Red Sox release Hirokazu Sawamura

The Red Sox have released veteran reliever Hirokazu Sawamura, the club announced earlier Sunday afternoon.

Sawamura was designated for assignment in late August, but the right-hander cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Worcester. After appearing in just one game for the WooSox last week, however, he asked for and was granted his release to pursue other opportunities, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Boston originally signed Sawamura to a two-year, $3 million deal with Boston last February that included a dual club/player option for 2023 and a $1 million buyout.

After spending the first 10 seasons of his pro career with the Yomiuri Giants and Chiba Lotte Marines of Nippon Professional Baseball, Sawamura made his major-league debut for the Red Sox last April. The Japanese-born righty posted a 3.06 ERA and 5.00 FIP with 61 strikeouts to 32 walks over 55 relief appearances spanning 53 innings of work. He also got into three games during the American League Championship Series against the Astros.

This season, Sawamura produced a 3.73 ERA and 4.17 FIP to go along with 40 strikeouts to 27 walks across 49 relief outings (50 2/3 innings). While those numbers are certainly respectable, the 34-year-old hurler had struggled to a 6.46 ERA in 15 appearances since the All-Star break and a 5.83 ERA at Fenway Park.

When he was outrighted to Worcester on Aug. 31, it appeared as though Sawamura would provide the Red Sox with experienced bullpen depth while still potentially being in the club’s plans next season on account of that dual option.

Instead, Sawawmura will now look to latch on with another organization or perhaps even return to Japan. Either way, he will head to free agency after collecting his $1 million buyout from the Red Sox.

(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox release Brandon Howlett

The Red Sox have released minor-league third baseman/right fielder Brandon Howlett, according to the team’s transactions log.

Howlett, who turns 23 next month, was originally selected by Boston in the 21st round of the 2018 amateur draft out George Jenkins High School in Lakeland, Fla. He forwent his commitment to Florida State University by signing with the Sox for $185,000.

After putting together a decent season (117 wRC+ in 96 games) with High-A Greenville in 2021, Howlett broke camp this spring with Double-A Portland. But the right-handed hitter struggled to the tune of a .167/.278/.205 slash line in 27 games (90 plate appearances) with the Sea Dogs before getting demoted back to Greenville in early June.

Following that demotion, Howlett fared better in his return to the Drive by batting .194/.378/.379 with 10 doubles, three home runs, 12 RBIs, and 16 runs scored over 34 games (135 plate appearances). Although he managed to get on base more via ball four, Howlett was still striking out at a near-35 percent clip, which is among the highest marks for South Atlantic League Hitters who have made at least 130 trips to the plate to this point in the season.

Between the strikeout issues and the recent promotions of fellow infielders Marcelo Mayer and Blaze Jordan from Low-A Salem, Howlett’s future with the Red Sox became bleak enough to the point where he was officially cut loose on Wednesday.

In the four-plus years he spent with Boston, Howlett peaked as the organization’s 14th-ranked prospect in 2019, per Baseball America. He was also Baseball America’s 20th-ranked Red Sox prospect in 2020 before being dropped from the list altogether last year.

(Picture of Brandon Howlett: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Former Red Sox Catcher Blake Swihart Released by Rangers

Former Red Sox catcher and top prospect Blake Swihart has been released by the Rangers, the club announced Tuesday.

Swihart, 28, originally signed a minor-league pact with Texas back in December after spending the first eight-plus years of his professional career with Boston.

Last April, the Red Sox designated Swihart, a former 2011 first-round draft pick, and dealt him to the Diamondbacks in exchange for outfield prospect Marcus Wilson.

The New Mexico native appeared in 30 games for Arizona from April 22 until May 31, going a measly 9-for-64 at the plate (.141) with three home runs and nine RBI before getting placed on the injured list with an oblique strain.

From there, Swihart was eventually activated from the IL on August 7, got into one game on August 11 against the Dodgers where he went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts off the bench, and was subsequently DFA’d a day later.

After clearing waivers and getting outrighted, the one-time University of Texas commit played 16 games and posted a .143/.234/.304 slash line for the DBacks’ Triple-A affiliate in Reno from the middle of August until the beginning of September. At that point, Swihart opted to become a free agent, leading to his joining the Rangers on a minor-league contract, as previously mentioned.

In his brief stint with Texas, Swihart had a decent spring training, going 5-for-16 at the plate with one home run and four RBI prior to the COVID-19-induced shutdown.

Assigned to the Rangers’ alternate training site last month, Swihart had been one of four non-roster backstops in Texas’ 60-man player pool.

Now a free agent for the second time in 11 months, Swihart will have the opportunity to sign wherever he so chooses depending on how much interest he garners on the open market.

Red Sox Grant Left-Hander Brian Johnson His Release

Following up on this story from earlier Monday, the Red Sox have granted left-hander Brian Johnson his unconditional release, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and Christopher Smith.

As previously mentioned, Johnson had departed from the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket to return to his home in Florida.

Although it appeared as though he could have been opting out of the 2020 season at the time that news was originally reported, it now looks like Johnson is unhappy with his role within the Red Sox organization more than anything.

That being the case because, despite having one of the more unstable starting rotations in the American League, the Sox have yet to give Johnson another shot at the major-league level this season.

The 29-year-old southpaw was outrighted off the 40-man roster and demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket last November following a shaky 2019 campaign, but after putting together a decent spring training and Summer Camp as a non-roster invitee, it seemed like Johnson had a legitimate shot to make Boston’s Opening Day roster last month.

Instead, the Florida native was assigned to the alternate training site at McCoy Stadium, was limited to simulated games and live BPs, and must have had enough of that once he realized he was listed relatively low on the Sox’ internal starting pitching depth chart.

Now, with his release being made official, Johnson will be free to pursue a new opportunity with another club if he so chooses.

Originally drafted by Boston in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft out of the University of Florida, Johnson had spent the previous eight-plus years in the Red Sox organization. He will be missed.

Red Sox Cut Ties With Knuckleballer Steven Wright

The Red Sox announced on Friday that right-handed pitcher Steven Wright had been released from their active roster.

Wright, 33, had been viewed as a likely non-tender candidate this winter, as he was projected to earn $1.5 million in salary arbitration for the 2020 season.

The knuckleballer has dealt with his fair share of issues, both on and off the field, the last two years.

Prior to the start of the 2018 campaign, Wright was handed down a 15-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy stemming from an arrest in December of 2017.

And just this past March, Wright was once again suspended, this time for 80 games due to violating the league’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program by testing positive for Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide 2 (GHRP-2).

In 81 career outings (44 starts) for the Red Sox, Wright posted an ERA of 3.86, a FIP of 4.46, and WHIP of 1.33 over 347 2/3 total innings of work.

He made his first and only All-Star team in 2016 but only managed to appear in a total of 31 games in the following three seasons leading to his release on Friday.