Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers combine for 6 homers as Red Sox tee off on Orioles, 14-9, to complete sweep and pick up sixth straight win

In the span of a week, the Red Sox of have gone from getting swept by the Orioles in their ballpark to sweeping the Orioles in their own ballpark.

Following a 14-7 victory over Baltimore at Camden Yards on Sunday, Boston extended its winning streak to six consecutive games after sweeping the first leg of their seven-game road trip.

J.D. Martinez leads the way with three homers

After being held out of action on Saturday while in Major League Baseball’s COVID-19 protocol, J.D. Martinez made his return to the Red Sox lineup felt upon getting reinstated from the COVID-related injured list on Sunday.

The 33-year-old slugger went 4-for-6 with three home runs, four runs driven in, and four runs scored batting out of the three-hole.

The three homers, which came off Orioles starter Jorge Lopez and relievers Mac Sceroler and Taylor Wells, traveled 372 feet, 382 feet, and 430 feet, respectively.

Martinez’s first multi-homer game of the year and his first three-homer game as a member of the Red Sox brought the right-handed hitter’s season home run total up to five.

Devers homers twice, Verdugo once

While Martinez led the way for the Sox in the power department on Sunday, the three-time All-Star was not alone in regards to taking the ball out of the park.

That being the case because a pair of left-handed hitters — Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo — combined to go deep three times off O’s pitching to close out the weekend.

Devers, who came into the day having homered in each of his team’s first two games of the weekend, extended that personal streak to three games by clubbing a 424-foot two-run shot off Sceroler in the fifth.

The 24-year-old also crushed a solo homer 439 feet to deep center field off Orioles right-hander in the eighth to up his season total to four.

Verdugo, meanwhile, actually got the Sox on the board first when after Franchy Cordero and Enrique Hernandez led off the third with a pair of singles, the 24-year-old outfielder got revenge on Lopez after getting plunked in the leg in his first trip to the plate.

He got his revenge on Lopez by depositing a 400-foot three-run blast to the opposite field.

Verdugo’s first big fly of the 2021 campaign gave the Red Sox a 3-0 lead. Martinez would follow with his first of three homers on the day, and Boston would not have to look back from there.

Pivetta remains unbeaten

Nick Pivetta has yet to lose a start as a member of the Red Sox. That trend continued on Sunday when the 28-year-old allowed four earned runs on seven hits, three walks, and seven strikeouts over six innings of work.

To say things went smoothly for Pivetta in this one would be a stretch, but the right-hander was able to limit the damage by putting his body on the line and tagging Freddy Galvis out at home for the final out of the third inning.

From there, Pivetta seemed to be on his way to putting six innings of one-run ball but a former Phillies teammate of his had different plans.

With one out and runners on the corners in the sixth, Maikel Franco took Pivetta deep to left for a three-run shot.

That presumably left a sour taste in Pivetta’s mouth, but the 6-foot-5 hurler was able to finish the inning and later picked up his second winning decision of the season. His next start should come against the White Sox back at Fenway Park on Friday.

Bullpen bends, but does not break

In relief of Pivetta, Austin Brice walked the first two hitters he faced in the seventh before serving up a three-run blast to Trey Mancini.

Hirokazu Sawamura had to come on to finish the seventh, and the righty worked his way around a two-out walk over a scoreless frame of relief in the eighth as well.

Phillips Valdez wrapped things up, though he gave up two runs needed 36 pitches (21 strikes) to do so and preserve the 14-19 victory for his side.

Next up: Perez vs. Happ

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll head to Minnesota to begin a four-game series against the dangerous Twins.

Monday’s series opener will include a starting pitching matchup that features two veteran left-handers, with Martin Perez getting the ball for Boston and J.A. Happ doing the same for Minnesota.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their seventh straight win.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo, Franchy Cordero, and Enrique Hernandez: Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rafael Devers turns impressive double play to get Red Sox out of early trouble Sunday

Hours after making a game-saving defensive play with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game against the Orioles, Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers was at it again with his glove on Sunday.

With Nick Pivetta on the mound for Boston, D.J. Stewart at first base following a leadoff single, and Maikel Franco at the plate with no outs in the bottom of the second, Devers’ quick reflexes were truly his ally on this particular play.

On a 1-1 slider at the top of the zone from Pivetta, Franco laced a line-drive that had an exit velocity of 103.6 mph and was destined to land in shallow left field were it not for Devers.

Already playing well behind the third-base bag, the 24-year-old — with his back facing home plate — quickly scurried to his left, snagged Franco’s screamer on the back-hand for a forceout, then had the intuition to turn, line up his feet, and make a cross-diamond throw over to first.

Stewart, having taken a few steps off of first, was now forced to retreat back to the bag, but he was unable to do so in a timely manner and was instead doubled up on Devers’ hurl and some fine footwork from first baseman Bobby Dalbec.

For the Red Sox, Devers’ improved play at the hot corner as of late is an encouraging sign given how he struggled out of the gate defensively.

“He’s been doing a good job the last few days,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of the young third baseman Saturday night. “It was a rough start early on but he’s made better decisions and we’re very happy with the way he’s been playing.”

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

J.D. Martinez homers again, Nick Pivetta hurls 5 scoreless innings as Red Sox top Rays, 11-2, for first win of season

Behind five strong innings from Nick Pivetta, the Red Sox snapped their three-game losing streak and secured their first win of the 2021 season following a 7-2 victory over the Rays on Monday.

Pivetta, making his 2021 debut, kept the Rays off the scoreboard while scattering just two hits and four walks to go along with four strikeouts over his five frames of work.

By the time the right-hander recorded his final out of the night to retire the side in the fifth, he had thrown 92 pitches, 52 of which went for strikes.

Of those 92 pitches, Pivetta relied on his four-seam fastball 46% of the time he was on the mound Monday. He topped out at 97.1 mph with his four-seamer and also induced seven swings-and-misses with his slider — a pitch he threw 38 times.

Ultimately picking up his first winning decision of the season later on in this one, the 28-year-old hurler is now 3-0 in three starts with the Sox since being acquired from the Phillies via trade last August. His next start should come against the Orioles in Baltimore on Sunday.

In relief of Pivetta, Matt Andriese managed to keep Tampa Bay off the scoreboard into the sixth and seventh innings but ran into some trouble in the eighth when he filled the bases with just one out.

That predicament led to the veteran righty getting the hook in favor of Darwinzon Hernandez, though the left-hander did not fare much better considering the fact he walked in a pair of inherited runners.

While Hernandez did get the second out of the inning, the Sox still went back to their bullpen and brought in Adam Ottavino, who punched out Mike Brosseau on a nasty, knee-buckling slider to escape the jam.

Phillips Valdez, making his third appearance of the season already, wrapped things up by sitting down the only three hitters faced in the ninth.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox broke out of an offensive slump in tremendous way on Monday night.

Matched up against Rays right-hander Michael Wacha, Franchy Cordero got the scoring started for his side — and gave them their very first lead of the season — with a two-out, run-scoring double off the Green Monster to bring in Christian Vazquez.

Cordero struck again in the fourth, this time following up a Hunter Renfroe run-scoring sacrifice fly by plating Marwin Gonzalez to give Boston a 3-0 edge.

An inning later, Xander Bogaerts managed to drive in J.D. Martinez as well as himself on an RBI double that nearly left the yard.

While it was ruled a double, Bogaerts initially wound up at third on the throw home, then took off for home and scored when an errant throw from Rays catcher Mike Zunino landed in left field. That little-league home run gave the Sox a 5-0 lead.

Kiké Hernández and Alex Verdugo tacked on two additional insurance runs with an RBI double and sacrifice fly in the sixth, then the Boston bats exploded for four runs to blow this one open in the eighth.

Those four runs — all of which were scored off former Red Sox reliever Chris Mazza — came on a Verdugo run-scoring single and three-run, opposite field home run off the bat of Martinez.

Martinez’s second home run of the season traveled 326 feet before clanking off Pesky’s pole in shallow right field. It also gave the Sox a commanding 11-2 lead, which would go on to be Monday’s final score.

Some notes from this victory:

From Red Sox Notes:

Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena made one of the catches of the season in the fourth inning of Monday’s contest and robbed Hunter Renfroe of multiple bases — and multiple RBI — in the process of doing so.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the middle game of this three-game set on Tuesday night. Left-hander Martin Perez will be making his first start of the season for Boston, and he will be opposed by right-hander Tyler Glasnow for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox going for their first series victory of the season.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Garrett Richards struggles while Garrett Whitlock shines, but Red Sox still get swept by Orioles following 11-3 loss

The Garrett Richards era did not off to a great start for the Red Sox on Sunday, as the club extended its season-opening losing streak to three consecutive games following an 11-3 defeat at the hands of the Orioles at Fenway Park.

Richards, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Sox in February, made his highly-anticipated team debut in this one. To put it simply, it did not go well.

The right-hander yielded six runs — all of which were earned — on seven hits and two walks to go along with two strikeouts on the afternoon. In the process of allowing all those runs, Richards managed to record just six outs before getting the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora after walking the bases full in the top half of the third inning.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 61 (35 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball nearly half of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing two swings-and-misses and topping out at 95.6 mph with the pitch.

Ultimately hit with his first losing decision of the year while seeing his ERA inflate to 27.00, Richards will look to rebound in his next time out against these same Orioles next Saturday in Baltimore.

In relief of Richards, left-hander Josh Taylor inherited a mess and closed the book on the Sox starter’s day by allowing seven more runs (four of which were charged to him) before Garrett Whitlock came on for what was his major-league debut.

Pitching in a competitive environment for the first time in nearly two years, Whitlock — a 2020 Rule 5 Draft pick — carried over the success he enjoyed this spring into his first appearance with the Red Sox by twirling 3 1/3 scoreless frames of relief while scattering just three hits and punching out five.

From there, Hirokazu Sawamura worked a scoreless top of the seventh, while Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino both made their 2021 debuts in the top halves of the eighth and ninth innings of Sunday’s contest.

Barnes, responsible for the eighth, maneuvered his way around a one-out walk in an otherwise clean frame. Ottavino, responsible for the ninth, surrendered one run on two hits and two walks in what was also his Red Sox debut.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to give up 11 runs to the Orioles on 17 hits, eight walks, and 15 strikeouts. The Boston pitching staff had been effective in the team’s first two games of the season, but that was not the case on Sunday.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was again held in check by a Baltimore pitching staff that was led by rookie left-hander Bruce Zimmermann this time around.

By the time the Boston bats managed to push something across on a Kiké Hernández sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third, they were already in a 10-0 hole.

J.D. Martinez continued his hot start to the new season by crushing a 429-foot solo home run to deep center field — his and his team’s first big fly of the year — off Zimmermann to lead off the fourth to make it a 10-2 contest.

Fast forward to the sixth, and Martinez again got the best of Zimmermann, this time lifting a run-scoring double to the left field corner that brought in Hernandez all the way from first.

Martinez’s second of two hits on the afternoon cut the Boston deficit to 10-3, but three runs is all the Sox could manage as 11-3 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

From Sox Notes:

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

The Red Sox have started a season 0-3 for the first time since 2012. This is also the first time they have started a season 0-3 at Fenway Park since 1948.

Next up for the Red Sox, they will look to bounce back from a series-opening sweep to the Orioles by welcoming in another divisional foe to Fenway in the form of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta will be making his 2021 debut for Boston, and he will be opposed by former Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha, who will also be making his 2021 debut for Tampa Bay.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox still looking for their first win of the season in what will be their first game under the lights this year.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Nick Pivetta moved to Fort Myers this offseason to work out at team’s complex and familiarize himself with organization

In his first offseason as a member of the Red Sox organization, right-hander Nick Pivetta moved to Fort Myers in order to be closer to the club’s Fenway South complex.

Put another way, rather than return home for the offseason as many players across baseball do, the 28-year-old opted to travel to southwest Florida and familiarize himself with his new club.

“We talked about it as the season was ending last year, and he was telling me he was thinking about coming down here and setting up shop because he didn’t have anywhere else he needed to be,” Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush said of Pivetta earlier Saturday. “I think it’s great. It gave him a chance to be around the staff, to be around the complex, to get his work in consistently.

“Look, it’s not for everybody,” he added. “Some guys like being able to go home, some guys like being here. But for him this winter, it was perfect. Because it gave him access to the personnel, the equipment, and the space that he needed, and he took advantage of it.”

The Red Sox originally acquired Pivetta — as well as right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold — from the Phillies back in August for right-handed relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree.

Pivetta arrived in Boston in late August, but rather than make his team debut right away, the club optioned the 6-foot-5, 214 pounder to their alternate training site in Pawtucket, where he would stay for about a month before getting called up on September 22.

In his first two starts in a Red Sox uniform — which came against the Orioles and Braves — Pivetta impressed by yielding just two earned runs on eight hits and five walks to go along with 13 total strikeouts over 10 total innings pitched.

“Nick was great last year,” Bush said. “Obviously he performed really well when he came up. After the trade, we kept him at the alternate site for a little while, and it gave the other people in the organization a chance to get to know him. I talked to him plenty of times over the phone before he came up. So I think the relationship started building pretty early last year, and we carried it through those last few starts at the end of the year.”

Ending the 2020 campaign on a high note, Pivetta headed down to Fort Myers and continued to put the work in to improve his craft.

“He’s worked very hard this offseason,” said Bush. “I was in regular contact with him once or twice a week. He was sending me videos as he was throwing his bullpens leading up to camp. He’s worked very hard. He’s dedicated himself to making himself a complete big-league pitcher and being able to stick in the big-leagues.”

As he prepares to embark upon his first full season with the Red Sox in 2021, Pivetta finds himself in a somewhat precarious position given the fact he is out of minor-league options. That means that if Boston wanted to send down the British Columbian hurler to the minors, they would have to remove him from their 40-man roster and expose him to waivers in the process of doing so.

With that in mind, it would appear that Pivetta, who primarily works with a four-seam fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup, has the inside edge on a spot on the Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation since other potential candidates — like Tanner Houck — have minor-league options remaining.

Even considering that point, though, the former fourth-round draft pick will still have to prove his worth and compete for said starting rotation spot over the next few weeks.

“I think he’s very excited for the opportunity,” Bush stated. “He’s going out there to compete for a spot, and he’s worked really hard for it. So I’m excited for him. I’m excited to see him go out there and pitch, compete, and show that the hard work he put in was worth it. It’s going to pay off.”

Pivetta, who turned 28 earlier this month, will make his spring debut on the road against the Twins on Wednesday.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday during an appearance on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni, and Fauria that S0x starters will each work two innings in their first starts of the spring and three innings in their second starts.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Former Red Sox closer Brandon Workman signs one-year deal with Cubs, per report

Former Red Sox closer Brandon Workman has reportedly reached agreement on a one-year, major-league contract with the Cubs, according to The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney.

Per Mooney, Workman will earn a base salary of $1 million in 2021 with the chance to earn an additional $2 million in performance bonuses.

The 32-year-old right-hander is a little more than four months removed from what can best be described as a tumultuous 2020 season between the Sox and Phillies.

With Boston to begin the year, Workman got off to a so-so start, allowing three earned runs over seven appearances and 6 2/3 innings pitched out of the bullpen before getting dealt to Philadelphia along with Heath Hembree for right-handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold.

Upon arriving in Philly, Workman had the chance to re-establish himself as he was about to embark upon free agency, but he instead floundered.

In 14 appearances (13 innings) in a Phillies uniform, the Texas native posted a dismal 6.92 ERA and 1.146 OPS against while blowing three of a possible eight save opportunities to close out the season.

Performing that poorly to end a contract year has to be unsettling to some degree, but Workman still managed to net himself a major-league deal anyway, albeit a short-term one.

It’s likely the Cubs are banking on the former first-round draft pick returning to his 2019 form — in which he produced a 1.88 ERA and struck out 104 hitters in 71 2/3 innings — with a new change of scenery.

Prior to his signing with Chicago, Workman was someone the Red Sox “had at least some interest in a reunion with,” per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

A reunion between the two sides in 2021 may not be possible anymore, but Cotillo adds that Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have “at least some interest in three free-agent righties — Jeremy Jeffress, Chaz Roe and Ben Heller.”

Earlier this week, the @RedSoxStats Twitter account hinted at the idea that Boston is not yet done making bullpen additions ahead of the start of the 2021 season.

(Picture of Brandon Workman: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Rays viewed Red Sox’ Nick Pivetta as another potential Tyler Glasnow before right-hander was traded to Boston

Red Sox pitchers and catchers may not report to spring training in Fort Myers until next week, but it goes without saying that Nick Pivetta will be one of the more intriguing players to watch during camp.

The soon-to-be 28-year-old right-hander yielded just two earned runs on eight hits, five walks, and 13 strikeouts over two September starts spanning 10 innings pitched with Boston last season after being acquired from the Phillies in August.

By impressing Red Sox brass in 2020, Pivetta seems to be on track for a spot in Boston’s starting rotation in 2021.

The thing is though, the Sox, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, were not the only team interested in trading for Pivetta before last summer’s trade deadline.

According to The Athletic’s Peter Gammons, the Phillies believed Pivetta was in need of a change of scenery, and “the Rays tried hard to beat Bloom to him.

“We think he can be another [Tyler] Glasnow,” one Rays official said of Pivetta when speaking with Gammons.

Boston ultimately won the Pivetta sweepstakes, acquiring him as well as right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold from Philadelphia in exchange for right-handed relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree on August 21.

That said, it’s not difficult to see why the Rays would want another reclamation project such as Pivetta given their track record with starting pitchers.

Using Glasnow as an example here, both he and Pivetta have similar baseball backgrounds.

Glasnow, who like Pivetta is also 27 years old, is a former fifth-round draft pick of the Pirates and was once regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in Pittsburgh’s farm system.

The California native couldn’t quite put it together upon getting called up to the majors in 2016, though, as he produced a 5.79 ERA and 4.90 FIP over 56 appearances (17 starts) in parts of 2 1/2 seasons with the Pirates.

Once Glasnow, as well as outfielder Austin Meadows and right-handed pitching prospect Shane Baz, was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for veteran righty Chris Archer in July 2018, things started to turn around for the better.

Since then, Glasnow has for the most part found his footing at the major-league level, posting a 3.32 ERA and 3.40 FIP through his first 34 starts (173 2/3 innings pitched) with the Rays.

Pivetta, meanwhile, got his big-league career with the Phillies off to a rocky start as well.

The former fourth-round draft pick of the Washington Nationals (traded to Philadelphia for Jonathan Papelbon in 2015) struggled to the tune of of a 5.50 ERA and 4.64 FIP through 92 outings (71 starts) and 396 1/3 innings with the Phils from 2017-2020 before the organization ultimately gave up on him.

It’s a much smaller sample size than what Glasnow has done in Tampa Bay thus far, but as previously mentioned, Pivetta impressed in his two turns through Boston’s rotation last September. Some of that success is likely due to what he worked on at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket after he was traded.

“Nick has had success in the big leagues before. The game can be your friend one minute and your enemy the second,” Worcester Red Sox pitching coach Paul Abbott said of Pivetta back in October. “You can be on top of the world, an up-and-coming young guy with four pitches that grade out highly, and then all of the sudden, you lose all confidence. A change of scenery can do a guy a lot of good. He came down here with a purpose, with a mission. Very determined. He’s got all of it. All of the pitches. It’s just a matter of him… I think his two starts were really good for him to get back into that mindset where he can definitely pitch at that level. When a guy can get that mindset with the stuff that he had, we have, potentially, a front-of-the-rotation type guy.”

Like Abbott said, perhaps a change of scenery was what Pivetta, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 214 lbs., needed to revitalize his major-league career; especially if he locks up a spot in Boston’s Opening Day starting rotation.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Pivetta is out of minor-league options, so the 2021 season, which is his last before becoming eligible for salary arbitration in 2022, could prove to be quite impactful for the British Columbian.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Red Sox bring back left-hander Martín Pérez on one-year deal that includes club option for 2022

The Red Sox are bringing back left-hander Martin Perez on a one-year, $5 million deal for the 2021 season, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Per Rosenthal, Perez will earn a base salary of $4.5 million this year and will have the opportunity to earn $6 million in 2022 via a club option. The deal also includes incentives for number of innings pitched for both 2021 and 2022.

If the Red Sox were decline that club option, the southpaw could then earn an additional $500,000 through a buyout, which would take the total value of the contract to $5 million.

Perez, who turns 30 in April, is coming off a debut season with Boston in which he posted a 4.50 ERA and 5.12 xFIP over 12 starts spanning 62 innings of work in 2020.

Those numbers might not look great on the surface, but there was a stretch from July 30 until August 22 and another stretch from September 3 until September 18 where Perez was one of, if not the best starter in Boston’s rotation.

The Venezuelan international originally inked a one-year, $6 million pact with the Red Sox in December 2019. That contract also included a team option — worth approximately $6.25 million — for a potential second year, but the Sox declined said option in early November.

Since that time, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have not made too many major moves to address Boston’s pitching needs, as right-handers Matt Andriese (signed a one-year deal in December) and Garrett Whitlock (Rule 5 Draft selection) have been the only significant additions thus far in terms of potential rotation depth.

With that in mind, perhaps the Sox thought it was in their best interest to shore up their starting rotation a little bit by bringing back a familiar face in Perez.

The fact that the one-time Rangers hurler was even still available was somewhat of a surprise given the notion that the Padres — run by former Texas director of international and professional scouting A.J. Preller — were among the teams interested in his services.

Now that Perez is back in Boston, though, he joins the likes of Andriese, Whitlock, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, and Tanner Houck among those currently on the team who will have a spot in the rotation to start the year and those who will have to fight for a spot during spring training.

That said, expect more pitching additions (Jake Odorizzi?) for the Red Sox to come relatively soon.

Also, the Red Sox will have to clear a spot on their 40-man roster to make the Perez signing official, so that’s another thing to monitor.

(Picture of Martin Perez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox manager Alex Cora says Alex Verdugo was team’s MVP in 2020

Even while serving his one-year suspension this past season, Red Sox manager Alex Cora still took the time to watch baseball, and the Red Sox, as a fan.

Though Cora acknowledged that watching the 24-36 Sox struggle from afar was tough, he also pointed out that he liked what he saw from some players in particular.

Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta, and Alex Verdugo, all of whom made their Red Sox debuts in 2020, drew praise from the Sox skipper, with Verdugo getting the nod as the team’s most valuable player.

“Alex is a good player,” Cora said of the young outfielder when speaking with MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo Tuesday. “I saw him with the Dodgers, the previous year, a guy that brings a lot of energy to the equation on a daily basis. He can hit lefties, he can hit righties. I think he settled in the lineup. Defensively, he did an outstanding job for the team. For everything that is going on as far as like no fans and the protocols and how quote-on-quote uncomfortable it was for a team that didn’t play well, I do believe he was the best player on the team, the MVP.”

After coming over from Los Angeles as the centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade back in February, Verdugo enjoyed great success at the plate with his new club. In 53 games, the 24-year-old posted a robust .308/.367/.478 slash line to go along with six home runs and 15 RBI.

On top of providing quality production at the top of the Boston lineup, Verdugo also dazzled defensively from both corner outfield positions. That much was evident by how he finished the year with seven outfield assists, tied for the most in baseball.

As Cora mentioned in the above quote, Verdugo got his first taste of playing at Fenway Park last July, when the Dodgers visited the Sox for a three-game series right after the All-Star break. In said series, the former second-round pick impressed with a pair of multi-hit games in the two games he started.

Those performances drew the attention of the likes of Cora, and although the Sox manager had already left the team by the time Boston acquired Verdugo from Los Angeles in February, he is very much looking forward to getting to know the exuberant 24-year-old better now that he is back.

“I actually spoke to him a few days ago,” Cora said. “What I saw is what I heard on the phone. Looking forward to working with him and making him a better player.”

How Cora develops relationships with Verdugo and other young players who were not on the team prior to his suspension should be something worth monitoring once spring training begins.

Former Red Sox right-hander Heath Hembree outrighted by Phillies, making August trade look like even bigger steal for Chaim Bloom

Former Red Sox right-hander Heath Hembree is on the verge of joining this years free-agency class, as the Phillies outrighted the 31-year-old from their 40-man roster earlier Thursday morning.

Because he has accrued enough major-league service time, Hembree, who was entering his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2021, can reject an assignment to the minors in favor of becoming a free agent a year earlier than initially anticipated.

The South Carolina native opened the 2020 campaign as one of Boston’s primary bullpen fixtures and got off to a fantastic start, posting a 1.86 ERA and .503 OPS against over his first 10 relief appearances and 9 2/3 innings of work.

A four-run implosion in which he failed to record an out against the Phillies, of all teams, on August 18 resulted in Hembree’s ERA skyrocketing up to 5.59. That would wind up being the righty’s last outing with the Red Sox, as Philadelphia acquired his services, as well as free agent-to-be Brandon Workman, in exchange for right-handed pitchers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold on August 21.

Things did not improve for Hembree, nor Workman, when they arrived in Philly. Together, the two hurlers combined to yield 24 runs (23 earned) on 40 hits, 14 walks, and 25 strikeouts over 25 total outings spanning 22 1/3 innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 9.27.

According to FanGraphs, Hembree’s fWAR of -0.8 and Workman’s fWAR of -0.5 from August 21 until the end of the regular season were the worst and second-worst marks among 262 National League relievers. For what it’s worth, Hembree’s year came to a close on September 21, when he was placed on the injured list due to a right elbow strain.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, saw signs of promise in Pivetta, who gave up just two runs over his first two starts and 10 innings pitched with Boston in late September, and got an interesting prospect in Seabold who will presumably be added to the club’s 40-man roster within the next few weeks.

With Workman and Hembree no longer members of the Phillies organization, this trade has the makings to be an absolute steal for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox.