MLB Expected to Propose Universal DH for 2020 Season, per Report

Major League Baseball is expected to propose a universal designated hitter for the 2020 season as part of their talks with owners and the MLB Players Association in the coming days, according to The Athletic’s Jim Bowden.

Per Bowden, “Most executives believed prior to the coronavirus shutdown that the [universal DH] would be implemented by 2021 or 2022.” But, due to the unique circumstances in this case, the implementation of the designated hitter in both the American and National Leagues could “be a way to cut down on injuries in a worrisome time,” as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman notes.

The ramifications this has for the Red Sox are not all that significant seeing how the club already has one of the best DHs in baseball in J.D. Martinez. However, if what The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports is accurate, and it likely is, the Sox would play around 80 games this season against opponents “only from their own division and the same geographic division in the opposite league.”

In other words, if there is baseball to be played in 2020, the only other clubs the Red Sox would face in the regular season would be the Yankees, Rays, Blue Jays, Orioles, Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Mets, and Marlins.

It’s unclear at this point how many of those games would take place in National League ballparks, but the dread of having to constantly worry about the pitcher’s spot in the lineup in those particular contests would not be an issue if the universal DH is indeed implemented.

Interleague play would take on a whole new meaning in this scenario, and it would certainly serve as an adjustment period for certain National League clubs and a welcomed change for others.

Before anything concrete is laid out though, there are still several hurdles for MLB to jump through.

First, the league has a conference call scheduled with its owners on Monday where plans for a potential 2020 season will be discussed.

If the owners approve of MLB’s plans, that same proposal will be presented to the MLBPA on Tuesday.

Like I said though, there are still plenty of obstacles ahead, especially those of the financial variety.

 

Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez on MLB Season Being Put on Hold Due to Coronavirus Pandemic: ‘I’m 32. I’m an Antique. I Need to Be out There Playing’

Although he is confident that there will be a Major League Baseball season in some capacity in 2020, Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez is still anxiously awaiting to get back to doing what he’s used to doing this time of year.

Entering his third year with the Red Sox, Martinez can opt out of the final two years of the five-year, $110 million contract he signed with Boston in 2018 this winter. That is probably weighing on his mind as well, especially if he’s going to have fewer games to play in this year.

“I’m 32. I’m an antique. I need to be out there playing,” Martinez told The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham on Wednesday. “This sucks. Hopefully we’ll get a day and I can crank it up and get ready.”

Martinez believes that once baseball does return there should be strict policies in regards to testing just about everyone involved with the game for COVID-19. He told the MLB Players Association that much.

“Everyone would need to get tested,” Martinez told Abraham. “Players, coaches, the media, security guards. If you come in the ballpark, you get tested. I’m not an expert on this virus but you need daily testing.”

While waiting out this pandemic from his Fort Lauderdale home, Martinez has been using fellow south Florida native and Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer’s house, which has a batting cage, as a way to stay in shape. Hosmer is currently waiting things out himself in San Diego.

“He has a cage and I can hit there,” said Martinez of Hosmer’s Southwest Ranches residence. “It’s not ideal, but it’s fine. I’m in offseason mode.”

Based off a recent report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan among others, MLB is planning on sending the MLBPA a return-to-play proposal within the next week. This proposal appears to involve a spring training period starting in June and the regular season starting sometime in early July.

Of course, there are still plenty of hurdles to get over, but I can’t imagine players like Martinez, who comes off like a real creature of habit, enjoy being in “offseason mode” in early May.

J.D. Martinez Says MLB ‘Had to Do Something’ When Punishing Red Sox Even Though ‘They Really Didn’t Find Anything’

Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez has had a few weeks to think about the punishment his team received from Major League Baseball for what they did during the 2018 regular season, and quite frankly, he’s still not happy about it.

On April 22nd, MLB released its findings into the 2018 Red Sox, resulting in the club losing their second-round pick in this year’s amateur draft while video replay coordinator J.T. Watkins was suspended without pay for the 2020 season.

Some may think that Boston got off light in this case given their previous offenses, but Martinez was having none of it while talking to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham on Wednesday.

“If they went to court with that, it would get thrown out,” Martinez said. “There was nothing there. The judge would laugh.”

The 32-year-old was one of the first Sox players to defend his team’s actions and proclaim innocence back in January. Now that the results have since been released, and the league found that any advantage the Red Sox had was “limited in scope and impact,” Martinez could feel some sense of vindication here.

He could have gone the “See, I told you so” route while speaking with Abraham, but he instead decided to defend Watkins.

“That pissed me off. It wasn’t right,” Martinez said of the former Red Sox farmhand’s punishment handed down by commissioner Rob Manfred. “They just ruined this guy’s career with no evidence.”

What could be the reason behind this? Well, Martinez believes that since this was not the Sox’ first rodeo in terms of dealing with discipline from MLB, Manfred felt inclined “to do something” even though “they really didn’t find anything.”

There is a distinct possibility that Watkins was used as a scapegoat in this case to prevent the league from looking worse than it has in the months since the 2019 season came to a close last October. However, it seems unlikely that we will ever know the full story if there is another version to be told, at least not for a while, anyway.

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.

 

Nathan Eovaldi’s Strong Spring Continues as Red Sox Win One, Lose One in Saturday’s Split-Squad Action

In their second split-squad action of the spring on Saturday, the Red Sox experienced both victory and defeat, as they topped the Blue Jays by a final score of 5-2 at JetBlue Park, but also fell to the Phillies by a final score of 10-2 in Clearwater. They are now 5-10-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Starting with the game in Fort Myers, it was Nathan Eovaldi making his third start of the spring for Boston in this one.

Having yet to give up a run through his first two Grapefruit League outings headed into the weekend, Eovaldi’s impressive run continued against Toronto, as he held the Jays scoreless over three sharp innings of work while scattering one hit and one walk to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both that hit and walk Eovaldi yielded came right away in the top half of the first, but he was able to maneuver his way around any trouble by punching out Brandon Drury before proceeding to retire the final six Blue Jays he faced in order.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 59, the 30-year-old had his four-seam fastball consistently hovering around 97-99 MPH on Saturday. His fourth start should come against the Rays on Friday.

In relief of Eovaldi, Eduard Bazardo came on to begin the fourth inning, and he served up a solo home run to old friend Travis Shaw in an otherwise clean frame of work.

From there, Josh Taylor struck out the side and stranded two runners in his third appearance of the spring in the fifth, Phillips Valdez fanned three over two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh, Trevor Hildenberger surrendered one run on one hit, one hit batsman, and one RBI groundout in the eighth, and Robinson Leyer closed things out with a shutout ninth to preserve the win.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to give up two earned runs on two hits, one walk, two HBPs, and 13 strikeouts over nine total innings of work against the Blue Jays. Things did not go as swimmingly against the Phillies, which we’ll get to later.

For now, let’s talk about how a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, Christian Vazquez, Bobby Dalbec, Jonathan Arauz, and Rusney Castillo fared against Toronto starter Trent Thornton on Saturday.

Devers got things started right away in the first, as he reached base on a scorcher of a one-out single and came in to score all the way from first on a two-out RBI double off the bat of Martinez that could have been caught in left field had it not been for some nasty wind.

That early one-run lead doubled in the third, with Moreland doubling off Thornton and Dalbec driving him in on a run-scoring two-base hit of his own down the left field line. 2-0.

In the fourth, Devers came through again, this time plating Castillo from second and advancing Benintendi to third on another hard-hit, RBI single off new Blue Jays reliever Brian Moran.

Xander Bogaerts followed that up by grounding into a run-scoring 4-6-3 double play, and just like that, the Red Sox had themselves a 4-1 advantage.

Jantzen Witte and Ryder Jones provided some insurance later on in the seventh, with the former lacing a two-out double off of Julian Merryweather and the latter following with a double of his own to score Witte and make it a 5-1 contest.

Toronto would get one of those runs back in their half of the eighth, but that would be all, as 5-2 would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Making the trek over to Clearwater now, it was top pitching prospect Tanner Houck making his second start and third overall appearance of the spring for Boston against the Phillies.

Coming off three scoreless innings of relief against the Braves last weekend, the right-hander had a much tougher time of things on Saturday, as he yielded six runs, five of which were earned, on four hits, three walks, and one HBP to go along with three strikeouts in just 1 1/3 innings of work.

The first of those six Philles runs came in the first on a hit batsman, a double, and a wild pitch. The other five all came in the second, although Houck was only on the mound for four of them.

He was charged with all six, but after coming out in a 4-0 game with one out and the bases full, Mike Kickham allowed two of those inherited runners to score on another HBP and wild pitch before eventually retiring the side.

Kickham also worked a scoreless third inning before making way for Domingo Tapia, who surrendered two runs (one earned) on two hits, a walk, and a passed ball on the part of catcher Roldani Baldwin in the bottom half of the fourth.

From there, left-hander Josh Osich worked his way around a two-out walk in an otherwise clean fifth, Adam Lau gave up two more runs on three hits, a walk, and a sacrifice fly in the sixth, and Austin Brice impressed by fanning four over two perfect frames of relief in the seventh and eighth.

Compared to the other game against Toronto where things went pretty smoothly pitching-wise, Red Sox hurlers combined to allow 10 runs (eight earned) on nine hits, six walks, and 14 strikeouts over eight total innings pitched against Philadelphia.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Kevin Pillar, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Plawecki, Josh Ockimey, C.J. Chatham, Marco Hernandez, Jeter Downs, Marcus Wilson, and Baldwin was matched up against Phillies left-hander Ranger Suarez to begin things on Saturday.

Pillar got the scoring started for Boston in their half of the third, and he wrapped up a two-hit afternoon by clearing the bases on a two-run double to left off Suarez.

At the time, that two-base hit trimmed the Phillies’ advantage from six runs down to four, but it turned out to be the only offense the Sox could muster with 10-2 going on to be Saturday’s final score in Clearwater.

Some observations from this win and loss:

Kevin Plawecki against the Phillies: 1-for-3 with one strikeout.

Jonathan Lucroy, off the bench, against the Blue Jays: 0-for-1 with a walk and strikeout.

Mitch Moreland, in his first in-game action since last Sunday: 1-for-2 with one strikeout and run scored.

Nate Pearson, the top pitching prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, is going to be very good.

Speaking of prospects, it was interesting to see Gilberto Jimenez, the Sox’ No. 5 prospect, make a brief appearance as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning of the game against the Blue Jays.

With 10 strikeouts through his first 5 2/3 innings of work this spring, I thoroughly believe Austin Brice should make the Opening Day roster.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park on Sunday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Kenta Maeda will do the same for Minnesota.

Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, and Chris Mazza are among those who are expected to follow Perez.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT. Remember to turn your clocks ahead.

 

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.

 

 

J.D. Martinez Homers, Rafael Devers Makes Spring Debut as Red Sox Fall to Twins

After getting blown out by the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday, the Red Sox fell to 3-4-1 on Grapefruit League play on Friday following a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Twins at nearby Hammond Stadium.

Making his first start and second appearance of the spring for Boston was Kyle Hart, who took the loss in his last time out against Minnesota this past Monday.

Working the first two innings of this one, the left-hander looked much better this time around, as he retired six of the seven Twins hitters he faced while walking one and striking out another.

Hart is one of several candidates vying for a spot in Boston’s starting rotation to begin the season.

In relief of Hart, fellow lefty Josh Taylor made his spring debut and punched out a pair in a clean third inning, Austin Brice worked his way around a leadoff double and fielding error in a scoreless fourth, Hector Velazquez walked two in an otherwise harmless fifth, former Twin Trevor Hildenberger yielded two runs on two hits and one walk in the sixth to eventually take the loss, Robinson Leyer allowed another pair of Twins runs on an Alex Kirilloff two-run homer in the seventh, and left-hander Matt Hall fanned two wand walked another in a rather quick bottom half of the eighth inning.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to surrender four runs on five hits and five walks to go along with seven strikeouts over eight total frames of work.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured Rafael Devers making his spring debut was matched up against veteran right-hander Homer Bailey for the Twins.

Nothing in terms of offensive production came against Bailey though, and it wasn’t until the top of fourth when the Boston bats showed some signs of life.

There, with one out in the frame, J.D. Martinez greeted new Twins reliever Cory Gearrin by unloading on a 1-2 pitch down the heart of the plate and depositing it deep to right field for his first big fly of the spring.

That solo shot actually gave Boston an early one-run lead, but Minnesota jumped out to a one-run lead of their own two innings later and would not have to look back, as they took this Grapefruit League contest by a final score of 4-1.

Some observations from this loss:

Rafael Devers in his 2020 spring debut, batting out of the two-hole: 0-for-2 with one strikeout.

J.D. Martinez on Friday: 2-for-2 with a triple, home run, and RBI.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the Yankees for the first time this spring on Saturday in a game that will be televised!

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to get the start in his spring debut for Boston, while fellow southpaw Jordan Montgomery will start for New York.

Rodriguez was slated to make his spring debut last Sunday, but after slipping in a bullpen session earlier that week and twisting his left knee, that debut was pushed back until Saturday.

The 26-year-old could very well be the Sox’ Opening Day starter with Chris Sale expected to start the 2020 season on the injured list.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST on NESNplus.