Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford tosses 3 strong innings in final Dominican Winter League start

Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford’s contract with Estrellas Orientales of the Dominican Winter League has expired, the club announced Wednesday morning.

Crawford, 25, made five starts for Estrellas, with his final outing coming against Tigres del Licey at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal in Santo Domingo on Tuesday night.

Over three innings of work, the right-hander yielded just one unearned run on three hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts on the night. He retired nine of the 15 batters he faced, worked around a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the second, and finished with a final pitch count of 65 — 37 of which went for strikes.

Estrellas topped Tigres by a final score of 3-2 to improve to 13-8 on the season.

In his five Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana starts, Crawford wound up posting a 0.42 ERA and 1.08 WHIP while recording 23 strikeouts and eight walks across 21 1/3 innings pitched.

As for why Crawford’s contract expired when the LIDOM regular season runs through December, SoxProspects.com’s executive editor Chris Hatfield suggests that the righty hit an innings limit set by the Red Sox on Tuesday.

The Red Sox added Crawford — as well as three other players — to their 40-man roster last Friday in order to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019 and missing all of 2020 as a result, Crawford opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland and earned a promotion to Triple-A Worcester in late July.

In the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak in early September, the Red Sox selected Crawford’s contract from Worcester so that he could start in place of Nick Pivetta against the Guardians at Fenway Park on Sept. 5.

While he got shelled for five runs over two innings in his major-league debut, the Red Sox were still encouraged with what they saw from Crawford, who displayed a five-pitch mix that consisted of a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.

Because he was added to Boston’s big-league roster for COVID-19-related purposes, the Sox were able to remove Crawford from the 40-man without exposing him to waivers, thus allowing him to close out the year in Worcester.

Now that he is back in the fold, Crawford, who turns 26 in April, figures to make his return to the majors at some point in 2022. Whether the former 2017 16th-round draft pick out of Florida Gulf Coast University makes his impact felt as a starter or reliever has yet to be determined.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Estrellas Orientales/Twitter)

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 Kutter Crawford impressive in first Dominican Winter League start

It may be the offseason for some, but Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford saw his first in-game action in nearly a month on Thursday night.

Crawford started for Las Estrellas Orientales as they went up against Tigres del Licey in their second game of the Dominican Republic Professional Baseball League at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal in Santo Domingo.

Over four impressive innings of work, Crawford kept the Tigres off the scoreboard while yielding just one hit and one walk to go along with a pair of strikeouts on 55 pitches — 34 of which were strikes.

After retiring each of the first five batters he faced, Crawford issued a two-out single to Dawel Lugo in the bottom half of the second that saw his no-hit bid come to an end. He then stranded Lugo by getting Mets prospect Ronny Mauricio to pop out to second base.

A one-out walk of Diamondbacks minor-leaguer Nick Heath in the third put another base runner on for Tigres, but Crawford again responded by sitting down each of the final five hitters he faced in order going into the top of the fifth inning.

While Estrellas ultimately fell to Tigres by a final score of 9-1 on Thursday, Crawford was certainly solid in what may have very well been his first outing outside of the United States.

The 25-year-old right-hander is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 11th among pitchers in the organization.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, Crawford was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019 and missing all of 2020 while recovering from it and an additional procedure on his right elbow, the Florida native opened the 2021 season with Double-A Portland.

In 10 starts for the Sea Dogs, Crawford posted a 3.30 ERA and 2.80 xFIP to go along with 64 strikeouts to just five walks over 46 1/3 innings pitched before earning a promotion to Triple-A Worcester in late July.

Less than two months into his stint with the WooSox, Crawford had his contract selected by the Red Sox on September 5 while the big-league club navigated its way through a COVID-19 outbreak.

On that same day, Crawford made his first career major-league start against the Indians at Fenway Park, allowing five runs — all of which were earned — on five hits, two walks, and two strikeouts over two-plus innings in an eventual loss.

The Red Sox promptly optioned Crawford back down to Worcester the following day, and the righty closed out the season having put up a 5.21 ERA (but much more respectable 3.73 xFIP) and 67:15 strikeout-to-walk ratio across 10 appearances (nine starts) spanning 48 1/3 innings pitched at the Triple-A level.

On Sept. 21, Crawford was recognized as the team’s Lou Gorman Award recipient, which is given to a Red Sox minor-leaguer “who has demonstrated dedication and perseverance in overcoming obstacles while working his way to the major-league team.”

As of the offseason progresses, it should be kept in mind that Crawford is one of several Red Sox minor-leaguers who can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter if they are not added to Boston’s 40-man roster by a certain date: November 20.

Crawford previously spent time on the Sox’ 40-man roster earlier this summer, but only for COVID-19-related purposes as he was removed from the 40-man without having to be exposed to waivers.

This time around, however, the Red Sox could risk losing Crawford via this December’s Rule 5 Draft if they choose not to protect him by adding the hurler to their 40-man roster.

When speaking with The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey recently, Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham seemed confident that Crawford would remain in the organization heading into major-league spring training next year. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Estrellas Orientales/Twitter)

Red Sox top prospects Nick Yorke, Brayan Bello named organization’s Offensive Player, Starting Pitcher of the Year

Two of the top prospects in the Red Sox farm system were recognized for the seasons they respectively put together this year.

Infielder Nick Yorke was named Boston’s Offensive Player of the Year, while right-hander Brayan Bello was named Boston’s Starting Pitcher of the Year, the club announced on Tuesday.

Yorke, 19, enjoyed a great deal of success in his first professional season with the Sox after being selected with the 17th overall pick in last summer’s amateur draft.

The right-handed hitting second baseman received an invite to major-league spring training earlier this year and broke minor-league camp with Low-A Salem.

After getting off to a slow start with Salem, Yorke turned a corner at the plate beginning in June, as he was slashing a scorching .323/.413/.500 (146 wRC+) with 14 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs, 47 RBI, 59 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, 41 walks, and 47 strikeouts over 76 games (346 plate appearances) before earning a promotion to High-A Greenville late last month.

Upon getting promoted to a more advanced level on the minor-league ladder, Yorke did not slow down, as evidenced by him collecting two hits in his Greenville debut on August 24.

From there, the California native went on to hit .333/.406/.571 (158 wRC+) with six doubles, one triple, four homers, 15 RBI, 17 runs scored, two stolen bases, 11 walks, and 22 strikeouts across 21 games (96 plate appearances) with the Drive, whose season ended on Sunday.

All in all, Yorke this season ranked first among all qualified Red Sox minor-league hitters in batting average (.325), fourth in on-base percentage (.412), third in slugging percentage (.516), first in OPS (.928), second in wRC+ (158), per FanGraphs.

Yorke, who does not turn 20 until next April, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 8 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking fifth among position players in the organization.

As for Bello, the 22-year-old right-hander also earned a midseason promotion over the summer after originally beginning the year — and dominating — with Greenville.

Across six starts with the Drive, Bello posted a dazzling 2.27 ERA and 2.82 FIP to go along with 45 strikeouts to seven walks over 31 2/3 innings of work before moving up to Double-A Portland in early June.

While the transition from High-A to Double-A did not go entirely smoothly for Bello, he was one of two prospects to represent the Red Sox in July’s All-Star Futures Game at Coors Field.

From the time he was promoted to Portland through the end of the minor-league season, the Dominican-born righty put up a 4.66 ERA, but much more respectable 3.12 FIP, while striking out 31.1% of the batters he faced and walking just 8.6% of them over 15 starts spanning 63 2/3 innings of work with the Sea Dogs.

Among the eight Red Sox minor-league pitchers who accrued at least 90 innings this season, Bello ranked first in strikeouts per nine innings (12.46), first in strikeout rate (32.8%), first in FIP (3.02), and first in xFIP (3.16), per FanGraphs.

Bello, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, is the No. 6 prospect in Boston’s farm system, according to Baseball America.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Bello throws from a mid-three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a fastball, a changeup, and a slider.

Despite the fact he does not turn 23 until next May, Bello will more than likely be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline since he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time this winter.

In addition to Yorke being named the Red Sox’ Offensive Player of the Year and Bello being named the Starting Pitcher of the Year, infielder/outfielder Ceddanne Rafaela was named the Defensive Player of the Year, right-hander Durbin Feltman was named the Relief Pitcher of the Year, infielder Christian Koss was named the Baserunner of the Year, outfielder Allan Castro was named the Latin Program Position Player of the Year, and right-hander Jedixson Paez was named the Latin Program Pitcher of the Year.

On top of that, right-hander Kutter Crawford — who made his major-league debut earlier this month — was named the recipient of the Lou Gorman Award, which goes to a player “who has demonstrated dedication and perseverance in overcoming obstacles while working his way to the major-league team.”

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox ace Chris Sale tests positive for COVID-19, will miss next scheduled start on Sunday

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale has tested positive for COVID-19, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Sale had been in line to make his next scheduled start for the Red Sox in Sunday’s series finale against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, but that will no longer be the case.

The 32-year-old becomes the 10th Boston player to test positive for COVID-19 since August 27 — exactly two weeks since Friday — and will ultimately become the 12th player the club has had to place on the COVID-19 related injured list since that date.

While Enrique Hernandez, Josh Taylor, and Danny Santana have all been activated recently, the likes of Christian Arroyo, Matt Barnes, Martin Perez, Hirokazu Sawamura, Jarren Duran, Xander Bogaerts, Yairo Munoz, and Nick Pivetta remain sidelined.

Though it appears likely that some of those aforementioned names could re-join the team for their upcoming series with Chicago, Boston’s starting rotation plans for this weekend still remain somewhat disarrayed.

That being the case because Tanner Houck — Friday’s starter — is now the only definitive starting pitcher the Red Sox have named for their next three games, as Pivetta’s next scheduled start would come on Saturday and Sale’s would come on Sunday.

As noted by Cotillo, right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold traveled with the Sox to Chicago as part of their taxi squad and is a candidate to start on either Saturday or Sunday. The same can be said for fellow righty Kutter Crawford, who is slated to start for Triple-A Worcester on Friday but could very well be scratched from that outing.

Pivetta, on the other hand, can’t be ruled out for Saturday quite yet since he is vaccinated against COVID-19. If he is asymptomatic and cleared by Major League Baseball to return to the action, the 28-year-old hurler could still start this weekend, per Cotillo.

Sale, who would have been making his sixth start of the year for the Red Sox on Sunday, has posted a 2.52 ERA and 3.92 FIP to go along with 30 strikeouts to six walks through his first five outings (25 innings pitched) of the season since returning from Tommy John surgery last month.

At the moment, it is not yet known if Sale is vaccinated against COVID-19, though he did have a bout with the virus back in January. As Cotillo notes, “players who test positive for the virus have to miss a minimum of 10 days but there have been cases when vaccinated players return earlier than that timeframe.”

(Picture of Chris Sale: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox roster moves: José Iglesias signed, Josh Taylor activated, Michael Feliz selected from Triple-A Worcester

In addition to signing veteran shortstop Jose Iglesias to a major-league deal, the Red Sox made yet another flurry of roster moves ahead of Monday’s series opener against the Rays at Fenway Park.

First off, left-hander Josh Taylor was reinstated from the COVID-19 related injured list, while right-hander Michael Feliz had his contract selected from Triple-A Worcester and was added to the major-league roster.

Secondly, righty Kutter Crawford was returned to Worcester following Sunday’s 11-5 loss to the Indians, while fellow right-hander John Schreiber and infielder Jack Lopez were also returned to Worcester.

The Red Sox made all of these transactions official earlier Monday afternoon.

Taylor, who was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list last Tuesday after being identified as a close contact of Matt Barnes’ while the team was in Tampa Bay, re-joins the Sox after a six-day hiatus.

The 28-year-old became the fifth of 11 players Boston has had to place on the COVID IL since their outbreak began last Friday, but he becomes the first of that group to be activated off it — with Enrique Hernandez likely to follow.

Joining Taylor in the Red Sox bullpen will be Feliz, who initially signed a minor-league pact with Boston on August 28 after being released by the Reds.

Prior to getting designated for assignment by Cincinnati in late August, Feliz had appeared in a total of 16 games between the Pirates and Reds this season, posting an 8.79 ERA and 3.65 FIP to go along with 17 strikeouts to five walks over 14 1/3 innings of relief.

A native of the Dominican Republic, the 28-year-old originally signed with the Astros as an international free agent in 2010. He made his major-league debut for Houston in 2015, appeared in 46 games while Red Sox manager Alex Cora served as Astros bench coach in 2017, and was part of the trade that sent Gerrit Cole from Pittsburgh to the Lone Star State in 2018.

Per Baseball Savant, Feliz — listed at a stout 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds — operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, slider, and changeup.

With the additions of Taylor and Feliz, Crawford and Schreiber — both of whom made their Red Sox debuts on Sunday, were returned to Worcester. Lopez, too, was returned to accommodate the signing of Iglesias.

Because all three of Crawford, Schreiber, and Lopez were called up as COVID-19 replacements, the Sox were able to take the trio off their 40-man roster without exposing them to waivers.

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

After weekend of uncertainty, Kutter Crawford makes major-league debut for Red Sox

Kutter Crawford had been in line to make his regularly scheduled start for Triple-A Worcester on Friday while the team was in Rochester, N.Y.

Rather than have him pitch, though, the Red Sox scratched Crawford from his start with Worcester so that he could join the big-league club in Boston in the event that they would need a starter while navigating through a COVID-19 outbreak.

The 25-year-old was to fly from Rochester to Boston on Friday night, but that required a layover in Charlotte. His connecting flight was scheduled to depart from Charlotte Douglas International Airport and head towards Logan International Airport at around 10:30 p.m. eastern time. It did not leave until the wee hours of Saturday morning.

“My connecting flight in Charlotte was supposed to leave at 10:30 (p.m.) and it didn’t leave until 1:45, 2 o’clock in the morning,” Crawford said earlier Sunday evening.

Crawford did not arrive in Boston until around 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning. At that time, he was told by the Red Sox to remain on standby without being given a specific date as to when his name could be called.

Later that night, the Sox found out that Nick Pivetta, who was slated to start Sunday’s series finale against the Indians, was going to need to be placed on the COVID-19 related injured list, meaning a spot in their starting rotation had just opened up.

“I got in at 4:30 yesterday morning,” Crawford said. “Kind of uncertain what the plan was with all the COVID stuff. I was told to be on standby, and after [Saturday night’s] game I was notified that I’d be starting today.”

Able to have some friends and family in attendance at Fenway Park on Sunday, Crawford’s major-league debut did not go according to plan, as the right-hander allowed five runs — all of which were earned — on five hits, two walks, and two strikeouts over two-plus innings of work and took the loss in an 11-5 defeat at the hands of the Indians.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t go as I wanted it to,” he said in regards to his first big-league start. “But, we live and we learn and we’re going to make adjustments to keep moving forward.”

While the box score may suggest otherwise, there were positive developments from Crawford’s outing. Of the 57 pitches he threw, 40 — or 70% of them — went for strikes.

He also induced nine total swings-and-misses while topping out at 96 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 26 times.

Crawford’s 57th and final pitch was ball four to Bobby Bradley, putting a runner on first base with no outs in the third inning of a 4-0 game and subsequently prompting Red Sox manager Alex Cora to hand things over to his bullpen.

Before officially taking the ball out of Crawford’s hands, though, Cora took the time to offer the rookie right-hander some “words of encouragement” as his first start in the majors came to an end.

“I wanted him to take a deep breath and enjoy the situation,” Cora said. “It’s Fenway Park on a Sunday afternoon. There’s nothing better than that. There’s only one MLB debut. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a good one or you struggle. It’s something you still dream about as a kid. And I wanted him to take a deep breath, look around, see the whole thing — because he probably didn’t do that before the game or during the game.”

Cora understands that Crawford himself may be disappointed with his own performance on the mound, but given the circumstances, he should still hold his head high.

“Obviously there were a lot of two-out hits but he filled up the strike zone with good stuff,” said Cora. “It’s not easy to come into a situation like this and maneuver a big-league lineup.”

Crawford, who was selected by the Red Sox in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Before Sunday, the 6-foot-1, 209 pound hurler had made just six appearances (five starts) above the Double-A level after earning a promotion to Worcester earlier this simmer.

On short notice, and in his first in-game action since August 27, Crawford did not let the moment get to him, as he felt as though he was able to keep his emotions in check while working through the obvious nerves and anxieties that come with a major-league debut.

“I just didn’t execute some pitches when I needed to,” Crawford said. “I felt like I had pretty good control of my emotions. I didn’t feel like I got out of hand with some unfortunate hits and obviously giving up that home run to [Franmil] Reyes. But I felt like I had pretty good control of everything, I just didn’t execute pitches like I needed to, and they got me.”

Results aside, Cora seemed please with what he saw from Crawford on Sunday, as he praised the righty not only for his pitch arsenal, but for his demeanor as well.

“I can see it,” Cora said. “Stuff-wise, he’s really good. Like I told him on the mound, he’s a big-leaguer.”

As of now, it’s not particularly clear when Crawford will pitch again, though it seems likely that he would be returned to the WooSox once Pivetta can be activated from the COVID IL.

That being said Crawford can become eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the first time this winter, so the Red Sox would need to permanently add the righty to their 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline in order to protect him from that, thus ensuring he remains in the organization moving forward.

“With time I know he will contribute,” Cora said of Crawford. “He’ll be part of this.”

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Red Sox struggle with runners in scoring position, come up short, 11-5, in series finale against Indians

Despite a plethora of opportunities, the Red Sox were unable to finish off a series sweep and extend their winning streak to five consecutive games on Sunday afternoon, as they fell to the Indians by a final score of 11-5 at Fenway Park.

It was a day that started with uncertainty for the Sox, with Nick Pivetta being scratched from his start on account of being placed on the COVID-19 related injured list.

Instead of Pivetta, Boston was forced to turn to pitching prospect Kutter Crawford, who had been on the club’s taxi squad after making just six appearances (five starts) above the Double-A level this season.

Crawford’s inexperience showed on Sunday, as the right-hander surrendered five runs — all of which were earned — on five hits and two walks to go along with two strikeouts over just two-plus innings of work.

While he did not necessarily get shelled, Crawford did fall victim to some poor luck, as evidenced by his loading the bases with no outs in the top half of the first.

Cleveland did get to Crawford for two runs on a pair of sacrifice flies after loading the bases, and they got to him for an additional run an inning later when Owen Miller led off with a double and came around to score on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Myles Straw.

In the third, Crawford served up a monstrous 419-foot solo shot to Franmil Reyes to lead off the inning, and the righty’s day quickly came to a close after issuing a six-pitch walk to Bobby Bradley.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 57 (40 strikes), the 25-year-old hurler threw 26 four-seam fastballs, 15 cutters, 13 curveballs, two sinkers, and one changeup. He induced nine total swings-and-misses while averaging 93.8 mph with his four-seamer.

In relief of Crawford, John Schreiber got the first call out of the Boston bullpen, and he officially closed the book on the starter’s outing by giving up a hard-hit double to Harold Ramirez that was followed by a softly-hit two-run single from Bradley Zimmer to give Cleveland a commanding 6-0 lead.

Schreiber, to his credit, managed to escape the third inning without giving anything else up before stringing together two scoreless frames in the fourth and fifth innings in what was his Red Sox debut.

At that point, the Sox, still trailing by six runs, finally got to Indians starter Zach Plesac, as Hunter Renfroe led off the bottom of the fifth with a line-drive double to center field.

Renfroe did not stay at second base for long, though, with J.D. Martinez getting his productive afternoon of the plate started with an RBI double to left field.

After an Alex Verdugo walk, Kevin Plawecki snuck a run-scoring single back up the middle to bring in Martinez, while Travis Shaw came up just inches short of a three-run homer, but settled for an RBI single that scored Verdugo and put runners at first and second with no outs.

Bobby Dalbec failed to advance either runner on a flyout to left field, and — at that moment — Red Sox manager Alex Cora got aggressive by dispatching Rafael Devers, who initially had the day off, to pinch-hit for Jack Lopez.

Devers, however, was unable to get the job done off the bench, as he punched out on seven pitches before Jonathan Arauz also struck out to leave two important runs at second and third base.

Still, after Schreiber and left-hander Stephen Gonsalves combined to put up a zero in the top of the sixth, the Boston bats kept things going against the Cleveland bullpen.

Matched up against Nick Wittgren, the Renfroe-Martinez combination struck once more, with the former reaching base via a one-out single and the latter clearing the bases on a 401-foot two-run home run into the Red Sox bullpen.

Martinez’s 25th homer of the season made cut the Sox’ deficit down to just one run at 6-5, and Verdugo kept the pressure on by ripping a line-drive double to put the potential tying run in scoring position.

Plawecki moved Verdugo up to third base on a softly-hit groundout, but Shaw was unable to bring him in and instead grounded out to first base to extinguish the threat.

From there, Ryan Brasier bounced back from a shaky 2021 debut on Friday by facing the minimum of three batters in the top of the seventh, and the Red Sox offense had another chance to pull even with the Indians in the bottom half.

Taylor Motter, who replaced Lopez at second base earlier in the contest, had drawn a one-out walk off Trevor Stephan and remained there when Arauz flew out to left field. With Kyle Schwarber at the plate, though, Motter was picked off at first base, thus ending the inning.

Hansel Robles kept Cleveland at six runs with a 1-2-3 eighth inning, but this one got away from Boston when Phillips Valdez took the mound for the top half of the ninth.

After twirling two shutout frames on Saturday, Valdez got rocked for five runs on five hits on Sunday afternoon.

That meltdown of an inning allowed the Indians to jump out to an 11-5 lead, and that would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

In total, the Sox went 3-for-18 with runners in scoring position and left 12 runners on base as a team on Sunday.

With the loss, the Red Sox fall to 79-60 on the season, though they remain just a 1/2 game back of the Yankees, who lost to the Orioles on Sunday, for the first American League Wild Card spot.

Next up: Rays on deck

The Red Sox will celebrate the Labor Day holiday on Monday by welcoming in the Tampa Bay Rays into town for a three-game series at Fenway Park.

Left-hander Chris Sale will get the ball for Boston in Monday’s series opener, while fellow lefty Ryan Yarbrough will do the same for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and ESPN.

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

Red Sox place Nick Pivetta on COVID-19 related injured list, select Kutter Crawford from Triple-A Worcester

Before wrapping up their three-game series against the Indians on Sunday afternoon, the Red Sox placed right-hander Nick Pivetta on the COVID-19 related injured list.

In a corresponding move, fellow righty Kutter Crawford has been selected from Triple-A Worcester, the club announced earlier Sunday morning.

Pivetta had been slated to start Sunday’s series finale against Cleveland, but that responsibility will now fall to Crawford.

At the moment, it’s unclear if Pivetta has tested positive for COVID-19 or if he is just exhibiting symptoms or was recently identified as a close contact, but it is worth mentioning that he did spend one day on the COVID-related injured list back in May due to side effects from the vaccine.

Regardless, the 28-year-old becomes the 10th player the Red Sox have had to place on the COVID-19 related injured list since last Friday, joining the likes of Enrique Hernandez, Christian Arroyo, Martin Perez, Matt Barnes, Hirokazu Sawamura, Josh Taylor, Xander Bogaerts, Yairo Munoz, and Jarren Duran.

Hernandez and Arroyo tested positive for the virus while the team was in Cleveland, Perez, Barnes, Sawamura, Bogaerts, and Munoz tested positive in St. Petersburg, and Duran tested positive in Boston on Friday.

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

With Pivetta being forced to miss his scheduled start on Sunday afternoon, the Sox will now turn to Crawford in his place.

Crawford, 25, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 11th among pitchers in the organization.

Boston originally selected the right-hander in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University, the same school ace left-hander Chris Sale attended.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019 and another elbow procedure last summer, Crawford began the 2021 season with Double-A Portland. He posted a 3.30 ERA and 2.81 xFIP to go along with 64 strikeouts to five walks across 10 starts (46 1/3 innings pitched) for the Sea Dogs before earning a promotion to Triple-A Worcester in late July.

Since that time, Crawford has pitched to the tune of a 5.52 ERA, but a much more encouraging 3.79 xFIP, in his six appearances (five starts) that span 29 1/3 innings of work with the WooSox.

He had been in line to make his sixth start for Worcester on Thursday, but was scratched from said start and added to the Red Sox’ taxi squad on account of the COVID-19 issues the club is currently navigating through.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the 6-foot-1, 210 pound hurler operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 91-94 mph fastball, an 85-87 mph cutter, a 77-78 mph curveball, and an 83-85 mph changeup.

Sunday will mark Crawford’s major-league debut, and it certainly comes at an interesting time in which the Red Sox are looking to finish off a sweep of the Indians.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and TBS.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox scratch pitching prospects Kutter Crawford, Connor Seabold from starts with Triple-A Worcester amid club’s COVID-19 issues: ‘We got to be prepared,’ Alex Cora says

Two of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox farm system have each been scratched from their respective starts for Triple-A Worcester within the last two days.

Kutter Crawford had been slated to make his sixth start of the season for Worcester in their contest against the Rochester Red Wings on Thursday night, while Connor Seabold was in line to do make his eighth start on Friday.

Instead, the pair of right-handers have been pulled aside as somewhat of a contingency plan in the event that a shorthanded Red Sox team finds themselves in need of more pitching depth if additional COVID-19-related issues arise.

Since last Friday, Boston has placed four pitchers on the COVID-19 related injured list, as Matt Barnes, Martin Perez, and Hirokazu Sawamura have all recently tested positive for the virus while Josh Taylor was identified as a close contact.

Because of all those hurlers being sidelined at the moment, the Sox have had to call up the likes of Raynel Espinal, Stephen Gonsalves, John Schreiber, and Brad Peacock — who was recently acquired from the Indians for cash considerations — within the last week in order to stabilize its starting rotation and bullpen depth.

That being said, the reinforcements from the minor-league side may not stop there, as both Crawford and Seabold have essentially been put on standby for the time being.

“We got to be prepared,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday when asked about the reasoning behind the two prospects being scratched from their starts. “We got to be prepared. Yes.”

Crawford, 25, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 22 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 11th among pitchers in the organization.

The former 16th-round draft selection out of Florida Gulf Coast University initially began the 2021 season at Double-A Portland, but earned a promotion to Worcester in late July.

Since that time, Crawford has posted a 5.52 ERA and 3.80 xFIP to go along with 39 strikeouts to eight walks over six appearances (five starts) and 29 1/3 innings of work for the WooSox.

Seabold, on the other hand, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 12 prospect in Boston’s farm system, placing 10 spots above Crawford.

Unlike Crawford, the 25-year-old righty is on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster after being added to it last November in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft.

One of two right-handers (the other being Nick Pivetta) the Sox acquired from the Phillies in exchange for relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree last August, Seabold missed the first several weeks of the 2021 campaign due to elbow inflammation.

After rehabbing in the Florida Complex League debut for a spell, the former third-round draft pick out of Cal State Fullerton made his highly-anticipated WooSox debut on July 23.

In seven starts with Worcester, Seabold has pitched to the tune of a 4.29 ERA and 4.62 xFIP while striking out 26.5% of the batters he has faced and walking just 6.6% of them over 35 2/3 innings pitched.

Between the two of them, Seabold has more experience as a reliever, though five of his six career relief appearances in the minors came in 2017.

Earlier this week, Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) that the club has not discussed promoting Seabold to use him as a multi-inning reliever, though they have been impressed with what he’s done with Worcester.

“We have talked about him,” Cora said on Wednesday. “We know he’s very talented. He’s throwing the ball well. I do believe that September is going to be very interesting as far as like maneuvering our roster and trying to maximize our roster. It’s only two more spots. It’s not a few years ago when you could go up to 40.

As noted by Smith, major-league rosters now expand from 26 to 28 players at the beginning of September — not all the way up to 40 as they did previously.

“He’s throwing the ball well,” added Cora. “We know that probably he can contribute. How? We’ll talk about it and when/if we need him. But as of now, he’s still down there (in Worcester). He’s still getting better. And we’re very happy that he’s performing the way he’s performing.”

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Katie Morrison/MassLive)