Longtime Red Sox farmhand Jantzen Witte signs minor-league deal with Mariners

Lost in the madness that saw Francisco Lindor get traded to the Mets and Tomoyuki Sugano return to Japan, former Red Sox farmhand Jantzen Witte signed a minor-league contract with the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.

Witte, who turned 31 on Monday, was originally selected by Boston in the 24th round of the 2013 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University.

Before the 2020 minor-league season was lost due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the infielder had put together a solid 2019 campaign between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.

Over 118 total games with both clubs, Witte posted a .271/.333/.390 slash line to go along with nine home runs and 51 RBI on the year while seeing time at first base, second base, third base, left field, and even an inning of mop-up duty on the mound.

Perhaps even more important than his play on the field, though, is the fact that the Dallas-area native had proven to be a vital veteran presence for some of the organization’s younger minor-leaguers. And he did so while seemingly being on the cusp of getting called up to the majors.

The Athletic’s Chad Jennings highlighted this trait of Witte’s in a fascinating story back in March, in the middle of the first version of spring training.

“He’s a freaking really good player,” Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec said of Witte, his spring training roommate, when speaking to Jennings. “And he’s a glue guy for a clubhouse. So, those guys are special … He’s a really good balance of care-free, but still getting his shit done when he needs to get his shit done. Never says a mean thing.”

In addition to Dalbec, Sox minor-leaguers such as Josh Ockimey, C.J. Chatham, and Chad De La Guerra, all of whom have shared the infield with Witte at one point in their professional careers, had positive things to say about their teammate as well.

Ockimey: “(Coaches) always talk about how to be a professional. But it’s different when you have a guy like him to show you how to be a professional.”

Chatham: “He’s the guy you go to when you’re not sure if something is right or wrong. There’s little things in baseball that can annoy people that (you don’t know) when you’re young. You just ask him, and he always has the right answer.”

De La Guerra: “I think he’s probably the biggest clubhouse guy, the most important one, for Pawtucket. He’s super popular. I think everybody sees him the same way. He’s just one of those guys. He’s probably even seen the same as the coaching staff. There’s no difference.”

Before becoming a minor-league free agent in November, Witte was one of the last members of the Red Sox’ 2013 draft class who was still with the organization, as noted by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

Witte originally signed with Boston for significantly less than $100,000 as a fifth-year senior out of TCU. He appeared in 661 games across six minor-league levels spanning seven seasons as a member of the Red Sox.

All the best to Witte as he embarks on this new chapter of his career with the Mariners. It would appear that he will have the opportunity to remain in the game even after his playing days come to an end.

(Photo of Jantzen Witte: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Brian Johnson Tosses Three Innings as Red Sox Win Third Straight

After squeaking past the Braves on Monday night, the Red Sox won their third consecutive one-run contest on Tuesday, as they topped the St. Louis Cardinals by a final score of 3-2 at JetBlue Park to improve to 8-10-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Making his second start and fifth overall appearance of the spring for Boston was Brian Johnson, who recently survived the second round of roster cuts as a non-roster invitee over the weekend.

Working the first three innings on Tuesday, the left-hander yielded two runs, both of which were earned, on three hits and three walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Those two Cardinals tallies came on one swing of the bat right away in the top half of the first inning of this one, when after loading the bases with two outs in the frame, Johnson served up a two-run single to Brad Miller to put his side in an early hole.

Other than that one blip though, the 29-year-old fanned Harrison Bader to retire the side in the first before sitting down four of the final six hitters he faced.

Johnson’s next outing could come within the next few days depending on whether or not he pitches out of the bullpen.

In relief of Johnson, fellow left-hander Josh Taylor got the call in the fourth for his fourth appearance of the spring, and he worked a 1-2-3 inning.

From there, Matt Barnes punched out the side in a perfect fifth, Colten Brewer fanned three and scattered one hit over 2 2/3 innings of work to eventually pick up the winning decision, and Robinson Leyer recorded the final out of the eighth before stranding the tying run at third in a scoreless ninth to secure the 3-2 victory.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland, Kevin Pillar, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Jonathan Arauz was matched up against a formidable opponent in Cardinals ace right-hander Jack Flaherty to begin things on Tuesday.

Despite getting on base five times against him through the first three innings, nothing came against Flaherty. In fact, it wasn’t until Flaherty’s first inning off the mound when the Boston bats got it going.

There, in their second trip through the lineup, Pillar led things off against new Cardinals reliever Johan Oviedo with a double off the left field wall. Vazquez followed with a two-base hit of his own, this one plating Pillar to cut the two-run deficit in half at 2-1.

Fast forward to the sixth, and Jantzen Witte came up to the plate with the bases loaded ahead of him, and he delivered in his lone plate appearance by plating two of those runners on a rwo-run single down the right field line.

That base hit drove in both Pillar and De La Guerra to put the Red Sox ahead 3-2, which would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Xander Bogaerts is 0-for-his-first-12 with seven strikeouts so far this spring.

Kevin Pillar, meanwhile, has a .932 OPS through his first 29 plate appearances this spring.

Jonathan Lucroy on Tuesday: 0-for-1 with one walk. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s another game under the lights against the Rays in Port Charlotte on Wednesday.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Dylan Covey will do the same for Tampa Bay.

Rodriguez is coming off an outing in which he fanned four over four two-run innings against the Braves last Friday.

Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, and Austin Brice are also expected to pitch.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 6:35 PM EDT on NESN.