Garrett Richards struggles while Garrett Whitlock shines, but Red Sox still get swept by Orioles following 11-3 loss

The Garrett Richards era did not off to a great start for the Red Sox on Sunday, as the club extended its season-opening losing streak to three consecutive games following an 11-3 defeat at the hands of the Orioles at Fenway Park.

Richards, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Sox in February, made his highly-anticipated team debut in this one. To put it simply, it did not go well.

The right-hander yielded six runs — all of which were earned — on seven hits and two walks to go along with two strikeouts on the afternoon. In the process of allowing all those runs, Richards managed to record just six outs before getting the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora after walking the bases full in the top half of the third inning.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 61 (35 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball nearly half of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing two swings-and-misses and topping out at 95.6 mph with the pitch.

Ultimately hit with his first losing decision of the year while seeing his ERA inflate to 27.00, Richards will look to rebound in his next time out against these same Orioles next Saturday in Baltimore.

In relief of Richards, left-hander Josh Taylor inherited a mess and closed the book on the Sox starter’s day by allowing seven more runs (four of which were charged to him) before Garrett Whitlock came on for what was his major-league debut.

Pitching in a competitive environment for the first time in nearly two years, Whitlock — a 2020 Rule 5 Draft pick — carried over the success he enjoyed this spring into his first appearance with the Red Sox by twirling 3 1/3 scoreless frames of relief while scattering just three hits and punching out five.

From there, Hirokazu Sawamura worked a scoreless top of the seventh, while Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino both made their 2021 debuts in the top halves of the eighth and ninth innings of Sunday’s contest.

Barnes, responsible for the eighth, maneuvered his way around a one-out walk in an otherwise clean frame. Ottavino, responsible for the ninth, surrendered one run on two hits and two walks in what was also his Red Sox debut.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to give up 11 runs to the Orioles on 17 hits, eight walks, and 15 strikeouts. The Boston pitching staff had been effective in the team’s first two games of the season, but that was not the case on Sunday.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was again held in check by a Baltimore pitching staff that was led by rookie left-hander Bruce Zimmermann this time around.

By the time the Boston bats managed to push something across on a Kiké Hernández sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third, they were already in a 10-0 hole.

J.D. Martinez continued his hot start to the new season by crushing a 429-foot solo home run to deep center field — his and his team’s first big fly of the year — off Zimmermann to lead off the fourth to make it a 10-2 contest.

Fast forward to the sixth, and Martinez again got the best of Zimmermann, this time lifting a run-scoring double to the left field corner that brought in Hernandez all the way from first.

Martinez’s second of two hits on the afternoon cut the Boston deficit to 10-3, but three runs is all the Sox could manage as 11-3 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

From Sox Notes:

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

The Red Sox have started a season 0-3 for the first time since 2012. This is also the first time they have started a season 0-3 at Fenway Park since 1948.

Next up for the Red Sox, they will look to bounce back from a series-opening sweep to the Orioles by welcoming in another divisional foe to Fenway in the form of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta will be making his 2021 debut for Boston, and he will be opposed by former Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha, who will also be making his 2021 debut for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox still looking for their first win of the season in what will be their first game under the lights this year.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Tanner Houck fans 8 over 5 strong innings, but Red Sox go down quietly to Orioles, 4-2, to begin year 0-2

For the second consecutive day, the Red Sox failed to capitalize on a strong outing from their starter as they dropped their second straight to the Orioles by a final score of 4-2 on Saturday afternoon.

Tanner Houck was that starter for the Sox in this one, and the right-hander impressed in his 2021 debut by yielding three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts over five innings of work.

The first two of those three Baltimore runs came in to score in the top half of the fourth, when after retiring 11 of the first 13 hitters he faced, Houck issued a two-out walk to Rio Ruiz, which was followed by a single from Austin Hays that put runners on the corners due to a Rafael Devers throwing error.

Kevin Plawecki, catching in place of Christian Vazquez on Saturday, then proceeded to allow a passed ball by him, and Maikel Franco took full advantage of that by ripping a two-run single through the left side of the infield to get his side on the board first.

An inning later, more sloppy defense from the Sox infielders did them no favors, as Xander Bogaerts struggled to field a two-out ground ball off the bat of Anthony Santander that in turn allowed Pedro Severino to score from third to make it a 3-0 contest.

Houck managed to fan the final man he faced in fellow rookie sensation Ryan Mountcastle on five pitches to retire the side, but the damage had already been done.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 85 (54 strikes), the 24-year-old hurler turned to his slider and four-seam fastball a combined 76% of the time he was on the mound Saturday. He induced six swings-and-misses with his slider and topped out at 94.7 mph with his four-seamer.

Ultimately hit with his first career losing decision despite the strong showing, Houck’s next start for Boston might not come for a while seeing how he was filling in for Eduardo Rodriguez in this one.

In relief of Houck, Austin Brice got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen and tossed a scoreless sixth inning, while left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez surrendered one run on two hits in the seventh and Phillips Valdez worked two perfect frames in the eighth and ninth in what was his 2021 debut.

All in all, the Sox pitching staff had themselves another decent day, but their lineup — in addition to their defense — did them no favors.

Coming off an Opening Day loss in which they were held to one hit by O’s starter John Means, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against veteran right-hander Matt Harvey on Friday.

Like Means, Harvey was solid to start things out in this one as he stranded just a pair of base runners through his first three innings of the afternoon.

Unlike Means, though, the 32-year-old hurler finally cracked in the bottom half of the fourth when a sacrifice fly from Marwin Gonzalez brought in J.D. Martinez from third to plate Boston’s first run of the contest — and the new season — to cut their deficit in half at 2-1.

Martinez came through once more in his next trip to the plate an inning later, as the slugger managed to drive in Plawecki all the way from second base on an infield RBI single.

Martinez’s first run-scoring knock of the year brought Boston back to within one run of Baltimore at 3-2, but two runs was all they could manage the rest of the way despite making things interesting in the ninth. 4-2 would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox are off to an 0-2 start for the first time since 2012. They went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Saturday and are being outscored by an average score of 3.5 to 1 thus far.

J.D. Martinez has collected four hits through his first two starts of the season. Bobby Dalbec, meanwhile, has struck out four times through his first two starts of the season.

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the finale of this three-game weekend set on Sunday.

Right-hander Garrett Richards will be making his Sox debut after signing a one-year, $10 million deal with the club in February. He will be opposed by Orioles rookie left-hander and Baltimore native Bruce Zimmermann.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will once again be going for their first win of the season.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Maddie Meyer/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)

Red Sox’ Garrett Richards impressed by the way 18-year-old prospect Nick Yorke carries himself: ‘You don’t see that very often’

Red Sox infield prospect Nick Yorke was just nine years old when Garrett Richards made his major-league debut for the Angels in August 2011.

Now 18, Yorke — the youngest player at Red Sox camp in Fort Myers — was one of a handful of hitters to face off against the veteran right-hander during a live batting practice session inside JetBlue Park on Thursday morning.

“Pretty impressed,” Richards said when asked about his thoughts on Yorke. “Not only with the talent, but with the way he carries himself. I just found out probably a few days ago that he was 18 years old. And I happened to just be walking by and that was the only sentence that I heard. He was talking to somebody and mentioned that he was 18 years old.

“Me being an older guy, it made me stop in my tracks a little bit,” added the 32-year-old hurler. “Because I had no idea this kid was that young. But very, very impressive with the maturity level and how he carries himself. You don’t see that very often. He’s obviously young and he’s going to be in this game for a lot of years. So I’m excited to watch him develop and adjust to this level of baseball.”

The Red Sox selected Yorke with their top pick in the first round the 2020 amateur draft out of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif.

The right-handed hitting second baseman — listed at 6-foot and 200 pounds — was one of 22 non-roster invitees to receive an invite to big-league spring training last month before being reassigned to minor-league camp last Friday.

Through his first four Grapefruit League contests of 2021, Yorke is 1-for-5 at the plate with a single, three walks, and two strikeouts.

Despite being the youngest player at the Fenway South complex, Yorke is holding his own, and he is impressing the likes of Red Sox manager Alex Cora while doing so.

“He’s in a better place physically,” Cora said of the California native last month. “He’s a tall, strong kid. That was impressive. I look and I’m like, ‘Who’s this kid?’ They told me and I was like, ‘Wow, he’s impressive.’”

Yorke, who turns 19 next month, is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season at Low-A Salem. He is currently regarded by Baseball America as the Sox’ No. 9 prospect.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Matt Barnes, Red Sox closer candidate, impresses with two strikeouts in spring debut

Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes made his first appearance of the spring for Boston as part of Sunday afternoon’s 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Braves in North Port.

Working in relief of Garrett Richards and Josh Winckowski in the bottom half of the fourth inning, the veteran right-hander looked sharp in his 2021 debut, as he retired the Braves’ 8-9-1 hitters — Jake Lamb, Cristian Pache, and Ronald Acuna Jr. — in order while needing just 12 pitches to do so.

Recording two strikeouts (one looking, one swinging) in the process of tossing a perfect frame of relief, Barnes worked in a healthy mix of curveballs and high-velocity fastballs on Sunday.

“I felt really comfortable out there,” the 30-year-old hurler said during his in-game media availability. “Felt like my mechanics were working well. Couple of high fastballs got away from me. But overall, the way the ball was coming out, the command of the fastball and the breaking ball, definitely happy.”

Barnes came into camp this spring as a potential closer candidate for Red Sox manager Alex Cora given the experience he gained in that role last year after Brandon Workman was traded to the Phillies.

On the 2020 campaign as a whole, the UCONN product posted a 4.30 ERA and .706 OPS against over 24 appearances out of the Boston bullpen spanning 23 innings of work.

Regardless of how he performs throughout the rest of spring training, Barnes feels as though his body of work in the majors would outweigh what he does this month when it comes to the team’s closer competition.

“I’ll be honest with you,” said Barnes. “I don’t think I’m going to be judged on eight outings in spring training more than the last four or five years worth of work. “If there was something drastic and I was coming out throwing 88 (mph), that’s a topic for a different day. If I come out showing the stuff I’ve had my entire career, I don’t think eight or nine outings in spring training in which I’m building up looking to get ready for the season are going to define the decision and what they want to do.”

Alongside Barnes, another fellow New Englander in Adam Ottavino is also vying for the role as the Sox’ ninth-inning man, though he has yet to make his team debut.

Between the two relievers, Boston has a pair of intriguing arms who bring different skillsets to the table, and both figure to see the majority of their appearances this coming season come late in games regardless of who the closer is.

Barnes, who has accrued 15 career saves over the course of his seven-year big-league career with Boston, had said last week that he would like to close, but Cora does not seem ready to name who his closer will be to kick off the 2021 campaign just yet.

“There’s no frontrunners here,” Cora said Sunday afternoon. “Those guys are going to build up, be ready and we’ll make a decision toward the end of camp.”

Having said that, Cora was still impressed with how Barnes performed in his spring debut against Atlanta to close out the weekend.

“That was impressive,” the Sox skipper stated. “Velocity was up, made some adjustments, and it was a good one for Barnesy. You don’t have to worry too much about him. Physically, he’s always in shape. He’s a guy just like Adam. We’re going to take our time. They know what they need to be ready for the start of the season. But that was impressive. Velocity was up — I think it was a tick up from last year, which is a good sign.”

One reason as to why Barnes’ velocity may be up right now is simply because of how little he pitched last year on account of the 2020 season only being 60 games in length.

As previously mentioned, the former first-round draft pick only pitched 23 innings in 2020. From 2016-2019, he averaged 66 innings of work per season.

“It’s really when I started playing catch during the offseason this year,” Barnes recounted. “I got to a point where the ball was coming out good — a lot sooner — I felt like because I only threw 23 innings, which is only 33% of a normal year’s workload. So when you take that into account, my arm feels fantastic. It almost feels like I didn’t even pitch last year. So I’m really happy with that; really happy with where I’m at right now.”

While Barnes may be pleased with where he is at currently, the flame-throwing righty still has plenty of work to do before Opening Day, so he is going to be sure to not get too ahead of himself between now and then.

“Obviously, you got to be conscious not to try and overdo it,” he said. “Sometimes you feel so great that you push and push, and I got to be conscious that we still have three weeks until the season. I don’t need to go out there and blow it out right now. I got to make sure that I pace myself and that I’m ready for April 1.”

Barnes, who turns 31 in June and will earn $4.5 million this season, is slated to become a free-agent for the first time in his career next winter. He has said that he is open to signing a contract extension to remain with the Red Sox.

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

Garrett Richards makes Red Sox debut as sloppy defense leads to 5-3 loss at hands of Braves

The Red Sox opened the home portion of their Grapefruit League schedule on Monday by falling to the Braves by a final score of 5-3 in seven innings at JetBlue Park.

Newcomer Garrett Richards, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with Boston last month, made his first start of the spring for Boston in this one.

Working two “full” innings, the veteran right-hander surrendered two earned runs on three hits and two walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Atlanta runs came in the top half of the first, when Richards managed to record just one out before the rest of the inning was called off for pitch count purposes.

The 32-year-old was able to rebound in the second inning, however, as he retired the Braves’ 7-8-9 hitters in order to end his day on a more positive note.

Ultimately hit with the losing decision in what was his Red Sox debut, Richards will look to pick up where he left off in his next time out, which should come against the Braves once again on Sunday.

In relief of Richards, left-hander Kyle Hart, a non-roster invitee, came on for the third and yielded two runs — both of which were unearned thanks to a Bobby Dalbec fielding error — on a pair of walks and a two-run single.

From there, right-hander Kevin McCarthy — another non-roster invitee — worked a scoreless top half of the fourth, while right-handed pitching prospects Thad Ward and Connor Seabold combined to toss a pair of shutout frames in the fifth and sixth innings.

Zac Grotz, a right-hander, was responsible for the seventh, and he gave up one unearned run before being injuring his elbow on a pitch that required him to leave the game immediately.

All in all, Sox pitchers allowed five total runs, but only two of those runs were earned due to sloppy defensive play that resulted in five errors being committed; one from Dalbec, one from Ward, one from Marwin Gonzalez, and two from Jeter Downs.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup featured the likes of Christian Arroyo, Gonzalez, J.D. Martinez, Dalbec, Michael Chavis, Yairo Munoz, Cesar Puello, Jeisson Rosario, and Jett Bandy.

Matched up against right-hander Huascar Ynoa — one of the top pitching prospects in Atlanta’s farm system — Bandy kicked off the scoring for his side by drawing a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the second.

Fast forward to the fourth, and the bases were loaded once more. This time with one out as Rosario, one of the two prospects Boston acquired from the Padres in the Mitch Moreland trade, came to the plate to face Touki Toussaint.

Rosario managed to pick up an RBI, but only by dribbling a grounder to the right side of the infield that gave Chavis enough time to score from third and make it a 4-2 contest in favor of Atlanta.

In the seventh, a leadoff double off the bat of catching prospect Kole Cottam resulted in another Boston run crossing the plate when Jonathan Arauz grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

That sequence cut the Sox’ deficit to two runs at 5-3, and it allowed the tyring run to come to the plate in the form of Roldani Baldwin, who stuck out against Jasseel De La Cruz to put this one to bed.

Some notes from this one:

Nick Yorke, the Red Sox’ first-round pick in the 2020 draft, made his spring debut on Monday. The 18-year-old infielder went 1-for-1 off the bench with a walk and a fifth-inning single off Braves reliever A.J. Minter.

Ward and Seabold, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 10 and No. 11 prospects in Boston’s farm system, were probably the two most impressive pitchers the Red Sox threw out there on Monday.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by veteran righty Michael Wacha.

Garrett Whitlock, Joel Payamps, Ryan Weber, Josh Winckowski and Andrew Politi are also expected to pitch for the Sox.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on ESPN, which means we are in for nine innings of baseball since this will be a nationally-televised game.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Bobby Dalbec, Michael Chavis, and Jeter Downs all homer in Red Sox’ Grapefruit League opener against Twins

The Red Sox opened Grapefruit League play on Sunday by falling to the Twins by a final score of 7-6 in seven innings at Hammond Stadium.

Spring training rules were altered this year to allow for more flexibility, hence the reason why this game was limited to seven frames.

Nathan Eovaldi, as expected, made his first start of the spring for the Sox in this one.

Working 1 1/3 innings, the veteran right-hander yielded two runs — both earned — on two hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with a pair of strikeouts on the afternoon before reaching his pitch limit in the bottom half of the second.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 38 (23 strikes), Eovaldi turned to his four-seam fastball approximately 18 times and averaged 98 mph while topping out at 99.5 mph with the pitch.

The 31-year-old hurler will likely make his next start of the spring against the Twins once again on Saturday, as Boston is going with a six-man rotation for the time being.

In relief of Eovaldi, non-roster invitee Caleb Simpson came on with one out and two runners on in the second, and he struggled mightily, as evidenced by the fact that he failed to record an out while allowing five runs — three charged to him, two to Eovaldi — before the bottom half of the inning came to an end.

From there, right-hander Eduard Bazardo, who was added to Boston’s 40-man roster in November, needed just eight pitches to work a perfect third inning, while Seth Blair and Stephen Gonsalves — two hurlers who spent a good chunk of time at the Sox’ alternate site last season — combined to toss a pair of scoreless frames in the fourth and fifth, respectively.

Former Oakland A’s righty Daniel Gossett then came on in the middle of the sixth of what was a 6-5 game in favor of Boston, but the 28-year-old was ultimately charged with both the loss and blown save after two Minnesota runs crossed the plate on his watch thanks to a Jonathan Arauz throwing error and sacrifice fly off the bat of Kyle Garlick.

And in the bottom of the seventh, which did not need to be played, right-hander Kaleb Ort, who the Sox selected from the Yankees in the minor-league phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, stranded one base runner by inducing an inning-ending 4-3 double play to wrap up his side’s first exhibition game of the year.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox’ first starting lineup of the spring featured the likes of Enrique Hernandez, Jarren Duran, Hunter Renfroe, Rafael Devers, Christian Vazquez, Bobby Dalbec, Christian Arroyo, Michael Chavis, and Michael Gettys.

Dalbec got the scoring started in the second, when with two outs and the bases empty, the 25-year-old clubbed an 89 mph fastball at the top of the zone from Twins starter Devin Smeltzer and deposited it deep into right-center field for his first home run of the spring.

Two more of Boston’s young infielders picked up the slack scoring-wise later on in the fifth, with Michael Chavis leading the inning off by taking Tyler Duffey deep to right on the very first pitch he saw — a 78 mph curveball at the knees — and Jeter Downs following moments later with a two-run blast to right-center to score himself as well as Gettys.

An inning later, Downs struck once again, this time bringing in Josh Ockimey with two outs on a groundball RBI single back up the middle off of righty Cody Stashak.

Yairo Munoz, who performed well in limited action with the Red Sox last season, followed by plating Arauz on another RBI single. Just like that, Boston had themselves a 6-5 lead.

Six runs is all the Sox offense could manage though, as the Twins tacked on two more of their own in their half of the sixth and 7-6 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll take on the Braves in their home opener at JetBlue Park to kick off the month of March on Monday afternoon.

Right-hander Garrett Richards will make his 2021 debut for Boston and he will be opposed by fellow righty Huascar Ynoa, who is currently regarded by Baseball America as the 12th-ranked prospect in Atlanta’s farm system.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be broadcast on NESN.

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards to start first two games of spring for Red Sox

After announcing on NESN Wednesday night that Nathan Eovaldi would be starting the Red Sox’ Grapefruit League opener against the Twins on Sunday, manager Alex Cora provided more details on what went into that decision earlier on Friday.

“It’s just the progression,” Cora said when speaking with reporters via Zoom. “It’s his turn to pitch on Sunday. Obviously, there’s a thought process, but it’s his turn to pitch. That’s it.”

Eovaldi, who turned 31 earlier this month, said over the weekend that he feels good as he prepares to embark upon his third full season with Boston.

The veteran right-hander is coming off a truncated 2020 campaign in which he posted a 3.72 ERA and 3.87 FIP over just nine starts and 48 1/3 innings pitched on account of being hampered with a right calf strain in August.

Arm-wise, though, Eovaldi is holding up just fine, and he figures to open the 2021 season as Boston’s No. 2 starter.

And not that it means much, but last spring, the Texas native put together eight scoreless innings while scattering just four hits and one walk to go along with 12 strikeouts over three Grapefruit League outings.

Cora has yet to reveal his starting lineup for Sunday’s contest against Minnesota, but he did say that Rafael Devers will play third, Enrique Hernandez will play short, Christian Arroyo will play second, Bobby Dalbec will play first, and Christian Vazquez will catch.

The starting outfield for that day has yet to be determined.

Following Eovaldi in the Sox’ early spring rotation will be fellow right-hander Garrett Richards, who gets the nod to start against the Braves and make his Red Sox debut at JetBlue Park on Monday.

“Stuff-wise, for me, he was one of the best in the league,” Cora recently said of Richards’ 2020 season — in which he produced a 4.03 ERA over 14 outings (10 starts) and 51 1/3 innings of work — with the Padres. “He’s been hurt, but what I saw last year with the Padres was eye-opening. I’m glad that he’s with us. This is a guy that when we talked to him during the offseason, he feels that there’s more. For how veteran he is and his age, he hasn’t wasted too many bullets, right? Because he’s been hurt.”

Assuming he stays healthy this spring, the 32-year-old Richards figures to open the season as Boston’s No. 3 starter behind Eovaldi.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo notes that “Cora has been impressed with how far along both Eovaldi and Richards are” so far this spring.

“Every year is something different, and medical-wise, we mapped it out,” said the Sox skipper. “It’s not that we’re going to rush these guys into pitching eight innings right away, but they’re in a good spot.”

Sunday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Twins will not be televised, but Monday’s game against the Braves will be on NESN.

As a matter of fact, here is a full list of all the Red Sox’ spring training games NESN will be broadcasting in March.

In total, the Sox are slated to play 29 Grapefruit League games against the Braves, Orioles, Pirates, Rays, and Twins between February 28 and March 30.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora sees a lot of Nathan Eovaldi in newcomer Garrett Richards

When the Red Sox agreed to sign veteran right-hander Garrett Richards to a one-year, $10 million contract last month, they did so knowing there would be some risk involved.

Excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the last time the 32-year-old accrued more than 150 innings pitched in a single campaign came in 2015 when he was a member of the Angels.

In July 2018, his season was cut short due to right elbow UCL damage which would require Tommy John surgery that same month.

Since successfully recovering from the elbow reconstruction, Richards has technically not missed a beat, though he’s made just 17 appearances (13 starts) — all with the Padres — at the major-league level dating back to late September 2019.

Even in a limited sample size, however, the Oklahoma native proved to be effective enough for San Diego in 2020, posting a 4.03 ERA and 4.28 FIP over 14 outings (10 starts) and 51 1/3 innings pitched while placing in the 82nd percentile in fastball velocity, the 97th percentile in fastball spin, and the 99th percentile in curveball spin among big-league hurlers, per Baseball Savant.

The fact that Richards had quality stuff — and quite frankly has had quality stuff since being selected by the Angels in the first round of the 2009 amateur draft — last year made him appealing to a lot of clubs this offseason, the Red Sox included.

“Stuff-wise, for me, he was one of the best in the league,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Richards’ career when speaking to reporters via Zoom earlier Saturday. “He’s been hurt, but what I saw last year with the Padres was eye-opening. I’m glad that he’s with us. This is a guy that when we talked to him during the offseason, he feels that there’s more. For how veteran he is and his age, he hasn’t wasted too many bullets, right? Because he’s been hurt.”

In Cora’s praise of Richards, the 6-foot-2, 210 lb. righty also drew comparisons to a key member of Boston’s World Series-winning team in 2018 in Nathan Eovaldi.

The Sox acquired Eovaldi in late July of that season, a little less than two years after the flame-throwing right-hander had undergone Tommy John surgery for the second time in his baseball career. He went on to produce a 3.33 ERA over 12 outings (11 starts) and 54 innings to close out the regular season for Boston and a 1.61 ERA over six outings (two starts) and 22 1/3 innings in the postseason.

“It’s pretty similar to what we got in ’18 with Nate, when we traded for him,” said Cora Saturday. “A guy that has been hurt, but we knew at that time that he was going to be okay. Stuff-wise, off the charts.”

While Richards, like Eovaldi, has the potential to do some special things on the mound in 2021, one thing that cannot be ignored about his addition is the veteran presence he provides, especially with the uncertainty stemming from the ongoing pandemic.

“He’s a good teammate, too,” the Sox skipper confidently stated. “He was in a winning situation last year with the Padres and it’s good to have him around. With all the guidelines and everything because of the virus, it’s not that easy to get the groups together like we usually do in meetings to meet people. But, little by little, we will get to know him — we’ll get to know all of them — and he’s somebody that I’m looking forward to pitch every five days and see where he can go.”

Because Cora, who talks to the media first every day, mentioned Eovaldi when praising Richards, the 31-year-old Sox starter, who also spoke to the media on Saturday, was asked about the rotation newcomer and how their situations compare in regards to overcoming injuries.

“Early on, getting to see him throw a couple bullpens, his stuff is so electric,” Eovaldi said of Richards’ pitch repertoire. “The slider, the changeup, the fastball. It all comes out of the hand really well. He’s got a little bit of a different delivery, I think, but he looks great coming into camp. I’m excited to have him here.

“And then getting over the hurdles, I think you just build off of each start,” he continued. “You continuously build, you build that confidence up. I think him being here, our pitching staff, having [pitching coach Dave Bush and bullpen coach Kevin Walker] around, I think that’s going to help him out a lot. Just mainly using his strengths when he’s pitching and just keep attacking.”

At the moment, both Eovaldi and Richards are slated to crack the Red Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation. I would pencil them in to be the team’s No. 2 and No. 3 starters at this point, but that’s really more of a guess than anything.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Red Sox lose right-hander Joel Payamps on waivers to Blue Jays

In the second-most prevalent roster move related to the Red Sox of the day, right-hander Joel Payamps was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays Wednesday evening, per MLB.com’s transaction wire.

Payamps, who turns 27 April, never pitched a game in a Red Sox uniform. He was originally claimed off waivers from the Diamondbacks back in November before getting designated for assignment last week in order for Boston to make room on its 40-man roster for fellow righty Garrett Richards.

Because it took a full seven days for him to be claimed by another club, it appeared as though Payamps was on track to get outrighted to Triple-A Worcester, which would likely lead to him taking part in major-league spring training as a non-roster invite.

That is no longer the case, however, as the Dominican native joins the Blue Jays organization with less than a week to go until pitchers and catchers report to their respective spring training complexes.

Prior to briefly becoming a member of the Red Sox, Payamps had appeared in four total games for the D-backs over the last two seasons and had given up four runs (three earned) over seven total innings pitched at the big-league level. That’s good for an ERA of 3.86 for those keep tracking at home.

And while he is with the Blue Jays for the time being, MLB Trade Rumors’ Jeff Todd noted earlier that “it’s certainly possible [Payamps will] end up on the DFA carousel as teams compete to see who’ll be able to slip him through waivers in hopes of stashing him for depth.”

For what it’s worth, Payamps, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 225 lbs., still has one minor-league option left for 2021, if you were curious.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo was the first to report that Payamps had been claimed by Toronto.

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