Saturday was a long day for Red Sox manager Alex Cora

Editor’s note: This is a bad title and I will try to be better next time.

The week leading up to Opening Day is typically one filled with optimism around baseball.

This year, though, as has been the nature of things since the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic began last March, those days for the Red Sox are now filled with plenty of uncertainties as April 1 draws closer.

Earlier Saturday morning, Red Sox manager Alex Cora revealed that reliever Matt Barnes had tested positive for COVID-19 and right-hander Matt Andriese was one of several players away from the team due to contact tracing protocols.

Barnes, who was vying for the role as Boston’s closer, took a COVID test on Thursday and got his positive result back on Friday shortly after throwing in a simulated game at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers.

Cora found out about the veteran hurler’s positive test shortly after arriving to JetBlue Park at around 7 a.m. Saturday morning.

While Barnes is not showing any symptoms, he will be away from the team for at least 10 days due to the protocols MLB has in place.

This means that the UCONN product will not be included on the Sox’ Opening Day roster and will miss a minimum of four regular season games before being cleared to return to action.

The fallout of Barnes’ testing positive resulted in a feeling of unease throughout the Red Sox’ clubhouse on Saturday.

“It’s nobody’s fault,” Cora said via Zoom. “That’s the first thing. They’ve been very responsible. We’ve been praising them throughout camp. It just happened. Today, you can feel… you don’t want to hear this. You start thinking about if something else happens or where we’re going to be in a few days. It’s not comfortable but, at the same time, if we keep doing the things we should be doing, the hope is we’re going to be fine as a group.

“It’s just one isolated quote-unquote incident. Let’s hope that’s the case,” he added. “But it’s a different mood, to be honest with you. It’s not a good feeling, but trusting the process, trusting our medical staff, trusting the testing system. We should be OK.”

Despite having a confirmed positive COVID case, Red Sox players and coaches who were slated to travel to Bradenton for the team’s Grapefruit League contest against the Pirates did, but only after taking a rapid COVID-19 test before the bus ride there.

Upon arriving at LECOM Park, not only did the Sox top the Pirates by a final score of 7-4 — which allowed Cora to triumph over his brother Joey, who is Pittsburgh’s third base coach — they also received some encouraging news later in the afternoon.

That being, of all the rapid tests the club’s traveling party took earlier in the day, none came back positive.

“Everybody who was here was negative,” Cora said during his postgame media availability. “We got the results throughout the day. Of course, there were people who stayed back. I’ll get those results, probably, on the way to Fort Myers.”

Taking those words into consideration, Barnes remains the only known player to test positive thus far, though that number could increase as Major League Baseball conducts conduct tracing with those on the Sox who were in close contact with the righty — including Andriese.

“We have a positive, but we did everything we’re supposed to do to keep moving forward,” said Cora. “Everybody was nervous at one point, but when we went through the whole thing, the whole process, you feel better.

“But we’re not out of it,” he continued. “We still have to wait for tonight and tomorrow and the next couple of days. But we got it in, we got our work in. We’ll do the same thing tomorrow. Hopefully we can do it the next three days and go up north.”

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the team at the moment on account of COVID-19, Cora has yet to name a starter for the Red Sox’ next Grapefruit League contest against the Twins at JetBlue Park on Sunday afternoon.

To put it simply, between Christian Vazquez suffering a contusion under his left eye on Thursday, Eduardo Rodriguez being scratched from starting on Opening Day on Friday, and Barnes testing positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, the past three days or so have been a real whirlwind for the Sox skipper. But he understands the problems he is dealing with don’t really compare to other things currently going on throughout the country and the rest of the world.

“This is bigger than sports,” Cora said. “We’ve been living through this since March last year. We’re doing the best possible to put a show out there for the fans and get their minds away from the pandemic. That’s the way I see it.”

(Picture of Alex Cora: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Rays viewed Red Sox’ Nick Pivetta as another potential Tyler Glasnow before right-hander was traded to Boston

Red Sox pitchers and catchers may not report to spring training in Fort Myers until next week, but it goes without saying that Nick Pivetta will be one of the more intriguing players to watch during camp.

The soon-to-be 28-year-old right-hander yielded just two earned runs on eight hits, five walks, and 13 strikeouts over two September starts spanning 10 innings pitched with Boston last season after being acquired from the Phillies in August.

By impressing Red Sox brass in 2020, Pivetta seems to be on track for a spot in Boston’s starting rotation in 2021.

The thing is though, the Sox, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, were not the only team interested in trading for Pivetta before last summer’s trade deadline.

According to The Athletic’s Peter Gammons, the Phillies believed Pivetta was in need of a change of scenery, and “the Rays tried hard to beat Bloom to him.

“We think he can be another [Tyler] Glasnow,” one Rays official said of Pivetta when speaking with Gammons.

Boston ultimately won the Pivetta sweepstakes, acquiring him as well as right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold from Philadelphia in exchange for right-handed relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree on August 21.

That said, it’s not difficult to see why the Rays would want another reclamation project such as Pivetta given their track record with starting pitchers.

Using Glasnow as an example here, both he and Pivetta have similar baseball backgrounds.

Glasnow, who like Pivetta is also 27 years old, is a former fifth-round draft pick of the Pirates and was once regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in Pittsburgh’s farm system.

The California native couldn’t quite put it together upon getting called up to the majors in 2016, though, as he produced a 5.79 ERA and 4.90 FIP over 56 appearances (17 starts) in parts of 2 1/2 seasons with the Pirates.

Once Glasnow, as well as outfielder Austin Meadows and right-handed pitching prospect Shane Baz, was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for veteran righty Chris Archer in July 2018, things started to turn around for the better.

Since then, Glasnow has for the most part found his footing at the major-league level, posting a 3.32 ERA and 3.40 FIP through his first 34 starts (173 2/3 innings pitched) with the Rays.

Pivetta, meanwhile, got his big-league career with the Phillies off to a rocky start as well.

The former fourth-round draft pick of the Washington Nationals (traded to Philadelphia for Jonathan Papelbon in 2015) struggled to the tune of of a 5.50 ERA and 4.64 FIP through 92 outings (71 starts) and 396 1/3 innings with the Phils from 2017-2020 before the organization ultimately gave up on him.

It’s a much smaller sample size than what Glasnow has done in Tampa Bay thus far, but as previously mentioned, Pivetta impressed in his two turns through Boston’s rotation last September. Some of that success is likely due to what he worked on at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket after he was traded.

“Nick has had success in the big leagues before. The game can be your friend one minute and your enemy the second,” Worcester Red Sox pitching coach Paul Abbott said of Pivetta back in October. “You can be on top of the world, an up-and-coming young guy with four pitches that grade out highly, and then all of the sudden, you lose all confidence. A change of scenery can do a guy a lot of good. He came down here with a purpose, with a mission. Very determined. He’s got all of it. All of the pitches. It’s just a matter of him… I think his two starts were really good for him to get back into that mindset where he can definitely pitch at that level. When a guy can get that mindset with the stuff that he had, we have, potentially, a front-of-the-rotation type guy.”

Like Abbott said, perhaps a change of scenery was what Pivetta, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 214 lbs., needed to revitalize his major-league career; especially if he locks up a spot in Boston’s Opening Day starting rotation.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Pivetta is out of minor-league options, so the 2021 season, which is his last before becoming eligible for salary arbitration in 2022, could prove to be quite impactful for the British Columbian.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Red Sox free agency: right-hander Keone Kela comments that he would ‘love’ to play in Boston

Former Pirates reliever and current free-agent right-hander Keone Kela recently expressed an interest to play with the Red Sox through social media.

Early Friday night, Major League Baseball’s official Instagram account posted an update pertaining to the Red Sox’ rehiring of Alex Cora to be their next manager.

Within minutes of the post going live, Kela took to the comment section, tagged the Sox’ official Instagram handle (@redsox) and simply expressed his thoughts through the use of the ‘100’ emoji (💯).

According to Dictionary.com, the ‘100’ emoji is “used in digital communication to express or emphasize achievement, support, approval, and motivation. It also generally means ‘absolutely’ or ‘keep it 100’ (keep it real), so it would appear that Kela approves of the move by the Red Sox to bring Cora back.

On top of that, when urged by a fellow commenter to ‘come on down [to Boston], Kela replied, “I’d love to” followed by a heart emoji. The full exchange can be seen in this accompanying screenshot, courtesy of Reddit user u/williamsw21.

Kela, 27, has spent the last 2 1/2 seasons with the Pirates after beginning his big-league career with the Rangers in 2015.

In his time with Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles native posted a 2.49 ERA and 3.54 FIP over 51 total appearances and 47 innings pitched going back to July 2018.

Most recently, in what was already a truncated 2020 campaign, Kela managed to appear in just three games for the Pirates on account of testing positive for COVID-19 in July and going down with right forearm tightness in late August.

Seeing how he is still relatively young as he enters free agency for the first time, Kela could look to take a short-term deal this offseason in order to better establish his value next winter if he can stay healthy.

According to Statcast, the righty has in his arsenal a curveball that hovers around 82-83 mph, a four-seam fastball that hovers around 96 mph and can top out at 98 mph, and a changeup that hovers around 90-91 mph.

Taking that into consideration, the Red Sox could perhaps benefit from adding someone of Kela’s caliber to the mix in their bullpen. The club is coming off a 2020 season in which it owned the second-worst bullpen ERA (5.72) in the American League.

There are certainly other free-agent relievers the Red Sox could target here, such as Liam Hendriks, Trevor May, or Blake Treinen, but seeing how Kela, or whoever runs his Instagram account, has expressed an interest in signing with Boston, this may very well be an avenue worth exploring for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co.

On another note, Cora’s return makes it seem as though the Red Sox could become a more popular destination for free-agents since the Sox skipper is so well regarded by players. That should be something worth paying attention to as the offseason progresses.

Red Sox Managerial Search: Padres Associate Manager Skip Schumaker, Twins Bench Coach Mike Bell, and Marlins Bench Coach James Rowson Have All Interviewed for Opening, per Report

The Red Sox have reportedly interviewed three more candidates for their managerial opening. Those three candidates? Padres associate manager Skip Schumaker, Twins bench coach Mike Bell, and Marlins bench coach James Rowson, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee and The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Per Acee, Schumaker has already ‘interviewed for multiple managerial vacancies’ thus far, with the Red Sox being the latest.

The former big-league outfielder, who turns 41 in February, has spent the last five seasons with the Padres organization in both a front office and coaching capacity. His past roles with San Diego include assistant to baseball operations and player development under A.J. Preller, third base coach under Andy Green, and associate manager under Jayce Tingler.

Before embarking on his coaching career, Schumaker enjoyed an 11-year major-league career in which he racked up 905 hits in 1,149 games between the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Reds.

Bell, meanwhile, served as Twins manager Rocco Baldelli’s bench coach this past season in Minnesota. Prior to that, the soon-to-be 46-year-old had spent the previous 13 years with the Diamondbacks organization as a minor-league manager, minor-league field coordinator, director of player development, and vice president of player development.

Given all the time he spent in Arizona, Bell likely formed some sort of relationship with current Diamondbacks and former Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen, who was hired away from Boston back in October 2016.

A native of Cincinnati who was a former first-round draft pick of the Rangers in 1993, Bell comes from quite the baseball family. His grandfather, Gus, was a four-time All-Star over the course of a 15-year major-league career. His father, Buddy, was a five-time All-Star as a player who also managed the Tigers, Rockies, and Royals for a total of nine seasons between 1998 and 2007. And his brother, David, is the current manager of the Reds.

Finally, we arrive at Rowson, who also has one of year of major-league coaching under his belt, which he accrued under Don Mattingly in Miami this year.

Prior to joining Mattingly’s coaching staff, the 44-year-old out of Mount Vernon, NY spent three seasons as hitting coach in Minnesota. In 2019, Rowson, under Baldelli, oversaw a Twins offense that clubbed a major-league record 307 home runs while leading the league in RBI (906) en route to an American League Central crown.

Rowson’s coaching career also includes stints as Yankees’ minor-league hitting coordinator and Cubs’ minor-league hitting coordinator and major-league hitting coach.

In addition to Rowson, Bell, and Schumaker, the Red Sox have also interviewed Cubs third base coach Will Venable, Pirates bench coach Don Kelly, and Diamondbacks Luis Urueata for their vacancy at manager.

That means at least six candidates have been interviewed, and assuming no one is hired between now and the end of the World Series, former Sox skipper Alex Cora could very well be the seventh, eighth, or ninth individual interviewed for the position. Whoever else Boston interviews is obviously up to chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and whoever he may consult in seeking out additional candidates.

Red Sox Managerial Opening: Cubs Coach, Former Major-League Outfielder Will Venable Has Been Interviewed for Job, per Report

The Red Sox have reportedly interviewed Cubs third base coach Will Venable for their managerial opening, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Per Heyman, Venable has already interviewed for the job, while the likes of Dodgers first base coach George Lombard and Pirates bench coach Don Kelly, among others, are thought to be on Boston’s short list of other potential candidates.

Venable, who turns 38 later this month, has spent the last three seasons with the Cubs as both a first and third base coach.

Prior to beginning his coaching career, the former outfielder enjoyed a nine-year major-league career from 2008 until 2016 in which he spent time with the Padres, Rangers, and Dodgers.

An alumnus of Princeton University, Venable was a two-sport athlete in college, excelling in both baseball and basketball prior to getting drafted by San Diego in the seventh round of the 2005 amateur draft.

Even though he has no previous big-league managerial experience, Venable is an appealing candidate for the Sox’ opening based solely on the fact he’s the first person not named Alex Cora to be legitimately linked to the job.

Of course, the Red Sox can not speak to Cora about a potential reunion until the conclusion of this year’s World Series due to the fact that Cora was handed down a one-year suspension by Major League Baseball back in April for the role he played in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

As for Lombard, the 45-year-old has spent the last five seasons with the Dodgers as a coach, but he also spent parts of six seasons as a minor-league coach for the Red Sox from 2010 until 2015.

Kelly, meanwhile, served as Derek Shelton’s bench coach in Pittsburgh this past season after coaching first base for the Astros in 2019. The former big-leaguer, who is brothers-in-law with Neil Walker, also has experience as a professional scout.

Now that we have gotten our first insight into who chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. are targeting for the Red Sox’ managerial opening, it should be fascinating to see how much this search heats up once this year’s World Series between the Dodgers and Rays comes to a close.

Blue Jays Still Without a Home Ballpark for 2020 Season as Pittsburgh Plan Unravels

Contrary to what was posted on here earlier Wednesday, the Red Sox will not be traveling to Pittsburgh for their lone road series of the year against the Toronto Blue Jays this season.

That being the case because, according to The Associated Press’ Marc Levy, the Pennsylvania Department of Health will not allow the Jays to play their home games at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This decision from the PDH comes despite the fact that the Blue Jays and Pirates had already reached an agreement to share the ballpark for this truncated, 60-game season, which for Toronto begins this coming Friday.

With no home ballpark at this point, the Blue Jays have quite a bit of work to do before their “home” opener on July 29 against the Nationals. As a matter of fact, it looks like that series could take place at Nationals Park seeing how the two sides play two games against each other in the nation’s capital right before then.

schedule

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Mason, “It’s unclear where the Jays go from here. Hypothetically, they could play all 30 of their home games in road cities, but that would leave them at a massive disadvantage.”

Alternative venues the Blue Jays could use for their home games in 2020 include TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Fla., the home of their spring training facility, and Sahlen Field in Buffalo, NY., the home of their Triple-A affiliate that has been serving as the club’s alternate training site since Summer Camp began.

Baltimore’s Camden Yards has been thrown out there as well.

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.

Michael Chavis, Jarren Duran, and Josh Ockimey All Homer as Red Sox Top Pirates 6-3 in Rain-Shortened Contest

After blowing out the Orioles at Fort Myers on Tuesday, the Red Sox traveled to Bradenton for the first time this spring and improved to 3-2-1 in Grapefruit League action with a rain-shortened 6-3 victory over the Pirates on Wednesday.

Making his first start in a Red Sox uniform for Boston was Martin Perez, who signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal back in December to fill out the back half of the club’s rotation.

Working the first two innings Wednesday, the left-hander surrendered one unearned run on one hit and one walk to go along with three walks on the afternoon.

That one Pittsburgh tally came in the bottom half of the second, when after tossing a 1-2-3 first, Perez allowed three of the first four hitters he faced in the frame to reach base on a walk, single, and fielder’s choice combined with a throwing error committed by Marco Hernandez.

With the bases full of Pirates, J.T. Riddle came through with a sacrifice fly hit plenty deep enough to right field to drive in Josh Bell from third and make it a 2-1 contest.

Fortunately, Perez was able to avoid any further damage by fanning Andrew Susac to retire the side and end his outing on a more positive note.

From there, left-hander Josh Osich struck out three, walked another, and allowed one run on a Jose Osuna RBI double in the third while also recording the first two outs of the fourth.

Pitching prospect Durbin Feltman wrapped up the frame by getting Riddle to ground out to first, which would turn out to be the only action the 22-year-old would see.

Colten Brewer followed suit with two innings of one-run ball to eventually become the pitcher of record, while another prospect in Yoan Aybar wound up with his first save of the spring by punching out the side in the seventh, which turned out to be the final full inning due to rain.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that did not feature many regulars outside of Jose Peraza, Michael Chavis, and Kevin Plawecki was matched up against Pirates top prospect Mitch Keller to begin things on Wednesday.

After going down quietly in the first, the Boston bats picked it back up in the top half of the second, when a one-out double off the bat of Nick Longhi brought a red-hot Jarren Duran to the plate for the first time.

Duran, the Sox’ No. 5 prospect, did not waste any time in staying hot, as he took the the third pitch he saw from Keller and deposited a mammoth two-run shot over everything in left field for his first home run of the spring. 2-0.

Fast forward all the way to the fifth, after the Pirates had responded with two runs of their own, and it was another monster home run that gave the Red Sox the lead.

This time, it came with two outs and off the bat of Michael Chavis, who greeted Pirates reliever Robbie Erlin with his first big fly of the spring to make it a 3-2 contest.

In the sixth, Pittsburgh answered yet again to pull themselves back even at three runs a piece, but that did not stop the Sox from putting this one away an inning later.

Yes, thanks to back-to-back walks drawn by Jeter Downs and John Andreoli off of Sam Howard to lead off the frame, Jett Bandy was able to drive in the go-ahead run, Downs, from third on a sacrifice fly to deep center.

Just a few moments later, the slugging Josh Ockimey put the finishing touches on his side’s win by clobbering his second homer of the spring, a line-drive two-run shot pulled down the right field line.

That homer gave the Red Sox a 6-3 advantage, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score after 7 1/2 completed innings due to inclement weather in Bradenton.

Some observations from this win:

After beginning spring training 0-for-his-first-5 with four strikeouts, Michael Chavis went 2-for-2 with a home run and a walk on Wednesday while playing second base.

Kevin Plawecki went 1-for-2 with a walk. Since Jonathan Lucroy has yet to appear in a game, I would say Plawecki has the upper hand in the competition for the backup catcher spot for the time being.

Through three games and eight plate appearances this spring, Jarren Duran owns an OPS of 1.880. Like I have been saying, the most exciting prospect to watch on this team right now.

Speaking of prospects, it was interesting to see Durbin Feltman get a little work on Wednesday. Too bad he didn’t come back out for the fifth.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the Philadelphia Philles at JetBlue Park on Thursday afternoon.

Right-hander Bryan Mata will get the start for Boston, while fellow righty Nick Pivetta will do the same for Philadelphia.

Ranked as the Sox’ No.4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Mata, 20, worked a scoreless second inning against the Rays this past Saturday.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. This game will not be televised.

Chris Sale Fans Six in Final Tune-Up Before Opening Day as #RedSox Top Pirates

The Red Sox improved to 12-15-1 in their Grapefruit League finale on Saturday afternoon, defeating the a split Pittsburgh Pirates squad by a final score of 12-3 for their fourth consecutive victory.

Making his final tune-up before the start of the regular season in this one was Chris Sale.

Fresh off inking a five-year, $145 million contract extension, the left-hander looked as sharp as ever on Saturday, holding the Pirates scoreless on just two hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over five impressive innings of work.

In total, Sale faced 16 hitters and needed 73 pitches to get through those five frames and fanned three straight to end his day on a positive note.

As you probably already know, Sale’s next start will come on Opening Day out in Seattle, Wa., two days before the hurler’s 30th birthday.

From the beginning of the sixth inning on, Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson combined to allow three Pirates runs to score on seven hits, a pair of walks, and six strikeouts themselves.

Hembree was the one responsible for all three of those runs, as he served up a one out, three-run home run to Pittsburgh’s second-ranked prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes, which at the time cut Boston’s lead to one run.

Overall, not a great showing from Hembree, but if there’s anything to salvage from this particular outing, it’s that he retired the final two hitters he faced in order after giving up the home run to put an end to the Pirates half of the sixth.

Johnson, meanwhile, had to work his away around a bases-loaded jam in the seventh before eventually settling in and punching out four in three innings en route to securing the blowout win.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Pirates Opening Day starter Jameson Taillon to begin things on Saturday.

Similar to what they did against the Twins on Friday, the top of the lineup set the tone early, with Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, and JD Martinez all reaching base with one out in the first.

Martinez drove in the first Red Sox run of the afternoon on a shallow single to center field to plate Betts, while Xander Bogaerts followed that up by driving in Pedroia on an RBI sacrifice fly to left. And just like that, it was already 2-0.

Fast forward to the fourth, and Bogaerts was at it again, this time leading off the inning with a triple off Taillon.

He would come around to score on a Jackie Bradley Jr. RBI double moments later, and Bradley Jr. would himself come around to score from second on a Brock Holt RBI two-bagger. 4-0.

After the Pirates had cut into that four-run lead in their half of the sixth, the Boston bats would respond almost immediately, with both Blake Swihart and Bradley Jr. capitalizing on a Pittsburgh throwing error and scoring their team’s fifth and sixth runs of the afternoon.

And in eighth, Swihart would wind up being the catalyst of a six-run inning with a two out single.

Jantzen Witte, Joseph Monge, Chris Madera, and Aneury Tavarez all picked up RBI as the Red Sox wold go on to run away with this one, winning their last game of Grapefruit League play in 2019 by a final score of 12-3.

Some notes from this win:

Tzu-Wei Lin was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket following Saturday’s victory, meaning the Red Sox now have 29 players on their active roster. Sam Travis should be next.

Jackie Bradley Jr. finishes his 2019 Grapefruit League campaign with a .333/.409/.667 slash line, three home runs, and eight RBI in 39 spring at-bats.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll head out west to Mesa, Arizona to take on the Chicago Cubs in a pair of exhibition games starting Monday, before the real thing begins.

Rick Porcello will get the ball Monday and both games will be on NESNplus and NESN, so stay tuned for that.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 9:05 PM EDT.

#RedSox Split St. Patrick’s Day Split-Squad Doubleheader Against Pirates and Rays

The Red Sox both improved and fell to 8-14-1 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday afternoon following a St. Patrick’s Day split-squad split, with the 3-2 win coming at JetBlue Park against the Tampa Bay Rays and the 8-1 defeat coming at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton.

Beginning with the contest against the Rays, David Price was originally scheduled to make his second start of the spring against his old club, but the left-hander was scratched Sunday morning due to illness.

In his place, fellow southpaw Brian Johnson, who was going to pitch anyway, surrendered two runs (one earned) on a pair of hits and walks to go along with three strikeouts in two-and-two-thirds innings of work.

Johnson faced 13 Rays hitters on the afternoon, retiring eight of them while allowing five to reach base before getting the hook with one out to get in the top half of the third.

From there, Trevor Kelley, Heath Hembree, Adam Lau, Colten Brewer, Jenrry Mejia, Durbin Feltman, Hunter Smith, and Eduard Bazardo combined to hold Tampa Bay scoreless over the final 6.1 frames on Sunday, as they scattered just two hits, six walks, and six strikeouts en route to the win.

Hembree, who worked the start of the fourth inning, struggled with control a bit, which was evident by him walking the bases loaded while failing to retire the side.

Feltman, meanwhile, fanned the first two hitters he faced in relatively easy fashion, but could not finish things off after giving up a two out double and surrendering two straight walks.

Bazardo, who was signed as an international free agent by Boston back in 2014, picked up the save in his Grapefruit League debut thanks to a 1-2-3 ninth.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox split-squad lineup was matched up against Rays minor leaguer Ryan Merrit to kick things off.

Starting the scoring in this one was Brock Holt, whose leadoff double in the first would translate to Boston’s first run of the afternoon coming around to score on a two out RBI double off the bat of JD Martinez.

Fast forward all the way to the bottom half of the eighth, trailing by a run, and back-to-back two out RBI knocks from Danny Mars and Ryan Fitzgerald pulled the Red Sox up a run themselves, as 3-2 would go on to be the final score in this one.

Meanwhile, over in Bradenton, as previously mentioned, the Red Sox fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1.

Jackie Bradley Jr. provided the lone highlight for Boston in this one with, in his one words, “probably the most amazing play I’ve ever made.”

Steve Pearce left in the first inning after feeling discomfort in his left calf while running out a grounder in his first and only at bat of the afternoon.

When asked about it, the 2018 World Series MVP said, “I didn’t feel a pop. There wasn’t anything that was too alarming. I just don’t like how it is right now.”

His departure on Sunday seems more precautionary than anything, but it would not be too surprising if the 35-year-old Pearce is held out of action for the next few days to ensure all is well with that left calf.

Some additional notes from Sunday’s split-squad doubleheader:

Colten Brewer faced the minimum six hitters in two shutout frames against the Rays, while Jenrry Mejia also held Tampa Bay scoreless to go along with one strikeout in a perfect seventh inning.

Triston Casas, who was Boston’s first round selection in the 2018 draft, made his 2019 Grapefruit League debut at JetBlue Park as a defensive replacement for Mitch Moreland in the fifth.

The 19-year-old prospect went 0/1 with a walk and a strikeout while also seeing a fair amount of action over at first.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll make the short trek to Hammond Stadium on Monday to face the Minnesota Twins in the sixth installment of the 2019 Chairman’s Cup.

Nathan Eovaldi will be getting the ball for Boston, while ace right-hander Jose Berrios will be doing the same for Minnesota.

The last time these two clubs linked up, Eovaldi allowed one run over three innings in his first start of the spring, while Berrios allowed a pair of runs over 3.1 innings.

First pitch Monday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT. NESN does not have it covered.