What the Red Sox saw in Ryan Fitzgerald before signing him out independent ball in 2018

Ryan Fitzgerald is off to a blazing hot start with the Worcester Red Sox. After homering on Opening Day, the versatile prospect went deep twice as part of 2-for-showing in Jacksonville on Thursday night.

Through his first three games of the Triple-A season, Fitzgerald is batting .636 (7-for-11)/.667/1.455 with three homers, five RBIs, four runs scored, one walk, and four strikeouts over 12 trips to the plate.

This comes on the heels of a spring training in which Fitzgerald was one of the Sox’ standouts in Fort Myers. While making a strong case to make Boston’s Opening Day roster, the left-handed hitter clubbed a team-leading four home runs and posted a 1.513 OPS across 11 Grapefruit League contests.

Although the Red Sox sent Fitzgerald down to Triple-A Worcester on March 27, there is no doubt the 27-year-old could be on the verge of a big-league call-up sooner rather than later.

A native of Illinois, Fitzgerald played four seasons at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. but went undrafted. Rather than take his talents to affiliated ball right away like other amateur prospects, Fitzgerald signed with the Gary SouthShore RailCats of the independent American Association in 2017.

It was Gary, Ind. where Fitzgerald was first seen by Red Sox pro scout David Scrivines. Scrivines, who has been with the team since 2008, initially took note of Fitzgerald’s plate discipline and ability to move around the infield.

“He seemed like someone who had real quality at-bats and knew the strike zone well,” Scrivines told BloggingtheRedSox.com. “Knowing the ballpark in Gary is a pitcher-friendly ballpark, players don’t put up power numbers in that park.  So I wasn’t sure how the power would project in the future. We saw someone with a steady glove and arm and athleticism.”

In his first season with the RailCats in 2017, Fitzgerald slashed .239/.301/.395 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs over 84 games while seeing playing time at every infield position besides first base. He was also well-liked by his teammates and coaches, including manager Greg Tagert.

“Former Gary manager Greg Tagert raved about his makeup,” said Scrivines. “So we knew he’s a top-notch person and teammate.”

The following spring, Fitzgerald signed with the Sox as an undrafted free agent and debuted with the Greenville Drive in June. He made it as far as High-A before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the minor-league season in 2020.

Last year, Fitzgerald broke camp with Double-A Portland and made it up to Worcester for a spell over the summer. The 6-foot, 185 pounder also made his pro debut as an outfielder in 2021.

So far this season, Fitzgerald — who turns 28 in June — has made starts at second base, third base, and shortstop. Combine what he has done at the plate with his versatility, and it has been an impressive start to the 2022 campaign for the utility man.

“It’s great to see him get off to such a good start this spring – both offensively and moving around the field on the defensive end – and watching his progress the past four years,” Scrivines said.

(Picture of Ryan Fitzgerald: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox make second round of spring roster cuts: Jarren Duran among 3 optioned to Triple-A Worcester; Ryan Fitzgerald among 10 reassigned to minor-league camp

Following Sunday afternoon’s 6-3 loss to the Twins, the Red Sox announced their second round of spring training roster cuts.

Three players on the club’s 40-man roster — catchers Ronaldo Hernandez and Connor Wong and outfielder Jarren Duran were all optioned to Triple-A Worcester.

Elsewhere, 10 non-roster invitees — catchers Roldani Baldwin and Kole Cottam, infielders Ryan Fitzgerald and Roberto Ramos, and right-handers Silvino Bracho, Taylor Cole, Michael Feliz, Darin Gillies, Geoff Hartlieb, and Zack Kelly — were all reassigned to minor-league camp, the club announced on Sunday.

Duran, the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system according to Baseball America, will start the 2022 season in Worcester. The speedy 25-year-old has batted .333/.429/.389 in nine Grapefruit League games this spring. He also scored from second base on a sacrifice fly in Sunday’s loss to Minnesota.

Hernandez and Wong, on the other hand, figure to form the primary catching tandem for the WooSox as both backstops prepare to embark upon potentially pivotal 2021 seasons. Hernandez, 24, is Baseball America’s 27th-ranked Boston prospect. Wong, who turns 26 in May, is Baseball America’s 29th-ranked Boston prospect.

Of the 10 minor-leaguers who were cut from the Sox’ spring roster, it is worth mentioning that the likes of Bracho, Cole, Feliz, and Hartlieb all have prior big-league experience. That said, Fitzgerald being reassigned comes as somewhat of a surprise.

The versatile 27-year-old had an interesting case to make the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster after hitting a stout .313/.450/1.063 with a team-leading four home runs and nine RBIs through his first 11 games of the spring. He, like Duran, will instead start the year out in Worcester.

Following Sunday’s series of transactions, Boston now has 30 players on their major-league roster. They will need to make a few more subtractions (not including an injured Chris Sale) before Opening Day against the Yankees on April 7.

(Picture of Ryan Fitzgerald: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Nick Pivetta allows two homers in second start of spring as Red Sox fall to Orioles, 8-5

The Red Sox fell to 6-2 in Grapefruit League on Thursday night following an 8-5 loss to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. Their six-game winning streak has been met with a two-game losing streak.

Enrique Hernandez was one of the few regulars who made the trek to Sarasota for Thursday’s contest, and he made his impact felt right away by crushing a leadoff home run off Orioles starter Bruce Zimmermann to begin things in the first inning.

Hernandez’s first homer of the spring provided Sox starter Nick Pivetta with an early 1-0 lead. A red-hot Ryan Fitzgerald added on to that by clubbing a two-run shot off Zimmermann an inning later.

Fitzgerald’s team-leading fourth big fly of the spring gave Pivetta an even bigger lead to work with, but the right-hander ran into some trouble in the bottom of the second.

After retiring the side in order in the first, Pivetta — to no fault of his own — allowed the first batter he faced in the second in Anthony Santander to reach base via a throwing error committed by Fitzgerald. Pivetta then issued a one-out walk to Ramon Urias before surrendering two runs on a pair of RBI knocks off the bats of Jorge Mateo and Kelvin Gutierrez.

An inning later, Baltimore knotted things back up at three runs apiece when Ryan Mountcastle took Pivetta deep to right-center field for a solo homer. Urias did the very same in the fourth to give the O’s their first lead of the evening at 4-3.

Pivetta, in turn, recorded the first two outs of the fourth before making way for fellow righty Joan Martinez. The 29-year-old finished his day having given up four runs (two earned) on four hits, two walks, and six strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings of work.

In relief of Pivetta, Martinez came on and got the final out of the fourth. Moments later, Alex Binelas (one of two prospects acquired in the Jackie Bradley Jr. trade) led off the top of the fifth with a ground-ball single and was pinch ran for by the speedy Ceddanne Rafaela, who proceeded to steal second base and score on an RBI single from Kevin Plawecki.

That sequence allowed the Red Sox to tie things back up at 4-4, and it also prompted manager Alex Cora to have Jake Diekman make his spring debut out of the bullpen in the fifth inning.

Diekman, however, was not at his sharpest. The veteran lefty yielded a one-out single and walk before serving up a three-run blast to New Hampshire native Ryan McKenna that made it a 7-4 game in favor of Baltimore.

Fellow newcomer Matt Strahm was deployed for the sixth inning. The southpaw plunked one batter and walked another, but got through the frame unscathed.

From there, Hirokazu Sawamura tossed a scoreless seventh inning. Power-hitting infield prospect Nick Northcut then mashed a booming home run to dead center field off old friend Travis Lakins with two outs and the bases empty in the eighth.

The Orioles got that run back off Kutter Crawford in their half of the eighth, though, and Marcos Diplan closed things out by retiring the likes of Nick Yorke, Rafaela, and Marcelo Mayer in order in the ninth.

Some notes from this loss:

Mayer, arguably Boston’s top prospect, came off the bench as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning and went 0-for-1 with a walk and strikeout.

Yorke, on the other hand, went 0-for-2 with a punchout after pinch-hitting for Fitzgerald in the sixth inning as well.

Next up: Houck vs. Anderson

The Red Sox will travel to North Port to take on the Braves at CoolToday Park on Friday afternoon. Tanner Houck is slated to get the ball for Boston and fellow right-hander Ian Anderson is lined up to the same for Atlanta.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised, but only on Bally Sports South.

(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Has Ryan Fitzgerald been the MVP of spring training so far for the Red Sox?

Has Ryan Fitzgerald been the MVP of spring training so far for the Red Sox?

The left-handed hitting infielder has batted .364/.462/1.182 with a team-leading three home runs, seven RBIs, three runs scored, one stolen base, two walks, and two strikeouts through his first seven games (13 plate appearances) in the Grapefruit League.

Fitzgerald, 27, has the unique distinction of not being drafted out of college or high school. The Creighton University product instead began his pro career by playing one season with the Gary SouthShore RailCats of the independent American Association.

The following spring, Fitzgerald signed with the Red Sox as an undrafted free agent. The Illinois native was assigned to the then-Low-A Greenville Drive out of the gate and really has not looked back since.

In 2019 with the then-High A Salem Red Sox, Fitzgerald posted a .721 OPS across 127 games while making at least one appearance at all four infield positions en route to being named a Carolina League mid- and post-season All-Star. He was also recognized as the organization’s Minor League Defensive Player of the Year that September.

After not being able to do much of anything in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fitzgerald broke minor-league camp last year with Double-A Portland and proceeded to slash .282/.365/.543 (144 wRC+) with 11 homers and 36 RBIs through his first 70 games with the Sea Dogs. He earned a promotion to Triple-A Worcester on July 29.

In a brief stint with the WooSox that lasted all of 13 games, Fitzgerald hit .262/.340/.571 (138 wRC+) with three home runs and nine RBIs before getting sent back down to Portland on August 17. He closed out his year at a .241/.313/.402 clip leading into the end of September.

Between the Double-A and Triple-A levels, Fitzgerald produced a .270/.350/.512 slash line (131 wRC+) while clubbing a total of 16 home runs, driving in a total of of 58 runs, scoring a total of 55 runs, stealing a total of four bases, drawing a total of 37 walks, and striking out a total of 81 times over 108 games (412 plate appearances) in 2021.

Defensively, the versatile 6-foot, 185 pounder made his pro debut as an outfielder last year, logging 10 innings in left, 79 innings in center, and eight innings in right field with the Sea Dogs and WooSox. He once again saw playing time at all four infield positions between the two affiliates, but none more than shortstop (619 2/3 combined innings).

Fitzgerald, who turns 28 in June, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 38 prospect in Boston’s farm system and is currently participating in his first major-league spring training down in Fort Myers. He appears to be a longshot to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster, but he has been making an intriguing case as a potential bench option these last few weeks.

Based off SoxProspects.com’s roster projections, Fitzgerald is in line to return to Worcester for the start of the 2022 season. That being said, the fact that he can play just about anywhere — as well as major-league rosters expanding from 26 to 28 players through the end of April — certainly works in his favor.

While Fitzgerald still has a little less than two weeks to prove he is worthy of an Opening Day roster spot, the 27-year-old will bat eighth and start at second base for the Red Sox in their Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles on Thursday night.

First pitch from Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. eastern time on MASN.

(Picture of Ryan Fitzgerald:  Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Red Sox suffer first loss of spring despite 4 scoreless innings from Nathan Eovaldi and homers from Rafael Devers, Ryan Fitzgerald

The Red Sox suffered their first loss of the spring on Wednesday afternoon when they fell to the Twins by a final score of 10-4 at JetBlue Park.

Despite dropping to 6-1 in Grapefruit League play, there were still plenty of positives to take away from Wednesday’s contest. For starters, Nathan Eovaldi looked as dominant as ever in his second start of the spring.

The veteran right-hander plunked the very first man he faced in Byron Buxton, but that was negated immediately when Christian Vazquez threw out the speedy outfielder as he attempted to steal second base. Eovaldi then retired the next 11 batters he faced in order while striking out six and walking none over four scoreless, no-hit innings.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 52, Eovaldi is in line to make three more starts this spring before Opening Day on April 7. The 32-year-old hurler has allowed a total of two runs through his first two outings of the year.

In relief of Eovaldi, Ryan Brasier got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen beginning in the fifth inning. Things did not go as well for Brasier as they did for Eovaldi, as the righty reliever gave up four straight hits (including an RBI single to Ryan Jeffers and three-run home run to Trevor Larnach to put his side in a 4-0 hole.

Brasier at the very least recorded the first two outs of the inning before making way for Franklin German, who punched out the only batter he faced in Buxton to retire the side.

The sixth inning belonged to Rafael Devers. One day after agreeing to a $11.2 million salary for the 2022 season, the All-Star third baseman guided Jay Groome through a perfect top half by robbing Miguel Sano of a potential one-out double down the left field line. He then led off the bottom half by clubbing a solo home run off Twins reliever Jake Faria.

Devers’ first big fly of the spring cut Minnesota’s lead down to three runs at 4-1. Following a 1-2-3 top of the seventh from Michael Feliz, Ryan Fitzgerald made things even more interesting by crushing a game-tying, three-run homer to right field off of Faria.

Fitzgerald’s team-leading third home run of the spring knotted things up at four runs apiece heading into the eighth inning for Connor Seabold.

Seabold, who is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 21 prospect in Boston’s farm system, struggled with his command in his 2022 debut. The 26-year-old right-hander walked the first two Twins he faced before yielding an RBI double to Dennis Ortega and a two-run single to Nick Gordon. He then walked Aaron Sabato to put runners at first and second with no outs, which prompted Red Sox manager Alex Cora to turn to Tyler Danish.

Danish proceeded to loaded the bases before allowing three additional two runs (two inherited) to score on a sacrifice fly and two-run double. That sequence gave the Twins a commanding 10-4 lead, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

Christian Arroyo was originally slated to start at second base for the Red Sox on Wednesday but was scratched from the lineup due to a right thumb contusion. It is not believed to be a serious injury.

Coming into Wednesday, Red Sox pitchers this spring had allowed a total of 11 runs in six Grapefruit League games. They gave up 10 runs as a team on Wednesday.

All four runs the Red Sox scored on Wednesday came from the No.2 spot in the lineup. Devers got things started with his solo home run in the sixth and Fitzgerald, who came on as a defensive replacement for Devers at third base, followed suit with his three-run blast in the seventh.

Fitzgerald has appeared in all seven of Boston’s spring training games and is currently batting .364/.462/1.182 with three home runs, seven RBIs, three runs scored, one stolen base, two walks, and two strikeouts across 13 trips to the plate.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Zimmermanm

The Red Sox will travel to Sarasota on Thursday evening to take on the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Nick Pivetta is slated to make his second start of the spring for Boston after striking out five in his 2022 debut last Saturday. The right-hander will be opposed by Baltimore left-hander Bruce Zimmermann.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised, but only on MASN.

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Ryan Fitzgerald lifts Red Sox to 1-0 win over Twins as Boston remains perfect in Grapefruit League play

The Red Sox continued their winning ways on Saturday afternoon by improving to 3-0 in Grapefruit League play. They defeated the Twins by a final score of 1-0 at Hammond Stadium.

Nick Pivetta made his first start of the spring for Boston. The right-hander did not allow a single hit, walk, or run while striking out five in his three perfect innings of work. Of the 38 pitches he threw, 28 went for strikes. He also induced four total swings-and-misses and averaged 93.5 mph with his four-seam fastball.

In relief of Pivetta, Austin Davis got the first call out of the Sox bullpen beginning in the middle of the fourth inning. The left-hander gave up back-to-back singles to begin the frame but escaped the jam before making way for Phillips Valdez, who stranded one runner in an otherwise clean bottom of the fifth.

From there, Zack Kelly found himself in immediate trouble when he yielded a leadoff single to Derek Fisher. Connor Wong, however, negated that almost instantly by gunning Fisher at second down on a failed stolen base attempt, ultimately allowing Kelly to get through the bottom of the sixth unscathed.

To that point in the contest, the Red Sox lineup had been held in check by three different Twins pitchers. With one out in the top of the seventh, Ryan Fitzgerald changed that by crushing a one-out solo shot off Minnesota reliever Cody Stashak.

Fitzgerald’s first home run of the spring provided Boston with their first lead of the day at 1-0. Darin Gillies kept it that way in the latter half of the seventh, while Thomas Pannone did so in the eighth.

Pannone came back out for the ninth looking to preserve the shutout, but instead loaded the bases with two outs. The former Blue Jays lefty did manage to get old friend Cole Sturgeon to pop out to center field for the final out of the ninth, though, thus preserving a 1-0 victory for the Red Sox.

All told, Boston pitchers (Pivetta, Davis, Valdez, Kelly, Gillies, and Pannone) combined to allow just six hits and two walks while punching out 13 in the combined shutout bid.

On the injury front, Jonathan Arauz originally started Saturday’s contest at second base. The 23-year-old was forced to leave in the bottom of the fifth inning after colliding with Twins shortstop Nick Gordon and was replaced by Christian Koss.

Next up: Houck vs. Reyes

Tanner Houck is next in line to make his 2022 debut for the Red Sox as he gets the start against the Orioles on Sunday. The right-hander will be opposed by fellow righty Denyi Reyes, who spent the first seven years of his professional career with Boston before signing a minor-league deal with Baltimore last November.

First pitch from JetBlue Park is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be broadcasted on NESN.

(Picture of Ryan Fitzgerald: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Red Sox Top Northeastern 3-0 in Spring Training Opener

For the first time since September 29th, 2019, the Boston Red Sox have won a baseball game, as they opened up exhibition play on Friday afternoon with a 3-0 victory over the Northeastern Huskies in a seven-inning contest.

The plan for the Sox was to use one pitcher per inning on Friday, and that’s exactly what they stuck to.

25-year-old Australian left-hander Daniel McGrath got things started by walking the first two hitters he faced, but settled down with the help of his catcher Connor Wong in addition to striking out a pair to keep things scoreless.

From there, recently-acquired right-handed reliever Austin Brice fanned two more hitters and got more help from Wong in a scoreless second, righty Robinson Leyer struck out two and stranded two runners in a scoreless third, Trevor Hildenberger scattered one hit in an otherwise clean fourth frame, Denyi Reyes retired three of the four he faced in a shutout fifth, and Adam Lau maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk thanks to Roldani Baldwin in a scoreless top half of the sixth.

After his side finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, 24-year-old righty Eduardo Bazardo closed things out for Boston by sitting down the only three hitters he faced in order in the seventh to secure the 3-0 victory over the Huskies.

In total, Sox pitching combined for seven scoreless innings while yielding just four hits and three walks to go along with 11 total strikeouts on the afternoon.

On the other side of things, the Northeastern pitching staff held their own for a while against the Boston bats, albeit without any regulars in the lineup.

It wasn’t until the bottom half of the sixth inning when the Red Sox offense finally woke up.

There, with right-hander Rick Burroni on the mound for Northeastern, Sox prospect Marcus Wilson led things off by drawing a walk in his first and only plate appearance.

The 23-year-old then proceeded to steal second base to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with no outs for Josh Ockimey, who fanned for the first out of the frame.

A Jagger Rusconi groundout back to the pitcher meant that the Red Sox were just an out away from coming away with nothing, but Ryan Fitzgerald made sure that did not happen.

Yes, the 2019 Carolina League All-Star lined an RBI single to right-center field deep enough to plate Wilson from second and put his side on the board first.

Two more walks drawn by Baldwin and Tyler Esplin ended the day for Burroni and filled the bases for longtime PawSox mainstay Jantzen Witte.

Facing off against Huskies right-hander Henry Ennen, the 30-year-old veteran laced a two-run single through the middle of the infield to score both Fitzgerald and Baldwin from second and third.

That clutch two-RBI knock gave the Red Sox a 3-0 advantage, which would go on to be Friday’s final score in the spring training opener.

Some notes from this win:

Top prospect Jeter Downs reached base on an infield single in his first at-bat in a Red Sox uniform. He also committed a fielding error in the top half of the third and grounded into an inning-ending double play in the bottom half.

Downs was not originally slated to start for Boston on Friday, but because infielder C.J. Chatham was scratched from the lineup due to right shoulder soreness, the 21-year-old got the call instead.

Marcus Wilson will presumably begin the 2020 campaign in Double-A Portland alongside fellow outfield prospect Jarren Duran, who went 1-for-2 with a third-inning single on Friday.

The only players with big-league experience who played in this contest were Marco Hernandez, Rusney Castillo, John Andreoli, Juan Centeno, Austin Brice, and Trevor Hildenberger.

Next up for the Red Sox, Grapefruit League play begins on Saturday with an afternoon contest against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park.

Left-hander Brian Johnson is scheduled to get the start for Boston, while Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter.

It had to have been a tough offseason for Johnson, as the 29-year-old was essentially demoted off the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November.

Still, Johnson snuck through waivers and remains with Boston in a lesser capacity than he had been the previous three or so seasons. He’ll have a chance to prove himself and perhaps open some eyes on Saturday afternoon.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN.