Red Sox’ Mitch Moreland Named 2020 Jimmy Fund Captain

Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland has been named the Jimmy Fund captain for the 2020 season, the organization announced earlier Friday.

Moreland, who has spent the past three seasons with the Red Sox and re-signed with the club in Januray, will become Jimmy Fund captain for the first time. The spot opened up when former Boston utilityman Brock Holt inked a one-year deal with the Brewers back in February.

As Jimmy Fund captain, Moreland’s responsibilities will include “attend[ing] fundraising events, visit[ing] patients and build[ing] support for cancer care and research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute” in addition to “encourag[ing] fans to step up to the plate and help strike out cancer by getting involved with Jimmy Fund events.”

The Red Sox and the Jimmy Fund have been charitable partners since 1953. Their relationship is probably most signified by the annual WEEI / NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, which began in 2002 and has raised millions for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Moreland took to Instagram to celebrate the announcement, writing, “Grateful for the opportunity to be a part of @thejimmyfund Thank you for giving me the role as the 2020 Captain.”

Given the current circumstances, it’s difficult to say what Moreland’s role with the Jimmy Fund will look like in 2020. Still, he was a great choice to fill the captain vacancy nonetheless.

Cape Cod Baseball League Cancels 2020 Season Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has put the sports world on hold, the Cape Cod Baseball League decided to cancel its 2020 season on Friday.

Per an official release, the league’s executive committee “voted unanimously to cancel the 2020 Cape Cod Baseball League season.  The decision was based on the health concerns and safety needs of all involved. Following CDC guidelines and medical recommendations, the league determined it would be impossible to guarantee the safety of players, coaches, umpires, host families, volunteers and fans during this unprecedented health crisis.”

Made up of 10 teams scattered across the cape, the Cape League was founded in 1885 and has become one of the top summer collegiate baseball leagues in the country.

Notable Red Sox players and prospects who spent their college summers on the cape include Chris Sale, Mitch Moreland, Matt Barnes, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brian Johnson, Bobby Poyner, Brandon Workman, Bobby Dalbec, and Cameron Cannon to name a few.

“We would like to thank all our dedicated volunteers and sponsors for their support and look forward to playing again in 2021,” the aforementioned statement read. “Thank you for your continued support and stay safe and healthy.”

On a personal note, this news stinks. Going to a handful of Cape League games every summer was always something I looked forward to. Now, it looks like we’ll have to wait until 2021 for the CCBL to return.

Nathan Eovaldi’s Strong Spring Continues as Red Sox Win One, Lose One in Saturday’s Split-Squad Action

In their second split-squad action of the spring on Saturday, the Red Sox experienced both victory and defeat, as they topped the Blue Jays by a final score of 5-2 at JetBlue Park, but also fell to the Phillies by a final score of 10-2 in Clearwater. They are now 5-10-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Starting with the game in Fort Myers, it was Nathan Eovaldi making his third start of the spring for Boston in this one.

Having yet to give up a run through his first two Grapefruit League outings headed into the weekend, Eovaldi’s impressive run continued against Toronto, as he held the Jays scoreless over three sharp innings of work while scattering one hit and one walk to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both that hit and walk Eovaldi yielded came right away in the top half of the first, but he was able to maneuver his way around any trouble by punching out Brandon Drury before proceeding to retire the final six Blue Jays he faced in order.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 59, the 30-year-old had his four-seam fastball consistently hovering around 97-99 MPH on Saturday. His fourth start should come against the Rays on Friday.

In relief of Eovaldi, Eduard Bazardo came on to begin the fourth inning, and he served up a solo home run to old friend Travis Shaw in an otherwise clean frame of work.

From there, Josh Taylor struck out the side and stranded two runners in his third appearance of the spring in the fifth, Phillips Valdez fanned three over two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh, Trevor Hildenberger surrendered one run on one hit, one hit batsman, and one RBI groundout in the eighth, and Robinson Leyer closed things out with a shutout ninth to preserve the win.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to give up two earned runs on two hits, one walk, two HBPs, and 13 strikeouts over nine total innings of work against the Blue Jays. Things did not go as swimmingly against the Phillies, which we’ll get to later.

For now, let’s talk about how a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, Christian Vazquez, Bobby Dalbec, Jonathan Arauz, and Rusney Castillo fared against Toronto starter Trent Thornton on Saturday.

Devers got things started right away in the first, as he reached base on a scorcher of a one-out single and came in to score all the way from first on a two-out RBI double off the bat of Martinez that could have been caught in left field had it not been for some nasty wind.

That early one-run lead doubled in the third, with Moreland doubling off Thornton and Dalbec driving him in on a run-scoring two-base hit of his own down the left field line. 2-0.

In the fourth, Devers came through again, this time plating Castillo from second and advancing Benintendi to third on another hard-hit, RBI single off new Blue Jays reliever Brian Moran.

Xander Bogaerts followed that up by grounding into a run-scoring 4-6-3 double play, and just like that, the Red Sox had themselves a 4-1 advantage.

Jantzen Witte and Ryder Jones provided some insurance later on in the seventh, with the former lacing a two-out double off of Julian Merryweather and the latter following with a double of his own to score Witte and make it a 5-1 contest.

Toronto would get one of those runs back in their half of the eighth, but that would be all, as 5-2 would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Making the trek over to Clearwater now, it was top pitching prospect Tanner Houck making his second start and third overall appearance of the spring for Boston against the Phillies.

Coming off three scoreless innings of relief against the Braves last weekend, the right-hander had a much tougher time of things on Saturday, as he yielded six runs, five of which were earned, on four hits, three walks, and one HBP to go along with three strikeouts in just 1 1/3 innings of work.

The first of those six Philles runs came in the first on a hit batsman, a double, and a wild pitch. The other five all came in the second, although Houck was only on the mound for four of them.

He was charged with all six, but after coming out in a 4-0 game with one out and the bases full, Mike Kickham allowed two of those inherited runners to score on another HBP and wild pitch before eventually retiring the side.

Kickham also worked a scoreless third inning before making way for Domingo Tapia, who surrendered two runs (one earned) on two hits, a walk, and a passed ball on the part of catcher Roldani Baldwin in the bottom half of the fourth.

From there, left-hander Josh Osich worked his way around a two-out walk in an otherwise clean fifth, Adam Lau gave up two more runs on three hits, a walk, and a sacrifice fly in the sixth, and Austin Brice impressed by fanning four over two perfect frames of relief in the seventh and eighth.

Compared to the other game against Toronto where things went pretty smoothly pitching-wise, Red Sox hurlers combined to allow 10 runs (eight earned) on nine hits, six walks, and 14 strikeouts over eight total innings pitched against Philadelphia.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Kevin Pillar, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Plawecki, Josh Ockimey, C.J. Chatham, Marco Hernandez, Jeter Downs, Marcus Wilson, and Baldwin was matched up against Phillies left-hander Ranger Suarez to begin things on Saturday.

Pillar got the scoring started for Boston in their half of the third, and he wrapped up a two-hit afternoon by clearing the bases on a two-run double to left off Suarez.

At the time, that two-base hit trimmed the Phillies’ advantage from six runs down to four, but it turned out to be the only offense the Sox could muster with 10-2 going on to be Saturday’s final score in Clearwater.

Some observations from this win and loss:

Kevin Plawecki against the Phillies: 1-for-3 with one strikeout.

Jonathan Lucroy, off the bench, against the Blue Jays: 0-for-1 with a walk and strikeout.

Mitch Moreland, in his first in-game action since last Sunday: 1-for-2 with one strikeout and run scored.

Nate Pearson, the top pitching prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, is going to be very good.

Speaking of prospects, it was interesting to see Gilberto Jimenez, the Sox’ No. 5 prospect, make a brief appearance as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning of the game against the Blue Jays.

With 10 strikeouts through his first 5 2/3 innings of work this spring, I thoroughly believe Austin Brice should make the Opening Day roster.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park on Sunday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Kenta Maeda will do the same for Minnesota.

Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, and Chris Mazza are among those who are expected to follow Perez.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT. Remember to turn your clocks ahead.

 

Nathan Eovaldi Fans Four Over Three Scoreless Innings, Rafael Devers Crushes Two-Run Homer as Red Sox Get Back in Win Column Against Braves

After dropping their last three, the Red Sox got back in the win column and improved to 4-5-1 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday following a 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves at JetBlue Park.

Making his second start of the spring for Boston was Nathan Eovaldi, who impressed in his 2020 debut by striking out four Twins over two scoreless innings last Monday.

Working three innings this time around, the right-hander impressed yet again, as he kept the Braves off the scoreboard while allowing just one hit, an infield single, and zero walks to go along with another four strikeouts on the afternoon, three of which came in consecutive order in the top half of the second.

Out of the 40 pitches Eovaldi threw Sunday, 28 went for strikes. And even though the Red Sox are opting to not use a radar gun at JetBlue Park this spring, it’s safe to say the 30-year-old had his fastball working in his favor in this one.

With two spring starts down and four to go, Eovaldi’s next outing should come next weekend against either the Braves, Phillies, or Blue Jays.

In relief of Eovaldi, Brandon Workman came on for his first appearance of the spring to begin the fourth, and he looked like he was in mid-season form with two strikeouts and four straight swings and misses to close a perfect inning out.

From there, top pitching prospect Tanner Houck followed suit by fanning three and walking one over three two-hit innings, making way for Marcus Walden, also making his spring debut, to begin the eighth.

Walden got his first Grapefruit League appearance off to a strong start by retiring the side in order in the eighth, but the ninth was a different story, as the 31-year-old allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach via a leadoff walk and HBP before recording the first two outs and yielding an RBI single to Braden Shewmake to end the shutout and make it a 4-1 game.

Another plunked batter filled the bases for Shea Langeliers, who drove in his side’s second run and subsequently ended Walden’s day by drawing a bases-loaded walk.

So, with the bases still full in what was suddenly just a two-run game, in came left-hander Emmanuel De Jesus looking to close things out. And the 23-year-old did just that, as he got Ryan Casteel to fly out to right for the third and final out, thus ending this one with a final score of 4-2.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured regulars like Michael Chavis, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, and Christian Vazquez to begin things on Sunday was matched up against Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz.

The Boston bats didn’t waste any time against the Braves hurler, as Chavis led off the first with a walk to bring up Devers, who unloaded on the fifth pitch he saw from Foltynewicz and crushed deep to dead center for his first home run of the spring in just his third plate appearance. A two-run shot put Boston up by two runs early.

An inning later, it was the bottom of the lineup getting things done against Foltynewicz, with Rusney Castillo and top prospect Jeter Downs putting runners at first and second with back-to-back one-out singles and Nick Longhi driving in Castillo from second on a line-drive RBI double to shallow right field. 3-0.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, and a bases-loaded walk with one out drawn by Chad De La Guerra off of Braves reliever Huascar Ynoa brought in Brett Netzer from third to make it a 4-0 contest. And after Atlanta rallied with a pair of runs of their own in the ninth, 4-2 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Mitch Moreland was pulled from this one in the middle of the first inning due to right hamstring tightness. Michael Chavis, meanwhile, only got one at-bat and was pulled after the first inning because he will be part of the group traveling to Lakeland for Monday’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

Rafael Devers in his second spring start: 1-for-2 with that two-run homer and two strikeouts.

Jonathan Lucroy off the bench: 0-for-1. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

Next up for the Red Sox, as I already mentioned, they’ll head to Lakeland to take on the Tigers Monday afternoon.

Right-hander Ryan Weber will get the start for Boston, while left-hander Daniel Norris will do the same for Detroit. Matt Barnes is also expected to make his spring debut for the Sox.

Weber is one of several candidates vying for a spot in Boston’s starting rotation to begin the 2020 season. The 29-year-old struck out one and scattered two hits over two scoreless innings in his last time out against the Orioles this past Tuesday.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. This game will not be televised.

 

Connor Wong Crushes Grand Slam as Red Sox Blow out Orioles

In a game that was not televised, the Red Sox improved to 2-2-1 in Grapefruit League play on Tuesday afternoon with a 12-4 win over a split Baltimore Orioles squad at JetBlue Park.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston in this one was Ryan Weber, one of the many names vying for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation with just over a month to go until Opening Day.

Tossing two innings on Tuesday, the right-hander kept the O’s off the scoreboard while scattering two hits and zero walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Baltimore hits came consecutively with two outs in the top of the first, but Weber was able to settle down and get Pat Valaika to fly out to center before retiring the side in order in the second.

In relief of Weber, left-hander Mike Kickham had a tough showing, as he surrendered one run in the third and three more, one of which was unearned, in the fourth due to a wild pitch and passed ball that got through Connor Wong behind the plate.

Hunter Haworth had to come on to try and clean Kickham’s mess up with two outs in the fourth, and he did just that by getting Anthony Santander to ground out to third.

From there, lefty Brian Johnson worked his way around a one-out single in an otherwise clean fifth to eventually earn his first win of the spring, while Domingo Tapia and Denyi Reyes combined for four scoreless frames of work to close this thing out with a final score of 12-4.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured a healthy number of regulars like Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vazquez, J.D. Martinez, and Mitch Moreland was matched up against Orioles right-hander Tom Eshelman to start things out on Tuesday.

Eshelman may not have given up any runs over the course of his brief two-inning start, but he gave up plenty of hard contact, including a line-drive one-out single off the bat of Vazquez in the first.

Two innings later, it was Vazquez coming through again, as he drove in Benintendi all the way from first on a hard-hit double to left off Orioles reliever Zac Lowther for his side’s first run of the day. 1-1.

In the fourth, the Boston bats once again responded to Baltimore, as they countered three more O’s tallies with three of their own on a two-run home run off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr. and RBI single off the bat of Tommy Joseph to plate Bobby Dalbec from second.

Both of those knocks came off Lowther, and they pulled the Sox back even with the Orioles at four runs a piece.

Fortunately, that stalemate did not last long at all, with the first five hitters who came to the plate in the fifth all reaching off Hunter Cervenka on two singles, two walks, and one HBP to make it a 6-4 contest.

Marco Hernandez added on to that with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to score Bobby Dalbec, Kevin Pillar re-loaded the bases with an infield single off new O’s reliever Zach Muckenhirn, and that brought Connor Wong to the plate with the chance to redeem himself after making a few defensive mistakes the inning prior.

On the third pitch he saw from Muckenhirn, Wong did just that, as the 23-year-old crushed a grand slam over the fence in right-center field for his first homer in a Red Sox uniform.

That gave the Sox a commanding 11-4 advantage, and after Nick Longhi scored on a fielding error in the same inning, 12-4 would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Because this game was not televised, I really do not have much to add here. Kevin Pillar went 2-for-2 with a double off the bench and Mitch Moreland hit a triple. Both of those things are nice to see.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll travel to Bradenton to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time this spring.

Left-hander Martin Perez will make his Red Sox debut for Boston, while right-hander Mitch Keller will get the start for Pittsburgh.

Perez is essentially a lock to be the No. 4 starter this year, so I’m looking forward to see how his first outing goes even if it is just an exhibition game. He is no stranger to the Grapefruit League either.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT at LECOM Park. This game won’t be on NESN, but it will be on the Pirates’ network, so if you have MLB.TV, you are in luck.

 

Red Sox Bring Back Mitch Moreland on One-Year Deal

The Red Sox have brought back free-agent first baseman Mitch Moreland on a one-year, $3 million deal for the 2020 season. In a corresponding move, right-handed pitching prospect Denyi Reyes was designated for assignment in order to make room for Moreland on the 40-man roster. The club made the transactions official earlier Tuesday.

According to The Athletics’ Ken Rosenthal, Moreland’s new contract will net him $2.5 million in 2020 and also includes a $3 million club option or $500,000 buyout for 2021.

The 34-year-old veteran had spent the previous three seasons with Boston after agreeing to a one-year, $5.5 million deal in December 2016 and a two-year, $13 million deal in December 2017.

Most recently, Moreland slashed .252/.328/.507 with 19 home runs and 58 RBI over 91 games in an injury-riddled campaign this past season.

Since free agency began at the beginning of November, bringing back Moreland always seemed like an appealing option even with the influx of infielders the Red Sox have.

With Moreland returning, the Sox get a familiar veteran presence back at a time when it will more than likely be needed under a new manager. They now also have the ability to platoon the Mississippi native, a left-handed bat, with either of Michael Chavis or Bobby Dalbec, both right-handed bats, at first base.

Dalbec, the Sox’ No. 2 prospect, might need more time at Triple-A Pawtucket at the start of the season for development or service time purposes, so there will be no need to rush the 24-year-old up now.

Chavis, meanwhile, has the opportunity to hover around the field now without committing to a single position, as noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

As for the other side of this move, Denyi Reyes was ranked as Boston’s No. 26 prospect on MLB.com

The 23-year-old right-hander was a surprising addition to the 40-man roster in November 2018 given how he had yet to pitch past the High-A level.

Making 26 starts for Double-A Portland last year, Reyes posted a 4.16 ERA and .243 batting average against over 151 1/3 innings pitched.

Presumably, the Red Sox would like Reyes to sneak through waivers so that he can remain with the club in a non-40-man roster spot capacity.

Eduardo Rodriguez Falls Short of 20th Win, Rafael Devers Picks up 200th Hit, and Mookie Betts Scores Winning Run as Red Sox Walk off Orioles in 2019 Season Finale

After dropping their penultimate game of the year with a 9-4 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, the Red Sox bounced back and wrapped up their 2019 season in style, as they walked off the O’s in nine innings in a 5-4 victory on Sunday.

Making his 34th and final start of the season for Boston on Sunday was Eduardo Rodriguez, who entered the weekend just one winning decision of 20 and 3 2/3 innings shy of 200.

Tossing seven full innings to surpass that 200-mark on the season, the left-hander surrendered three runs, all of which were earned against his former club on four hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts on the afternoon.

All three of those Baltimore tallies came in the top half of the third, when with one out and runners on the corners, back-to-back RBI knocks from Hanser Alberto and Austin Hays got the Orioles on the board first.

One mound visit from pitching coach Dana LeVangie later, and Rodriguez allowed the third run of the frame to come in on a fielder’s choice out off the bat of Trey Mancini.

Other than that bit of trouble though, the Venezuela native settled in nicely from the beginning of the fourth inning on, retiring 12 of the last 14 hitters he faced leading into the middle of the seventh, the point in which his outing came to an impressive close with an emphatic six-pitch punchout of Richie Martin.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 115 (71 strikes), the 26-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball nearly 48% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing 14 swings and misses and topping out at 95 MPH with the pitch while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Ultimately unable to get that vaunted 20th win due to what transpired later on, Rodriguez finishes his fourth full season with the Red Sox with a 19-6 record, a 3.91 ERA, and a career-high 231 strikeouts over 34 outings and 203 1/3 total innings pitched.

In relief of Rodriguez, Matt Barnes came on for one final time in the eighth with a brand new one-run lead to protect, and he could not do that, as he allowed the game-tying run, which was unearned, to cross the plate on a two-out RBI single from Jonathan Villar.

No 20th win for Rodriguez, all while Barnes was charged with his eighth blown save of 2019.

And in the ninth, Brandon Workman fanned the only three Orioles he faced on just 15 pitches to send this one to the bottom half of the inning with a 4-4 stalemate intact, and that eventually earned him his 10th and final winning decision.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against an old friend in Orioles right-hander Chandler Shepherd, who was with the PawSox up until May of this year before being designated for assignment.

Kicking off the scoring in the third just as Baltimore did, the Boston bats quickly responded from an early three-run hole by plating two of their own on back-to-back one-out, run-scoring hits courtesy of Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, and a leadoff walk drawn by Xander Bogaerts, single from J.D. Martinez, and another walk drawn by Mitch Moreland brought Christian Vazquez to the plate in a one-run game with the bases full.

Up against new Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong, Vazquez delivered with a line-drive RBI single to left to drive in Bogaerts and knot things up at three runs apiece.

An inning later, it was the top of the lineup getting things done once more, this time with Devers reaching base with a one-out double off Evan Phillips, his 200th hit of the season, and Bogaerts scoring him on an RBI single to the opposite field. 4-3.

That probably should have been good enough to get Rodriguez his 20th win, but as already mentioned, the Orioles rallied and tied things up in their half of the eighth.

In the bottom half of that eighth, it looked as though the Sox had jumped in front again, as Jackie Bradley Jr. crushed an 0-1, 95 MPH heater from Mychal Givens with two outs and Brock Holt on at first.

Instead of mashing his 22nd homer of the year though, Bradley Jr. was downright robbed by Stevie Wilkerson in right field, as the O’s outfielder sprawled out to take away what surely was a two-run shot. The .980 xBA on that line drive is quite evident of that statement.

So, the two sides headed into the ninth still in a 4-4 tie, and after Brandon Workman did what he had to do in the top half, Betts did what he had to do to lead off the bottom half.

Yup, the reigning American League MVP drew a six-pitch walk off of Dillon Tate in what very well could have been his last plate appearance as a Red Sox.

That brought Devers up to the plate for a fifth time, and all he did was rip a single through the right side of the infield. One that was certainly good enough to advance the runner on base up to third, but as he is known to do, Betts caught the opposition off guard and made the trek towards the promised land.

By the time the right fielder Wilkerson caught on to this, Betts was well on his way to sliding safely into home, as the Red Sox came away with a 5-4 walk-off win in their final game of 2019.

Some notes from this win:

From Red Sox Notes:

 

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:

So, the Red Sox finish their World Series-defending campaign with a final mark of 84-78, 19 games off the pace of the New York Yankees for the American League East crown and 12 games off the pace of the Tampa Bay Rays for the second American League Wild Card spot.

To say the 2019 season was underwhelming would be an understatement, but there was still plenty to remember and definitely plenty to reflect on and learn from.

As I have said before, there are plenty of questions surrounding this club headed into the offseason, and they’ll have about four weeks to get a head start on those discussions.

Will Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley Jr. be traded? Will J.D. Martinez opt out of his current deal? Will Brock Holt be offered a new contract? These are all uncertainties at the moment, and only time will tell on how these issues are resolved.

That is for another time though. For now, it’s a good time to unpack, reflect, and say thanks.

Pitchers and catchers report in a little under five months.