Red Sox among teams who have expressed ‘initial interest’ in free-agent right-hander Matt Shoemaker, per report

The Red Sox are one of several teams to express ‘initial interest’ in free-agent right-hander Matt Shoemaker, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported late Sunday night.

Shoemaker, who turned 34 in September, is coming off a 2020 season in which he posted a 4.71 ERA and 5.95 FIP over six starts and 28 2/3 innings pitched for the Blue Jays.

The Michigan native was limited to just six outings this year on account of hitting the injured list in late August due to right shoulder inflammation, but he was able to return to the mound a month later. He even got the nod for Toronto in Game 1 of the Wild Card series against the Rays in which he scattered two hits over three scoreless frames.

A former undrafted free agent who signed with the Angels in 2008, Shoemaker has proven to be a solid middle to back-end of the rotation caliber starting pitcher when healthy. That’s the thing, though. He has struggled to stay on the field these past few years.

Prior to the 2020 season, the veteran righty got off to a roaring start with the Jays in 2019, allowing just seven runs (five earned) through his first four outings and 25 2/3 innings of the year (1.75 ERA).

In what was his fifth start of the year against the Athletics on April 20, Shoemaker got caught in a rundown and wound up spraining his left knee. Nine days later, he underwent ACL reconstruction as well as medial meniscus repair, and his season was over just like that.

Again, when he is healthy, Shoemaker, who works with a split-finger fastball, sinker, four-seam fastball, slider, and curveball, has proven to be effective at the major-league level.

The Red Sox are a club in desperate need of starting pitching help, so taking a flier, if you want to call it that, on someone of Shoemaker’s caliber certainly makes sense. Even more so when you consider the fact that the Jays recently locked up left-hander Robbie Ray on a one-year, $8 million deal earlier this week.

Could Red Sox Welcome Soon-To-Be Free Agent Stephen Gonsalves Back in 2021?

Excluding position players, 27 different pitchers took the mound for the Red Sox in 2020. Left-hander Stephen Gonsalves was not one of them.

The 26-year-old was claimed off waivers by Boston from the Mets early in the season and was subsequently optioned to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, where he remained on the Sox’ 40-man roster up until August 19.

At that point, Gonsalves was designated for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster for veteran right-hander Andrew Triggs.

A week went by and Gonsalves went unclaimed, which resulted in his being outrighted to Pawtucket.

As he spent the final few weeks of his 2020 campaign working out at McCoy Stadium, the San Diego native was actually very impressive, which is important when you consider the fact that he will become a minor-league free agent this winter. Worcester Red Sox pitching coach Paul Abbott made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom last week.

“Gonsalves is a guy that can make an impact next year if we bring him back,” Abbott said. “I know he’s a minor-league free agent. His velo went from 89-90 mph — and he already had a highly rated fastball that had some carry — the velo jumped up to 94-96 mph. He got better as we went along and I know he was close to getting an opportunity because they brought him up there.”

A former fourth-round pick of the Twins out of high school in 2013, Gonsalves only has seven major-league outings under his belt. In those seven appearances, four of which were starts, towards the end of the 2018 season, the one-time University of San Diego commit posted a 6.57 ERA and .822 OPS against over 24 2/3 innings pitched.

At the start of the 2019 campaign, Gonsalves suffered an elbow strain in April and a stress reaction to that same elbow in May, which resulted in the former top prospect accruing just 13 innings of work across three minor-league levels last year prior to ultimately getting designated by Minnesota in November.

Since joining the Red Sox organization over the summer, Gonsalves obviously has not had the chance to showcase himself in any real, meaningful games. But, as Abbott mentioned, an uptick in the 6-foot-5 southpaw’s fastball velocity could mesh well with his other three pitches — changeup, slider, curveball — moving forward.

With that being said, in addition to how highly Abbott spoke of him, Gonsalves may be someone the Red Sox look to bring back early on in free agency this offseason.

Assuming he is brought back by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. on a minor-league deal, Gonsalves could prove to be an interesting hurler to monitor during spring training next year given the fact he has experience as both a starter and reliever.

Red Sox Rookie Tanner Houck Planning on Attacking Strike Zone Against Yankees in First Fenway Park Start

Red Sox rookie right-hander Tanner Houck is coming off a superb major-league debut against the Marlins last Tuesday in which he collected seven strikeouts over five scoreless innings en route to picking up his first career victory.

Following that impressive showing, a new challenge for Houck awaits on Sunday, as the 24-year-old hurler will be going up against a red-hot Yankees team in the finale of a three-game series at Fenway Park.

With a 6-5, 12-inning win over Boston on Friday, New York extended their current winning streak to a season-best nine consecutive games. Over that dominant stretch, which goes back to September 9, the Bronx Bombers are slashing an absurd .314/.401/.711 against opposing right-handed pitchers while clubbing 25 home runs and posting a 194 wRC+. These numbers are something Houck will have to keep in mind when he takes the Fenway Park mound for the first time.

“For me, nothing really changes,” Houck said of his mindset going into his first home start of the season. “As long as you go out there and attack the zone, I think good things happen. If you go right at people, get them on their heels early, it sets up a lot more. Typically, whenever you’re behind in the count, a lot of people become more dangerous. So, go out there, attack right away and I’ll definitely real confident.”

In his debut against Miami last Tuesday, Houck faced 19 batters. Among those 19 batters, the former first-round pick fell behind the count on several occasions, but he did manage to limit the opposition to just three walks while mixing in his four-seam and split-finger fastball as well as his sinker and slider.

Limiting traffic on the base paths could prove to be pivotal for the Illinois native on Sunday, as the Yankees have accrued the second-highest walk percentage in the American League (11.9%) going back to the start of their current winning streak.

To construct a proper game plan for a team as dangerous as New York, Houck will need to be diligent in his preparations. He does however have one tool that he did not have available to him in the minor-leagues: advanced analytics.

“It’s definitely got its new challenges with everything,” the Mizzou product said of his introduction to the majors. “There’s a lot more scouting report info to take in, which I love. Being able to go out there and know my opponent just a little bit more helps me set up a game plan a lot.”

On top of the insights he has received from the Red Sox’ analytics department, Houck has also gotten some helpful advice from fellow former Missouri Tigers in the majors, such as Nationals ace Max Scherzer and Rangers right-hander Kyle Gibson.

“Having guys like that reach out is truly an honor,” Houck added. “I’m truly blessed to be a part of that brotherhood. I’ve definitely gotten to talk to Gibson and Scherzer over the years having that Mizzou connection, and just kind of bouncing ideas off them is truly great. It’s more people to learn from and this is a game that you got to learn from your elders a little bit, see what they’ve done and just try to learn from that.”

Houck will get the ball against the Yankees and fellow rookie righty Deivi Garcia on Sunday afternoon.

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom Drove To Pawtucket To Meet With Nick Pivetta This Week; Right-Hander Still Needs To Get Stretched Out Before Getting Called up

With right-hander Nathan Eovaldi hitting the injured list due to a mild calf strain on Saturday, the Red Sox find themselves down another starting pitcher. Granted, Eovaldi should only be out for the next week since his IL stint is retroactive to August 26, but Boston will need someone to fill in for the righty in the meantime.

Nick Pivetta, who was one of two pitchers acquired from the Phillies in the Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree trade, could have been viewed as a potential rotation option during Eovaldi’s absence, but Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke snuffed out any chance of that happening when speaking with reporters on Saturday.

“Chaim [Bloom] actually drove out to Pawtucket a couple days ago to talk to him and to feel out where we should be with him and when we should have him come up and pitch for us if he’s going to pitch for us,” Roenicke said of Pivetta via Zoom. “We need to stretch him back out again. He hasn’t pitched for a while. So, right now, we’re going to stretch him out and just see where that allows us to bring him up where we feel really confident that he’s ready and he’s extended out and has built up enough strength to pitch the innings that we’re going to have him go.”

Pivetta, 27, was traded to Boston on August 21 and was subsequently optioned to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket that same day.

The 6-foot-5, 214 lb. right-hander appeared in three games for the Phillies this season prior to the trade, allowing 10 earned runs in just 5 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. Per Statcast, he operates with a four-seam fastball, a curveball, a changeup, and a slider.

“He’s a big, physical, power pitcher,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said of Pivetta the night the trade went down. “He’s got a really good fastball. Good breaking ball. He also has a changeup. A guy that’s shown the ability to carry a starter’s workload. And a lot of the underlying traits there have shown the potential for a lot more success than he’s enjoyed in terms of his results. Again, power pitcher that we think should be capable of holding down a rotation spot. Really feel like he’s a good fit going forward and that we’ve got a chance to help him reach a level he has not yet in his career despite his big stuff.”

As Bloom’s words indicate, Pivetta, a former fourth-round pick of the Nationals in the 2013 draft, has not exactly lived up to his former top prospect status in his time with Philadelphia, but the Red Sox are hoping to unlock something within him.

Along with fellow righty Connor Seabold, Pivetta arrived at McCoy Stadium this past Wednesday. Considering the fact that he is already on Boston’s 40-man roster, the British Columbia native could make his Red Sox debut sometime next month depending on how the organization views him in the short and long-term. The Providence Journal’s Bill Koch made this point as well.