New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox director of marketing Kelsey Doherty joins the show

On the latest episode of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox director of marketing Kelsey Doherty.

Among the topics Kelsey and I discussed were the responsibilities that come with being the online voice for an organization like the Red Sox, how it is running the team’s social media when there is a pandemic going on, how players such as Alex Verdugo can create their own content based on their personalities, what can be expected out of the Red Sox’ social media team in 2021, what went into the creation of the Red Sox’ player development Twitter account, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Kelsey or taking some time out of her busy schedule to have a conversation with me.

You can follow Kelsey on Twitter (@kelseyedoherty) by clicking here. You can follow the Red Sox’ main Twitter account (@RedSox) by clicking here. You can follow the team’s player development Twitter account (@RedSoxPlayerDev) by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Kelsey Doherty: Billie Weiss, courtesy of Kelsey Doherty)

Red Sox release revised Grapefruit League schedule

The Red Sox were originally slated to open Grapefruit League play against the Pirates on February 27, but their spring training schedule has since been revised.

Per a team release, the Sox will now kick off their slate of exhibition games on February 28 against the Twins at Hammond Stadium, and instead of playing just about every other Grapefruit League team, they will only be playing the Twins, Braves, Orioles, Pirates and Rays.

That being the case because all five of those teams’ spring training complexes are located within close proximity to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, and “to reflect the recommendations suggested by medical experts and infectious disease specialists, Major League Baseball has regionalized the matchups between teams to limit travel.”

By the time spring training comes to an end in late March, the Red Sox will have hopefully played 29 games in a span of 31 days, though the rules for those games will be quite relaxed as part of MLB’s health and safety protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, games between February 27 and March 13 can be played as five- or seven-inning games, as long as the managers agree, while games on or after March 4 will be scheduled as nine innings but managers can agree to shorten them to seven if they so choose.

In total, Boston is scheduled to play 15 of its Grapefruit League contests at JetBlue Park and 14 of them on the road in Bradenton, Fort Myers, North Port, Port Charlotte, and Sarasota.

The team plans on having fans in the stands for home games, though only at a limited capacity to allow for proper social distancing measures. From the aforementioned release:

“The Red Sox will implement appropriate physical distancing and safety protocols that would allow fans to return in a limited capacity for 2021 Spring Training exhibition games by operating JetBlue Park at approximately 24 percent of its normal capacity. All tickets will be sold in physically distanced ‘pods’ comprised primarily of 2-4 seats that will allow for at least six feet between groups. Season Ticket Holders will be offered the first opportunity to attend exhibition games and additional tickets may go on sale to the general public depending on availability. All day games at JetBlue Park will start at 1:05 p.m., and all night games will start at 6:05 p.m.”

For the Red Sox’ full 2021 spring training and regular season schedule, click here.

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Matt Barnes on challenges 2021 season could present: ‘Guys know exactly what to expect. That adjustment period of a pandemic is over’

It goes without saying that the 2020 Major League Baseball was unlike any in the sport’s history on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States

Limited to just 60 regular season games with no fans in the stands and plenty of health and safety protocols, players opting out, outbreak scares, and a postseason bubble, the 2020 season being completed was no sure thing.

The season did end on schedule, however, and nearly six months later, players are once again preparing to embark on another campaign that will surely be affected by the pandemic one way or the other.

This time around, though, the players at least have some familiarity with the coronavirus and the protocols it has created working in their favor. That was not the case at all last summer.

“I think one of the hard things about last year was there was so much uncertainty with the pandemic,” Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes told WEEI’s Will Flemming during the team’s live Truck Day stream earlier Monday afternoon. “Going into the season this year, guys know exactly what to expect. That adjustment period of a pandemic is over. Guys are anxious. Guys are excited.”

The Red Sox are slated to begin spring training next week, with pitchers and catchers reporting to the JetBlue Park complex on February 17 and full squad workouts starting on February.

Among the players the 30-year-old Barnes has seen so far are Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Darwinzon Hernandez, Martin Perez, and Nick Pivetta.

Boston’s first Grapefruit League game will come against the Pirates in Fort Myers on February 27. Fans will be allowed to attend games at JetBlue, but the ballpark will only be operating at 24% capacity to allow for proper social distancing measures.

Even with those limits in mind, having fans in the stands should serve as a dose of normalcy for players such as Barnes, who experienced the entirety of the 2020 season in empty ballparks — including Fenway Park — since the Red Sox did not make it to the postseason.

“Fenway’s a special place to play, it really is,” said Barnes. “From just getting to go out to Fenway Park, where so many greats have had the opportunity to play and win world championships… When you see it empty, it’s just different. It’s just not the same. One of the things that gives us an edge at home is our fans and their ability to be loud and make it an intimidating place to play for opposing teams. I’m hoping that we can get as many fans as we can safely this year. I don’t know what the plan is for that, but the fans are definitely missed. It’s not the same playing at Fenway without them.”

While the veteran right-hander may not know what the plan is for having fans in the stands at Fenway in 2021, Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy shed some light on that topic during a virtual town hall event last week.

“We’d love to host fans if the health and safety experts up here and the government officials say it’s okay,” Kennedy told NESN’s Tom Caron this past Thursday. “We have a plan to host fans in a socially distanced environment with all sorts of requirements for masks and hand sanitizing, things like that. We’ve seen around the country, it works, at different venues. We’re hoping to have that but we have not engaged with the state of Massachusetts or the city of Boston… It’s our sincere hope to have fans back at Fenway as early as Opening Day. We’re cautiously optimistic, but again, that is not our decision.”

That decision, as it turns out, is up to the medical community, health experts, and local city and state officials, Kennedy said.

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Opinion: Mookie Betts Saying He Thought He Was ‘Going To Be a Red Sox for Life’ Does Not Exactly Add up When Looking Back at His Time in Boston

Before winning his second World Series title in three years and his first as a member of the Dodgers Tuesday night, former Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts sat down with former teammate-turned-FOX Sports personality David Ortiz this past weekend.

Among the topics discussed in this virtual interview were Betts’ thoughts on playing in Los Angeles, his approach on and off the field, what he likes the most about his game, and of course, the trade that sent him to the Dodgers in the first place.

“Man, I got to tell you, Mook,” Ortiz said. “It’s hard for me to see you in that Dodgers uniform, but you look good in a Dodgers uniform. Did you ever think you were going to spend the next 12 years wearing that Dodgers uniform?”

Betts, in response, admitted he never thought that was going to happen.

“No,” he said. “I had initially thought that I was going to be a Red Sox for life. But, God always has a plan for things so I was following what he tells me to do.”

Here is the problem with that statement: Betts very well could have remained with the Red Sox for the remainder of his major-league career if he so chose.

Before dealing him to Los Angeles, the Sox made multiple attempts to keep the four-time All-Star in Boston for the foreseeable future.

In 2017, they offered him a five-year, $100 million extension. He rejected it. In 2018, they offered him an eight-year, $200 million extension. He rejected it. In the spring of 2019, they offered him an extension upwards of $300 million over 10 years. He did not reject it, and instead countered with $420 million over 12 years, according to WEEI’s Lou Merloni.

So here we have at least three instances where the Red Sox tried to retain Betts’ services for 2020 and beyond, and by the time we arrive at that third instance, the two sides are an apparent $120 million apart in negotiations.

By making the decision to not commit $400-plus million to one player, the Red Sox found themselves in a position where they essentially had to trade Betts or else they would risk losing him the following winter for nothing outside of a compensatory draft pick.

Trading Betts is the choice the Red Sox ultimately made in February, but it is difficult to not think that the 28-year-old could have done more to prevent that from happening.

If at one point in time Betts saw himself a member of the Red Sox for his entire professional career, why not make more of a push to remain with the only organization he had ever known?

If Betts is calling up Jim Rice before the trade and telling him ‘This is my home. I don’t want to go anyplace else,’ why not make more of an effort to see that through?

If Betts never wanted to leave Boston in the first place, why, when discussing the legacies of franchise legends like Ortiz and Carl Yastrzemski last September, say ‘You can be remembered in that same fashion even if you put on a couple different jerseys’ and all but tease the idea of playing for another team relatively soon?

One thing that became apparent in Betts’ final season with the Sox is that he appeared to be all in on becoming a free agent at the end of the 2020 campaign. Had the COVID-19 pandemic not hit, he likely would have done that. However, due to the financial concerns the pandemic has created across the country, not just in baseball, it’s possible that Betts’ outlook on things changed after he was traded.

On the surface, the 12-year, $365 million extension he inked with the Dodgers seems like one the Red Sox should have been able to afford earlier in the year.

That much may be true, but it’s worth mentioning that Betts signed said extension in late July. That was roughly four months after Major League Baseball had pushed back the start of the season and the owners and players’ association were seemingly at each other’s throats every day in between.

Seeing that turmoil arise between the owners and MLBPA may have forced Betts to settle a little bit. At the end of the day, he still got a lucrative extension that offers long-term security with uncertain times ahead, though it may not be the $400 million-plus deal he was initially hoping for.

Basically, the point here is that if Betts really wanted to be ‘a Red Sox for life,’ he could have made it happen.

It may have taken some sacrifice to do so, and Betts has every right to not do that and instead seek out the biggest payday possible, but when you see guys like Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts sign extensions with the Red Sox for somewhat less than they would have gotten if they were free agents, that says something.

It’s as Barstool Sports‘ Jared Carrabis wrote back in February: “You can’t make it abundantly clear that you will not sign for a cent less than market value, and then say that Boston is your home and that you don’t want to play anywhere else. That’s just not how this works.”

Betts had the chance to stay with the Red Sox in the long-term if he wanted to. He decided that if he was going to remain in Boston, he was going to do so for nothing less than top dollar. That’s fine, but if you are still holding on to the notion that the Red Sox were in the wrong for trading you after making multiple attempts to try to get you to stay, it may be time to move on from the past.

Red Sox Held Team Meeting Prior to Sunday’s Loss to Yankees

The Red Sox dropped their seventh consecutive game in a 4-2 loss to the Yankees on Sunday night, but before the game even started, a team meeting was held earlier this weekend.

In the meeting, which was called for by Red Sox leadership and held at an outdoor area at the team hotel, Kevin Pillar said the goal was to try to come together as one cohesive unit in the midst of a disastrous 6-16 start to the 2020 season.

“We got together. We talked about some things,” Pillar said during his postgame media availability via Zoom Sunday night. “We’ve got to to stop feeling sorry for ourselves. We’ve got good leadership on this team. They called for [a meeting]. This season is going to happen whether we want it to happen or not. We’ve got 30-some-odd games. A lot can change.”

One of the struggles in organizing this meeting was finding the right venue to have it in. With proper social distancing protocols needing to be followed while the United States is dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that was not the simplest thing to do. And that lack of intimacy has also had an effect on players’ abilities to jell so far this year.

“Especially for us, with the configurations we have at Fenway — not having the locker room dynamic — it’s been extremely difficult to get on the same page with a lot of people,” Pillar added. “We’ve got to find ways to stay together and find ways to make this fun.”

Currently on pace to win fewer than 17 games by the end of the season, the Red Sox certainly do not look like a team that has had a ton of fun on the field to this point. The procedures in place because of the aforementioned pandemic likely do not help that cause, which is kind of what Pillar alluded to on Sunday.

“Baseball is so difficult to begin with,” said the veteran outfielder. “When you have any sort of external or outside factor that takes away from the task at hand it makes it even more difficult.”

Pillar is a veteran of eight major-league seasons. From Toronto, to San Francisco, and now Boston, the 31-year-old has presumably been part of many team or player-only meetings in his day.

In this particular meeting held by Boston at the Lotte New York Palace in Manhattan, though, Pillar said “quite a few players talk” and the team “just wanted to open the floor up to everyone.”

What was specifically said in the Sox’ team meeting will probably never be fully disclosed to the general public, but Pillar’s closing statement to reporters on Sunday was quite intuitive.

“We’re our best teachers,” he said. “When things go wrong we lean on each other.”

 

Red Sox Announce Schedule Changes for August and September

The remainder of the Red Sox’ 2020 schedule got shaken up a little bit by Major League Baseball on Thursday in order to accommodate other clubs who have been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the changes, first pitch against the Phillies at Fenway Park on August 19 has been moved up to 1:35 p.m. eastern time, while a double-header against the Phis will now be played at Citizens Bank Park on September 8. On top of that, in addition to now having off-days on September 9 and 14, the Sox will wrap up a three-game series against the Marlins in Miami on September 17 rather than September 16.

Originally, first pitch against the Phillies on August 19 was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time, and a two-game series in Philadelphia was scheduled for September 8-9 while that series against the Marlins in Miami was slated to conclude on September 16.

As the tweet above points out, traditional double-headers this season will persist of two seven-inning games, something new for 2020.

If all goes according to plan, the Red Sox will hopefully still be able to get in a full 60 games this year. Of course, the threat of more teams other than the Marlins, Phillies, or Cardinals experiencing coronavirus outbreaks is still as prevalent as ever.

Myocarditis Shuts Down Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez for Remainder of 2020 Season

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will not pitch this season, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom announced Saturday.

The announcement comes as Rodriguez has been dealing with myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, while recovering from COVID-19, which the 27-year-old tested positive for while at home in Miami early last month.

Although mild, the myocarditis Rodriguez is dealing with is still present, resulting in him being shut down for the remainder of 2020. As noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, “the prognosis hasn’t changed but the timetable has.”

Bloom said as much when speaking with reporters Saturday, stating that, “While we remain very optimistic he will make a full recovery, due to the fact that it is persistent, and the amount of care we need to take with this, he’s not going to be able to come back and pitch this year.”

Again, the Sox fully expect Rodriguez to recover from this seeing how the myocarditis has not damaged the Venezuela native’s heart “and is not expected to impact him over the long-term,” That being said, “The recovery should be complete. It’s just a question of time.”

Heading into the season, Rodriguez was slated to be Boston’s No. 1 starter with Chris Sale going down for the year due to Tommy John surgery and David Price getting dealt to the Dodgers.

Even when the idea of Rodriguez starting on Opening Day against the Orioles last month was thrown out the window due to his bout with COVID-19, it still appeared likely that the southpaw would be a welcome addition to the Sox’ rotation sometime later in the season.

Now, the Red Sox will have to endure as they have for the first week of the 2020 campaign. That being without their best left-handed starter.

“It certainly makes the mountain a little bit higher,” Bloom said in regards to being without Rodriguez for the remainder of the season. He also mentioned the fact that the Sox are ‘monitoring the market and also working with pitchers in Pawtucket.’

While the Red Sox scour the market for more pitching, here’s to wishing Eduardo Rodriguez the best and hoping he undergoes a full recovery so that he is all systems go in 2021.

‘You Do Not Go Into Nightclubs. You Do Not Go Into Bars’; Red Sox Players Will Not Be Allowed to Do Certain Things While on Road Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

After Tuesday night’s game against the Mets, the Red Sox will hit the road for the first time this season. The club’s first road trip of 2020 includes stops in Queens, the Bronx, and Tampa Bay. With all that traveling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic comes a great deal of responsibility for players and staff alike, especially in Florida, which has emerged as one of the hot spots for coronavirus in recent weeks.

When speaking with reporters prior to Monday’s series opener against New York, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke detailed a Zoom meeting the team held to inform players what they can and cannot do on the road. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was also involved.

“We’re going on the road. We need to be careful with what we do,” Roenicke said regarding his team’s upcoming travels. “We are talking about different cities and who’s more at risk doing things in certain areas. New York has done a good job. You may be okay walking to a place there more than you would be in Florida.”

Earlier Monday, it was revealed that at least 14 Miami Marlins players and coaches tested positive for COVID-19, which led the club to cancelling their home opener against the Orioles while they remain in self-isolation in Philadelphia, where they spent the weekend playing the Phillies.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s COVID Data Tracker, there have been nearly 419,000 total coronavirus cases in the state of Florida thus far, which is second-most in the Untied States behind only California.

With all that information in mind, playing baseball games in Florida, whether it be in Miami or Tampa Bay, will obviously raise concerns among MLB players and staff while cases continue to rise.

As previously mentioned, the Red Sox will be arriving in Florida next week for a brief-two-game set against the Rays. With an off day on the Monday before that series begins, it will be imperative that the Sox follow the proper virus-related protocols. Roenicke said as much when speaking with reporters earlier.

“You do not go into nightclubs. You do not go into bars,” he stated when recounting what was told to the players in Monday’s Zoom meeting. “To be a hermit and stay in your room for the whole time and just go to the ballpark and stay home, it’s hard to tell a player they have to do it.”

With all the virus-related issues that have sprung up in the past 24 hours, more players may be leaning towards opting out of the remainder of the 2020 season. Roenicke, however, is hopeful that if the Red Sox can make players feel more comfortable, then they will not have to worry about that possibility.

“I don’t want to make them fearful of going on the road and playing. We’ve done a good job so far,” said the Sox skipper. “The more we keep them safe, the more comfortable they feel. We can continue on with this.”

Again, the Red Sox will be departing Boston for New York on Tuesday night. Hopefully we’ll still have a Major League Baseball season to talk about by then.

 

 

Red Sox Shut Down Eduardo Rodriguez Due to COVID-19 Recovery Complications

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez has been shut down from all baseball activities due to minor complications related to his recovery from COVID-19, his manager Ron Roenicke told reporters Thursday.

Per Roenicke, the Sox’ medical staff discovered these “minor complications” before the decision to shut down Rodriguez was made.

The 27-year-old had tested positive for COVID-19 while at home in Miami earlier this month, and even though he would test negative right now, Rodriguez has still “not physically recovered” from his bout with his virus.

As disheartening as this news may sound, Roenicke is viewing it as only a “setback” and is fully confident Rodriguez “will be available to pitch at some point in 2020.” That is probably the case because, as the Sox skipper later clarified, what’s currently hampering Rodriguez has been prevalent in other COVID-19 cases as well.

“The news that we need to shut [Rodriguez] down for a period of time is obviously rough on him,” Roenicke said Thursday. “It is mild. He knows that.”

Rodriguez, along with fellow left-handers Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor, was placed on the 10-day injured list on July 14 due to testing positive for the virus.

The Venezuela national re-joined his club over the weekend and threw a bullpen session at Fenway Park this past Saturday, but it now appears that he will not be throwing off a mound anytime soon, although Roenicke is hoping the southpaw will only miss a week’s worth of time.

Of course, this coronavirus has proven to be somewhat unpredictable. For all the talk about how harmless it is for people in his age group, it was quite jarring to hear about what Rodriguez, a 27-year-old professional athlete, had to endure while he was sick.

For more on that, I recommend checking out this story from MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

Blue Jays to Play Majority of 2020 Home Games at PNC Park, Meaning Red Sox Will Travel to Pittsburgh Instead of Toronto in Late August

UPDATE: It looks like this could be falling apart as I am typing this, so there’s that.

The Red Sox were originally supposed to visit PNC Park earlier this month to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game, Independence Day weekend series.

Instead, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Sox will be limited to just playing regional opponents this year, but they will still be making a trip to Pittsburgh after all.

That being the case because, as of Wednesday morning, it looks like the Toronto Blue Jays will be playing a majority of their 2020 home games in the Steel City, barring a few exceptions against the Nationals and Yankees.

This all comes as the Canadian government ruled over the weekend that the Blue Jays would not be permitted to play regular season games in Toronto due to the pandemic. From the Associated Press’ report:

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said Saturday the federal government had denied the Blue Jays’ request to play at Rogers Centre, confirming what an official familiar with the matter had told The Associated Press ahead of the announcement.

Ahead of this truncated, 60-game season, the Red Sox are scheduled to play the Jays 10 times in 2020. Three of those games were supposed to take place at Rogers Centre from August 25 through August 27, but it now looks like they will now take place at PNC Park, a venue the Sox last visited in 2014.