4 Red Sox prospects recognized in Baseball America’s top 100 rankings heading into 2022 season

The Red Sox have four of the top 100 prospects in baseball, according to the preseason rankings Baseball America released on Wednesday.

Of the 100 players who were selected, Red Sox prospects such as shortstop Marcelo Mayer (No. 15), first baseman Triston Casas (No. 19), second baseman Nick Yorke (No. 31), and outfielder Jarren Duran (No. 91) all made the cut.

Mayer, 19, was Boston’s top selection in last summer’s draft. The Eastlake High School (Chula Vista, Calif.) product was taken with the fourth overall pick and ultimately signed with the Sox for $6.64 million as opposed to honoring his commitment to the University of Southern California.

After being assigned to the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox out of the gate, Mayer got his pro career off to a solid start. The right-handed hitting infielder slashed .275/.377/.440 with four doubles, one triple, three home runs, 17 RBIs, 25 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 15 walks, and 27 strikeouts over 26 games (107 plate appearances) in the FCL.

Casas, 22, became Boston’s top selection in the 2018 draft when the club took him with the 26th overall pick out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.).

The 2021 season proved to be an eventful one for Casas, who played at two different minor-league levels, for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics, and for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League.

Between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester last year, the left-handed slugger batted a stout .279/.394/.484 to go along with 15 doubles, three triples, 14 home runs, 59 RBIs, 63 runs scored, seven stolen bases, 57 walks, and 71 strikeouts over 86 games spanning 371 trips to the plate. Elsewhere, he was recognized as the top first baseman in the Summer Games as well as an Arizona Fall League All-Star.

This is not the first time Casas has been recognized by Baseball America as one of the game’s top prospect. In fact, the 6-foot-4, 252 pounder has effectively been one of — if not the best prospect in the Sox’ farm system since joining the organization and could very well make his big-league debut at some point in 2022.

The same cannot be said for Yorke, who is fresh off his first full season in pro ball after being taken by the Red Sox with the 17th overall selection in the shortened 2020 draft out of Archbishop Mitty High School (San Jose, Calif).

At that time, Boston’s selection of Yorke was met with much surprise since the infielder was not regarded as one of the country’s top draft-eligible prospects. It now appears as though the Red Sox made a smart decision by drafting Yorke when they did.

After drawing praise from the likes of Alex Cora throughout spring training, Yorke initially got off to a slow start with Low-A Salem, but he turned things around and wound up tearing the cover off the ball across both Class-A levels in 2021.

In 97 total games between Salem and High-A Greenville, the right-handed hitting 19-year-old slashed a scorching .325/.412/.516 with 20 doubles, five triples, 14 homers, 62 runs driven in, 76 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, 52 walks, and 69 strikeouts over 442 plate appearances.

Finally, we arrive at Duran, the lone Red Sox prospect on this last who was not selected by the club in the first round of his respective draft. He was instead taken in the seventh round of the 2018 draft and opened the 2021 season in Worcester.

Duran got off to a hot start with the WooSox as he batted .270/.365/.561 (144 wRC+) through his first 46 games (219 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. That impressive stretch resulted in his first big-league call-up in mid-July, though he struggled to make the most of that opportunity.

In his two stints with the Red Sox, the speedy 25-year-old hit an underwhelming .215/.241/.336 with three doubles, two triples, two home runs, 10 RBI, 17 runs scored, two stolen bases, four walks, and 40 strikeouts over 33 games and 112 plate appearances. He was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list on September 3 after testing positive for the virus and did not appear in another major-league contest.

Despite the disappointing debut, there is still plenty of upside with Duran, and his speed has plenty to do with that. With that being said though, the Red Sox’ outfield picture is already quite crowded at the moment, so it may be difficult for the left-handed hitter to find consistent playing time in Boston to begin the 2022 season.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, this is the first time since 2016 in which Baseball America has included at least four Red Sox prospects in its preseason top-100 list. Heading into the 2016 season, the likes of Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Anderson Espinoza, and Michael Kopech were among the publication’s top 100.

The fact that the Red Sox have as many as four prospects featured in Baseball America’s top-100 list speaks to how much the team’s farm system has improved since Chaim Bloom was named chief baseball officer in October 2019.

Given how all four of Mayer, Casas, Yorke, and Duran were drafted by the Sox, it also speaks to how well-run the club’s amateur scouting department is run. Vice president of scouting Mike Rikard can be credited with the selections of Casas and Duran, while director of amateur scouting Paul Toboni can be credited with the selections of Mayer and Yorke.

Of course, the area scouts who initially scouted these prospects when they were still amateurs deserve recognition as well. J.J. Altobelli is credited with signing Mayer, Willie Romay is credited with signing Casas, Josh Labandeira is credited with signing Yorke, and Justin Horowitz is credited with signing Duran.

(Picture of Marcelo Mayer: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Red Sox roster moves: Jarren Duran, Jonathan Araúz reinstated from COVID-19 related injured list, optioned to Triple-A Worcester; Geoff Hartlieb, Yacksel Rios designated for assignment

The Red Sox have reinstated outfielder Jarren Duran and infielder Jonathan Arauz from the COVID-19 related injured list and have optioned both of them to Triple-A Worcester.

In order to make room on the 40-man roster for Duran and Arauz, right-handers Geoff Hartlieb and Yacksel Rios were designated for assignment, the club announced on Thursday.

Though the Sox are off on Thursday, they remain active ahead of their pivotal three-game weekend series against the Yankees that begins at Fenway Park on Friday night.

Duran, who turned 25 earlier this month, was originally placed on the COVID-19 related injured list shortly before his birthday after exhibiting symptoms and testing positive for the virus on September 3.

Following a mandatory 10-day quarantine period at a Boston hotel, Duran was sent out on a rehab assignment with Worcester last Friday. The speedy outfielder went 4-for-13 (.231) at the plate with one double, one RBI, and three strikeouts over four games for the WooSox before officially being reinstated from the COVID IL.

Now that he is considered fully healthy, Duran represents an intriguing option for the Red Sox moving forward. Given how he has struggled to the tune of a .215/.241/.336 slash line at the major-league level since debuting with Boston in July, it’s unlikely the left-handed hitter could garner legitimate playing time– especially when you consider how crowded the Red Sox outfield is.

Still, one of Duran’s standout tools has always been his speed, and that speed could help the former seventh-round draft pick earn a call back up to the Sox in order to serve as a base-stealing specialist off the bench.

Arauz, meanwhile, was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list on September 10 while the Red Sox were in Chicago, though he never tested positive for the virus despite displaying symptoms.

Since he tested negative for the coronavirus on multiple occasions, Arauz’s quarantine period lasted less than 10 days, as he was sent out on a rehab assignment with Worcester this past Saturday.

In his last three games with the WooSox, the 23-year-old switch-hitter has gone 3-for-10 (.300) with a double, two runs scored, and a strikeout while primarily playing second base and third base.

With Duran and Arauz both coming off the COVID IL on Thursday, the Red Sox now have just three players sidelined on account of the virus in Phillips Valdez, Yairo Munoz, and Danny Santana.

All three of Valdez, Munoz, and Santana were present for Boston’s team picture day on Wednesday, so it appears as though they could be activated soon as well.

On the other side of this roster move, the Sox designated both Hartlieb and Rios for assignment, thus removing the pair of righties from their 40-man roster.

Hartlieb, 27, was initially claimed off waivers by the Red Sox on September 4, just two days after he had been designated by the Mets.

Promptly optioned and assigned to Worcester, Hartlieb appeared in just two games for the WooSox, allowing a total of one unearned run on two walks and two hit batsmen over two innings of work separated by nine days.

Rios, on the other hand, was originally acquired from the Mariners in exchange for cash considerations back on June 14 and was added to the active roster two days later.

In 20 relief appearances out of the Red Sox bullpen, the 28-year-old out of Puerto Rico posted a 3.70 ERA and 4.89 FIP to go along with 21 strikeouts to 14 walks over 24 1/3 total innings of work.

Boston optioned Rios to Worcester on August 14 in order to accommodate the additions of Chris Sale and Christian Vazquez to the major-league roster. He was later placed on the minor-league injured list on Aug. 22 and was held out of action for three weeks.

While with the WooSox, though, Rios put up a 3.60 ERA, a 1.77 FIP, and 7:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in four outings (five innings pitched) coming into play on Thursday.

The Red Sox will now have the next seven days to either trade, release, or waive Hartlieb and Rios.

Per MLB Trade Rumors’ Anthony Franco, Hartlieb can still be optioned through the end of the 2022 season, so him getting claimed by another club is not out of the question.

As for Rios, he has the right to elect free agency if he goes unclaimed on waivers since he has previously been outrighted in his career.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran tests positive for COVID-19

Jarren Duran has tested positive for COVID-19, Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced following Friday night’s 8-5 win over the Indians at Fenway Park.

Leading up to Friday’s series opener, Duran had been penciled in to bat seventh and start in center field for the Sox, but the top prospect was scratched from Boston’s lineup a few hours before first pitch on account of exhibiting COVID-like symptoms.

Later placed on the COVID-19 related injured list so that catcher Connor Wong could be recalled from Triple-A Worcester, it turns out Duran has indeed tested positive for coronavirus.

“He’ll be out for a while,” Cora said Friday night in regards to the rookie outfielder.

Duran, who turns 25 on Sunday, becomes the ninth player the Red Sox have had to place on the COVID-related IL since last Friday as well as the eighth player to test positive.

Enrique Hernandez and Christian Arroyo tested positive for COVID-19 while the Sox were in Cleveland, and Martin Perez, Matt Barnes, Hirokazu Sawamura, Josh Taylor, Xander Bogaerts, and Yairo Munoz all tested positive while the team was in Tampa Bay.

On top of that, quality control coach Ramon Vazquez and strength and conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose have also returned positive results, while Josh Taylor and first base coach Tom Goodwin are quarantining since they were identified as close contacts.

Because he tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, Duran will be forced to quarantine for the next 10 days, meaning the soonest the speedster could return to action would be Monday September 13.

Of course, it remains to be seen if Duran will be able to come back after the minimum 10 days, or if he will require more time. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox place Jarren Duran on COVID-19 related injured list, recall Connor Wong from Triple-A Worcester

Before opening up a three-game weekend series against the Indians at Fenway Park on Friday night, the Red Sox placed outfielder Jarren Duran on the COVID-19 related injured list.

In a corresponding move, catcher Connor Wong was recalled from Triple-A Worcester, the club announced earlier Friday evening.

Duran, who turns 25 on Sunday, was originally slated to bat seventh and start in center field for the Sox in Friday’s series opener, but was later scratched on account of his feeling under the weather.

“Duran is not feeling well, so he’s going through with his testing,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said when speaking with reporters. “Obviously, he won’t be here with us today. We’ll know more hopefully later today or in the third inning, I guess, you know? We’ll know. But he doesn’t feel great, so we’ll go through the process.”

The speedy top prospect previously spent time on the COVID-19 related injured list when the Sox were in Toronto last month, but did not test positive for the virus. He was also optioned to Worcester last Tuesday, though he was quickly recalled when fellow outfielder Hunter Renfroe was placed on the bereavement list.

At the moment, it is not yet known if Duran has tested positive for coronavirus this time around. If that is the case, however, the 24-year-old would be forced into a mandatory quarantine that would keep him out of action for a minimum of 10 days.

Regardless, Duran becomes the ninth player the Red Sox have had to place on the COVID-related IL since last Friday, as he joins the likes of Enrique Hernandez, Christian Arroyo, Martin Perez, Matt Barnes, Hirokazu Sawamura, Josh Taylor, Xander Bogaerts, and Yairo Munoz.

Hernandez, Arroyo, Perez, Barnes, Sawamura, Bogaerts, and Munoz — as well as quality control coach Ramon Vazquez and strength and conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose — have all tested positive, while Taylor and first base coach Tom Goodwin have been away from the team since they were identified as close contacts.

Wong, on the other hand, will join the Red Sox for the sixth time this season and for the first time since mid-August.

While up with Boston on several occasions this season, Wong has gone 4-for-13 (.308) at the plate with one triple, one RBI, three runs scored, one walk, and seven strikeouts over six games (14 plate appearances) dating back to June 22.

In a torrid month of August with the WooSox, the 25-year-old backstop slashed an impressive .372/.386/.651 (174 wRC+) to go along with three home runs and 11 RBI in 11 games spanning 44 trips to the plate.

Regarded by Baseball America as the No. 19 prospect in Boston’s farm system, Wong becomes the third catcher on the Red Sox’ 28-man major-league roster behind Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Jarren Duran scratched from Red Sox lineup after exhibiting COVID-like symptoms

Jarren Duran was originally batting seventh and starting in center field in Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s lineup for the team’s series opener against the Indians at Fenway Park on Friday night, but has since been scratched.

The reason being, Duran is feeling under the weather — as he is experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms and has subsequently been sent home while the Red Sox await his test results.

“Duran is not feeling well, so he’s going through with his testing,” Cora said when speaking with reporters earlier Friday evening. “Obviously, he won’t be here with us today. We’ll know more hopefully later today or in the third inning, I guess, you know? We’ll know. But he doesn’t feel great, so we’ll go through the process.”

Duran, who was most recently recalled from Triple-A Worcester last Thursday to take fellow outfielder Hunter Renfroe’s spot on Boston’s major-league roster, previously spent two days on the COVID-19 related injured list in early August.

At that time, the soon-to-be 25-year-old top prospect had been exhibiting COVID-like symptoms while the Sox were in Toronto, but did not test positive for the virus.

If Duran were to test positive for COVID-19 this time around, though, he would become the eighth Red Sox player to do since last Friday.

Enrique Hernandez, Christian Arroyo, Martin Perez, Matt Barnes, Hirokazu Sawamura, Xander Bogaerts, and Yairo Munoz are all currently on the COVID-19 related injured list on account of testing positive, while Josh Taylor is on there since he was identified as a close contact.

Additionally, quality control coach Ramon Vazquez and strength and conditioning coach Kiyoshi Momose  both netted positive test results, while first base coach Tom Goodwin — like Taylor — is quarantining as a close contact.

With Duran being removed from Boston’s starting lineup on Friday, Alex Verdugo has moved from left field to center field, Kyle Schwarber has moved from first base to left field, and Bobby Dalbec has taken over at first base.

Here is how the rest of the Red Sox will be lining up behind right-hander Nathan Eovaldi as they look to kick off the long weekend by extending their winning streak to three consecutive games.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Jarren Duran comes through with game-winning RBI single as Red Sox halt skid with 3-2 victory over Rays

After wrapping up their first losing month of the season on Tuesday, the Red Sox were able to open the month of September with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field on Wednesday night.

Chris Sale, making his fourth start of the season and fourth since returning from Tommy John surgery, was not at his sharpest while going up against his toughest opponent to date, but was still effective nonetheless.

Over six solid innings of work to set a new season-high in that category, Sale surrendered just two runs — both of which were earned on six hits, two walks, and two hit batsman to go along with three strikeouts on the evening.

In addition to that, the Sox gave Sale an early lead to work with in the top half of the second.

Matched up against Rays starter Drew Rasmussen, Alex Verdugo ripped a one-out triple to center field and was promptly driven in on an RBI single off the bat of Christian Vazquez.

Both runs Sale gave up, meanwhile, came on one swing of the bat an inning later, as the veteran left-hander served up a two-run home run to Wander Franco with two outs in the inning.

Besides that one blunder that put Boston in a 2-1 hole, Sale managed to maneuver his way around some traffic on the base paths to the point where he kept the Tampa Bay offense off the board over his final three innings pitched.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 95 (57 strikes) to set another season-high, the 32-year-old hurler did not factor into Wednesday’s decision, though this particular outing may be his most encouraging of the season thus far.

Moments after Sale’s outing came to an end, Vazquez continued to build on his productive night at the plate by demolishing a one-out, 389-foot solo shot off Rays reliever and former teammate Collin McHugh on the very first pitch he saw in the top of the seventh.

Vazquez’s sixth big fly of the season pulled the Red Sox even with the Rays at two runs apiece, and the score would remain that way for quite some time.

In relief of Sale, Garrett Whitlock got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen to begin things in the seventh and immediately gave up a leadoff double to Joey Wendle.

Wendle proceeded to advance to third on a fly out to center field, but also attempted to score from third on a sharply-hit ground ball to the left side of the infield off the bat of Randy Arozarena.

Rafael Devers, however, had different plans, as he — with the help from Vazquez behind the plate — gunned down Wendle at home to preserve the stalemate.

In the eighth, Whitlock was put into just about the exact same situation when he yielded another leadoff double to Franco, who moved up to third on a groundout.

Once more, though, the Rays’ base running bailed out the Red Sox, as Franco attempted to score on a grounder from Manuel Margot, but was instead thrown out at home by shortstop Jonathan Arauz.

Having halted Tampa Bay’s momentum in two consecutive innings, the Boston bats broke out in their half of the ninth, where Devers proved to be the catalyst by lacing a leadoff single off Pete Fairbanks.

Devers was able to move up into scoring position on an infield single from a hustling Verdugo, ultimately putting the potential go-ahead run at second base with two outs for Jarren Duran.

Duran, at that point, was 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts, but came through when it mattered most by sneaking an RBI single through the right side of the infield to bring in Devers from second to make it a 3-2 game.

Given a brand-new one-run lead to protect, Adam Ottavino got the call for the ninth, and he shut the door on the Rays by retiring the side in order to notch his 11th save of the season and secure the 3-2 victory for the Sox.

With the win, the Red Sox snap their three-game losing streak to improve to 76-59 on the season as well as 4-0 in games started by Sale. Their lead over the Athletics for the second American League Wild Card spot also increased to two full games.

Next up: Rodriguez vs. McClanahan

The Red Sox will send left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound on Thursday as they look to head back to Boston having secured a four-game series split with their division rivals.

The Rays, meanwhile, will turn to fellow southpaw Shane McClanahan, who will be making his 21st start of the season for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Red Sox recall Tanner Houck from Triple-A Worcester, option Jarren Duran

Before opening up a three-game series against the Twins at Fenway Park on Tuesday night, the Red Sox recalled right-hander Tanner Houck from Triple-A Worcester.

In a corresponding move, outfielder Jarren Duran was optioned to Worcester, the club announced earlier Tuesday afternoon.

Houck will make his eighth start and 10th overall appearance of the season for Boston in Tuesday’s series opener against Minnesota. Through nine outings (eight starts) at the major-league level this year, the 25-year-old has posted a 3.12 ERA and 2.54 xFIP to go along with 46 strikeouts and seven walks over 34 2/3 innings pitched.

In his last time out, Houck served as the Sox’ 27th man in last Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Yankees in the Bronx. The righty allowed two earned runs on five hits, zero walks, and two strikeouts in four innings of work during the day cap of the twin bill and was promptly returned to Worcester shortly thereafter.

Under normal circumstances, the Red Sox would have to wait 10 days to recall Houck again, but they took advantage of the fact he was used as the 27th man for a doubleheader to call him back up after just one week.

In order to create a spot for Houck on the major-league roster, Duran winds up getting sent down to the WooSox.

Originally beginning the season with Worcester, Duran earned a big-league promotion during the All-Star break on July 16 after lighting it up against Triple-A pitching.

Making his major-league debut a day later, the speedy 24-year-old has since slashed .221/.236/.372 (56 wRC+) with three doubles, two triples, two home runs, eight RBI, 12 runs scored, one stolen base, two walks, and 33 strikeouts over his first 27 games (89 plate appearances) with Boston.

Despite seeing the ball better lately (.313 batting average going back to August 13), Duran had seen his playing time take a hit in the wake of Kyle Schwarber making his Red Sox debut earlier this month.

With Schwarber making his first start in left field in Monday’s 8-4 win over the Rangers after solely being used as a designated hitter in his first six starts with the team, Duran’s role was essentially reduced as he slid down the outfield depth chart.

By optioning him down to Worcester, the Red Sox ensure that Duran will get more regular playing time and at-bats as opposed to the limited opportunities he was and would be getting at the big-league level.

Duran, who turns 25 in early September, is still regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking tops among outfielders in the organization.

Prior to getting called up in July, the former 2018 seventh-round draft pick was hitting a solid .270/.365/.561 to go along with eight doubles, one triple, 15 home runs, 32 RBI, 37 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 24 walks, and 52 strikeouts across 46 games (219 plate appearances) with the WooSox.

Because Duran is a member of the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, it seems likely that the speedster would be a candidate to re-join the team once rosters expand from 26 to 28 players on September 1.

Of course, the soonest he could be called up again would be next Friday, September 3 (10 days from Tuesday), so there is that to consider as well.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox have No. 9 farm system in baseball, per Baseball America

The Red Sox now have one of the more prominent farm systems in baseball, according to Baseball America.

In their latest midseason organizational talent rankings, Baseball America ranks Boston’s farm system as the ninth-best in Major League Baseball as things stand today.

Ranking behind the Mariners, Orioles, Royals, Pirates, Giants, Tigers, Rays, and Reds and ahead of the Blue Jays to round out the top 10, the Sox’ minor-league pipeline at present includes three of Baseball America’s top 100 prospects in first baseman Triston Casas (No. 20), outfielder Jarren Duran (No. 22), and shortstop Marcelo Mayer (No. 32).

“First baseman Triston Casas looks like a potential middle-of-the-order cornerstone who can hit for average and power,” BA noted of Boston’s farm system on Monday. “The addition of shortstop Marcelo Mayer with the fourth pick in the draft gave the Red Sox an immediate jolt of impact talent.”

Coming into the 2021 season, the Sox were in possession of the No. 20 farm system in baseball, which is the same exact ranking they received in the spring of 2020 as well.

What can be attributed to Boston’s rise from No. 20 to No. 9 in the span of just a little more than six months?

Well, as previously noted, selecting Mayer, who was regarded as arguably the top prep prospect going into this summer’s draft, with the fourth overall pick certainly helps.

Casas, meanwhile, made a name for himself at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, as he slashed .217/.308/.652 with a team-leading three home runs and eight RBI over six games while helping Team USA win a silver medal and being named the tournament’s best first baseman in the process of doing so.

As for Duran, the speedy outfielder came into the season as one of Boston’s more exciting prospects after what he did in spring training, then — like Casas — gained more notoriety as he helped Team USA qualify for the Olympics, but was not named to the United States’ final roster.

That being the case because the Red Sox would call up Duran from Triple-A Worcester on July 16. The 24-year-old has since hit .215/.232/.367/.599 through his first 23 games in the majors, though he is batting .282 (11-for-39) since August 3.

In addition to what Mayer, Casas, and Duran have done, the contributions from 2020 first-round pick Nick Yorke, 2017 first-round pick Tanner Houck, and international signees such as Brayan Bello, Miguel Bleis, and Wilkelman Gonzalez cannot be forgotten about, either.

All in all, as the Red Sox look to contend for an American League East title this year, they are also putting in the necessary work to ensure a promising future for the organization by bolstering an ever-improving farm system.

That is something chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has hammered home since he joined the Sox in 2019, and it appears as though his vision has netted some encouraging results less than two full years into his tenure in Boston.

(Picture of Triston Casas: KAZUHIRO FUJIHARA/AFP via Getty Images)

Bobby Dalbec leads the way offensively as Red Sox clobber Orioles, 8-1

The Red Sox opened a portion of their schedule on Friday that they absolutely need to take advantage of, and they got off to a strong start by kicking off the weekend with a blowout 8-1 victory over the lowly Orioles at Fenway Park.

Matched up against O’s rookie starter Spenser Watkins to begin things on Friday, the Sox lineup — after being held to one run on Thursday — broke out for four runs alone in the bottom of the second inning, and the rally started with a leadoff single off the bat of Hunter Renfroe.

Kyle Schwarber, making his Red Sox debut Friday, followed by drawing a six-pitch walk off Watkins, while Kevin Plawecki advanced both runners an additional 90 feet to fill the bases with no outs.

That set the stage for a pair of rookies to take over, and they did just that, as Jarren Duran plated his side’s first run on an RBI single and Bobby Dalbec got a productive night at the plate started by lacing a two-run double off the top of the scoreboard at the base of the Green Monster.

Dalbec’s laser, which had an exit velocity of 113.3 mph, made it a 3-0 game and flipped the lineup for leadoff hitter Enrique Hernandez, who proceeded to rip a sacrifice fly that was hit deep enough to left field to bring in Duran from third.

Boston’s four-run second proved to be a comfortable cushion for Nick Pivetta, who put together his second straight quality outing in what was his 23rd start of the season.

Over six quality innings of work, the right-hander yielded just one earned run while scattering three hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts on the night.

The lone run Pivetta surrendered to the Orioles came by way of the home run ball, as he served up a 320-foot solo shot to Richie Martin that just snuck past Pesky’s Pole in right field to lead things off in the top of the third inning.

Martin’s homer cut the Sox’ deficit down to three runs, but they got that run right back in the home half of the frame when Schwarber and Plawecki each drew two-out walks and Duran plated Schwarber on another RBI double to right field.

Xander Bogaerts tacked on another run in the fourth, with the star shortstop clubbing his 18th home run of the season that just snuck over the Monster and put the Sox up 6-1.

Given another sizable lead to work with, Pivetta was able to keep the O’s off the board over his final three innings on the mound and retired nine of the final 11 hitters he faced with Renfroe robbing DJ Stewart of a home run in the top of the fourth in the process of doing so.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 93 (63 strikes) the 28-year-old hurler was able to pick up his ninth winning decision of the season while also lowering his ERA on the year down to 4.20.

While Pivetta’s night was done after six innings, the Sox offense was not finished yet, as Dalbec mashed his 12th home run of the season (a 411-foot solo shot to dead center field) in the bottom half of the sixth and Renfroe followed by crushing his 20th big fly of the season (a 423-foot solo shot over everything in left field) in the bottom half of the seventh.

Those two mammoth homers gave the Red Sox an 8-1 advantage, and Garrett Richards — working in relief of Pivetta and out of the bullpen for the first time this season — closed things out with three scoreless innings from the seventh through the ninth to secure the 8-1 victory and earn his first save of the year.

All in all, Renfroe, Plawecki, Duran, and Dalbec (Boston’s 5, 7, 8, and 9 hitters) combined to go 9-for-15 (.600) at the plate on Friday with two homers, six RBI, and five runs scored.

Schwarber went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks, two runs scored, and a strikeout in his Sox debut.

With the win, the Red Sox improve to 67-51 on the season, though they remain five games back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Next up: Sale Day on Saturday

For the first time in just over two years, ace left-hander Chris Sale will make his return from Tommy John surgery and take the mound for the Red Sox in the middle game of this three-game weekend series on Saturday afternoon.

Sale is scheduled to face off against Orioles right-hander Jorge Lopez.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez and Bobby Dalbec: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox place Jarren Duran on COVID-19 related injured list, recall Jonathan Araúz from Triple-A Worcester

Before opening up a four-game weekend series against the Blue Jays in Toronto on Friday night, the Red Sox placed rookie outfielder Jarren Duran on the COVID-19 related injured list.

In a corresponding move, infielder Jonathan Arauz was recalled from Triple-A Worcester, the club announced earlier Friday afternoon.

Duran becomes the second Boston player to be placed on the COVID-related injured list during the team’s current road trip.

All-Star closer Matt Barnes, who is vaccinated against the virus, was placed on the COVID IL on Tuesday in Detroit due to his feeling under the weather, but only missed one day of action after testing negative Tuesday night and being activated on Wednesday.

Duran, on the other hand, is experiencing COVID-like symptoms but has yet to test positive for the virus. As was the case with Barnes in Detroit, Duran is quarantining at the team’s hotel in Toronto and awaiting further testing, according to Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

If Duran’s PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test comes back negative later Friday night, he could be activated from the COVID IL at any time.

If the 24-year-old top prospect tests positive, however, he will remain on the COVID-related injured list and additionally will be placed in mandatory quarantine for at least 10 days. That, in turn, would result in the Red Sox triggering more virus-related protocols.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox were tested for COVID-19 as a team upon arriving in Canada on Thursday night. Duran is awaiting final word.

Duran’s agent, Barrett Arthur of BJB Group, has informed The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier that his client “has had multiple negative tests for COVID-19” and that “his placement on the COVID-19 injury list, as of now, is based purely on symptoms.”

Regardless, with Duran out of Boston’s lineup for Friday night’s series opener against the Blue Jays at the minimum, Enrique Hernandez will get the start in center field in the speedster’s place.

Arauz, meanwhile, is recalled from Worcester just two days after he was sent down at the time Barnes was activated from the COVID IL himself.

A member of the Sox’ taxi squad for their longest road trip of the season, Arauz is back up with Boston for the third time this year.

In his second and most recent stint with the big-league club, which spanned from July 30 through August 4, the 23-year-old appeared in three games, going 2-for-6 (.333) at the plate with one walk and two strikeouts over seven trips to the plate while playing second base and serving as a pinch-runner.

If Duran is able to return from the COVID-19 related injured list at any point this weekend, one would have to assume Arauz would once again get sent down to the WooSox in a corresponding move.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)