Red Sox’ Alex Cora on rookie Garrett Whitlock: ‘From what he does in the bullpens to the weight room to the training room — even carrying the beer on the plane. It’s kind of like perfect’

Regardless of the situation, Garrett Whitlock continues to get outs for the Red Sox on a consistent basis.

The latest instance of that came in Wednesday’s contest against the Mets, when the rookie right-hander was deployed in the sixth inning of a game the Sox had a one-run lead in.

Needing all of 31 pitches, Whitlock retired six of the eight batters he faced while striking out four over the course of two scoreless frames of relief in the sixth and seventh. He later picked up his third hold of the season.

Since making his major-league debut on April 4, the 24-year-old has yet to allow a run on just six hits and two walks to go along with 18 strikeouts over six outings and 13 1/3 innings pitched out of the bullpen.

“He keeps growing. He keeps getting better,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Whitlock on Thursday. “Yesterday was fun to watch. 1-0 game in New York, and to give us six outs where we were bullpen-wise, it was amazing. So he keeps growing, he keeps learning, he keeps getting better. And he’s an important piece of our bullpen.”

Prior to being selected by the Red Sox from the Yankees in last December’s Rule 5 Draft, Whitlock had not pitched above the Double-A level and had last pitched in a minor-league game in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery that summer.

In his three seasons as a Yankees minor-leaguer, the 2017 18th-round draft pick never once swung a bat, but he nearly had to do so on Wednesday in a National League ballpark.

Cora asked Whitlock how many hits he had in the minor-leagues because his spot was coming up in the Sox’ lineup. The righty told him he had zero.

“And I was like, ‘Well, you better be ready. You might have to hit in the big-leagues,'” recalled Cora. Whitlock responded with a simple, “Whatever you need.”

To say Cora and the rest of the Red Sox brass have been impressed with Whitlock to this point would probably be an understatement. Not only is the Georgia native, who Cora described as “a cool individual,” dazzling while on the mound. He is making positive impressions off the field as well.

“He just goes about his business,” said Cora. “He trusts his stuff. He has a clean delivery. He throws a lot of strikes. And the stuff is that good. You saw it yesterday. That two-seamer in to [Jonathan] Villar, that was really good. We talked about it the first week. You guys asked me, ‘Who caught your attention? ‘ It was him. From what he does in the bullpens to the weight room to the training room — even carrying the beer on the plane. It’s kind of like perfect. Everything’s so structured. So we’ve got a good one.”

Per Baseball Savant, Whitlock currently ranks in the 98th percentile in expected weighted on-base average, the 98th percentile in expected ERA, the 89th percentile in expected batting average, the 93rd percentile in expected slugging percentage, the 93rd percentile in strikeout rate, and the 90th percentile in chase rate.

In simpler terms, he has done an effective job of mixing his sinker, changeup, four-seam fastball, and slider thus far.

“He’s competing since day one in spring training,” Cora said. “It wasn’t a given that he was going to make the team. Since day one, he’s been competing. He never showed hesitation about his work or what we were preaching to him. He just keeps going and it’s fun to watch. In an era that everybody puts pressure on people and everybody’s in the spotlight and everybody knows what you are doing because of social media, he’s just the same Garrett as when we got to spring training February 11.”

Whitlock, who turns 25 in June, would be under team control with the Red Sox through 2026 if he sticks on the club’s big-league roster for the remainder of the season.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: David Berding/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Bobby Dalbec goes 2-for-3 with 2 hard-hit RBI doubles in Tuesday’s win over Twins: ‘Today, he stayed with the plan, he was very disciplined, and you saw the results,’ Alex Cora says

Bobby Dalbec’s first weekend in Baltimore as a big-leaguer did not go great.

After struggling and only playing in four of a possible six games during the Red Sox’ first homestand of the 2021 season, the rookie slugger went 1-for-11 at the plate with one double, one RBI, two walks, and five strikeouts during his first visit to Camden Yards.

On paper, those numbers do not translate to success. But there were instances where Dalbec showed signs that he was perhaps ready to break out of the season-opening slump he has been mired in.

On three separate occasions last weekend, the 25-year-old recorded an exit velocity of over 100 mph on balls he put into play. Granted, only one of those balls – a 110 mph double — went for a hit, but the hard contact was promising nonetheless.

In his first game since the Sox left Baltimore, Dalbec — batting out of the nine-hole — went 2-for-3 with a pair of clutch, run-scoring doubles against the Twins at Target Field on Tuesday.

The first double, which came off Twins starter J.A. Happ in the fifth inning, knotted things up at two runs a piece. It left Dalbec’s bat at 105.6 mph and was laced down the right field line.

The second double, which came off Twins reliever Randy Dobnak in the eighth inning, gave the Sox a 3-2 lead. It left Dalbec’s bat at a searing 111.3 mph and also wound up in the right field corner.

The one time Dalbec did not reach base on Tuesday, he lined out sharply to Twins right fielder Jake Cave in the third inning on a line drive that had an exit velocity of 107.4 mph.

To put it simply, Dalbec has been crushing the ball as of late, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora attributed the right-handed hitter’s recent turnaround to what he was able to accomplish against the Orioles.

“I think the at-bats in Baltimore started everything,” Cora said of Dalbec following his team’s 4-2 victory Tuesday. “He hit the ball hard. Today, he stays on a pitch and he drives it the other way against a tough lefty (Happ).”

In addition to hitting the ball hard, Dalbec did not strike out at all on Tuesday, which is something he had only been able to do once through his first seven starts of the year.

The young corner infielder came into the week having swung and missed at 20% of the pitches he has seen so far this season, which ranks as the sixth-highest mark among qualified American League hitters, per FanGraphs. He only whiffed two times on Tuesday.

“When you control the strike zone, and you can control your aggression in the strike zone, you’re going to see results,” Cora said of Dalbec’s offensive approach. “We trust the player. We trust him. We know that there’s going to be a few days that he might swing-and-miss a lot, but we do believe that he can make adjustments and he can go the other way. That’s the most important thing with him: He drives the ball to right-center. So today, he stayed with the plan, he was very disciplined, and you saw the results.”

For Dalbec, the fact that he went to the opposite field three times on Tuesday did not come as much of a surprise. After all, it’s not uncommon to see hitters use the opposite field when they are looking to break out of a slump.

“I think it always ends up working out that way, whether I’m trying to or not,” Dalbec responded when asked about the approach he takes when he is struggling at the plate. “I would say using center, right-center, and right field is kind of a good spot for me to get back in line. I felt like I did that in Baltimore… If I’m thinking that way and react, that’s the way it goes sometimes for me.”

Following Tuesday’s showing, Dalbec is now slashing .179/.258/.286 through his first eight games of the 2021 campaign

Slow starts to a season are something Dalbec has grown accustom to since being drafted by the Sox out of the University of Arizona in 2016, but after showing what he is capable of doing against big-league pitching last year (eight home runs in 80 at-bats), the former second-round pick is hopeful he is about to get back on track.

“I’ve always kind of been a slow starter. Hate to say it, but that’s just kind of the way it is,” said Dalbec. “Obviously, I’d like to work that out in the future. But once I get more comfortable and settled at the beginning of the season, I start to get in a good spot. So hopefully this continues right now.”

(Picture of Bobby Dalbec: Jesse Johnson/USA Today)

Red Sox Rookie Left-Hander Kyle Hart on Major-League Analytics: ‘You Have Access To Everybody’s Everything’

Rookie left-hander Kyle Hart is about to make his third career major-league start on Tuesday, and for the first time since getting drafted by the Red Sox in 2016, he has access to more information than he’s grown accustomed to while in the minors.

Speaking with reporters prior to Sunday’s game against the Orioles, the 27-year-old went into detail about this increase in resources that have been made available to him in between starts since he made his big-league debut on August 13.

“The analytics is probably the biggest adjustment, but also the biggest improvement,” Hart said. “You have access to everybody’s everything. That is something I really didn’t grapple with too much in the minor-leagues, both out of my own personal desire and also the lack of resources itself.

Despite that self-proclaimed “lack of resources,” Hart was still one of the more consistent pitchers in Boston’s farm system since he joined the organization out of the University of Indiana four years. Just last season, the Ohio native posted a 3.52 ERA and .233 batting average against over 27 outings (24 starts) and 156 innings pitched between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.

Last November, Hart was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster, and as previously mentioned, he was called up to the majors for the first time earlier this month.

“Up here, it’s very readily available and it’s also something that we use and the coaches want us to use,” he added. “I’m adjusting to that and I’m trying to learn from it. Nate [Eovaldi] has been really good about helping me learn the system that some of the starting pitchers use to scout other teams.”

On top of getting assistance from his fellow rotation mate in Eovaldi, Hart can also turn to Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush for plenty of advice, information, and insights as well.

“Bushy, obviously, has a whole slew of notes, so we’re kind of combining our heads there,” said the southpaw. “The analytics are the biggest. In between starts, in terms of physically preparing, hasn’t changed much. And then the instruction I would say hasn’t changed much because I’ve worked so closely with [assistant pitching coach Kevin Walker] and Bushy throughout the year. So it is a high level of instruction, but it isn’t something I’m not used to.”

As he prepares to make his third start of the 2020 season, Hart will be pitching away from Fenway Park for the first time in his brief major-league career on Tuesday when he goes up against the Blue Jays in Buffalo.

Through his first two outings this year, the former 19th-round draft pick has allowed nine runs (seven earned) on nine hits, seven walks, and nine strikeouts over 5 2/3 total innings of work.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 6:37 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Hart will be going for his first career winning decision.

Red Sox’ Rafael Devers on Teammate Xander Bogaerts: ‘He’s Probably the Best Person I’ve Ever Met in My Life’

Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts arguably make up the best left side of any infield in the American League. Last year, the pair combined to hit 65 home runs and 106 doubles, becoming the first teammates to ever collect 30 long balls and 50 two-baggers in the same season.

On the field, the two Caribbean stars are as dominant as ever and may just be the best two players on the Red Sox now that Mookie Betts is in Los Angeles. Off the field, though, the two share a special bond, and that’s mostly thanks to Bogaerts.

In a story from ESPN’s Joon Lee highlighting Bogaerts’ sense of leadership amid a worldwide pandemic, several players spoke highly of what the 27-year-old has meant for them. The players interviewed by Lee were mostly of the younger variety who have made their major-league debuts within the last three years, such as Michael Chavis, Darwinzon Hernandez, and of course, Devers.

In talking with Lee, the 23-year-old Devers credits Bogaerts for “helping him break out as a full-fledged star in 2019” while also acknowledging the fact that Bogaerts speaks multiple languages — English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento — and how that is a very helpful attribute to have in a diverse clubhouse.

“Out of everyone, he’s probably the best person I’ve ever met in my life,” Devers said of his Summer Camp suite-mate. “So the fact that he’s always so happy and the fact that he does speak different languages helps bring everyone together.”

Having a mentor like Bogaerts, who has seemingly risen to the role even more since signing a six-year, $120 million extension with Boston last spring, should be something all major-league clubs strive for.

Bogaerts experienced the growing pains a big-leaguer endures as a rookie back in 2013, and he calls back to the help he received from the veterans on that year’s Red Sox team, such as David Ortiz, David Ross, Mike Napoli, and Dustin Pedroia, while passing down wisdom to his peers now.

“I remember I was scared. I was a little nervous, actually not a little nervous,” said Bogaerts of his rookie year, when he was just 20 years old. “I was really nervous because I don’t really want to mess up with all these big boys, and I wasn’t used to a situation like that, but it all worked out great, man. It all worked out great. I learned a lot from them.”

As it turns out, it would appear that Bogaerts did learn a lot from those guys on the 2013 team. And as he and the Red Sox prepare to embark on what’s sure to be a bizarre 60-game season, that knowledge gained seven years ago will likely come in handy over the next few months.

Red Sox’ Michael Chavis’ Season Likely Over, Rookie Will Play Winter Ball in Puerto Rico

Red Sox rookie infielder Michael Chavis will more than likely play in the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason, per his manager Alex Cora. That news came earlier Friday, while Cora also announced that Chavis had been shut down for the remainder of the 2019 regular season.

The 24-year-old has been out of action since August 12th after being diagnosed with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder sustained on this catch in the eighth inning of a 6-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals on August 6th.

The Sox sent Chavis out on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket back on August 23rd, one in which he went 8-for-30 (.267) over a nine-game span, but he began to felt discomfort in his right oblique while working out in Boston, and that put a real damper on things.

“He was sore the last few days,” Cora said of Chavis on Friday, who did not travel with the team for their weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays. “Too bad he has to end this way. He did his best to get back but obviously we’re going to take care of him.”

Called up for the first time on April 19th, the Georgia native slashed .254/.322/.444 with 18 home runs and 58 RBI over 95 games in his first big league season, playing first, second, and third base.

Going back to that Winter League part, the plan for Chavis is to play for the Criollos de Caguas of the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, the hometown team of one Alex Cora.

“Most likely, he’ll go to Caguas and play a month down there,” said Cora. “While he plays, he can stop by my house and we can cook some good Latin food and he can hang with me.”

That quote is really why I wanted to write about this, because it creates quite the visual, in my honest opinion.

According to MassLive.com‘s Chris Cotillo, Chavis will play around the infield while in Puerto Rico per usual, but he will also see playing time in the outfield for the first time.

“He’ll get at-bats,” Cora articulated Friday. “Not too much, only a month if that. I think it’ll be good for him to keep working at his craft and get ready for next year.”

Per MLB.com, the Puerto Rican Winter League typically begins play in the middle of November. Something to look forward to for sure.