Boston optioned right-hander Bryan Mata to Triple-A Worcester and reassigned left-hander Ryan Sherriff to minor-league camp, the club announced.
Mata made his fourth appearance of the spring in Sunday’s 3-3 draw against the Yankees at JetBlue Park. The 23-year-old scattered three hits and two walks to go along with two strikeouts over three scoreless innings of work. He retired eight of the 13 batters he faced on 46 pitches and has yet to surrender a run in Grapefruit League play.
After returning from Tommy John surgery last season, Mata was promoted to Worcester in late August. The native Venezuelan made five starts for the WooSox and posted a 3.47 ERA (3.12 FIP) with 30 strikeouts to 15 walks over 23 1/3 innings pitched. He is currently regarded by Baseball America as Boston’s top pitching prospect and could have a chance to make an impact at the major-league level later this year.
Sherriff, on the other hand, signed a minors pact with the Red Sox in January that came with an invite to big-league camp. In four relief appearances this spring, the 32-year-old southpaw has allowed one unearned run on three hits, one hit batsman, and four strikeouts. He has held opposing hitters to a .188 batting average against thus far.
With Sunday’s subtractions, the size of Boston’s spring training roster has shrunk from 56 to 54 players. Fifteen of the 54 players who remain are not on the 40-man roster and are therefore at camp as non-roster invitees.
BOSTON RED SOX NON-ROSTER INVITEES (15)
Pitchers (4): Matt Dermody, Oddanier Mosqueda, Chase Shugart
Catchers (4): Jorge Alfaro, Caleb Hamilton, Ronaldo Hernández, Stephen Scott
The Red Sox have purchased the contract of right-hander Joe Jones from the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks of the independent American Association, the team announced on Wednesday.
Jones, 27, posted a 3.72 ERA with 66 strikeouts to 44 walks in 43 relief appearances (55 2/3 innings) for the league champion RedHawks last yea. The righty has past experience in affiliated ball, as he spent most of the 2021 minor-league season in the Diamondbacks organization before being released by Arizona that August.
A native of Tennessee, Jones went undrafted out of Division III Maryville College in 2017. He then made several stops on the indy ball circuit, pitching for the Cleburne Railroaders of the American Association (2017), Martinez Clippers of the Pacific Association (2018), York Revolution of the Atlantic League (2019), Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League (2019), and Road Warrior Black Sox of the Washington League (2020) before signing a minor-league deal with the Diamondbacks in February 2021.
Jones broke camp with High-A Hillsboro that spring. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound hurler pitched to a 3.46 ERA (4.44 FIP) with 15 strikeouts to 10 walks in 13 appearances (13 innings) for the Hops before being promoted to Double-A Amarillo in late June. He then struggled to a 9.31 ERA (9.58 FIP) to go along with 10 strikeouts to nine walks over his next 10 outings (9 2/3 innings) before getting cut loose by the Sod Poodles on Aug. 20.
Four days later, Jones signed with Fargo-Moorhead. He did not allow a run in his first six appearances for the RedHawks down the stretch in 2021, which resulted in the club exercising his option for the 2022 season.
At this point in time, it remains to be seen which minor-league affiliate the Red Sox will assign Jones to for the start of the 2023 campaign, though it will presumably come down to either High-A Greenville or Double-A Portland. Before that happens though, it should be interesting to see what Jones brings to the table at minor-league camp down in Fort Myers.
Speaking of interesting, Jones has a unique pregame routine in which he does walking handstands in an effort to improve shoulder strength and stability.
“It’s a pretty big stimulus for me to walk on my hands,” he told Peterson last August. “I like it to get the blood flowing in the shoulders. My record this season is 66 steps continuously on my hands.”
(Picture of Joe Jones: Savannah Lussier/Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks)
The Red Sox have signed free agent left-hander Matt Dermody to a minor-league contract for the 2023 season, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. The deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.
Dermody, 32, was originally selected by the Blue Jays in the 28th round of the 2013 amateur draft out of the University of Iowa. The former Hawkeye first broke in with Toronto in September 2016 and allowed four earned runs in five appearances (three innings) out of the bullpen.
In 23 relief outings the following year, Dermody pitched to a 4.43 ERA and 6.25 FIP with 15 strikeouts to 15 walks over 22 1/3 innings of work. He was outrighted off the Jays’ 40-man roster ahead of the 2018 campaign and spent the next two seasons with the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo before electing free agency in November 2019.
While there was no Minor League Baseball in 2020 on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dermody did pitch for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Constellation Energy League in Texas. He then had his contract purchased by the Cubs that August and made his return to the big-league return the following Month.
After just one outing with the Cubs, though, Dermody was designated for assignment and subsequently outrighted. He returned to Chicago on a minors pact that winter but was let go before the start of spring training. Dermody then took his talents to Japan and spent the 2021 season with the Saitama Seibu Lions of Nippon Professional Baseball.
Dermody leveraged his performance in Japan into another minor-league deal with the Cubs last February. The lefty posted a 3.74 ERA with 70 strikeouts to 18 walks in 20 appearances (13 starts) spanning 79 1/3 innings pitched for Triple-A Iowa before getting called up in early August. He appeared in one game for Chicago before being granted his release so that he could sign with the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization.
In eight starts for the Dinos, Dermody forged a 4.54 ERA and 3.92 FIP to go along with 37 strikeouts to 13 walks across 39 2/3 innings. Rather than pursuing other opportunities in South Korea, Dermody has apparently decided to return to affiliated ball in the United States.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, Dermody possesses a diverse pitch mix. In his lone outing for the Cubs against the Cardinals last summer, the southpaw threw seven four-seam fastballs, seven sliders, six changeups, four sinkers, and two curveballs. He averaged 92.4 mph with his four-seamer and induced three total swings-and-misses, per Baseball Savant.
Dermody, who turns 33 in July, has two minor-league options remaining and can provide the Red Sox with some flexibility in that respect if he makes the team out of spring training. That being said, it remains to be seen if Boston views Dermody as a starter or as a reliever moving forward.
The Red Sox may have passed on taking a player in the major-league phase of Wednesday’s Rule 5 Draft, but they did make two selections in the minor-league phase.
Boston added left-hander Joe Jacques from the Pirates and right-hander Ryan Miller from the Yankees. The two hurlers have been assigned to Triple-A Worcester.
Jacques, 27, was originally selected by Pittsburgh in the 33rd round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Manhattan College in New York City. The New Jersey native received a mere $2,000 signing bonus and made his professional debut in the Appalachian League.
After beginning this past season on the 60-day injured list, Jacques spent most of the 2022 campaign with Triple-A Indianapolis. There, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound southpaw posted a 3.62 ERA and 4.74 FIP with 27 strikeouts to 12 walks over 29 relief appearances (37 1/3 innings) for the Indians. He also fared far better against left-handed hitters (.257 OPS against) compared to right-handed hitters (.845 OPS against).
Jacques, who turns 28 in March, throws from a unique sidearm slot and operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, a slider, and a changeup, according to Pittsburgh Baseball Network.
Miller, 26, was originally taken by the Diamondbacks in the sixth round of the 2018 draft out of Clemson University. The Florida native signed with Arizona for $25,000, but was released less than two years later at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He latched on with the Southern Illinois Miners of the independent Frontier League in 2021 and began the 2022 season with the Sioux Falls Canaries of the American Association before having his contract purchased by the Yankees in late May.
In his return to affiliated ball, Miller produced a a 5.75 ERA — but much more respectable 4.11 xFIP — with 50 strikeouts to 18 walks across 25 relief appearances (36 innings) for High-A Hudson Valley. He did not pitch at all in the month of September due to an undisclosed injury.
Listed at 6-feet and 180 pounds, Miller put up reverse splits this year, as he held opposing left-handed hitters to a .622 OPS against but allowed right-handed hitters to slash .275/.374/.522 off of him.
Miller, who — like Jacques has a birthday in March, becomes the sixth different pitcher the Red Sox have taken from the Yankees in the major- or minor-league phase of a Rule 5 Draft dating back to 2018. Boston took Anyelo Gomez in 2018, Raynel Espinal in 2019, Garrett Whitlock and Kaleb Ort in 2020, and Brian Keller in 2021.
Red Sox lose Cameron Cannon to Phillies
In addition to picking up two pitchers, the Red Sox also lost an infielder in the minor-league phase of Wednesday’s Rule 5 Draft as Cameron Cannon was scooped up by the Phillies.
Cannon, now 25, was Boston’s second-round pick in 2019. The University of Arizona product was once regarded by Baseball America as the No. 22 prospect in the Red Sox farm system but had since fallen off the list completely. He spent the majority of the 2022 season with Double-A Portland before being promoted to Worcester in August. Like fellow 2019 draftee Noah Song, Cannon is now reunited with Dave Dombrowski to some degree in Philadelphia.
Former Red Sox infielder Jonathan Arauz, who was claimed off waivers by the Orioles in June, went from Baltimore to the Mets organization on Wednesday.
(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Senga, who turns 30 in January, has drawn widespread interest from MLB teams this winter and is viewed as one of the top free agent starting pitchers on the market. The hard-throwing right-hander is represented by Joel Wolfe, who told NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer earlier this month that his client “has a great deal of interest in being in a big market” playing for a contender.
Boston represents one of the larger media markets in the major-leagues, as does New York City. The Yankees, like the Red Sox, have made contact with Senga’s representatives, per Morosi. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal previously reported that Senga has already met with the Mets, as well as the Padres and Rangers. The Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, and Mariners are also believed to be interested in the righty’s services.
A native of Gamagori, Senga spent the first 11 seasons of his professional career with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball after debuting with the club as a 19-year-old in 2012. The 6-foot, 178-pound hurler posted a 1.94 ERA with 156 strikeouts to 49 walks over 22 starts (144 innings) in 2022. For his career, he owns a lifetime 2.59 ERA to go along with a 28.2 percent strikeout rate and a 9.3 walk rate across 224 outings (1,089 innings) at Japan’s highest level.
Equipped with a four-pitch mix that consists of a high-90s fastball, a low-90s cutter, a low-80s slider, and a plus splitter, Senga opted out of his contract with the Hawks and became a free agent in October. Because of that opt-out decision, Senga is not subject to the NPB-MLB posting system.
The Red Sox have had past success when it comes to signing Japanese-born pitchers. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Okajima, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara all played significant roles on World Series-winning teams during their respective times in Boston.
Under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox have been linked to several Japanese pitchers — such as Kohei Arihara and Tomoyuki Sugano — in recent offseasons. Last February, right-handed reliever Hirokazu Sawamura joined the Sox on a multi-year deal and spent the majority of the last two seasons in Boston’s bullpen before being released in September.
“Without getting into any specific player, it is a market where we’re very engaged,” Bloom said at the GM meetings in Las Vegas earlier this month. “I think we’ve shown over the years, well before I was here, that this organization, for a lot of reasons, is really well-positioned to support a Japanese player both from what we can provide from a staff standpoint and environment. Players who have played here coming over from the NPB will speak to that and have been allies for us telling players how awesome it is to play in Boston.”
It remains to be seen just how interested the Red Sox are in Senga, who Bloom described as “just a really impressive arm” with “super talented, athletic, power stuff.” MLB Trade Rumors projects that the 29-year-old will receive a five-year deal in the range of $75 million from whichever team signs him.
According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, the Red Sox have scouted Senga “heavily” in recent years. Over the weekend, The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier reported that the club was “unlikely to enter the bidding” for the top four free agent starters in Justin Verlander, Jacob deGrom, Carlos Rodon, and Chris Bassitt.
Given his projected price tag, Senga wound seemingly fit a need for the Red Sox, especially if Nathan Eovaldi signs elsewhere in free agency. As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, though, Boston already has several other rotation candidates on their roster at the moment.
With the likes of Nick Pivetta, Brayan Bello, Chris Sale, James Paxton, Garrett Whitlock, and Tanner Houck vying for spots, Senga would have to come in and compete for a spot of his own if he were to sign with the Sox, who are still interested in bringing back Eovaldi, Rich Hill, and Michael Wacha.
Taking all that into consideration, it seems likely that the Red Sox will have a better understanding of Senga’s market once the Winter Meetings get underway in San Diego next month.
(Picture of Kodai Senga: Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)
Remember when Dylan Covey was one of 27 pitchers the Red Sox used during a dismal 2020 season that only consisted of 60 games?
A former fourth-round pick of the Oakland Athletics who broke in with the White Sox in 2017, Covey was effectively released by Chicago leading up to the 2020 season and inked a minor-league deal with the Rays shortly thereafter.
On the other side of the COVID-19-induced shutdown that placed a freeze on transactions across Major League Baseball, the Rays traded Covey to the Red Sox in late July.
The right-hander was initially optioned to Boston’s alternate training site, but wound up making the club’s Opening Day roster. He made his Red Sox debut against the Orioles on July 25 and was then sent back down to Pawtucket the following day.
On August 8, Covey was recalled from the alternate training site, paving the way for him to make three more appearances out of the Sox’ bullpen before getting optioned eight days later.
Fast forward nearly four weeks, and Covey’s name was called upon once again. He closed out the shortened campaign on Boston’s big-league roster and made four final relief appearances in the process of doing so.
All told, Covey posted a 7.07 ERA — yet a much more respectable 3.91 FIP — to go along with 11 strikeouts to just two walks over eight outings spanning 14 total innings of work in his three stints with the club.
Following the conclusion of the 2020 World Series, the Red Sox outrighted Covey off their 40-man roster, thus allowing the righty to become a free agent since he had already accrued more than three years of major-league service time.
It’s unclear if Covey — a client of CAA Sports — was pursuing big-league opportunities upon hitting the open market, but he ultimately inked a one-year deal with the Rakuten Monkeys of the Chinese Professional Baseball League last May.
Equipped with a five-pitch mix that consists of a slider, four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, and curveball, Covey debuted for Rakuten’s first-team in late August.
In 10 starts for the Monkeys, the 30-year-old put up a 4.01 ERA and 3.14 FIP with 38 strikeouts and 17 walks across 58 1/3 innings pitched. According to CPBLStats.com, he yielded a minuscule 0.84 ERA over his final five starts of the year.
If Covey — who turns 31 in August — can put together another productive season in Taiwan, it would be fascinating to see if the 6-foot-1, 214 pound hurler could garner enough interest from MLB teams to ponder a return to the United States next winter.
Regardless of the situation, Garrett Whitlock continues to get outs for the Red Sox on a consistent basis.
The latest instance of that came in Wednesday’s contest against the Mets, when the rookie right-hander was deployed in the sixth inning of a game the Sox had a one-run lead in.
Needing all of 31 pitches, Whitlock retired six of the eight batters he faced while striking out four over the course of two scoreless frames of relief in the sixth and seventh. He later picked up his third hold of the season.
Since making his major-league debut on April 4, the 24-year-old has yet to allow a run on just six hits and two walks to go along with 18 strikeouts over six outings and 13 1/3 innings pitched out of the bullpen.
“He keeps growing. He keeps getting better,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Whitlock on Thursday. “Yesterday was fun to watch. 1-0 game in New York, and to give us six outs where we were bullpen-wise, it was amazing. So he keeps growing, he keeps learning, he keeps getting better. And he’s an important piece of our bullpen.”
Prior to being selected by the Red Sox from the Yankees in last December’s Rule 5 Draft, Whitlock had not pitched above the Double-A level and had last pitched in a minor-league game in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery that summer.
In his three seasons as a Yankees minor-leaguer, the 2017 18th-round draft pick never once swung a bat, but he nearly had to do so on Wednesday in a National League ballpark.
Cora asked Whitlock how many hits he had in the minor-leagues because his spot was coming up in the Sox’ lineup. The righty told him he had zero.
“And I was like, ‘Well, you better be ready. You might have to hit in the big-leagues,'” recalled Cora. Whitlock responded with a simple, “Whatever you need.”
To say Cora and the rest of the Red Sox brass have been impressed with Whitlock to this point would probably be an understatement. Not only is the Georgia native, who Cora described as “a cool individual,” dazzling while on the mound. He is making positive impressions off the field as well.
“He just goes about his business,” said Cora. “He trusts his stuff. He has a clean delivery. He throws a lot of strikes. And the stuff is that good. You saw it yesterday. That two-seamer in to [Jonathan] Villar, that was really good. We talked about it the first week. You guys asked me, ‘Who caught your attention? ‘ It was him. From what he does in the bullpens to the weight room to the training room — even carrying the beer on the plane. It’s kind of like perfect. Everything’s so structured. So we’ve got a good one.”
Per Baseball Savant, Whitlock currently ranks in the 98th percentile in expected weighted on-base average, the 98th percentile in expected ERA, the 89th percentile in expected batting average, the 93rd percentile in expected slugging percentage, the 93rd percentile in strikeout rate, and the 90th percentile in chase rate.
In simpler terms, he has done an effective job of mixing his sinker, changeup, four-seam fastball, and slider thus far.
“He’s competing since day one in spring training,” Cora said. “It wasn’t a given that he was going to make the team. Since day one, he’s been competing. He never showed hesitation about his work or what we were preaching to him. He just keeps going and it’s fun to watch. In an era that everybody puts pressure on people and everybody’s in the spotlight and everybody knows what you are doing because of social media, he’s just the same Garrett as when we got to spring training February 11.”
Whitlock, who turns 25 in June, would be under team control with the Red Sox through 2026 if he sticks on the club’s big-league roster for the remainder of the season.
(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: David Berding/Getty Images)
It wasn’t too long ago that Garrett Whitlock was at a crossroads in his professional baseball career.
The lanky right-hander — originally selected by the Yankees in the 18th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of University of Alabama — had his 2019 season cut short after undergoing Tommy John surgery that July.
He didn’t know it at the time, but Whitlock had pitched in his last game as a member of the Yankees organization on July 3, 2019 as his recovery from Tommy John coincided with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The deadline for clubs to add Rule 5-eligble players to their 40-man rosters came and went in November, and Whitlock — who was eligible — was not added by New York, meaning he was now eligible for the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.
The following month, the 24-year-old was taken off the board by the Red Sox, breathing new life into his baseball journey as a kid from Snellville, Ga.
By being selected by Boston in the Rule 5 Draft, Whitlock was now tasked with making Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training and sticking there for the entirety of the 2021 season or he would otherwise have to be offered back to his former club.
Prior to joining the Red Sox over the winter, Whitlock had primarily served as a starter in his time with the Yankees organization, but given the fact his new team is flush with starting pitching depth, a spot in Boston’s Opening Day rotation was essentially out of the question.
Instead, the 6-foot-5, 190 pound righty was to be made a swingman of sorts who could pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen or make a spot start or two when needed.
He was to still be stretched out over the course of the spring, but not with the intentions of being a fulltime starter once the season begins.
Thus far, handing down that role to Whitlock has netted nothing but positive results at big-league camp in Fort Myers.
Through his first four Grapefruit League appearances, the Georgia native has yielded just one earned run on eight hits, no walks, and 12 strikeouts over nine total innings of work, most recently fanning five Rays hitters over three scoreless, no-hit frames at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon.
“What Garrett did today, that was impressive,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “But he’s been doing that the whole spring. It’s a good fastball. He’s able to elevate with it late in counts, and it was a great day for him.”
For someone who had not pitched in a competitive environment in nearly two years, the way in which Whitlock has gone about his business on and off the mound has stood out to Cora.
“He was hungry to compete,” said the Sox skipper. “He hasn’t been able to compete in a while. And he’s bought into the concept of the things that we do here, and he’s executing. He’s very talented… He watches every bullpen, he watches the B games, he goes to sim games, and he goes to the dugout when he’s not pitching. That makes you a better baseball player, and in his case it makes him a better pitcher.
“I think it’s that confidence that he has,” Cora added. “First of all, we trust him, right? Because we decided to pick him in the Rule 5 after coming from surgery. Second, with the things that we’re preaching and what he’s doing, he has to feel great. But one thing about him, he’ll show up tomorrow and he’ll ask a question: ‘What can I do better?’ That’s the key of this thing and he’s done that the whole camp.”
Working the sixth through eighth innings of Friday’s contest against the Rays, Whitlock, donning the No. 72, was one of three pitchers who relieved starter Nathan Eovaldi.
A fellow right-hander who knows the ins-and-outs of Tommy John surgery, it’s safe to say Eovaldi has been impressed with what he’s seen from Whitlock so far at camp.
“I’m very excited for him,” Eovaldi said during his in-game media availability. “The first time I saw him throw at spring training, it was early in camp and I was impressed. He’s got a great changeup, he’s got great command, he’s quiet, he’s very quiet and determined to be a part of this team, and he’s going about his business the right way.
“So I’m not surprised with what he’s been able to do out there on the field just because of the way he’s handling himself in and around the clubhouse and out there in the bullpen,” the fireballer added. “He’s kind of our secret weapon right there, so he’s looking great.”
Whitlock himself is not taking anything for granted this spring. He explained on Friday how undergoing Tommy John surgery changed his perspective on multiple facets of his life — including his faith — and how he is just overjoyed to be playing baseball for a living.
“When you have an operation like Tommy John, it’s never given that you’re going to play again,” he said. “I promised to myself that if I was going to get a second chance and I was going to be back out on the field, I would never take a day for granted again. Because every little kid’s dream is to play professional baseball, and I don’t care if it’s in the [Gulf Coast League] level or the major-league level, I get to play a kid’s game for a living. It’s so much fun.”
Given how he has performed this spring, Whitlock, as previously mentioned, is a sure bet to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster as a swingman/hybrid-type reliever who can also start when necessary.
Regardless of what role he undertakes beginning April 1, though, Whitlock will just be going out there to do his job, or in other words, get outs. That is something that was drilled into him during his time at UAB.
“My college coach told me the best pitching advice I’ve ever had,” he recalled. “And that was: ‘When they hand you the ball to go get outs, you go get outs until they come take the ball away from you.’ And so whatever role that is, that’s always going to be my mindset.”
(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
When the Red Sox agreed to sign veteran right-hander Garrett Richards to a one-year, $10 million contract last month, they did so knowing there would be some risk involved.
Excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the last time the 32-year-old accrued more than 150 innings pitched in a single campaign came in 2015 when he was a member of the Angels.
In July 2018, his season was cut short due to right elbow UCL damage which would require Tommy John surgery that same month.
Since successfully recovering from the elbow reconstruction, Richards has technically not missed a beat, though he’s made just 17 appearances (13 starts) — all with the Padres — at the major-league level dating back to late September 2019.
Even in a limited sample size, however, the Oklahoma native proved to be effective enough for San Diego in 2020, posting a 4.03 ERA and 4.28 FIP over 14 outings (10 starts) and 51 1/3 innings pitched while placing in the 82nd percentile in fastball velocity, the 97th percentile in fastball spin, and the 99th percentile in curveball spin among big-league hurlers, per Baseball Savant.
The fact that Richards had quality stuff — and quite frankly has had quality stuff since being selected by the Angels in the first round of the 2009 amateur draft — last year made him appealing to a lot of clubs this offseason, the Red Sox included.
“Stuff-wise, for me, he was one of the best in the league,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Richards’ career when speaking to reporters via Zoom earlier Saturday. “He’s been hurt, but what I saw last year with the Padres was eye-opening. I’m glad that he’s with us. This is a guy that when we talked to him during the offseason, he feels that there’s more. For how veteran he is and his age, he hasn’t wasted too many bullets, right? Because he’s been hurt.”
In Cora’s praise of Richards, the 6-foot-2, 210 lb. righty also drew comparisons to a key member of Boston’s World Series-winning team in 2018 in Nathan Eovaldi.
The Sox acquired Eovaldi in late July of that season, a little less than two years after the flame-throwing right-hander had undergone Tommy John surgery for the second time in his baseball career. He went on to produce a 3.33 ERA over 12 outings (11 starts) and 54 innings to close out the regular season for Boston and a 1.61 ERA over six outings (two starts) and 22 1/3 innings in the postseason.
“It’s pretty similar to what we got in ’18 with Nate, when we traded for him,” said Cora Saturday. “A guy that has been hurt, but we knew at that time that he was going to be okay. Stuff-wise, off the charts.”
While Richards, like Eovaldi, has the potential to do some special things on the mound in 2021, one thing that cannot be ignored about his addition is the veteran presence he provides, especially with the uncertainty stemming from the ongoing pandemic.
“He’s a good teammate, too,” the Sox skipper confidently stated. “He was in a winning situation last year with the Padres and it’s good to have him around. With all the guidelines and everything because of the virus, it’s not that easy to get the groups together like we usually do in meetings to meet people. But, little by little, we will get to know him — we’ll get to know all of them — and he’s somebody that I’m looking forward to pitch every five days and see where he can go.”
Because Cora, who talks to the media first every day, mentioned Eovaldi when praising Richards, the 31-year-old Sox starter, who also spoke to the media on Saturday, was asked about the rotation newcomer and how their situations compare in regards to overcoming injuries.
“Early on, getting to see him throw a couple bullpens, his stuff is so electric,” Eovaldi said of Richards’ pitch repertoire. “The slider, the changeup, the fastball. It all comes out of the hand really well. He’s got a little bit of a different delivery, I think, but he looks great coming into camp. I’m excited to have him here.
“And then getting over the hurdles, I think you just build off of each start,” he continued. “You continuously build, you build that confidence up. I think him being here, our pitching staff, having [pitching coach Dave Bush and bullpen coach Kevin Walker] around, I think that’s going to help him out a lot. Just mainly using his strengths when he’s pitching and just keep attacking.”
At the moment, both Eovaldi and Richards are slated to crack the Red Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation. I would pencil them in to be the team’s No. 2 and No. 3 starters at this point, but that’s really more of a guess than anything.
(Picture of Garrett Richards: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Even though left-hander Chris Sale is slated to throw off a mound later this month for the first since undergoing Tommy John surgery last March, the Red Sox could be taking things slow with the starting pitcher’s rehab, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Sale, who turns 32 in March, last pitched in a big-league game on August 13, 2019.
The Florida native signed a five-year, $145 million contract extension — which includes an opt-out after 2022 and a vesting option for 2025 — with Boston shortly before the start of the 2019 season.
Because of the money they have invested in him, the Red Sox, writes Olney, “would love for Sale to come back and be a factor at some point in 2021, [but are more] apt to take a conservative approach.”
Put another way, “the pace for [Sale’s] return from Tommy John surgery is expected to be deliberate, according to sources.”
As Olney notes, pitchers typically take anywhere from 12 to 15 months to recover from the elbow reconstruction that is Tommy John surgery.
With that time frame in mind, Sale, in theory, could be on track for a June or July return to the mound this coming season, especially given the hurler’s drive.
Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said as much when speaking with reporters back in November.
“With Chris, we’re still looking at a midsummer return to have him fully stretched out as a starter,” said Bloom. “But everything continues going along with that. Arm’s doing great, which is awesome.”
While Sale’s arm may be “doing great” at the moment, there is a legitimate possibility that the Red Sox would not want to rush the seven-time All-Star back too soon given the fact he is still under contract for at least two more seasons, and likely more.
“Both the team and the pitcher have reason to take a long view on his recovery,” Olney wrote earlier Monday. “The bulk of the left-hander’s production for the Red Sox will happen in the last three years of the deal.”
Per Spotrac, Sale is set to earn $30 million in 2021 as well as $30 million in 2022, $27.5 million in 2023, and another $27.5 million in 2024. Good for a hefty sum of $85 million over the final three years of his contract. He has a full no-trade clause included in there as well.
Taking the idea that Sale’s time table could be pushed back further than initially expected, Boston may need to do even more to address their starting rotation needs between now and the start of the 2021 season.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora touched upon this issue when appearing on MLB Network Radio over the weekend.
“I think being deeper means the world this year,” said Cora. “You come from a short season and all of a sudden you’re asking these guys to perform at the high levels for a lot of innings. So you’ve gotta be careful. So we’re trying to do that and at the same time, compete at the highest level on a daily basis.”
Last year, Boston starters put up the second-worst ERA in baseball (5.34) while finishing second-to-last in innings pitched (246). As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, “that’s a 162-game pace of just 664.2 innings.”
(Picture of Chris Sale: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)