Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi to Pitch in Intrasquad Game on Thursday, Could Start on Opening Day Depending on Eduardo Rodriguez’s Status

Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi has impressed thus far at Summer Camp. The 30-year-old tossed a three-inning simulated game at Fenway Park on Saturday where he threw about 45 pitches.

In that sim game, Eovaldi faced Alex Verdugo, Jonathan Lucroy, Connor Wong, and Jett Bandy and utilized his pitch mix effectively, according to Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke.

“The stuff was great,” Roenicke said of Eovaldi on Saturday. “The cutter was good, the slider, the curveball. Threw some really good split-fingers and the velocity was there on his fastball. He got what he needed to do today.”

In terms of velocity, the flame-throwing Eovaldi topped out at about 100 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball. His next outing will likely come in a five-inning intrasquad game at Fenway on Thursday.

Taking that date into account, Eovaldi would be lined up to start for Boston on Openinf Day 2.0 on July 24th. That being said, Roenicke and the Red Sox still expect left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who has been at home in Florida awaiting the results of his COVID-19 test, to get the starting nod on that day.

As mentioned by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Roenicke has been noncommittal on who his Opening Day starter will be to this point. Rodriguez was expected to handle the duty prior to MLB suspending spring training back in March, but his status for the start of the 2020 season is now up in the air due to potential exposure to the coronavirus.

If Eovaldi’s impressive run continues on Thursday while Rodriguez is still absent from camp, Roenicke might not have any choice other than to name the Houston native his Opening Day starter. We’ll have to wait and see on that.

 

Red Sox Add Jonathan Lucroy to Summer Camp Player Pool

The Red Sox have added veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy to their player pool for the resumption of MLB spring training, or Summer Camp, as a non-roster invitee. The club announced the transaction earlier Thursday.

With the addition of Lucroy, the Red Sox now have 48 out of a possible 60 players in their Summer Camp Pool. 11 of those players, which now includes Lucroy, are non-roster invitees.

Lucroy, who turned 34 last month, originally inked a minor-league deal with Boston back in February and looked to compete with Kevin Plawecki for the backup catcher spot before the COVID-19 pandemic shut spring training down in March.

Since that time, the Florida native was not added to the Sox’ initial 47-player roster pool this past Sunday, but that was only for procedural reasons. More specifically, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, there were “issues related to [an] opt-out to work through” before the Red Sox could add him to the pool.

Those issues have since been worked out, however, and now Lucroy represents the sixth catcher to be added to the Sox’ Summer Camp roster pool. Other backstops who will participate include Christian Vazquez, Kevin Plawecki, Jett Bandy, Juan Centeno, and Connor Wong.

With all MLB clubs allowed to have 30 players on their active roster to begin the 2020 season later this month, teams will likely take advantage of that and carry three catchers to start things out. That being said, Vazquez, Plawecki, and Lucroy are all likely locks to make Boston’s Opening Day roster.

Red Sox Manager Ron Roenicke on Nathan Eovaldi: ‘He Probably Would Be Ready for a Season in a Week’

Before MLB spring training was suspended in mid-March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi was putting together an impressive string of exhibition outings leading into what would have been his second full season in Boston.

Over three starts spanning 12 innings of work, the 30-year-old hurler had yet to surrender a run while scattering just four hits and one walk to go along with 12 strikeouts against 29 total batters faced.

It was just Grapefruit League play, sure, but in the midst of Chris Sale undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery and David Price being dealt to the Dodgers, a resurgent Eovaldi would have been a welcome sight for a Red Sox pitching staff with plenty of holes.

Five days after his start against the Blue Jays in Fort Myers, spring training sites across Florida and Arizona were shut down due to the aforementioned pandemic, and players were allowed to go back home, where they would have to stay prepared for the 2020 season on their own outside of phone/video conference calls with their respective coaching staffs.

Flash forward from March to where things stand right now, and Red Sox pitchers and catchers, along with the rest of the team, are ready to report to Fenway Park on Wednesday for ‘Summer Camp,’ as it has been dubbed by MLB.

When speaking with reporters via Zoom on Wednesday, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke provided some updates on his pitching staff, which included the fact that guys like Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Martin Perez have already begun to ramp up their workloads while at home these past few weeks.

“You look at guys like Nate Eovaldi and what he’s done so far, “Roenicke said. “He probably would be ready for a season in a week.”

It’s unclear whether Roenicke meant a 60-game or 162-game season, but it still an encouraging update pertaining to an important member of the Red Sox’ starting rotation nonetheless.

After signing a four-year, $68 million deal to stay in Boston two Decembers ago, Eovaldi struggled to stay on the field at times in 2019.

Last April, after just four starts, the Houston native required surgery to remove loose bodies in his right elbow, a procedure that cost him just about four months of the season.

Upon his return to the Red Sox as a reliever in late July, Eovaldi proved mostly ineffective out of the bullpen, as he posted an ERA above five over 11 appearances before closing out the season as a starter once more from August 18th on.

Due to his contract and lackluster 2019 campaign, Eovaldi has drawn the ire of many a Red Sox fan.

The 2020 season may be a truncated one, but if healthy, the flame throwing Eovaldi could prove his doubters wrong and emerge as a key cog on an overlooked Red Sox pitching staff.

Red Sox Add 47 Players to Initial Training Camp Roster Pool

The Red Sox have added 47 players to their initial player pool for summer training camp, the club announced Sunday.

Teams had until 4 PM eastern time Sunday to submit their initial training camp pools to Major League Baseball and could include up to 60 players.

Seemingly taking the conservative route here, the Red Sox have left 13 open slots in their initial club pool, although they have the ability to add more players later on.

Prior to Sunday, many assumed that Boston would include a bevy of top prospects in their pool, as has been the case thus far with other clubs, but that was not part of the Sox’ course of action, apparently.

Instead, corner infielder Bobby Dalbec was the only premier Red Sox prospect to make the cut. Other touted youngsters in Boston’s minor-league pipleine, such as Jeter Downs, Triston Casas, Jarren Duran, Tanner Houck, or Bryan Mata, did not. At least for the time being, that is.

It’s also worth mentioning that 10 non-roster invitees — Brian Johnson, Yairo Munoz, Domingo Tapia, Cesar Puello, Marco Hernandez Juan Centeno, Jett Bandy, Robinson Leyer, John Andreoli, and catching prospect Connor Wong — made the initial pool.

Veteran backstop Jonathan Lucroy, who signed a minor-league deal with Boston in February, did not make the initial pool, but according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the reason for that is a procedural one.

Among the players who make up the Sox’ 40-man roster, left-hander Yoan Aybar and outfielder Marcus Wilson were the only ones not to receive an initial invite to training camp.

As previously mentioned though, there is still plenty of time for other players and prospects to be added at a later date. We’ll have to see what chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have in store once players begin reporting to training camp this week.

 

 

Red Sox to Hold Second Version of Spring Training in Boston, per Report

The Red Sox, along with the 29 other Major League Baseball clubs, will hold their second version of spring training in their home cities rather than in Arizona or Florida, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

This news comes one day after MLB ordered all regular spring training facilities be shut down in order to undergo a deep clean. That coming on the heels of several players and staff in the Blue Jays and Phillies organizations testing positive for COVID-19.

The Red Sox’ spring training facility, Fenway South in Fort Myers, Fla., had been open to players since late May. Alex Verdugo, Chris Sale, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Tzu-Wei Lin were among the players who returned to JetBlue Park after the complex underwent a deep cleanse of its own back in late March after a minor-league tested positive for the virus.

If Nightengale’s report is indeed true, it seems unlikely that the Sox would limit themselves to just using Fenway Park in this second version of spring training, especially considering the volume of players that would need to be on hand in this scenario.

When speaking with WCVB’s Duke Castiglione last week on this subject, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said that if spring training were to be held in Boston, “Some colleges have reached out with their facilities if we are in Boston and have offered their fields and the use of their equipment.”

Boston College, Northeastern University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among the colleges with baseball teams in the area.

At this point in time, there is no start date for a 2020 MLB season, if there even is one. With that, there is no start date for the beginning of spring training, either. So there are still plenty of obstacles, both in terms of COVID-19 and finances, to hurdle before a concrete plan is set in motion.

Blogging the Red Sox Presents: An Interview With Chaim Bloom

When Major League Baseball first suspended spring training and delayed the start of the 2020 season back in March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I sent an email to Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom asking if I could send him a handful of questions pertaining to those aforementioned events taking place.

It took some time, but after sorting things out with the club’s media relations department over the last few weeks, I have in my virtual possession the written responses to the questions I sent him.

Rather than structure this article like a story you would typically see on here, I am instead going to enclose the “transcript” of the “interview” below. So please enjoy, and remember, these questions were sent earlier in the spring, before this year’s draft and before MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he’s not “100%” confident there will be a season this year.

Would you rather the Red Sox host spring training workouts in Boston or Fort Myers?

Chaim Bloom: This is such a unique year – it forces us to rethink everything that goes into spring training. There are certainly benefits to both places and we’re hoping to get a clearer idea of exactly what 2020 will look like before we firm up a plan. In the meantime, we’re working on parallel tracks to make sure we’re ready for whatever makes the most sense once we see the schedule as a whole.

How has it been preparing for this year’s draft with less material to go over than usual?

Bloom: The process to prepare for the 2020 draft really favored those staffs who had done their homework in the summer and the fall. When you have a hard-working staff with a lot of continuity, which we do, that’s one aspect we were well prepared to take advantage of. The biggest challenge for all 30 clubs was how to weigh those spring samples, which were either small or nonexistent. If a player changed dramatically from what he’d been, how much weight do you put on that? Is that who he is now – was it a real step forward or back – or was it just a small-sample fluke? Those types of discussions were some of the most interesting that we had amongst our staff.

Who in the front office or scouting department would be best at convincing undrafted players to sign with the Red Sox for up to $20,000?

Bloom: The decision to play pro ball is a very personal one for a lot of players and this year is no different. We certainly want to make the case to interested players that we’re the organization that can get the most out of them and maximize their potential. But we also want this to be a mutual fit, who see themselves as well-positioned to take advantage of what we have to offer. When those things line up, we will be set up well to have success in development.

Despite the current freeze placed on any sort of roster moves, have you had any conversations with free agents or other general managers during this period?

Bloom: Along with others in the front office, I’ve continued to speak to counterparts and contacts throughout the game, but not to discuss trades or roster moves. That’s just not appropriate right now and there have been many other issues to worry about.

As a spectator, how different would it be for you to watch Major League Baseball be played in empty ballparks? Would that impact the way you view or analyze a certain player since there would be no crowd noise to react to?

Bloom: It would be different, that’s for sure. I don’t think we know exactly how players will react. But I’d be hesitant to give too much blame or credit to the attendance (or lack thereof) when assessing how a player performs. There’s so much that goes into what these guys do that I don’t know how we could separate the signal from the noise. They’re pros and I have every reason to think they’ll be locked in when the time comes to compete.

Finally, how odd has it been to not have any live stateside baseball to watch at this point in the year? There are obviously more pressing issues at hand in this country, but as someone who has been part of a major-league front office in some capacity since 2005, this has to be kind of strange, no?

Bloom: No question. This is not an experience that has been fun for anyone in the game. We’ve done what we can to make the most of the time, but we’re all in this because we love baseball and when there isn’t any, it’s a downer. Having said that, we know that public health and the safety of our players, our staff, and our fans is and should be higher priorities. Those things have to come first, but we’re hopeful that we can provide some entertainment for our fans during this really difficult period.

Thank you to Chaim Bloom and Red Sox vice president of media relations Kevin Gregg for making this possible. 

Red Sox Will Pay Minor-League Players $400 per Week Through End of August

The Red Sox will pay their minor-league players $400 per week through the end of August, or what would have been the end of the 2020 minor-league season, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

This news comes a day after the club released 22 minor-league players amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minor-leaguers have been financially supported by Major League Baseball since March, but that commitment only runs through the end of May.

From there, it will be up to the major-league clubs to extend the salaries of their minor-league players, and it appears that the Red Sox are one of several teams who will be doing so beginning next month.

Per Speier, “All minor leaguers in the Red Sox system who aren’t covered by a major-league contract — meaning who aren’t on the 40-man roster — will receive the $400 weekly stipend.”

As noted by ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Thursday, up to 1,000 minor-leaguers could be released in the next week or so. The majority of these cuts were expected to be made before spring training was suspended, but it is still a tough time for the sport nonetheless, as many professional baseball careers may be coming to an end sooner than expected.

 

Red Sox Open Fenway South Complex for Players to Prepare for 2020 Season, If There Is One

The Red Sox have opened the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers back up for players to once again prepare for the 2020 season, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

The important distinction here is that before this week, the complex was only available to players who were working their way back from injuries, such as Alex Verdugo and Chris Sale.

Now though, I would imagine the facility surrounding JetBlue Park is available to Red Sox players and staff in the same capacity it was before pitchers and catchers reported to camp back in February.

Per Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the complex was open on Wednesday and Thursday to a handful of players that included Jackie Bradley Jr. and Tzu-Wei Lin, and he expects that the exact number of players who show up “may vary day to day.”

This news comes at a time where the club is debating on whether to hold a second version of spring training in Boston or Fort Myers if baseball does indeed return this year. Of course, that all depends on the ongoing negotiations between Major League Baseball and the MLBPA.

As Abraham notes, if the two sides can reach an agreement on starting the season relatively soon, “formal workouts would begin approximately June 10th and last three weeks.”

These preseason workouts would more than likely consist of intrasquad games, so it would seem like it would be in the Sox’ best interest to hold a second version of spring training in Fort Myers rather than Boston given the volume of players who would be on hand in this scenario.

Red Sox Pitching Coach Dave Bush Tells His Pitchers to Maintain ‘Normal Throwing Programs’ While Awaiting MLB’s Return

At this point exactly one year ago, Red Sox pitchers had combined to throw exactly 411 innings through the club’s first 46 games of the 2019 season.

Flash forward to 2020, and that number of innings pitched on the same date stands at zero, and it appears that it will stay at zero until at least early July.

First-year Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush, who was appointed to the position last October in place of Dana LeVangie, would be learning the ropes of his new post under normal circumstances. Instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has put Major League Baseball on hold for the time being, Bush, like many across the sport, have to find new ways to coach up his players.

In a recent conversation with The Athletic’s Peter Gammons, Bush, 40, said that he has told the Boston pitching staff to stick with “normal throwing programs” until they know when they can get back to a spring training setting and can “begin a supervised program for the season” from there.

This is the same sort of sentiment Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom echoed earlier this month in a radio interview with WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni, and Fauria regarding the pandemic-induced shutdown’s effect on players.

“Even if we have a spring training, however long that spring training is, guys will need to get ramped up well in advance of that to make sure they’re in shape and make sure they can safely get back up to ready to roll whenever the season does start,” he said. “We are so used to working backward from a specific start date and we can’t do that right now. So we’re trying to keep them at a level that is responsible where we’re not trying to get them at too high a gear and then ask them to hold. But we also want to make sure they don’t run out of time to get up to speed if and when we do get a specific start date. So we’re just trying to find that happy medium.”

The conventional version of spring training was suspended by MLB on March 13th. The majority of Red Sox players left Fort Myers at the time to return to their respective homes, but it appears that some individuals, such as Alex Verdugo and Chris Sale, have returned to work out at the Fenway South complex in recent weeks. More could return relatively soon, too, considering how Florida has been loosening its COVID-19-related restrictions across the state.

According to Gammons, MLB clubs are currently terrified of two things. The first being a potential second wave of the coronavirus and all the ramifications that come with it, and the second being “that the re-ramping-up process, coming four-plus months after the initial ramping-up process, will result in a rash of injuries.”

To add on to that, Gammons writes, “Two prominent orthopedic surgeons with significant baseball experience have predicted waiting lines at the doors of Dr. James Andrews, Dr. Neal ElAttrache and the many other physicians who have preserved so many careers.”

The re-ramping up process that Gammons mentions should be a concern for pitching coaches and general managers across the league. I can’t say for sure, but it seems like these guys went into ‘prepare for the season mode’ around the same time they are accustomed to and then all of a sudden were told to go into ‘offseason mode’ just like that. I’m no pitching guru, but disrupting someone’s routine like that has to have negative connotations, right?

For now, it will be fascinating to see how Bush continues to coach his pitching staff without being in the same physical location as them.

Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez on MLB Season Being Put on Hold Due to Coronavirus Pandemic: ‘I’m 32. I’m an Antique. I Need to Be out There Playing’

Although he is confident that there will be a Major League Baseball season in some capacity in 2020, Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez is still anxiously awaiting to get back to doing what he’s used to doing this time of year.

Entering his third year with the Red Sox, Martinez can opt out of the final two years of the five-year, $110 million contract he signed with Boston in 2018 this winter. That is probably weighing on his mind as well, especially if he’s going to have fewer games to play in this year.

“I’m 32. I’m an antique. I need to be out there playing,” Martinez told The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham on Wednesday. “This sucks. Hopefully we’ll get a day and I can crank it up and get ready.”

Martinez believes that once baseball does return there should be strict policies in regards to testing just about everyone involved with the game for COVID-19. He told the MLB Players Association that much.

“Everyone would need to get tested,” Martinez told Abraham. “Players, coaches, the media, security guards. If you come in the ballpark, you get tested. I’m not an expert on this virus but you need daily testing.”

While waiting out this pandemic from his Fort Lauderdale home, Martinez has been using fellow south Florida native and Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer’s house, which has a batting cage, as a way to stay in shape. Hosmer is currently waiting things out himself in San Diego.

“He has a cage and I can hit there,” said Martinez of Hosmer’s Southwest Ranches residence. “It’s not ideal, but it’s fine. I’m in offseason mode.”

Based off a recent report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan among others, MLB is planning on sending the MLBPA a return-to-play proposal within the next week. This proposal appears to involve a spring training period starting in June and the regular season starting sometime in early July.

Of course, there are still plenty of hurdles to get over, but I can’t imagine players like Martinez, who comes off like a real creature of habit, enjoy being in “offseason mode” in early May.