Alex Verdugo comes up with game-saving catch as Red Sox top Twins, 3-2, for eighth straight win in Game 1 of doubleheader

In the first game of a straight doubleheader at Target Field Wednesday afternoon, the Twins had Red Sox closer Matt Barnes on the ropes.

With a 3-2 lead to protect, Barnes had recorded the first two outs of the bottom half of the ninth, but only after putting the tying run on base in the form of a leadoff walk to Cave.

Cave stole second base to advance into scoring position, which brought Luis Arraez to the plate with the chance to knot things up at three runs a piece.

After falling behind in the count at 3-1, Barnes delivered an 86 mph curveball that Arraez — a right-handed hitter — slapped the other way.

Alex Verdugo, having moved from center to left field in place of Franchy Cordero an inning prior had just seconds to react to the screamer heading in his direction.

The young outfielder sprawled out to his right and wound up making a catch that was eerily similar to the one Andrew Benintendi made at Minute Maid Park in Game 4 of the 2018 ALCS.

Verdugo’s was still awe-inspiring snag secured a 3-2 victory for the Red Sox that extends their winning streak to eight consecutive games.

Arroyo, Renfroe stay hot at the plate

Facing off against a tough opponent in Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda, a three-run second inning is what gave the Sox the edge in this one.

Hunter Renfroe stayed hot and got his side in the board first by scoring Marwin Gonzalez from second on an RBI single.

After advancing to second on another single off the bat of Cordero, Renfroe came into score when upon fielding a softly-hit bunt from Kevin Plawecki, Maeda attempted to get the force out at third and instead air-mailed his throw well over Arraez’s head.

That blunder doubled Boston’s lead, and Christian Arroyo tacked on another run by plating Cordero on an RBI base-hit to left field. Arroyo also doubled in the top of the fourth.

Eovaldi improves to 2-1 on the season

The Red Sox continue to get consistency from their starting rotation, and Nathan Eovaldi provided that consistency in his third start of the season on Wednesday.

Over five solid frames of work, the veteran right-hander held the Twins to two runs on five hits, no walks, and one hit batsman to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both runs Eovaldi gave up came in a rather laborious bottom half of the third, but the fireballer rebounded by retiring six of the final seven hitters he faced through the end of the fifth — with some defensive help mixed in there as well.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 82 (60 strikes), the 31-year-old topped out at 99.1 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 34 times. His next start should come against the White Sox back at Fenway Park on Monday.

In relief of Eovaldi, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the middle of the sixth. The 24-year-old needed all of seven pitches to retire the side in order before Barnes came on for the seventh.

Next up: Game 2

Next up, the Red Sox will wrap up this twin bill against the Twins later Wednesday evening.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will make his second start of the season for Boston, and he will be opposed by ace right-hander Jose Berrios for Minnesota.

First pitch of Game 2 is scheduled for approximately 5:25 p.m. eastern time. Red Sox will be going for their ninth straight win.

(Picture of Matt Barnes and Alex Verdugo: David Berding/Getty Images)

Red Sox call up right-handed pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo to serve as 27th man for Wednesday’s doubleheader against Twins

As expected, the Red Sox have appointed right-handed pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo as the 27th man for Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Twins, the team announced Wednesday morning.

Bazardo, 25, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 28 prospect.

Originally signed out of Venezuela for just $8,000 back in 2014, Bazardo was added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in November after a strong showing at the team’s fall instructional league at Fort Myers.

The young righty “was the most impressive arm at instructs”, per SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

This spring, Bazardo allowed one earned run on two hits, two walks, and four strikeouts over four Grapefruit League appearances spanning five innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 1.80 and a WHIP of 0.80.

Since making his professional debut in 2015, the 6-foot, 190 pound hurler has posted a 2.55 ERA, a .215 batting average against, and a 342:81 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 100 total appearances — 31 of which were starts — and 310 innings of work across six different minor-league levels.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Bazardo’s pitch repertoire consists of a 94-97 mph fastball that tops out at 98 mph, an 83-87 mph curveball that features an 11-5 break, and an 88-92 mph split-finger fastball “that is still in development.”

Though it’s no sure thing Bazardo will make his big-league debut on Wednesday, the Sox called the right-hander up from the alternate training site with the idea that he could get right-handed hitters out, as the Twins usually boast a right-handed heavy lineup.

“This team (Minnesota) is very right-handed,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before Tuesday’s game. “Their best hitters right now are right-handed hitters. We’ll make decisions based on that.”

(Picture of Eduard Bazardo: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Bobby Dalbec goes 2-for-3 with 2 hard-hit RBI doubles in Tuesday’s win over Twins: ‘Today, he stayed with the plan, he was very disciplined, and you saw the results,’ Alex Cora says

Bobby Dalbec’s first weekend in Baltimore as a big-leaguer did not go great.

After struggling and only playing in four of a possible six games during the Red Sox’ first homestand of the 2021 season, the rookie slugger went 1-for-11 at the plate with one double, one RBI, two walks, and five strikeouts during his first visit to Camden Yards.

On paper, those numbers do not translate to success. But there were instances where Dalbec showed signs that he was perhaps ready to break out of the season-opening slump he has been mired in.

On three separate occasions last weekend, the 25-year-old recorded an exit velocity of over 100 mph on balls he put into play. Granted, only one of those balls – a 110 mph double — went for a hit, but the hard contact was promising nonetheless.

In his first game since the Sox left Baltimore, Dalbec — batting out of the nine-hole — went 2-for-3 with a pair of clutch, run-scoring doubles against the Twins at Target Field on Tuesday.

The first double, which came off Twins starter J.A. Happ in the fifth inning, knotted things up at two runs a piece. It left Dalbec’s bat at 105.6 mph and was laced down the right field line.

The second double, which came off Twins reliever Randy Dobnak in the eighth inning, gave the Sox a 3-2 lead. It left Dalbec’s bat at a searing 111.3 mph and also wound up in the right field corner.

The one time Dalbec did not reach base on Tuesday, he lined out sharply to Twins right fielder Jake Cave in the third inning on a line drive that had an exit velocity of 107.4 mph.

To put it simply, Dalbec has been crushing the ball as of late, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora attributed the right-handed hitter’s recent turnaround to what he was able to accomplish against the Orioles.

“I think the at-bats in Baltimore started everything,” Cora said of Dalbec following his team’s 4-2 victory Tuesday. “He hit the ball hard. Today, he stays on a pitch and he drives it the other way against a tough lefty (Happ).”

In addition to hitting the ball hard, Dalbec did not strike out at all on Tuesday, which is something he had only been able to do once through his first seven starts of the year.

The young corner infielder came into the week having swung and missed at 20% of the pitches he has seen so far this season, which ranks as the sixth-highest mark among qualified American League hitters, per FanGraphs. He only whiffed two times on Tuesday.

“When you control the strike zone, and you can control your aggression in the strike zone, you’re going to see results,” Cora said of Dalbec’s offensive approach. “We trust the player. We trust him. We know that there’s going to be a few days that he might swing-and-miss a lot, but we do believe that he can make adjustments and he can go the other way. That’s the most important thing with him: He drives the ball to right-center. So today, he stayed with the plan, he was very disciplined, and you saw the results.”

For Dalbec, the fact that he went to the opposite field three times on Tuesday did not come as much of a surprise. After all, it’s not uncommon to see hitters use the opposite field when they are looking to break out of a slump.

“I think it always ends up working out that way, whether I’m trying to or not,” Dalbec responded when asked about the approach he takes when he is struggling at the plate. “I would say using center, right-center, and right field is kind of a good spot for me to get back in line. I felt like I did that in Baltimore… If I’m thinking that way and react, that’s the way it goes sometimes for me.”

Following Tuesday’s showing, Dalbec is now slashing .179/.258/.286 through his first eight games of the 2021 campaign

Slow starts to a season are something Dalbec has grown accustom to since being drafted by the Sox out of the University of Arizona in 2016, but after showing what he is capable of doing against big-league pitching last year (eight home runs in 80 at-bats), the former second-round pick is hopeful he is about to get back on track.

“I’ve always kind of been a slow starter. Hate to say it, but that’s just kind of the way it is,” said Dalbec. “Obviously, I’d like to work that out in the future. But once I get more comfortable and settled at the beginning of the season, I start to get in a good spot. So hopefully this continues right now.”

(Picture of Bobby Dalbec: Jesse Johnson/USA Today)

Bobby Dalbec comes through with 2 clutch hits, Hunter Renfroe and Rafael Devers both homer as Red Sox come back to defeat Twins, 4-2, and pick up seventh straight win

An unexpected off-day on Monday and frigid, snowy conditions in Minneapolis on Tuesday could not halt the Red Sox’ early-season momentum, as the club extended its winning streak to seven consecutive games following a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over the Twins at Target Field.

Improving to 7-3 to start the 2021 campaign, the Sox become the first team since the 1991 Mariners to begin a season with a losing streak of three-plus games and follow it by winning seven-plus games in a row.

Tuesday’s win in Minnesota was not easy to come by. The Sox were held off the scoreboard until the fifth inning and did not plate the go-ahead run until their half of the eighth.

Bobby Dalbec was responsible for the two-most important Boston runs of the afternoon.

The 25-year-old slugger came into the week in the midst of a 3-for-25 slump to begin his first season in the majors, but came through in the clutch during his first visit to Target Field by driving in the tying and go-ahead runs on a pair of RBI doubles in the fifth and eighth innings.

Christian Arroyo was the one who scored on both of those two-base hits from Dalbec. The young second baseman enjoyed a successful day at the plate batting out of the eight-hole, as he he went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored.

Arroyo also turned a nifty double play in the sixth when he fielded a 105 mph scorcher off the bat of Andrelton Simmons while playing in a defensive shift behind second base.

Renfroe gets on the board while Devers stays hot

Before Dalbec’s heroics, the Red Sox first got on the board courtesy of Hunter Renfroe.

With two outs in the top half of the fifth, the right-handed power threat that is Renfroe took a 1-1 slider from Twins starter J.A. Happ 416 feet deep to dead center field for his first home run in a Sox uniform.

Fast forward to the ninth, after Boston had already taken a 3-2 lead over Minnesota, and Rafael Devers wrapped things up by extending his homer-streak to four consecutive games.

The 24-year-old deposited a 1-2, 89 mph slider from Twins reliever Jorge Alcala 404 feet over the left field wall — with an exit velocity of 108.4 mph off the bat — for his fifth big fly of the season.

Perez gets off to shaky start, but pulls through with five strong frames

Martin Perez’s second start of the year looked like it was going to be a short one, for the veteran southpaw allowed four of the first six hitters he faced on Tuesday to reach base.

Command issues for Perez resulted in the Twins jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the first, but the Venezuelan-born hurler was able to settle in once he got more adjusted to the freezing temperatures.

That being the case because over his final four innings of work, Perez only faced more than four hitters in one frame on one occasion en route to keeping his former team off the board through the end of the fifth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 88 (49 strikes), Perez’s next start should come against the White Sox back at Fenway Park on Sunday.

Bullpen holds steady, preserves winning streak

Between Hirokazu Sawamura, Adam Ottavino, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Matt Barnes, the Red Sox bullpen combined to toss four scoreless, one-hit innings of relief on Wednesday afternoon.

Barnes, in particular, was sharp once again as the right-hander needed all of 14 pitches to retire the side in order in the ninth, pick up his first save of the season, and preserve his side’s 4-2 series-opening win.

Next up: Straight doubleheader on Wednesday

The Red Sox and Twins will be playing a straight doubleheader on Wednesday to make up for Monday’s game being postponed.

Each game of the twin-bill will be seven innings long with the second contest beginning approximately 30 minutes after the first one ends.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is slated to get the ball for Boston in Game 1, and he will be opposed by fellow righty Kenta Maeda.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, will start Game 2 for the Sox. He will be opposed by Twins ace right-hander Jose Berrios.

First pitch of the first game Wednesday is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their eighth straight win, and then their ninth if they come out on top in Game 1.

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe and Rafael Devers: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Red Sox likely to call up pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo for Wednesday’s doubleheader against Twins

The Red Sox and Twins will play the middle two games of their four-game series at Target Field in a straight doubleheader on Wednesday. Each game will be seven innings long with the second one starting approximately 30 minutes after the first one ends (first pitch of the first game is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time).

Because of Wednesday’s twin-bill, both the Sox and Twins will be permitted to carry an extra player on their major-league roster for both games.

An official announcement has yet to be made by the Sox, but it would appear that right-handed pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo will be the 27th man for Boston on Wednesday.

Per his Instagram story, Bazardo, who began the season at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester, boarded a flight Tuesday morning from Boston to Nashville, then another one from Nashville to Minneapolis.

Additionally, Red Sox manager Alex Cora hinted that the team would call up a right-handed pitcher for Wednesday’s doubleheader when speaking with reporters on Tuesday.

“We’re talking about it. We’re going to go with a pitcher unless something weird happens today,” Cora said via Zoom when asked if a decision has been made as to who will be added to Boston’s roster. “But most likely we’ll add a pitcher.”

Minnesota boasts a right-handed heavy lineup that usually includes the likes of Nelson Cruz, Byron Buxton, and Miguel Sano, among others. Because of this, Boston seems keen on adding a right-hander to counter that potent offensive potential from the same side of the plate.

“We’re going to talk a little bit after this with [Dave Bush] and with Chaim [Bloom],” explained Cora. “And we’ll make the best decision for this team. [The Twins] are very right-handed. Their best hitters right now are right-handed hitters. So we’ll make decisions based on that.”

Bazardo, 25, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the 28th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

The Venezuelan hurler was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November on the strength of an impressive showing at the team’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

At fall instructs, Bazardo “was the most impressive arm” there, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

“At Instructs, all of Bazardo’s stuff was improved, as he sat 93-97 mph and often pitched at 95-96 with, as one scout called it, a ‘silly’ curveball,'” Cundall wrote of the young righty back in November. “His curveball elicited some horrible swings, and its spin rate topped 3000 rpm, which is elite. His fastball is now a plus-to-better pitch, and his curveball is solidly a plus pitch as well. His control has always been good, but he showed improved command of both his fastball and curveball. Bazardo also mixed in an occasional fringy splitter, which gave hitters something else to think about and another pitch in a different velocity band to keep them honest.”

Originally signed by the Red Sox out of Venezuela for just $8,000 in 2014, Bazardo owns a lifetime 2.55 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 100 total appearances (31 starts) and 310 innings of work across six minor-league levels since making his professional debut in June 2015.

This past spring, the 6-foot, 190 pound hurler allowed one earned run on two hits, two walks, and four strikeouts over four Grapefruit League appearances spanning five innings pitched.

If Bazardo is indeed called up on Wednesday, his stay with the Sox likely won’t last too long considering the fact the team’s roster will revert back to 26 players once the doubleheader is over.

(Picture of Eduard Bazardo: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Alex Cora on Monday’s Red Sox-Twins game getting postponed: ‘It was one of those that everybody understood the decision’

When the Red Sox arrived in Minnesota on Sunday following a two-hour flight from Baltimore, Sox manager Alex Cora went to bed not knowing if his team opening a four-game series against the Twins on Monday was a sure thing.

That being the case because on Sunday afternoon, Daunte Wright — a 20-year-old Black man — was fatally shot by a police officer at a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis that is just 10 miles north of Target Field.

The shooting, which has since been ruled “an accidental discharge” by Brooklyn Center police chief Tim Gannon, comes at a time where much of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is already on edge due to the ongoing trial involving former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with murdering George Floyd.

That trial, which is taking place in a Minneapolis courtroom, coinciding with Sunday’s tragic events led to state officials announcing a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting on Monday for much of the Twin Cities region.

Because of that curfew, the Twins moved the start times of all four of their games against the Red Sox to the afternoon.

It appeared as though Monday’s game between Boston and Minnesota was going to happen as scheduled, as uniformed players were on the field and both starting pitchers were playing catch in the outfield.

However, just a few minutes before first pitch, the Twins postponed the game and later announced that it would not be played “out of respect for the tragic events that occurred yesterday in Brooklyn Center.”

Twins president David St. Peter further explained the decision to postpone Monday’s contest when speaking with reporters shortly thereafter.

“Ultimately, there’s a lot of factors that go into the decision that we made here to not play, but I can assure you the decision was not made in a silo,” St. Peter said. “It was made after consultation with a variety of individuals and organizations, including local and state law enforcement, local and state leaders, Major League Baseball and the Boston Red Sox. At the end of the day, we came to the conclusion that the right thing to do was for us to not play today rooted in respect for the Wright family but also rooted in our mind in the safety of all of those involved in today’s game against the Red Sox — our fans, our staff, our players and the broader community.”

By the time Cora was made available to the media shortly after 4 p.m. eastern time, the Sox skipper was already back in his hotel room. As previously mentioned, he thought Monday’s game might get postponed based off what happened Sunday night.

“I thought about it last night,” Cora said via Zoom. “But everything was normal this morning. We even took batting practice, you saw that. Obviously, you think about stuff like that and you saw what happened last year throughout the league. And I thought about it, but nobody mentioned anything in the morning. So we just kept it quote-unquote business as usual.”

Keeping it business as usual, Cora and the Red Sox arrived at Target Field on Monday morning and were making their typical gameday preparations.

About a half four before first pitch was scheduled to take place, Cora was already in the visitor’s dugout getting ready to go, then Twins manager Rocco Baldelli informed him that Monday’s game had been called.

“I get to the dugout for a 1:05 game at 12:30, so I was locked in with my game notes, going through videos, and all that stuff in the dugout,” Cora explained. “So it had to be at 12:40, I think. I was locked in on the game, to be honest with you.”

Upon getting the word from Baldelli and the Twins, the Sox held a meeting in the visitor’s clubhouse to go over everything that had happened and what could happen next.

“We got everyone in the clubhouse, we explained the situation, and we left the clubhouse around 2 o’clock,” Cora said. “The meeting was very simple. We don’t have too many details as far as everything. But it was one of those that everybody understood the decision.”

As far as what could happen next, Cora described the Red Sox as being in a “waiting pattern” as they await a decision from the Twins and Major League Baseball in regards to the status of the rest of this week’s games.

“I know Chaim [Bloom] has been in touch with the Twins, with the front office, with everybody that is involved with MLB,” said Cora. “So we just have to be patient and wait on what they decide for tomorrow and the upcoming days.”

Before he touched on anything relating to Monday’s decision, Cora took the time to send his thoughts and prayers to the Wright family.

“First things first, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Wright family,” Cora said. “Obviously a very tough situation — sad situation. Especially in this area, it’s been tough the last 12 months with everything that is going on. So from that end, our thoughts and prayers.”

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

Monday’s Red Sox-Twins game postponed

Monday afternoon’s game between the Red Sox and Twins at Target Field has been postponed. The decision was not weather-related, but was instead for safety purposes.

The Twins released the following statement as to why Monday’s contest was postponed.

(Picture of Target Field: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Red Sox top prospect Jeter Downs suffers injury to left side in Sunday’s game against Twins, will be evaluated on Monday

After coming on as a defensive replacement at shortstop for Marwin Gonzalez in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 5-5 draw against the Twins, Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs would have to leave the game an inning later.

Fielding a ground ball off the bat of Jose Miranda to lead off the bottom half of the seventh, the 22-year-old dove to his left, landed hard on his side, and as NESN’s Jerry Remy put it, “never got a handle on the baseball” as Miranda reached first base safely without a throw.

Upon getting back on his feet, it appeared that Downs was a bit shaken up as he crouched down in front of second base, leading to Red Sox manager Alex Cora and associate head athletic trainer Brandon Henry coming out to check up on the young infielder.

Following a brief conversation between the three, Downs exited the game and was replaced by Chad De La Guerra at shortstop while fellow top prospect Triston Casas took over at third base.

During his postgame media availability, Cora couldn’t get into the specifics about what was hampering Downs, only assuring that more information will be revealed on Monday.

“They checked him and it seems like he’s OK,” Cora said via Zoom. “They’re going to obviously wait for him tomorrow, see how he feels at night, and we’ll have more tomorrow.

“It was his left side,” he added. “We can’t say it’s an oblique injury or just a bruise. We’ll wait until tomorrow.”

Downs, who was one of three players the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade last February, is currently regarded by Baseball America as Boston’s No. 2 prospect behind only Casas.

The right-handed hitting middle infielder out of Colombia was reassigned to minor-league camp on Friday and is projected to begin the 2021 season at the Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

(Picture of Alex Cora, Jeter Downs, and Brandon Henry: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi eclipses 100 mph 10 times in second start of spring: ‘When he gets to the ballpark, everything is at full speed’

Through the first three innings of his second start of the spring on Sunday afternoon, Nathan Eovaldi was moving right along.

The veteran right-hander had retired 9 of the first 11 Twins hitters he faced at Hammond Stadium, with the only damage coming on a leadoff home run off the bat of Byron Buxton to begin the bottom half of the third.

After escaping the third while stranding another base runner, Eovaldi headed into his fourth and final frame of work with a respectable pitch count of 41 as he looked to end his outing on a positive note.

Instead, the 31-year-old hurler saw Minnesota tack on an additional three runs on an additional five hits — including a hard-hit two-run double from Miguel Sano and softly-hit RBI single from Andrelton Simmons — before eventually retiring the side by getting Max Kepler to ground out to second.

At the end of the day, Eovaldi finished with a final pitch count of 65 (41 strikes) while yielding four earned runs on seven hits and zero walks to go along with three punchouts over those four innings of work.

Among those 65 pitches Eovaldi threw on Sunday, approximately 30 were four-seam fastballs, and approximately 10 of those fastballs registered on the radar gun at 100 mph or more, per Baseball Savant.

“I felt really good,” Eovaldi told reporters following his outing. “I’ve been doing a lot of work on my mechanics and my mechanics feel like they’re falling into place really well. I don’t feel like I’m fighting myself as much anymore. I threw some decent splitters today. My curveball felt really good. I threw some really good sliders today as well. I felt like I was locating the ball really well and attacking the zone and that’s what I came out there to do today. To work fast, get first-pitch strikes, and keep the pressure on them.”

Between the Sox and Twins, nine pitchers in total took the mound at Hammond Stadium on Sunday. Among those nine, Eovaldi was responsible for the 30 fastest pitches.

On the surface, that seems like a reassuring point, but it also brings into question if Eovaldi would be better off to save some of those high-octane bullets for later in the regular season as opposed to turning to them now in Grapefruit League play.

“It’s hard for us to slow him down,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of his flame-throwing starter. “That’s who he is. When he gets to the ballpark, everything is at full speed. We understand that, and we have to live with it. He’s in a great spot physically. He’s made some adjustments in the offseason. You see it, it’s full blast from the get-go. But, it’s something that that’s who he is, and we’re not going to change him.”

As for what went wrong in the fourth inning Sunday, Eovaldi attributed those struggles to just how dangerous the Twins lineup can be, but he also acknowledged that his performance as a whole was a step in the right direction heading into the new season.

“Other than that fourth inning, today felt really good going out there,” the Houston native said. “I think I had one 3-2 count, and that was to Sano in the first or second inning. Other than that, pitches felt really good. It’s just kind of now mixing them. I want the splitter to be a little bit better than it is now. But, everything else feels really good after today.”

Eovaldi has now recorded five strikeouts through his first two starts and 5 1/3 innings pitched of the spring. His next Grapefruit League outing could come against the Braves in North Port on Saturday.

“The more he pounds the strike zone with his stuff, he’s going to be successful,” said Cora. “And we like that.”

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Marwin González homers from each side of the plate against Twins, Alex Cora says ‘we’ll play him against lefties and righties whenever we have the chance’

During his pregame media availability on Thursday morning, Alex Cora made the point of saying that Marwin Gonzalez was going to be important to not only what the Red Sox do on the field in 2021, but what they do off the field as well.

Gonzalez made his sixth start of the spring for Boston against the Twins at Hammond Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

Batting out of the two-hole behind fellow newcomer Enrique Hernandez, the soon-to-be 32-year-old switch-hitter showed why he can be a valuable addition for a club with championship aspirations by going 2-for-2 at the plate with a pair of home runs, his first two of the spring.

He also stole a base after getting hit by a pitch in the fourth inning.

In his first at-bat, Gonzalez was matched up with Twins starter Matt Shoemaker, a right-hander, so he naturally hit from the left side of the plate with one out and nobody on in the top half of the first inning.

After watching a first-pitch sinker whiz by his knees for a called first strike, Gonzalez did not waste any more time, as he took an 0-1, 77 mph slider right down Broadway and deposited it 406 feet into the left field seats.

His first big fly of the spring — and in a Red Sox uniform — traveled 406 feet off the bat with an exit velocity of over 107 mph, per Baseball Savant.

Fast forward to the fifth, after the bottom of the Sox lineup had been productive with two outs and Hernandez collected an RBI on a run-scoring single, Gonzalez came to the plate once more, this time matched up against Twins southpaw Devin Smeltzer.

The versatile Venezuelan — hitting right-handed this time around — again watched the first pitch go by for a called strike, then proceeded to foul off a curveball to put himself in a quick 0-2 hole.

The third pitch from Smeltzer was an 87 mph heater at the top of the zone, right around the same area his catcher wanted it.

Despite accurately locating the pitch, Gonzalez was ready for it, as he demolished that fastball from Smeltzer and sent it 372 feet to left field, well far enough for his second home run of the afternoon.

This one was good for three runs and had an exit velocity of 101 mph.

Gonzalez’s day would come to an end a half inning later with Jonathan Arauz replacing him at second, but the damage had already been done considering the fact the former Twin was responsible for four of the five runs the Sox scored in what would turn out to be a 5-4 victory over Minnesota in eight innings on Thursday.

“He’s a good player,” Cora said of Gonzalez following the win. “We always talk about versatility and all that and it’s a good at-bat. It’s a good at-bat from both sides of the plate. He’s been very consistent throughout his career. We’ll play him against lefties and righties whenever we have the chance and whenever we find a matchup that we like, or to protect other guys.”

The Red Sox signed Gonzalez to a one-year, $3 million deal last month with the idea that he can play a plethora of defensive positions given his pedigree as a utility man.

In two seasons with the Twins alone between 2019 and 2020, the 6-foot-1, 205 pounder saw time at every position besides, pitcher, catcher, and centerfield.

“That’s the beauty of this, he can get a lot of at-bats playing at first, playing at second, giving Xander [Bogaerts] an off-day, even [Rafael Devers],” Cora added. “He’s been working hard with [Tim Hyers]. It was a tough year for him last year. In ’19, he hit the ball hard. He was top of the league in hard-hit balls. So, just put him in a good spot physically and just let him play. He enjoys playing the game and I’m happy that he’s with us.”

As previously mentioned, Hernandez had a front row seat to what Gonzalez did on Thursday since he was hitting ahead of him in Boston’s lineup.

The two were signed by the Red Sox over the winter for similar reasons, and Hernandez went into detail about what his versatile counterpart can bring to the table.

“He definitely won the MVP of the day today,” Hernandez said while praising Gonzalez’s performance at the plate. “I don’t think there’s going to be a player in baseball with a better day than he had today. Marwin’s a great player. Everybody knows that.

“Last season, it’s a little hard to dictate on players based off a 60-game season,” added Hernandez. “I would guarantee that he’s going to do better this year than he did last year. Also the fact that he can help us on both sides of the ball. Defensively, his versatility, he’s a plus-defender everywhere he plays. He can run the bases just like he did today. He got a great read on a dirt ball and he took off before the catcher or the infielders knew he was running, and he was able to get an extra 90 feet for us.

That’s going to be huge, especially with our lineup,” he continued. “Everybody can do damage. And a lot of times I feel like in Fenway, being at first, you’re already in scoring position, but the extra 90 feet are always huge.”

Given the versatility both Hernandez and Gonzalez — among other position players — can provide, Cora said the Red Sox could very well begin the 2021 season with 14 pitchers and 12 position players on their Opening Day roster.

“These two guys, and others, they help us to accomplish that,” Cora explained.

(Picture of Marwin Gonzalez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)