Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski will officially make major-league debut against Orioles on Saturday

Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski will make his major-league debut and start Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles at Fenway Park.

Winckowski, who is already in Boston and has a locker in the Red Sox’ clubhouse, told reporters (including The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey) that he received word of the team’s decision on Friday and will have eight or nine people on-hand to watch his debut in-person.

The 23-year-old right-hander has made seven starts for Triple-A Worcester this season, posting a 3.13 ERA and 2.80 FIP to go along with 34 strikeouts to six walks over 31 2/3 innings of work. His last outing for the WooSox came on Sunday, so he is lined up to pitch on regular rest this weekend.

Among International League pitchers who have at least 30 innings under their belt to this point in the year, Winckowski ranks ninth in strikeout rate (27.9%), eighth in swinging strike rate (13.6%) sixth in walk rate (4.9%), fifth in batting average against (.183), first in WHIP (0.85), 13th in ERA, second in FIP, and second in xFIP (3.11), per FanGraphs.

Originally selected by the Blue Jays in the 15th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of Estero High School, Winckowski was dealt to the Mets in the same trade that sent left-hander Steven Matz to Toronto last January. Less than two weeks later, the Florida native was involved in a three-team trade that sent him to the Red Sox and outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals.

Now in his second full year with the Sox, Winckowski is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 12 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks sixth among pitchers in the organization. The 6-foot-4, 215 pound hurler works with a three-pitch mix that consists of a high-90s fastball, a changeup, and a slider. He projects as either a back-end starter or reliever in the future.

Winckowski, who was added to Boston’s 40-man roster last November, is slated to become the first Red Sox player to make their big-league debut this season.

Fellow righty Nathan Eovaldi is expected to get the start in the first game on Saturday afternoon (12:10 p.m. eastern time). Winckowski would then get the starting nod for the night cap (6:10 p.m. ET), likely serving as the Sox’ 27th man by doing so.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora on pitching prospect Josh Winckowski: ‘It seems like we’re lining up him to pitch in the doubleheader’ this weekend

The Red Sox are indeed lining up Josh Winckowski to start one of the games in Saturday’s scheduled doubleheader against the Orioles at Fenway Park, manager Alex Cora said in his weekly check-in with WEEI’s Merloni, Fauria & Mego on Wednesday afternoon.

“Winckowski, it seems like we’re lining up him to pitch in the doubleheader,” Cora said, as relayed by the Boston Herald’s Steve Hewitt.

Originally acquired from the Mets in the three-team Andrew Benintendi trade last February, Winckowski is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 12 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks sixth among pitchers in the organization.

After being added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last November, Winckowski has spent the entirety of the 2022 season to date with Triple-A Worcester. The 23-year-old right-hander has posted a 3.13 ERA and 2.80 FIP with 34 strikeouts to just six walks over seven starts (31 2/3 innings pitched) for the WooSox.

In his last time out against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Polar Park on Sunday, Winckowski had allowed just one run through his first six innings of work before getting rocked for five runs on three hits and one hit batsman in the top of the seventh.

Even with that performance on the backburner, Winckowski has still been one of the top starters at the Triple-A level this season. Among those in the International League who have accrued at least 30 innings to this point, the Florida native ranks 15th in strikeouts per nine innings (9.66), sixth in walks per nine innings (1.71), ninth in strikeout rate (27.9%), sixth in swinging strike rate (13.6%), seventh in walk rate (4.9%), fifth in batting average against (.183), second in WHIP (0.85), 13th in ERA, third in FIP, and second in xFIP (3.12), per FanGraphs.

Winckowski does not qualify as a league leader statistically, mainly because he was limited to just two innings in his May 11 start in the event that the Red Sox needed him to pitch during their series in Texas.

Since his last outing came on Sunday, Winckowski would be in line to pitch on regular rest in one of Saturday’s two games against Baltimore. Fellow righty Nathan Eovaldi is expected to start the other contest.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 202 pounds, Winckowski possesses a pitch mix that is anchored by a high-90s four-seam fastball and complemented by a sinker, cutter, slider, and changeup. His stuff may be better suited for the bullpen in the future, but he will all but certainly get his first taste of the major-leagues as a starter.

Assuming Winckowski does make his big-league debut against the Orioles over the weekend, he would likely serve as the Red Sox’ 27th man and be optioned back down to Worcester following the conclusion of the twin bill.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox top pitching prospect Josh Winckowski could make major-league debut next Saturday

When the Red Sox host the Orioles in a scheduled doubleheader at Fenway Park next Saturday, they will need two starting pitchers. As things stand now, Nathan Eovaldi is in line to start one of those two games.

As for who will start the other, manager Alex Cora hinted before Saturday’s win over the Mariners that the Sox may very well call up top pitching prospect Josh Winckowski from Triple-A Worcester to make his major-league debut.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “Cora said the Red Sox planned to use their extra player (MLB allows teams to add a 27th player to their rosters for doubleheaders) and that the starter would likely come from the minors.”

Since Winckowski will start for the WooSox on Sunday, he becomes the obvious choice to pitch on regular rest for the Red Sox next weekend.

“Most likely, it’s going to somebody from the minor-leagues,” said Cora . “Stay tuned for whoever pitches whenever.”

Winckowski, 23, has posted a 2.10 ERA and 2.49 FIP with 28 strikeouts to six walks across six starts spanning 25 2/3 innings of work for Worcester this season. Earlier this month, the right-hander was limited to just two innings in the event that the Red Sox needed him for their series in Texas. In his last time out against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 17, he struck out nine over six scoreless, two-hit innings at Polar Park.

Originally acquired from the Mets as part of the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals last February, Winckowski is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 12 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks sixth among pitchers in the organization. He was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last November.

If Winckowski were to start one of the games against Baltimore next Saturday, he would likely be doing so as Boston’s 27th man, meaning he could be sent right back down to Worcester afterwards.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Josh Winckowski goes just 2 innings in latest start for Triple-A Worcester in case Red Sox need additional pitching in coming days

Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski went just two innings in his fifth start of the season for Triple-A Worcester on Wednesday afternoon.

Taking on the Rochester Red Wings at Polar Park, the right-hander allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out a pair over two scoreless innings of work. 19 of the 32 pitches he went for strikes.

Given his rather low pitch count, it was somewhat surprising to see Taylor Cole take the mound in the third inning as opposed to Winckowski. However, several members of the media — including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo — that the plan all along was for Winckowski to pitch just two innings.

Shortly after the WooSox fell to the Red Wings by a final score of 3-2, manager Chad Tracy told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Katie Morrison) that Winckowski’s outing was shorter than usual just in case the Red Sox need to call up a pitcher in the coming days.

“Just potential stuff that could happen up top that they don’t know yet,” explained Tracy. “So we wanted to make sure between [Connor] Seabold, who threw yesterday, and Winc that there’s options available. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t know what’ll happen, but those things happen sometimes. And we’ll see where all that falls.”

Winckowski, who is on Boston’s 40-man roster, has now posted a 2.75 ERA and .181/.234/.264 slash line against to go along with 19 strikeouts to five walks over 19 2/3 innings of work for Worcester this season.

The 23-year-old is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks third among pitchers in the organization. The Red Sox, of course, acquired Winckowski from the Mets as part of the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals last February.

While Winckowski, a former 15th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays, has mostly been used as a starter throughout his professional career, the Florida-born righty does have past experience as a reliever. In the Arizona Fall League last year, for instance, he made six relief appearances for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Pitching in shorter bursts allows Winckowski to add more velocity to his fastball that typically sits at 94-96 mph, and he put that on fill display on Wednesday.

“I tried to keep it the same,” Winckowski said when going over his performance. “I kind of came out a little bit hotter than normal, I guess you could say, obviously when you only have two it’s a little bit shorter, but relatively, it was all the same for me.”

The Red Sox, at present, have two starters and one reliever on the 10- and 15-day injured lists in Rich Hill (COVID-19), Michael Wacha (left intercostal irritation), and Josh Taylor (low back strain).

Following their series finale against the Braves in Atlanta on Wednesday night, the Sox will head to Texas for a three-game series with the Rangers that begins on Friday.

Per The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, Nick Pivetta will get the start for Friday’s series opener. The hope is that Hill will start on Saturday or Sunday and whichever one he does not start will be a bullpen game that could fall to Seabold or Wincowski.

Wacha, on the other hand, is out until May 20 at the earliest since his stint on the injured list was backdated to May 5. Garrett Whitlock will make his next start against the Astros back in Boston on Monday so he is not available.

With that, Alex Cora and Co. will likely shake up their pitching staff this weekend since Hill will either be activated or Seabold/Winckowski will be recalled from Worcester.

Because of this, corresponding moves will need to be made in the not so distant future. Kutter Crawford, for instance, has not pitched since last Thursday and is a candidate to be optioned to Worcester. Hirokazu Sawamura is another reliever who has minor-league options, so there is some flexibility there.

All that being said, Seabold and Winckowski represent internal options for the Red Sox when they find themselves in need of reinforcements on Saturday and/or Sunday.

Seabold made his big-league debut against the White Sox last September. Winckowski would be getting called up for the first time if it were to happen.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Recapping how contingent of 8 Red Sox prospects performed in Arizona Fall League

The 2021 Arizona Fall League season came to a close on Saturday night, with the Mesa Solar Sox besting the Surprise Saguaros by a final score of 6-0 in the championship game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

With the Arizona Fall League making a triumphant return and closing out another exciting season in the desert, now is the time to reflect on how the contingent of prospects the Red Sox sent out west did in what is regarded by many as Major League Baseball’s “finishing school.”

Back in October, it was revealed that the Sox would be sending eight prospects to Arizona to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions alongside Guardians, Twins, Giants, and Rays minor-leaguers.

That initial list included catching prospect Connor Wong, but the backstop was ultimately replaced on Scottsdale’s roster by Christian Koss since he was a member of Boston’s taxi squad for the majority of their postseason run.

That said, the eight prospects who wound up representing the Red Sox were right-handers A.J. Politi, Connor Seabold, Josh Winckowski, left-hander Brendan Cellucci, catcher Kole Cottam, first baseman Triston Casas, and infielders Jeter Downs and Koss.

So, without further ado, here is how each of those players fared during their time with the Scorpions, who finished the 2021 AFL campaign with a record of 12-18.

A.J. Politi, RHP

Politi began the minor-league season in Double-A Portland’s starting rotation, but ultimately transitioned back to the bullpen towards the end of the summer and remained there upon reporting to Scottsdale.

In 11 relief appearances this fall, the 25-year-old posted a 5.84 ERA and 1.86 WHIP to go along with 10 strikeouts to eight walks over 12 1/3 innings of work.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 15th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Seton Hall University, Politi is eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft since he was left unprotected and not added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday.

Connor Seabold, RHP

Seabold had quite the eventful first full season in the Red Sox organization after coming over from the Phillies alongside fellow righty Nick Pivetta in the same trade that sent relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to Philadelphia last August.

The 25-year-old hurler was already a member of Boston’s 40-man roster coming into 2021, but missed the first several weeks of the minor-league season due to right elbow inflammation and did not make his first start for Triple-A Worcester until July 23.

On September 11, Seabold made his major-league debut against the White Sox and allowed two earned runs in three innings before being optioned back to Worcester the following day and closing out the year with the WooSox.

With the Scorpions, Seabold led the team in innings pitched (20 1/3) while putting up a 4.87 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in addition to 32 strikeouts and 12 walks over six starts.

Josh Winckowski, RHP

One of five players the Red Sox acquired in the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals in February, Winckowski emerged as one of the organization’s more intriguing pitching prospects in 2021 and was just protected from the Rule 5 Draft as a result of doing so.

Now a member of the Sox’ 40-man roster, Winckowski split the minor-league season between Portland and Worcester while mainly being used as a starter, but was strictly utilized as a reliever in the fall league.

Over six appearances out of Scottsdale’s bullpen, the 23-year-old produced a 6.55 ERA and 1.73 ERA while recording three strikeouts and four walks in his 11 innings of relief. He was also involved in a benches-clearing brawl with Pirates prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba earlier this month that resulted in both players getting ejected.

Brendan Cellucci, LHP

The lone southpaw representing the Red Sox in the AFL, Cellucci spent the entirety of the 2021 season at High-A Greenville and was one of six lefties on Scottsdale’s roster this fall.

In 10 outings out of the Scorpions bullpen, Cellucci yielded an ERA of 6.94 and WHIP of 1.89 while striking out 11 batters and walking seven over 11 2/3 innings pitched.

A native of Philadelphia who the Red Sox took out of Tulane University in the the 12th round of the 2019 draft, Cellucci does not turn 24 until next June and can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career next winter.

Kole Cottam, C

Cottam began the year in Greenville and later earned himself a midseason promotion to Portland on July 29 while being regarded by Baseball America as the top defensive catcher in the Red Sox farm system.

A 2021 Arizona Fall League Fall Star, the 24-year-old backstop out of the University of Kentucky batted a solid .275/.356/.510 with three doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs, seven runs scored, five walks, and 13 strikeouts over 15 games (59 plate appearances) for Scottsdale.

Like Politi, Cottam could have been added to Boston’s 40-man roster last week in order to receive protection from next month’s Rule 5 Draft. But the club elected not to do so, thus leaving him exposed if other teams are interested.

Triston Casas, 1B

The top prospect the Red Sox sent to Arizona, Casas put the finishing touches on an impressive year by putting his talent and skills on full display with the Scorpions.

Among qualified hitters in the AFL this year, Casas ranked fifth in batting average (.372), first in on-base percentage (.495), 26th in slugging percentage (.487), and 12th in OPS (.982) in the process of joining Cottam in the Fall Stars Game.

A former first-round pick out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.) in 2018, the left-handed hitting Casas — who turns 22 in January — figures to make his big-league debut for Boston at some point during the 2022 season.

Jeter Downs, 2B/SS

There was always going to be pressure on Downs since he was the top prospect acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous Mookie Betts/David Price trade last February, but the 23-year-old infielder got his first taste of the Triple-A level this year and it did not go all that swimmingly.

Still, the Red Sox sent Downs to play in the fall league despite the struggles he endured over the summer and it now appears as though that decision paid off.

Across 16 games (72 plate appearances) for the Scorpions, Downs slashed .228/.389/.491 with five homers, 14 RBIs, nine runs scored, four stolen bases, 14 walks, and 18 strikeouts while playing both middle infield positions.

Like Winckowski, Downs was added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday, which came as no surprise.

Christian Koss, INF

Acquired from the Rockies in exchange for pitching prospect Yoan Aybar last December, Koss enjoyed a solid 2021 season with Greenville and later received an invite to play in the Arizona Fall League in order to replace the aforementioned Wong.

In 14 games with Scottsdale, the versatile infielder batted .229/.275/.250 to go along with one double, six RBIs, four runs scored, two stolen bases, three walks, and eight strikeouts across 51 total trips to the plate.

A product of University of California, Irvine who played on the Cape in 2017 and 2018, Koss has proven he is capable of playing second base, third base, and shortstop in the minors.

The right-handed hitter turns 23 in January and can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career next winter.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Red Sox add Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Jeter Downs, and Josh Winckowski to 40-man roster to protect them from Rule 5 Draft

The Red Sox have added four prospects to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, the club announced earlier Friday evening.

Right-handers Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, and Josh Winckowski and infielder Jeter Downs were all added to Boston’s 40-man roster, which now increases from 33 to 37 players.

Clubs had until Friday at 6 p.m. eastern time to add eligible minor-leaguers to their respective 40-man rosters or otherwise risk losing them in the Rule 5 Draft, which usually takes place during the last day of the Winter Meetings in December.

By adding just the four names listed above, the Red Sox could now be faced with losing other notable prospects such as Thaddeus Ward, Durbin Feltman, Ceddane Rafaela, Frank German, Victor Santos, Kole Cottam, and Gilberto Jimenez in next month’s Rule 5 Draft.

Of the quartet of prospects the Sox did add, one made it as far as the major-leagues under unique circumstances, two made it as far as Triple-A Worcester, and one made it as far as Double-A Portland this past minor-league season.

Bello began the year in High-A Greenville’s starting rotation, but earned a promotion to Portland on June 8. In 15 starts for the Sea Dogs, the 22-year-old righty posted a 4.66 ERA and 3.12 FIP to go along with 87 strikeouts to 24 walks over 63 2/3 innings of work.

Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic for $28,000 in July 2017, Bello is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking first among pitchers in the organization. He was named the team’s minor-league Starting Pitcher of the Year in September.

Crawford, on the other hand, started out in Portland this spring as he was coming off Tommy John surgery that he underwent in October 2019. The 25-year-old ultimately earned a promotion to Worcester in late July, signaling that he was on the verge of a big-league call-up.

In the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, the Red Sox called up Crawford from Worcester to fill in for Nick Pivetta against the Guardians on Sept. 5 at Fenway Park.

He allowed five earned runs in two innings and was promptly returned to the WooSox the following day, but Boston was able to remove the former 16th-round draft pick from their 40-man roster since he was a COVID-19 replacement.

Since the minor-league season ended last month, Crawford has been dominating in the Dominican Winter League. In four starts for Estrellas Orientales, he has allowed just two runs (one earned) on 12 hits, six walks, and 18 strikeouts over 18 1/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 0.49.

Winckowski, meanwhile, was one of five players the Red Sox acquired in the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals back in February.

Like Crawford, Winckowski began the 2021 campaign with the Sea Dogs and pitched to the tune of a 4.14 ERA and 4.02 FIP over 21 appearances (20 starts) and exactly 100 innings before getting promoted to Worcester in late September.

In his brief stint with the WooSox that spanned two starts, the 23-year-old produced a 2.25 ERA and 3.28 FIP while recording 13 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings pitched. He worked strictly as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League and is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect in Boston’s farm system heading into 2022 season.

As for Downs, the move for Boston to add him to the 40-man roster comes at no surprise considering he was the top prospect acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last year.

After the minor-league season was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Downs began 2021 with the WooSox and stuck their throughout the year while slashing .190/.272/.333 with nine doubles, 14 home runs, 39 RBIs, 39 runs scored, 18 stolen bases, 38 walks, and 131 strikeouts over 99 games spanning 405 trips to the plate.

Despite the difficulties Downs encountered in his first exposure to Triple-A pitching, there was never really any doubt when it came to the Red Sox adding the talented 23-year-old infielder to their 40-man roster.

Capable of playing both middle infield positions, Downs, like Bello, represented the Sox in this summer’s All-Star Futures Game in Denver. He also enjoyed some success in the Arizona Fall League these last few weeks — as evidenced by his .880 OPS for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Downs, who does not turn 24 until next July, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 6 prospect in the Red Sox farm system.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski involved in benches-clearing brawl in Arizona Fall League action

Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski was involved in a benches-clearing brawl in the ninth inning of an Arizona Fall League game between the Scottsdale Scorpions and Peoria Javelinas on Saturday afternoon.

Winckowski, making his sixth relief appearance of the Arizona Fall League season, recorded the final two outs of the eighth inning before being deployed back out for the ninth in hopes of securing an 11-7 win for the Scorpions in front of 705 spectators at Scottsdale Stadium.

As he came back out for the ninth, the right-hander immediately plunked the pinch-hitting Pirates prospect Canaan Smith-Njigba near the head and on the shoulder on a first-pitch fastball that was too far up and in.

Smith-Njigba took exception to this, promptly charging the mound and throwing a punch at Winckowski before taking the 6-foot-4, 202 pound hurler down to the ground and throwing another punch. This resulted in both the Javelinas and Scorpions’ benches clearing as players and coaches dashed on to the field.

According to Baseball America’s Josh Norris, who was on-hand for the debacle, it took umpires several minutes to separate the teams and break up the scuffle between Smith-Njigba and Winckowski. The umpires then convened with Arizona Fall League officials before making the decision to eject both players from the contest.

In Peoria’s dugout, Smith-Njigba could apparently be heard yelling about how something like this has happened two days in a row. That being the case because on Friday, Smith-Njigba’s teammate and fellow Pirates prospect Nick Gonzales was beaned by Scorpions reliever Matthew Peguero.

Additionally, as noted by Norris, the only other instance of a Scottsdale pitcher hitting a Peoria batter arose this past Thursday at Peoria Stadium when left-hander Seth Corry struck Phillies prospect Bryson Stott.

That said, what occurred on Saturday was rather unprecedented for the AFL. Smith-Njigba wound up getting replaced at first base by pinch-runner Jose Caballero, while former Red Sox prospect and current Giants right-hander Gregory Santos took over for Winckowski and put the finishing touches on an 11-7 victory for the Scorpions.

The older brother of standout Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Canaan Smith-Njigba is currently regarded by Baseball America as the 29th-ranked prospect in the Pittsburgh farm system. The 22-year-old was acquired by the Pirates in the trade that sent right-hander Jameson Taillon to the Yankees back in January.

Winckowski, meanwhile, is at the moment regarded by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking ninth among pitchers in the organization.

In February, the Red Sox acquired Winckowski from the Mets in the three-team, seven-player trade that jettisoned outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals ahead of the start of spring training.

After a solid 2021 campaign spent between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester, Winckowski has posted a 6.55 ERA and 1.73 WHIP to go along with three strikeouts and four walks over six outings spanning 11 innings of work for the Scorpions in his first taste of Arizona Fall League action.

Per SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Winckowski was hovering around 98-99 mph with his heater on Saturday, which might explain why Smith-Njigba was not pleased with the location of the pitch that hit him.

The 23-year-old can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the second time in his professional career this winter if the Red Sox do not add him to their 40-man roster by the November 19 deadline to do so. He was left unprotected and went unselected in the Rule 5 Draft as a member of the Blue Jays organization last year.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Norm Hall/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox designate Franchy Cordero for assignment, reinstate Phillips Valdez from COVID-19 related injured list

Even on a travel day, the Red Sox still made some headlines on Thursday by reinstating right-hander Phillips Valdez from the COVID-19 related injured list.

In order to make room on their 40-man roster for Valdez, outfielder Franchy Cordero was designated for assignment, the club announced earlier Thursday afternoon.

Valdez had been out on the COVID-19 related injured list since testing positive for the virus while the Red Sox were in Chicago on September 12. It took more than two weeks for him to get cleared to return to action, but he was eventually sent out on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester on Sept. 29.

In two relief appearances for the WooSox, the 29-year-old hurler allowed one earned run on zero hits, six walks, and two strikeouts over 1 1/3 innings of work.

At the moment, it’s unclear if Valdez — who turns 30 next month — can be added to Boston’s American League Championship Series roster since that would require someone else to be taken off. He would be eligible for the World Series if the Red Sox were to advance, though.

With Valdez being activated from the COVID-related IL, the Red Sox needed to clear a spot on their 40-man roster, and they did so by designating Cordero for assignment.

Cordero, one of five players the Sox acquired in the three-team trade with the Royals and Mets that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City in February, initially began the 2021 campaign by making Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training.

The 27-year-old got his season off to a slow start, however, as he hit just .179/.228/.274 with six doubles, one home run, nine RBI, nine runs scored, one stolen base, six walks, and 37 strikeouts through his first 34 games (102 plate appearances) with the Red Sox before getting optioned to Worcester for the first time on May 27.

While he enjoyed moderate success with the WooSox, the left-handed hitting Cordero could never really find his footing at the major-league level even after the Red Sox tried him as a first baseman to get him more playing time.

From the time he was recalled from Worcester again shortly after the All-Star break, Cordero appeared in a total of 14 games for the Red Sox and spent nearly the entirety of his September at Triple-A.

Despite having one minor-league option remaining and being under team control through 2023, Cordero must have been viewed by the Sox as expandable for them to remove him from their 40-man roster.

Along with Cordero, Boston acquired right-handed pitching prospect Josh Winckowski and three players to be named later from Kansas City and New York on Feb. 10.

Less than four months later, the trade was completed when the Red Sox acquired pitching prospects Grant Gambrell and Luis De La Rosa from the Royals and outfield prospect Freddy Valdez from the Mets in early June.

By designating Cordero for assignment, the Sox have exposed the Dominican-born outfielder to waivers. If he goes unclaimed over the next seven days, Boston could then retain his services by outrighting him to Worcester.

(Picture of Franchy Cordero: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Red Sox prospect Josh Winckowski closes out season with another impressive outing for Triple-A Worcester

Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski wrapped up his first season with his new organization on a promising note Friday night.

Making his second start for Triple-A Worcester since being promoted there late last month, Winckowski allowed just one earned on two hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts over six innings of work against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies affiliate) at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pa.

Coming off a strong showing in his last time out against the Rochester Red Wings, Winckowski retired each of the first six batters he faced in order before running into some trouble in the bottom half of the third.

There, the right-hander led the inning off by serving up a solo home run to Logan O’Hoope. He then issued a four-pitch walk to Nick Maton, who proceeded to advance all the way to third base on a Josh Ockimey throwing error after Arquimedes Gamboa reached safely on a fielder’s choice.

Despite being put in a tough spot at that moment, Winckowski did not waver, as he stranded Maton at third by getting Adam Haseley to fly out to left field before Luke Williams grounded into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play that was started by Jack Lopez and turned by Jonathan Arauz.

Having escaped that jam, Winckowski settled in a bit by retiring the side in order in the fourth, maneuvering his way around a two-out single in the fifth, and working around two walks in the sixth with an emphatic punchout of Darick Hall to end his night on a positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 84 (47 strikes), Winckowski ultimately picked up his first winning decision at the Triple-A level by leading the WooSox to a 4-3 victory over the IronPigs on Saturday.

In his first and final two starts of the season with Worcester, the righty allowed a total of three earned runs on five hits, three walks, one hit batsman, and 13 strikeouts over 12 innings pitched. That’s good for a 2.25 ERA and 3.27 FIP.

Winckowski, 23, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking ninth among pitchers in the organization.

The Red Sox orginally acquired the former 15th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays from the Mets as part of the three-team trade that sent outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals back in February.

He received an invite to major-league spring training before opening the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland, where he posted a 4.14 ERA and 4.02 FIP to go along with 88 strikeouts to 30 walks over 21 outings (20 starts) spanning exactly 100 innings of work.

That led to him being named the Sea Dogs’ Pitcher of the Year, and it also netted him a promotion to Worcester on September 24.

Of the four prospects (Winckowski, right-handers Grant Gambrell and Luis De La Rosa, and outfielder Freddy Valdez) Boston added as part of that three-team swap with New York and Kansas City, Winckowcki is the furthest along in regards to his development.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the 6-foot-4, 212 pound hurler out of Fort Myers operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 92-94 mph fastball that tops out at 97 mph, an 84-86 mph slider, an 88-91 mph changeup, and a reported split-finger fastball.

The timing of Winckowski’s promotion and success with the WooSox certainly comes at an interesting time when considering the fact that he can once again become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter.

While still with the Blue Jays last year, he was left unprotected upon becoming eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time, though that seems unlikely to happen this time around.

Having said all that, the Red Sox have until November 20 to add Winckowski — as well as any other eligible prospect they would like to protect — to their 40-man roster if they do not wish to expose him to the Rule 5 Draft come December.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski tosses 6 strong innings in impressive debut with Triple-A Worcester

While the Red Sox suffered their first loss in well over a week at Fenway Park on Friday night, one of the top pitching prospects in the organization put together an impressive performance on the mound approximately 42 miles away.

Yes, Josh Winckowski was solid in his debut for Triple-A Worcester at Polar Park on Friday, allowing two runs (both earned) on three hits, zero walks, and one hit batsman to go along with six strikeouts over six strong innings of work.

Matched up against the Rochester Red Wings (Nationals affiliate), the right-hander took a perfect game into the fourth inning, as he retired each of the first nine batters he faced before plunking leadoff man Victor Robles.

Even after that mishap, Winckowski proceeded to take his no-hit bid into the top of the sixth before yielding a one-out single to Humberto Arteaga.

As he got an ovation from the 8,971 on hand at Polar Park, Winckowski got the second out rather easily, but showed signs of fatigue when he surrendered back-to-back run-scoring doubles to Daniel Palka and Jake Noll that allowed the Red Wings to jump out to a 2-0 lead.

Before letting things get too out of hand, though, Winckowski got the last hitter he faced — Mike Ford — to fly out to center field to end his night on a somewhat more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 92 (61 strikes), Winckowski was hit with the loss in his first Triple-A start since the Red Wings fell to the WooSox by a final score of 3-0, but he was still undoubtedly one of the stars of the contest.

“Not quite the ending you would want, but overall decent night,” Winckowski told MassLive.com’s Katie Morrison. “Sometimes it’s hard, there are so many boards everywhere. It was probably around the fourth when I noticed it, even though I didn’t want to, sometimes it’s hard to avoid.”

Winckowski, 23, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking ninth among pitchers in the organization.

The Red Sox originally acquired the 23-year-old hurler from the Mets as part of the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals back in February. He received an invite to big-league camp earlier this spring and later opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland.

In 21 outings (20 starts) with Portland, Winckowski posted a 4.14 ERA and 4.38 xFIP to go along with 88 strikeouts to 30 walks over exactly 100 innings of work en route to being named the Sea Dogs’ Pitcher of the Year for his efforts.

A former 15th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays in 2016, Winckowski is listed at an imposing 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds. Per his Baseball America scouting report, the Ohio native (who now resides in Fort Myers) operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of “a major league-quality fastball (usually 94-96 mph), a slider, and a changeup that has the potential to emerge as a solid third pitch.”

In making his first start at the Triple-A level on Friday, Winckowski became the third Red Sox prospect to make their debuts for Worcester this week alone, joining the likes of first baseman Triston Casas and catcher Ronaldo Hernandez. All three players received promotions on Monday.

The timing of Winckowski’s promotion certainly comes at an interesting time since he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the second time in his professional career this winter.

He was left unprotected and went unselected while with the Blue Jays in last year’s Rule 5 Draft, but that seems unlikely to happen this time around given the sort of productive season he has had.

With that being said, the Red Sox will have until November 20 to add the young righty — who does not turn 24 until next June — to their 40-man roster if they do indeed plan on protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft.

In the meantime, though, Winckowski should be able to make one last start for the WooSox before the final stretch of their season comes to an end a week from Sunday (October 3).

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/MLB Photos via Getty Images)