Red Sox release revised Grapefruit League schedule

The Red Sox were originally slated to open Grapefruit League play against the Pirates on February 27, but their spring training schedule has since been revised.

Per a team release, the Sox will now kick off their slate of exhibition games on February 28 against the Twins at Hammond Stadium, and instead of playing just about every other Grapefruit League team, they will only be playing the Twins, Braves, Orioles, Pirates and Rays.

That being the case because all five of those teams’ spring training complexes are located within close proximity to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, and “to reflect the recommendations suggested by medical experts and infectious disease specialists, Major League Baseball has regionalized the matchups between teams to limit travel.”

By the time spring training comes to an end in late March, the Red Sox will have hopefully played 29 games in a span of 31 days, though the rules for those games will be quite relaxed as part of MLB’s health and safety protocols related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, games between February 27 and March 13 can be played as five- or seven-inning games, as long as the managers agree, while games on or after March 4 will be scheduled as nine innings but managers can agree to shorten them to seven if they so choose.

In total, Boston is scheduled to play 15 of its Grapefruit League contests at JetBlue Park and 14 of them on the road in Bradenton, Fort Myers, North Port, Port Charlotte, and Sarasota.

The team plans on having fans in the stands for home games, though only at a limited capacity to allow for proper social distancing measures. From the aforementioned release:

“The Red Sox will implement appropriate physical distancing and safety protocols that would allow fans to return in a limited capacity for 2021 Spring Training exhibition games by operating JetBlue Park at approximately 24 percent of its normal capacity. All tickets will be sold in physically distanced ‘pods’ comprised primarily of 2-4 seats that will allow for at least six feet between groups. Season Ticket Holders will be offered the first opportunity to attend exhibition games and additional tickets may go on sale to the general public depending on availability. All day games at JetBlue Park will start at 1:05 p.m., and all night games will start at 6:05 p.m.”

For the Red Sox’ full 2021 spring training and regular season schedule, click here.

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Matt Barnes on challenges 2021 season could present: ‘Guys know exactly what to expect. That adjustment period of a pandemic is over’

It goes without saying that the 2020 Major League Baseball was unlike any in the sport’s history on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States

Limited to just 60 regular season games with no fans in the stands and plenty of health and safety protocols, players opting out, outbreak scares, and a postseason bubble, the 2020 season being completed was no sure thing.

The season did end on schedule, however, and nearly six months later, players are once again preparing to embark on another campaign that will surely be affected by the pandemic one way or the other.

This time around, though, the players at least have some familiarity with the coronavirus and the protocols it has created working in their favor. That was not the case at all last summer.

“I think one of the hard things about last year was there was so much uncertainty with the pandemic,” Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes told WEEI’s Will Flemming during the team’s live Truck Day stream earlier Monday afternoon. “Going into the season this year, guys know exactly what to expect. That adjustment period of a pandemic is over. Guys are anxious. Guys are excited.”

The Red Sox are slated to begin spring training next week, with pitchers and catchers reporting to the JetBlue Park complex on February 17 and full squad workouts starting on February.

Among the players the 30-year-old Barnes has seen so far are Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Darwinzon Hernandez, Martin Perez, and Nick Pivetta.

Boston’s first Grapefruit League game will come against the Pirates in Fort Myers on February 27. Fans will be allowed to attend games at JetBlue, but the ballpark will only be operating at 24% capacity to allow for proper social distancing measures.

Even with those limits in mind, having fans in the stands should serve as a dose of normalcy for players such as Barnes, who experienced the entirety of the 2020 season in empty ballparks — including Fenway Park — since the Red Sox did not make it to the postseason.

“Fenway’s a special place to play, it really is,” said Barnes. “From just getting to go out to Fenway Park, where so many greats have had the opportunity to play and win world championships… When you see it empty, it’s just different. It’s just not the same. One of the things that gives us an edge at home is our fans and their ability to be loud and make it an intimidating place to play for opposing teams. I’m hoping that we can get as many fans as we can safely this year. I don’t know what the plan is for that, but the fans are definitely missed. It’s not the same playing at Fenway without them.”

While the veteran right-hander may not know what the plan is for having fans in the stands at Fenway in 2021, Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy shed some light on that topic during a virtual town hall event last week.

“We’d love to host fans if the health and safety experts up here and the government officials say it’s okay,” Kennedy told NESN’s Tom Caron this past Thursday. “We have a plan to host fans in a socially distanced environment with all sorts of requirements for masks and hand sanitizing, things like that. We’ve seen around the country, it works, at different venues. We’re hoping to have that but we have not engaged with the state of Massachusetts or the city of Boston… It’s our sincere hope to have fans back at Fenway as early as Opening Day. We’re cautiously optimistic, but again, that is not our decision.”

That decision, as it turns out, is up to the medical community, health experts, and local city and state officials, Kennedy said.

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox Social Media Team Gets Creative in Promoting Social Distancing

In the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that has seemingly shut down the sports world, the Red Sox got creative in promoting something we should all be doing during this time: social distancing.

Yes, across the three major social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter –the Red Sox changed their avatar/profile picture to what you see in the tweet above, which features the two “hanging Sox’ of the club’s primary logo being separated by an inch or two and the caption ‘#NewSociallyDistantProfilePic.’

This comes around the same time the Sox changed their bio on Twitter to ‘Wash your hands’ and on Instagram to ‘Official IG of the Boston Red Sox. Pls wash your hands.’

Per the Red Sox’ 2020 media guide, Maria Schroeder is the team’s social media coordinator. I can’t say for sure if this was solely her idea, but it is ingenious nonetheless.

The Salem Red Sox, the High-A affiliate of Boston, followed suit by changing their Twitter avatar and Instagram profile picture as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, social distancing can best be defined as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”

The CDC also recommended last week that no gatherings of 50 or more people should take place for the next eight weeks. A recommendation that Major League Baseball rightfully complied with, meaning the start of the 2020 season will be pushed back even further than initially anticipated.

If you want to learn more about COVID-19, here’s a helpful link from the CDC.