Tanner Houck fans 7 in final start of spring as Red Sox are shut out by Twins in 2-0 defeat

The Red Sox fell to 10-8 in Grapefruit League play on Monday afternoon following a 2-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Twins at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

Tanner Houck made his fourth and final start of the spring for the Sox and was solid, allowing only two earned runs on five hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with seven strikeouts over six innings of work.

Both runs Houck surrendered on Monday came by way of the home run ball. The right-hander served up a solo shot to Miguel Sano with one out in the fourth before doing the very same to Max Kepler to lead off the sixth.

After Kepler went deep, Houck was able to retire three of the final four batters he faced. The 25-year-old hurler finished with a final pitch count of 82 (55 strikes), induced nine total swings-and-misses, and hovered around 94.7 mph with his four-seam fastball.

In relief of Houck, Hansel Robles received the first call out of the Boston bullpen to begin things in the seventh inning. Making his 2022 debut after signing a minor-league deal with the Sox last month, Robles maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk and one-out single by recording back-to-back strikeouts to retire the side. He threw 23 pitches (14 strikes) and averaged 95.3 mph with his heater.

From there, Jake Diekman recorded the first two outs of the eighth before Hirokazu Sawamura came on to end the inning.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox lineup that featured the likes of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Enrique Hernandez, J.D. Martinez, Trevor Story, Bobby Dalbec, Jackie Bradley Jr., Christian Arroyo, and Kevin Plawecki was held in check by four different Twins pitchers.

It took until the fourth inning for Boston to record their first hit on a leadoff double off the bat of Bogaerts, but he was stranded at third after Minnesota starter Bailey Ober got Martinez to ground into an inning-ending double play.

The only other two hits the Sox had were singles from Bobby Dalbec and Yolmer Sanchez, though nothing came of either as Boston went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and left just two runners on base as a team on Monday.

Next up: Chairman’s Cup finale

The Red Sox wrap up their Grapefruit League schedule by taking on the Twins once again back at JetBlue park on Tuesday afternoon. With the head-to-head series now tied at three games apiece, Tuesday’s contest will determine the winner of the 2022 Chairman’s Cup.

Michael Wacha is slated to start for Boston and fellow right-hander Josh Winder is in line to do the same for Minnesota. First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised on NESN.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)


Tanner Houck struggles with command, walks 5 as Red Sox drop third straight in 6-3 loss to Braves

The Red Sox dropped their third straight Grapefruit League contest on Friday afternoon with a 6-3 loss to the Braves at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla. After winning six games in a row out of the gate, Boston is now 6-3 this spring.

Tanner Houck made his second start of the spring for the Sox. The right-hander allowed three earned runs on two hits and five walks to go along with four strikeouts over just 2 1/3 innings of work.

Following a 1-2-3 first inning to begin his day, Houck first ran into some command-related trouble when he issued back-to-back one-out one walks in the bottom of the second. The 25-year-old escaped without giving anything up, but immediately walked Dansby Swanson to lead things off in the third.

That leadoff walk would prove costly for Houck, as Swanson advanced to third on a flyball double off the bat of Eddie Rosario and scored on an RBI groundout from new Braves first baseman Matt Olson. Rosario himself came into score on an Austin Riley RBI single that gave Atlanta a 2-0 lead.

Houck then walked the final two batters he faced in Marcell Ozuna and Alex Dickerson, which loaded the bases for the Braves and prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora to pull his starter in favor of Jacob Wallace.

Wallace allowed one of the runners he inherited to score on a sacrifice fly from Ozzie Albies, but otherwise limited the damage to keep the score at 3-0. Fellow UCONN product Matt Barnes took over in the fourth and turned in a solid performance by striking out the side (Travis d’Arnaud, Swanson, and Rosario) in order.

In the fifth, the Red Sox lineup finally got on the board themselves when Ryan Fitzgerald drew a two-out walk off former Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen and scored all the way from first on a Christian Arroyo single that was botched by Rosario in right field.

Austin Davis was dispatched for the bottom half of the fifth in relief of Barnes. The left-hander worked his way around a one-out walk in an otherwise clean frame before making way for fellow southpaw Darwinzon Hernandez in the sixth.

Hernandez, in turn, loaded the bases with two outs, then served up a two-run single to John Nogowski and one-run single to old friend Brock Holt to give the Braves a commanding 6-1 edge. Hernandez got through the sixth and recorded the first out of the seventh before Franklin German took over for him.

German retired the only two Braves he faced in the seventh, while top pitching prospect Brayan Bello worked a perfect eighth inning and struck out one.

Down to their final three outs in the ninth, Connor Wong and Pedro Castellanos led things off with back-to-back singles off Braves reliever Kyle Muller. A lineout off the bat of Tyreque Reed allowed Wong to advance to third and a line-drive single courtesy of Tyler Dearden allowed him to score from third.

A wild pitch from Muller led to another run-scoring opportunity for Christian Koss, who played Castellanos on a groundout to shortstop Pat Valaika. The Braves then swapped Muller for Nolan Kingham, who retired David Hamilton for the third and final out of the afternoon.

Some notes from this loss:

Tanner Houck walked five of the 14 batters he faced on Friday.

The Red Sox went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base as a team.

Next up: Wacha vs. Kluber

The Red Sox return to Fort Myers on Saturday afternoon to take on the Rays at JetBlue Park. Saturday’s starting pitching matchup will feature a pair of seasoned right-handers going at it, with Michael Wacha getting the ball for Boston and Corey Kluber doing the same for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised on NESN+.

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Michael Wacha hurls 3 scoreless innings in 2022 debut as Red Sox roll on with 5-0 win over Braves

The Red Sox’ quest for a perfect spring continued at JetBlue Park on Monday afternoon as they improved to 5-0 in Grapefruit League play with a 5-0 victory over the Braves.

Looking to make his case for a spot in the Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation, Michael Wacha made a strong first impression in his 2022 debut. The veteran right-hander, who signed a one-year, $7 million deal with Boston in November, scattered four hits and one walk with one strikeout in his three innings of work against Atlanta.

Wacha received an early offensive boost from his catcher in Christian Vazquez, who drove in the Red Sox’ first run of the day on an RBI double off Touki Toussaint with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. Vazquez’s two-base hit scored Xander Bogaerts from second to make it a 1-0 game in favor of Boston.

After retiring each of the last three batters he faced to escape a jam in the third inning, Wacha made way for the Sox bullpen beginning in the fourth. Darwinzon Hernandez received the first call from manager Alex Cora and proceeded to strike out the side in his spring debut.

Following a scoreless top of the fifth from Michael Feliz, fellow non-roster invitee Rob Refsnyder doubled his side’s advantage by plating Jarren Duran on a run-scoring double to left field. Rafael Devers then scored Yolmer Sanchez with an RBI single to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead heading into the sixth.

From there, John Schreiber fanned a total of four over his two innings of relief before Jonathan Arauz scored on a throwing error by Braves catcher Hendrik Clementina in the bottom of the seventh.

In the eighth, Silvino Bracho twirled a perfect frame in the top half while Ryan Fitzgerald crushed his second home run of the spring to lead off the bottom half. That sequence paved the way for Kaleb Ort to strand one runner and punch out a pair in a scoreless ninth inning to secure a five-run win for the Sox.

All told, it was another impressive performance from Red Sox pitching on Monday. Six different Boston hurlers (Wacha, Hernandez, Feliz, Schreiber, Bracho, and Ort) combined to keep the Braves off the scoreboard while limiting them to six hits and three walks to go along with 11 strikeouts.

Next up: Hill vs. Patino

Rich Hill will take the mound in a Red Sox uniform for the first time since 2015 when Boston travels to Port Charlotte on Tuesday to take on the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. The seasoned southpaw will be opposed in young right-hander Luis Patino for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised, but only on Bally Sports Sun.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Red Sox make signings of Rich Hill and James Paxton official

Moments before shocking the baseball world by acquiring Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects from the Brewers for Hunter Renfroe, the Red Sox made the signings of Rich Hill and James Paxton official on Wednesday night.

Both veteran left-handers had agreed to one-year deals with the Sox within the last 24 hours, as The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier first reported the agreement with Hill and Sportsnet’s Chad Day first reported the agreement with Paxton.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Hill will earn a base salary of $5 million in 2022, though his deal includes up to $3 million in performance bonuses based on number of innings pitched.

Hill, who turns 42 in March, is coming off a solid 2021 campaign in which he posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP to go along with 150 strikeouts to 55 walks over 32 appearances (31 starts) spanning 158 2/3 innings of work between the Rays and Mets.

The Milton, Mass. native will be preparing to embark upon his 18th big-league season in 2022 after signing with Boston as a free agent for the seventh time in his career.

“This guy is one of the best competitors in our game,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said of Hill. “It seems like he doesn’t age. Wherever he goes, it seems like he has success. Not only is he a good pitcher, but he’s a tremendous clubhouse presence. To be able to add a veteran like him who has shown the ability to pitch here and shown the ability to pitch in different roles, really to take on whatever is thrown at him.”

Paxton, on the other hand, is more of a unique signing since the Red Sox added the lefty on a one-year, $10 million deal for 2022 that also includes a two-year club option that could take the total value of the contract up to $35 million, per Speier.

More specifically, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reports that if the Sox pick up Paxton’s option, he will be guaranteed $26 million in 2023 and 2024 ($13 million in each season). If they decline, he can either exercise a one-year player option for 2023 at $4 million or turn it down and become a free agent himself.

In other words, Paxton’s contract comes with $10 million in guaranteed money (a $6 million base salary in 2022 and the $4 million conditional player option) that can max out at $35 million over three years when taking performance bonuses and escalators into account.

After spending the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the Yankees, Paxton re-joined the Mariners in 2021. But he suffered an elbow injury in his first start of the year that would ultimately require season-ending Tommy John surgery in April.

Because Paxton is still recovering from that elbow procedure, the Red Sox do not anticipate that the 33-year-old to return to the mound until some point during the second half of the 2022 campaign.

“He’s not going to be ready for Opening Day, but we do expect to see him at some point during the second half of the season if all goes well, ” said Bloom. “We’re hopeful that when he does come back, he’ll be able to give us a lift. Before injuries really started to impact his career, this guy was one of the better left-handed pitchers in the American League.”

Going back to his first season with New York, Paxton put up a respectable 3.82 ERA and 3.86 ERA with 186 strikeouts to 55 walks across 29 starts and 150 2/3 innings pitched in 2019.

“If he gets back to that, he could provide a huge boost for us in the second half,” Bloom said of Paxton. “We also have the ability, if all goes well this coming year, to control him for a couple years after that. And that was a big part of this deal for us: adding someone who might be able to help us down the stretch this coming year, but then also be a big part of what we’re doing in the years ahead.”

Within the last week, the Red Sox have added three starting pitchers (Hill, Paxton, and Michael Wacha). While the goal of doing this may have something to do with filling the void left by Eduardo Rodriguez, it also allows Boston to bolster its rotation depth going into 2022.

“To add to this group that we have, to have the depth to make sure we’re not putting too much on our young guys, and that we have enough capable major-league pitchers to get through the marathon of a season, it’s huge,” Bloom said.

Indeed it is.

(Picture of James Paxton: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Red Sox agree to one-year, $10 million deal with left-hander James Paxton, per report; contract includes two-year club option

The Red Sox are in agreement with free agent left-hander James Paxton on a one-year, $10 million contract for the 2022 season, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal, which is pending a physical, includes a two-year club option and was first reported by Sportsnet 650’s Chad Dey.

Per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the total value of Paxton’s contract could reach $35 million if the Red Sox were to pick up his two-year option for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.

Paxton, 33, underwent Tommy John surgery this past April after making just one start for the Mariners in which he allowed one earned run in 1 1/3 innings against the White Sox at T-Mobile Park.

The Canadian-born southpaw was originally selected by Seattle in the fourth round of the 2010 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky and later made his major-league debut for the Mariners in September 2013.

After spending the first six years of his big-league career with the M’s, however, Paxton was dealt to the Yankees in exchange for three players at the conclusion of the 2018 campaign.

While donning the pinstripes, Paxton enjoyed a solid inaugural season with the Yankees in 2019, posting a 3.82 ERA and 3.86 FIP to go along with 186 strikeouts to 55 walks over 29 starts spanning 150 2/3 innings of work.

The following year was a different story, though, as Paxton managed to make just six starts for New York before his season prematurely came to a close in late August due to a left flexor strain.

Despite signing a one-year deal to return to Seattle in February, the same discomfort Paxton experienced in his left elbow in 2020 clearly carried over into 2021 since it ultimately required season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Having undergone the elbow reconstruction procedure on April 14, Paxton likely won’t be able to return to in-game action until the later stages of the 2022 season at the earliest

Still, perhaps following a similar timeline they used with Chris Sale this year, the Sox elected to take a chance on Paxton. The veteran lefty operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, Paxton — a native of British Columbia — is represented by the Boras Corporation and does not turn 34 until next November.

He also becomes the second significant starting pitching-related addition Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have made via free agency in the last week. Over the weekend, the club announced that they had signed veteran right-hander Michael Wacha to a one-year, $7 million deal for 2022.

Once he passes his physical and his signing is made official, Paxton will bring the size of Boston’s 40-man roster up to 38 players.

(Picture of James Paxton: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Red Sox officially sign Michael Wacha to one-year deal; veteran right-hander will earn $7 million in 2022

The Red Sox have officially signed free agent right-hander Michael Wacha to a one-year contract for the 2022 season, the club announced earlier Saturday morning.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported on Friday that the two sides were finalizing a contract that was pending a physical, which Wacha has since passed.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the one-year deal is worth $7 million in value and does not include any options or incentives. The $7 million Wacha will earn in 2022 represents a significant raise from the $3 million he received with the Mets in 2020 and Rays in 2021.

This past season with Tampa Bay, the 30-year-old posted an unspectacular 5.05 ERA and 4.47 FIP to go along with 121 strikeouts to 31 walks over 29 appearances (23 starts) spanning 124 2/3 innings of work.

While Wacha may have struggled at times this year, he did put up a respectable 3.91 xFIP and career-best chase rate of 32.6%, which ranked in the 92nd percentile among major-league pitchers according to Baseball Savant.

From August 28 through the end of the regular season, Wacha appeared in seven games and made a total of six starts for the Rays. In that stretch, he pitched to the tune of a 2.88 ERA and 3.29 FIP while limiting opponents to a .167/.217/.300 slash line against and striking out 27.9% of the batters he faced.

For most of the 2021 campaign, Wacha had relied on his cutter as one of his most frequently-used pitches. But it got hit hard, so he ditched it later on the year in favor of throwing more four-seam fastballs (his primary pitch) and changeups as well as slightly more curveballs and sinkers.

Via Baseball Savant

A former first-round draft selection of the Cardinals out of Texas A&M University in 2012, Wacha spent the first seven years of his big-league career in St. Louis. The 6-foot-6, 215 pound righty was named MVP of the National League Championship Series in 2013 and earned his first and only All-Star selection to date in 2015.

After making more than 150 starts in a Cardinals uniform, Wacha inked a one-year pact with the Mets and spent the compressed 2020 season in Queens before joining the Rays on another one-year deal.

With the Red Sox, Wacha, who turns 31 next July, is now on his third team in three seasons. As of now, the veteran hurler is slated to join a starting rotation in Boston that includes the likes of Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, and Nick Pivetta with Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock in the mix as well.

That being said, Speier reports that when the offseason began, the Red Sox “intended to add starting pitching depth, and will continue to explore ways of doing so by both trade and free agency.”

Wacha does, however, have experience working out of the bullpen, and so the Sox could elect to have him undertake a multi-inning reliever role if they feel that is where he would best be used to start things out in 2022.

On another note, Wacha — who is represented by CAA Sports — will wear the No. 52 with the Red Sox.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox sign right-hander Michael Wacha to one-year deal

UPDATE: It’s a straight one-year, $7 million deal with no incentives, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. The deal is also now official.

The Red Sox are in the process of finalizing a one-year contract with free agent right-hander Michael Wacha, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal is still pending a physical.

Wacha, 30, spent the 2021 season with the Rays, posting a 5.05 ERA and 4.47 FIP to go along with 121 strikeouts to 31 walks over 29 appearances (23 starts) spanning 124 2/3 innings of work.

Boston was known to be in the market for starting pitching help after Eduardo Rodriguez left to sign a five-year deal with the Tigers earlier this month. And Wacha, as Passan points out, is expected to provide the Sox with experienced rotation depth.

While his ERA this year was north of five, Wacha did put up a much more respectable 3.91 xFIP and 4.00 SIERA during his time with Tampa Bay, and he did so while producing a career-best chase rate of 32.6%.

A former first-round pick of the Cardinals out of Texas A&M University in 2012, Wacha established himself as one of the better starters in the National League in his tenure with St. Louis, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors in 2013 and an All-Star nod in 2015.

Since leaving the Cardinals at the conclusion of the 2019 campaign, the 6-foot-6, 215 pound righty will now be joining his third team in three years after spending 2020 with the Mets and 2021 with the Rays.

Per Baseball Savant, Wacha operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, changeup, cutter, curveball, and sinker. His changeup may just be his best pitch, as opponents only batted .207 off it this season.

A client of CAA Sports, Wacha does not turn 31 until next July and figures to compete for a spot in Boston’s starting rotation by the time the Red Sox report to spring training in February.

That said, Wacha does have some experience as a reliever as well, so it would not be a surprise if chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. view the veteran hurler as someone who could start and pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen when needed.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox Lineup: Andrew Benintendi Back in Leadoff Spot in First Game Against Mets

After dropping two out of three to the Orioles over the Weekend, the Red Sox will look to get back on track in the first of a four-game, home-at-home series against the Mets beginning on Monday night at Fenway Park.

Boston’s first interleague opponent of the season, the Mets last visited Fenway in September 2018, where they too dropped two out of three to the eventual World Series champions that year.

As far as this week’s series goes, left-hander Josh Osich will be making his first career big-league start for the Sox in Monday’s opener. I say that, but Oscih will really serve as the opener for Boston, meaning he’ll work an inning or two before right-hander Zack Godley is dispatched as the team’s “bulk” pitcher.

Osich, 31, mainly relies on a cutter, sinker, and slider. He made his Red Sox debut on Saturday against the O’s and worked a scoreless ninth inning.

Offensively speaking, here’s how the Boston bats will line up behind Osich as they’ll be matched up against veteran right-hander Michael Wacha for the Mets.

Right off the bat, Andrew Benintendi is back in the leadoff spot after being limited to pinch-hit duty in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore. The 26-year-old has yet to record a hit this season in 12 trips to the plate, so it’s imperative that he gets it going if he wants consistent playing time going forward.

From there, it goes J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, who collected his first base knock of 2020 on Sunday, and Xander Bogaerts making up the 2-3-4 portion of the lineup.

Mitch Moreland will be making his second start of the season at first with a right-handed pitcher on the mound for New York, while Christian Vazquez will be catching Osich to begin things on Monday.

Rounding up this edition of the Red Sox lineup are Alex Verdugo, getting the start in right field, Jackie Bradley Jr., getting the start in center, and Jose Peraza, who is batting ninth while once again starting at second base.

Per Rotowire, Peraza and reserve catcher Jonathan Lucroy are the only two Red Sox position players who have any experience against Wacha, which is understandable seeing how all three previously spent a decent amount of time playing in the National League Central.

Peraza is 4-for-13 (.308) lifetime off the Mets right-hander with one double and three RBI. Lucroy, on the other hand, is 6-for-16 (.375) lifetime with one double, one home run, and three RBI.

As you might have already figured out, Wacha, who turned 29 earlier this month, will be making his first career regular season start against the Red Sox on Monday. He started Games 2 and 6 of the 2013 World Series against Boston while a member of the St. Louis Cardinals and went 1-1 with an ERA of 7.45 over those two outings.

The Red Sox will be looking to get back to .500 to kick off the week against the Metropolitans of Queens, who are also 1-2 three games into the 2020 campaign.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 7:35 p.m. eastern time on NESN, ESPN, and WEEI.