Red Sox Option Robert Stock to Pawtucket in Order to Make Room on Roster for Kyle Hart

As you may already be aware, left-hander Kyle Hart will be making his major-league debut for the Red Sox on Thursday evening. In order to make that happen, however, the Sox had to option right-hander Robert Stock to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket.

Stock, 30, was initially recalled by Boston on August 11, a little over two weeks after he was claimed off waivers from the Phillies on July 27.

In his brief first go-around with the Red Sox, the University of Southern California product allowed one unearned run on two hits, three walks, and three strikeouts over 1 1/3 innings of relief this past Tuesday against the Rays.

Stock threw 42 pitches, just 18 of which were strikes, in his Red Sox debut and topped out at 98.9 mph with his four-seam fastball. It would not be a surprise to see the flamethrower up with the big-league club once again sometime in the near future.

As for Hart, the former 19th-round draft pick out of the University of Indiana will be making his long-awaited major-league debut Thursday exactly four years after making his first professional start for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox on August 13, 2016.

The 27-year-old southpaw had been limited to just working in intrasquad games against his teammates at McCoy Stadium since last month, but he will now have the chance to make a strong first impression against the Rays at Fenway Park.

For Hart, command over velocity will be key.

“If you’re not dialed in, locating, then for me, I’m probably not going to be in the game very long if I’m not locating because that’s almost not an option for me,” he told MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and Christopher Smith on the Fenway Rundown podcast. “But if you’re not locating, then you have to attack with whatever you have that day in the zone. And that kind of goes with trusting your catcher and trusting your defense. We’ve got a pretty darn good defense up here. When in doubt, I want to try to let them make a play. My philosophy is pretty simple on pitching. I want to get a guy out on the first three or four pitches. So I’m trying to miss their barrel early on. When I get to two strikes, I’m trying to miss the bat. That’s kind of how I think about it. If I get to two strikes, I’m going to give you my best punch-out pitch and miss your whole bat. Early in the count, I want to miss your barrel and get you out.”

Hart will take the mound for the Red Sox for the very first time at approximately 4:30 p.m. eastern time on Thursday. The series finale against Tampa Bay will be broadcast on NESN and WEEI.

 

Red Sox’ Kyle Hart to Make First Career Major-League Start Against Rays on Thursday

Left-hander Kyle Hart will make his first career major-league start for the Red Sox on Thursday against the Rays, manager Ron Roenicke announced following Tuesday’s 8-7 loss to Tampa Bay.

Hart, 27, is regarded by SoxProspects as the No. 42 prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

Drafted by Boston in the 19th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of the University of Indiana as a fifth-year senior, Hart was added to Boston’s 40-man roster last November and was subsequently assigned to the club’s alternate training site last month where he has gotten some work in during simulated games and live batting practice sessions.

With the PawSox in 2019, the former Hoosier posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.32 FIP over 18 appearances (15 starts) and 100 1/3 innings pitched. He also made nine starts for Double-A Portland before getting promoted to Triple-A last May.

Per his SoxProspects scouting report, Hart’s pitch mix included an 87-90 mph fastball, an 85-86 mph cutter, a 76-79 mph curveball, and a 81-82 mph changeup.

Based off that, it becomes apparent that the southpaw doesn’t necessarily rely on his velocity, but rather his control. Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush said as much when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.

“His command is going to be critical,” said Bush. “It always is for him because the stuff is not going to light up a radar gun. But he’s got multiple pitches. He commands both sides of the plate.”

Over those 100 1/3 innings with Pawtucket in 2019, Hart struck out just over 19% of the hitters he faced and walked just under 9%. Put another way, he fanned 2.22 times the number of hitters he walked last season.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 200 lbs., Hart will be opposite Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow on Thursday afternoon. First pitch for that game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI.

 

 

Red Sox’ Brian Johnson Reportedly Leaves Club’s Alternate Training Site in Pawtucket for Undisclosed Reason

Red Sox left-hander Brian Johnson has left the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket to return home to Florida, according to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

Per Smith, the reason Johnson departed from Pawtucket is not yet known, but the “speculation is he could opt out of the rest of the 2020 season.”

The 29-year-old hurler was originally added to Boston’s 60-man player pool last month as a non-roster invitee and most recently worked 5 1/3 one-run innings in a simulated game at McCoy Stadium this past Friday.

This all comes as Johnson, who was outrighted to Pawtucket last November after clearing waivers, looked like a legitimate candidate to start once again for the Red Sox seeing how the club’s starting rotation is not in the best of shape.

Of course, the Florida native would have had to been added back to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to make that happen, but that now appears unlikely at least for the time being given this recent news.

Last year, Johnson missed significant time on the injured list due to left elbow inflammation and a non-baseball related medical matter. He’s also been very open about his past battles with depression and anxiety. I’m not trying to speculate on anything by bringing that up, but given this report, I sincerely hope Johnson is in a good place right now. That’s it.

 

Red Sox Add Right-Hander Seth Blair, Release Outfielder John Andreoli From Player Pool

Before opening up a three-game weekend series against the Blue Jays on Friday, the Red Sox made a minor roster shake-up, as the club added right-handed pitcher Seth Blair to their player pool and in a corresponding move released outfielder John Andreoli.

Blair, 31, was originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the 2010 amateur draft out of Arizona State University and spent six years in the organization before getting released in April 2015.

From there, according to this New York Times feature on Blair, the Illinois native “took a five-year break from baseball” before signing a minor-league deal with the Padres last May.

While in San Diego’s farm system, Blair posted a 4.11 ERA and 3.64 xFIP over 17 outings (two starts) and 35 innings pitched for High-A Lake Elsinore before once again getting released on August 9.

Since then, again going back to that NYT piece, the former Sun Devil had been running a training facility for major and minor-leaguers in the backyard of his Scottsdale home to provide players a place to work out during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Based off said article and Blair’s own Instagram page, it would appear that the flame-throwing right-hander has bought into the whole Driveline revolution in baseball that was started by the likes of Trevor Bauer and Kyle Boddy in Washington state. What he’s learned there could be useful to other pitchers in the Red Sox organization who are currently working out in Pawtucket.

As for Andreoli, the 30-year-old outfielder out of Worcester, Mass. inked a minor-league pact with Boston back in December after spending the 2019 season with the Giants, Twins, and Mariners organizations.

The UCONN product was added the Sox’ 60-man player pool last month, but his stint there obviously did not last too long seeing how he was cut loose on Friday.

By essentially swapping Andreoli for Blair, the Red Sox’ 60-man player pool is still at full capacity. Blair will presumably report to McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket within the next few days.

 

Red Sox Left-Handed Pitching Prospect Kyle Hart Retires 18 Hitters Over Five Scoreless Innings in Pawtucket

Red Sox left-handed pitching prospect Kyle Hart did something at McCoy Stadium on Monday that you will probably never see in a major or minor-league game: He retired 18 batters in five innings.

Yes, the 27-year-old got some work in during an intrasquad scrimmage in Pawtucket to kick off the week, and he was dominant, working five scoreless, perfect frames while getting an extra out in each of his last three innings.

In regards to spectators who were in attendance to watch Hart’s outing, PawSox broadcaster Mike Antonellis tweeted that the Cincinnati native “threw well,” while fellow broadcaster Jim Cain tweeted, as previously mentioned, that “the lefty was so efficient that in his final three innings, he stayed out to face an extra batter, and he retired all three.”

Originally drafted by Boston in the 19th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of The University of Indiana, Hart was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last November and their 60-man roster pool last month.

The former Hoosier has never been a big-name prospect since becoming a professional four years ago, but seeing how he is already on the club’s 40-man roster, he certainly has a chance to make the jump to the majors this year.

Regarded by SoxProspects as Boston’s 42nd-ranked prospect, Hart posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.32 FIP over 18 appearances (15 starts) and 100 1/3 innings pitched with Triple-A Pawtucket last season.

The 6-foot-5, 200 lb. southpaw works with an 87-90 mph fastball that can max out at 92 mph, an 85-86 mph cutter, a 76-79 mph curveball, and an 81-82 mph changeup, per SoxProspects.

Given the current state of the Red Sox’ pitching staff at the major-league level, it certainly couldn’t hurt to give a guy like Hart a look out of the starting rotation or as a “bulk” reliever.

One thing Hart has over other minor-league pitchers in Boston’s pipeline, like Bryan Mata or Tanner Houck, is that he is already on the club’s 40-man roster, so getting him to the majors wouldn’t be too much of a hassle if that is the route chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. wanted to take.

Red Sox’ Josh Taylor Threw Sock to Simulate Weight of Baseball While Self-Isolating in Boston Hotel Room

As he works his way back from a bout with COVID-19, Red Sox left-hander Josh Taylor is just happy to be back throwing on an actual feel again.

After testing positive for the coronavirus during the club’s Summer Camp intake screening period last month, the 27-year-old had to self-isolate in a Boston hotel room for two weeks with virtually no physical contact from the outside world. The only time Taylor could open his door was to pick up the meals that were left for him on the hallway floor.

Because he was not allowed to go outside while in quarantine, Taylor had to get creative in staying in shape for whenever he would be able to return to the mound. He did that by using his own laundry.

“You come in ready to go,” Taylor said when recalling what went down in July via a Zoom call on Monday. “You’re ready to throw right away. Having to take the two weeks off and trying to find a way to keep yourself ready – I was throwing into a sock in the hotel room.”

Since that time, the Arizona native has been cleared to return to baseball activities and has been working out at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket.

There, as noted by The Providence Journal’s Bill Koch, Taylor ‘has thrown a pair of live batting practice sessions and is scheduled for one simulated inning on Tuesday.’ He is very much looking forward to that.

“Throwing bullpens you don’t get the sights,” said the southpaw. “You don’t get the hitter to read. I feel really good about how my stuff is coming out right now.”

Coming off a rookie campaign in which he posted a 3.11 ERA and .638 OPS against over 51 appearances and 46 1/3 innings pitched as a reliever in 2019, Taylor emerged as a dangerous left-handed weapon out of the Red Sox bullpen.

Originally acquired by Boston as the player to be named later in a trade with the Diamondbacks that sent Deven Marrero to Arizona, Taylor is itching to get back to the majors and prove he belongs once more.

“I know my time is going to come,” he said. “And hopefully sooner rather than later I’ll be up there to help the team.”

In the meantime, Taylor will continue to work out at McCoy Stadium with the other players in the Sox’ roster pool. He was initially placed on the 10-day injured list on July 14, so there shouldn’t be any problem activating him when that time comes.

Red Sox’ Jonathan Lucroy Clears Waivers, Gets Outrighted to Club’s Alternate Training Site in Pawtucket

Three days after being designated for assignment by the Red Sox, veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy cleared waivers and was subsequently outrighted to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket on Saturday.

Lucroy, 34, originally inked a minor-league deal with Boston back in February and was one of three backstops to make the club’s Opening Day roster late last month.

That being said, even despite enjoying a fair amount of success during spring training and Summer Camp, Lucroy got the short end of the stick in terms of playing time behind Christian Vazquez, as Kevin Plawecki emerged as the Sox’ true backup.

Prior to getting DFA’d, the two-time All-Star appeared in just one regular season game for Boston as a defensive replacement on Opening Day and never got an at-bat.

Now, after no other team put in a claim for him, Lucroy will remain with the Sox organization as serviceable roster depth at the catching position if he so chooses. Of course, seeing how he has accrued more than nine years of major-league service time, it would not shock me if Lucroy has the choice to become a free agent, either. We’ll have to wait and see on that.

For the time being, as the above tweet states, the Red Sox have 60 players in their 60-man club player pool.

Top Red Sox Pitching Prospect Bryan Mata Impresses in Sim Game in Pawtucket

Before the Red Sox endured more pitching troubles in a 5-1 loss to the Yankees on Friday night, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects impressed in a simulated game that took place about 180 miles northeast of Yankee Stadium at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI.

There, at the Sox’ alternate training site, Bryan Mata recorded three strikeouts (two looking, one swinging) and one walk over two scoreless innings of work against other players in Boston’s 60-man player pool.

Per SoxProspects’ Ian Cundall, the 21-year-old right-hander “faced seven hitters overall” while “mix[ing] in all of his pitches.”

Bobby Dalbec, another top prospect in Boston’s farm system and a member of the player pool, was on hand to watch Mata work. And although the 25-year-old slugger did not hit against him on Friday, he did say that Mata “had electric stuff.”

Regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s top pitching prospect and No. 4 overall prospect, Mata originally signed with the Sox for $25,000 out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old back in January 2016.

Between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland last season, Mata posted a 3.43 ERA and .237 batting average against over 21 games started and 105 total innings of work.

At one time Boston’s lone representative in the 2018 All-Star Futures Game in Washington, D.C., Mata has filled out considerably since then and is now listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 lbs.

Based off his SoxProspects scouting report, the righty throws from a three-quarters arm slot and works with a pitch mix that includes a 94-96 mph fastball that tops out at 98 mph, an 86-90 mph cutter, a 78-80 mph curveball, and an 84-86 mph changeup.

Given the current state Red Sox pitching is in at the major-league level, Mata is one of several potential candidates who could start games for Boston at some point this season. Of course, like fellow right-handed prospect Tanner Houck, he would need to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster before that can happen.

Still, as is the case with Houck, Mata is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft later this year, so he would need to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster by late November in order to be protected from that.

With that in mind, if the Red Sox are out of contention come late August or early September, it may be in Chaim Bloom and Co.’s best interest to give guys like Mata, Houck, and even Kyle Hart, who is on the 40-man roster, looks at the big-league level.

Darwinzon Hernandez Could Start Games for Red Sox Again by End of 2020 Season, Ron Roenicke Says

The idea that Darwinzon Hernandez could once again start for the Red Sox has been out there ever since the left-hander was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket for good last July.

Hernandez made his first career major-league start against the Rangers last June at Fenway Park, but never again made an appearance as a starter at the big-league level for the rest of the season.

Instead, as previously mentioned, the now-23-year-old was called up for good in July and proved to be quite effective out of the bullpen for the Red Sox, posting a 4.32 ERA, a .693 OPS against, and a 3.33 xFIP over 27 relief outings and 25 innings of work.

Still, despite that success, the Sox view Hernandez as a starter in the long run. At least, that’s what manager Ron Roenicke said on his weekly segment with WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni, and Fauria on Wednesday.

“Eventually, we think this guy could end up being a starter,” said Roenicke in regards to Hernandez’s future. “Who knows? Maybe he’s starting games by the end of the year.”

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves here, it is worth mentioning that Hernandez is still technically recovering from a bout with COVID-19, which he tested positive for while at home in Venezuela earlier this month.

Since that time, Hernandez reported back to the Red Sox in Boston in last week and has been working out at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket in the meantime while he’s on the 10-day injured list.

At McCoy Stadium, the flame-throwing southpaw is set to throw a live batting practice session on Wednesday, then he’ll throw another one on Saturday before preparing for a simulated game this coming Monday, according to Roenicke.

From there, the Red Sox will evaluate where things stand with him as well as fellow left-hander Josh Taylor before taking any further action.

The most important thing here, particularly in Hernandez’s case, is to build up his workload so he can get stretched out in order to handle two to three innings at a time. That way, he could be more prepared to start at some point this season if that’s the direction the Red Sox decide to go.

Red Sox to Add Chris Mazza, Remove Jonathan Lucroy From Roster Ahead of Wednesday’s Series Opener Against Mets

UPDATE: Jonathan Lucroy has been designated for assignment.

Before taking on the Mets in Queens on Wednesday, the Red Sox will be recalling right-hander Chris Mazza from the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, according to The Athletic’s Chad Jennings and Ken Rosenthal. In order to make this happen, veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy will be removed from the Sox’ 30-man roster.

A somewhat surprising move considering the player taken off the roster, but on a team that needs plenty of pitching help at the moment, removing another catcher in Lucroy for a fresh arm in Mazza makes plenty of sense for the Red Sox.

Starting with Mazza, the 30-year-old right-hander was left off Boston’s Opening Day squad earlier this month, nearly seven months after he was claimed off waivers from the Mets back in December.

Throughout Summer Camp workouts at Fenway Park, Mazza looked like a potential candidate to open games for the Sox, but instead of including him on the Opening Day roster, the club opted for more unproven pitchers like Dylan Covey or Phillips Valdez instead.

Now, after joining the Sox in New York for this upcoming road trip, Mazza will get the chance to prove he belongs with his new team. He only has nine career major-league relief appearances under his belt, all of which came with the Mets last season.

As for Lucroy, the 34-year-old backstop made the Sox’ Opening Day roster as the club’s third catcher but only got into one game as a defensive replacement against Baltimore last Friday, and as Jennings mentions in the tweet above, never got an at-bat.

At the time he signed a minor-league deal with Boston back in February, it appeared as though Lucroy could legitimately contend with Kevin Plawecki for the Red Sox’ backup catcher spot behind Christian Vazquez.

Both Lucroy and Plawecki were impressive during the spring, and because of the 30-man rosters for the first two weeks of the season that were implemented as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Sox were able to carry all three backstops on their Opening Day squad.

But, as SoxProspects’ Ian Cundall notes, “It didn’t make much sense to carry three catchers when you can have one on the taxi squad, who doesn’t take up a roster spot. With the Red Sox pitching struggles, another arm is much more useful at this point.”

Former Brewers and Angels catcher Jett Bandy will now be the third catcher on the Sox’ taxi squad and will not take up a roster spot in doing so.

Following Wednesday’s moves, the Red Sox could have an open spot on their 40-man roster depending on what happens with Lucroy. Perhaps they could use that opening on someone like Tanner Houck?