Red Sox first base coach Ramón Vázquez leads Criollos de Caguas to second straight Puerto Rican Winter League title

Red Sox first base coach Ramon Vazquez made some history on Thursday night by becoming just the third manager to ever win four titles in the Puerto Rican Winter League (Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente).

Vazquez’s Criollos de Caguas took down Indios de Mayaguez by a final score of 4-3 at Estadio Isidoro “Cholo” García on Thursday to win the best-of-seven championship series four games to one.

This marks the second straight year in which Caguas have come out on top in Puerto Rico. The back-to-back national titles brings their total up to 20, which is the most among teams in the LBPRC.

Alex Cora, of course, hails from Caguas, so it is safe to assume the Red Sox manager is proud of what his hometown team accomplished on Thursday.

Vazquez himself has been at the helm of Criollos for the most recent pair of those 20 championships. He previously won two titles as manager of Cangrejeros de Santurce in 2015-2016 and 2018-2019.

A veteran of nine major-league seasons, Vazquez originally joined Cora’s coaching staff in Boston in November 2017. After serving as a coach and interpreter through his first three years with the club, the Aibonito native was named quality control coach/interpreter upon Cora’s re-hiring in Nov. 2020.

Last season, Vazquez shifted from quality control coach to first base coach when it was revealed that unvaccinated individuals such as Tom Goodwin would not be granted on-field access during the playoffs.

Goodwin, who had served as Boston’s first base coach since 2018, was relieved of his duties in October. Two months later, the Red Sox announced that Vazquez would be taking over as first base coach on a full-time basis and that he would also be responsible for coordinating the team’s base-running instruction.

Now 45 years old, Vazquez is about to embark upon his fifth season as an integral member of the Red Sox coaching staff. Before that, though, he will be representing his home island of Puerto Rico in the 2022 Caribbean Series.

The tournament, which begins next Friday and runs through February 3, will feature winter league champions from Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, and host nation Dominican Republic.

Criollos de Caguas have won five Caribbean Series titles in their storied history. They most recently finished as the runner-ups behind Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League last year.

(Picture of Ramon Vazquez: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Red Sox part ways with first base coach Tom Goodwin

The Red Sox will not be bringing first base coach Tom Goodwin for the 2022 season, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom announced from Fenway Park on Monday afternoon.

Goodwin, 53, had served as Boston’s first base coach shortly after Alex Cora was first named manager of the Red Sox in October 2017.

In addition to his first base coaching responsibilities, Goodwin also served as the club’s outfield instructor and base running coordinator in his four seasons with the organization.

This past season, Goodwin — who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 — was forced to miss time on two separate occasions after being identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive for the virus.

On account of his unvaccinated status, Goodwin was not eligible to coach in the postseason since Major League Baseball was only granting on-field access to non-playing personnel (managers, coaches, athletic trainers, etc.) who were vaccinated.

And so in late September, quality control coach Ramon Vazquez took over as Boston’s first base coach for the rest of the year. Goodwin, on the other hand, remained in the Red Sox dugout and provided instruction to the club’s outfielders until the regular season came to a close.

When speaking with reporters during an end-of-season press conference on Monday, Bloom clarified that the decision to part ways with Goodwin had nothing to do with his vaccination status and was instead baseball-related.

“He helped bring this organization and this city a championship,” Bloom said. “It doesn’t take anything away from that.”

With Goodwin’s dismissal, the Red Sox now have an opening at first base coach. It’s unclear at the moment who will fill that vacancy, though Bloom did indicate that the rest of Cora’s coaching staff is expected to remain intact through the winter and return next spring.

“Obviously, it’s early,” said Bloom. “We haven’t put pen to paper with everybody who we need to. But the intent is that everybody else will be back.”

(Picture of Tom Goodwin: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox quality control coach Ramón Vázquez taking over as team’s first base coach due to Tom Goodwin’s unvaccinated status

Red Sox quality control coach Ramon Vazquez will take over as the team’s first base coach for the remainder of the regular season after coaching there on Tuesday, manager Alex Cora said before Wednesday’s game against the Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

Tom Goodwin, who has primarily handled first base coaching responsibilities this season, is not vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning he would not be allowed on the field in the postseason on account of Major League Baseball’s vaccine mandate for non-playing personnel.

Vazquez had previously filled in for Goodwin over the summer when the latter was forced to quarantine in Toronto after being identified as a close contact of bench coach Will Venable, who — despite being vaccinated — tested positive for COVID-19 in August.

Earlier this month, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that Major League Baseball “will require managers, coaches, athletic trainers and other non-playing personnel to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to gain access to the field and other restricted areas in the postseason.”

When speaking with reporters prior to Wednesday’s contest with the Orioles, Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) that Goodwin is the only member of the Red Sox coaching staff who has yet to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We have to prepare for the postseason, if we get there,” Cora said. “Obviously MLB, they mandated or they decided that the staff has to be vaccinated. As you guys know, Goody is not. So we’ve got Goody on the bench and working with the outfielders. And Ramon will be coaching first the rest of the season.”

As indicated by Cora, Goodwin will remain with the Sox for the remainder of their road trip while still providing instruction to the club’s outfielders, as he has since the start of the 2018 season.

Vazquez, on the other hand, has also been a member of Boston’s coaching staff for the last four seasons. In addition to coaching first base and working with the team’s infielders, he also “serves as a liaison between the major-league club’s advance scouting and statistical analysis efforts for the purpose of presenting information to players and coaches,” per the Red Sox media guide.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo and Ramon Vazquez: Cole Burston/Getty Images)

Jarren Duran, top Red Sox outfield prospect, homers in second start of spring: ‘He lifts, he sleeps, he eats, and he plays baseball’

Outfield prospect Jarren Duran started his second game of the spring in center field for the Red Sox on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old, hitting out of the two-hole, went 1-for-3 with a solo home run and a walk before being lifted at the start of the seventh inning.

That homer, which came on a 1-0 breaking ball from Rays right-hander David Hess, was belted deep to right field — well over the Boston bullpen, for Duran’s first big fly of the spring.

Even without a minor-league season last year, Duran still got plenty of time to develop between spending time at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and playing winter ball in Puerto Rico.

Over 16 regular season games for Criollos de Caguas, a team managed by Red Sox quality control coach Ramon Vazquez, the California native slashed a modest .236/.386/.273 to go along with two doubles, six stolen bases, and 10 RBI.

Duran did turn things around in the Puerto Rican postseason by posting a 1.046 OPS en route to being named the Most Valuable Player of the league’s championship series.

The fact that Caguas won its respective league allowed the club to represent Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series, which led to Duran becoming a Caribbean League All-Star after going 10-for-25 (.400) at the plate with one double, one triple, one home run, and three RBI over seven games played.

While continuing to develop at the alternate site and in winter ball these past few months, it’s clear that Duran has grown stronger, as evidenced by his uptick in power as well as physique.

“He’s strong,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday. “That’s the Puerto Rican diet: rice and beans and chicken the whole offseason. And two brunches with the manager. I took care of that.

“Like I said earlier, he lifts, he sleeps, he eats, and he plays baseball,” continued Cora. “That’s what he does. And he enjoys it.”

It wasn’t too long ago when it seemed like Duran — who Boston took in the seventh round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Long Beach State — was going to be someone who relied on his speed more than anything. He did after all steal 46 bases between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2019.

Taking his speed into account, Cora told Duran that as a left-handed hitter, he should consider dropping down a couple of bunts because of where the Rays were positioning their third baseman.

“It’s funny, because we were talking about certain situations,” the Sox skipper said. “With the third baseman back early in the count, with his speed, it would be good for him to drop a few bunts down just to get on base. And then he hits a home run.”

Cora’s first exposure to Duran as Red Sox manager came during spring training in 2019. The speedy outfielder appeared in seven games back then, but it’s safe to say he has grown a lot in the last two years.

“He’s a lot stronger than what he was two years ago,” stated Cora. “He’s in-tune with the game, and he’s going to keep developing and he’s going to be a good one.”

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds, Duran has one of the best speed tools among Red Sox minor-leaguers, according to FanGraphs.

The second baseman-turned-outfielder is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

If all goes according to plan, Duran — who last played at Double-A Portland in 2019 — could make his major-league debut at some point this summer, if not sooner.

For now, he will have the chance to continue to dazzle the masses in Grapefruit League play in southwest Florida.

(Picture of Jarren Duran: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox make Will Venable hiring official, announce other coaching staff changes for 2021

Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s coaching staff for the upcoming 2021 season is now set.

While pitching coach Dave Bush, hitting coach Tim Hyers, assistant hitting coach Peter Fatse, first base coach Tom Goodwin, and third base coach Carlos Febles will retain the same roles they held this past season, changes have been made in other areas.

For starters, Will Venable has officially been named Red Sox bench coach after it was reported on Tuesday that he was going to get the job.

The former big-league outfielder had spent the previous three seasons as a first and third base coach with the Cubs, and he was one of several candidates who interviewed for Boston’s managerial opening last month.

That vacancy was ultimately filled by Cora, but the 38-year-old Venable now has the chance to strengthen his resume as a bench coach for the first time in his coaching career.

“Will is a bright, young mind that will add a lot to what is already a strong collection of coaches,” Cora said of Venable in a statement released by the team earlier Friday.

With Venable succeeding Jerry Narron, who succeeded Ron Roenicke, as bench coach, the Red Sox also named Jason Varitek as the club’s new game-planning coordinator.

For the past eight years, Varitek had been working for the Red Sox in a special assistant/catching coach capacity. He, like new quality control coach/interpreter Ramon Vazquez, will now step into more significant roles within the organization moving forward.

“I am also pleased that both Jason and Ramón will step forward and play larger roles for us,” Cora added.

Finally, Kevin Walker, who was named assistant pitching coach under Bush last October, has been named the Sox’ new bullpen coach. That position opened up when Craig Bjornson was let go by the club last month.

With his promotion, it would appear that the Red Sox could be in need of a new assistant pitching coach to take over for Walker unless they otherwise choose not to carry one next year.

That being said, Cora seems pleased with his new-look coaching staff as he prepares to embark on his second stint as Red Sox skipper.

“I am thrilled to have so many great baseball minds on our staff,” he said, “and I look forward to their contributions as we set out to achieve our goals.”

Top Red Sox Outfield Prospect Jarren Duran Set To Play Winter Ball in Puerto Rico

Top Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran will be competing in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in Puerto Rico this winter for Los Criollos de Caguas, the club announced earlier Tuesday.

Duran, who turned 24 last month, is regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 8 overall prospect and top outfield prospect.

The 2018 seventh-round draft pick out of Long Beach State was added to the Sox’ player pool back in July and put on quite a show at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket in what would have been his second full minor-league season.

In joining Caguas, Duran will be managed by Red Sox coach Ramon Vazquez, while Alex Cora’s brother-in-law Jesus Feliciano serves as the team’s general manager.

“Jarren Duran has a great chance to play in the big leagues next year. A player who has hit for average, has strength and has stolen 70 bases in his two seasons as a professional,” Feliciano said (in Spanish) of the speedy outfielder. “He is a versatile player who we are going to like a lot because of the strong way he plays and he will help us with the experienced outfielders we have on our team.”

According to FanGraphs, Duran, who has swiped 70 bags in 199 career minor-league games, has the second-best speed tool (70) in the Sox’ farm system behind only fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (80).

With that speed, as well as the uptick in power he put on display at McCoy Stadium, the California native may have a legitimate shot to crack Boston’s Opening Day roster come next spring.

Many around the organization seem impressed with what they have seen out of Duran in the relatively short period of time he has been a professional. Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon is no exception.

“He had an unbelievable offensive camp. Stole a lot of bases, hit a lot of home runs. Impacted the baseball hard day in and day out,” McMillon said of Duran earlier this month. “I think he continues to get better in the outfield and as that continues to get better, I think that’s going to help clear the path for him. He’s okay, he’s solid, but you can see there’s some room for improvement there. We did some things working on footwork and routes to balls and he kind of cleaned that up a little bit. For me, the question is, can he do that consistently? If he hits a lull with his offense, is he going to stay as positive as we was all camp? I never saw him down during the camp. He hit really well for the entirety of the camp. He’s a very intriguing, very interesting guy.”

Because of what he did in Pawtucket this summer, the Red Sox likely felt that Duran did not need to attend fall instructs, which are currently underway in Fort Myers. Instead, the young speed merchant will take the field for Los Criollos de Caguas down in Puerto Rico in the coming weeks.

Barring any COVID-19-related setbacks, the 2020-2021 Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente season should begin sometime in mid-November.