A Look Back at Recent Red Sox Home Openers at Fenway Park

Thursday was supposed to be Opening Day at Fenway Park for the Red Sox. They were scheduled to take on the Chicago White Sox in the first of a three-game series at approximately 2:05 PM EDT.

Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected millions across the country and the globe has pushed back the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season for the foreseeable future.

In these times, baseball should take a backseat to more pressing issues we are all facing, but not having the comfort and distraction sports can provide over these past few weeks has certainly been odd.

So, since Thursday was supposed to be the first game played at Fenway Park this year, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some memorable Fenway Opening Day moments in recent years starting with the 2013 home opener. Let’s get to it.

April 8th, 2013: Red Sox 3, Orioles 1

Daniel Nava provided the only offense the Sox needed in this one to secure their fifth win of the year.

Going into their half of the seventh inning having yet to really muster anything offensively, Nava came through big time in his third trip to the plate against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen, as he took the left-hander deep to left off a 1-1, 91 MPH heater on the inner half of the plate to drive in both Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli to make it a three-run contest.

Former Sox closer Joel Hanrahan wound up giving one of those runs back on an Adam Jones leadoff homer in the ninth, but the right-hander held on to notch his third save of the season in what would turn out to be a 3-1 victory for Boston.

This took place exactly one week before the Boston Marathon bombings, and as we already know, the 2013 season that ended in a World Series title was a very emotional one for the Red Sox.

April 4th, 2014: Brewers 6, Red Sox 2

Speaking of World Series titles, the Red Sox received their 2013 World Series rings on this day in 2014.

Will Middlebrooks also homered in this contest, although Boston would eventually be swept by Milwaukee in their first three home games of the year in what would turn out to be a mostly forgettable title defense.

April 13th, 2015: Red Sox 9, Nationals 4

Coming off a solid 4-2 road trip in Philadelphia and New York to begin the season, the new-look Red Sox got the home portion of their 2015 schedule off with a bang against Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals.

In his first home start as a member of the Red Sox, right-hander Rick Porcello provided Boston with eight solid innings of work while Mookie Betts and David Ortiz both went deep.

Speaking of Betts, the now-four-time All-Star was just getting his career started at this point in time.

Fresh off making his first career big-league Opening Day roster, the 22-year-old swiped second and third base in consecutive order against Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann right away in the bottom half of the first inning. He also collected four RBI in addition to mashing his second homer of the season.

The Red Sox improved to 5-2 with the five-run victory over the Nats, and they looked like a team poised to bounce back from a last-place finish in 2014. That did not happen though, and come October, the Sox finished in the basement of the American League East for the third time in the past four seasons.

April 11th, 2016: Orioles 9, Red Sox 7

The sixth game of the Red Sox’ 2016 campaign marked David Price’s first start at Fenway Park since inking a then-record-setting seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston the previous December.

Unlike his Red Sox debut in Cleveland, where he fanned 10 over six two-run innings, Price struggled in his first start home, as he yielded five runs, all of which came in the top half of the third for Baltimore, over five innings of work.

Betts did impress once again though, as the 23-year-old plated a pair of runs on a solo homer and RBI single.

Ortiz, meanwhile, also shined in what was his final Opening Day as a member of the Red Sox, which was commemorated with a special pregame ceremony and his daughter, Alex, singing the National Anthem.

 

April 3rd, 2017: Red Sox 5, Pirates 3

While many expected the newly-acquired Chris Sale to get the Opening Day nod, ex-Sox manager John Farrell went with Rick Porcello, who was coming off winning his first Cy Young Award the year before.

Porcello was solid, racking up five strikeouts while surrendering three runs over 6 1/3 quality innings of work.

Offensively, all five of Boston’s runs came in their half of the fifth inning, with Pablo Sandoval and Dustin Pedroia plating a pair of runs on a pair of RBI singles and rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi, fresh off making his first Opening Day roster, driving in three on a three-run blast to right off Pirates ace Gerrit Cole.

Benintendi would wind up finishing second in American League Rookie of the Year voting behind Yankees slugger Aaron Judge in 2017.

April 5th, 2018: Red Sox 3, Rays 2 in 12 innings

The only extra-innings game on here wound up in a one-run win for the Red Sox to open up the home portion of their 2018 schedule.

David Price contributed to the cause by hurling seven scoreless frames against his former team, while Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts came through with a pair of run-scoring knocks off Alex Colome in the ninth to make extra innings possible in the first place.

Fast forward all the way to the 12th, and Ramirez delivered in the clutch once more, this time coming to the plate with one out and the bases loaded against Ryan Yarbrough and plating Jackie Bradley Jr. from third on an RBI single to right field.

The Red Sox’ first walk-off victory of the season improved their record to 6-1 and they really wouldn’t have to look back en route to capturing their ninth World Series title that October.

April 9th, 2019: Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 5

Finally, we arrive at the most recent home opener. Another one in which the Red Sox received their World Series rings on what was an otherwise dreary day at Fenway Park.

Things did not get much better after the ceremony though, as Chris Sale surrendered five runs over four innings to eventually fall to 0-3 through his first three starts of the season.

Mitch Moreland and Mookie Betts did both homer, but at the end of the day, the Red Sox fell to 3-9 on the season and they never really were able to recover from that sluggish start despite finishing with a winning record.

So, there you have it. A nice look back at the last seven Opening Days at Fenway Park. Hopefully the next one will happen sooner rather than later.

Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez Celebrates MLB’s Opening Day at Home by Gaming

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez was more than likely going to make his first career Opening Day start against the Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon. Instead, he, like the rest of Major League Baseball players, staff, and executives, is currently sitting at home in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has pushed back the start of the 2020 season by several weeks.

That did not stop the soon-to-be-27-year-old from suiting up in full uniform though, as he took to social media to promote MLB’s ‘Opening Day at Home’ initiative that encouraged fans on Thursday to ‘feel a sense of community and unity on a day many were looking forward to, while underscoring the importance of staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.’

An avid gamer and streamer, Rodriguez posted a video of himself on Instagram and Twitter putting on a gaming headset and tossing a PS4 controller up and down like a baseball with the caption, “When you don’t want to get out of the routine but you only have video games #OpeningDay #StayatHome.”

Recently, Rodriguez has been streaming Fortnite online with Xander Bogaerts, Xander’s brother Jair, and former Red Sox outfielder Gorkys Hernandez.

You can follow Rodriguez on Twitch here. His PlayStation Network ID is ‘thegualo’, although he has yet to accept my friend request.

Bogaerts’ PSN ID is ‘thebogiestud2.’ He, too, has not accepted my friend request.

UPDATE: Rodriguez is now streaming online with Dustin Pedroia. You can watch that here.

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, Team President Sam Kennedy Address Coronavirus Concerns That Led MLB to Delay Start of Season

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, as well as general manager Brian O’Halloran and team president Sam Kennedy, spoke in depth Friday on where Major League Baseball is headed in the wake of the remainder of spring training being suspended and the start of the 2020 season being pushed back at least two weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

Earlier Friday, the league made it official that major-league players have the freedom to either remain at their club’s spring training facility, return to their club’s city, or go home themselves at their own discretion.

In a meeting between Red Sox executives, coaches, and players on Friday, Bloom and Co. echoed that same sentiment.

“We’ve just gotten word, and are getting the word out to our players, that since starting to discuss this, it’s been agreed that now our players can leave should they choose to, and go home or go wherever they need to go,” Bloom said in a conference call. “We’re trying to make sure that happens in a safe and orderly manner. We’re working on that as we speak. For players who want to stay here, we will have the facility available to them.”

The Sox have yet to gather a headcount on which players will be staying and which players will be leaving, but despite no official word from the league, they gave their minor-league players the same option as well. Although remaining in Fort Myers may be the most ideal route for them to take due to financial restrictions.

“We recognize, especially as we get into the population of minor leaguers, this may be the best option for them,” Bloom stated. “And we want to make sure that is a good option.”

Typically, the weeks leading up to April involve the movement of dozens of players, major and minor-league alike, in numerous transactions between clubs. But, with the United States now being in a state of national emergency and all, rosters may become frozen for the time being. Or in other words, no roster moves will be allowed until Major League Baseball can resume baseball activities. Nothing has been made official regarding this matter as of now, but Bloom did say that, “We are fully prepared that the next several days will include new information.”

There is also a possibility that rosters could be expanded from 26 players once the 2020 season does start to make up for less preparation time, although, according to Bloom, “There is no indication right now that anything will change.”

Because there is no definite date for a new Opening Day outside of April 9th, which is unlikely to happen, there’s a very real chance that additional spring training games will need to take place once the league resumes in order for players to up their workload once more.

“The short answer is, we don’t know,” Bloom said in regard to a later addition of spring training games. “We don’t have enough of a sense of what this will look like when we start up again.”

Regarding that point about players needing to increase their workload before the season starts, one thing that makes this outbreak-induced delay so challenging is that we simply don’t know when regular season baseball will be back.

As The Athletic’s Chad Jennings notes, “Bloom pointed out that spring training buildup is usually based upon working backward from a known point in time. Opening Day is usually on a specific date, and so players work to be ready on that exact day.

Right now, baseball has no idea when Opening Day will be, so there’s no working backward. The issue of building and sustaining is particularly tricky for pitchers as teams try to find a balance between sustaining their current status and not overworking for a start date that might be far, far down the road.”

How teams will prepare with no set Opening Day date in sight will be interesting to see, and according to Bloom, it will be “one of the tougher questions that I think every club is going to have to answer.”

Turning to some positive news, no Red Sox player has yet to test positive for coronavirus, and the club has even set up their own task force to deal with issues surrounding the virus, per Kennedy.

For the time being, JetBlue Park and the entire Fenway South complex will remain closed to the media and the public through Sunday, while all Fenway Park employees outside of stadium security have been told to work from home.

Fenway Park will also undergo a three-day cleaning starting Saturday morning where “every square inch [of the park] will be disinfected and cleaned,” Kennedy said.

In times like these, baseball takes a back seat as there are more pressing matters at hand. It may stink now, but baseball and the Red Sox will be back eventually.

 

Major League Baseball Suspends Remaining Spring Training Games, Delays Start of Regular Season by at Least Two Weeks Due to Coronavirus

In the midst of the concern surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, Major League Baseball announced on Thursday that all remaining Cactus and Grapefruit League games have been cancelled and that the start of the 2020 regular season would be pushed back by at least two weeks.

“This action is being taken in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, Clubs and our millions of loyal fans,” the league said in a statement. “Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our players, employees and fans. MLB will continue to undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts. We send our best wishes to all individuals and communities that have been impacted by coronavirus.”

With the MLS, NBA, and NHL are putting their seasons on hold within the last 24 hours, it was only a matter of time until Major League Baseball followed suit.

There had been discussions about potentially playing games in empty stadiums or at neutral locations that have yet to be stricken by the ever-spreading coronavirus, but postponing the start of the season seems to be the most optimal way to go here for all parties involved.

Two weeks from March 26th is April 9th, when the Red Sox are supposed to be opening up a four-game series against the Mariners in Seattle.

If April 9th is actually the new Opening Day, which appears unlikely at this point, those games would presumably not be played in Seattle given how hard the state of Washington has been hit during this pandemic.

That’s all tentative, though. For now, it looks like the Red Sox could still be hanging around the Fenway South facility in Fort Myers for the time being and still holding their own practices and workouts to remain in playing shape. That goes for the other 29 clubs as well, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

There are still plenty of questions to be answered regarding all this, and when more information becomes available I’ll be sure to keep this updated. So stay tuned for that.

UPDATE: Minor League Baseball will also delay the start of their season, which was originally scheduled to begin on April 9th.

Has Jonathan Arauz Earned Himself a Spot on the Red Sox’ Opening Day Roster?

When the Red Sox acquired infield prospect Jonathan Arauz from the Houston Astros in the Rule 5 Draft last December, it was seen as a move that could potentially bolster the club’s bench.

As it goes for all players taken in the major-league portion of the annual Rule 5 Draft, they must remain on their new team’s 26-man roster or injured list throughout the duration of the following season. If they do not, said player has to be offered back to the club he was drafted from.

The Red Sox paid the Astros $100,000 to take Arauz off their hands back in December, and as things currently stand, the 21-year-old looks like a favorite to earn a spot on Boston’s Opening Day roster as a utilityman.

He’s had a pretty decent spring to this point, slashing .261/.292/.435 with one home run and five RBI through his first 11 games and 24 plate appearances.

The thing is though, Arauz is still just 21 years old and he has only played in 28 minor-league games above the High-A level.

To put it simply, making the jump from little experience in Double-A to the big leagues could be quite a challenge for a talented, but still raw prospect.

“He’s a dynamic player with an idea at the plate and bat speed,” The Athletic’s Keith Law wrote of Arauz. “But his production has lagged because he’s always been young for his levels and he’s missed time due to a suspension for a positive test for a banned stimulant.”

That suspension, which was good for 50 games, took place in April 2017 when the Panama native tested positive for methamphetamine.

The Red Sox seem to like Arauz. That much is clear. But do they like him enough where they would give him an everyday role in the majors? Probably not. And as a 21-year-old who is still developing his game, I would say that Arauz needs to be playing everyday to reach his full potential.

That potential will not be reached if he is limited to a reserve role with Boston to open the 2020 season.

As much as I would like to see Arauz stick around, I think I rather see him develop and continue to grow as a player, which would likely have to come back in the Astros’ organization if the Sox were to offer him back to Houston for $50,000.

Red Sox Make First Round of Spring Roster Cuts

Before they took on the Detroit Tigers in some Grapefruit League action earlier Wednesday, the Red Sox made their first round of spring roster cuts and reassigned five players to minor-league camp.

Those five players were first baseman Tommy Joseph, left-handed pitchers Daniel McGrath and Bobby Poyner, and right-handed pitchers Bryan Mata and Denyi Reyes.

Joseph has gotten off to a far from ideal start this spring, slashing .133//235/.133 with two RBI through his first seven games played and 17 plate appearances.

The 28-year-old, who has major-league experience with the Phillies, signed a minor-league deal with Boston last August after coming back over to the states from the Korean Baseball Organization. Depending on how the rest of the team’s depth at first base shakes out, he’ll likely start the 2020 season in either Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket.

As for the left-handed pitchers, McGrath has made two relief appearances for Boston so far this spring, allowing two earned runs on four hits, one walk, and one strikeout over four total innings of work.

Signed out of Australia as an 18-year-old back in January 2013, McGrath, now 25, will likely serve as starting pitching depth with the PawSox this season. He was brought back on a minor-league deal last October.

Poyner, meanwhile, was taken off the Sox’ 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket in January after clearing waivers. The 27-year-old does own an ERA of 18.00 through two relief appearances this spring, but it would not shock me if he does make his way back to the majors with the Red Sox at some point this season. Even if it is just a short stint.

Turning to the right-handed pitchers now, I’m going to start with Denyi Reyes because I want to discuss Bryan Mata in more depth later.

Like Poyner, Reyes was designated for assignment and eventually outrighted to Triple-A to make room for another player on the Sox’ 40-man roster. In Poyner’s case, that player was left-hander Jeffrey Springs. In Reyes’ case, it was the re-signing of Mitch Moreland.

The 23-year-old out of the Dominican Republic has surrendered four runs over four innings spanning two relief appearances so far this spring. He has experience as both a starter and reliever since signing with the Sox as an international free agent in 2016, so I would not be against the idea of him starting the 2020 season in the PawSox’ bullpen.

Finally, we’ll end with arguably the most talented player on this list in Bryan Mata, who is the top pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.

Given the current state of the Sox’ starting rotation with Chris Sale’s season currently in limbo, Mata could be one of the names Boston is evaluating to take the left-hander’s spot to begin the year.

Per The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey, the 20-year-old was among a group of hurlers that included Chris Mazza and Matt Hall, all of whom tossed three innings each in an intrasquad game at JetBlue Park on Tuesday, the same day it was revealed that Sale had been dealing with soreness in his left elbow.

Granted, Mata has yet to pitch above the Double-A level in his young career, but the potential is certainly there for him to be a middle of the rotation starting pitcher in the majors in the near future. That much is for sure.

Following Wednesday’s slew of transactions, the Red Sox now have 62 players at major-league camp. That number will eventually have to be trimmed down to 26 before March 26th. More moves are likely to come this weekend, I would guess.

Predicting the Red Sox’ Opening Day Roster

One month from Wednesday, the Red Sox will open their 2020 season with the first of four against the Toronto Blue Jays north of border. As things stand right now, a solid portion of the club’s 26-man Opening Day roster is set, but with questions surrounding injuries and depth aplenty, there could still be a handful of spots up for grabs.

With that, I thought it would be a good time to take a crack at what the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster could look like this time next month. Let’s get to it, shall we?

The Starting Rotation:

Eduardo Rodriguez
Nathan Eovaldi
Martin Perez
Ryan Weber
Kyle Hart

According to interim manager Ron Roenicke, left-hander Chris Sale might need to throw two live batting practice sessions before throwing in an actual game, leaving the 30-year-old’s status for Opening Day up in the air since he wouldn’t have a ton of time to ramp up his workload.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding Sale, that leaves two spots in Boston’s rotation up for grabs. Right-hander Ryan Weber seems like a likely candidate, and I went with left-hander Kyle Hart over pitching prospect Tanner Houck for the fifth spot.

Hart, 27, was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November, while Houck, who is not on the 40-man roster, could use more time to develop as a starter in Triple-A.

Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson have prior experience starting for the Red Sox, although Johnson would need to be added back to the 40-man roster after being outrighted in November.

The Bullpen:

Matt Barnes
Ryan Brasier
Brandon Workman
Darwinzon Hernandez
Josh Taylor
Heath Hembree
Marcus Walden
Austin Brice

As far as I am concerned, Barnes, Workman, Hernandez, Taylor, Hembree, and Walden are all locks to make the Opening Day roster.

Brasier struggled at times last year and has minor-league options remaining, while Brice, who was acquired from the Marlins last month, is out of options.

Outside candidates on the 40-man roster include Yoan Aybar, Matt Hall, Chris Mazza, Josh Osich, Mike Shawaryn, Jeffrey Springs, and Phillips Valdez.

The Catchers:

Christian Vazquez
Jonathan Lucroy

Although Kevin Plawecki is on a guaranteed deal for the 2020 season, it is only for $900,000, so it would not be a huge financial loss if the Sox went with Lucroy instead.

The two-time All-Star signed a minor-league deal with Boston earlier in February and has a far more impressive offensive track record than Plawecki does. He also appears to have a solid relationship with Roenicke from when the two were with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Infielders:

Mitch Moreland
Michael Chavis
Jose Peraza
Xander Bogaerts
Rafael Devers
Jonathan Arauz
Tzu-Wei Lin

Lin is out of options, and as a Rule 5 selection, Arauz would have to be offered back to the Astros if he does not stick on Boston’s 26-man roster, so I believe those two will make it, especially with the defensive versatility Lin offers.

Bogaerts has been dealing with a sore left ankle since workouts began nearly two weeks ago, but it looks like that is a non-issue as far as his status for Opening Day is concerned.

Top prospect Bobby Dalbec is not listed here, but I would personally love to see him make it if he were to get adequate playing time at the big-league level. With Devers manning third and Moreland and Chavis handling first base duties though, that does not seem likely at this point.

Also, Dustin Pedroia will begin the year on the 60-day injured list.

The Outfielders:

Andrew Benintendi
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Kevin Pillar
J.D. Martinez

With Alex Verdugo likely to start the season on the injured list due to a lower back stress fracture, Kevin Pillar is likely to slide in as an everyday outfielder, which he is more than capable of doing.

As I mentioned, Lin, and even prospect C.J. Chatham, are capable of playing a little outfield if necessary. And the Red Sox may need a temporary fourth outfielder during Verdugo’s absence if they do not want Martinez to spend too much time in the outfield.

So there you have it. 26 roster spots. 26 predictions with a whole lot of other possibilities as well. I’ll leave you with my guess for what the Opening Day starting lineup could look like:

  1. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  2. Rafael Devers, 3B
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH
  5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  6. Christian Vazquez, C
  7. Michael Chavis, 2B
  8. Kevin Pillar, RF
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
    Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP