Red Sox promote hard-throwing relief prospect Franklin German to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have promoted relief prospect Franklin German from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Worcester, per the team’s transaction log.

German, 24, has posted a 3.18 ERA and 2.21 FIP with 18 strikeouts to three walks over 11 relief appearances spanning 11 1/3 innings of work out of Portland’s bullpen this season. The right-hander’s sixth and seventh outings of the year were separated by more than two weeks (April 26 to May 13) due to a non-baseball related issue.

Among Eastern League pitchers who have accrued at least 10 innings on the mound in 2022, German ranks 15th in strikeouts per nine innings (14.29), 11th in strikeout rate (39.1%), 13th in swinging strike rate (18.6%), 21st in batting average against (.154), 11th in WHIP (0.79), and 17th in FIP, per FanGraphs.

Originally selected by the Yankees in the fourth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of North Florida, German was dealt to the Red Sox in the same trade that sent veteran reliever Adam Ottavino to Boston last January.

Traditionally a starting pitcher throughout his professional career to that point, German opened the 2021 campaign in Portland’s starting rotation. But he struggled to the tune of a 5.45 ERA across his first 19 appearances (18 starts) of the season before moving to the Sea Dogs’ bullpen on a full-time basis in late August.

Since then, German has found success as a reliever that can mainly be attributed to an uptick in velocity. Last year, the 6-foot-2, 195 pound righty sat in the low-to-mid 90s as a starter. Upon transitioning to the ‘pen, he began reaching 97-98 mph while topping out at 99-102 mph with his fastball.

Because of this, German has caught the attention of Alex Cora and is firmly on the Red Sox manager’s “watchlist,” according to The Athletic’s Peter Gammons.

German, who turns 25 in September, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 30 prospect in Boston’s farm system. In addition to his high-octane fastball, the hard-throwing hurler also works with a changeup and slider.

By being promoted to Triple-A, German will join a WooSox bullpen that includes the likes of Eduard Bazardo, Silvino Bracho, Ryan Brasier, Taylor Cole, Michael Feliz, Durbin Feltman, Geoff Hartlieb, Zack Kelly, Kaleb Ort, A.J. Politi (who was promoted last week), and Phillips Valdez.

German’s promotion comes at an interesting time when you consider the fact that he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter. The Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by the November deadline in order to proect him, so they could be using this as an opportunity to give German an extended look at the next level before making a decision regarding his future.

(Picture of Franklin German: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox relief prospect A.J. Politi continues to impress out of the bullpen with Double-A Portland

Red Sox relief prospect A.J. Politi picked up his third save of the season in Double-A Portland’s 4-0 victory over the Hartford Yard Goats on Wednesday night.

Politi, 25, recorded the final four outs of Wednesday’s contest at Dunkin’ Donuts Park while allowing one hit and one walk to go along with three strikeouts on 25 pitches — 15 of which were strikes.

Through 10 relief appearances for the Sea Dogs this year, the right-hander has posted a miniscule 1.50 ERA and 2.76 FIP with 18 strikeouts to just three walks over 12 innings of work.

Among Eastern League pitchers who have accrued at least 10 innings to this point in the season, Politi ranks tied for 15th in strikeouts per nine innings (13.5), tied for 21st in walks per nine innings (2.25), tied for 13th in strikeout rate (38.3%), 20th in swinging strike rate (17.4%), tied for 22nd in walk rate (6.4%), 20th in batting average against (.143), tied four fourth in WHIP (0.75), tied for 20th in ERA, 29th in FIP, and 10th in xFIP (2.43), per FanGraphs.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 15th round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Seton Hall University, Politi has been used as both a starter and reliever throughout his professional career.

Last year, for instance, the New Jersey native opened the 2021 season in Portland’s starting rotation but struggled to the tune of a 7.01 ERA over 15 starts spanning 61 2/3 innings. He was moved to the Sea Dogs’ bullpen on a full-time basis in September, made 11 relief appearances for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League, and really has not looked back since.

Listed at 6-feet and 195 pounds, Politi operates with a max-effort delivery and works with four different pitches: a mid-90s fastball, a high-80s slider, a lower-80s curveball, and a changeup. His fastball is his best pitch.

Politi, who turns 26 next month, is currently regarded by FanGraphs as the No. 46 prospect and by SoxProspects.com as the No. 54 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Given his age, it seems like Politi should be primed for a mid-season promotion to Triple-A Worcester if he keeps pitching the way he has been for Portland. The righty can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter and could be a prime relief target for other clubs if he is not added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November deadline.

(Picture of A.J. Politi: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox relief prospect Jacob Webb has struck out 24 of the first 56 batters he has faced with Low-A Salem this season

Red Sox relief prospect Jacob Webb picked up his second save of the season in Low-A Salem’s 1-0 win over the Delmarva Shorebirds on Tuesday afternoon.

Getting the call for the ninth inning, Webb needed just nine pitches — seven of which were strikes — to retire the side in order while also recording two punchouts.

Through 10 relief appearances for Salem this year, the right-hander has posted a 2.84 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and .191/.321/.234 slash line against to go along with 24 strikeouts to eight walks over 12 2/3 innings of work. In other words, he has struck out nearly 43% of the batters he has faced thus far, but is doing so while issuing walks at a 14.3% clip.

Webb, 23, was taken by the Red Sox in the 14th round of last year’s amateur draft out of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The Dayton-area native signed with Boston for $122,500 and made his professional debut in the Florida Complex League that August.

After just two outings in the FCL, Webb earned a promotion to Salem and has since produced a 1.99 ERA in 16 cumulative appearances (22 2/3 innings pitched) for the Sox’ Low-A affiliate.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Webb is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 56 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks 24th among pitchers in the organization. Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the righty throws from a low three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 92-94 mph fastball, an 81-85 mph slider, and a rarely-used changeup.

If Webb, who does not turn 24 until next March, can continue to string together impressive outings out of the bullpen for Salem, then another promotion to High-A Greenville at some point this summer would certainly seem to be within his grasp.

(Picture of Jacob Webb: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox’ Josh Taylor suffers setback while rehabbing from back strain

Red Sox reliever Josh Taylor suffered a setback while rehabbing his back injury and has been temporarily shut down from throwing, manager Alex Cora announced before Tuesday’s game against the Angels at Fenway Park.

Taylor, who had been out on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester, is back with the Red Sox to receive treatment and undergo tests in Boston.

When speaking with reporters (including MassLive.com’s Cotillo) on Tuesday, Cora revealed that Taylor’s back locked up on him recently, leaving the team with no choice but to return him from his rehab assignment.

“He had a setback a few days ago,” Cora said. “Feels better today, but of course, we had to take him off his rehab assignment. We’re going through testing and all that stuff. We’ll know more during the week.”

Taylor began the season on the 10-day injured list due to a low back strain that first began bothering him last September and was first sent out on a rehab assignment with Worcester on April 17. The left-hander got the start for the WooSox against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at Polar Park that afternoon and allowed one run (on a solo home run) in his lone inning of work. He was then shut down for the next six days after being identified as a close contact to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.

On April 24, Taylor returned to the mound — this time for Double-A Portland — and once again served as an opener. The 29-year-old surrendered two runs on three hits and one strikeout while recording the first two outs of the Sea Dogs’ 13-5 win over the Binghamton Rumble Ponies at Hadlock Field. Three days later, he was back in action for the WooSox and tossed a scoreless fifth inning in the second game of a doubleheader against the Buffalo Bisons.

Since then, Taylor has not appeared in a game and is not close to doing so anytime soon. As noted by Cotillo, Cora previously said the hope was for Taylor to make five or six rehab outings before being activated, so the southpaw will presumably need to start from scratch once he is cleared to resume throwing.

“Let’s see how it goes in the upcoming days and how it goes with testing and all that stuff,” said Cora. “Then we’ll decide what we do with him.”

(Picture of Josh Taylor: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Garrett Whitlock to make third start of season for Red Sox against Angels on Wednesday

Garrett Whitlock will make his third start of the season for the Red Sox in Wednesday night’s game against the Angels at Fenway Park, manager Alex Cora said Saturday.

After opening the year in Boston’s bullpen as a multi-inning reliever, Whitlock moved into the starting rotation on April 23 and has made two starts against the Rays and Blue Jays on the road. Over 16 2/3 total innings of work, the right-hander has posted a miniscule 0.54 ERA and 2.20 FIP to go along with four walks and 20 strikeouts.

While Whitlock will remain in the Sox’ rotation for the time being, Cora would not commit to the 25-year-old as a starter beyond Wednesday since the club has three off days within the next two weeks.

“Let’s see how it goes,” Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo). “We’ve got the off day on Monday. Obviously, we’ve got another off day a week from Monday. He’ll start on Wednesday and then we’ll keep making decisions.”

Cora also indicated that Whitlock’s pitch count on Wednesday will surpass the career-high of 61 he threw in Toronto this past Thursday. In his first time out as a starter in St. Petersburg last Saturday, the righty needed just 48 pitches (33 strikes) to toss four scoreless, one-hit innings.

With Whitlock sticking as a starter for now, Tanner Houck is expected to remain in the bullpen. Houck began the season as a member of Boston’s starting rotation but his last two appearances have come in relief after missing the team’s four-game series in Toronto on account of not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Between the two, the Sox can mix and match with Houck and Whitlock if they so choose when it comes to their respective roles. Also, as noted by Cotillo, the impending returns of left-handers James Paxton and Chris Sale at some point this summer will further shake up the club’s rotation mix in the coming months.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Joshua Bessex/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Sporting colorful glove, Phillips Valdez has been effective out of Red Sox’ bullpen early on this season

In case you have not noticed, Red Sox reliever Phillips Valdez is sporting a new glove this season.

Previously, Valdez has worn a red glove throughout his first two seasons in Boston. This year, however, the right-hander has been rocking a bright blue glove that features red lacing.

When asked about what led to the change by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith earlier this month, Valdez said he saw his friend, Cardinals reliever Genesis Cabrera, wearing a similar glove in the Dominican Republic. He thought Cabrera’s glove looked “nice,” so he decided to get one for himself.

After making the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster for a third consecutive year, Valdez has gotten his 2022 campaign off to a strong start. While pitching mostly in low-leverage situations out of Boston’s bullpen, the 30-year-old has struck out 10 and walked only one over six relief appearances spanning eight innings of work.

It’s obviously early, but among major-league relievers who have pitched eight or more innings so far this season, Valdez ranks second in strikeout rate (35.7%), sixth in walk rate (3.6%), second in batting average against (.080), first in WHIP (0.38), third in FIP (1.68), and first in xFIP (2.36), per FanGraphs.

According to Baseball Savant, Valdez has also been effective in other areas while utilizing his changeup, sinker, and slider. The 6-foot-4, 192 pound hurler currently ranks in the 89th percentile in fastball spin, the 86th percentile in expected batting average, the 85th percentile in expected slugging percentage, the 87th percentile in walk rate, and the 89th percentile in punchout rate.

Whether it be the new glove or something else, Valdez has proven to be a valuable member of Alex Cora’s bullpen a few weeks into the 2022 season. Boston may be in 0-6 in Valdez’s appearances, but he is at the very least allowing Cora to preserve his other, more high-leverage relievers for another day.

With that, Valdez could very well remain on the Sox’ big-league roster even after roster sizes shrink from 28 to 26 players on May 2. That is no guarantee at this point, but still something worth monitoring nonetheless.

(Picture of Phillips Valdez: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox reliever Josh Taylor set to begin rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester on Sunday

The Red Sox bullpen could soon be receiving a boost. Josh Taylor is expected to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester on Sunday, manager Alex Cora said ahead of Saturday’s game against the Twins at Fenway Park. The left-hander began the season on the 10-day injured list due to a low back strain.

“He threw a live BP yesterday and obviously we have to wait for today to see how he feels,” Cora said of Taylor. “But there’s a good chance his rehab assignment starts tomorrow.”

Cora added that Taylor will likely need five or six outings with the WooSox before being activated from the injured list. He is in line to make his 2022 debut in Worcester’s series finale against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs at Polar Park on Sunday afternoon.

Taylor, 29, is coming off a strong 2021 season in which he posted a 3.40 ERA and 2.83 FIP to go along with 60 strikeouts to 23 walks over 61 relief appearances spanning 47 2/3 innings of work.

The Arizona-born southpaw first experienced back discomfort last September and spent time on the injured list because of it. He returned in time for the postseason, but wound up receiving an epidural injection during the off-season.

Those back issues lingered into spring training, but Taylor is now at a point where he is ready to pitch in a game, as he explained to MLB.com’s Ian Browne on Saturday.

“I’m good. The body feels great,” Taylor said. “I had another live [batting practice] yesterday and bounced back well today. I don’t think I’ve had any setbacks. The body feels good. I have a rehab outing tomorrow in Worcester so that will be my first one and I’m looking forward to that. I definitely think I’m ready for that right now.”

(Picture of Josh Taylor: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Ryan Zeferjahn tosses 3 scoreless innings in first career relief appearance for High-A Greenville

Red Sox pitching prospect Ryan Zeferjahn made the first relief appearance of his professional career for High-A Greenville on Wednesday night. Making his season debut for the Drive, the right-hander allowed just one hit and struck out two over three scoreless — albeit low-leverage — innings of work.

Zeferjahn needed just 35 pitches (24 strikes) to retire nine of the 10 batters he faced while earning the win in Greenville’s 17-3 trouncing of the Asheville Tourists (Astros affiliate) at McCormick Field.

The Red Sox originally selected Zeferjahn, now 24 years old, in the third round (107th overall pick) of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Kansas. At that time, Zeferjahn was regarded by Baseball America as the 57th-ranked draft-eligible prospect. The Topeka native signed with the club for $500,000.

Upon signing his first pro contract, Zeferjahn was assigned to short-season Lowell out of the gate and made 12 starts for the Spinners to close out the year. Coming into the 2020 season, the former Jayhawk was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 19 prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

Unfortunately, the 2020 minor-league season was wiped out on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the only real in-person guidance Zeferjahn received from the Red Sox that year came later on at fall instructs.

Falling out of Baseball America’s Boston prospect rankings the following spring, Zeferjahn broke camp with Low-A Salem. He posted a dismal 6.91 ERA — but much more encouraging 3.86 FIP — to go along with 41 strikeouts to 15 walks over 12 starts (41 2/3 innings pitched) for Salem before being sent down to the Florida Complex League in mid-July.

According to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Zeferjahn was sent to Fort Myers in order to work on his mechanics. He made four starts for the FCL Red Sox beginning on August 31 and pitched to the tune of a 3.21 ERA and 4.29 FIP with 18 strikeouts to three walks across 14 innings of work.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Zeferjahn operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph fastball with sink, an 84-87 mph slider, an 83-86 mph changeup, and a 76-80 mph changeup, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Before the 2022 season began last week, Zeferjahn had only been used as a starter throughout his pro career as he made 28 starts between three different levels from 2019-2021. The last time the righty was used out of the bullpen came in the summer of 2017, when he made 13 appearances for the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

When used in shorter stints, though, it appears as if Zeferjahn can further tap into his fastball velocity. While information from Wednesday’s outing is not currently available, Zeferjahn did reach 98 mph with his heater when making starts of one to three innings with Lowell in 2019.

Zeferjahn, who turned 24 in February, comes into the 2022 campaign not ranked by any major publication as one of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization. He can, however, become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter.

(GIF of Ryan Zeferjahn via the Greenville Drive)

Red Sox plan to have Darwinzon Hernandez make 2-3 inning starts for Triple-A Worcester to begin season, Alex Cora says

The Red Sox made a surprising decision on Saturday when they elected to option left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez to Triple-A Worcester.

Hernandez, 25, has been a key figure in Boston’s bullpen since debuting for the Sox in 2019. Over the last three seasons, his 83 relief appearances rank sixth on the team behind only Matt Barnes (154), Josh Taylor (120), Ryan Brasier (99), Brandon Workman (99), and Marcus Walden (85).

While Hernandez has primarily been used as a reliever throughout his big-league career, the Red Sox sent the Venezuelan-born southpaw down to Triple-A with a plan in place to start games for the WooSox.

When speaking with reporters at JetBlue Park on Sunday, Sox manager Alex Cora revealed that Hernandez will likely start for the WooSox this coming Tuesday in their Opening Day bout against the Jumbo Shrimp in Jacksonville. Though labeled as a starter, Hernandez is only expected to work two to three innings per start and will use the days in between his starts to work on the side.

“I think the plan for him is actually he’s going to start probably Opening Day in Jacksonville, but he’ll go two or three innings,” explained Cora. “The goal is for him to work in between starts or in between outings. He hasn’t been able to do that in years. It wasn’t a comfortable conversation because we know what he can do. But the goal is for him to work with (Worcester pitching Paul Abbott) in between starts and try to be consistent.”

After making his first career Opening Day roster last year, Hernandez appeared in 48 games for the Red Sox and posted a 3.38 ERA (4.80 FIP) to go along with 54 strikeouts to 31 walks over 40 innings of work.

Among the 54 left-handed relievers who accrued at least 40 innings in 2021, Hernandez ranked seventh in strikeouts per nine innings (12.2) and 11th in strikeout rate (29.7%). But he also ranked 53rd in walks per nine innings (7.0) and 53rd in walk rate (17%), per FanGraphs.

That Hernandez was erratic at times last year is nothing new. He has proven more than capable of getting hitters out at the big-league level, but he has done so on an inconsistent basis.

“Yeah, you’re a big leaguer, we know that,” Cora said of Hernandez. “But to be the big leaguer we envision, we need to find consistency and that’s what he is missing right now. We can’t go with the up and down. He dominates in Texas and he struggles for a few weeks. We don’t want that. When he’s ready, he’ll be ready. We know he’s going to contribute. There’s a few decisions based on that. There’s a few decisions as far as who we are facing this month. Do we need more righties? All of a sudden, we’ve got a lot of lefties on our staff. And they’re really, really good. But we’re still getting there.”

While Hernandez will start the season in Worcester instead of in Boston, Cora emphasized that the results or numbers Hernandez puts up with the WooSox are not as important as the work he will put in between his outings.

“We want him to pitch and then we want him to work,” the manager said. “The last one here, three innings and everyone was ecstatic. He did the job. But it’s not about that. He can even struggle for three innings and all of a sudden you will see him here. It’s about the work he will be putting in between outings, which is the most important thing for us.”

One thing in particular Cora would like to see Hernandez work on in Worcester is his delivery. When discussing Hernandez’s approach on the mound, Cora noted that the lefty can be overpowering when he works up in the zone with his fastball. The same can be said about Brewers closer Josh Hader. When Hernandez misses with his fastball, though, that is when he becomes susceptible to walks and other forms of damage.

“But at the end, we want him to throw fastballs up and breaking balls down and be consistent with it,” Cora said. “When he throws the fastball up, there is no damage. You guys can look at it. Fastballs up and breaking balls down.  I hate to compare guys but like (Josh) Hader. It’s very simple. Fastballs up and breaking balls down. And he can do that.

“The characteristics of his fastballs, he gets swings and misses,” added Cora. “He gets foul balls. There’s no loud contact. But when he gets a fastball down, we see the results, too. So it’s just a matter of him being consistent, repeat his delivery over and over and over again. And we do believe he’s going to contribute at one point this season. He’s going to be a big part of this team.”

(Picture of Darwinzon Hernandez: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Who is Oddanier Mosqueda? Red Sox relief prospect made his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday

Red Sox pitching prospect Oddanier Mosqueda made his Grapefruit League debut in Thursday’s 4-3 win over the Twins at JetBlue Park.

The left-hander came on in relief of Michael Wacha in the fifth inning and struck out three of the six batters he faced while working in and out of a bases-loaded jam.

Mosqueda, 22, was originally signed by the Sox as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2015. The Caracas native made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League and progressed as far as Low-A before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor-league season.

After making 10 appearances for Caribes de Anzoategui of the Venezuelan Winter League that off-season, Mosqueda came into 2021 and broke minor-league camp with High-A Greenville.

Spending the entirety of the 2021 campaign with the Drive, Mosqueda posted a 3.61 ERA and 3.43 FIP to go along with 66 strikeouts to 25 walks over 32 relief appearances spanning 47 1/3 innings of work. He spent some time away from the team in late May/early June to pitch for Venezuela in the 2021 Americas Olympic Qualifier.

As of August 10 of last year, Mosqueda’s ERA on the season stood at 5.29. From that point forward, though, the lefty strung together 10 consecutive scoreless outings (15 innings) in which he struck out 21 and walked just four to end his season on a high note.

Among all High-A East pitchers who accrued at least 40 innings on the mound in 2021, Mosqueda ranked 20th in strikeouts per nine innings (12.55), 13th in strikeout rate (33.8%), ninth in batting average against (.182), and 13th in FIP, per FanGraphs.

While his strikeout numbers are undoubtedly impressive, Mosqueda also struggled with his command at times and gave up his fair share of walks as a result. The fact he averaged 4.75 walks per nine innings and walked nearly 13% of the batters he faced last year speaks to this.

At the conclusion of the 2021 minor-league season, Mosqueda returned to his home country to suit up for Caribes de Anzoategui once more, though he struggled to the tune of a 11.05 ERA in 11 outings (7 1/3 innings pitched) with the club.

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Mosqueda operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 92-94 mph fastball, a 79-81 mph curveball, and an 83-84 mph changeup, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Mosqueda, who turns 23 in May, is not regarded by any major publication as one of the top prospects in Boston’s farm system coming into the 2022 season, including SoxProspects.com.

That being said, the Venezuelan-born southpaw is projected by the site to begin the year with Double-A Portland. Should Mosqueda prove capable of handling a more advanced level of competition, he has the chance rise through the organization’s relief prospect ranks.

(Picture of Oddainier Mosqueda via his Instagram)