What the Red Sox saw in Ryan Fitzgerald before signing him out independent ball in 2018

Ryan Fitzgerald is off to a blazing hot start with the Worcester Red Sox. After homering on Opening Day, the versatile prospect went deep twice as part of 2-for-showing in Jacksonville on Thursday night.

Through his first three games of the Triple-A season, Fitzgerald is batting .636 (7-for-11)/.667/1.455 with three homers, five RBIs, four runs scored, one walk, and four strikeouts over 12 trips to the plate.

This comes on the heels of a spring training in which Fitzgerald was one of the Sox’ standouts in Fort Myers. While making a strong case to make Boston’s Opening Day roster, the left-handed hitter clubbed a team-leading four home runs and posted a 1.513 OPS across 11 Grapefruit League contests.

Although the Red Sox sent Fitzgerald down to Triple-A Worcester on March 27, there is no doubt the 27-year-old could be on the verge of a big-league call-up sooner rather than later.

A native of Illinois, Fitzgerald played four seasons at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. but went undrafted. Rather than take his talents to affiliated ball right away like other amateur prospects, Fitzgerald signed with the Gary SouthShore RailCats of the independent American Association in 2017.

It was Gary, Ind. where Fitzgerald was first seen by Red Sox pro scout David Scrivines. Scrivines, who has been with the team since 2008, initially took note of Fitzgerald’s plate discipline and ability to move around the infield.

“He seemed like someone who had real quality at-bats and knew the strike zone well,” Scrivines told BloggingtheRedSox.com. “Knowing the ballpark in Gary is a pitcher-friendly ballpark, players don’t put up power numbers in that park.  So I wasn’t sure how the power would project in the future. We saw someone with a steady glove and arm and athleticism.”

In his first season with the RailCats in 2017, Fitzgerald slashed .239/.301/.395 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs over 84 games while seeing playing time at every infield position besides first base. He was also well-liked by his teammates and coaches, including manager Greg Tagert.

“Former Gary manager Greg Tagert raved about his makeup,” said Scrivines. “So we knew he’s a top-notch person and teammate.”

The following spring, Fitzgerald signed with the Sox as an undrafted free agent and debuted with the Greenville Drive in June. He made it as far as High-A before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the minor-league season in 2020.

Last year, Fitzgerald broke camp with Double-A Portland and made it up to Worcester for a spell over the summer. The 6-foot, 185 pounder also made his pro debut as an outfielder in 2021.

So far this season, Fitzgerald — who turns 28 in June — has made starts at second base, third base, and shortstop. Combine what he has done at the plate with his versatility, and it has been an impressive start to the 2022 campaign for the utility man.

“It’s great to see him get off to such a good start this spring – both offensively and moving around the field on the defensive end – and watching his progress the past four years,” Scrivines said.

(Picture of Ryan Fitzgerald: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox, Rafael Devers remain ‘very far off’ in contract extension talks, per report

The Red Sox and star third baseman Rafael Devers apparently remain far apart in contract extension talks as Opening Day nears.

Earlier Wednesday evening, Hector Gomez of Z Deportes, a Dominican-based news outlet, tweeted that the Red Sox made Devers an extension offer but Devers rejected it” because it was lower than he is willing to consider.”

Shortly thereafter, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo confirmed Gomez’s report, writing that the Sox recently made an extension offer to Devers, but the two sides are currently “very far off in negotiations.”

This news comes two days after Devers told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier that although he and his camp have discussed a long-term deal with the Sox this spring, he did not expect an agreement to come together before Opening Day.

“We had a conversation with the team,” Devers said to Speier (through translator Carlos Villoria-Benítez). “We didn’t get to anything. But I still have one more year. I have this one and the next year. And I’m ready to play with Boston, with the Red Sox. We’re not going to talk about it [more] this spring. Let’s see how this season goes.”

Devers is set to earn $11.2 million in 2022 after agreeing to a one-year deal to avoid salary arbitration last month. The 25-year-old All-Star remains under club control for two more years and is eligible to become a free-agent at the conclusion of the 2023 season.

A client of Rep 1 Baseball, the left-handed hitting Devers just put the finishing touches on an impressive spring in which he clubbed six home runs, collected 12 RBIs, and posted a 1.512 OPS over 12 games (32 plate appearances) in the Grapefruit League.

It would seem as though Devers is on the verge of another productive year at the plate, as Gomez also reports that the Silver Slugger Award winner has shifted his focus to the 2022 season as he looks “to further increase his market value.”

Along those same lines, Cotillo writes that Devers and the Red Sox are unlikely to engage further in extension talks prior to Opening Day on Friday, noting that the former does not want to “talk about a long-term deal once the regular season begins.”

Considering that Devers is not eligible for free agency for another two seasons, there is obviously still plenty of time for the Red Sox to get a deal done. As noted by Cotillo, these recent developments may suggest that Boston is indeed serious about locking up Devers long-term.

Although the two sides may be far apart in negotiations at the moment, Sox officials — including chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom — have made it very clear that they would like players such as Devers and Xander Bogaerts (who can opt out of his deal and become a free agent this winter) to stay in Boston for the foreseeable future.

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox infield prospect Ahbram Liendo drives in 3 runs in Grapefruit League debut

Red Sox infield prospect Ahbram Liendo certainly made the most of his Grapefruit League debut on Tuesday afternoon.

With the majority of Red Sox minor-leaguers leaving Fort Myers for the start of the 2022 season with their respective affiliate, Liendo was one of eight players Boston added to its roster ahead of Tuesday’s spring finale against the Twins at JetBlue Park.

After replacing Trevor Story at second base at the onset of the fifth inning, Liendo got his first crack at the plate in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs in the frame and runners at second and third, Liendo kept things going by ripping a line-drive, two-run single off Twins reliever Griffin Jax. He scored from third base himself later in the inning.

Fast forward to the seventh, and Liendo again came to the plate with two outs and runners on base. This time around, he drove in Jonathan Arauz on an RBI groundout to second. That gave Boston a 9-6 lead in what would turn out to be a 10-6 victory over Minnesota.

All told, Liendo went 1-for-2 off the bench with his single, one run scored, and a team-leading three RBIs in the Sox’ final exhibition game of the spring.

Liendo, 18, was originally signed by the Red Sox as an international free agent coming out of Venezuela last January. The Maracay native received a signing bonus of $450,000, making him one of the more notable additions from the 2021 class.

Upon going pro last winter, Liendo had to wait a bit to make his organizational debut. In July, the Sox assigned Liendo to their Dominican Summer League Red affiliate and he debuted for the team on July 13.

Over the next two-plus months, the switch-hitting infielder slashed .251/.349/.353 (102 wRC+) with six doubles, four triples, one home run, 21 RBIs, 26 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, 25 walks, and 30 strikeouts across 46 games spanning 195 plate appearances.

Among the 90 DSL hitters who made at least 190 trips to the plate last season, Liendo ranked 45th in stolen bases, 43rd in walk percentage (12.8%), 33rd in strikeout percentage (15.4%), and 28th in speed score (7.6), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Liendo saw the majority of his playing time come at second base last year and logged 338 1/3 innings at the position. But the 5-foot-8, 170 pounder also made two appearances (17 innings) at third base and one appearance (7 innings) at shortstop while recording six errors and turning 23 total double plays.

At the time of his signing, Baseball America’s Ben Badler noted that Liendo was “a baseball rat with an outstanding arm. He’s a headsy player who could move all around the field — some scouts thought about him as a catching conversion candidate — and an average runner. He’s a switch-hitter with gap power who is more advanced from the right side of the plate.”

Liendo, who just turned 18 in February, is not currently regarded by any major publication, including Baseball America, as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. That is understandable given his age and lack of experience.

With that being said, though, Liendo still has plenty of room to grow physically and developmentally on the field. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 season in the rookie-level Florida Complex League and could be an intriguing player to watch once the FCL gets underway in June.

(Picture of Ahbram Liendo via his Instagram)

Red Sox close out spring training with 10-6 win over Twins to take home 2022 Chairman’s Cup

The Red Sox wrapped up Grapefruit League play on Tuesday by coming from behind to defeat the Twins by a final score of 10-6 at JetBlue Park. Boston finishes the spring with a record of 11-8 and also take home the 2022 Chairman’s Cup.

J.D. Martinez got the Sox on the board first in their half of the first, ripping an RBI single off Twins starter Josh Winder to score Enrique Hernandez from third base.

Michael Wacha, making his fourth and final start of the spring for Boston, retired five of the first seven batters he faced before serving up a two-run shot to Gio Urshela with one out in the top of the second.

The home run came back to bite Wacha an inning later, as the right-hander gave up a leadoff homer to Byron Buxton and a two-run bomb to Carlos Correa moments later.

Wacha failed to record an out in the third and was ultimately pulled for Ryan Brasier, who allowed one of the runners he inherited to score on a sacrifice fly that gave the Twins a commanding 6-1 lead.

After Brasier ended things in the third, though, Wacha took the mound once more in the fourth and actually turned his day around for the better. The 30-year-old struck out the side in the fourth and maneuvered his way around a two-out walk to put up another zero in the fifth.

All told, Wacha surrendered six earned runs on on six hits and three walks to go along with six strikeouts over four total innings of work spanning 93 pitches.

In relief of Wacha, Hansel Robles made his second appearance out of the Boston bullpen in as many days and, after giving up a leadoff double to Alex Kirilloff, stranded Kirilloff at second base in an otherwise clean sixth inning.

The middle of the sixth is where momentum began to shift in the Sox’ favor. With Griffin Jax on the mound for the Twins, Alex Cora emptied the bench and the minor-leaguers who are still in Fort Myers took over.

Juan Chacon led off with a groundball single and advanced to third on a hard-hit double off the bat of Johanfrank Salazar. Jonathan Arauz getting plunked by a pitch to load the bases for Bryan Gonzalez, who drove in Chacon on a sacrifice fly to left field.

Ahbram Liendo then plated Salazar on an RBI single, and Jax proceeded to fill the bases again by issuing two straight walks to Darel Belen and Miguel Bleis. Following a pitching change that saw Ricardo Velez take over for Jax, Ronald Rosario greeted the new Twins reliever with a game-tying, two-run single to center field.

With things now knotted up at six runs apiece, the Red Sox re-loaded the bases and scored on a bases-loaded walk drawn by Salazar. The pinch-hitting Luis Ravelo pushed across another run by driving in Rosario to make it an 8-6 game.

After Kutter Crawford tossed a scoreless frame in the top of the seventh, the Sox tacked on two more runs in their half of the seventh on an RBI groundout from Liendo and RBI double from Belen.

From there, Austin Davis worked his way around a leadoff walk in the eighth inning, and Tyler Danish closed things out with a perfect ninth inning to secure a 10-6 victory to cap off the spring.

Next up: The real thing

With another spring training in the books, the Red Sox will now board a flight to New York ahead of Opening Day against the Yankees on Thursday, weather permitting.

Nathan Eovaldi is slated to make his third consecutive Opening Day start for Boston. He will be opposed by fellow right-hander and New York ace Gerrit Cole.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The 2022 season opener will be televised on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Top Red Sox pitching prospects Brayan Bello, Jay Groome returning to Double-A Portland for start of 2022 season

Two of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox farm system are returning to Double-A Portland for the start of the 2022 season.

As part of a flurry of roster moves made on Monday, the Sox announced that left-hander Jay Groome and right-hander Brayan Bello had been transferred from Triple-A Worcester to Double-A Portland.

Both Bello and Groome are on Boston’s 40-man roster and were invited to big-league camp at the onset of spring training. When they were reassigned to minor-league camp last month, the Sox announced the move by saying they had been optioned to Worcester. So the fact that they were transferred from Worcester to Portland on Monday should not be viewed as a demotion since they were expected to begin the season in Double-A to begin with.

Bello, 22, and Groome, 23, are currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 and No. 10 prospects in Boston’s farm system, respectively. The former ranks first among pitchers in the organization while the latter ranks fourth. They both began last season with High-A Greenville and ended the year in Portland.

Bello, a former international free agent signed out the Dominican Republic in 2017, posted a 2.27 ERA and 2.82 FIP to go along with 45 strikeouts and seven walks over six starts (31 2/3 innings pitched) with Greenville before earning a promotion to Portland on June 8.

With the Sea Dogs, the righty produced a 4.66 ERA — but much more respectable 3.12 FIP — with 87 strikeouts to 24 walks over 15 starts spanning 63 2/3 innings of work. He also represented the Red Sox in the All-Star Futures Game and was named the organization’s Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year.

Groome, a former first-round draft pick out of Barnegat High School (N.J.) in 2016, posted a 5.29 ERA and 4.35 FIP with 108 strikeouts to 32 walks across 18 starts (81 2/3 innings) with the Drive before being promoted to Portland in early September.

Although it came in a smaller sample size, Groome’s stint with the Sea Dogs last year went more swimmingly than Bello’s. In three starts to close out his season, the lefty pitched to the tune of a 2.30 ERA and 1.15 FIP to go along with 26 strikeouts and just four walks over 15 2/3 innings of work.

Bello, who turns 23 in May, has three pitches in his arsenal: a fastball, changeup, and slider. Groome, who turns 24 in August, operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a fastball, curveball, changeup, and slider.

The two hurlers made just one appearance each in Grapefruit League play this spring, but still showed why they are as highly-touted as they are. It would not be unreasonable if one of the two, or maybe even both, made it up to Worcester by the end of the year.

In the meantime, though, Bello and Groome figure to lead a talented Portland pitching staff that will feature the likes of Chris Murphy, Brandon Walter, Victor Santos, Franklin German, Chase Shugart, and Jacob Wallace, among others.

The Sea Dogs open their season against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Blue Jays affiliate) at Hadlock Field this coming Friday, April 8. One would have to figure Bello or Groome will get the starting nod on Opening Day.

(Picture of Brayan Bello and Jay Groome: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Red Sox add Tyler Danish to major-league roster, place Chris Sale on 60-day injured list in series of moves

Following Monday’s 2-0 loss to the Twins at Hammond Stadium, the Red Sox announced that they had made a series of roster moves.

First off, right-hander Tyler Danish was selected to the major-league roster. In order to make room for Danish on the 40-man roster, left-hander Chris Sale was placed on the 60-day injured list with a right rib stress fracture.

Danish, 27, originally signed a minor-league deal with Boston that included an invite to major-league spring training back in February. The righty has posted a 1.50 ERA to go along with five strikeouts and two walks over five appearances (6 innings pitched) so far this spring.

A former second-round pick of the White Sox out of Durant High School in 2013, Danish debuted for Chicago in 2016 and spent three seasons with the club. The Florida native produced a 4.85 ERA (6.70 FIP) across 11 outings (one start) during that stretch, but has not pitched at the big-league level since 2018.

After being released by the Mariners in 2019, Danish spent the next two seasons pitching in independent ball before latching on with the Angels organization last year. He produced a 3.84 ERA across 32 appearances (three starts) between Double-A Rocket City and Triple-A Salt lake.

Listed at 6-feet and 200 pounds, Danish operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a curveball, a sinker, a changeup, a four-seam fastball, and a slider, per Baseball Savant.

With Danish making the Opening Day roster, the Red Sox created an open spot for the non-roster invitee by placing Sale on the 60-day injured list.

Sale, who turned 33 last week, has been sidelined since late February, when he suffered a stress fracture in his right rib cage while throwing a live batting practice session at his alma mater, Florida Gulf Coast University, during the MLB lockout.

As noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Sale has yet to start a throwing program since sustaining the injury, meaning he will not be ready for game action for quite some time. The Red Sox, in turn, have ruled their ace out until June 6 at the earliest since the 60-day injured list clock starts on Opening Day.

While Danish may have made Boston’s Opening Day roster, three other non-roster invitees in right-hander John Schreiber and outfielders Franchy Cordero and Rob Refsnyder were all reassigned to the minor-leagues.

Cordero and Schreiber have been with the Red Sox organization since last February, when the former was acquired from the Royals in the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City and the latter was claimed off waivers from the Tigers.

Refsnyder, on the other hand, inked a minors pact with Boston back in November and appeared to have a real chance to break camp with the big-league camp this spring as a right-handed hitting bench bat who can handle left-handed pitching.

Alas, neither Cordero, Refsnyder, or Schreiber made the team, though they are all expected to accept their assignments to Triple-A Worcester, according to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

Elsewhere, the Red Sox transferred two of their top pitching prospects in Brayan Bello and Jay Groome from Triple-A Worcester to Double-A Portland. Both Bello and Groome are on Boston’s 40-man roster and were initially optioned to Worcester earlier this spring.

Rather than begin the 2022 season with the WooSox, though, the pair of young hurlers will return to the Sea Dogs’ starting rotation to kick off the minor-league campaign.

With Monday’s transactions made, the Red Sox now have 30 players at major-league spring training with only three days to go until Opening Day. Of those 30 players, only two non-roster invitees remain in veteran reliever Hansel Robles and corner infielder Travis Shaw.

Regardless of who and does not make the team from here, Boston still needs to trim down the size of their big-league roster to 28 players before taking on the Yankees in the Bronx on Thursday.

(Picture of Tyler Danish: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Tanner Houck fans 7 in final start of spring as Red Sox are shut out by Twins in 2-0 defeat

The Red Sox fell to 10-8 in Grapefruit League play on Monday afternoon following a 2-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Twins at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

Tanner Houck made his fourth and final start of the spring for the Sox and was solid, allowing only two earned runs on five hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with seven strikeouts over six innings of work.

Both runs Houck surrendered on Monday came by way of the home run ball. The right-hander served up a solo shot to Miguel Sano with one out in the fourth before doing the very same to Max Kepler to lead off the sixth.

After Kepler went deep, Houck was able to retire three of the final four batters he faced. The 25-year-old hurler finished with a final pitch count of 82 (55 strikes), induced nine total swings-and-misses, and hovered around 94.7 mph with his four-seam fastball.

In relief of Houck, Hansel Robles received the first call out of the Boston bullpen to begin things in the seventh inning. Making his 2022 debut after signing a minor-league deal with the Sox last month, Robles maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk and one-out single by recording back-to-back strikeouts to retire the side. He threw 23 pitches (14 strikes) and averaged 95.3 mph with his heater.

From there, Jake Diekman recorded the first two outs of the eighth before Hirokazu Sawamura came on to end the inning.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox lineup that featured the likes of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Enrique Hernandez, J.D. Martinez, Trevor Story, Bobby Dalbec, Jackie Bradley Jr., Christian Arroyo, and Kevin Plawecki was held in check by four different Twins pitchers.

It took until the fourth inning for Boston to record their first hit on a leadoff double off the bat of Bogaerts, but he was stranded at third after Minnesota starter Bailey Ober got Martinez to ground into an inning-ending double play.

The only other two hits the Sox had were singles from Bobby Dalbec and Yolmer Sanchez, though nothing came of either as Boston went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and left just two runners on base as a team on Monday.

Next up: Chairman’s Cup finale

The Red Sox wrap up their Grapefruit League schedule by taking on the Twins once again back at JetBlue park on Tuesday afternoon. With the head-to-head series now tied at three games apiece, Tuesday’s contest will determine the winner of the 2022 Chairman’s Cup.

Michael Wacha is slated to start for Boston and fellow right-hander Josh Winder is in line to do the same for Minnesota. First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised on NESN.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Rafael Devers homers again as Red Sox ride 5-run second inning to 6-3 win over Braves

Powered by a five-run second inning, the Red Sox improved to 10-7 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday with a 6-3 victory over the Braves at CoolToday Park in North Port.

After falling behind by a run early on, the Sox did the majority of their damage off Braves starter Huascar Ynoa in their half of the second. Bobby Dalbec led off the frame with a line-drive single and Jackie Bradley Jr. immediately followed by crushing a two-run shot over the right field wall for his third home run of the spring.

Boston’s No. 9 hitter, Yolmer Sanchez, reached base via a two-out single and Enrique Hernandez kept the inning alive by reaching on a fielding error. That sequence brought Rafael Devers to the plate, and the left-handed hitting slugger made Atlanta pay for their mistake by teeing off on a pitch from Ynoa that was barely off the ground.

Devers plated three on his team-leading sixth homer of the spring to give his side a commanding 5-1 lead. To that point in the contest, the only run the Braves had gotten off Sox starter Nick Pivetta came by way of a solo home run off the bat of Matt Olson in the bottom of the first.

Pivetta, making one final tune-up before the start of the regular season, wound up allowing just one run on six hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with six strikeouts over five full innings of work on Sunday.

The 29-year-old right-hander ran into trouble in the first even after serving up the homer, but escaped any further damage and settled in nicely by retiring 10 of the final 15 batters he faced.

In relief of Pivetta, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Boston bullpen beginning in the sixth inning. Celebrating his 34th birthday on Sunday, the Japanese-born righty made quick work of Marcell Ozuna, Adam Duvall, and Alex Dickerson.

From there, a pinch-hitting Travis Shaw drove in Rob Refsnyder on an RBI single off Braves reliever Kyle Wright in the top of the seventh. John Schreiber, meanwhile, took over for Sawamura in the bottom of the seventh and allowed two runs to score on two walks, a wild pitch, and a single an inning later.

With a three-run lead to protect heading into the ninth, Tyler Danish maneuvered his way around a jam in which the Braves brought the tying run to the plate by punching out the final two batters he faced in consecutive order.

Danish was credited with his first save of the spring, and the Red Sox secured a 6-3 win as a result.

Some notes from this victory:

Four different Red Sox pitchers (Pivetta, Sawamura, Schreiber, and Danish) on Sunday combined to allow three earned runs on eight hits, four walks, one hit batsman, and nine total strikeouts across nine innings of work.

Rafael Devers hit his sixth home run of the spring on Sunday is now batting .435/.481/1.261 through his first 10 games (27 plate appearances) of Grapefruit League play.

Next up: Houck vs. Ober

The Red Sox will make the trek back to Fort Myers and take on the Twins at Hammond Stadium in their penultimate game of the spring on Monday. Boston can clinch the 2022 Chairman’s Cup with a win since they currently lead Minnesota three games-to-two in the best-of-seven series.

Tanner Houck is slated to get the start for the Sox on Monday afternoon. The Twins will roll with fellow right-hander Bailey Ober. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised, but only on Bally Sports North.

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez and Rafael Devers courtesy of the Boston Red Sox)

Nathan Eovaldi strikes out 7 in final tune-up before Opening Day as Red Sox fall to Pirates, 7-2

The Red Sox fell to 9-7 in Grapefruit League play on Saturday following a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Pirates at JetBlue Park.

In his final tune-up before Opening Day, Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi allowed five runs — three of which were earned — on six hits and no walks to go along with seven strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of work.

The veteran right-hander began his afternoon on a solid note, retiring 11 of the first 12 Pirates he faced before serving up a two-out solo shot to former teammate Michael Chavis with two outs in the fourth inning.

After getting through the fourth and once again sitting down the side in order in the fifth, Eovaldi ran into more trouble in the sixth when he yielded a leadoff double to Hoy Park that was followed by a two-run blast off the bat of Diego Castillo that was just out of reach for a sprawling Jackie Bradley Jr.

That sequence made it a 3-0 contest in favor of Pittsburgh, though the Pirates tacked on more when Bligh Madris reached second base on a fielding error committed by Travis Shaw and scored on an RBI single from Hunter Owen.

Owen would be the last batter Eovaldi would face as the 32-year-old hurler finished with a final pitch count of 94 and made way for Robert Kwiatkowski out of the Boston bullpen.

Kwiatkowski, in turn, allowed the lone runner he inherited in Owen to score before ending things in the top of the sixth. A half-inning later, the Red Sox responded by plating their first run of the day on a sacrifice fly off the bat of J.D. Martinez that scored Alex Verdugo from third to make it a 5-1 game.

Former Pirates reliever Austin Davis gave that run right back on back-to-back doubles to lead off the seventh, but Bradley Jr. came through with his second home run of the spring in the bottom half of the frame to keep the deficit at four.

Matt Barnes surrendered one run on two hits and a walk in the eighth, while Matt Strahm stranded two base runners and struck out two in a scoreless ninth inning. Boston then went down quietly in their half of the ninth, as 7-2 would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Wright

The Red Sox will make one final trip to North Port on Sunday to take on the Braves at CoolToday Park. Nick Pivetta is slated to start for Boston and fellow righty Kyle Wright is in line to do the same for Atlanta.

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

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

Rich Hill gets shelled, Kevin Plawecki homers as Red Sox fall to Rays, 9-3

The Red Sox fell to 9-6 in Grapefruit League play on Friday following a 9-3 loss to the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park.

Despite losing by six runs, it was actually the Sox who got on the board first in their half of the third inning. With starter Ryan Yarbrough on the mound for the Rays, Rob Refsnyder led off with a single, advanced to second base on a Jonathan Arauz walk, and advanced to third on a Christian Arroyo groundout.

Trevor Story, who made the trip to Port Charlotte for Friday’s contest, then drove in Refsnyder on a sacrifice fly to left field. Story’s second RBI of the spring gave Boston an early 1-0 lead, though it did not last long.

Red Sox starter Rich Hill began his afternoon by retiring each of the six batters he faced, but immediately ran into trouble in the bottom of the third when he issued a leadoff single to Taylor Walls. A double from Brett Phillips to follow put runners at second and third for Harold Ramirez, who put the Rays up 2-1 on a two-run single to left field.

Wander Franco moved Ramirez up to second base with another single and both runners scored on back-to-back run-scoring hits from Brandon Lowe and Manuel Margot to make it a 4-1 game.

Having recorded just one out in the third, Hill was temporarily pulled in favor of Jacob Wallace out of the Red Sox bullpen. Wallace, in turn, allowed both runners he inherited to score on a two-run double off the bat of Austin Meadows.

After getting through the third, Wallace made way for Hill once more. The veteran left-hander rebounded by facing the minimum three batters in the fourth, but got shelled for three more runs on three more hits in the fifth.

All told, Hill surrendered nine runs — all of which were earned — on 11 hits and no walks to go along with one strikeout over 3 2/3 total innings of work. The 42-year-old southpaw should be making one more start before the regular season begins.

In relief of Hill, Brendan Nail came on for Hill in the fifth and recorded the final two outs of the frame via swinging strikeout. From there, Jake Diekman maneuvered his way around a hit batsman and walk in a scoreless sixth, Austin Davis sat down the side in order in the seventh, and Tyler Danish did the same in the eighth.

Down to their final three outs in the ninth, Nick Sogard led the inning off by reaching first base on a fielding error. Kevin Plawecki then took Rays reliever Christopher Gau deep to left-center field for his first home run of the spring.

Plawecki’s two-run blast made it a 9-3 game in favor of Tampa Bay, which would go on to be Friday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

Rafael Devers went 1-for-1 with a double and was also hit by a pitch. He is now batting .450 this spring.

Franchy Cordero doubled in his only at-bat of the day after being used as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning. He is now batting .476 this spring.

Top prospect Marcelo Mayer came on as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning and went 0-for-1 with the game-ending flyout.

Next up: Brubaker vs. Eovaldi

The Red Sox return to Fort Myers to take on the Pirates at JetBlue Park on Saturday afternoon. Nathan Eovaldi will be making one final tune-up before Opening Day and he will be opposed by fellow right-hander J.T. Brubaker.

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

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)