Red Sox outright Austin Brice to Triple-A Worcester after reliever clears waivers

Four days after being designated for assignment, Red Sox reliever Austin Brice has cleared waivers and has subsequently been outrighted to Triple-A Worcester, the club announced Tuesday afternoon.

Brice, who turns 29 next month, was designated by Boston last Friday when utility man Danny Santana was called up from the WooSox ahead of this past weekend’s series against the Phillies in Philadelphia.

Originally acquired in a January 2020 trade from the Marlins, the veteran right-hander struggled to find his footing in his second season with the Sox, posting an unsightly 6.94 ERA, 6.40 FIP, and 9:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 12 appearances (11 2/3 innings pitched) this year.

Because he went unclaimed on waivers, Brice will report to Worcester, where — as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo — he will join a WooSox bullpen that includes the likes of Brandon Brennan, Colten Brewer, Matt Hall, Kevin McCarthy, John Schreiber, Marcus Walden, and Brandon Workman, all of whom have big-league experience with the Red Sox or elsewhere.

Cotillo also adds that if the Red Sox found themselves in need of bullpen help at the minor-league level, they would likely turn to Brewer since he is one of two names above who are currently on Boston’s 40-man roster.

(Picture of Austin Brice: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Josh Taylor among baseball’s best left-handed relievers since calendar flipped to May; ‘This is the guy we envisioned,’ Alex Cora says

Junior welterweight Josh Taylor, who became just the sixth men’s boxer since 1988 to claim undisputed champion status over the weekend, is not the only professional athlete named Josh Taylor who is having a strong month of May.

Going from the world of boxing to the world of Major League Baseball, Red Sox left-hander Josh Taylor has also put together an impressive month of work for himself over the last three-plus weeks.

In three relief appearances against the Blue Jays and Phillies during the Sox’ most recent road trip, Taylor tossed a total of two scoreless, no-hit innings while yielding just one walk to go along with two strikeouts. He retired six of the seven batters he faced in that three-game stretch in which Boston went 3-0.

Going back to April 30, the 28-year-old has strung together 10 consecutive scoreless outings (7 1/3 shutout innings) while limiting opponents to a .087/.192/.087 slash line.

Among 56 left-handed major-league relievers who have pitched at least seven innings since April 30, Taylor ranks first in ERA (0.00), first in weighted on-base average (.148), second in batting average against, second in on-base percentage against, second in slugging percentage against, second in WHIP (0.68), and 11th in FIP (2.47), per FanGraphs.

In the process of looking as sharp as ever out of the bullpen lately, not only has Taylor trimmed his ERA down by more than three runs (8.68 on April 30, 5.17 now), but he is also dominating against left-handed hitters, which has not always been the case throughout his career.

“This month of May, he has been throwing the ball well,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Taylor on Saturday. “Overall, amazing against lefties, which is a big difference from ’19. In ’19, he was a reverse-split guy. Now, you can mix and match with the [three-batter] rule. You’ve seen him. We’ve got two outs and there’s a lefty coming up, we use him there, then depending on where we’re at in the lineup with the opposition, we’ll push him out there or we shut him down. We’re very pleased with what he’s done.

“He’s done an amazing job also taking care of himself,” Cora added. “His routine in the weight room, in the training room. It’s a lot better than in ’19, and you can see the results… He has to keep pushing. It’s a long season. Last year, obviously was a struggle with the virus and everything. But so far, he’s been amazing in May. This is the guy we envisioned.”

(Picture of Josh Taylor: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Red Sox bring back Brandon Workman on minor-league deal: ‘Hopefully he becomes a factor this season,’ Alex Cora says

Over the winter, Red Sox manager Alex Cora attempted to recruit then-free agent reliever Brandon Workman back to the team he began his professional career with.

Cora ultimately came up short in his recruitment pitch, as Workman inked a one-year deal with the Cubs in February.

“My last conversation was Super Bowl Sunday with him,” Cora said. “And it was recruiting, actually, at that time. It didn’t work out.”

Workman was designated for assignment and subsequently released by Chicago last week less than a full month into his tenure there. The right-hander had posted a 6.76 ERA over 10 outings (eight innings pitched).

Upon hitting the open market again, Workman was available for any club to pursue. The Red Sox were one of this interested teams, but Cora did not take part in any recruiting this time around.

“I didn’t recruit him,” said Cora. “I gave up in the offseason. I wasn’t a good one.”

Workman ultimately chose to reunite with the team that selected him in the second round of the 2010 amateur draft out of the University of Texas, as he signed a minor-league pact with the Sox on Thursday and was assigned to Triple-A Worcester.

In his first stint with the Sox, the 32-year-old proved to be a valuable bullpen arm capable of getting big outs — especially in 2019.

Over 73 appearances that year, Workman put up a dazzling 1.88 ERA and .433 OPS against while recording 104 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings of work.

The following season, Workman made just seven appearances out of the Boston bullpen before getting traded (along with Heath Hembree) to the Phillies in exchange for right-handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold.

With Philadelphia, Workman struggled immensely to the tune of a 6.92 ERA in the process of blowing three of a possible eight save opportunities from late August through the end of September.

Despite those hardships, the 6-foot-3 righty still netted himself a big-league deal this past offseason, though the struggles he experienced with the Phillies carried over to his brief stint with the Cubs as well.

“He was excellent, right? Those numbers were amazing,” Cora said of Workman’s 2019 campaign earlier Friday. “I texted him a few days ago, just thanking him for giving us a chance. And just get to work. He feels good about it. Obviously it didn’t go well in the second part of the season last year, and it didn’t go well the Cubs. There’s a few things that we recognized with our information department that hopefully we can regain, and he can become a factor.”

One thing the Red Sox will be hoping to regain from Workman is his fastball velocity. The hurler has averaged just 91.5 mph with his four-seamer this season after averaging 92.5 and 92.9 mph with the pitch over the last two years, respectively.

To put that into perspective, opponents hit a measly .134 against Workman’s heater in 2019. They are hitting .556 against it so far this season, per Baseball Savant.

“When his velocity’s a tick up, it helps everything else,” said Cora. “Teams make adjustments. I saw his last one against the Braves and he threw a lot of breaking balls. And he threw some good ones and some bad ones. But I think with him, velocity is very important because the shape of the breaking ball and the spin, it’s usually the same. It’s still a good breaking ball. But if he doesn’t have something else to separate, he becomes a one-pitch pitcher. And like I said, game-planning comes into play. His cutter, too, is part of the equation. We’ve just got to get him back to gain his confidence, too.”

Considering the fact that he turns 33 in August, Workman adding a few more miles per hour to his fastball velocity seems like somewhat of a tall task. That being said, Cora appeared fairly confident that the former closer would be able to do it since he is back in a familiar setting with the Red Sox.

“Sometimes it mechanical. Sometimes it’s just go out there and get repetitions,” said Cora. “I don’t know how it went in spring training as far as his build-up and all that. But that was something we always talk about here — about his velocity… The velocity needs to be at a certain level and if that happens, then the other stuff is good, too. I know he’s happy. There’s a comfort level that hopefully can help him out to regain that confidence. And like I said, hopefully he can become a factor.”

When asked if he viewed the Workman signing as a gamble, Cora responded by saying that it could turn out to be a win-win situation if Workman returns to his old form.

“I don’t see it as a gamble,” he said. “I think it’s as a good opportunity for both of us. For him to get right and for us to have a good pitcher. Like Chaim [Bloom] has been saying since he got here: the deeper the better as far as the roster and the organization. This guy, he’s done it before, he’s done it in this market, and hopefully — like I said — he becomes a factor this season.”

(Picture of Brandon Workman: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox bring back reliever Brandon Workman on minor-league deal, assign him to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have brought back Brandon Workman on a minor-league deal and have assigned him to Triple-A Worcester, the team announced Thursday.

Workman, who turns 33 in August, spent the first 11 years of his professional career with the Red Sox after being selected in the second round of the 2010 amateur draft out of the University of Texas.

In parts of six seasons with Boston, the right-hander put together his best campaign in 2019 when he emerged as the team’s closer in the process of posting a dazzling 1.88 ERA and 2.46 FIP over 73 relief appearances spanning 71 2/3 innings of work.

Opening the 2020 season with the Sox, Workman — along with fellow reliever Heath Hembree — was dealt to the Phillies in late August in exchange for right-handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold.

With free agency looming, Workman struggled mightily in Philadelphia, as he put up a dismal 6.92 ERA and 1.146 OPS against while blowing three of a possible eight save opportunities over his final 14 outings (13 innings pitched) of the year.

Despite those struggles, Workman did manage to land a one-year, $1 million major-league deal with the Cubs in February and made the club’s Opening Day roster out of spring training.

Workman’s time in Chicago did not go as planned, however, as the Texas native surrendered  nine runs (six earned) on 12 hits, seven walks, and 11 strikeouts over 10 appearances out of the Cubs bullpen before being designated for assignment a day later.

Ultimately released by the Cubs a day later, Workman’s second go-around on the free-agent market did not last nearly as long as the first.

The Red Sox had been interested in a reunion with the 6-foot-5 hurler over the winter, and they were eventually able to bring him back — albeit on a minor-league pact.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Workman “will join the WooSox in the near future.”

Cotillo also notes that if the the likes of Josh Taylor and Austin Brice continue to struggle out of the Red Sox bullpen, the Sox could look to Workman given the familiarity there.

(Picture of Brandon Workman: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox claim reliever Brandon Brennan off waivers from Mariners, place Ryan Brasier on 60-day injured list

The Red Sox have claimed right-hander Brandon Brennan off waivers from the Seattle Mariners and optioned him to Triple-A Worcester, the team announced Monday afternoon.

In order to make room for Brennan on the 40-man roster, fellow right-hander Ryan Brasier was placed on the 60-day injured list.

Brennan, 29, was designated for assignment by the Mariners last Wednesday after starting the season at the team’s alternate training site in Tacoma.

In two big-league seasons with Seattle (2019-2020), the California native posted a 4.45 ERA, a 4.73 FIP, and a 54:29 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 49 total relief appearances spanning 54 2/3 innings of work.

He was however limited to just five outings last year on account of suffering a left oblique strain in late July.

A former fourth-round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox out of Orange Coast College, Brennan originally joined the Mariners via the 2018 Rule 5 Draft.

Per Baseball Savant, the 6-foot-4, 207 pound hurler works with a changeup, a sinker, a four-seam fastball, and a slider.

Among the 198 major-league relievers who compiled at least 50 innings pitched over the last two seasons, Brennan ranked 26th in terms of swinging strike percentage (15.3%), per FanGraphs.

Now that he has been added to Boston’s 40-man roster, Brennan — who has three minor-league options remaining — will look to provide right-handed bullpen depth for the Sox in Worcester. He will join the likes of Eduard Bazardo and Colten Brewer as WooSox relievers currently on the Sox’ 40-man.

Brasier, meanwhile, opened the 2021 season on the 10-day injured list for the Red Sox, so transferring him to the 60-day IL is more of a formality than anything.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the 33-year-old “has dealt with two significant injured since the end of last season, as he fractured his pinky finger during an off-season workout and then strained his calf during a ‘B’ game during the last week of spring training.”

The earliest Brasier can be activated from the injured list now is May 28 after the start of his initial IL stint was backdated to March 29.

(Picture of Brandon Brennan: Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Darwinzon Hernandez has struck out 6 of the last 7 hitters he has faced: ‘The fastball up in the zone is hard to hit,’ Alex Cora says

There was a stretch between April 16-28 where Darwinzon Hernandez appeared in a grand total of one game for the Red Sox.

In that one game, which came against the Mariners on April 22, the left-handed reliever gave up four runs (three earned) on two hits, two walks, and one strikeout in the 10th inning of what would go down as a 7-3 loss for Boston. Three of those runs came on a three-run home run off the bat of Mitch Haniger.

“That home run he gave up against Seattle, I don’t want to say it was a wake-up call,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday. “But it was kind of like, ‘I need to attack hitters differently.'”

For a full week after that implosion, which raised his ERA on the year to an unsightly 5.14, Hernandez was not used for the remainder of the Sox’ series against the Mariners, nor was he used in their two-game set against the Mets in New York.

It was not until this past Thursday night that the 24-year-old was called upon again, as he took responsibility for the eighth inning in a game the Red Sox were trailing by three runs to the Rangers.

Matched up against Texas’ 3,4, and 5 hitters — Joey Gallo, Adolis Garcia, and Nate Lowe — Hernandez needed just 13 pitches (nine strikes) to punch out the side in order. He induced seven swings-and-misses in the process of getting all three of Gallo, Garcia, and Lowe to strike out swinging.

On Friday, Hernandez was once again deployed in the eighth inning against the Rangers, though this time his side had a five-run lead to work with.

Even with that lofty cushion, the Venezuelan hurler stayed on the aggressive side of things by thoroughly attacking the strike zone in the process of punching out three more batters.

He very well could have struck out the side in yet another perfect inning of relief, but an 0-2 fastball to Lowe with two outs that was very clearly a strike was ruled a ball by home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn. Lowe wound up reaching base on an infield single moments later.

So although he could not notch the 1-2-3 inning, Hernandez punched out the very next hitter he faced in Garcia on three straight strikes to retire the side.

“We talk about his fastball up in the zone,” Cora said. “Yesterday, he did it. He did it again today. He made a great pitch to the lefty that got a hit at the end (Lowe). It was a good pitch in the zone. It was called a ball. But, he’s slowing down now. The slider is playing. The fastball up in the zone is hard to hit.”

Following Friday’s showing, Hernandez lowered his ERA on the season to 4.00 through his first 10 outings and nine innings pitches of 2021.

Per Baseball Savant, the 6-foot-2, 244 pound southpaw currently ranks in the 99th percentile in whiff rate (44.8%). And as noted by Red Sox Stats, he is getting hitters to swing-and-miss at his fastball a major-league-best 50% of the time.

“If that guy throws the ball the way he did,” said Cora, “it’s going to put us in a great place with the bullpen.”

(Picture of Darwinzon Hernandez: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Matt Barnes continues dominant run to begin season by striking out the side on Thursday; ‘He’s going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish,’ Alex Cora says

Seven games into the 2021 season, Red Sox manager Alex Cora has yet to name a closer for his team. But Matt Barnes is certainly making the case to take over that role given how he has performed out of the gate.

The right-hander made his third appearance of the year during the ninth inning of Thursday’s contest against the Orioles in Baltimore. In a nearly-immaculate effort, he needed all of 11 pitches (10 strikes) to punch out the O’s 5-6-7 hitters in order to lock down a 7-3 victory for his side.

“That was amazing, right? Just throwing all those strikes,” Cora said of Barnes’ effort on Thursday. “Velocity. I do believe this is his best fastball, at least of the last three years. The carry. It’s not only up in the zone. It’s actually through the zone and down. The breaking ball is good.”

Of the 11 pitches Barnes threw against Baltimore, seven were curveballs and four were four-seam fastballs. He sat at 94-96 mph with his four-seamer.

Following Thursday’s outing, the veteran reliever has yet to allow a run or hit while striking out nine and yielding just one walk through four innings of work thus far.

Going into Opening Day, Barnes was mired in a competition with fellow righty Adam Ottavino to determine who Boston’s closer would be.

Both hurlers had solid camps and performed well in Grapefruit League play, but Barnes being forced out of action for three days in late March due to a false positive COVID-19 made it appear as though Ottavino had a solid chance at landing the gig.

Instead, Cora has still yet to name a set closer, though the expectation seems to be that Barnes is the man for the job at the moment.

“We’re very happy with him,” said the Sox skipper. “He has matured a lot. He’s going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Barnes, who turns 31 in June, is slated to become a free agent for the first time this winter, so him enjoying a career year in 2021 would certainly be well-received.

The UCONN product has been in the Red Sox organization since 2011 and has stated before that he is open to signing a contract extension to remain with the team he began his professional career with.

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Hirokazu Sawamura tosses scoreless ninth inning in Red Sox debut; ‘For him to go out there and get his feet wet at the big-league level, that was fun to watch,’ Alex Cora says

While the 2021 season did not get off to the best of starts for the Red Sox on Friday, it did to some degree for Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura.

The soon-to-be 33-year-old right-hander made his Red Sox — and major-league — debut in the ninth inning of Friday’s 3-0 Opening Day loss to the Orioles.

Coming on with his side already trailing by three runs, Sawamura was tasked with keeping that deficit where it was at to give the Sox a chance in their half of the ninth. And with the bottom half of the Orioles’ lineup due to hit in the inning, he wound up doing just that.

There was some trouble along the way, as Sawamura yielded a two-out double to Freddy Galvis to make things a little interesting. But all in all, the righty retired three of the four Baltimore hitters he faced, picked up his first career major-league strikeout, and put together his first scoreless relief appearance in the process of doing so.

“I wasn’t nervous at all, actually,” Sawamura said during his postgame media availability through interpreter Yutaro Yamaguchi. “Just trying to focus on taking it one hitter at a time, one pitch at a time, and just trying to execute my pitches today.”

By the time he had gotten Orioles catcher Pedro Severino to ground out to second for the final out of the frame, Sawamura had reached 21 pitches — 13 of which went for strikes.

Of those 21 pitches, 11 were four-seam fastballs, six were sliders, and four were split-finger fastballs. His fastest four-seamer of the day registered at 95.8 mph, while his fastest splitter registered at 93.5 mph, per Baseball Savant. He also induced five swings-and-misses — three of which came on the slider — as well.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Sawamura was known for having a nasty splitter upon signing with the Red Sox back in February. It’s a pitch the Sox should be familiar with considering how much Koji Uehara used it in his four seasons in Boston from 2013-2016.

On top of that, itt turns out that Sawamura and Uehara are actually close. They were teammates on the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball from 2018-2019 and Sawamura even wears the No. 19 and uses Darude’s “Sandstorm” as his entrance song to honor the former Sox closer.

Uehara, per Smith, averaged 81.6 mph with his splitter during his best season with the Red Sox in 2013. Sawamura, who is just getting his Red Sox career started, averaged 92.7 mph with his split-finger fastball on Friday.

“Yeah, I think that’s about my average or a little below my average [normally],” Sawamura said in regards to the velocity of his splitter.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was among those who was impressed by what he saw from Sawamura in his team debut on Friday. After all, it was just a few weeks ago that the Japanese hurler was still trying to find his footing in a new and unfamiliar setting during spring training.

“That was good, man,” Cora said of Sawamura’s outing. “The game’s still on the line, 3-0. … He was in control. Good splits today. That was probably his best split-fingered fastball since he got here. So that’s a plus. And for him to go out there and get his feet wet at the big-league level, that was fun to watch.”

(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox add veteran reliever Héctor Rondón on minor-league deal, per report

The Red Sox have signed veteran reliever Hector Rondon to a minor-league deal, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier adds that Rondon will net himself $1 million if he gets called up to the majors this year.

Rondon, 33, became a free-agent last week after opting out of his minor-league pact with the Phillies.

In his brief time with Philadelphia, the Venezuelan right-hander yielded seven runs (six earned) on eight hits, two walks, and eight strikeouts over eight relief appearances spanning seven innings of work this spring.

Prior to signing with the Phillies in February, Rondon was coming off a shortened 2020 season with the Diamondbacks in which he posted a 7.65 ERA and 6.59 FIP in 23 outings and 20 innings pitched out of Arizona’s bullpen.

The fact that Rondon — a client of Octagon — struggled as much as he did last year is somewhat befuddling since he was one of the game’s most consistent relievers over the course of the first seven years of his big-league career.

From 2013-2019, the 6-foot-3, 225 pound hurler put up a 3.29 ERA and 3.49 FIP over 421 games (416 innings) between the Cubs (2013-2017) and Astros (2018-2019).

Per Baseball Savant, Rondon’s four-pitch arsenal consists of a four-seam fastball, a slider, a sinker, and a changeup. He averaged a velocity of 95.7 mph with his heater last year, down from 96.7 mph in 2019.

A former international signee of the Indians back in 2004, Rondon is the second reliever the Sox inked to a minor-league deal Tuesday, as he joins another former member of the Tribe organization in left-hander Tyler Olson.

Unlike Olson, though, Rondon will report to the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester as opposed to minor-league spring training in Fort Myers, per WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

(Picture of Hector Rondon: Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Red Sox sign veteran left-hander Tyler Olson to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have signed veteran left-hander Tyler Olson to a minor-league deal, per FanSided’s Robert Murray.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo adds that Olson will head to Fort Myers to start the year at minor-league spring training as opposed to the Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester.

Olson, 31, did not pitch in the majors in 2020 after signing a minor-league deal with the Cubs last February.

Prior to that, the veteran southpaw had seen major-league action in five consecutive seasons, as he posted a 3.83 ERA and 4.01 FIP over 124 appearances and 94 innings of work between the Mariners, Yankees, and Indians from 2015-2019.

A former seventh-round draft pick of Seattle out of Gonzaga University in 2013, Olson’s best work in the big-leagues came in his first season with the Indians 2017.

Upon getting called up by the club for the first time in late June of that year, the Washington state native did not allow a single run — earned or unearned — while scattering just 13 hits and six walks to go along with 18 strikeouts over 30 relief outings spanning 20 innings pitched through the end of the season. He held opponents to a .188/.263/.217 clip over that span.

While the 2018 and 2019 campaigns did not go nearly as well for Olson as 2017 did, he can still provide upper-minors depth as a left-handed relief option.

Per Baseball Savant, the 6-foot-3, 2015 pound hurler works with a four-seam fastball, a curveball, a changeup, and a slider.

(Picture of Tyler Olson: Ron Schwane/Getty Images)