Red Sox Minor-Leaguer Tests Positive for COVID-19, Club Shuts Down Fenway South Complex for at Least Two Weeks

A Red Sox minor-league player has tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced Tuesday night.

Per a team spokesman, that player tested positive and received the results of the test on Monday, eight days after he had last been at the Red Sox’ facility in Fort Myers.

That player is now recovering and “doing well” at home, and the Red Sox believe that it is “more likely” he contracted COVID-19 upon departing from Fort Myers last week.

With this news though, the Fenway South complex will now be shut down for at least the next two weeks, effective immediately. During that time, the facility, JetBlue Park included, will undergo a deep cleaning.

Some Red Sox players were still using the facilities at Fenway South to continue their workouts even after spring training was suspended by Major League Baseball. Those players will now have to find somewhere else to work out.

The Red Sox also advised any player or staff member who came into contact with the aforementioned minor-leaguer who tested positive for the virus to self-quarantine for the next two weeks.

Although this Red Sox minor-leaguer has yet to be identified, he is now the third known professional baseball player to test positive for COVID-19 after two Yankees minor-leaguers tested positive earlier in the month.

Rafael Devers Homers but Red Sox Pitching Falters in 9-1 Loss to Yankees

After enduring their second tie of the spring to kick off the first week of March on Monday, the Red Sox fell to 4-6-2 in Grapefruit League play on Tuesday following a 9-1 defeat at the hands of the New York Yankees in Tampa Bay.

Making his second start of the season for Boston was Martin Perez, coming off two one-run innings in his last time out against the Pirates last Wednesday.

Working just 2/3 of an inning this time around, the left-hander was eventually charged with six runs, only one of which was earned, on four hits and one walk to go along with no strikeouts on the afternoon.

Those numbers certainly don’t look encouraging, but it’s difficult to place all the blame on Perez when the reality of the situation is that he gave up a fair amount of soft contact and endured some bad luck thanks to the defense behind him.

The 28-year-old wound up facing the first eight hitters in the Yankees lineup and finished with a final pitch count of 34 before being pulled by interim manager Ron Roenicke. His third start of the spring should come against the Twins on Sunday.

Turning to the bullpen earlier than they would have liked to, minor-league right-hander Hunter Haworth inherited a messy situation with one out still to get and the bases full.

A wild pitch to begin his outing allowed that runner on third, Luke Voit, to easily score, and the bases were re-filled once more following a walk of Clint Frazier.

A hard-hit single off the bat of D.J. LeMahieu plated another two runs, and just like that, the Yankees had themselves a 6-0 lead before Haworth was able to retire the side in what turned out to be a 39-minute first inning.

From there, Haworth sat down the side in order in the bottom half of the second, left-hander Josh Taylor served up a solo homer to Gio Urshela in the third and worked a scoreless fourth, Austin Brice fanned two in a clean fifth, Josh Osich stranded the bases loaded in the sixth, Domingo Tapia allowed one run on two hits, one walk, and an RBI forceout in the seventh, and R.J. Alvarez surrendered another run on three hits and a walk in the eighth.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to give up nine runs (four earned) on 13 hits and seven walks to go along with eight total strikeouts over eight innings of work.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Michael Chavis, Jonathan Lucroy, Jose Peraza, Tzu-Wei Lin, C.J. Chatham, Jarren Duran, and John Andreoli was matched up against a familiar opponent in Yankees veteran right-hander Masahiro Tanaka to begin things on Tuesday.

Going down by six runs before even taking their second at-bats of the day had to be a kick in the gut, and the only offense generated by Boston came courtesy of Rafael Devers in the top half of the fourth inning.

There, facing off against new Yankees reliever Clarke Schmidt, the 23-year-old led the frame off by crushing a fastball to deep center for his second home run of the spring.

That solo blast cut the Yankees’ advantage down to six runs at 7-1, but that was all the Sox could muster in an eventual 9-1 loss.

Some observations from this defeat:

Andrew Benintendi, in his return to the lineup on Tuesday: 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.

Jonathan Lucroy on Tuesday: 0-for-2 with a few mishaps behind the plate. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

Tzu-Wei Lin was pulled early due to tightness in his left hamstring. Cole Sturgeon took over for him.

I won’t post the numbers, but Austin Brice has looked pretty decent through three spring appearances out of the bullpen.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the Detroit Tigers at JetBlue Park on Wednesday afternoon.

Left-hander Jeffrey Springs will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Ivan Nova will do the same for Detroit.

Springs, 27, could be a viable option to serve as an opener given the current state of the Red Sox’ starting rotation. Speaking of which, an update regarding the status of Chris Sale should be available Wednesday morning, so stay tuned for that.

In regards to Tuesday’s game, first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. It will not be televised.

Eduardo Rodriguez Impresses in Spring Debut for Red Sox

After managing to score just one run in a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Friday, the Red Sox fell to 3-5-1 in Grapefruit League action on Saturday following a 5-2 defeat at the hands of  a split Yankees squad on a sunny afternoon at JetBlue Park.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston for Eduardo Rodriguez, whose 2020 debut was pushed back to Saturday after he slipped and twisted his left knee in a bullpen session two Wednesdays ago.

Tossing the first three innings of this one, the left-hander impressed by holding the Yankees off the scoreboard while scattering two hits and zero walks to go along with six strikeouts on the afternoon.

Two of those three frames were perfect for Rodriguez. The only real trouble he ran into came in the second, when he allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach base on a double and single, but he worked his way through that with the help of an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play and proceeded to strike out the side in the third.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 52, the 26-year-old’s next outing should come against the Astros on Thursday.

In relief of Rodriguez, Ryan Brasier made his spring debut out of the Red Sox bullpen, and he yielded the first run of the day on three hits and a strikeout in the top of the fourth.

Heath Hembree also debuted in the fifth, and he filled the bases with two outs before getting Clint Frazier to hit into what looked to be an inning-ending infield pop fly.

Instead, Christian Vazquez lost the ball in the sun, the ball landed in fair territory, and two runs crossed the plate as a result.

A pitching change that saw Mike Shawaryn take over for Hembree didn’t fare any better for the Sox, as the right-hander walked another and brought in another Yankees run on a wild pitch to make it a 4-2 contest.

From there, Shawaryn finished the fifth, left-hander Jeffrey Springs punched out the side in the sixth, Yoan Aybar surrendered one run on two hits and a sacrifice fly in the seventh, and Brian Johnson closed things out with two perfect frames of relief in the eighth and ninth.

In total, Boston pitching combined to give up five runs (two earned) on eight hits and three walks to go along with 12 total strikeouts.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured Kevin Pillar, Jackie Bradley Jr., Vazquez, Mitch Moreland, Jose Peraza, Jonathan Lucroy, Bobby Dalbec, C.J. Chatham, and Marcus Wilson was matched up against Yankees left-hander Jordan Montgomery to begin things on Saturday.

Montgomery held his own in his two innings of work, and it wasn’t until the bottom half of the fourth when the Boston bats made some noise.

There, a two-out walk drawn by Mitch Moreland followed with a double off the bat of Jose Peraza and another walk drawn by Jonathan Lucroy filled the bases for top prospect Bobby Dalbec.

Up against new Yankees reliever Daniel Alvarez, Dalbec first contributed to the cause without even swinging his bat, as a balk from Alvarez brought in the pinch-running Tommy Joseph from third.

A few moments later, Dalbec did contribute with his bat, as the 24-year-old powered an RBI single to shallow left field, plating Peraza from third and giving his side their first lead of the afternoon at 2-1.

Fast forward all the way to the ninth, after New York had jumped out to a 5-2 edge, and three straight walks drawn by Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs, and Marco Hernandez to lead off the frame filled the bases and brought the winning run to the plate with no outs.

Alas, nothing came of a golden opportunity, as reliever Domingo Acevedo settled down and stranded the bases loaded by retiring the final three Red Sox he faced in order, thus ending this contest with a final score of 5-2.

Some observations from this loss:

It looked like Juan Centeno rolled his right ankle in the eighth inning while running to first and ducking an errant throw. He had to leave the game, but he was able to walk off under his own power and was later diagnosed with a sprained ankle.

Jose Peraza went 2-for-2 with a double and run scored.

Tzu-Wei Lin went 2-for-3 off the bench while playing center field.

Jonathan Lucroy went 0-for-2 with a walk and two strikeouts while serving as designated hitter Saturday. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

It’s still early, but not great first impressions on the year from Heath Hembree nor Ryan Brasier.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the Atlanta Braves at JetBlue Park Sunday afternoon.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the start for Boston, while fellow righty Mike Foltynewicz will do the same for Atlanta.

Eovaldi is coming off a fine outing in his last time out against the Twins where he fanned four over two scoreless innings of work last Monday.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST on NESN.

 

Red Sox Have Not Asked for Permission to Speak to Mets Bench Coach Hensley Meulens About Managerial Opening

The Red Sox have yet to seek permission from the New York Mets to speak with bench coach Hensley Meulens about their managerial opening, per Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.

Van Waganen made this news clear after formally announcing that Luis Rojas, the club’s quality control coach, would be named manager less than a week after Carlos Beltran stepped down from the role due to being a key figure in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal going back to the 2017 season.

According to multiple reports, the Mets interviewed three internal candidates in Rojas (quality control coach), Meulens (bench coach), and Tony DeFrancesco (first base coach), to replace Beltran before ultimately reaching a final decision on Wednesday.

Going back to this past Sunday, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that the Sox had ‘shown interest’ in Meulens while he was still a candidate for the Mets job.

Now that that hole has been filled by Rojas, there are only two open managerial positions remaining in Boston and Houston.

In regard to the Astros job, owner Jim Crane has interviewed six candidates in Buck Showalter, John Gibbons, Will Venable, Dusty Baker, Eduardo Pérez and Joe Espada, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome.

There have been no links between Houston and Meulens, so perhaps now would be a good time for the Red Sox to reach out to the Mets bench coach about their managerial opening.

Of course, that all depends on the direction chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom wants to take here in either hiring a stopgap for one year before opening up a more extensive search next winter or hiring the ideal long-term guy right now.

Looking at his resume, Meulens, 52, has plenty of major-league coaching experience under his belt, as he served as Bruce Bochy’s hitting coach in San Francisco from 2010 until 2019. He was one of several candidates interviewed for the Yankees’ managerial opening prior to the start of the 2018 season and was named Mets bench coach last month.

The Curacao native also fits the mold of former major-league veterans who have gone onto become major-league managers, such as former Sox skipper Alex Cora.

When asked about the qualities he would like in Boston’s next manager at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner last Thursday, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said that he would want “someone like Cora.”

This is not to say that Meulens is comparable to Cora, because I really do not know if he is. What I do know is that Meulens does have a relationship with Bogaerts thanks to him managing Team Netherlands in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He also speaks five languages, two of which being English and Spanish.

Since the Red Sox have yet to be seriously linked to any other external managerial candidates, there could still be a long way to go in this search. Either that, or the club decides to go with an internal candidate, like current bench coach Ron Roenicke, instead. Plenty more to come for sure.

Red Sox Claim Chris Mazza off Waivers From Mets

Earlier Friday, the Red Sox claimed right-handed reliever Chris Mazza off waivers from the New York Mets.

Mazza, who was designated by New York last week, posted an ERA of 5.51 and xFIP of 5.47 over nine relief appearances and 16 1/3 innings of work this past season, his first in the majors.

The 30-year-old hurler was originally drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 27th round of the 2011 amateur draft out of Walnut Creek, Ca. and had to work his way through independent league ball in 2018 in order to make it back as a Rule 5 pick of the Mets that year.

While with the Mets’ Double- A and Triple-A clubs this season, Mazza allowed a total of 43 runs (40 earned) on 91 hits and 26 walks over 18 appearances, 17 of which were starts. That’s good for an ERA of 3.61 and batting average against of .247.

Per Statcast, Mazza relies on five pitches: a changeup, a cutter, a four-seam fastball, a sinker, and a slider. He averaged 90.6 MPH with his four-seamer in 2019.

Mazza joins left-hander Josh Osich as additions chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have made through waivers so far this offseason. As the above tweet mentions, the righty is the 40th player on the Red Sox’ current 40-man roster, which is subject to change.

Former Red Sox Right-Hander Rick Porcello Signs One-Year, $10 Million Deal with Mets

Former Red Sox right-hander has reportedly agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with the New York Mets, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

According to Heyman, Porcello had a three-year deal on the table as of Wednesday night but ultimately opted for the one-year pact to reset his value for next winter.

There were some rumors that the Sox and Porcello were interested in a reunion, but chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. will now have to look elsewhere for starting rotation depth.

Originally acquired by Boston from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and relievers Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier back in December 2014, Porcello spent a total of five seasons with the Sox after inking a four-year, $82.5 million extension with the club under general manager Ben Cherington in April 2015.

In that time, the soon-to-be 31-year-old hurler posted a 4.43 ERA and 4.15 FIP over 159 total starts and 964 innings pitched. That includes a 5.52 ERA over 32 starts and 174 1/3 innings this past season.

In postseason play, the former first-round pick owned an ERA of 4.94 and batting average against of .277 in eight total October appearances (five starts) while with the Red Sox.

Porcello’s only start in the 2018 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers came in Game 3, the longest game in the history of the fall classic.

There were plenty of ups and downs in Porcello’s tenure with Boston, such as winning his first Cy Young Award in 2016 and following that up by leading the American League in losses (17) in 2017.  Still, he could be relied on to pitch deep into games when needed.

Outside of Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, Porcello is the only Sox hurler to win a Cy Young Award in the last 50 years.

With the Mets, the New Jersey native will look to put himself in a better spot to cash in around next year’s Winter Meetings in Dallas.

Thanks for everything, Rick.

Red Sox ‘Actively’ Trying to Trade Jackie Bradley Jr., per Report

The Red Sox are actively trying to trade outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

Abraham also notes that before last week, the Sox were engaged with the Mets regarding a potential deal before New York opted to trade for Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick instead.

Entering his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2020, Bradley Jr., who turns 30 in April, is projected to earn $11 million next season.

That price may be too high for a Chaim Bloom-led Red Sox team looking to trim down payroll to under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, especially when you consider that the majority of Bradley Jr.’s value comes from what he does with his glove compared to his bat.

The Virginia native slashed .225/.317/.421 to go along with 21 home runs and 62 RBI over 147 games played in 2019. He also finished just short of notching his second straight Gold Glove Award for American League center fielders this past season, finishing as the runner up behind Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier.

This is certainly not the first time Bradley Jr. has been on the trade block, and with teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks being linked to him, the former first-round pick out of the University of South Carolina’s days with the Sox may be numbered.

All of this information has come from a busy first full day of the Baseball Winter Meetings out in San Diego, so there is definitely going to be more to come in the next few days as well.