Red Sox pitching prospect Brayan Bello looking to make most of first invite to major-league spring training

Brayan Bello enters the 2022 season regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in the Red Sox farm system, which ranks first among pitchers in the organization.

It has been quite the rise for Bello, who at this time last year was Baseball America’s 20th-ranked Boston prospect.

The 22-year-old right-hander is coming off a 2021 season in which he posted a 3.87 ERA and 3.02 FIP to go along with 132 strikeouts to 31 walks over 21 starts (95 1/3 innings pitched) between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland. He also represented the Red Sox in last July’s All-Star Futures Game and was named the team’s Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year.

As a reward for his exceptional campaign, Bello was added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster last November so he would receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft. The lockout began shortly thereafter, though, which barred the former international signee from communicating with his club since he was now considered a major-leaguer.

Forced to spend his off-season and work out at home in the Dominican Republic instead of Fort Myers, Bello was about as excited as anyone when the lockout ended earlier this month since it meant he would be receiving his first-ever invite to big-league spring training.

“I’m really happy because that just shows the hard work that I put in to be able to even be invited to big-league camp,” Bello recently told The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams. “Like, that’s really what was the goal to be able to have this opportunity. So now that I’m here, like, I’m trying to just take advantage of it.”

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, Bello has a repeatable delivery and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a mid-90s four-seam fastball that touches 98 mph, a changeup that is considered to be a plus offering, and an improving slider. He is also working on developing a two-seamer, per his Baseball America scouting report.

“Everybody raves about him,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Bello, who will likely be making his spring debut on either Tuesday or Wednesday. “[He doesn’t have] a physical presence. But what they said stuff wise, he’s really good.”

Bello, who turns 23 in May, is projected by SoxProspects.com to return to Portland for the start of the 2022 minor-league season next month. He should, however, make it as far as Triple-A Worcester this year and could be on the cusp of making his major-league debut sooner rather than later.

(Picture of Brayan Bello: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

The Red Sox are back in business as MLB lockout ends

After 99 frustrating days, Major League Baseball is back. The owner-imposed lockout came to an end on Thursday when the league’s owners and players finally came to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, as first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The deal, per Passan, still needs to be ratified by both the owners and players later Thursday evening, but that is expected to be a formality. In other words, once the new agreement is ratified, baseball will officially be back.

It has been a tenuous three-plus months since the owners first locked out the players when the previous collective bargaining agreement on December 2. Since that time, the league and players’ association have met a number of times to negotiate a new deal, though it took until Thursday for the MLB to accept MLB’s proposal on a CBA by a 26-12 vote, per The Score’s Travis Sawchik.

With an agreement now tentatively in place, the baseball wheels are about to start rolling. Despite what commissioner Rob Manfred has previously said, the 2022 season will begin on April 7 and consist of the usual 162 games. Games that were previously cancelled from March 31-April 6 will be made up on off days and via nine-inning doubleheaders.

For the Red Sox, this means that Opening Day will now take place against the Yankees in the Bronx on Thursday, April 7. Boston’s home opener at Fenway Park will come against the Twins eight days later in the first of four on both Jackie Robinson Day and Patriots’ Day weekend.

As far as spring training is concerned, players are expected to report to their respective facilities in Arizona and Florida by the end of the week with camps officially opening on Sunday. Spring training games, in turn, should start shortly thereafter.

Off the field, free agency is expected to re-open when the owners and players ratify the new CBA. This means that roster moves and signings could be made as soon as Thursday night as clubs look to finalize their rosters in the coming weeks.

All told, this has the makings to be a hectic spring, with arbitration hearings set to take place as well. Opening Day, as a reminder, is only four weeks away. With that, let there be baseball.

(Picture of Rob Manfred: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

6 additional Red Sox games cancelled due to MLB lockout

The start of the 2022 Major League Baseball season has once again been delayed due to the ongoing owner-imposed lockout.

Eight days after cancelling each clubs’ first two series of the year, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Wednesday that two additional series have been removed from the league schedule. This means that Opening Day will be postponed until April 14 at the earliest.

“We worked hard to reach an agreement and offered a fair deal with significant improvements for the players and our fans,” Manfred said in a statement released by the league. “I am saddened by this situation’s continued impact on our game and all those who are a part of it, especially our loyal fans. We have the utmost respect for our players and hope they will ultimately choose to accept the fair agreement they have been offered.”

After negotiations fell through in Jupiter, Fla. last week, MLB and the players association re-convened in New York City this week in hopes of reaching agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Due to a number of on- and off-the-field issues, though, it does not appear as if a new deal will be reached anytime soon, hence the move by MLB to cancel more games.

The ongoing work stoppage began on December 2 when the previous collective bargaining agreement expired and the owners locked out the players as a result. It is now in its 97th day.

For the Red Sox, this means that the first 12 games of the 2022 campaign have been axed from their schedule. Boston previously lost out on a six-game homestand against the Rays and Orioles to open the season and now lose out on a six-game road trip that included stops in Detroit and the Bronx.

So, in other words, the soonest the Sox’ regular season can begin is April 15 (Jackie Robinson Day)in the first of four against the Twins at Fenway Park on Patriots’ Day weekend. They have a scheduled off day on April 14.

With that being said, there is no guarantee that those games or the ones that come immediately after will take place. That all depends on how ongoing negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA go.

On that note, here is how the MLBPA responded to Wednesday’s series of events:

(Picture of Fenway Park: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Don’t forget about Red Sox prospect Devlin Granberg

Even with the ongoing lockout delaying the start of the 2022 Major League Baseball Season, the 2022 minor-league season remains unaffected. And while prospects on the 40-man roster are still impacted by the work stoppage, all other Red Sox minor-leaguers begin their version of spring training this Sunday.

Out of the dozens of players who have been and who will be pouring into the Fort Myers-area in the coming days, one name to watch for is first baseman/outfielder Devlin Granberg.

Granberg, 26, is admittedly older for your prototypical prospect. The Sox originally drafted the Dallas Baptist University senior in the sixth round of the 2018 amateur draft and later signed him for just $40,000.

After beginning his professional career with the Lowell Spinners and splitting the 2019 campaign between Boston’s two Class-A affilates, Granberg was met with somewhat of a roadblock when the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He did not receive an invite to the Red Sox’ alternate training site that summer, nor did he participate in the team’s fall instructional league. Still, according to director of player development Brian Abraham, Granberg was one of several players who came into camp last year and “immediately impressed with the strides they’d made during a year away.”

On the heels of such an impressive spring, Granberg opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville. The right-handed hitter got off to a scorching start for the Drive, batting .326/.416/.642 (174 wRC+) with seven doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 29 RBIs, 21 runs scored, one stolen base, 12 walks, and 16 strikeouts over 27 games (113 plate appearances) before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 16.

Upon arriving in Portland, Granberg picked up right where he left off in terms of offensive production. He cooled down for a bit in August, but rebounded in September to end his year by slashing .286/.331/.469 (117 wRC+) with 16 doubles, one triple, 10 homers, 45 RBIs, 48 runs scored, four stolen bases, 11 walks, and 54 strikeouts across 69 games (281 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs.

In a conversation with FanGraphs’ David Laurila last July, Granberg described himself as “immobile” and his short, compact swing as “one of the more interesting swings out there” since it is unconventional.

“I would say it’s pretty rotational, yet not totally rotational,” he said. “It’s kind of like those combo swings — not too crouched, maybe a little bit open, and then I stride into it. I’m trying to hit the ball middle/opposite field most of the time.”

Defensively, Granberg saw playing time at four different positions between Greenville and Portland in 2021. The 6-foot-2, 224 pounder logged 138 innings at first base, 194 innings in left field, nine innings in center field, and 303 1/3 innings in right field while recording a total of two outfield assists.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Granberg “has more defensive upside at first base” than he does in the outfield since he possesses fringe-average arm strength and average range.

Granberg, who does not turn 27 until September, is not regarded by SoxProspects.com as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. The Colorado native is currently projected by the site to begin the 2022 season where he left off in 2021: Portland.

That being said, Granberg is still eligible for the Rule 5 Draft since he was left off the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in November. On Friday, Baseball America’s Josh Norris reported that the Rule 5 Draft “is expected to take place a week after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place,” though it could end up getting cancelled if the lockout continues to drag on.

(Picture of Devlin Granberg: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

First 6 games of Red Sox’ 2022 season cancelled due to MLB lockout

The start of the 2022 Major League Baseball season has been delayed due to the ongoing lockout.

After nine consecutive days of intense negotiations in Jupiter, Fla. , MLB and the players association were unable to reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement by the league’s self imposed 5 p.m. eastern time deadline on Tuesday evening.

It has now been 90 days since the previous collective bargaining agreement expired on December 2 and the owners locked out the players as a result. Spring training games had already been cancelled, but with the aforementioned negotiating deadline come and gone, the league felt as though it could not start the regular season as scheduled on March 31.

More specifically, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Tuesday that the league has cancelled Opening Day as well as each team’s first two series of the 2022 season.

For the Red Sox, this means that their first six games of the year have been cancelled. The Sox were originally slated to host the Rays (March 31, April 2-3) and Orioles (April 4-6) in a pair of three-game series at Fenway Park to kick off their schedule.

Following Tuesday’s announcement, however, the earliest Boston’s season can begin is April 7, when they are scheduled to open a three-game set against the New York Yankees in the Bronx.

Of course, those games and the ones that come immediately after remain in jeopardy on account of the ongoing work stoppage. Manfred said the league and players union will not meet again until Thursday at the earliest, but those talks could drag on.

Regardless of that, any games that are cancelled because of the lockout will not be rescheduled, nor will players be compensated for them. This means that — at most — the Red Sox will play 75 home games at Fenway Park this season. It feels safe to assume that fans who purchased tickets for cancelled games will be eligible for a full refund.

(Picture of Fenway Park: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox spring training: 3 more Grapefruit League games cancelled due to lockout

Exactly one week after cancelling spring training games through March 4, Major League Baseball announced on Friday that games on March 5, 6, and 7 have been cancelled as well due to the ongoing lockout.

For the Red Sox, who were supposed to host Northeastern at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon, this means that three additional spring training games have been cleared from their Grapefruit League schedule.

After previously losing exhibition games against the Braves, Yankees, Phillies, Pirates, Astros, Orioles, Braves, and Rays, the Sox will no longer be taking on the Twins, Blue Jays, or Yankees in Grapefruit League play.

Instead, the earliest teams can open their spring schedule is March 8 (Boston is slated to host Pittsburgh in Fort Myers that Tuesday afternoon). Of course, whether games are actually played on March 8 is dependent on ongoing negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players association.

The two sides met for a fifth straight day in Jupiter, Fla. on Friday but have yet to reach an agreement that would end the work stoppage, which is now in its 86th day. MLB owners originally locked out the players on December 2, when the previous collective bargaining agreement expired.

If a new CBA is not finalized by this coming Monday (February 28), the league has already said that the regular season would not start on time. As noted by The Athletic’s Evan Drellich, this outcome would lead to cancelled games not being made up and a decrease in players’ pay as a result.

As of now, the Red Sox are scheduled to host the Rays at Fenway Park on Opening Day — March 31. Every team’s 2022 regular season schedule consists of 162 games, though that number could change in the coming days.

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Red Sox spring training: Games through March 4 cancelled due to ongoing lockout

Major League Baseball announced on Friday that spring training games through March 4 have been cancelled as a result of the ongoing lockout. This means that spring training games will start no earlier than March 5.

The Red Sox were originally scheduled to host Northeastern at JetBlue Park on February 25 and open Grapefruit League play against the Atlanta Braves in North Port the following day.

Because of the lockout, however, the earliest the Sox can begin their spring training schedule is March 5, when they are slated to host the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers.

Fans who purchased tickets for spring training games that have already been cancelled are eligible for full refunds.

In a statement released earlier Friday afternoon, MLB says it is “committed to reaching an agreement that is fair to each side. On Monday, members of the owners’ bargaining committee will join an in-person meeting with the Players Association and remain every day next week to negotiate and work hard towards starting the season on time.”

Here is how the MLB Players Association responded:

MLB owners locked out the players when the previous collective bargaining agreement expired on December 2. The work stoppage — and ongoing feud between the league and players association — is now in its 79th day.

If neither side is able to reach an agreement by the end of February, there is a real chance regular season games will wind up getting cancelled as well.

Opening Day for the Red Sox is scheduled for March 31 at Fenway Park, where they are supposed to host the Tampa Bay Rays to kick off the 2022 season.

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Former Red Sox right-hander Raynel Espinal signs minor-league deal with Giants

Former Red Sox right-hander Raynel Espinal has signed a minor-league contract with the Giants, per the team’s transaction log.

Espinal, 30, was originally selected by the Sox in the minor-league phase of the 2019 Rule 5 Draft after spending the first seven years of his career in the Yankees organization.

A few months prior to getting picked up by Boston, Espinal underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2019, so the 2020 minor-league season being wiped out on account of the COVID-19 pandemic did not affect him too much.

After re-signing a minors pact with the Sox last winter, Espinal came into the 2021 campaign having received an invite to major-league spring training in Fort Myers, Fla. He made five Grapefruit League appearances, then opened the season with Triple-A Worcester.

In 23 outings (21 starts) for the WooSox, the 6-foot-3, 215 pound righty posted a 3.44 ERA and 4.08 FIP to go along with 115 strikeouts to 43 walks over 117 2/3 innings of work.

Towards the end of August, the Red Sox found themselves in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak that required them to call upon reinforcements from Worcester. As a result, Espinal made his big-league debut against the Rays on Aug. 30 and wound up allowing two runs in two innings of mop-up duty at Tropicana Field.

Returned to the WooSox the following day, Espinal closed out his season in Worcester and finished the year by leading the team in starts, innings pitched, and strikeouts. For his efforts, he was recognized by MLB Pipeline as the organization’s top right-handed starter in November.

Around that same time, Espinal became a minor-league free agent once again. The Dominican-born hurler returned to his home island this off-season to pitch for Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League. There, he produced a 6.75 ERA in six appearances (five starts) spanning 18 2/3 innings pitched.

While it appears as though Espinal has been assigned to the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento, his departure could leave the Red Sox on the lookout for additional pitching depth.

Because of the ongoing lockout, MLB clubs are not allowed to be in contact with players on the 40-man roster. This does not just pertain to major-leaguers, but to certain minor-leaguers as well.

In the Red Sox’ case, prospects such as Eduard Bazardo, Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Jay Groome, Connor Seabold, Josh Winckowski, Ronaldo Hernandez, Connor Wong, Jeter Downs, Hudson Potts, Jarren Duran, and Jeisson Rosario have been out of the loop since December.

If the lockout continues into April, Boston would not be able to assign these prospects to minor-league affiliates (mainly Worcester and Double-A Portland).

All four of Bazardo, Crawford, Seabold, and Winckowski pitched at the Triple-A level last year, so their collective presence could be missed if this work stoppage persists.

With that being said, the Red Sox could very well address this potential concern by scouring the minor-league free agent market to bolster their depth, particularly on the pitching side of things.

(Picture of Raynel Espinal: Katie Morrison/MassLive)