Red Sox ‘thought they had a deal’ in place for Jacob Stallings before Pirates traded veteran catcher to Marlins, per report

Before trading him to the Marlins earlier this week, the Pirates nearly traded catcher Jacob Stallings to the Red Sox, according to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson and Craig Mish.

Per Jackson and Mish, the Red Sox made an offer to the Pirates for Stallings “and and at one point thought they had a deal. But the Marlins landed him by including pitching prospect Kyle Nicolas in their bid, along with pitcher Zach Thompson and outfield prospect Connor Scott.”

Stallings, who turns 32 later this month, was among the top defensive backstops in baseball this year en route to taking home his first career Gold Glove Award. He threw out 12 of the 57 base runners who attempted to steal against him while leading all big-league catchers in defensive runs saved with 21.

In addition to what he did behind the plate, the right-handed hitter slashed .246/.335/.369 (95 wRC+) with 20 doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 53 RBIs, 38 runs scored, 49 walks, and 85 strikeouts over 112 games (427 plate appearances) with Pittsburgh in 2021.

At the onset of the off-season, Stallings became an attractive option for clubs looking for quality catching since he is under club control through 2024, was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $2.6 million in arbitration, and was arguably better than any free agent catcher on the open market.

The Marlins ultimately pounced on Stallings by swinging a trade with the Pirates on Monday — after they had previously failed to pry him away from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

When speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Pirates general manager Ben Cherington indicated that the decision to move Stallings came about quickly.

“There certainly was never a timeline up until probably 24 hours before it happened,” Cherington said. “Our full expectation was that [Stallings] would be a Pirate going forward, but, you know, these things sometimes come together quickly. In this case, it did.”

That the Red Sox may have been among the teams other than the Marlins who inquired on Stallings is certainly interesting. Within the last month, Boston has picked up Christian Vazquez’s $7 million club option and signed Kevin Plawecki to a one-year, $2.25 million deal for the 2022 season.

With veteran backstops such as Vazquez and Plawecki already locked up for 2022 and prospects such as Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez waiting in the wings on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox likely would have been looking at moving one of the four aforementioned names were they to have acquired Stallings.

That being said — after the Pirates sweetened their offer by adding Nicolas — it presumably would have taken additional prospects for Boston to land Stallings, which may have led chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to take the Sox’ offer off the table altogether.

(Picture of Jacob Stallings: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Sunday’s Red Sox-Marlins series finale postponed due to inclement weather

The Red Sox’ series finale against the Marlins at Fenway Park on Sunday has been postponed due to inclement weather, the team announced Sunday afternoon

The game was originally supposed to start at 1:10 p.m. eastern time, but first pitch was delayed at approximately 12:49 p.m. on account of rainy conditions in the Fenway-area.

Shortly after 1:30 p.m., the game was called, meaning the Sox and Marlins will need to make up the finale of this three-game set at a later date.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Sunday’s game between Miami and Boston will be made up on Monday June 7, with first pitch scheduled for 5:10 p.m. eastern time.

With Sunday’s contest getting postponed, the Red Sox will board a flight to Houston for the start of a two-city, seven-game road trip that begins on Monday afternoon.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who was slated to pitch against Miami on Sunday, will now get the start in the first of four against the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Memorial Day. He will be followed by right-handers Garrett Richards and Nick Pivetta and fellow southpaw Martin Perez.

On what was a rather miserable weekend in Boston in regards to the weather, the Red Sox were able to take the first two games of their series with the Marlins to improve to 32-20 on the season.

They currently sit a half game back of the Tampa Bay Rays (33-20) for first place in the American League East as they prepare to embark upon one of their toughest stretches of the year in which they will be playing the Astros and Yankees 10 times in the next 11 days.

Instead of an off day next Monday, though, the Sox will now be playing the Marlins to make up for Sunday’s rainout.

(Picture of Fenway Park: Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

Red Sox ride bullpen to 3-1 victory over Marlins in Will Venable’s managerial debut

With Alex Cora in Puerto Rico for his daughter’s graduation from high school and a paid attendance of over 25,000 at Fenway Park, the Red Sox were able to hold on and secure a series victory over the Marlins with a 3-1 win on Saturday.

Nathan Eovaldi made his 11th start of the season for Boston in the middle game of this three-game set and provided the Sox with 5 1/3 quality innings of work.

Over those 5 1/3 innings, the veteran right-hander kept Miami off the scoreboard while scattering just four hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts on the evening.

While he did retire 16 of the 22 hitters he faced on Saturday, Eovaldi also dealt with his fair share of foul balls — 26 to be exact — which ultimately led to an uneconomical outing, if that makes sense.

By the time he issued a one-out single to Garrett Cooper in the top half of the sixth, Eovaldi’s pitch count was already over 100, and that resulted in his day coming to a close right then there.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 101 (71 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 46% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing six swings-and-misses while topping out at 98.2 mph with the pitch.

Able to improve to 6-2 on the season while lowering his ERA to 4.01, Eovaldi’s next start should come against his hometown Astros in Houston next Thursday.

In relief of Eovaldi, left-hander Josh Taylor got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he stranded the runner he inherited by retiring the side in the sixth before allowing two of the three batters he faced in the seventh to reach base.

Of the three hits Taylor gave up (a single, a ground-rule double, and an infield single, the average exit velocity on those balls put into play was 58.4 mph, so it goes without saying that the lefty was the recipient of some tough luck.

Adam Ottavino came on to face the right-handed hitting Starling Marte, who he walked on five pitches to fill the bases for the meat of the Marlins’ order.

A lengthy battle with Jesus Aguilar wound up going Ottavino’s way, as he got the Miami slugger to whiff on a 3-2 slider. He followed that by fanning Cooper on four pitches, with the fourth and final pitch being an 82 mph slider that got a fiery reaction out of the usually-tepid righty as he made his way back to the Red Sox dugout.

From there, Darwnizon Hernandez got the first two outs of the eighth before handing things over to Hirokazu Sawamura, who, like Ottavino, induced a dramatic, inning-ending strikeout that got him to emphatically pound his chest as he took his leave.

An inning later, Matt Barnes was deployed with a three-run lead to protect, and despite surrendering a run, the Sox closer did just that when he got Cooper to ground into a game-sealing 4-6-3 double play to preserve the win and pick up his 12th save of the year.

All in all, bench coach Will Venable — filling in for Cora — and the rest of the Red Sox coaching staff pieced together a pitching performance in which five relievers were used, only one run was given up, and the final 11 outs were recorded by the Boston bullpen. Not too shabby.

Because of the impressive showing from the Sox’ pitching staff, the Red Sox lineup did not need to do much in terms of offensive firepower on Saturday.

Matched up against Marlins left-hander Trevor Rogers, Bobby Dalbec got the scoring started for Boston with an RBI single in the bottom half of the second.

In the fourth, Kevin Plawecki doubled his side’s lead with another run-scoring that plated Hunter Renfroe from second to make it a 2-0 game.

Renfroe himself delivered with an RBI base hit later on in the bottom of the eighth off Miami reliever Adam Cimber, this time driving in Rafael Devers on his third knock of the day.

That put the Red Sox up 3-0, and 3-1 would go on to be Saturday’s final score from Fenway.

Next up: Alcantara vs. Rodriguez

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup between the 24-28 Marlins and 32-20 Red Sox will feature right-hander Sandy Alcantara getting the ball for Miami and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez doing the same for Boston.

First pitch Sunday (weather permitting) is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time at Fenway Park. Red Sox will be looking to complete the sweep.

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

Alex Verdugo comes through with clutch, go-ahead 3-run home run as Red Sox top Marlins, 5-2, in rain-shortened contest at Fenway Park

Rainy conditions in Boston could not stop the Red Sox from opening their weekend series against the Marlins with a 5-2 victory in 5 1/2 innings at Fenway Park on Friday night.

With the win, Boston improves to 31-20 (15-13 at home) on the season and moves to a half-game back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Perez provides five solid innings

Martin Perez made his 10th start of the season for the Sox on Friday, marking his second straight outing of the interleague variety.

Over five innings of work, the veteran left-hander yielded just two earned runs — both of which were earned — on five hits and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts on the evening.

Both Miami runs Perez surrendered came via the home run ball, as the southpaw gave up a leadoff single to Corey Dickerson to begin things in the top of the second before serving up a 381-foot two-run home run to Jorge Alfaro moments later.

That miscue put the Sox in an early 2-0 hole, but Perez was able to rebound and wound up settling in nicely. That being the case because after giving up the homer to Alfaro, he retired 11 of the final 13 hitters he faced to prevent the Marlins from scoring anything else going into the middle of the fifth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (51 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler turned to his sinker a game-high 41% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing just one swing-and-miss with the pitch. He also topped out at 93 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw a total of nine times.

Able to improve to 3-2 on the season while maintaining a 3.55 ERA because of his efforts, Perez’s next start should come against the Astros in Houston next Wednesday.

Martinez pulls Sox even in third inning

After falling behind by a pair of runs early on, the bottom of the Red Sox lineup got things started in their half of the third inning.

Matched up against Marlins rookie starter Cody Poteet, a one-out double from Hunter Renfroe put a runner in scoring position as the order flipped back over and Enrique Hernandez drew a five-pitch walk.

An Alex Verdugo flyout put Poteet just one out away from getting out of the jam, but J.D. Martinez had other ideas.

On the fourth pitch he saw in his second at-bat of the night, the Sox slugger laced a 108 mph two-run double to dead center field to drive in both Renfroe and Hernandez and knot things up at two runs apiece.

Verdugo seals it with clutch homer

Fast forward to the fifth inning, and the bottom of the Boston lineup struck again, this time with Marwin Gonzalez drawing a leadoff walk and Hunter Renfroe advancing him up to third on his second double of the night.

With the go-ahead run just 90 feet away and the rate at which the rain was falling from the sky picking up, Alex Verdugo made up for his previous out by all but putting this game away.

On one swing of the bat, Verdugo absolutely crushed a hanging curveball from Poteet and sent it 408 feet over everything in right field with an exit velocity of 108.7 mph.

That three-run blast, Verdugo’s seventh big fly of the season, gave the Red Sox their first lead of the evening at 5-2.

Ottavino closes it out

Because of the worsening conditions in the Fenway-area, the Red Sox were essentially playing this game like it was a six- or seven-inning contest instead of a nine-inning one, and manager Alex Cora’s tactics reflected that.

As the sixth inning was about to begin, Cora deployed right-hander Adam Ottavino, who is usually reserved for the later innings, to face the Marlins’ 2, 3, and 4 hitters.

Ottavino recorded the first two outs of the frame relatively easily, but as the rain continued to pick up, it became clear that the veteran reliever was losing his grip on his breaking pitches.

Three straight walks came as a result of Ottavino’s struggles, meaning Miami was on the verge of tying things up or even re-taking the lead.

While attempts to dry off the baseballs with a towel initially seemed futile, they proved to be effective in the end as Ottavino fanned the last man he faced — Springfield High School product Isan Diaz — on three straight sliders to retire the side.

Rain delay leads to rain-shortened contest

Moments after the final out of the top of the sixth inning was recorded, the Fenway Park grounds crew rolled the tarp out onto the field and a rain delay began at approximately 9:19 p.m. eastern time.

At approximately 10:46 p.m. eastern time, this game was called after an 87-minute standstill. So the Red Sox are credited with the 5-2 win as Adam Ottavino winds up picking up his second save of the year.

Next up: Rogers vs. Eovaldi

Saturday afternoon’s pitching matchup between the Marlins and the Red Sox will feature left-hander Trevor Rogers (6-2, 1.75 ERA) getting the ball for Miami and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (5-2, 4.39 ERA) getting the ball for Boston.

Fenway Park will be back at full capacity on Saturday for the first time since September 2019.

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

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

Rafael Devers homers, collects 3 RBI as Red Sox come back to top Braves, 9-5, in rain-filled night at Fenway Park; Nick Pivetta records season-high 9 strikeouts

It took until the wee hours of Thursday morning on account of a 2 hour and 53 minute rain delay, but the Red Sox were able to salvage a series split against the Braves with a 9-5 win at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.

With the victory, which took nearly six hours to see through to the end, the Red Sox snap a two-game losing streak and improve to 30-20 (14-13 at home) on the season. They remain a half-game back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Shoutout to Dave Mellor and the rest of the Red Sox grounds crew for their efforts in this one.

Pivetta strikes out nine over six innings

Nick Pivetta made his 10th start of the season for Boston in Wednesday’s series finale, and despite getting hit relatively hard, he did keep his team in the game.

Over six innings of work, the right-hander yielded four runs — all of which were earned — on seven hits and two walks to go along with a season-high six strikeouts on the night.

The first two of those four Atlanta runs came right away in the top of the first, as Pivetta walked Freedie Freeman on five pitches which was promptly followed by an RBI triple off the bat of Ozzie Albies.

Albies came into score on a two-out, run-scoring double from Dansby Swanson, and Boston found themselves down 2-0 just like that.

A Guillermo Heredia leadoff double an inning later would result in another Braves run crossing the plate when William Contreras picked up an RBI on a sacrifice fly. 3-0 Atlanta.

Pivetta would settle in for a bit from there, with the only hiccup coming when he served up a solo home run to Austin Riley in the top half of the fifth.

Wednesday’s outing marks the second straight start in which Pivetta has allowed four or more runs, but he wrapped things up on a much more positive note by punching out four of the final five hitters he faced — which included striking out the side in his sixth and final frame of work.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 102 (68 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 45% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing seven swings and misses while topping out at 97 mph with the pitch. He also induced eight swings-and-misses with his slider, a pitch he threw 20 times.

Able to improve to a perfect 6-0 on the season despite raising his ERA to 3.86 in what technically goes down as a complete game (the second of his career), Pivetta’s next start should come against the Astros in Houston next Tuesday.

Renfroe homers to get scoring started for Sox

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against veteran left-hander Drew Smyly for the Braves, who came into play Wednesday sporting a 5.11 ERA through his first seven starts of the season.

After finding themselves in an early two-run hole, Hunter Renfroe got things started for the Sox in the second inning when unloaded on a hanging curveball from Smyly and deposited it 377 feet on a line over the Green Monster.

Renfroe’s sixth home run of the season, which made it a 2-1 game in favor of Atlanta, had an exit velocity of 102.4 mph.

Devers’ big fly to dead center ties it

Fast forward to the bottom of the fourth, and the long ball again proved to be Boston’s best friend, as a two-out walk drawn by Xander Bogaerts brought Rafael Devers to the plate, representing the tying run in a 3-1 contest.

On the third pitch he saw from Smyly — yet another hanging curveball — the dangerous left-handed slugger crushed a booming, game-tying two-run shot 434 feet (107. 1 mph off the bat) to deep center field for his team-leading 14th home run of the year.

Four-run rally in sixth proves to be pivotal

The Braves went up by a run on the heels of Devers’ two-run blast to re-take the lead at 4-3, but the Boston bats would not be silenced.

With one out in the bottom half of the sixth, the Sox had Smyly on the ropes with Alex Verdugo and J.D. Martinez each lacing a sharply-hit single to put runners at first and second.

A wild pitch with Bogaerts at the plate allowed Verdugo to advance to third. That miscue would prove to be costly for Atlanta when Bogaerts plated Verdugo on a softly-hit fielder’s choice to third base moments later.

Verdugo — aggressive as ever — was going on contact, and on a headfirst slide he managed to slip under Contreras’ tag at home plate to score and knot things up at four runs apiece.

Devers took responsibility for the go-ahead run by driving in Martinez on an RBI double down the left field line, while Christian Vazquez provided some much-needed insurance by greeting new Braves reliever Luke Jackson with a bases-loaded, opposite field two-run single that scored both Boagaerts and Devers and gave the Red Sox a commanding 7-4 advantage.

Inclement weather results in long delay

As the sixth inning came to a close, the rate at which the rain was falling from the Boston skies picked up. That led to the Red Sox grounds crew rolling out the tarp on the field at a Fenway.

A rain delay began at approximately 9:08 p.m. eastern time. And after a 173-minute standstill, the game resumed shortly after midnight.

Red Sox bullpen closes it out

When the tarp came off the field, it was Josh Taylor who got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen for the start of the seventh inning.

The left-handed reliever plunked the first hitter he faced in Ronald Acuna before recording the first two outs. Adam Ottavino was deployed to face the right-handed hitting Riley and got him to pop out to retire the side.

Ottavino also worked a 1-2-3 top of the eighth. The Sox tacked on two more insurance runs on a Danny Santana RBI and Vazquez sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning to give Matt Andriese a five-run lead to operate with.

Andriese, making his first appearance since May 23, got the first out, gave up a towering solo home run to Contreras, and a single to Acuna, which prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora to turn to his closer, Matt Barnes, to finish things up in a non-save situation.

Barnes, making his first relief appearance since May 22, induced a game-ending double play from Freeman to secure the 9-5 win for his side.

Next up: An off day on Thursday, then a weekend series against the Marlins

The Red Sox will enjoy their second off day of the week on Thursday before welcoming the Miami Marlins into town for a three-game weekend series that begins Friday night.

Left-hander Martin Perez is slated to get the ball for Boston in the series opener, while rookie right-hander Cody Poteet is lined up to do the same for Miami.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora returning home to Puerto Rico for daughter’s high school graduation during this weekend’s series against Marlins; Will Venable will manage in his place

While the Red Sox are surely looking forward to welcoming in a full crowd to Fenway Park for the first time in nearly two years on Saturday as part of this weekend’s series against the Marlins, they will be doing so without manager Alex Cora.

The reason being: Cora is heading back home to Puerto Rico on Friday night for his daughter Camila’s graduation from high school, which will take place on Saturday.

“It’s our time to root for her,” Cora said of his only daughter when speaking with reporters prior to Wednesday’s game against the Braves. “I cannot wait for Saturday. It’s probably the biggest day of my life, to be able to see Camila graduate from high school. It’s amazing. She’s actually the life of our family, the vibe of our family and she’s the leader of our family. I cannot wait for that. It will be a special day.”

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Camila Cora is the daughter of Alex and his ex-wife, Nilda, and is the second of Cora’s four children. Considering the fact that Camila is his only daughter, it would appear that the two have a tight relationship.

“This girl, she means the world to us,” said Cora. “She has been through a lot in her life. A child of divorced parents — that’s not easy — but the fact we’ve been able to work together and put her in the situation where she’s at right now. She’s going to college, she has been great to us throughout the process. She has suffered a lot the last 16 months with everything that happened with me, but at the same time, our relationship has grown. I explained her a lot of stuff. She had a lot of questions and I answered all of them.”

In Cora’s place, Red Sox bench coach Will Venable will handle managerial duties on Saturday. Cora does plan on being back in Boston for Sunday’s series finale against Miami, though.

For Venable, Saturday’s contest against the Marlins will mark his big-league managerial debut. The 38-year-old was one of several candidates who originally interviewed for the Sox’ managerial opening last fall before Cora ultimately won the job again.

“For Will, no pressure at all,” Cora said. “Just go out there and try to win a ballgame. I told him, ‘No texting. No calling. Just get ready for that.’ He’ll be fine. He’ll be fine. So looking forward for Saturday on a personal note, and also to see Will go out there and do his thing.”

As for when Cora will get to see more of Camila once he returns to Boston from Puerto Rico on Sunday, that time will come later this year since she will be attending Boston College beginning in the fall.

“It has been a sprint, but now it starts, actually,” Cora said. “The fact she’s going to go to college and we’re going to enjoy that, too, it’s going to be amazing.”

(Picture of Alex and Camila Cora: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Brian Van Belle a Red Sox pitching prospect to watch as minor-league season begins this week

Of the 16 undrafted free agents the Red Sox signed following last June’s draft, none might stick out more than right-handed pitching prospect Brian Van Belle.

Van Belle was reportedly one of the most sought-after seniors in the 2020 unsigned free agent class before inking his first professional contract with the Sox in June.

Regarded at the time by Baseball America as the 16th-ranked draft-eligible senior, the 6-foot-2, 187 pound hurler had just put the finishing touches on a successful college career at the University of Miami.

In two seasons with the Hurricanes (2019-2020) after transferring from Broward College, Van Belle emerged as Miami’s Friday night ace while posting a 2.74 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 122:28 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 20 starts and 121 2/3 total innings pitched.

Because of the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the southern Florida native really did not get the chance to work under the Red Sox’ watchful eye until the team began their fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

There, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Van Belle showed why he was highly sought-after as an undrafted free agent.

“Van Belle’s bread and butter is his changeup, a plus offering and a potential difference maker,” Cundall wrote back in November. “Van Belle also showed an average fastball at 89-93 mph and below-average curveball at 77-80 mph. The changeup separated him from a lot of the younger arms who are still refining their secondary pitches and gives him a high floor of at least an organizational arm, especially with his command profile.”

Coming off that impressive showing at fall instructs, the 24-year-old came into the 2021 minor-league season ranked as the No. 53 prospect in Boston’s farm system, per SoxProspects.com.

Cundall recently updated Van Belle’s SoxProspects.com scouting report, writing that the righty “always competes [and is] used to pitching in big spots. [Possesses] strong pitchability and feel on the mound.”

As this highly-anticipated minor-league season is set to begin on Tuesday, Van Belle will start the year in High-A Greenville’s starting rotation.

The fact that Van Belle was assigned to Greenville makes him the only member of Boston’s 2020 undrafted free-agent class to begin the 2021 season at a level as high as High-A. The other 15 members are either starting at Low-A Salem or extended spring training.

(Picture of Brian Van Belle: Al Diaz/Miami Herald)

Jeter Downs, top Red Sox prospect, is a ‘workaholic,’ Alex Cora says; ‘His bat is going to play’

Jeter Downs collected his second home run of the spring in the Red Sox’ 7-3 loss to the Rays in Port Charlotte on Friday afternoon.

Starting at shortstop and batting out of the seven-hole, the 22-year-old infielder went 1-for-3 at the plate with a walk, a strikeout, and that aforementioned home run.

Downs’ homer came in the top half of the second, when with one out and a runner on first he took a 2-2 changeup at the bottom of the zone from Rays starter David Hess and clobbered it well over the left-center field wall.

Though the wind was blowing hard in that particular direction at Charlotte Sports Park, Downs’ display of power was impressive nonetheless.

“He does a good job of controlling the strike zone,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Downs’ plate discipline. “He knows what he wants to do at the plate. Even in the last at-bat when he chased a pitch up, he knew right away he was out of the zone. “That’s something that we’ve been impressed [by].

Following Friday’s showing, Downs is now slashing .357/.500/.786 with a pair of homers and five RBI through his first 15 games and 18 plate appearances of Grapefruit League play while primarily playing shortstop.

A bruise to his left side suffered during a game against the Twins on March 14 resulted in Downs being held out of in-game action for a little more than week, but the Colombian-born prospect returned to action this past Monday and has gotten back into the swing of things.

Throughout the spring, Cora has not shied away from commending some of the organization’s top prospects — like Downs, catcher Connor Wong, and infielder Nick Yorke — for their ability to seemingly slow down what’s going on around them. He did more of the same while praising Downs on Friday.

“The bat will play,” said the Sox skipper. “He’s a good defender. I know he had that tough game the second game of spring training, but he’s a workaholic. One thing is for sure: He has a very slow pulse, and that helps him out. People might see him and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, low-energy guy. He’s not into it.’ That’s not the case.

“Offensively, he understands what he wants to do,” Cora added. “He understands the strike zone, and that’s why his bat is going to play.”

Downs, who like Cora has connections to the city of Miami, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Triston Casas.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, the right-handed hitter was reassigned to the minor-leagues on March 12. He is projected to begin the year at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

Downs, of course, was one of three players the Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last February — with Wong and outfielder Alex Verdugo being the other two.

Verdugo, the only one of the three with any major-league experience to this point, seemed impressed with what he has seen from both Downs and Wong at camp thus far when speaking with reporters earlier this week.

“They’re great players. Obviously, Downs, a middle infielder, and I love his swing,” Verdugo said this past Tuesday. “I think his swing is really good. I think it’s going to play in the big leagues. The same goes with Wong. Wong is a really good catcher and has a really good arm back there. He can fire it and he can swing it, too.

“With those guys, it’s obviously tough because last year we didn’t have a minor leagues,” he added. “They weren’t able to go to Pawtucket and put up big numbers or whatever it may be. It kind of hurts them a little bit but these are guys who are professionals. They’re working in the cage, talking to guys and trying to learn more and more so in the next two years — maybe this year, we never know — we’ll start seeing them come up.”

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Falmouth native Steve Cishek signs minor-league deal with Houston Astros

Falmouth, Mass. native and veteran reliever Steve Cishek has signed a minor-league contract with the Houston Astros, per MLB.com’s transaction wire. The deal also includes an invite to major-league spring training.

The Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome was the first to report the signing.

Cishek, 34, will earn $2.25 million — plus more in incentives — if he makes the Astros’ roster, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

The sidearm-throwing right-hander is coming off a shortened 2020 season with the Chicago White Sox in which he posted a 5.40 ERA and 5.64 FIP over 22 appearances and 20 innings of work before being designated for assignment in late September.

For his career, which spans 11 major-league seasons with six different clubs, the Falmouth High School product owns a lifetime 2.78 ERA and 3.30 FIP to go along with 132 career saves over 594 outings and 576 total innings pitched.

One of those six teams Cishek spent time with was the Tampa Bay Rays for the latter half of the 2017 campaign, so he now reunites with Astros general manager and former Rays executive James Click in Southeast Texas.

The former 2007 fifth-round draft pick of the Marlins had thrown for teams back in January during Corey Kluber’s showcase in South Florida (the two are both represented by Jet Sports Management).

As many as 25 teams attended said showcase, and while the Yankees came away winners of the Kluber sweepstakes, the Astros came out winners in the less-publicized Cishek sweepstakes.

Given his local connections, Cishek always seemed like someone who would be a perfect fit for the Red Sox, whether it be by trade or free agency.

A union between the two sides has yet to happen, though The Athletic’s Peter Gammons tweeted in December 2019 — before Cishek joined the White Sox — that the former Miami closer ‘would like to sign with Boston.’

That being said, as long as Cishek keeps taking minor- or one-year deals during the latter stages of his career, his eventual signing with the Sox cannot be ruled out at this point.

(Picture of Steve Cishek: Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Red Sox add flamethrowing right-hander José Adames on minor-league deal

The Red Sox have signed free-agent right-hander Jose Adames to a minor-league contract for the 2021 season, per MLB.com’s transaction wire. It’s unclear at this point if the deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Adames, who turned 28 earlier this month, has spent the last eight seasons with the Reds and Marlins organizations.

Originally signed by Miami out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, Adames has never pitched above the Class-A level due in part to the amount of time he has missed because of injury.

The 6-foot-2, 165 lb. hurler has undergone Tommy John surgery on two separate occasions in his professional career — the first of which came in September 2016, the second of which came in June 2018 — which resulted in him missing the entirety of the 2017 and 2018 minor-league seasons as well as the majority of 2019.

In brief stints with the Ariziona League Reds and rookie-league Billings Mustangs at the tail end of the 2019 campaign, Adames “came out firing fastballs in the upper 90s each time, and struck out 8 of the 16 hitters he faced,” according to RedsMinorLeague.com’s Doug Gray.

This past season, Adames was not included in Cincinnati’s major-league spring training roster, though he did get the chance to appear in two Cactus League games against the Rangers and Cubs on February 24 and March 7.

The fireballer managed to work a scoreless frame in each of those outings while also topping out at 100 mph with his fastball at one point.

With the 2020 minor-league season getting cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Adames did not get the opportunity to pitch in organized games over the summer, nor was he part of the Reds’ 60-man player pool at any point last year.

He did however pitch for Águilas Cibaeñas of the Dominican Winter League, allowing six runs (five earned) on three hits and five walks over two relief appearances and 2 2/3 innings of work.

With his new organization, Adames, who projects as potential upper minor-league bullpen depth, will look to make a positive first impression in Fort Myers if he is indeed invited to big-league spring training.

He does bring with him some rave reviews from members of the Reds’ player development staff, including pitching coordinator Kyle Boddy.

So far this offseason, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have either signed or re-signed the following players to minor-league deals:

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
INF Jack Lopez
INF Jeremy Rivera
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson
RHP Zack Kelly
RHP Jose Disla
RHP Daniel Gossett
RHP Zac Grotz
RHP Jose Adames

(Picture of Jose Adames: Águilas Cibaeñas/Twitter)