Red Sox acquire Hoy Park from Pirates in exchange for pitching prospect Inmer Lobo

The Red Sox have acquired infielder/outfielder Hoy Park from the Pirates in exchange for pitching prospect Inmer Lobo, the club announced on Wednesday.

Park, 26, was just designated for assignment by Pittsburgh on Tuesday. He has been added to Boston’s 40-man roster, which is now at full capacity after left-handed reliever Joely Rodriguez was signed to a one-year deal earlier Wednesday morning.

A native of S0uth Korea, Park was originally signed by the Yankees as an international free agent in July 2014. He was regarded by Baseball America as the No. 25 prospect in New York’s farm system in 2016 and made his major-league debut last July.

After just one game in pinstripes, though, Park and fellow infielder Diego Castillo were traded to the Pirates for All-Star reliever Clay Holmes last July. Park appeared in 44 games for Pittsburgh down the stretch last season and batted .197/.299/.339 with five doubles, two triples, three home runs, 14 RBIs, 16 runs scored, one stolen base, 18 walks, and 38 strikeouts across 149 trips to the plate.

Park made the Pirates’ Opening Day roster out of spring training this year but was sent down to Triple-A Indianapolis before the end of April. In four separate stints with the big-league club, the left-handed hitter slashed .216/.276/.373 with two doubles, two homers, six runs driven in, seven runs scored, one stolen base, four walks, and 15 strikeouts over 23 games and 60 plate appearances.

On the other side of the ball, Park has major-league experience at six different positions. This past season in Pittsburgh, the versatile 6-foot-1, 200-pounder logged 61 innings at second base, 39 innings at third base, 22 innings at shortstop, and 12 innings in right field. He also saw playing time in left field and in center field last year.

Park, who turns 27 in April, has two minor-league options remaining, meaning he could provide the Red Sox with both infield and outfield depth at Triple-A Worcester next season. For his minor-league career, Park is a lifetime .255/.384/.417 hitter in 145 games at the Triple-A level.

Lobo, 18, was signed by the Red Sox for $10,000 out of Venezuela back in January. The left-hander spent the entirety of his first pro season in the Dominican Summer League and posted a 0.82 ERA with 28 strikeouts to two walks over five starts spanning 22 innings of work.

(Picture of Hoy Park: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Josh Winckowski allows 6 runs as Red Sox manage just 5 hits, fail to finish off sweep of Pirates in 8-2 loss

The Red Sox were unable to complete a three-game sweep over the Pirates on Thursday night. Boston fell to Pittsburgh by a final score of 4-2 at PNC Park, thus marking the end of its three-game winning streak.

Josh Winckowski made his 12th start of the season for the Sox after Nathan Eovaldi was scratched due to trap soreness. The rookie right-hander allowed six earned runs on seven hits and one walk to go along with just two strikeouts over five innings of work.

The Pirates got to Winckowski right away in the first inning. After Kevin Newman reached base on a one-out single, Bryan Renolds crushed a two-run home run to give his side an early 2-0 lead for the second night in a row.

Winckowski managed to retire the side in order in the second, but ran into more trouble in the third by giving up back-to-back two-out singles to Newman and Reynolds. Ben Gamel followed by lacing a two-run double over Tommy Pham’s glove in deep left field, scoring both Newman and Reynolds to make it a 4-0 ballgame.

The Newman-Reynolds combination got to Winckowski again in the fifth, as the former ripped a one-out single to center field before the latter clubbed another two-run home run. Reynolds’ 20th homer of the season gave Pittsburgh a commanding 6-0 lead. Winckowski’s night came to an end after he recorded the final out of the fifth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 83 (53 strikes), Winckowski managed to induce just six swings-and-misses while averaging 94.1 mph with his four-seam fastball. The 24-year-old hurler was ultimately charged with the loss and saw his ERA on the season rise to 5.19.

In relief of Winckowski, Austin Davis received the first and only call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. The left-hander surrendered two runs, both of which came in the bottom of the sixth inning.

After issuing a one-out walk to Greg Allen, Davis gave up an RBI double to the pinch-hitting Michael Chavis (who he was traded for last July). Chavis proceeded to score from second on an RBI single off the bat of Tyler Heineman, which made it a 8-0 contest in favor of the Pirates.

It took until the seventh inning for the Sox to put a runner in scoring position. After being completely held in check by Pirates starter J.T. Brubaker, Alex Verdugo advanced to second base with one out in the seventh on a throwing error by shortstop Oneil Cruz.

Verdugo was stranded at second in the seventh, but the Boston bats finally got on the board in the eighth. Reese McGuire and Bobby Dalbec greeted new reliever Zach Thompson with back-to-back one-out singles. Jarren Duran then drew an eight-pitch walk to fill the bases for Pham, who plated McGuire on a chopper to third base.

Rafael Devers promptly drove in Dalbec on a sacrifice fly to center field before Xander Bogaerts re-loaded the bases by drawing another walk off Manny Banuelos. But Verdugo struck out on six pitches to extinguish the threat.

Down to their final three outs in the ninth, J.D. Martinez, Christian Arroyo, and McGuire went down quietly against Colin Holderman to wrap up another lifeless defeat in which the Red Sox tallied just five hits. None of those hits went for extra-bases.

With the loss, Boston drops to 58-59 on the season and 8-10 in interleague play.

Next up: Baltimore awaits

The Red Sox will next travel to Balitmore to take on the Orioles in a three-game weekend series that concludes in Williamsport, Pa. with the annual Little League Classic on Sunday night. Kutter Crawford is slated to get the ball for Boston in Friday’s opener while fellow right-hander Jordan Lyles is expected to do the same for Baltimore.

First pitch from Camden Yards is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Christian Arroyo and Alex Verdugo combine for 6 hits as Red Sox get back to .500 with 8-3 victory over Pirates

The Red Sox once again took care of business against the Pirates on Wednesday night. Boston defeated Pittsburgh by a final score of 8-3 to take its third straight series and improve to 59-59 on the season.

Rich Hill made his 18th start of the season for the Sox and turned in a solid outing despite struggling out of the gate. The veteran left-hander allowed two runs on three hits and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts over five innings of work.

Both of those Pirates runs came right away in the bottom of the first, when Hill followed a leadoff single from Kevin Newman by serving up a 416-foot two-run home run to Bryan Reynolds.

That put the Red Sox in an early 2-0 hole, but they quickly responded against opposing starter Roansy Contreras in the top of the second. Alex Verdugo led off with a single and J.D. Martinez followed by drawing a four-pitch walk. After Eric Hosmer flew out, Christian Arroyo stayed hot by ripping a two-run double to right-center field past a sprawling Reynolds. Arroyo’s ninth double of the season drove in both Verdugo and Martinez to knot things up at two runs apiece.

Reese McGuire kept the line moving with a one-out single that put runners on the corners for Enrique Hernandez, who collected his second RBI in as many games by plating Arroyo on a softly-hit single through the right side of the infield. Rafael Devers was intentionally walked with two outs to fill the bases for Xander Bogaerts, who struck out on four pitches to end the inning, but not before Boston had taken its first lead of the night at 3-2.

Hill, meanwhile, settled in nicely by retiring nine straight batters from the middle of the second through the end of the fourth. He gave up a single to Rodolfo Castro in the fifth, but ended his night on a positive note by sitting down the final three Pirates he faced.

Finishing with an efficient pitch count of 57 (43 strikes), Hill induced three swings-and-misses with his four-seamer and three more with his slider. The 42-year-old hurler also picked up his fifth win of the season while lowering his ERA to 4.68.

Moments before Hill had recorded the final out of the fifth inning, the Red Sox tacked on additional run in the top half of the frame. Bogaerts, after reaching base via a one-out single off Contreras, scored all the way from first on an RBI double down the right field line off the bat of Verdugo.

Taking a 4-2 lead into the sixth inning, Ryan Brasier received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. Brasier punched out the side on 14 pitches before making way for Hirokazu Sawamura, who faced the minimum in a scoreless bottom of the seventh.

In the eighth, Verdugo led off another inning with a hard-hit single. Back-to-back one-out singles from Hosmer and Arroyo allowed Verdugo to move up to third base. The pinch-hitting Rob Refsnyder drove him in by drawing a bases-loaded walk off Pirates reliever Eric Stout, thus giving the Red Sox a 5-2 lead.

Sawamura picked up where he left off by retiring the side in order in the eighth. The same can be said for Arroyo, who knocked in his third run of the night on a bases-loaded single in the top of the ninth.

Kevin Plawecki, who took over behind the plate for McGuire, made the most of his first and only at-bat of the night by driving in a pair on a softly-hit two-run single to shallow right field.

That sequence of events saw the Red Sox jump out to a commanding 8-2 advantage. It also afforded them the opportunity to have veteran reliever Jeurys Familia make his club debut. Signed to a minor-league deal earlier this month, Familia had his contract selected from Triple-A Worcester on Saturday.

So it took four days for Familia to make his first appearance for Boston. The former All-Star closer surrendered hits to three of the first four Pirates he faced, including an RBI single from Ben Gamel.

Familia did not allow the Pirates to get any closer than that, though, as he got Kevin Padlo to ground out before punching out Castro on six pitches to secure an 8-3 victory for the Red Sox.

All told, Verdugo and Arroyo led the way offensively by combining for six hits (two doubles), four RBIs, four runs scored. Verdugo and Martinez combined to draw five walks as well.

Next up: Sox look to break out the brooms

The Red Sox will go for a three-game sweep over the Pirates on Thursday night. They last swept an opponent in a multi-game series on June 26, when they did so against the Guardians.

Rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski will get the ball for Boston after Thursday’s scheduled starter — Nathan Eovaldi — was scratched with a sore trap muscle. Fellow righty J.T. Brubaker is expected to take the mound for Pittsburgh.

First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN and MLB Network.

(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

Nick Pivetta allows just 1 hit over 7 scoreless innings as Red Sox hold on for 5-3 win over Pirates

The Red Sox scored four runs out of the gate and held on for a series-opening win over the Pirates at PNC Park on Tuesday night. Boston defeated Pittsburgh by a final score of 5-3 to improve to 58-59 on the season and 7-9 in interleague play.

Making their first trip to Pittsburgh in nearly seven years, the Sox received an early boost from the top half of their lineup. Matched up against Mitch Keller to begin things on Tuesday, Tommy Pham led off the first inning with a line-drive single.

Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez followed by drawing back-to-back walks to fill the bases for Alex Verdugo, who drove in his side’s first run on a groundball single to right field. Christian Arroyo and Eric Hosmer tacked on two more with run-scoring singles of their own, though Hosmer’s — a 214-foot fly ball — deflected off the glove of Pirates rookie Oneil Cruz before landing in left field.

With the bases still full, Enrique Hernandez came through in his first plate appearance in more than two months by lifting a 350-foot sacrifice fly to left field to plate Verdugo. An inning later, Pham reached base again on a one-out single. He moved up to second base when Martinez drew a walk and scored from there after Pirates centerfielder Bryan Reynolds failed to catch a 366-foot line drive off the bat of Verdugo.

That sequence of events gave the Red Sox a five-run lead, which was plenty big for Nick Pivetta. Making his 24th start of the season on Tuesday, Pivetta allowed just one hit and three walks to go along with six strikeouts over seven scoreless innings of work.

The one hit Pivetta surrendered came with two outs in the bottom of the first and put runners at first and second. The right-hander did not buckle, though, as he proceeded to get Kevin Padlo to ground out to himself to extinguish the threat.

From there, Pivetta settled in by retiring 18 of the next 20 batters he faced through the end of the seventh. Of the 99 pitches the 29-year-old threw on Tuesday, 63 went for strikes. He induced a total of eight swings-and-misses in the process of picking up his ninth win and lowering his ERA on the season to 4.28.

In relief of Pivetta, Austin Davis received the first call out of the Boston bullpen from manager Alex Cora. The left-hander made things interesting in the eighth by loading the bases with one out on two singles and a walk. That prompted Cora to turn to John Schreiber, who struck out Reynolds on a nasty slider and was one strike away from ending the inning.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Schreiber served up a bases-clearing, three-run double to Gamel on another slider at the bottom of the strike zone. All three of those runs were charged to Davis as the Pirates trimmed the deficit down to two runs at 5-3.

Matt Barnes was called upon to end it in the ninth. He did just that by punching out Cruz and Rodolfo Castro and retiring Greg Allen on 12 pitches to earn his third save of the season (and first since May 21) to secure the win.

So, despite going hitless from the second inning on, the Red Sox picked up their fourth win in their last five games. Pham led the way with two singles and two runs scored out of the leadoff spot while Verdugo, Arroyo, and Hosmer, had one hit and one RBI between them.

Next up: Hill vs. Contreras

The Red Sox will go for their third straight series victory in Wednesday’s contest against the Pirates. Veteran left-hander Rich Hill will get the start for Boston and rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski will follow out of the bullpen. Fellow righty Roansy Contreras is slated to take the mound for Pittsburgh.

First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Red Sox prospect Cedanne Rafaela hits first home run of spring

Versatile Red Sox prospect Ceddanne Rafaela hit his first home run of the spring in Tuesday’s 6-2 loss to the Pirates at LECOM Park in Bradenton. He actually accounted for Boston’s only two runs on one swing of the bat.

After pinch-running for Christian Arroyo in the top half of the seventh, Rafaela registered his first and only plate appearance two innings later. With one out and one runner on in the ninth, the right-handed hitter took Pirates reliever Austin Brice 399 feet deep to right-center field to make it a 6-2 game.

Rafaela, 21, has made the most out of his limited playing time this spring. Following Tuesday’s performance, the young infielder/outfielder is batting .273 (3-for-11)/.273/.636 with one double, one homer, two RBIs, four runs scored, and one stolen base over five Grapefruit League appearances.

Originally signed out of Curacao for just $10,000 in July 2017, Rafaela comes into the 2022 season regarded by Baseball America as the best defensive outfielder and No. 22 overall prospect in Boston’s farm system.

As that superlative suggests, Rafaela is known more for his defense than his offense. With Low-A Salem last year, the 5-foot-8, 152 pounder saw playing time at six different positions (2B, 3B, SS, LF, CF, RF) en route to being named the Sox’ Minor League Defensive Player of the Year in September.

So far this spring, Rafaela has logged two innings at shortstop, five innings in left field, and 14 innings in center field. He has yet to commit an error at either of the three positions.

On the other side of the ball, Rafaela is coming off a 2021 campaign with Salem in which he batted .251/.305/.424 (95 wRC+) to go along with 20 doubles, nine triples, 10 home runs, 53 RBIs, 73 runs scored, 23 stolen bases, 25 walks, and 79 strikeouts across 102 games spanning 432 plate appearances.

Among qualified hitters in the Low-A East last season, Rafaela ranked 10th in strikeout rate (18.3%), 22nd in batting average, 12th in slugging percentage, 22nd in OPS (.729), 10th in isolated power (.173), second in speed score (9.0), and 29th in wRC+, according to FanGraphs.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, what makes Rafaela so dynamic defensively is his speed, which allows him to take “excellent routes and jumps on hard-to-reach contact to the outfield.” His arm strength also grades “as above-average to plus in both the infield and outfield.”

Considering that he does not turn 22 until September, there still may be some room for Rafaela to grow physically. Regardless of that, though, it would appear that the Willemstad native has the makings to be a super-utility player at the major-league level if he can reach his full potential.

Well before that happens, however, Rafaela still has to work his way up the organizational ladder. He is projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2022 minor-season with High-A Greenville.

(GIF of Ceddanne Rafaela via GIPHY)

How did former Red Sox infielder Michael Chavis fare this season after getting traded to Pirates?

A little less than five months ago, the Red Sox traded infielder Michael Chavis to the Pirates in exchange for left-handed reliever.

To that point in the 2021 season, the Sox had used Chavis sparingly after not including him on their Opening Day roster. Across five stints with Boston, the 26-year-old batted an underwhelming .190/.207/.342 with four doubles, one triple, two home runs, six RBIs, 12 runs scored, one stolen base, one walk, and 32 strikeouts over 31 total games spanning 82 plate appearances.

Upon arriving in Pittsburgh in late July, Chavis assigned to the Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis, and it took him a little more than three weeks for him to make his way back to the big-leagues.

On August 23, the Pirates recalled Chavis from Triple-A Indianapolis and he made his National League debut that very same day against the Diamondbacks at PNC Park while batting seventh and starting at second base.

For the next week or so, Chavis was a regular in Pittsburgh’s lineup and even made his first career start in right field against the Cardinals on Aug. 28. In the third inning of that contest, however, the Georgia native suffered a right elbow strain while sprawling out for a sharply-hit fly ball off the bat of Edmundo Sosa.

Chavis was removed from the game at the beginning of the fifth inning and was subsequently placed on the 10-day injured list because of it the following day. He was sidelined for more than two weeks before being sent out on a rehab assignment with Indianapolis on September 16 and later returning to the Pirates on Sept. 28.

In the process of starting four of Pittsburgh’s final six games, Chavis ended an eventful year on a high note. All told, the right-handed hitter slashed a scorching .357/.357/.500 to go along with three doubles, one homer, five RBIs, four runs scored, zero walks, and 10 strikeouts across 12 games (42 plate appearances) in his debut with the Pirates.

Chavis, who does not turn 27 until next August, is heading into his final year of pre-arbitration eligibility in 2022, meaning he remains under club control for at least the next four seasons.

When the Red Sox originally selected Chavis in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft, they did so while Ben Cherington was still heading the team’s baseball operations department. Cherington, of course, now serves as general manager of the Pirates, so there is a level of familiarity there.

In his time with the Red Sox, Chavis logged time at every infield position besides shortstop and made 12 appearances in left field during the compressed 2020 campaign. He briefly added right field to his repertoire this past season, making it seem as though the Pirates value his defensive versatility.

While Chavis will likely get the opportunity to compete for a utility tole on Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster next spring, there are still some areas of his game he needs to improve on, such as faring better against right-handed pitchers (.547 OPS this year) or better handling off-speed and breaking pitches.

To that end, Chavis does have one minor-league option year remaining, so the Pirates could shuttle him between Indianapolis and Pittsburgh next season if they so choose.

(Picture of Michael Chavis: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Red Sox ‘thought they had a deal’ in place for Jacob Stallings before Pirates traded veteran catcher to Marlins, per report

Before trading him to the Marlins earlier this week, the Pirates nearly traded catcher Jacob Stallings to the Red Sox, according to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson and Craig Mish.

Per Jackson and Mish, the Red Sox made an offer to the Pirates for Stallings “and and at one point thought they had a deal. But the Marlins landed him by including pitching prospect Kyle Nicolas in their bid, along with pitcher Zach Thompson and outfield prospect Connor Scott.”

Stallings, who turns 32 later this month, was among the top defensive backstops in baseball this year en route to taking home his first career Gold Glove Award. He threw out 12 of the 57 base runners who attempted to steal against him while leading all big-league catchers in defensive runs saved with 21.

In addition to what he did behind the plate, the right-handed hitter slashed .246/.335/.369 (95 wRC+) with 20 doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 53 RBIs, 38 runs scored, 49 walks, and 85 strikeouts over 112 games (427 plate appearances) with Pittsburgh in 2021.

At the onset of the off-season, Stallings became an attractive option for clubs looking for quality catching since he is under club control through 2024, was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $2.6 million in arbitration, and was arguably better than any free agent catcher on the open market.

The Marlins ultimately pounced on Stallings by swinging a trade with the Pirates on Monday — after they had previously failed to pry him away from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

When speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Pirates general manager Ben Cherington indicated that the decision to move Stallings came about quickly.

“There certainly was never a timeline up until probably 24 hours before it happened,” Cherington said. “Our full expectation was that [Stallings] would be a Pirate going forward, but, you know, these things sometimes come together quickly. In this case, it did.”

That the Red Sox may have been among the teams other than the Marlins who inquired on Stallings is certainly interesting. Within the last month, Boston has picked up Christian Vazquez’s $7 million club option and signed Kevin Plawecki to a one-year, $2.25 million deal for the 2022 season.

With veteran backstops such as Vazquez and Plawecki already locked up for 2022 and prospects such as Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernandez waiting in the wings on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox likely would have been looking at moving one of the four aforementioned names were they to have acquired Stallings.

That being said — after the Pirates sweetened their offer by adding Nicolas — it presumably would have taken additional prospects for Boston to land Stallings, which may have led chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to take the Sox’ offer off the table altogether.

(Picture of Jacob Stallings: Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

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.