Lack of News Surrounding Red Sox’ Managerial Search Suggests Alex Cora Is Favorite To Return To Boston

With the World Series between the Dodgers and Rays set to begin Tuesday night, we now know the 2020 Major League Baseball season will end within the next 5-9 days. And by the time this year’s Fall Classic comes to a close, former Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s one-year suspension will be over.

Cora, who turned 45 on Sunday, was handed down a one-year ban by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred back in April for the role he played in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal while serving as the club’s bench coach under A.J. Hinch. That punishment did not have to do with his actions as Red Sox manager in 2018.

That being said, Cora could be the top candidate to return to his old post by the end of this month or the beginning of November.

Think about it like this: The Red Sox announced on September 27 that Ron Roenicke would not return as manager for the 2021 season. Since that time, there have been no real legitimate rumors; no real legitimate leaks to go off of in the club’s search for a new manager.

Plenty of candidates have been thrown out there, some who even interviewed for the job earlier this year like Athletics quality control coach Mark Kotsay or Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta, but none have been closely linked to the opening.

When Boston parted ways with Roenicke last month, the club released a statement that read in part: “A search for a new manager will begin immediately.”

It’s been just over four weeks since the Sox’ search for a new manager began, and we have yet to really hear how said search is going. This could potentially mean one of two things. First, it could mean the Red Sox are putting forth their best effort to prevent any leaks and keep everything in-house, which would be commendable if it were the case. Second, it could mean that they are waiting until the World Series ends, when they can officially speak with Cora.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and Christopher Smith touched upon this in the most recent installment of the Fenway Rundown podcast earlier this month, and among the bevy of quality points that were made, one that stuck out pertained to the lack of leaks.

“It’s been nothing. There’s not even a ‘The Red Sox are assembling a list,'” Cotillo said. “In contrast, you look up at Detroit and Al Avila, their GM, said ‘Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch are on my list’, which means they aren’t going to make their hires until they can talk to these guys.

“If the Red Sox managerial search was heating up at this point, it would point to Alex Cora not being the guy,” Cotillo added. “There’s zero indication through 10 days that they’ve really done any groundwork. Every day that passes with little news, you can give [chief baseball officer] Chaim [Bloom] and his crew, as Ron Roenicke liked to say, a lot of credit for keeping it close to the vest. And maybe they’re making progress, but to me, it says they’re not going to really dive into this thing until they can talk to Cora.”

This was also mentioned on the podcast, which I highly suggest listening to, but it carries a lot of weight in that Cora is the perfect candidate for this job for one simple reason: He’s already done it.

“There are plenty of guys who aren’t even being talked about that could be similar to Alex Cora’s personality,” Smith said.

“But, if you’re going to bring in someone similar, why not bring in the guy that everybody knows and everybody wants, is familiar with and knows how to win in this market, and knows how to deal with the media and all the scrutiny?,” asked Cotillo in response to that.

It’s true. Because of what he has already accomplished as the manager of the Red Sox, Cora should be the favorite to return to Boston just months after his dismissal.

The decision to bring Cora back might not be the most popular around the sport given his past actions, but considering how he seemingly gets the most out of his players, like Rafael Devers and Eduardo Rodriguez, while also having established a solid relationship with Bloom already, it might just be the best one to make from the Red Sox’ point of view.

Whether Bloom and the rest of the Sox brass agree with that notion will presumably depend on how things unfold in the days following the Rays’ or Dodgers’ World Series victory.

What Does Future Hold for Red Sox’ Jonathan Araúz?

It took until the final inning of the final game of the regular season, but Red Sox infielder Jonathan Arauz collected his first career major-league home run in the top half of the ninth of Sunday’s 9-1 victory over the Braves.

Per Statcast, Arauz’s solo blast traveled 347 feet and had an exit velocity of 93 mph coming off a 1-1, 87 mph cutter at the top of the strike zone from Atlanta reliever Josh Tomlin. Not exactly a moonshot, but the 22-year-old will certainly take it, especially when it wraps up a three-hit afternoon.

By going 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBI on Sunday, Arauz finishes his first full big-league season with a slash line of .250/.325/.319 to go along with that lone big fly and nine total runs driven in on the year.

In remaining with Boston for the entirety of the 2020 campaign, Arauz is now in a position where he could remain a member of the Sox organization for the foreseeable future.

Last December, the Red Sox selected Arauz from the Astros in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft and wound up paying Houston $100,000 to do so.

Because the Panama native made it through the entire year without getting offered back to his previous club for $50,000, though, the Sox can now maintain his services without the risk of losing him to waivers.

Prior to the 2020 season, Arauz had never played a single minor-league game above the Double-A level. With that in mind, it appears that the switch-hitting infielder could be in line to see significant playing time at the Triple-A level in 2021.

Regardless of how the minor-leagues are formatted next year, the Red Sox will still have their Triple-A affiliate in Worcester, Mass. It remains to be seen if the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will also derail the 2021 minor-league season, but assuming it doesn’t, Arauz should be part of a solid mix of infielders there that could include the likes of Jeter Downs, C.J. Chatham, and Chad De La Guerra.

Unlike those three, Arauz already has some major-league experience. And although he did not exactly shine this season, he did show some flashes with the bat (went 12-for-30 at the plate from Aug. 10-23) and proved that with time, he could become capable of adequately playing multiple positions (2B, 3B, SS) around the infield.

Arauz was one of 28 Red Sox players to make their club debuts and one of six to make their major-league debuts this season. Considering he is presumably under team control through 2025, it should it be fascinating to see what Arauz’s role with Boston looks like for 2021 and beyond in the coming months.

Red Sox Trade Rumors: Astros Have Inquired About Matt Barnes, Rays Have Interest in Christian Vazquez as Monday’s Deadline Looms

The 2020 Major League Baseball season has reached its final weekend leading up until the August 31 trade deadline. With that, a few key contributors on the Red Sox popped up in trade rumors on Friday.

According to The Athletic’s Eno Sarris and Brittany Ghiroli, the Astros have “inquired” on right-hander Matt Barnes, while the Rays “have interest” in catcher Christian Vazquez “with early discussions centering around Tampa’s pitching prospects.”

Barnes and Vazquez, who are both 30 years old, are under club control through the end of the 2021 season, with Vazquez having a $7 million team option for 2022.

Coming into Friday with the second-worst record in the American League at 10-21, the Sox seem primed to be sellers between now and Monday afternoon. They made that much apparent last week by dealing both Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman to the Phillies.

Barnes, who is good friends with both Hembree and Workman, could be the next Boston reliever to get moved.

Through his first 12 appearances of the year, the UCONN product has struggled thus far, posting a 6.00 ERA and 6.65 FIP over 12 innings of work. Still, Barnes was among the nastiest relievers in the American League in 2019, and a pitching-savvy club such as the Astros, led by renowned pitching coach Brent Strom, may be able to unlock something in the fireballer.

Vazquez, meanwhile, has a case to be made that he is more valuable to the Red Sox than Barnes is seeing how he anchors an ever-changing pitching staff.

Coming off a career year last season, the Puerto Rico native entered the weekend owning a .260/.295/.430 slash line to go along with four home runs and 12 RBI through 28 games and 105 plate appearances.

Just recently, Vazquez expressed his desire to end his career with the Red Sox, the organization he was originally drafted by 12 years ago.

“I think it’s going to be sad if I left Boston because all my career we’re here,” he said this past Tuesday. “From (2008), a young kid, I’ve been here. Only one organization. And my goal is retire here. That’s my goal in my career. Be part of one organization, have one jersey on my chest all my career. But we don’t control that.”

If chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, who used to work for the Rays, were to entertain trading Vazquez to Tampa Bay, who have the top farm system in baseball according to Baseball America, not only could the Sox possibly get a quality pitching prospect back, but they could also open the door to sign free agent-to-be J.T. Realmuto this winter if the Phillies don’t re-sign the All-Star backstop first.

That is just a distinct possibility, however, and Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy even classified Vazquez as someone “we want in Boston” when speaking with NESN’s Tom Caron on Wednesday.

With less than 72 hours to go until the trade deadline, Bloom and Co. are certainly on the clock. Even with all that has transpired over the past few days, it would be quite surprising to see the Red Sox not make any additional moves by Monday.

Blue Jays to Play Majority of 2020 Home Games in Buffalo, Team Announces

The Blue Jays will play a majority of their home games this season in Buffalo, N.Y., the club officially announced Friday.

Per said statement, the Jays will be taking up residence at Sahlen Field, where the Buffalo Bisons, the club’s Triple-A affiliate, play.

This news comes two days after Toronto’s initial plan to play the majority of its 2020 home games at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pa. fell through after the Pennsylvania Department of Health denied the club’s request to share the ballpark with the Pirates this year while citing the risks that would involve.

Baltimore’s Camden Yards, home of the Orioles, and Dunedin’s TD Ballpark, the Jays’ spring training home, had also been viewed as possible contingency plans for Toronto, but due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in Baltimore County and Florida, those ideas were seemingly thrown out the window.

Instead, after the Canadian government ruled last week that the Blue Jays could not play at Rogers Centre this season, the country’s lone MLB team finally has a home for 2020.

The Blue Jays are scheduled to play the Red Sox 10 times during this truncated 60-game season, and three of those games will now take place in Buffalo from August 25 through August 27 if all goes according to plan.

Zack Godley Works Three Scoreless, No-Hit Innings in Red Sox’ Final Exhibition Game Before Opening Day

In their final tune-up before the start of the 2020 regular season, the Red Sox only managed to play 4 1/2 innings of exhibition baseball against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night due to the weather. If games were official after only 4 1/2 innings, the Sox would have lost by a final score of 2-0, but it’s not like that matters too much anyway.

Zack Godley got the start for Boston in this one, and he made a solid case for a spot in the back end of the Sox’ rotation by working three scoreless, no-hit innings to go along with just one walk and two strikeouts on the night.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 35, 24 of which were strikes, the veteran right-hander turned to his curveball exactly 40% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday while also topping out at 91 MPH with his cutter, a pitch he threw 16 times.

If things align the way he wants them to, Godley could open the season as Boston’s No. 4 or 5 starter, meaning his first official start in a Red Sox uniform would come in next week’s interleague series against the New York Mets.

In relief of Godley, Brian Johnson was the only other Sox hurler to get some work in on Wednesday due to the weather, and he did not look his best given the fact that he served up a two-run blast to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on a hanging, 3-2 curveball down the heart of the plate in the top half of the fourth.

Still, if there is any positives to take away from the left-hander’s rather rough outing, it’s that he tossed a scoreless fifth inning right before this game was going to be called.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup, fresh off plating six runs on Tuesday, was matched up against Blue Jays right-hander Trent Thornton to begin things on Wednesday.

As it turns out, the Boston bats were only able to muster one hit off of Thornton, a two-out single from former Blue Jay Kevin Pillar in the third, and another hit off of Toronto reliever Shun Yamaguchi in the fourth. That being a two-out single off the bat of Xander Bogaerts.

Other than that, not much to report on seeing how Mother Nature cut this exhibition contest short.

Some observations from this one:

Should Zack Godley start over Brian Johnson? The answer at this point seems to be leaning towards ‘yes.’

Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette is pretty good.

Next up for the Red Sox, the games finally start to count. Opening Day is this Friday and a three-game weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles is on tap.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will be making his first career Opening Day start for Boston, while lefty Tommy Milone will be doing the same for Baltimore.

The Sox won 63% of their games against the O’s last year. That would translate to six wins in 10 games against their divisional foes in 2020.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Real baseball is back, folks.

 

J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland Club Homers as Red Sox Fall to Blue Jays in First of Two Exhibition Games at Fenway Park

For the first time in over four months, the Red Sox played a baseball game against another team on Tuesday, as the club hosted the Blue Jays in the first of two exhibition contests held at a fan-less Fenway Park.

Getting the start for Boston in this one was Ryan Weber, who is lined up to be Boston’s No. 3 starter to open the 2020 season.

Working six innings against Toronto, the right-hander yielded four runs, all of which were earned, on six hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts on the night.

The first pair of those runs came in the top half of the third, when Weber allowed Danny Jansen and Bo Bichette to reach base before Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. drove them in on a sacrifice fly and run-scoring groundout.

Fast forward to the sixth, after Weber had settled into a bit of a rhythm, Rowdy Tellez put a stop to that by clubbing a two-out, two-run homer off the 29-year-old to put any hopes of a quality start to bed.

Still, Weber stuck with it, retired the next hitter he faced in Teoscar Hernandez, and ended his outing on a somewhat more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 86 (58 strikes), the Florida native threw his sinker and curveball a combined 51 times on Tuesday. He got six swings and misses on those pitches while topping out at 89.1 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw just three times.

As previously mentioned, Weber’s next start should come on Sunday afternoon against the Orioles right back at Fenway.

In relief of Weber, Matt Barnes got the call for the seventh and served up a solo shot to Derek Fisher in an otherwise clean frame, Brandon Workman tossed a perfect eighth, and Ryan Brasier saw a one-run lead for his side turn into a two-run deficit as he surrendered three runs on two hits, one of which being a two-run blast off the bat of Fisher.

By the time Brasier had ended the ninth, the Red Sox were trailing 8-6, which would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against top Blue Jays prospect Nate Pearson, who is regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 3 pitching prospect in all of baseball.

Xander Bogaerts kicked off the scoring against the 23-year-old right-hander right away in the first inning by ripping an RBI single to center to plate J.D. Martinez from second and Mitch Moreland followed by clobbering a three-run homer over the Red Sox bullpen in right field. Just like that, it was 4-0 Boston.

Later on in the fifth, Andrew Benintendi greeted new Blue Jays hurler Ryan Borucki with a one-out double off the Monster, and Martinez, who had been slugging during Summer Camp workouts, picked up where he left off and tattooed a first-pitch sinker on the inner half of the plate to the opposite field. Vintage stuff right there.

That two-run big fly put Martinez’s side up four runs at 6-2, but as already mentioned, Sox pitching kind of fell apart and 8-6 Blue Jays would go on to be your final.

Some observations from this loss:

I’m blocked by @RedSoxStats on Twitter now, so I won’t be able to put the neat stuff he tweets during and after games on here anymore.

Look at Rafael Devers:

Alex Verdugo has a cannon for a left arm:

It was only an exhibition game, but as you have probably already heard or read, Tuesday’s loss was very reminiscent of a game the 2019 Red Sox would give away. The pitching staff, rotation and bullpen alike, is going to have a lot of pressure on them to perform, especially when the lineup isn’t bringing in a ton of runs.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s *hopefully* the last exhibition game of the year against the Jays.

Left-hander Brian Johnson will get the start for Boston as he looks to compete for a rotation spot, while right-hander Trent Thornton will be doing the same for Toronto.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

 

Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi Tosses Six Solid Innings in Final Tune-Up Before Opening Day

In his final tune-up before his first career Opening Day start this coming Friday, Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi put together six solid innings of work in Sunday night’s intrasquad game at Fenway Park.

Over those six frames for the Home Sox, Eovaldi yielded two runs on four hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts on the evening.

Both of those runs surrendered by the 30-year-old came in the top half of the third, an inning in which Eovaldi served up a solo homer to Cesar Puello and an RBI single to Jackie Bradley Jr. while only being able to record one out before it was called for pitch count purposes.

Other than that shaky frame though, Eovaldi was rather impressive, as he retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced to end his outing on a positive note.

When speaking with reporters via Zoom postgame, Eovaldi said that his third-inning struggles were “a little bit mechanical” and that his splitter and breaking ball were “better towards the end” of his start.

Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke agreed with that sentiment, telling reporters in a separate postgame Zoom call that he thought Eovaldi’s last two innings “were really good.”

In terms of where he is at ahead of the start of the 2020 season, the Houston native added that he’s “excited” to start on Opening Day and he has no recollection of making any sort of other Opening Day start during his high school or minor-league career.

In an ideal world, Eovaldi would likely be the Sox’ No. 3 starter behind left-handers Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez. But, with Sale out for the year while recovering from Tommy John surgery and Rodriguez out for the beginning stages of the season while recovering from COVID-19, the flame-throwing righty has been thrust into the spotlight.

Eovaldi has certainly been the subject of plenty of criticism since he signed a four-year, $68 million deal with Boston two Decembers ago, but he now has the chance to silence some of his doubters starting on Friday night, when he’ll be opposite Orioles left-hander John Means on Opening Day at Fenway Park.

First pitch for that game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

Jonathan Arauz Again Making Case for Spot on Red Sox’ Opening Day Roster

Jonathan Arauz is one of a handful of players who are on the Red Sox’ roster bubble as the 2020 season nears. The 21-year-old was selected by Boston in last December’s Rule 5 draft, meaning he currently has a spot on the club’s 26-man roster.

Prior to spring training being shut down in March, it looked as though the Panamanian-born infielder had a legitimate shot to make Boston’s Opening Day roster as a utilityman off the bench. Flash forward four months, and it appears that much remains true as Summer Camp winds down for the Red Sox and Opening Day looms.

Starting at second base for the Home Sox in Saturday’s four-inning intrasquad game at Fenway Park, Arauz went 1-for-2 with the biggest hit of the night, as he greeted newest Red Sox hurler Zack Godley by taking the right-hander deep to right field for a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom half of the fourth.

That two-run blast gave the Home Sox a 2-0 victory, and it certainly improved Arauz’s chances of making his first career Opening Day roster as well.

Even before Saturday’s impressive showing, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke sounded pleased with what he’s seen from the switch-hitter, who has never played above Double-A ball in the minors, thus far at Summer Camp when speaking to reporters earlier in the week.

“We like Jonathan,” the Sox skipper said via a Zoom call on Friday. “I’m liking what I see offensively being a switch-hitter. He’s patient. He sees the ball well. And on defense, he’s got good hands. He’s got a really good arm, an accurate arm. His mind doesn’t speed up on him. He’s pretty slow thinking, which you need to be. And for a young age, I would say he’s pretty advanced that way. We’re surprised that he’s handling being with these guys really well. So I’m hoping he can help us some this year. And certainly the future is also what we’re looking at. But those are hard questions. Hopefully we get through this and we’ll be really happy that we have him here for a long time.”

Arauz, formerly with the Astros’ organization, became the first player taken by the Red Sox in the major-league phase of a Rule 5 draft since Josh Rutledge in 2016.

Boston paid Houston $100,000 in order to make that happen, and if they feel as though Arauz is no longer worthy of a spot on the active roster at any point this season, they will have to offer him back to the ‘Stros for $50,000 if he clears waivers.

If Houston does not want Arauz back in this scenario, the Sox would then be able to option him to the minor leagues, which in 2020 would essentially be the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, I think.

It’s definitely a confusing process, but as a soon-to-be 22-year-old who is regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 30 prospect in Boston’s farm system, Arauz should be someone the Red Sox want to hold on to, even if it may be tough to find him playing time at the major-league level this year.

 

Red Sox to Host Blue Jays in Pair of Exhibition Games Prior to Start of 2020 Season

Before *hopefully* opening the truncated 2020 season against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on July 24th, the Red Sox will host the Toronto Blue Jays in a pair of exhibition games on July 21st and 22nd.

As The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham mentions in the above tweet, both Summer Camp games are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. eastern time, so they will both likely be aired on NESN since the Sox decided to push back the start time of home night games for whatever reason.

Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said earlier Thursday that the team would have an announcement about playing in exhibition game(s) against another club within the next few days.

Major-league clubs are allowed to play up to three exhibition games before the start of the 2020 season. Unless something gets scheduled fairly soon, it appears that Boston will stick to two preseason contests against the Jays at Fenway Park.

Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things, but this news somewhat reminds me of when the Sox traveled to Montreal for a pair of exhibition games hosted by the Blue Jays four years ago, right before the start of the 2016 season.

 

Baseball America: ‘Difficult to Gauge’ Who Red Sox Are Targeting With Top Draft Pick

The 2020 MLB Draft is less than two days away, and according to Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo, “it’s difficult to gauge what the Red Sox are targeting” with their top pick at No. 17 overall.

Collazo has the Sox taking Harvard-Westlake High School (Calif.) outfielder Pete-Crow Armstrong in his latest mock draft for BA. You can read more about Crow-Armstrong here.

Crow-Armstrong, 18, was the best hitter available at the time Boston made their pick in this mock draft, but as Collazo notes, the club “could also be intrigued with college arms like Cade Cavalli or Garrett Crochet.”

Despite that possibility, it seems like the Red Sox, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni, are locked in on targeting a prep prospect with high upside with their top pick in this year’s draft.

Jesuit High School (Ore.) right-hander Mick Abel has been a popular pick to go the Sox in other mock drafts, but some seem to believe that Bloom and Co. are headed in another direction in terms of playing position.

One of those guys is The Athletic’s Keith Law, who in a web chat from last week said there’s “zero chance” that Boston takes a high school arm in the first round. That coming a day after he wrote that he has “heard the Red Sox would like to grab one of the top high school position players with this pick, assuming the right one falls.”

Law also has Crow-Armstrong going to the Red Sox in his latest mock draft, for what it’s worth.

Whoever they wind up taking, it will be of the utmost importance that the Sox hit on their first-round selection. That being the case since they were stripped of their second-round pick due to their illegal stealing of signs in 2018, resulting in their total slot value for this year’s draft being capped at just $5,129,900.