To transition to the bullpen and have success was a nice introductory opportunity into the relief role. So, we would see them as that.”

German, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds, operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 93-97 mph fastball that tops out at 98 mph, a changeup, and a slider, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

A native of Tampa, German is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 52 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 21st among pitchers in the organization. He is projected by the site to begin the 2022 season in the bullpen with Triple-A Worcester.

On that note, German is still technically eligible for the major-league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft, which was postponed indefinitely in early December because of the ongoing lockout.

If the lockout ends soon and the Rule 5 Draft is held before Opening Day, German could be scooped up by another club. The likelihood of that happening seems slim, but should still nonetheless be considered a possibility.

(Picture of Franklin German: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox)