Eduardo Rodriguez Continues to Impress With 10 Strikeouts Over Four Scoreless Innings as Red Sox Top Rays to Win Fourth Straight

After pitching came through in a 3-2 victory over the Cardinals on Tuesday, the Red Sox extended their winning streak to four and improved to 9-10-2 in Grapefruit League play on Wednesday following a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte.

Making his third start of the spring for Boston in this one was Eduardo Rodriguez, who appears to be in line to get the Opening Day nod from interim manager Ron Roenicke despite no official announcement being made yet.

Tossing four full innings for the second time in a row, the left-hander impressed by keeping the Rays off the scoreboard despite scattering six hits and one walk. 10 of the 12 outs he recorded came by way of the strikeout.

As those numbers suggest, Rodriguez did deal with his fair share of traffic on the base paths on Wednesday, but the majority of the trouble he faced came with two outs in an inning, so he was able to work his way around it.

The 26-year-old capped off his night by fanning the last two Rays he faced in the fourth to finish with a final pitch count of exactly 80. His next outing should come on Monday against the Pirates.

In relief of Rodriguez, Ryan Brasier got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the fifth, and he tossed a perfect frame in his fourth appearance of the spring.

From there, Heath Hembree put together his first scoreless appearance of the spring in the sixth, Austin Brice worked his way around a leadoff single in an otherwise clean seventh, Domingo Tapia served up a solo home run to Brian O’Grady in the eighth, and Kevin Lenik allowed the go-ahead run to come to the plate on a two-out walk and single before escaping the jam to secure the 3-1 win for his side.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Kevin Pillar, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Michael Chavis, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jonathan Lucroy, Jose Peraza, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Rusney Castillo was matched up against Rays left-handed pitching prospect Shane McClanahan to begin things on Wednesday.

Nothing came against McClanahan in his 1 1/3 innings of work, and it was not until the top half of the third when the Boston bats livened up.

There, three straight two-out hits from the 3-4-5 hitters off of Dylan Covey resulted in the Sox driving in their first run of the night, with Bradley Jr. plating Bogaerts from second on an RBI single up the middle.

Lucroy followed suit a few moments later with an RBI base hit of his own, with this one scoring Chavis from second to make it a 2-0 contest early.

Fast forward to the fifth, and it was Bradley Jr. getting the job done with two outs once more, as he drove in Chavis from second on an RBI double to left off new Rays reliever Anthony Banda.

That two-base hit put the Red Sox up 3-0, and after Tampa Bay pushed across a run of their own in the eighth, 3-1 would go on to be Wednesday’s final score at Charlotte Sports Park.

Some observations from this win:

The Red Sox have won four straight Grapefruit League contests. They have a run differential of +5 over that span.

Austin Brice has yet to give up a run this spring and appears to be a lock to make the Opening Day roster as a bullpen option.

Jose Peraza played left field.

Jonathan Lucroy on Wednesday: 2-for-2 with one walk and one RBI.

Kevin Plawecki, off the bench, on Wednesday: 1-for-2 with a double.

Xander Bogaerts recorded his first hit of the spring on a third-inning single.

Jackie Bradley Jr. owns an OPS of 1.141 through 31 plate appearances this spring.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s their first off day of the spring on Thursday before taking on this same Rays club back at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez is slated to start for Boston, while Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter.

Perez put together his best outing of the spring in his last time out against the Twins this past Sunday as he punched out seven over four scoreless frames of work.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT. This game will not be televised.

Martín Pérez Punches out Seven Over Four Scoreless Innings as Red Sox Hold on to Defeat Twins

After splitting a split-squad doubleheader on Saturday, the Red Sox improved to 6-10-2 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday following a tight 7-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park.

Making his third start of the spring for Boston was Martin Perez, coming off just 2/3 of an inning of work in his last time out against the Yankees this past Tuesday.

Tossing four full innings this time around, the left-hander experienced much better results as he kept his former team off the scoreboard while scattering four hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon.

Despite dealing with a fair share of traffic on the base paths, Perez was able to avoid any real damage with the help of ground ball and strikeout-inducing pitches.

The most impressive takeaways, for me at least, were how Perez worked his way around a leadoff walk in the second by inducing a 4-6-3 double play before striking out the side in order in the third. He retired three of the final five hitters he faced in the fourth.

Finishing with a rather high final pitch count of 84, Perez’s next start should come sometime next weekend depending on if he gets four or five days of rest in between outings.

In relief of Perez, Ryan Brasier got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the fifth for his third appearance of the spring, and he retired the only three Twins he faced in order.

From there, Heath Hembree surrendered the first run of the contest on two hits in the sixth, left-hander Matt Hall yielded another pair of runs on three hits and one walk in the seventh, Chris Mazza maneuvered his way around a one-out double in an otherwise clean eighth before being charged with three runs on three hits while only being able to record the first two outs of the ninth, and pitching prospect Durbin Feltman allowed one of his inherited runners to score before closing things out to secure the 7-6 win for his side.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to give up six earned runs on 14 hits, three walks, and eight strikeouts over nine innings in a contest that turned out to be much closer than initially anticipated.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Kevin Pillar, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland, Michael Chavis, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Jose Peraza was matched up against a familiar foe in Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda to begin things on Sunday.

Nothing came against Maeda, who like Perez also tossed four scoreless innings, but Martinez did eventually get the Sox on the board in the bottom half of the sixth.

There, matched up against Twins reliever Matt Wisler, the slugger drove in Pillar from second on a two-out RBI single laced down the left field line that knotted things up at one run apiece.

In the seventh, after falling behind by two runs, Worcester native John Andreoli cut that deficit in half by driving in fellow Massachusetts native Nick Longhi in from third on a run-scoring single to left off of Cory Gearrin.

One groundout and walk later, Jonathan Lucroy stepped to the plate with one out and the bases loaded, and he came through with arguably his biggest hit of the spring to this point, a two-run double blistered off the wall in left field to plate Jantzen Witte and John Andreoli.

Tyler Esplin followed with a run-scoring groundout that brought in Johan Mieses from third, and just like that, the Red Sox had themselves a 5-3 advantage.

What would turn out to be much-needed insurance was added on to that two-run lead an inning later, with Witte and Andreoli both reaching on two-out singles off of Sam Clay and Chad De La Guerra driving in the pair on a two-run triple to the opposite field.

That three-base hit put the Red Sox up 7-3, and after the Twins stormed back with three runs of their own in their half of the ninth, 7-6 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Martin Perez has a solid cutter.

Xander Bogaerts is 0-for-his-first-9 this spring.

Jonathan Lucroy, off the bench, on Sunday: 1-for-2 with one double and two RBI. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

Heath Hembree, Matt Hall, and Chris Mazza all had far from impressive showings on Sunday. Ryan Brasier, on the other hand, looked sharp.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll once again head to North Port for their first night game of the spring against the Atlanta Braves on Monday.

Right-hander Ryan Weber will get the start for Boston, while fellow righty Felix Hernandez will do the same for Atlanta.

Through his first two outings of the spring, Weber has surrendered one unearned run over his first five innings pitched. He appears to have a strong grip on a spot in the Sox’ starting rotation to begin the new season.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 6:05 PM EDT on NESN.

 

Jackie Bradley Jr. and J.D. Martinez Both Homer as Pitching Struggles Continue for Red Sox in 13-9 Loss to Tigers

After allowing nine runs in a 9-1 loss against the Yankees on Tuesday, the Red Sox fell to 4-7-2 in Grapefruit League play on Wednesday following a 13-9 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Tigers at JetBlue Park.

Making his first start and third overall appearance of the spring for Boston was Jeffrey Springs, coming off a scoreless inning of relief in his last time out against the Yankees this past Sunday.

Working just the first inning of this one, the left-hander got hit hard for five runs, all of which were earned, on five hits and zero walks to go along with zero strikeouts of the afternoon.

All five of those early Tigers tallies came courtesy of the long ball, with C.J. Cron whalloping a three-run homer off of Springs, and Frank Schwindel following that up with a two-run shot a few moments later.

It was a laborious task, but Springs was able to at least retire the final two of the eight hitters he faced in order to retire the side without giving anything else up.

From there, Eduard Bazardo walked one and struck out another in a scoreless top half of the second, Ryan Brasier bounced back from a tough spring debut with a pair of perfect frames, Heath Hembree followed by serving up two home runs, a solo shot in the fifth plus a two-run shot in the sixth, over two innings of relief, Yoan Aybar worked around a leadoff walk and one-out HBP in an otherwise clean seventh, Mike Shawaryn fanned three in the eighth, and left-hander Matthew Kent got bombarded for five runs, although none of them were earned, in the ninth before Matthew Gorst came on and recorded the final out on a punchout.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to surrender 13 runs (eight earned) on 15 hits, five of which were home runs, and two walks to go along with 10 total strikeouts over nine innings of work.

Since the calendars flipped to March, Red Sox pitching has allowed 35 runs over their last four games.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Kevin Pillar, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Christian Vazquez, Jonathan Arauz, Josh Ockimey, Jantzen Witte, and Jeter Downs was matched up against veteran right-hander Ivan Nova to begin things on Wednesday.

Despite going down by five before even taking their first at-bats, the Boston bats responded swiftly in their half of the first, as Pillar and Bradley Jr. greeted Nova with a leadoff single and double to put runners in scoring position with one out for J.D. Martinez.

Martinez didn’t waste anytime, either, as he took the second pitch he saw from the Tigers starter and deposited deep to left field for a three-run shot. His second homer of the spring cut the deficit to two at 5-3.

An inning later, it was the bottom half of the lineup getting it done, with Ockimey leading the frame off with a double and Downs, the organization’s top prospect, driving him in on a one-out, run-scoring single to left. 5-4.

In addition to his first inning double, Bradley Jr. capitalized in his second plate appearance against Nova in the third, as he ripped a leadoff homer over the left field wall to knot things up at five runs apiece. His second big fly of the spring.

Fast forward all the way to the seventh, after Detroit had jumped out to an 8-5 edge, Chad De La Guerra brought his side back to within two runs on another solo shot off Tigers reliever Rony Garcia.

And in the ninth, in what had suddenly turned into a runaway for the Tigers, Roldani Baldwin came to the plate with two outs and the bases full, and he promptly unloaded them on a three-run double off Jose Cisnero.

That three RBI knock made it a 13-9 contest, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score after Nolan Blackwood got Ryder Jones to line out to short.

Some observations from this loss:

Xander Bogaerts, in his spring debut at designated hitter: 0-for-2 with two strikeouts.

This game was not televised, but the fact that Heath Hembree has a 10.13 ERA through his first two appearances of the spring is far from promising. His roster spot could be in jeopardy if he continues to struggle.

Nice to see Ryan Brasier bounce back with two scoreless innings of relief Wednesday. Probably the highlight of the day pitching-wise.

Kevin Plawecki walked in his lone plate appearance of the afternoon after replacing Christian Vazquez behind the plate in the fifth. Jonathan Lucroy did not play.

Rusney Castillo hit a triple.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the Houston Astros at JetBlue Park on Thursday afternoon.

Left-hander Kyle Hart will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Josh James will do the same for Houston.

As mentioned before, Hart is one of several candidates vying for a spot in the Sox’ starting rotation. He owns an ERA of 9.00 through two appearances (one start) this spring.

The Astros have been subject to plenty of boos from opposing crowds this spring, so it will be interesting to see, or hear about, how the JetBlue Park crowd handles things given the fact that the 2018 Red Sox are still under investigation by the league.

Anyway, first pitch Thursday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. This game will not be televised.

 

 

Eduardo Rodriguez Impresses in Spring Debut for Red Sox

After managing to score just one run in a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Friday, the Red Sox fell to 3-5-1 in Grapefruit League action on Saturday following a 5-2 defeat at the hands of  a split Yankees squad on a sunny afternoon at JetBlue Park.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston for Eduardo Rodriguez, whose 2020 debut was pushed back to Saturday after he slipped and twisted his left knee in a bullpen session two Wednesdays ago.

Tossing the first three innings of this one, the left-hander impressed by holding the Yankees off the scoreboard while scattering two hits and zero walks to go along with six strikeouts on the afternoon.

Two of those three frames were perfect for Rodriguez. The only real trouble he ran into came in the second, when he allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach base on a double and single, but he worked his way through that with the help of an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play and proceeded to strike out the side in the third.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 52, the 26-year-old’s next outing should come against the Astros on Thursday.

In relief of Rodriguez, Ryan Brasier made his spring debut out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he yielded the first run of the day on three hits and a strikeout in the top of the fourth.

Heath Hembree also debuted in the fifth, and he filled the bases with two outs before getting Clint Frazier to hit into what looked to be an inning-ending infield pop fly.

Instead, Christian Vazquez lost the ball in the sun, the ball landed in fair territory, and two runs crossed the plate as a result.

A pitching change that saw Mike Shawaryn take over for Hembree didn’t fare any better for the Sox, as the right-hander walked another and brought in another Yankees run on a wild pitch to make it a 4-2 contest.

From there, Shawaryn finished the fifth, left-hander Jeffrey Springs punched out the side in the sixth, Yoan Aybar surrendered one run on two hits and a sacrifice fly in the seventh, and Brian Johnson closed things out with two perfect frames of relief in the eighth and ninth.

In total, Boston pitching combined to give up five runs (two earned) on eight hits and three walks to go along with 12 total strikeouts.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured Kevin Pillar, Jackie Bradley Jr., Vazquez, Mitch Moreland, Jose Peraza, Jonathan Lucroy, Bobby Dalbec, C.J. Chatham, and Marcus Wilson was matched up against Yankees left-hander Jordan Montgomery to begin things on Saturday.

Montgomery held his own in his two innings of work, and it wasn’t until the bottom half of the fourth when the Boston bats made some noise.

There, a two-out walk drawn by Mitch Moreland followed with a double off the bat of Jose Peraza and another walk drawn by Jonathan Lucroy filled the bases for top prospect Bobby Dalbec.

Up against new Yankees reliever Daniel Alvarez, Dalbec first contributed to the cause without even swinging his bat, as a balk from Alvarez brought in the pinch-running Tommy Joseph from third.

A few moments later, Dalbec did contribute with his bat, as the 24-year-old powered an RBI single to shallow left field, plating Peraza from third and giving his side their first lead of the afternoon at 2-1.

Fast forward all the way to the ninth, after New York had jumped out to a 5-2 edge, and three straight walks drawn by Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs, and Marco Hernandez to lead off the frame filled the bases and brought the winning run to the plate with no outs.

Alas, nothing came of a golden opportunity, as reliever Domingo Acevedo settled down and stranded the bases loaded by retiring the final three Red Sox he faced in order, thus ending this contest with a final score of 5-2.

Some observations from this loss:

It looked like Juan Centeno rolled his right ankle in the eighth inning while running to first and ducking an errant throw. He had to leave the game, but he was able to walk off under his own power and was later diagnosed with a sprained ankle.

Jose Peraza went 2-for-2 with a double and run scored.

Tzu-Wei Lin went 2-for-3 off the bench while playing center field.

Jonathan Lucroy went 0-for-2 with a walk and two strikeouts while serving as designated hitter Saturday. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

It’s still early, but not great first impressions on the year from Heath Hembree nor Ryan Brasier.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the Atlanta Braves at JetBlue Park Sunday afternoon.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the start for Boston, while fellow righty Mike Foltynewicz will do the same for Atlanta.

Eovaldi is coming off a fine outing in his last time out against the Twins where he fanned four over two scoreless innings of work last Monday.

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

 

Looking at Red Sox Players Who Are out of Minor-League Options

With Red Sox spring training underway and full-squad workouts scheduled to begin next week, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the players who need to make Boston’s Opening Day roster this year.

Granted, these following players on the Sox’ 40-man roster don’t HAVE to make the Opening Day roster, but if they do not, they will be exposed to waivers since they are out of minor-league options.

The following players have been excluded from this list despite also not having any minor-league options remaining on their current contracts.

Juan Centeno
Jett Bandy
Cesar Puello
Brian Johnson
Mike Kickham

That is the case because they are not on the 40-man roster. On to the main event…

Kevin Plawecki

Signed to a one-year, $900,000 major-league deal last month, the soon-to-be-29-year-old backstop will primarily serve as Christian Vazquez’s backup this season.

Thanks to a lack of significant catching depth, Plawecki should be a lock to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster regardless of how he performs this spring.

The ex-Met and Indian slashed .222/.287/.342 with three home runs and 17 RBI over 59 games for Cleveland last season.

Heath Hembree

The 31-year-old right-hander has been a consistent mainstay in the Sox’ bullpen for the past three seasons, yet injury concerns last year seemed to peg Hembree as a potential non-tender candidate back in December.

The Red Sox decided not to go that route though, and instead paid him $1.61 million in his penultimate season of arbitration eligibility.

With plenty of other names vying for a spot in Boston’s bullpen out of spring training, Hembree could see himself competing for a spot depending on how he fares in the coming weeks.

Austin Brice

Acquired from the Marlins for infield prospect Angeudis Santos last month, Brice is not yet arbitration eligible.

The 27-year-old right-hander posted an ERA of 3.43 and FIP of 4.87 over 36 relief appearances and 44 2/3 innings pitched last season before being designated for assignment by Miami in January.

With a pitch mix that heavily relies on a curveball and four-seam fastball, Brice could offer the Sox with a unique look out of the bullpen at a relative bargain.

Tzu-Wei Lin

Perhaps the most fascinating name on this list, Lin went from a surprise call-up during the middle stages of the 2017 season to someone who is now on the outskirts of the Sox’ 40-man roster.

Lin, who turns 26 on Saturday, dealt with a left knee sprain and a concussion last season, leading to the Taiwan product playing in just 13 games at the big-league level in 2019.

The former international signee offers versatility as both an infielder and outfielder, but with plenty of depth in both areas abound, Lin may struggle to find a spot on Boston’s Opening Day roster this year.

Bonus: Jonathan Arauz

Arauz may not be out of minor-league options like the names listed above, but as a Rule 5 Draft pick out of the Astros organization back in December, the 21-year-old has to stick on the Sox’ 26-man roster throughout the entirety of the 2020 season.

If he does not, he will be offered back to the Astros. So, not exactly the same circumstances as the others, but still someone who would probably like to break camp on the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster.

Thanks to RosterResource for providing the information used in this piece.

Red Sox Avoid Arbitration With 5 of 7 Eligible Players

The Red Sox have agreed to one-year deals with five players for the 2020 season, thus avoiding salary arbitration. Those five players are outfielders Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., and relievers Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Brandon Workman.

On the other hand, two players, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and outfielder Andrew Benintendi, were unable to reach one-year agreements with the Sox, meaning they are both more than likely headed to arbitration hearings come early February.

Starting with the five players who did reach agreements on Friday, here are the figures that were settled upon by both sides.

Matt Barnes – $3.1 million

Coming off an up-and-down 2019 campaign, the 29-year-old Barnes was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $3 million in penultimate year of arbitration eligibility. Instead, the UCONN product received a bit more than that projected figure and even saw a 94% increase in his salary from last year.

Mookie Betts – $27 million

As has already been discussed on here, Betts’ $27 million payday for 2020 marks the highest ever for a player in their final year of arbitration eligibility, surpassing Colorado’s Nolan Arenado’s record of $26 million from last February. The 27-year-old was projected to earn slightly more ($27.7 million) than that historic figure.

Jackie Bradley Jr. – $11 million

This time, MLB Trade Rumors got it right in the dot, as Bradley Jr. and the Sox settled on $11 million nearly three months after the site released that projection. Like his outfield counterpart in Betts, Bradley Jr. too is set to become a free agent for the first time at the conclusion of the 2020 season.

Heath Hembree – $1.6125 million

A potential non-tender candidate back in late November and early December, Hembree has struck around for the time being, earning a $300,000 raise from his 2019 salary.

Brandon Workman – $3.5 million

Another free agent at the end of the 2020 season, Workman enjoyed great success last year and earned a well-deserved 204.3% raise because of it. He was projected to earn $3.4 million by MLB Trade Rumors.

Going back to Benintendi and Rodriguez, the player and team could still theoretically split the difference in their price and reach an agreement, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

With that scenario unlikely to happen, it appears as if the two will take part in individual arbitration hearings by the first week of February. Winter Weekend just a got a bit more interesting.

 

Red Sox’ Mookie Betts Projected to Earn $27.7 Million in Final Year of Arbitration, per MLB Trade Rumors

MLB Trade Rumors released their ninth annual salary arbitration projections for all 30 major league clubs pertaining to the 2020 season earlier Wednesday, and according to their initial model, the Red Sox have 12 arbitration-eligible players.

As indicated above, All-Star outfielder Mookie Betts is projected to earn a record-setting $27.7 million in his final year of arbitration before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter.

Since about the time the Sox were eliminated from postseason contention last month, most of the attention regarding the club has turned to what the future holds for Betts.

The recently turned 27-year-old has established himself as one of, if not the best corner outfielder in all of baseball and appears set to test the free agency waters in 2020.

That said, the Red Sox would surely like to keep Betts in Boston beyond next season and have made a handful of extension offers in order to make that happen. There seems to be this notion that Betts does not want to play in Boston even though he has shut that speculation down himself several times.

With how unlikely the chances of Betts agreeing to a contract extension before hitting the open market seem, a trade involving the 2018 American League MVP have come into question.

A player of Betts’ caliber has the ability to replenish Boston’s farm system to a certain extent if that is the direction they so choose, but he is also not a player you come across everyday either.

In regard to analytics, Betts’ has accumulated the second-most fWAR in all of baseball since the start of the 2015 season (35.4), trailing only Mike Trout (44.2) over that time period.

I understand that the Red Sox are hoping to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold for next season, which would require cutting a serious amount of payroll, but if you are still trying to compete for a postseason spot, or you are telling your fans that anyway, then I just do not see how you can deal a player who makes your team seriously better.

Anyway, I kind of went on a rant there, so here are the rest of the Red Sox’ arbitration projections, courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors:

  • Jackie Bradley Jr. – $11 milliom
  • Sandy Leon – $2.8 million
  • Chris Owings – $3.0 million
  • Mookie Betts – $27.7 million
  • Brandon Workman – $3.4 million
  • Steven Wright – $1.5 million
  • Eduardo Rodriguez – $9.5 million
  • Matt Barnes – $3.0 million
  • Heath Hembree – $1.6 million
  • Andrew Benintendi – $4.9 million
  • Marco Hernandez – $700K
  • Gorkys Hernandez – $1.0 million

Out of the names above, some are likely to get non-tendered, while others like Andrew Benintendi and Marco Hernandez are entering arbitration for the first time in their careers and will see decently significant raises in pay.