Eduardo Rodriguez Continues to Impress With 10 Strikeouts Over Four Scoreless Innings as Red Sox Top Rays to Win Fourth Straight

After pitching came through in a 3-2 victory over the Cardinals on Tuesday, the Red Sox extended their winning streak to four and improved to 9-10-2 in Grapefruit League play on Wednesday following a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte.

Making his third start of the spring for Boston in this one was Eduardo Rodriguez, who appears to be in line to get the Opening Day nod from interim manager Ron Roenicke despite no official announcement being made yet.

Tossing four full innings for the second time in a row, the left-hander impressed by keeping the Rays off the scoreboard despite scattering six hits and one walk. 10 of the 12 outs he recorded came by way of the strikeout.

As those numbers suggest, Rodriguez did deal with his fair share of traffic on the base paths on Wednesday, but the majority of the trouble he faced came with two outs in an inning, so he was able to work his way around it.

The 26-year-old capped off his night by fanning the last two Rays he faced in the fourth to finish with a final pitch count of exactly 80. His next outing should come on Monday against the Pirates.

In relief of Rodriguez, Ryan Brasier got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the fifth, and he tossed a perfect frame in his fourth appearance of the spring.

From there, Heath Hembree put together his first scoreless appearance of the spring in the sixth, Austin Brice worked his way around a leadoff single in an otherwise clean seventh, Domingo Tapia served up a solo home run to Brian O’Grady in the eighth, and Kevin Lenik allowed the go-ahead run to come to the plate on a two-out walk and single before escaping the jam to secure the 3-1 win for his side.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Kevin Pillar, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Michael Chavis, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jonathan Lucroy, Jose Peraza, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Rusney Castillo was matched up against Rays left-handed pitching prospect Shane McClanahan to begin things on Wednesday.

Nothing came against McClanahan in his 1 1/3 innings of work, and it was not until the top half of the third when the Boston bats livened up.

There, three straight two-out hits from the 3-4-5 hitters off of Dylan Covey resulted in the Sox driving in their first run of the night, with Bradley Jr. plating Bogaerts from second on an RBI single up the middle.

Lucroy followed suit a few moments later with an RBI base hit of his own, with this one scoring Chavis from second to make it a 2-0 contest early.

Fast forward to the fifth, and it was Bradley Jr. getting the job done with two outs once more, as he drove in Chavis from second on an RBI double to left off new Rays reliever Anthony Banda.

That two-base hit put the Red Sox up 3-0, and after Tampa Bay pushed across a run of their own in the eighth, 3-1 would go on to be Wednesday’s final score at Charlotte Sports Park.

Some observations from this win:

The Red Sox have won four straight Grapefruit League contests. They have a run differential of +5 over that span.

Austin Brice has yet to give up a run this spring and appears to be a lock to make the Opening Day roster as a bullpen option.

Jose Peraza played left field.

Jonathan Lucroy on Wednesday: 2-for-2 with one walk and one RBI.

Kevin Plawecki, off the bench, on Wednesday: 1-for-2 with a double.

Xander Bogaerts recorded his first hit of the spring on a third-inning single.

Jackie Bradley Jr. owns an OPS of 1.141 through 31 plate appearances this spring.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s their first off day of the spring on Thursday before taking on this same Rays club back at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez is slated to start for Boston, while Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter.

Perez put together his best outing of the spring in his last time out against the Twins this past Sunday as he punched out seven over four scoreless frames of work.

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

Andrew Benintendi Homers, Nathan Eovaldi Impresses, and Other Observations From Monday’s Red Sox Split-Squad Action

After suffering their first loss of the spring at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, the Red Sox partook in some split-squad action on Monday, sending one group of players right down the road to take on the Twins at Hammond Stadium, and another to Port Charlotte to take on the Rays.

Starting with the contest against Minnesota, Nathan Eovaldi got his first start of the spring for Boston, and he impressed.

Working the first two frames, the right-hander scattered two hits and zero walks while fanning four of the final five hitters he faced on the afternoon. His four-seam fastball also reached upwards of 100 MPH on the radar gun.

From there, left-hander Kyle Hart yielded three runs on a pair of homers off the bats of Gilberto Celestino and Nelson Cruz in an ugly third, Hector Velazquez and Trevor Hildenberger combined to toss four total innings of scoreless relief, and Robinson Leyer worked his way around a leadoff walk in an otherwise clean bottom half of the eighth to keep it at a one-run game going into the ninth.

So, outside of a bad first impression from Hart, who like Chris Mazza is vying for a spot in the Sox’ starting rotation, not a terrible day for pitching.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured plenty of regulars was matched up against newest Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda to begin things on Monday.

Andrew Benintendi did not waste any time greeting Maeda, as Boston’s leadoff man unloaded on a 1-0 fastball and pulled it deep to right for his first big fly of the spring.

That solo shot gave Boston an early advantage, but they were unable to immediately counter after Minnesota tacked on three runs of their own in the third.

It wasn’t until the top half of the ninth when the Sox bats finally got going again, when after reaching base on a one-out double, Roldani Baldwin advanced to third on a wild pitch from Twins reliever Charlie Barnes.

A grounder off the bat of Pedro Castellanos could have gone for the second out of the frame, but a fielding error committed by third baseman Cody Asche allowed Baldwin to score from third and Castellanos to reach first safely.

A Brett Netzer single following a Tate Matheny punchout put the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at first with two outs for Ryan Fitzgerald, who proceeded to ground out to short for the final out of the contest, although he did nearly beat the throw, to wrap this one up with a final score of 3-2.

Traveling north to Port Charlotte now, it was top pitching prospect Tanner Houck getting the start for the Red Sox against the Rays.

The 23-year-old right-hander was temporarily converted to a reliever last year while in the minors, but after going back to starting in the Arizona Fall League, that appears to be the way things are heading in terms of Houck’s development.

Like Eovaldi, Houck worked the first two innings of Monday’s contest, holding Tampa Bay off the scoreboard while scattering one hit and two walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

With the first two hitters he faced reaching base on a leadoff double and walk in the first, it did not look like things were going to go too swimmingly for Houck, but the Illinois native was able to get back on track with the help of an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play and he did not have to look back from there.

In relief of Houck, left-hander Jeffrey Spring yielded one run on a solo home run off the bat of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo over two innings of work, Austin Brice fanned four of the eight hitters he faced from the start of the fifth up until the two-out mark of the sixth, when Rio Gomez came on, walked two to load the bases, and escaped the jam by getting Rene Pinto to line out to left.

From there, R.J. Alvarez sat down the side in order in the seventh, left-hander Daniel McGrath surrendered the tying run on a wild pitch in the eighth, and Eduard Bazardo secured the 2-2 tie by stranding the potential winning run at second in a scoreless ninth.

Again, outside of a few tough innings, not a terrible showing from Sox pitching as a whole.

Offensively, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured names such as Jose Peraza, Tzu-Wei Lin, Michael Chavis, Kevin Plawecki, Jeter Downs, and Jarren Duran was matched up against a familiar opponent in right-hander Yonny Chirinos for Tampa Bay.

Peraza kicked things off right away in the first by reaching base on a leadoff single and coming around to score on an RBI base knock from Plawecki three at-bats later. 1-0.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, and it was top outfield prospect Jarren Duran setting the table against Rays reliever Dylan Covey, as he led the inning off with a single up the middle, advanced to second on another single from Lin, and tagged up to third on a lineout to left field off the bat of Michael Chavis. That is not an easy thing to do.

So, with runners at the corners and two outs in the frame, the pinch-hitting Juan Centeno came to the plate with the chance to put his side in front, and he did just that without even having to swing his bat, as Covey attempted to pick off Lin at first with an errant throw that got past Tristan Gray and allowed Duran to coast in from third.

That beneficial mishap gave the Sox their second lead of the afternoon at 2-1, but the Rays staged a mini-rally of their own to knot things back up at 2-2, which would go on to be Monday’s final score upon the completion of nine full innings.

Some observations from Monday’s tie and loss:

As the leading candidate to lead off for the Red Sox in the wake of Mookie Betts’ departure, it was nice to see Andrew Benintendi crush a leadoff homer against the Twins.

Through five plate appearances this spring, Jarren Duran has an OPS of 1.600. Those numbers may not carry much weight, but I will stick to what I said Sunday in that the 23-year-old is one of the most exciting Red Sox prospects to watch.

If the Red Sox intend to compete in 2020, they will need Nathan Eovaldi to fully contribute to the cause. Monday’s start was a promising step in the right direction, hopefully.

Through their first four Grapefruit League contests, the Red Sox have combined to score 13 total runs.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host a split-squad Orioles team on Tuesday afternoon at JetBlue Park.

Right-hander Ryan Weber is slated to get the start for Boston, while fellow righty Kohl Stewart will do the same for Baltimore.

Weber is another candidate for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation. The 29-year-old did start three games for Boston last year.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. It doesn’t look like this game will be televised at all.

Josh Ockimey Homers as Red Sox Fall to Orioles in First Loss of Spring

After opening up Grapefruit League play with a 4-3 win over the Rays on Saturday, the Red Sox took to the road for the first time this spring and fell to the Orioles in Sarosata by a final score of 11-5.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston was Chris Mazza, who was originally scheduled to pitch in relief of Eduardo Rodriguez, but because Rodriguez was pushed back a day due to left knee soreness, Mazza got the nod from interim manager Ron Roenicke.

Working the first two innings of this one, the right-hander yielded one earned run on three hits and two walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

That one O’s run came in the bottom half of the second, when after working his way around a bases-loaded jam in the first, Mazza allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach base, setting up Stevie Wilkerson to knock in his side’s first tally on an RBI groundout to short.

The 30-year-old Mazza did manage to escape the second without giving anything else up, but it was far from a solid first impression for someone vying for a spot in the Sox’ starting rotation.

From there, pitching did not get any easier for Boston, as newly-acquired left-hander Matt Hall surrendered a pair of runs in the third, Emmanuel De Jesus tossed a scoreless fourth, Bobby Poyner and Yoan Aybar gave up another pair of runs each in the fifth and sixth, Jhonathan Diaz was only able to record the first two outs of the seventh while being walloped for four runs (three earned), Adam Lau retired the only hitter he faced to record the final out of the seventh, and Konner Wade worked a perfect eighth to at least end things on a somewhat positive note.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to surrender 11 runs on 15 hits and eight walks over eight total innings of work. It’s only the beginning stages of spring training, but that does not make those numbers any easier to look at.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured several regulars on Saturday did not look quite the same on Sunday.

A familiar foe in left-hander Wade LeBlanc started things out for the Orioles by working two scoreless frames, and it wasn’t until the top half of the fourth when the Boston bats finally got going.

There, top outfield prospect Jarren Duran led things off against new O’s reliever Brandon Bailey by lacing a leadoff triple to the deepest part of the yard in center field, mere feet away from his first home run of the spring.

That brought Kevin Plawecki to the plate with the chance to make an impact as he vies for the backup catcher spot, and he did just that by driving in Duran from third on an RBI groundout to first. 3-1.

Fast forward all the way to the top half of the ninth, with this one already well out of reach, and the Sox staged a rally similar to the one the Rays put on against them the day prior.

A leadoff double off the bat of Cole Sturgeon, followed by a walk drawn by Ryan Fitzgerald put runners in scoring position with no outs for Tate Matheny.

Matheny may have struck out, but a wild pitch from Orioles hurler Evan Phillips during his at-bat allowed Sturgeon and Matheny to advance 90 feet for Nick Longhi.

Phillips’ wildness persisted, as Sturgeon crossed the plate on another wild pitch and Fitzgerald scored on a run-scoring groundout from Longhi. 11-3.

A walk drawn by the pinch-hitting Keith Curcio marked the conclusion of Phillips’ day for Baltimore, and in came right-hander Francisco Jimenez to replace him.

Jimenez was promptly greeted by slugging first baseman Josh Ockimey, who unloaded on a 2-0 fastball down the heart of the plate and deposited it deep over the fence in right field for the Red Sox’ first home run of the spring.

That two-run blast cut Boston’s deficit to six runs at 11-5, which would go on to be Sunday’s final score after the rally was cut short.

Some notes from this loss:

The Red Sox will not go the entire year without a loss.

Jarren Duran is emerging as one of the more exciting players to watch on this team this spring. With his speed and athleticism, it’s easy to see why he was selected to the Futures Game last year.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s some split-squad action on Monday against the Rays and Twins.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will get the start against Minnesota at the nearby CenturyLink Sports Complex, while top right-handed pitching prospect Tanner Houck will do the same against Tampa Bay in Port Charlotte.

Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, will throw a simulated game on one of the Fenway South back fields on Monday.

For the Twins, it will be right-hander Kenta Maeda getting the start. And for the Rays, it will be righty Yonny Chirinos.

First pitch for both contests is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST, although neither game will be on NESN.

Red Sox Open Grapefruit League Play With 4-3 Win Over Rays

After opening up their spring with a 3-0 seven-inning win over the Northeastern Huskies on Friday, the Red Sox kicked it up a notch and began Grapefruit League play with a tight 4-3 victory over the Rays at JetBlue Park on Saturday.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston in this one was Brian Johnson, who is now off the Sox’ 40-man roster and is at big-league camp as a non-roster invite.

The left-hander only worked the first inning Saturday, and he capped a perfect opening frame off with his only strikeout of the afternoon.

From there, top pitching prospect Bryan Mata worked his way around a one-out single and walk drawn by the Rays with the help of an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play in the second, Colten Brewer fanned three and plunked another in a scoreless third, lefty Josh Osich retired all three hitters he faced in order in the fourth, Mike Kickham got himself out of a bases-loaded jam and kept Tampa Bay off the board in the fifth, Mike Shawaryn punched out one and stranded another in a quick sixth frame, Domingo Tapia did the same in the seventh, and Matthew Kent held his own in the eighth.

By the time this contest reached the beginning of the ninth, the Red Sox had themselves a brand new four-run lead to work with while Kent came back out for his second inning of work.

Despite that comfortable cushion, things did get tight, as the Rays pushed across three runs against Kent and Matthew Gorst before right fielder Tyler Esplin put an end to things on a fly ball off the bat of Vidal Brujan with two outs in the frame.

Had he misjudged the trajectory of the ball, Ryan LaMarre, who was on first, would have more than likely scored and we would have had ourselves a whole new ballgame. Instead, the 2017 seventh-round pick put his athleticism on full display to secure the 4-3 win for his side.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup featured plenty of regulars to begin things on Saturday.

Andrew Benintendi led things off in the first with a single en route to a 1-for-2 day at the plate, Jackie Bradley Jr. fanned twice, J.D. Martnez went 0-for-1 with a walk, Michael Chavis punched out in each of his two plate appearances, Kevin Pillar, Jose Peraza, and top prospect Bobby Dalbec all went 0-for-2, Tzu-Wei Lin went 1-for-2 with a leadoff single in the third, and catcher Jett Bandy followed that with a single of his own in his lone plate appearance of the afternoon.

Similar to Friday’s opener, it was another quiet day for the Boston bats. In fact, it wasn’t until the bottom of the fifth when they finally pushed a run across.

There, with two outs and a runner on second following a walk and wild pitch, Brett Netzer drove in his side’s first run on an RBI pop-up single off of Joe Ryan that did not travel further than the outskirts of the left side of the infield.

A ball that probably should have been caught instead went for a hit, and since there were two outs, the runner, Josh Ockimey, was able to score all the way from second because of it. 1-0.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, and back-to-back run-scoring knocks off the bats of Jagger Rusconi and Nick Lovullo with one out increased that advantage up to three runs.

A walk drawn by Dylan Hardy put runners on the corners for Grant Williams, who grounded out to second base off new Rays reliever Phoenix Sanders while Lovullo scored from third. However, Hardy tried to advance to third on the play and he was tagged out, thus ending the inning with Boston up 4-0.

A late rally from the Rays would threaten that lead, but the Red Sox were able to hold on by the skin of their teeth to take their Grapefruit League opener by a final score of 4-3.

Some notes from this win:

Spring training numbers don’t really matter, so I’ll just say that the Red Sox are undefeated in 2020. Haha!

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll travel out to Sarasota to take on the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez was slated to start for Boston, but he has since been pushed back a day after twisting his left knee in a bullpen session on Wednesday. Instead, right-hander Chris Mazza will get the starting nod.

Claimed off waivers from the Mets back in December, Mazza is in the mix for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke.

Veteran left-hander Wade LeBlanc will start for Baltimore.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN.

Potential Red Sox Target Sergio Romo Goes Back to Twins on One-Year Deal

The Minnesota Twins have reportedly brought back right-handed reliever Sergio Romo on a one-year deal, $5 million deal that includes a club option for 2021, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Romo was seen as someone the Red Sox had interest in as recently as last week, but the 36-year-old ultimately winds up back with the club that acquired him from the Miami Marlins this past July.

In 65 relief appearances between Miami and Minnesota in 2019, Romo posted a 3.43 ERA and 3.68 FIP over 60 1/3 innings pitched.

Before that, the California native spent the latter half of the 2017 season and all off 2018 with the Rays, where he became the team’s first “opener” and started five games in ’18.

That’s where the Red Sox-related speculation comes in. Because at the time Romo was traded from the Dodgers to Tampa Bay in July 2017, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was serving as the Rays’ senior vice president of baseball operations.

In addition to that connection, Bloom’s right-hand man and Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran said during last week’s Winter Meetings that an opener is something Boston would be “open-minded” about.

Obviously, Romo is out of the question now, but that should not stop Bloom and Co. from pursuing other bullpen options that could also open for the Red Sox when needed.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Eric Sogard

With All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal signing a four-year, $73 million deal with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, it appears that baseball’s offseason is truly about to begin.

Unlike years past under Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox will more than likely not be pursuing these kind of big splashes this winter. Instead, new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is tasked with trying to trim Boston’s payroll under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, all while keeping the club relatively competitive heading into the 2020 season.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo composed a list of 46 free agents, three of whom played for the Sox in 2019, that Bloom and co. could go after to fill some holes in their roster.

One player that stuck out to me on that list was utility infielder Eric Sogard. Why? Because as Cotillo indicates, the 33-year-old veteran can play multiple positions, bats left-handed, and spent the last two months of the 2019 season with the Tampa Bay Rays after coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in late July.

That trade with Toronto took place while Bloom was still serving under general manager Erik Neander with the Rays, so perhaps there is a connection there.

Numbers wise, Sogard slashed .290/.353/.457 with a career-best 13 home runs and 40 RBI over 110 total games between Toronto and Tampa Bay in 2019. He also missed time in September due to a deep bone bruise on his right foot.

The scenario of the Sox signing Sogard probably only takes place if Brock Holt signs elsewhere as a free agent himself this winter, and since Holt put together an impressive 2019 campaign, he more than likely played himself out of the Sox’ price range.

Even if Sogard is considered a fit, the Red Sox also have other internal options to fill the hole at second base alongside Dustin Pedroia in 2020, including C.J. Chatham, Michael Chavis, Marco Hernandez, and Tzu-Wei Lin to name a few.

Also, I failed to mention this earlier, but “Nerd Power” is a pretty good nickname, too.

Red Sox Formally Introduce Chaim Bloom as Their New Chief Baseball Officer

The Red Sox officially named Chaim Bloom as their new chief baseball officer on Monday afternoon through a press conference that featured Bloom himself, principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and team president Sam Kennedy. Brian O’Halloran was also formally promoted to general manager, marking the first time Boston has had a GM since 2016.

“We’ve tried to keep up with the change in nature of the baseball operations landscape,” Kennedy said of Bloom’s new title. “We value the collaboration and brainpower and institutional knowledge that our incredible team of baseball operations folks have.”

In his new role with his new organization, Bloom, who is coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays after 15 seasons working various roles, most recently as senior vice president of baseball operations, will have plenty of tough decisions to make right from the jump.

The futures of two Red Sox All-Stars, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, are among those, with Betts having one year remaining in arbitration before reaching free agency for the first time next winter, and Martinez having five days to decide whether or not to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million on his current contract once the World Series comes to a close later this week.

“Our top priority is sustainability and competitiveness over the long term,” Bloom said when asked about Betts and Martinez. “That can take many forms but that’s really going to be the top priority. There’s a lot I don’t know. I’m just coming in here. So I’m looking forward to building relationships with them.”

The theories surrounding what the Sox plan to do with Betts has been a hot topic since the club’s 2019 season ended last month. So much so that Henry discussed it, as well as Martinez’s situation, when describing what the interview process with Bloom was like.

“We talked about that there are a lot of tough decisions to make during this offseason. That’s not uncommon,” Henry said. “We talked about Mookie, J.D. other issues, but we didn’t focus on what should we do.”

As has already been indicated by Red Sox ownership, it is a goal, not a mandate, to get the team’s 2020 payroll under the $208 million luxury tax threshold. Betts, who is projected to earn $27.7 million in his final year of salary arbitration, and Martinez, who would earn $23.75 million next year if he opts in, would account for approximately 24.7% of that $208 million.

“You’re going to look at a number of factors,” said Henry. “Including where Mookie wants to play in the long-term.”

If the Red Sox were to offer Betts a contract extension and the 27-year-old were to turn it down, a trade would not be out of the question. Bloom did discuss how integral a quality farm system is for a team’s long-term success. Even with one year left of team control, Betts still could garner a hefty return in terms of prospects in a potential trade.

How Bloom makes his mark in his tenure with the Red Sox will be something to pay attention to for the foreseeable future. Someone who came up in a club with limited financial resources now has a great deal more to work with. How he utilizes those will be worth monitoring as Boston heads towards an offseason full of uncertainties.