Ex-Red Sox prospect Jhonathan Diaz has chance to help former team in second career start for Angels Saturday night

Former Red Sox prospect Jhonathan Diaz will be making his second career start for the Angels on Saturday night, and he has the opportunity to help out his old team in the process of doing so.

Diaz will get the ball for the Halos as they go up against the Mariners in the second game of a pivotal three-game set at T-Mobile Park with plenty of Wild Card implications at stake.

Los Angeles opened their series against Seattle with a tight 2-1 victory on Friday to drop the Mariners to 89-71 and push them one game back of the Red Sox for the second and final American League Wild Card spot coming into play on Saturday.

Jose Suarez picked up the win for the Angels in the opener of the three-game set, and a fellow left-hander in Diaz will look to do the same in the middle contest.

The 25-year-old originally signed with the Red Sox for $600,000 as an international free-agent out of Venezuela back in July 2013 — the same signing class that Boston landed Rafael Devers.

Signed by the likes of Eddie Romero and Angel Escobar at just 16, Diaz made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League the following summer. He did not pitch in 2015 on account of a knee injury, but made it as far as High-A by the time the 2019 minor-league season came to a close.

At that time, Diaz had put together a 2019 campaign in which he posted a 3.86 ERA and 3.98 xFIP with 118 strikeouts and 54 walks over 27 starts spanning 128 1/3 innings of work for Salem.

The Venezuelan southpaw also made eight appearances in the Arizona Fall League and was likely on track to begin the following season with Double-A Portland.

However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 minor-league season was eventually cancelled in June, leaving Diaz — who did not receive an invite to the Red Sox’ alternate training site — on his own.

With his minor-league contract set to expire, Diaz became a free-agent for the first time last fall, but bounced back on his feet quickly by inking a minors pact with the Angels in late November.

In his first season with a new organization, Diaz opened the 2021 season at Double-A Rocket City, pitched for his native Venezuela in Olympic qualifiers, and returned to Double-A before earning a promotion to Triple-A Salt Lake on August 26.

Over the course of three starts for the Bees, the 6-foot, 170 pound hurler put up a 4.11 ERA, a 4.47 FIP, and a 14:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio before having his contract selected and earning his first big-league call-up on September 17.

Making his major-league debut that same day as a starter, Diaz allowed two runs on two hits, four walks, one hit batsman, and two strikeouts over 1 2/3 innings pitched in an eventual 5-4 loss to the Athletics in Anaheim.

Eight days later, Diaz was called upon to work out of the bullpen this time around against the Mariners. From the third inning on, the lefty tossed seven frames of one-run ball while scattering three hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts en route to picking up his first-ever major-league win in a 14-1 rout of Seattle.

Per Baseball Savant, Diaz operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a changeup, slider, sinker, curveball, and four-seam fastball. Opposing batters thus far are hitting just .200 off his changeup, .182 off his slider, and .125 off his sinker.

Diaz will be making his first start away from Angel Stadium on Saturday. If he replicates what he did against the Mariners in his last time out, he could be doing the team he began his professional career with a great service.

(Picture of Jhonathan Diaz: John McCoy/Getty Images)

Matt Barnes gives up two-run home run to Shohei Ohtani, blows first save of season as Red Sox fail to close out series against Angels in 6-5 loss

The Red Sox were one out away from securing a three-game sweep over the Angels at Fenway Park on Sunday, but fell short of doing so in heart-breaking fashion.

With two outs and the bases empty in the top of the ninth inning, Sox closer Matt Barnes got a struggling Mike Trout to hit a pop fly to right field for what looked to be the final out of the game.

Rather than fall into a Red Sox fielder’s glove, though, the 75.9 mph bloop found a patch of grass and landed between right fielder Marwin Gonzalez, center fielder Hunter Renfroe, and second baseman Michael Chavis, all of whom were playing Trout in a shift.

Representing the tying run in a 5-4 game, Trout’s single brought Shohei Ohtani to the plate, who proceeded to wrap a go-ahead, two-run home run around Pesky’s Pole in right field to give the Angels a 6-5 lead.

Barnes was charged with his first blown save of the season as the Red Sox would go on to fall to 25-17 on the year overall and 13-12 at home.

Plawecki, Devers lead comeback

Well before a drama-filled ninth inning, the Sox found themselves in a four-run hole early on against Los Angeles.

Matched up against veteran left-hander Jose Quintana, the bottom third of Boston’s lineup provided the first offensive jolt of the day when Jonathan Arauz drove in Marwin Gonzalez from second on an RBI double — and his first hit of the season — in the bottom of the third.

Fast forward to the fifth, and the bottom of the order took charge once more, this time with Kevin Plawecki clubbing his first home run of the season 389 feet over the Green Monster to cut the Halos’ lead to two runs.

Arauz and leadoff man Michael Chavis both singled with one out in between a pitching change that saw righy Aaron Slegers take over for Quintana, which set up Rafael Devers in a prime scoring spot.

On the fourth pitch he saw from Slegers — an 0-2, 93 mph fastball — Devers crushed it 400 feet to right field for his 11th big fly of the season. The three-run blast, which had an exit velocity of over 104 mph, put the Sox ahead by a run at 5-4.

Eovaldi allows four runs over five innings, Martinez notches outfield assist

The reason the Red Sox were trailing by four runs as early as they were was due in part to the struggles Nathan Eovaldi endured in his second inning of work Sunday.

After retiring the side rather easily in the first, the veteran right-hander plunked the first hitter he faced in the second in Anthony Rendon. That would prove to be costly for Eovaldi, as he wound up surrendering four runs on four hits and a walk in the frame.

Despite the early troubles, however, Eovaldi was able to settle in to the point where he sat down eight of the final 11 Angels he faced.

He did give up a two-out double to Jared Walsh in his final inning of work that very well could have scored Ohtani all the way from first, but J.D. Martinez prevented that from happening when he threw a dart from left field and Kevin Plawecki snuffed out the two-way phenom at home plate.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 87 (63 strikes), Eovaldi turned to his four-seam fastball 51% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing four swings-and-misses and topping out at 99.3 mph with the pitch.

Hit with the no-decision while raising his ERA on the season to 4.50, the 31-year-old’s next start should come against the Phillies on Saturday.

Red Sox bullpen takes over

In relief of Eovaldi, Phillips Valdez got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the sixth inning. The right-hander tossed a scoreless frame, while left-hander Josh Taylor got the call for the seventh and put away the only three hitters he faced in order.

From there, Adam Ottavino issued a one-out single and walk in the top of the eighth before recording the second out and making way for Barnes.

Barnes escaped the inning and stranded both runners he inherited by getting Jose Iglesias to line out to right field. He then gave up that two-run homer to Ohtani in the ninth.

Next up: Off day, then six-game road trip

The Red Sox will enjoy an off day on Monday and head down to Dunedin, Fla. to open up a three-game series against the 22-17 Blue Jays on Tuesday night.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is slated to get the start for Boston, and fellow southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu will do the same for Toronto.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:37 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Fenway Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox activate Garrett Whitlock from COVID-19 related injured list, option Colten Brewer to Triple-A Worcester

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

In a corresponding move, right-handed reliever Colten Brewer was optioned to Triple-A Worcester, the team announced earlier Sunday.

Whitlock was originally placed on the COVID IL on Saturday due to side effects from vaccination. He wound up only missing one game on account of feeling under the weather after receiving the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Through 10 appearances out of the Boston bullpen this season, the 24-year-old rookie has posted a 1.77 ERA, a 2.92 FIP, and a 21:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 20 1/3 innings pitched.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “Whitlock will be available out of the bullpen in Sunday’s series finale but is unlikely to pitch after throwing three innings Thursday night against Oakland.”

Brewer, meanwhile, was not used in the brief amount of time he was up with the Red Sox this weekend after beginning the year in the WooSox’ bullpen.

The 28-year-old hurler has compiled a 4.59 ERA, a 5.14 FIP, and a 77:48 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 69 total appearances (four starts) and 80 1/3 innings pitched in parts of two seasons with Boston since coming over from the Padres in a November 2018 trade.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo describes hitting home run with family and friends at Fenway Park for his birthday as ‘a very special moment’

Alex Verdugo came into Saturday afternoon’s game against the Angels with a lot on his mind.

Not only was the young outfielder celebrating his 25th birthday with some family and friends in the stands at Fenway Park, but he was also riding one of the worst slumps of his Red Sox career to this point.

Heading into Saturday’s contest, Verdugo was just 2-for-his-last 24 (.083) at the plate over his previous six games dating back to May 9.

As someone who sets the bar exceptionally high for himself, this recent skid was surely weighing on Verdugo. But he was able to put his mind at ease in his first at-bat of the day on Saturday.

Matched up against Angels starter Dylan Bundy for the first time in his career, Verdugo took a 1-2, 85 mph changeup down the heart of the plate and crushed it 427 feet to right field for his fifth home run of the season.

The Red Sox went up 1-0 on the left-handed hitter’s solo shot and wound up routing the Halos by a final score of 9-0 to improve to 25-16 on the year.

“It was extremely nice, I won’t lie,” Verdugo said when asked about setting the tone with is bat on Saturday. “Obviously, the last week or so, I’ve been kind of pressing a little bit. So just to go up today, have simple thoughts, get down 0-2, and just kind of battle. Get a pitch over the zone, take it out of the park and give us an early lead just so we can breathe and let Martin (Perez) get into his rhythm and his groove.

“It was big. It was big, man. I can’t stress that enough,” he added. “It helped my shoulders, it helped me all relax, and just kind of have fun again.”

In the process of rounding the bases for the first time at Fenway since May 4, Verdugo pointed towards the Red Sox dugout while first beginning his trot, towards left field as he was rounding second base, and towards behind home plate after he had rounded third base.

The reasoning behind that? Well, since it was his 25th birthday, Verdugo had a select number of family and friends in attendance. His parents were seated up behind home plate — watching their son play at Fenway Park in-person for the first time since he was traded to the Red Sox last year — while his best friend and their family were seated up on the Green Monster.

“It was cool,” said Verdugo. “So if I hit the home run and I was pointing everywhere, that’s why. I was trying to make sure I got my mom, my dad, my best friend, and then also my best friend and his family in left.”

Verdugo followed up his first-inning home run by lacing a leadoff single in the fifth inning and coming in to score on Xander Bogaerts’ three-run home run as part of a 2-for-4 day at the plate.

Not only did Verdugo enjoy a successful day on an individual level, but he made his birthday that much better by playing a key role in the Sox’ blowout win over the Angels.

“Last thing we want to do is lose, especially on my birthday,” he said. “Just want to celebrate it even more, so the fact that we win, it’s already a positive. That’s the biggest thing: just a win. For me personally, in that first at-bat — going through a little skid — and have a good at-bat, get a pitch out over and drive it like that in front of my family that’s here and some friends, it was a very special moment for me. Very special.”

By notching his first multi-hit game since May 8, Verdugo credited his teammates and coaching staff for helping him stay on track with the power of positive affirmation while he was slumping.

“It’s a long year,” he admitted. “We all know. We go through ups and downs. Just to see that your guys — your teammates, your staff — they all care about you. They see that you’re going through something, but they want the best for you.”

As for why he was hitting just .226 in the month of May leading up to Saturday in the first place, Verdugo attributed that to “not staying back” on the ball while he was in the batter’s box.

“I wasn’t letting the ball travel,” said Verdugo. “And that’s the biggest thing for me. When I let the fastball travel and get deep on me, I can just use my hands, catch it deep and shoot it to left. And then it puts me in a better spot for the curveballs, the changeups, all the offspeed pitches.

“And I just felt like I was kind of in between,” he continued. “Whether I was trying to hit every pitch or I just wasn’t really locked in. It just felt like you were trying to force a result, and that’s the biggest thing I can say. You’ve got to go up there and win each pitch. Even if a pitcher gets a strike, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically swinging the next pitch. It’s just see the ball, let it get deep and good things will happen.”

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

Alex Verdugo celebrates 25th birthday by breaking out of slump, crushing home run as Red Sox blank Angels, 9-0

Alex Verdugo celebrated his birthday in style at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon.

Coming into the day in the midst of a chilly 2-for-24 slump, the newly-turned 25-year-old set the tone for the Red Sox by taking Angels starter Dylan Bundy deep to right field for his fifth home run of the season right away in the first inning.

Verdugo’s solo blast put Boston up by a run early on in what would turn out to be a commanding 9-0 victory over Los Angeles.

With the win — their third straight, the Sox improved to 25-16 on the season and 13-11 at Fenway Park.

Dalbec, Cordero collect two doubles each

As was the case on Friday night, the bottom of the Red Sox lineup continued its recent run of success thanks to the efforts of Bobby Dalbec and Franchy Cordero on Saturday.

Dalbec added on the Sox’ early lead by plating two more runs in the bottom half of the fourth, driving in Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers on a sharply-hit double off the base of the Green Monster.

Franchy Cordero followed with a hard-hit double of his own that had an exit velocity of 110 mph and brought in Dalbec from second to make it a 4-0 game.

Fast forward to the sixth, and the Dalbec-Cordero combination struck again. This time with the former leading off the inning with his second two-base hit of the day and the latter scoring him on his second two-base hit of the day as well.

In total, Dalbec — who now has multiple hits in two of his last three games — and Cordero combined to go 4-for-8 on Saturday with four doubles, two runs scored, and four RBI.

Bogaerts, Devers homer

Boston’s No. 8 and No. 9 hitters were not the only dynamic duo the Red Sox rode to a blowout win on Saturday, as the No. 4 and No. 5 hitters enjoyed productive days at the plate as well.

Bogaerts took advantage of Verdugo and J.D. Martinez reaching base with no outs in the fifth by clubbing a monstrous 446-foot three-run shot over everything in left field to give his team a 7-0 lead.

Devers, meanwhile, wrapped up the scoring for his side and put the finishing touches on this one when he crushed his team-leading 10th home run of the season to right-center field in the seventh.

The 24-year-old’s 408-foot big fly put the Red Sox up 9-0, which would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Perez picks up first win of season

Backed by an offensive outpouring, Martin Perez had plenty of run support on his way to tossing six solid innings in his eighth start of the season.

Over those six frames, the left-hander kept the Angels off the scoreboard while scattering three hits and four walks to go along with five strikeouts on the afternoon.

For how shaky of a first inning Perez had by issuing two walks to the first three hitters he faced, he settled in nicely and wound up retiring 14 of the final 18 Angels who came to the plate against him.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 97 (60 strikes) while getting through six full innings for the first time this season, the 30-year-old hurler threw 31 cutters, 24 sinkers, 21 changeups, 11 curveballs, and 10 four-seam fastballs. He topped out at 95.1 mph with his heater.

Able to pick up his long-awaited first win of the season in addition to lowering his ERA to 3.40, Perez’s next start should come against the Phillies in Philadelphia next Friday.

Red Sox bullpen preserves the shutout

In relief of Perez, the three three relievers the Red Sox turned to were able to see the club’s second shutout of the season through to its completion.

Despite dealing with their collective fair share of traffic on the base paths, Phillps Valdez, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Austin Brice combined to toss three scoreless frames to secure the 9-0 victory for the Red Sox.

Next up: Going for the sweep

The Red Sox will go for the series sweep over the struggling 16-22 Angels and their fourth consecutive win overall back at Fenway Park on Sunday afternoon.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the start for Boston in the series finale, and he will be opposed by left-hander Jose Quintana for Los Angeles.

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

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox place Garrett Whitlock on COVID-19 related injured list (side effects from vaccination), recall Colten Brewer from Triple-A Worcester

Before taking on the Angels in the second game of a three-game series at Fenway Park Saturday afternoon, the Red Sox placed right-hander Garrett Whitlock on the COVID-19 related injured list due to side effects from vaccination.

In a corresponding move, fellow right-hander Colten Brewer was called up from Triple-A Worcester, the team announced Saturday.

As was the case with Nick Pivetta earlier this week, Whitlock was feeling under the weather after receiving the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, hence the move to put him on the IL.

“Whitlock is under the weather for the same reasons as Nick,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said earlier Saturday. “He got his second shot. So we’re going to put him on the COVID IL, and most likely it’s going to be Brewer who is going to be with us.”

Whitlock can be activated at any time since the COVID-19 related injured list does not require a minimum stint.

The 24-year-old last worked in a game against the Athletics on Thursday, so it’s unlikely he would have been available for Saturday’s contest anyway.

Through 10 appearances in what is his rookie season, Whitlock has been thoroughly impressive. Over 20 1/3 total innings pitched, the Rule 5 pick has yielded five runs (four earned) on 17 hits and three walks to go along with 21 strikeouts. That’s good for an ERA of 1.77. Opponents are slashing .227/.266/.347 off him.

Brewer, meanwhile, opened the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Worcester and has made just one appearance out of the WooSox’ bullpen thus far.

Originally acquired in a trade with the Padres in November 2018, the 28-year-old hurler has compiled a 4.59 ERA, a 5.14 FIP, and a 77:48 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 69 total appearances (four starts) and 80 1/3 innings pitched in parts of two seasons with the Red Sox.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

Hunter Renfroe, Bobby Dalbec each crush 2-run homers as Red Sox come back to top Angels, 4-3

Going into the 2021 season, the Red Sox were aware of the power potential the bottom third of their lineup had, particularly from the right side of the plate.

In yet another come from behind 4-3 victory over the Angels at Fenway Park on Friday, the Sox showed just how dangerous their No. 7, 8, or 9 hitters can be on any given night.

Matched up against right-handed starter Griffin Canning for the first of three against Los Angeles, Hunter Renfroe got Boston on the board first crushing a two-run home run 430 feet to dead center field for his fifth homer of the season.

Renfroe’s blast, which had an exit velocity of 108.6 mph off the bat, put the Red Sox up 2-0 early on.

Between then and the next time the Sox got anything going offensively, Boston starter Nick Pivetta put together another quality showing in what was his eighth start of the season.

Over six-plus innings of work, the right-hander yielded just two runs on four hits and a season-low zero walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the night.

The first of those two runs Pivetta gave up came off the bat of Shohei Ohtani in the top of the sixth, when the two-way phenom took the righty deep to left field for a solo blast to make it a 2-1 game.

After recording the final out of the sixth, Pivetta came back out for the seventh, but served up a leadoff double to Anthony Rendon that would see his evening come to a close.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 92 (68 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 54% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing seven swings-and-misses while topping out at 97. 4 mph with the pitch.

Able to lower his ERA on the season to 3.16 despite being hit with the no-decision due to what transpired in the seventh inning, Pivetta’s next start should come against the Blue Jays in Dunedin on Thursday.

In relief of Pivetta, Red Sox manager Alex Cora turned to Matt Andriese, who allowed Jared Walsh to reach base on a single before surrendering a one-out, two-run double to old friend Jose Igleseias.

The Angels went up 3-2 on Iglesias’ two-run knock, thus closing the book on Pivetta’s outing.

Dalbec homers for second straight night

Now trailing by a run heading into their half of the seventh, the Red Sox were put in a spot where they needed some offense relatively quickly.

With left-handed reliever Tony Watson on the mound for Los Angeles, Boston seemingly took advantage of a simple matchup when the right-handed hitting Renfroe laced a one-out single to bring the right-handed hitting Bobby Dalbec to the plate.

Having already picked up his first career stolen base earlier, Dalbec did something he had yet to do this season: hit a home run two nights in a row.

On the fourth pitch he saw from Watson, an 84 mph changeup on the inner half of the plate, the 25-year-old slugger clubbed a 419-foot two-run shot over the Green Monster to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.

Dalbec, who has raked against lefties this season, received a curtain call from the Fenway faithful upon rounding the bases and returning to the Red Sox dugout.

Ottavino and Barnes close it out

With a brand-new one-run lead to protect, Adam Ottavino came on for the top of the eighth, matched up against the heart of the Angels’ order in David Fletcher, Ohtani, and the vaunted Mike Trout.

On just 18 pitches, Ottavino got through the inning with relative ease as he stucked out a pair on his way to retiring the side in 1-2-3 fashion.

That paved the way for Red Sox closer Matt Barnes to get the call for the ninth, and the flame-throwing right-hander was even more dominant considering the fact that he punched out the only three hitters he faced on 11 pitches (10 strikes) to preserve the 4-3 victory and notch his ninth save of the season.

With the win, the Red Sox improve to 24-16 on the season and 12-11 at Fenway Park.

Next up: Bundy vs. Perez

The Red Sox will look to secure a series victory over the struggling Angels on Saturday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the ball for Boston in the middle game, and he will be opposed by right-hander Dylan Bundy for Los Angeles.

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

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

Red Sox activate Nick Pivetta from COVID-19 related injured list, option Eduard Bazardo to Triple-A Worcester

Before wrapping up their three-game series against the Athletics on Thursday night, the Red Sox reinstated right-hander Nick Pivetta from the COVID-19 related injured list.

In a corresponding move, right-handed reliever Eduard Bazardo was optioned to Triple-A Worcester, the team announced Thursday.

Pivetta was originally placed on the COVID-related IL on Wednesday due to side effects from the second COVID-19 vaccination, so his stay on the injured list turned out to be a short one.

“As you guys know, this is kind of like how people react to the shot,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Pivetta before Thursday’s game. “And he’s feeling better. He’s feeling better. So the hope, obviously, is for him to start tomorrow.”

Through seven starts this season, Pivetta has proven to be one of Boston’s most consistent starters, posting a 3.19 ERA and 3.78 FIP to go along with 35 strikeouts over his first 36 2/3 innings pitched.

As Cora said, the 28-year-old is slated to make his eighth start of the year against the Angels at Fenway Park on Friday night, and that now appears to be official.

Bazardo, meanwhile, heads back down to Triple-A Worcester less than 24 hours after being called up for his second major-league stint of the season.

After making his big-league debut in Minnesota last month, the 25-year-old hurler made his Fenway Park debut in Wednesday’s game against the A’s.

Working the seventh and eighth innings of an eventual 4-1 loss for Boston, Bazardo tossed two scoreless frames of relief while striking out a pair in the process of retiring six of the seven hitters he faced.

Bazardo, who does not turn 26 until September, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 27 prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

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

Falmouth native Steve Cishek signs with Angels despite reported interest from Red Sox

Veteran reliever Steve Cishek has signed a one-year major-league deal with the Astros, the club announced Monday night.

The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya reports that Cishek will earn $1 million with Los Angeles this season.

Cishek, 34, requested and was granted his release from the Astros last week after signing a minor-league pact with the club in February.

In camp with Houston, the right-hander yielded three earned runs on seven hits, two walks, and 12 strikeouts over seven appearances spanning 7 2/3 total innings of work.

Despite putting up those solid numbers, Cishek, who was set to make $1.25 million if he made the Astros’ Opening Day roster, was apparently not in Houston’s bullpen plans given the fact that they are creeping towards the $210 million luxury tax threshold.

Hitting the open market late last week, Cishek obviously did not remain a free-agent for long.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox were one of the teams who expressed interest in the sidearmer’s services, but only in the capacity of a minor-league deal.

A native of Falmouth, Mass. and a product of Falmouth High School, Cishek’s connections to the Sox are not just local. He also has a history with Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom going back to when he was acquired by the Rays from the Mariners in July 2017.

Over the course of a big-league career that spans 11 seasons, the former fifth-round draft pick out of Carson-Newman University (Tenn.) owns a lifetime 2.78 ERA and 3.30 FIP over 594 games (576 innings) between the Marlins, Cardinals, Mariners, Rays, Cubs, and White Sox dating back to 2010.

He most recently put up a 5.40 ERA and 5.64 FIP in 22 appearances and 20 innings pitched out of the White Sox’ bullpen in 2020 before being cut loose by the club in late September.

Seeing how he only signed a one-year deal with his new team in the Angels, one has to wonder if the Red Sox will again be in the mix for Cishek’s services if/when he becomes a free-agent this winter.

Until then, Cishek will look to bolster a Halos’ bullpen that has made a plethora of significant additions in just the last two days alone.

The Angels are slated to visit Fenway Park for a three-game weekend series against the Red Sox from May 14-16.

(Picture of Steve Cishek: Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

How Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo became a better major-leaguer because of veteran teammates like Mitch Moreland, Rich Hill

Alex Verdugo’s inaugural season with the Red Sox ended with the outfielder finishing 12th in American League MVP voting.

Well before that, though, the 24-year-old had gotten off to a rough start with his new team.

After being left off the Sox’ Opening Day lineup last July, Verdugo struggled to the tune of a .231/.286/.231 slash line with no extra-base hits, no RBI, two walks, and sevens strikeouts through his first eight games and 28 plate appearances of the year.

The centerpiece for Boston in the five-player trade with the Dodgers that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles, the former top prospect had grown frustrated with his performance, and he let out that frustration in a demonstrative way; much to the chagrin of his veteran teammates — like Mitch Moreland.

“Every at-bat it felt like I was going into the tunnel and hitting something or throwing a helmet down,” Verdugo said recently on the Baseball Tonight podcast with ESPN’s Buster Olney. “And Mitch kind of made a side comment, like ‘Shoot. Seeing him act like that has got me exhausted.’ Like I’m tiring him out just watching what I’m doing. And I sat back on that. I thought about it, and I went over there and I apologized to the team.

“This anger — this stuff that I show — I want you guys to know that it’s from a good place,” he added while recalling how he apologized. “It’s because I’m a competitor. I’m so used to competing.”

Since being selected by the Dodgers in the second round of the 2014 amateur draft out of Sahuaro High School, the Arizona native has always had a fiery personality.

It’s a personality and a way of going about things that may rub others the wrong way, but Verdugo has managed to succeed at every level he’s played at while still maintaining that boisterous edge to him.

That trend of performing to a high level continued for Verdugo over the summer and into the early stages of the fall. From August 4 through the end of the 2020 season, the left-handed hitter slashed .320/.378/.514 with six home runs, 15 RBI, and four stolen bases over his final 45 games (193 plate appearances) of the year.

“I felt like towards the middle and end of the season, I was a lot better,” said Verdugo. “I was a lot better. I was able to handle it more. It was kind of cool, Jason Varitek got a nice little punching bag right in the tunnel. So we’d go down there and I got a nice little inflatable pitching bag with my Verdugo jersey on it. No. 99.”

Verdugo will look to carry over the individual success he enjoyed in 2020 into 2021 for a Red Sox team that figures to be much more competitive than they were last year.

The 6-foot, 205 pounder is no stranger to playing for a team with postseason aspirations, and one of his former teammates on that particular team — Milton’s own Rich Hill — believes that Verdugo can take that next stop with the Sox.

The 41-year-old Hill, now a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, was Verdugo’s teammate with the Dodgers for parts of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 campaigns.

While the veteran left-hander was one of those who initially took issue with the way Verdugo went about his business upon getting called up by the Dodgers in 2017, he also realized — and still realizes — the potential the young outfielder has to do special things on the field.

“When I heard the trade happened, I had gotten the chance to talk to a few people in Boston and just said, ‘Hey, you guys got a really good player here, and not just any player,'” Hill told Olney. “I think he can be a perennial All-Star and be a standout in Boston because of his ability to put the bat to the ball and consistently create damage with runners on and/or start a rally.

“Again, it’s the way he goes about playing the game,” the former Red Sox hurler added. “I think of players right off the top of my head who play hard. Like a Chase Utley for example, a Clayton Kershaw, a Dustin Pedroia. You look at Jose Abreu with the White Sox. I put Alex in that category. It doesn’t have to be just position players, right? I mentioned a few pitchers because when you go to the game and you buy the ticket, you want to see the intensity and the passion from the player — whether it’s the pitcher or position player.”

Pedroia, who retired from the game of baseball in February after spending 14 big-league seasons with the Sox, was teammates with Hill for parts of the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015 seasons.

“Dustin kind of rejuvenated me and got more out of myself when I saw his effort and what he brought on a daily basis and what consistent intensity looked like ,” said Hill. “That was something I saw and was like, ‘Wow, if this guy is showing up at 1 o’clock and he’s ready with a full batting practice uniform on, it wasn’t fake. It was real.’ It was every single day.

“And that’s what Alex has,” he continued. “Alex has that every single day, it’s the same mentality. It’s the passion, the joy, the intensity, the love for the game. However you want to put a title over it, he has that for the game. So he’s going to do fine here in Boston.”

Based off his style of play, Verdugo is someone who feeds the energy of the crowd regardless of which ballpark he is at.

After going through an entire season with no fans in the stands in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Verdugo is relishing the opportunity to play in front of a crowd –albeit a reduced one — at not only Fenway Park, but venues like Yankee Stadium as well in 2021.

“I think the fans are a big part of the game,” he said. “I miss that interaction where they’re talking their smack. They’re letting you have it. Especially when I’m in New York. If I’m in the Yankees’ stadium, I want that, man. I want it. I know you got to be careful what you ask for, but for me, I love it. I really do.”

(Picture of Mitch Moreland and Alex Verdugo: Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)