On a day where Chris Sale was pitching, I am surprisingly not writing about him. Instead, I am writing about today’s starting short stop, Xander Bogaerts. Before the lineup scored four runs in the bottom half of the ninth, Bogaerts had been the only source of offensive production for the Red Sox. In his three at bats, the 25-year-old Aruba native reached base twice while driving in two runs. The first RBI came on a solo shot in the fourth inning, the second on an RBI single in the sixth. Here they both are in this convenient video:
Today’s performance at the plate now puts Bogaerts’ batting average at .353 for the spring, to go along with an impressive OPS of 1.025.
With less than ten days until Opening Day, the Red Sox have now won seven Grapefruit League games in a row. Craig Kimbrel came back from his family emergency today as well, so things are looking up right now. A healthy Xander Bogaerts could be a big addition to this Red Sox lineup, even more so if he can get his power numbers up. In three full big league seasons, the most home runs the short stop has hit is only 21, which took place in 2016. He has already hit two in 37 plate appearances this spring, so we could be looking at Xander hitting home runs at a much higher clip in 2018. Expecting X to bounce back in a big way this year.
Going into today winning their last five games, Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi did his part in ensuring the winning streak continues. The bats were quiet up until the top half of the fifth inning. After Christian Vazquez led off the inning by flying out to center, the next three Red Sox hitters reached base. A single by Rusney Castillo was followed up by a Mookie Betts RBI double, giving the Red Sox their first and only lead of the game. With the very next at bat, Andrew Benintendi launched a pitch from Brett McKinney of the Pittsburgh Pirates over the right field wall in Bradenton, and hit it over everything.
Benintendi ended the game 1 for 2 with that solo shot, and he is now slashing .433/.486/.900 this spring. That’s an OPS of 1.386. I know they’re just spring training numbers, but it’s hard not to be impressed with what Benintendi has done with the 30 at bats he has gotten this month. I expect a borderline great season from our everyday left fielder in 2018.
The Red Sox celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in style on Saturday. Rocking the green uniforms and clinching their fifth straight win in Grapefruit League play with a narrow 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. The lineup did not do much today, but they didn’t need to thanks to the efforts of two first basemen, Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis.
Trailing by four runs, Moreland put the first Red Sox run on the board in the home half of the fifth inning, taking a 2-1 pitch from Rays pitcher Andrew Kittredge and sending it over the right field wall.
In the very next inning, with runners on second and third, Sam Travis took the game into his own hands and gave the Red Sox a one-run lead by mashing a three-run home run over the Fenway South Monster.
That was all the scoring the Red Sox bullpen needed to lock down this win. With those two home runs, Moreland and Travis now have two and four long balls this spring respectively. The way things look now, it’s difficult to see how Travis will find at bats with the big league club, but performances like the one he had today certainly help his case.
Also, one more shout out to these beauties. I wish they could be worn more than once a year.
After throwing a simulated game last Saturday, David Price finally made his long-awaited 2018 Grapefruit League debut for the Red Sox today against the Blue Jays. The lefty tossed four innings, allowing two total baserunners while striking out five.
He only needed 55 pitches, 62% of which were strikes, to get through those four innings. I expect his next start to come against the Pirates next Tuesday, so if he pitches like he did today, Price could see even more innings of work. Of course, that all depends on if he throws more pitches, but we’ll have to wait and see for that.
Also, here’s a Christian Vazquez home run. Enjoy.
In his second start of the spring, Red Sox ace Chris Sale was even better than he was in his 2018 debut last Friday. He gave up a run to the Marlins in that start, but he didn’t give anything up to the Minnesota Twins today. Once again, I can’t find any video since the game was not televised, but the lefty did raise his strikeout total up to 12 by striking out seven Twins in only five innings pitched. In those five innings, Sale faced 17 batters and only allowed two to reach base via a single in the first and a triple in the second. Expect the 28-year-old hurler to make his next start against the Phillies next Monday. Maybe we’ll see more pitches from him. David Price gets the start against the Blue Jays tomorrow.
I will put any video here when it is released.
On a day the Red Sox were not on television, Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart put on a bit of a show at the plate. The first three catchers on the depth chart were all in the same starting lineup today, with Christian Vazquez behind the plate, Swihart at first, and Leon at DH. Combined, they went 5 for 10 at the plate, but I just want to focus on Swihart and Leon. Last week, I wrote about who should backup Christian Vazquez this season, because it is presumed that he will be the starter. Both Swihart and Leon are out of minor league options, so one of them is most likely gone if they both do not make the Opening Day roster. Today’s game against the Blue Jays was a prime example of the competition that may be going on between them. There doesn’t seem to be any video available, but Leon hit his two home runs in the second and fourth innings while Swihart hit his in the fifth.
Throughout this spring, Swihart has gotten a significant amount of at bats compared to what Leon has gotten. 35 for Swihart and only 12 for Leon. I’m not looking into that though, because I have a hunch Leon will make the roster no matter what. I mean, he is essentially the personal catcher for the best pitcher on the staff, that’s all the reason you need to keep him. The only thing that counters this thought is how much the Red Sox seem to value Swihart. His trade value is probably at its highest right now, but I have not heard anything about a potential trade. Keeping both Swihart and Leon on the 25-man roster seems like a stretch, but I’m not in that clubhouse or front office, so I don’t know what to make of it.
For Mookie Betts, this spring has been a bit of a struggle at the plate. It’s nothing to worry about, but it is worth noting that entering today, Betts had only collected one hit in his first 19 at bats. Why is a hitter as talented as Betts having a tough go of things? Well, it’s hard to say, but it looks like he may be coming out of this slump, given how good he was today against the Baltimore Orioles. The 25 year-old took to the plate three times today, and reached base all three times, including a solo home run to lead off the first inning.
A line drive over the Fenway South monster is vintage Betts. According to FanGraphs, all but one of the 24 long balls Betts hit last year were hit to left / left-center field. In fact, the only one that wasn’t, was this one:
Today was a step in the right direction for Mookie. With 18 days until Opening Day, I’ll be interested to see what he can do to bring up his numbers before the season starts.