Narciso Crook goes deep twice, leads power surge for Red Sox in 11-7 win over Yankees

The Red Sox went deep six times en route to a high-scoring win over the Yankees on Thursday afternoon. In the first of 15 meetings between the two rivals this year, Boston defeated New York by a final score of 11-7 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

With Clarke Schmidt starting for the Yankees, the Red Sox jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in their half of the second inning. After Reese McGuire reached base via a one-out single, Narciso Crook got his side on the board first by crushing a 327-foot two-run home run down the right field line.

Nick Pivetta, who was making his second start of the spring for Boston, had already worked a scoreless first inning. But the right-hander ran into some trouble in the second after issuing a pair of walks to Josh Donaldson and Rafael Ortega. He then gave up a game-tying, two-run single to Jose Trevino.

Having already thrown 33 pitches in the second inning alone, Pivetta was pulled by Red Sox manager Alex Cora with two outs. Ryan Miller, who was acquired from the Yankees in the minor-league phase of December’s Rule 5 Draft, was called upon on to record the final out of the second. Pivetta’s day, however, was not yet over.

After Schmidt stranded one runner in the top of the third, Pivetta came back out for the bottom half of the inning. The 30-year-old hurler surrendered a leadoff single to Aaron Judge but ended his afternoon on a more positive note by fanning Anthony Rizzo on five pitches.

All told, Pivetta allowed two earned runs on three hits and three walks to go along with two strikeouts over two total innings of work. He finished with 57 pitches (34 strikes) and averaged 94.7 mph with his four-seam fastball while inducing four swings-and-misses.

Durbin Feltman took over Pivetta with one out in the third and stranded the lone runner he inherited by inducing a pair of groundouts. He was responsible for the fourth inning as well, but he gave up a one-out double to Oswald Peraza and allowed him to score the then-go-ahead run on two wild pitches while Trevino was at the plate.

Following a scoreless fifth inning from Zack Kelly, though, the Red Sox erupted for six runs in the top of the sixth. Facing off against old friend Tyler Danish, minor-league outfielder Tyler Dearden clubbed a 422-foot solo shot to right-center field to lead things off. After Ceddanne Rafaela reached base with one out, Daniel Palka delivered with a 375-foot homer of his own that put Boston up, 5-3.

Niko Goodrum and McGuire then reached on back-to-back singles before Crook came through with his second big fly of the day. This one left his bat at a blistering 105.3 mph and was deposited 424 feet over the left field wall. The sharply-hit three-run blast gave the Red Sox some breathing room in the form of an 8-3 lead.

Kelly remained in for the bottom of the sixth and retired the final three batters he faced. Eddinson Paulino, who pinch-ran for Enmanuel Valdez the inning prior, led off the seventh inning by launching a 389-foot home run off new Yankees reliever Demarcus Evans. Chase Shugart was next up out of the bullpen after Kelly and also faced the minimum while punching out top prospect Jasson Dominguez in the latter half of the seventh.

After Norwith Gudino put up another zero in the eighth, the Red Sox made sure to make their last at-bats count in the ninth. Christian Koss drew a leadoff walk off Randy Vazquez. Three batters later, Phillip Sikes capped off the scoring by drilling a 395-foot two-run homer that had an exit velocity of 105.7 mph to right field.

Taking a commanding 11-3 advantage into the bottom of the ninth, Gudino served up a pair of home runs (including a three-run shot to Dominguez), but he was ultimately able to hang on and secure an 11-7 victory for the Red Sox.

With the win, which took two hours and 47 minutes to complete, Boston improves to 9-0-3 in Grapefruit League play and 11-0-3 in all competitions this spring.

Other worthwhile observations:

Batting out of the nine-hole and starting in left field on Thursday, Dearden went 2-for-3 with his sixth-inning home run. The 24-year-old was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 29th round of the 2017 amateur draft.

McGuire and Crook went a combined 4-for-6 on Thursday with five RBIs and four runs scored between them.

Next up: Kluber starts against Blue Jays

The Red Sox will return to Fort Myers on Friday afternoon to host the Blue Jays at JetBlue Park. Veteran right-hander Corey Kluber will get the start for Boston opposite fellow righty Zach Thompson for Toronto.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Narciso Crook: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)


How did Red Sox outfield prospect Phillip Sikes fare in first full pro season?

Red Sox outfield prospect Phillip Sikes enjoyed a productive first full season of pro ball in 2022.

Selected by Boston in the 18th round of the 2021 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University, Sikes played strictly in the Florida Complex League last summer after signing for just $97,500 as a college senior. He broke minor-league camp this spring with Low-A Salem.

In 50 games with the Carolina League affiliate, the right-handed hitting Sikes batted .258/.390/.516 (148 wRC+) with 18 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 28 RBIs, 36 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 28 walks, and 55 strikeouts over 195 plate appearances before earning a promotion to High-A Greenville in early July.

With the Drive, Sikes’ production took a dip but he still managed a .248/.351/.446 slash line (118 wRC+) to go along with 11 doubles, one triple, six homers, 20 runs driven in, 21 runs scored, eight stolen bases, 25 walks, and 44 strikeouts across 44 games spanning 95 trips to the plate.

When taking these numbers from the second half of the season into consideration, it is worth mentioning that Sikes posted a .931 OPS in his first 17 games in Greenville before struggling to the tune of a .181/.302/.347 clip in the month of August. The 23-year-old did end his year on a solid note, though, as he went 8-for-23 (.348) in September with a pair of doubles, five walks, and five swiped bags.

All told, Sikes was one of 26 Red Sox minor-leaguers who accrued at least 350 total plate appearances this year. Among that group, he ranked sixth in walk rate (13.9 percent), fifth in on-base percentage (.371), seventh in slugging percentage (.481), fourth in OPS (.852), fifth in isolated power (.228), third in speed score (8.3), second in line-drive rate (29.5 percent), and fourth in wRC+ (132), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, saw playing time at all three outfield positions in his stints with Salem and Greenville. Between the two affiliates, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound speedster logged 136 2/3 innings in left, 315 innings in center, and 324 innings in right. He registered a total of 10 outfield assists and also displayed his arm strength on the mound by making two relief appearances in mop-up duty for the Salem Sox.

Sikes, who turns 24 in April, is not currently regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system. The native Texan is projected by to return to Greenville for the start of the 2023 campaign. That being said, one would have to imagine an early-season promotion to Double-A Portland could be in play for Sikes next spring if he picks up where he left off for the Drive.

(Picture of Phillip Sikes: Gwinn Davis/Greenville Drive)

Red Sox promote speedy outfield prospect Phillip Sikes to High-A Greenville

The Red Sox have promoted outfield prospect Phillip Sikes from Low-A Salem to High-A Greenville, per the team’s minor-league transactions log.

Sikes made his debut for the Drive in their game against the Greensboro Grasshoppers on Monday night and went 1-for-4 with a single and strikeout. The 23-year-old was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 18th round of last summer’s draft out of Texas Christian University.

After signing with Boston for $97,500 last July, Sikes began his first full professional season in Salem. In 50 games with the Red Sox, the right-handed hitting speedster batted .258/.390/.516 (150 wRC+) to go along with 18 doubles, four triples, five home runs, 28 RBIs, 36 runs scored, 12 stolen bases, 28 walks, and 55 strikeouts over 195 plate appearances.

He was sidelined for approximately 10 days (June 16-25) due to an undisclosed injury, but made his impact felt upon his return to Salem’s lineup by slashing a stout .385/.462/.846 in his last six games leading up to Monday’s promotion.

Among Carolina League hitters who have made at least 190 trips to the plate this season, Sikes ranks 17th in walk rate (14.4%), eighth in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, third in OPS (.905), third in isolated power (.258), second in speed score (9.1), and fourth in wRC+ (150), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Sikes started in right field while making his debut for Greenville on Monday. With Salem, the 6-foot-2, 190 pounder logged 102 2/3 innings in left field, 226 innings in center, and 72 innings in right. He also made two scoreless appearances as a pitcher.

Sikes, who does not turn 24 until next April, is not yet regarded by any major publication as one of the top outfield prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system. That being said, the native Texan has gotten his professional career off to a solid start and should figure to spend the rest of the 2022 campaign in Greenville.

On that note, Sikes becomes the latest member of Boston’s 2021 draft class to suit up for the Drive so far this season, as he joins the likes of Tyler McDonough, Nathan Hickey, Wyatt Olds, Niko Kavadas, and Jacob Webb.

(Picture of Phillip Sikes via the Salem Red Sox)

Red Sox outfield prospect Phillip Sikes homers twice, drives in 4 runs for Low-A Salem as impressive month of May rolls on

Red Sox outfield prospect Phillip Sikes had a monster game in Low-A Salem’s 8-2 win over the Fredericksburg Nationals at Virginia Credit Union Stadium on Wednesday night.

Batting eighth and starting in center field, Sikes went 3-for-4 at the plate with two home runs, one double, four RBIs, three runs scored, and one walk. He also picked up an outfield assist and helped turn an inning-ending double play by gunning down top Nationals prospect Brady House at first base in the bottom of the third.

Both of Sikes’ homers were solo shots that came off two different Nationals relievers in the fourth and sixth innings. His double came in the top half of the seventh and plated an additional two runs to lift Salem to their 21st win of the year.

After getting his first full professional season off to a rough start in April (73 wRC+), Sikes — like many in Salem’s lineup — has turned things around for the better in May. Following Wednesday’s performance, the right-handed hitter has slashed .265/.351/.592 (152 wRC+) with five doubles, one triple, three home runs, nine RBIs, nine runs scored, two stolen bases, five walks, and 15 strikeouts over 14 games (57 plate appearances) this month.

Defensively, Sikes has already seen playing time at all three outfield positions this year, logging 71 2/3 innings in left, 123 innings in center, and 40 innings in right. The 6-foot-2, 190 pounder recorded his second outfield assist of the season on Wednesday.

Back on May 4, Sikes made his professional debut as a pitcher in Salem’s 24-6 loss to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. The right-hander needed just nine pitches (seven strikes) to toss a perfect ninth inning in what was his first appearance on a mound since 2019.

Sikes, 23, was selected by the Red Sox in the 18th round of last year’s draft out of Texas Christian University. The native Texan is not yet regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system, though he may be already be one of the quickest players in the organization.

According to FanGraphs, Sikes has posted a Speed Score of 8.3 this season. First developed by Bill James, Speed Score measures a player’s speed and baserunning ability on a 0 to 10 scale. Sikes’ 8.3 Speed Score, then, is quite good.

Among Carolina League hitters with at least 110 plate appearances under their belt in 2022, Sikes ranks 13th in Speed Score and 14th in isolated power (.194). Among minor-leaguers in the Red Sox organization who have made 110 or more trips to the plate, Sikes ranks fourth in Speed Score and 12th in isolated power, per FanGraphs.

Coming into play on Thursday, Sikes has multiple hits in three of his last seven games. He will look to keep things going as Salem goes for its fourth straight win beginning at 7:05 p.m. eastern time.

(Picture of Phillip Sikes via the Salem Red Sox)

Who is Phillip Sikes? Red Sox outfield prospect batted .392 in Florida Complex league last year after being taken in 18th round of 2021 draft

The Red Sox selected 10 college players from Power Five schools in the 2021 amateur draft, including Texas Christian University outfielder Phillip Sikes.

Sikes, 22, began his college career at the University of New Mexico in 2018. He then transferred to Pima Community College in Arizona for his sophomore season and was taken by the Diamondbacks in the 33rd round of the 2019 draft.

Rather than go pro as a draft-eligible sophomore, Sikes opted to transfer to TCU for his junior and senior seasons. After being taken by Boston in the 18th round of last summer’s draft, the Paris, Texas native ultimately signed with the club for $97,500.

Regarded by Baseball America as the 465th-ranked prospect in the 2021 draft class, Sikes’ first assignment as a professional came in the rookie-level Florida Complex League. The right-handed hitter debuted for the Sox’ FCL affiliate on August 5 and proceeded to slash a stout .392/.464/.622 to go along with eight doubles, three home runs, 18 RBIs, 18 runs scored, five stolen bases, eight walks, and 24 strikeouts over 24 games (84 plate appearances) to close out the minor-league season.

In 63 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, Sikes posted a 1.227 OPS but only produced a .679 OPS in 22 plate appearances against lefties.

Although he was admittedly older for the level he was playing at, Sikes was still one of the top hitters in the lower-minors last year. Among FCL hitters who made at least 80 trips to the plate in 2021, the former Horned Frog ranked third in batting average, third in on-base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS (1.086), 18th in isolated power (.230), and fifth in wRC+ (185), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Sikes had played all three outfield positions while in college and things remained that way — albeit to a lesser degree — during his first pro season. The 6-foot-2, 190 pounder logged 158 2/3 innings in center, seven in left, and nine in right while recording two outfield assists and turning one double play.

A former two-way player as an amateur, Sikes profiles best as a corner outfielder moving forward. According to his Baseball America scouting report from before last July’s draft, Sikes “has a solid, well-rounded tool set. He’s a plus runner who has demonstrated that he can catch up to a good fastball, although he can be enticed to chase a tantalizing slider.

“Sikes has a short, direct swing that is geared more for hitting for average than power, but he has enough strength to drive balls to the right field power alley as well,” his scouting report continues. “Sikes is a well-rounded outfielder who can play center field in a pinch and is average in the corners. His arm is fringe-average but accurate.”

Sikes, who turns 23 next month, is not listed on any major publication’s top Red Sox prospects list heading into the 2022 campaign. That being said, the speedy outfielder is projected by to begin his first full season as a pro at High-A Greenville, which is certainly interesting when you consider the fact he did not play at the Low-A level last year.

(Picture of Phillip Sikes: Kelly O’Connor/