Red Sox’ Hunter Renfroe crushes seventh home run of season to put finishing touches on strong month of May; ‘When he’s locked in, it’s fun to watch,’ Alex Cora says

While the Red Sox found themselves on the wrong side of an 11-2 blowout against the Astros to close out their month of May, Hunter Renfroe at least ended his month on a solid note at Minute Maid Park on Monday evening.

Batting out of the nine-hole, Renfroe went 2-for-3 with a double (his 10th of the year), a home run (his seventh of the year) and one RBI (his 23rd of the year) while scoring his side’s only two runs of the contest.

The homer the 29-year-old hit came when this ballgame was already out of reach in the eighth inning, but it was still one that traveled 419 feet to deep left-center field and had an exit velocity of 108.4 mph off the bat on a hanging slider from Astros reliever Nivaldo Rodriguez.

It’s fitting that Renfroe would end his month the same way he began it: by going deep at a Texas ballpark. He mashed his second big fly of the year against the Rangers at Globe Life Field back on May 1.

Prior to the calendar flipping to May, the right-handed slugger was carrying with him a .167/.235/.250 slash line over his first 19 games with the Red Sox.

Since May 1, however, Renfroe has flipped the switch and completely turned things around for himself in regards to offensive production. The defensive production was already there.

Including Monday’s 2-for-3-showing in Houston, Renfroe posted an impressive .319/.333/.604 slash line to go along with eight doubles, six homers, and 15 RBI over 24 games (93 plate appearances) in May.

As noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the Mississippi native is currently riding a four-game hitting streak in which he is batting .692 (9-for-13) with two homers and five doubles.

“It started in Texas, right? When he hit that big home run and hit some balls the other way,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said when reflecting on Renfroe’s solid month of work. “He’s made some adjustments. He’s actually been more disciplined, although he’s not walking that much, but he’s controlling the at-bat.

“This guy, he’s a gamer,” added Cora. “We know what he brings to the equation defensively. But when he’s locked in, it’s fun to watch. He crushed that ball. Besides the home run, he’s controlling his at-bats. We’re very pleased with where he’s at offensively right now.

With what he did in May in his back pocket, Renfroe will come into the month of June having raised his line on the season to a more respectable .258/.292/.464. He currently ranks fourth on the team in doubles and home runs and fifth in RBI.

Defensively, Renfroe has been just as advertised and then some. The 6-foot-1, 228 pound outfielder came into play Monday tied for the second-most outfield assists in the majors (5) while putting up +4 defensive runs saved and an UZR/150 (ultimate zone rating per 150 games) of 22.9.

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox demote struggling outfielder Franchy Cordero to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox optioned outfielder Franchy Cordero to Triple-A Worcester following Wednesday’s 9-5 win over the Braves, the team announced earlier Thursday afternoon.

Cordero, one of five players the Red Sox acquired as part of the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals back in February, has gotten his Red Sox career off to a slow start.

Through 34 games played with Boston this season, the 26-year-old is slashing a measly .179/.228/.274 with just one home run, nine RBI, six walks, and 37 strikeouts over 102 plate appearances thus far.

With the emergence of the versatile, switch-hitting Danny Santana, Cordero began to see his playing time decrease prior to his demotion. As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the left-handed hitter has only started four of his club’s last 11 games.

With that in mind, it would appear that the Red Sox would like Cordero to get more regular at-bats with the WooSox, who are currently taking on the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in Allentown, Pa.

For his minor-league career, the Dominican native owns a lifetime .305/.357/.567 slash line to go along with 21 homers and 73 RBI in 115 games at the Triple-A level, so perhaps some time in Worcester will do him good.

In Cordero’s place, the Red Sox will need to make a corresponding roster move and call someone up from the minors to get back to a 26-man major-league roster.

It’s unlikely that top outfield prospect Jarren Duran — who is currently playing for Team USA in an Olympic qualifying event in Florida — will take Cordero’s place on the active roster, per Cotillo.

Instead, Cotillo suggests that the Sox will likely call up a reliever ahead of Friday’s series opener against the Marlins at Fenway Park.

More specifically, one of Brandon Brennan or Colten Brewer — both of whom are on Boston’s 40-man roster — appear to be the most likely to get promoted since that would allow the Red Sox to go back to carrying 14 pitchers and 12 position players. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Franchy Cordero: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

What do Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe’s offensive woes mean for Red Sox’ outfield picture?

22 games into the 2021 season, it’s fair to say the Red Sox are not getting the results they had hoped for from two significant outfield additions they made over the winter.

Those two additions would be a pair of former Padres outfielders in Hunter Renfroe and Franchy Cordero.

Renfroe, who signed a one-year, $3.1 million deal with Boston back in December, did not play in the Sox’ 8-2 loss at the hands of the Mariners on Saturday afternoon.

Through 14 games this season, the 29-year-old is slashing a dismal .188/.241/.271 with just one home run and seven RBI over 54 plate appearances.

What Renfroe has lacked in offensive production, he has made up for it with his glove thus far as he came into play Saturday ranked seventh among qualified American League outfielders in ultimate zone rate per 150 games (22.7).

The same cannot be said for Cordero, whom the Sox acquired from the Royals as part of the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City back in February.

Cordero did play in Saturday’s loss to the M’s while starting in left field and batting out of the eight-hole, but struck out swinging in all three of his trips to the plate.

The 26-year-old out of the Dominican has now punched out 23 times in 49 plate appearances this season while watching his slash line dip to an underwhelming .200/.265/.244 with just two extra-base hits and five RBI to his name so far.

While he has yet to put his power on full display in Boston, Red Sox manager Alex Cora attributed Cordero’s early struggles and high strikeout rate to the notion that the left-handed hitter was trying to make too much contact rather than stay within himself at the plate.

“I do believe he’s actually trying too much to make contact instead of staying on his swing,” Cora said of Cordero prior to Saturday’s loss. “Instead of recognizing your pitch and put a good swing on it, he’s not actually doing that. He’s late on the fastball. Now he’s out in front of offspeed pitches.”

Despite an 0-for-3 showing with three strikeouts in Saturday’s contest, Cora still remains confident that Cordero will be able to turn things around and prove to be a valuable member of this Red Sox team.

“You’ve got to keep coaching the player and giving him confidence,” said Cora. “He’s working on his craft every day with (hitting coaches) Timmy (Hyers) and Peter (Fatse). He’s in a bad stretch right now. But this is a guy that we trust and we believe he’s going to make contact. And when he makes contact, good things happen.”

Prior to being dealt to Boston in February, Cordero accrued 315 plate appearances with the Padres and Royals from 2016-2019. He crushed 12 total home runs in those 315 plate appearances, but — as previously mentioned — has yet to hit a homer in a Red Sox uniform.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom described Cordero as someone who “hits the ball about as hard as anyone in the big-leagues,” upon acquiring him from Kansas City this winter.

So far this season, the 6-foot-3, 232 pound pound outfielder has yet to barrel a ball and is averaging an exit velocity of just 87.8 mph on the balls he has put in play, per FanGraphs.

It should be said that the Red Sox invested in both Cordero and Renfroe with the idea that they could prove to quintessential low-risk, high reward players.

Besides Renfroe’s fine defense, there really has not been much of a reward from either outfielder thus far. Again, it’s still relatively early on in the season, but that point begs the question: How long will the Red Sox wait before making a significant change in the outfield?

And by make a significant change, I mean call up Jarren Duran.

Duran, 24, is regarded by Baseball America as the top outfield prospect in Boston’s farm system and is currently waiting in the wings at the club’s alternate training site in Worcester.

With the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the former seventh-round draft pick has not played in a competitive (non-spring training game) since 2019 and has yet to play above Double-A.

The Red Sox initially drafted Duran as a second baseman out of Long Beach State, but converted him to an outfielder on account of his speed and power potential.

This spring, the left-handed hitter clubbed three home runs, collected seven RBI, and slashed .340/.367/.702 across 47 Grapefruit League appearances.

While he has provided that much offensive firepower at spring training, the Puerto Rican winter league, and the alternate training site this year and last, the Sox still feel as though Duran can improve upon his defense in center field, which is understandable given the fact he is still relatively new to the position.

Bloom has said before that the Red Sox do not want to skip any steps in a prospect’s development, which would certainly seem to indicate that Duran is bound to see playing time for the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox before garnering any big-league consideration.

On top of that, Duran — who turns 25 in September — has yet to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster, which as you might expect is full at the moment.

The California native needs to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster before November 20 in order to avoid eligibility for the Rule 5 Draft, but that is yet another obstacle in the way.

Still, Duran is undoubtedly one of the more exciting prospects the Red Sox have to offer. He seems to be more big-league ready than the likes of outfielders Jeisson Rosario or Marcus Wilson (both of whom are on the 40-man roster), too.

So, if Cordero and Renfroe continue to sputter along, it would not be surprising to see the Red Sox give Duran a crack in the outfield sooner rather than later.

His time is coming, and maybe it will come sooner than expected.

(Picture of Hunter Renfroe, Franchy Cordero, and Alex Verdugo: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo picks up third outfield assist of season in win over Mariners: ‘That throw was amazing,’ Alex Cora says

Alex Verdugo made a name for himself in his debut season with the Red Sox by leading the American League with seven outfield assists last year.

Just over three weeks into the 2021 campaign, and Verdugo is again showcasing not only his offensive talent, but his defensive ability as well.

The latest instance of the 24-year-old’s defensive prowess came in the fifth inning of the Sox’ eventual 6-5 victory over the Mariners on Friday night.

With two outs and one runner — Kyle Seager — on base in what at the time was a 3-2 game in favor of Boston, Mariners first baseman Evan White took a Hirokazu Sawamura splitter and scorched a 101 mph line drive off the Green Monster.

Starting in left field for Boston on Friday, Verdugo sprinted to his left at the crack of the bat, barehanded the ball on one hop, quickly turned, lined up his feet, and unleashed a missile to Rafael Devers at third that got there in plenty of time to snuff out a helpless Seager.

“That throw was amazing because probably he was feeling, ‘Let me go to second,'” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said during his postgame media availability. “But he had the presence of mind where he turned, he saw Seager right there, and he put it right on the money.”

What made the play even more impressive was that Verdugo could have just gone with a conservative approach and throw the ball back in to second base to prevent White from advancing into scoring position.

“He had the play right in front of him,” said Cora. “Sometimes runners take that for granted. But he saw it and he saw the window. I mean, it wasn’t a close play at third base. So he saw it, he trusts his arm, he’s very accurate, and he got him out.”

By nabbing Seager at third to preserve his side’s 3-2 lead, Verdugo picked up his third outfield assist of the season already.

He should have four based on what happened in the first inning Friday night, but just going back to the start of the 2020 season, no one in the American League has more outfield assists than Verdugo (10).

Verdugo, who has seen time at all three outfield spots this season, has stated before that he takes pride in his versatility and ability to play either of the three positions on any given night. He echoed that same sentiment again following Friday’s win when speaking with NESN’s Jahmai Webster.

“I pride myself with defense in all three outfield positions,” the Arizona native said. “I don’t feel like if I go to right, center, or left it’s any different. I feel like I play all three positions at a high level, and I take pride in that. I take pride in the versatility.

“Obviously, it would be nice to stick at one spot to maybe get some stuff, some awards, but at the end of the day, I do what my coach wants,” he added. “And he wants me bouncing around in the outfield, wants me at any of the three. Every day, it’s a blessing to have your name penciled in that lineup. I come out here to give it my all no matter what position, no matter where I’m at in the lineup.”

On the heels of a 3-for-5 showing at the plate in which he scored two runs on Friday, the left-handed hitting outfielder is now slashing .316/.365/.526 with three home runs, 13 RBI, and 16 runs scored through his first 20 games of the season.

Over his last seven games alone, Verdugo has posted a preposterous .440/.462/.640 slash line while primarily batting out of the two-hole.

“He’s gaining confidence in his game,” Cora said of Verdugo. “Offensively, you look up at the last at-bat, and he was up to .320, getting on base, hitting lefties… We like Alex, the way he’s playing. The fact that he can play all over the place and be really good, that’s a plus for us.”

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

Red Sox outfield prospect Armando Sierra could prove to be underrated member of team’s 2021 international signing class

The Red Sox made a splash in the international free-agent market this winter by signing Dominican outfield prospect Miguel Bleis for $1.5 million back in January.

Appearing on the SoxProspects.com podcast with Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall in February, Red Sox executive vice president and assistant general manager Eddie Romero described Bleis as a “premium centerfield talent” who has “got all five tools” in addition to “surprising power” and “an absolute hose of an arm.”

While Bleis has stolen the headlines and has already shot up the prospect charts (Boston’s No. 22 prospect according to Baseball America), there is another 17-year-old outfielder the Sox signed out of the Dominican who deserves some attention as well.

That outfield prospect’s name? Armando Sierra, who hails from the same city as fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez and right-hander Denyi Reyes (San Cristobal).

In his review of what the Red Sox have done thus far during the 2021 international signing period, Baseball America’s Ben Badler identified Sierra as his ‘sleeper [to] watch.’

“Armando Sierra is a corner outfielder from the Dominican Republic with a chance to hit and hit for power,” Badler wrote of the right-handed hitter last week. “He’s a physically imposing 6-foot-3, 210 pounds with an advanced approach to hitting for his age, keeping the bat head in the hitting zone for a long time that helps him drive the ball with power to all fields. He’s a limited runner whose offensive game will drive his value.” 

Sierra, who signed with the Sox for a bonus of $150,000 on January 15, does not turn 18 until next January.

“Armando was a player we scouted later on in his signing year. After scouting him a few times, he stood out for his strong frame and his power,” Romero recently told BloggingtheRedSox.com via email. “As we continued to see him, it became apparent that not only did he have above average power for his signing class, but he also was developing a stronger approach.

“Since his signing, Sierra has lost close to 20 pounds while gaining muscle working out at our academy,” added Romero. “He continues to improve defensively and is also featuring an above average arm (which was not the case during his scouting trials).”

The young outfielder will likely begin the 2021 minor-league season with one of the Red Sox’ rookie-level, Dominican Summer League teams. In fact, as Romero indicated, he’s already training at the team’s Dominican academy in El Toro, a town just outside of Santo Domingo.

Other recent Red Sox international signees highlighted by Badler include catcher Enderso Lira, right-handers Alvaro Mejias and Jedixson Paez, and shortstops Luis Ravelo and Ahbram Liendo.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Christian Arroyo approached Red Sox about playing left field, Alex Cora says

Over the course of his professional career, Red Sox infielder Christian Arroyo has only known three defensive positions: second base, third base, and shortstop.

Since making his major-league debut with the Giants in 2017, the 25-year-old has played decent enough defense at all three positions, especially at second.

Last year alone, Arroyo was worth positive-2 defensive runs saved and posted an ultimate zone rating (UZR) of 0.9 over 108 2/3 innings while patrolling second base for the Sox. That ultimate zone rating of 0.9 translates to 5.7 over 150 defensive games.

Despite being a surehanded second baseman, and infielder for that matter, the Florida native has surely seen what Boston has done over the course of the offseason in adding a number of versatile position players — like Marwin Gonzalez and Enrique Hernandez — and decided that he needs to add another dimension to his game as well.

That being the case because according to Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Arroyo approached the team at some point this spring to talk about playing some left field.

“We’re very comfortable with what he can do,” Cora said of Arroyo earlier Friday morning. “He can play second, he can play short, he can play third. The other day he went to [first base coach and outfield instructor Tom Goodwin] and he wanted to start working in left field, which is great.

“It’s something that he thought about,” added the Sox skipper. “I guess he looks around and sees Marwin and sees Enrique, and he’s like, ‘You know what? Maybe learning the outfield position can help me throughout my career.'”

On the other side of the ball, Cora, who has known Arroyo since he unsuccessfully recruited him to play for Team Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, has been thoroughly impressed with what he’s seen from the former first-round pick at the plate thus far in Grapefruit League play.

Following Friday’s 11-7 victory over the Rays in which he went 0-for-2 in a pinch-hitting capacity, the right-handed hitter is now slashing .273/.314/.485 with a pair of home runs and four RBI over 35 plate appearances this spring.

“He’s a good at-bat,” Cora said. “So let’s see where it takes us. But so far, what I saw on TV, what I’ve seen in video, this is a much better version of Christian. He’s in better shape, he can move better now, and he can do some things that I thought he wasn’t able to do the last few years.”

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom echoed this same sort of sentiment regarding Arroyo, who used to play for the Rays, when speaking with WEEI’s Will Flemming and Rob Bradford earlier this week.

“He looks, to me, better than at any point that we had him when I was with the Rays,” Bloom said of the young infielder on Wednesday. “Body-wise, he came in looking good. And I’ve seen him — whether it was last year or this spring — drive pitches that I didn’t see him drive in the past and just hit them harder.”

Because he is out of minor-league options, Arroyo will have to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster or he will otherwise have to be exposed to waivers if the club wants to send him to Triple-A.

With that in mind, Arroyo and fellow right-handed hitting infielder Michael Chavis are projected to occupy the final two spots on Boston’s bench to kick off the 2021 campaign.

The pair of 25-year-olds have been enjoyable to watch on the field and in the clubhouse at the Fenway South complex, per Cora.

“We’re very pleased with the way [Christian’s] swinging the bat. We’re very pleased with the way Michael is swinging the bat,” Cora said. “Being able to catch up with some pitches in the zone — being disciplined enough. So it’s fun to see them playing this way. It’s fun to see them in the clubhouse, in the drills, helping each other out, and that’s what it’s all about.”

(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez could see more playing time in left field in 2021

While the Red Sox are going to get creative with their outfield alignments this season depending on who they are playing and where they are playing, one name that cannot be forgotten about is J.D. Martinez.

The 33-year-old slugger has primarily served as Boston’s designated hitter since signing with the club in February 2018 — and for the most part has excelled in that role — but don’t be surprised if he plays more outfield this year.

Through his first seven appearances of the spring, Martinez has made five starts at DH and two in left field.

In his first three seasons with the Red Sox, the three-time All-Star’s number of appearances in the outfield have decreased from 57 in 2018 to 38 in 2019 to just six in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

While Martinez’s career numbers would suggest that he is more productive at the plate while DH-ing (lifetime 125 wRC+) as opposed to playing left field (lifetime 119 wRC+), Red Sox manager Alex Cora suggested that being in the outfield comes with its benefits.

“It’s good for him in spring training to move around,” Cora said when speaking with reporters Friday morning. “Actually, it keeps him out of the cage while he’s DH-ing, which is good. It’s kind of managing his workload. And I don’t think J.D.’s a bad outfielder. He’s just a big guy. He doesn’t move as well as other guys.”

Since joining the Sox in 2018, Martinez has logged a total of 875 2/3 innings between left and center field. In that time, he’s been credited with negative-13 defensive runs saved while posting an ultimate zone rating of negative-10.

Put another way, the defensive metrics have not been kind to the Florida native as of late, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy playing the outfield when he can.

“You saw the first game [of the spring], right away he threw to the right base, almost out at second. Threw to the plate, almost out,” said Cora. “So it’s good for him to move around and he likes it. I think as far as preparation, he doesn’t get stuck on the DH thing. When he knows I’m going to use him in the outfield, he goes out there, he shags, he moves around, he’s throwing, which is good for him. I do believe it puts him in a better spot.”

Martinez himself echoed this same sort of sentiment last month, attributing the fact that he saw more playing time in the outfield to the success his team enjoyed in 2018.

“I told [Cora]. I said, ‘Hey, the last time I played in the outfield — like 80 games — we won a World Series. I don’t know,” he recalled while shrugging his shoulders when speaking with NESN’s Tom Caron and Jim Rice on February 24.

2018 was also a year in which Martinez enjoyed a great deal of individual success, as he became the first player ever to win two Silver Slugger Awards in the same season for his offensive efforts as both an outfielder and designated hitter.

“Like I always remind him, I was the one that gave him two Silver Sluggers,” Cora said of Martinez Friday with a smile on his face. “I was responsible for that.”

Cora was then asked if he received any sort of compensation from Martinez, who netted $200,000 in bonuses for winning the two Silver Slugger Awards three years ago.

“What’s the next question?” the Sox skipper asked before chuckling for a moment. “I’ll call [super agent] Scott [Boras] on that one. I got to check with Scott.”

Cora — like Martinez now — was represented by Boras over the course of his 14-year major-league career.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox add top outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez to major-league spring training roster

The Red Sox have added outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez to their major-league spring training roster as a non-roster invitee, the team announced Friday.

Jimenez, 20, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 7 prospect in the Red Sox farm system, ranking second among outfielders behind only Jarren Duran (No. 5).

Boston originally signed the young outfielder out of the Dominican Republic for just $10,000 back in August 2017.

Since then Jimenez has hit wherever he’s gone, most recently posting an impressive .359/.393/.470 slash line to go along with three home runs, 19 RBI, and 14 stolen bases over 59 games for Low-A Lowell in 2019.

With there being no minor-league season in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the switch-hitter was not included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool at any point last year, but he did participate in the organization’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

There, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Jimenez was identified by scouts as “the top prospect” at instructs.

“The biggest development for Jimenez at Instructs was his newfound ability to drive the ball, especially from the right side of the plate,” Cundall wrote back in December. “Jimenez has tweaked his stance and filled out considerably, allowing him to impact the ball. He showed plus raw power from the right side and a vastly improved swing from the left, in which he no longer is just looking to slap the ball. While his right-handed swing likely will always be better than his left-handed swing, the improvements he made should help ensure he is not a liability from his weaker side against more advanced pitching. Defensively, Jimenez showed a solid all-around skill set with plus range and an above-average arm. He still will make the odd mistake out there, but given his speed and decent instincts, he has a chance to develop into a very solid defender.”

On the 20-80 scouting scale, Jimenez’s speed — or run tool — is graded at a 70, making him one of, if not the quickest prospect in the organization.

While maintaining his elite athleticism, Jimenez has also bulked up recently as he is now listed at 5-foot-11 and 212 lbs., which, as noted by Cundall, “is up significantly from where he was with Lowell.”

Now one of 34 non-roster invitees currently at big-league camp in Fort Myers, Jimenez is projected to begin the 2021 season with High-A Greenville, whose season does not start until sometime in May at the earliest.

For the time being, though, it should be fascinating to see what Jimenez, who turns 21 in July, can do once he gets into some Grapefruit League games this spring. One would assume he will have the opportunity to leave an impression on Red Sox manager Alex Cora and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom if he performs up to his standards.

(Picture of Gilberto Jimenez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Jarren Duran homers once again for Red Sox as outfielder’s impressive spring rolls on

On the same day former Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. reportedly found a new home with the Milwaukee Brewers, his potential heir apparent had another strong showing in spring training action on Thursday afternoon.

Outfield prospect Jarren Duran — making his third start and fifth overall appearance of the spring — went 2-for-3 at the plate with one double, one home run, one RBI, and two runs scored against the Orioles in Sarasota.

The home run, which came off Orioles right-hander Dean Kremer, was one that was aided by the wind, but it also showed how strong Duran is.

“I don’t know if that ball is gone from April on,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said with a masked smile while referring to the fact that Major League Baseball will implement deadened baseballs beginning on Opening Day. “Those are the ones that the balls are going to take away, but right now it counts.”

Boston may have gone on to drop Thursday’s contest to Baltimore by a final score of 6-3 in six innings, but Duran’s impressive offensive run to kick off the Grapefruit League campaign continued nonetheless.

Through his first five games of the spring, the 24-year-old is hitting .500 (5-for-10) to go along with two doubles, two homers, three RBI, and three runs scored in 11 trips to the plate thus far.

Having said that, it appears that Duran still has room to grow defensively in center field, as evidenced by a few of the decisions he made during the bottom half of the third inning on Thursday.

“There’s a man at first, a base hit to his right, he throws to third base, [the runner] gets to third, they advance,” Cora said. “Those are the things that are part of the equation. It’s good that he makes mistakes like that, so we can correct [them].”

Duran, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in the Red Sox farm system.

Boston originally selected the California native in the seventh round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Long Beach State, where he primarily played second base.

Upon reporting to short-season Lowell shortly after signing with the club in 2018, Duran was moved to the outfield as Red Sox area scout Justin Horowitz believed he “had more potential based on his bat life and strength and that he could unlock greater defensive impact” in the outfield as opposed to the infield.

Since then, the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing Duran — listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 lbs. — has emerged as the top outfield prospect in Boston’s farm system and one of, if not the fastest minor-leaguer the organization has to offer.

Combine his freakish strength, athleticism, and quickness with his desire to get better, and it becomes clear that the speedy outfielder should be making his major-league debut sooner rather than later.

“We’ve been saying all along, he’s a good athlete, he’s working on his craft swing-wise, and he keeps improving,” said Cora.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Red Sox free agency: Jackie Bradley Jr. in agreement with Brewers on two-year deal, per report

In case you missed it, now-former Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is reportedly in agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers on a two-year, $24 million contract, according to The Boston Globe’s Julain McWilliams.

Per McWilliams, Bradley Jr.’s deal with Milwaukee includes a player option after the first year.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal adds that Bradley Jr. will net $13 million in 2021 with the chance to earn an additional $11 million in 2022 if he decides to not opt out. Some of the money will also be deferred.

Bradley Jr., who turns 31 next month, was the top position player free-agent on the market leading up to Thursday morning’s news.

The former first-round pick spent the first eight seasons — and first 10 years of his professional career — with the Red Sox, most recently posting a .283/.364/.450 slash line to go along with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 55 games in 2020.

Despite putting up those impressive offensive numbers in addition to his usual superb defense in center field, it took a little while for Bradley Jr. to find a job this winter.

One reason behind that likely had to do with the fact that the Scott Boras client was reportedly seeking a “significant contract, perhaps beyond four years” as recently as February 3, according to The New York Post’s Mike Puma.

With the number of potential suitors dwindling down, the Brewers jumped in on the Bradley Jr. sweepstakes in late February and ultimately wound up acquiring his services with just weeks to go until Opening Day.

Last season, the Brewers outfielder ranked 25th in baseball in terms of Defensive Runs Saved (-11) and 17th in Ultimate Zone Rating (0.1), which translates to an Ultimate Zone Rating of -0.1 over 150 games.

Bradley Jr., who figures to slide into center while Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich patrol the corners, should help improve Milwaukee’s overall defensive numbers in 2021.

Now that his time with the Red Sox is likely over, here is a brief list of what the Virginia native accomplished in his time in Boston:

  • Two-time World Series champion (2013, 2018)
  • One-time American League Championship Series MVP (2018)
  • One-time All-Star (2016)
  • One-time Gold Glove Award winner (2018)

Assuming he does not return to the Sox anytime soon, Bradley Jr. will likely go down as one of, if not the best defensive centerfielder in franchise history. He will be missed and we wish him all the best with the Brewers.

(Picture of Jackie Bradley Jr.: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)