Former Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. officially signs with Brewers

Former Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. finally saw his free agency come to a close on Monday as his two-year, $24 million deal with the Brewers was made official.

The 30-year-old had been on the open market for a little more than four months, eventually reaching the point where he was the best position player still available by the time clubs reported for spring training in February.

A client of super-agent Scott Boras, Bradley Jr. never wavered while being in a situation others in his position might have considering the fact it was early March and he was still without a job.

Speaking with reporters via Zoom from Phoenix, Ariz. on Monday, the Gold Glover explained what led to him landing with Milwaukee after a long winter.

“This was an unprecedented offseason,” Bradley Jr. said. “This is my first free agency, so I don’t have anything to compare it with. I personally enjoyed it, because I focused on the things that were going on around me. I was able to spend a lot of quality time with my family and kind of let all that figure it out itself. I was just relaxing, and waiting for the opportunity. I was continuously staying ready, working hard.”

Coming off a successful 2020 season in which he slashed .283/.364/.450 to go along with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 55 games while providing his usual superb defense in centerfield, the former first-round pick had multiple offers to consider, but he ultimately wound up signing a two-year pact with the Brewers that also includes an opt out after the first year.

“With the offer now, I just wanted to trust myself,” he added. “I believe in my ability and my talent and I feel like this particular deal offers me a lot of flexibility.”

Throughout the course of the offseason, Bradley Jr. seemingly had one definitive suitor in the form of his old club in Boston.

It never seemed all that likely that the two sides would come to terms on a new deal, but whenever he was asked, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom would say something along the lines of: ‘We love Jackie. We’re going to remain involved on that front until his free agency resolves.’

Bradley Jr.’s free agency ultimately resolved itself without the Sox getting overly involved, but the All-Star centerfielder did confirm that there were talks about a potential reuinion.

“I think, as a whole, you want to stay open-minded about it all,” he said when asked if there was a point this winter when he thought he might stay with the Red Sox. “Anytime you’re already closing off different avenues, then you’re limiting yourself. So I think as long as you’re pretty open-minded about listening and gathering all the information, that’s going to give you the best opportunity to make the decision that you feel is best for you and your family.”

Bradley Jr., who turns 31 next month, is slated to earn $13 million with the Brewers this season with the chance to earn an additional $11 million in 2022 if he declines to opt out of his deal.

That decision is a longways away, though, and the University of South Carolina product is just looking forward to familiarizing himself with his new organization for the time being. This is after all his first time reporting to a team whose spring training headquarters are not in Fort Myers.

And for what it’s worth, Bradley Jr. will wear the No. 41 for the Brewers. That number signifies the birth dates of himself, his wife Erin, his daughter Emerson, and his son Jackie III.

“It was a breath of fresh air,” Bradley Jr. said when describing what it was like to put on a Brewers uniform on for the first time. “To be able to finally be out here and moving around, I’m glad to be here. I’m really excited for the opportunity and I’m going to have a lot of fun with these guys.”

(Picture of Jackie Bradley Jr.: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Matt Barnes, Red Sox closer candidate, impresses with two strikeouts in spring debut

Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes made his first appearance of the spring for Boston as part of Sunday afternoon’s 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Braves in North Port.

Working in relief of Garrett Richards and Josh Winckowski in the bottom half of the fourth inning, the veteran right-hander looked sharp in his 2021 debut, as he retired the Braves’ 8-9-1 hitters — Jake Lamb, Cristian Pache, and Ronald Acuna Jr. — in order while needing just 12 pitches to do so.

Recording two strikeouts (one looking, one swinging) in the process of tossing a perfect frame of relief, Barnes worked in a healthy mix of curveballs and high-velocity fastballs on Sunday.

“I felt really comfortable out there,” the 30-year-old hurler said during his in-game media availability. “Felt like my mechanics were working well. Couple of high fastballs got away from me. But overall, the way the ball was coming out, the command of the fastball and the breaking ball, definitely happy.”

Barnes came into camp this spring as a potential closer candidate for Red Sox manager Alex Cora given the experience he gained in that role last year after Brandon Workman was traded to the Phillies.

On the 2020 campaign as a whole, the UCONN product posted a 4.30 ERA and .706 OPS against over 24 appearances out of the Boston bullpen spanning 23 innings of work.

Regardless of how he performs throughout the rest of spring training, Barnes feels as though his body of work in the majors would outweigh what he does this month when it comes to the team’s closer competition.

“I’ll be honest with you,” said Barnes. “I don’t think I’m going to be judged on eight outings in spring training more than the last four or five years worth of work. “If there was something drastic and I was coming out throwing 88 (mph), that’s a topic for a different day. If I come out showing the stuff I’ve had my entire career, I don’t think eight or nine outings in spring training in which I’m building up looking to get ready for the season are going to define the decision and what they want to do.”

Alongside Barnes, another fellow New Englander in Adam Ottavino is also vying for the role as the Sox’ ninth-inning man, though he has yet to make his team debut.

Between the two relievers, Boston has a pair of intriguing arms who bring different skillsets to the table, and both figure to see the majority of their appearances this coming season come late in games regardless of who the closer is.

Barnes, who has accrued 15 career saves over the course of his seven-year big-league career with Boston, had said last week that he would like to close, but Cora does not seem ready to name who his closer will be to kick off the 2021 campaign just yet.

“There’s no frontrunners here,” Cora said Sunday afternoon. “Those guys are going to build up, be ready and we’ll make a decision toward the end of camp.”

Having said that, Cora was still impressed with how Barnes performed in his spring debut against Atlanta to close out the weekend.

“That was impressive,” the Sox skipper stated. “Velocity was up, made some adjustments, and it was a good one for Barnesy. You don’t have to worry too much about him. Physically, he’s always in shape. He’s a guy just like Adam. We’re going to take our time. They know what they need to be ready for the start of the season. But that was impressive. Velocity was up — I think it was a tick up from last year, which is a good sign.”

One reason as to why Barnes’ velocity may be up right now is simply because of how little he pitched last year on account of the 2020 season only being 60 games in length.

As previously mentioned, the former first-round draft pick only pitched 23 innings in 2020. From 2016-2019, he averaged 66 innings of work per season.

“It’s really when I started playing catch during the offseason this year,” Barnes recounted. “I got to a point where the ball was coming out good — a lot sooner — I felt like because I only threw 23 innings, which is only 33% of a normal year’s workload. So when you take that into account, my arm feels fantastic. It almost feels like I didn’t even pitch last year. So I’m really happy with that; really happy with where I’m at right now.”

While Barnes may be pleased with where he is at currently, the flame-throwing righty still has plenty of work to do before Opening Day, so he is going to be sure to not get too ahead of himself between now and then.

“Obviously, you got to be conscious not to try and overdo it,” he said. “Sometimes you feel so great that you push and push, and I got to be conscious that we still have three weeks until the season. I don’t need to go out there and blow it out right now. I got to make sure that I pace myself and that I’m ready for April 1.”

Barnes, who turns 31 in June and will earn $4.5 million this season, is slated to become a free-agent for the first time in his career next winter. He has said that he is open to signing a contract extension to remain with the Red Sox.

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox lose right-hander Joel Payamps on waivers to Blue Jays, again

The Red Sox have lost right-hander Joel Payamps on waivers to the Toronto Blue Jays, the team announced Saturday afternoon.

Payamps, who turns 27 next month, has had quite the eventful offseason, as he has now been claimed by the same two teams on multiple occasions.

In late November, Boston claimed the Dominican reliever off waivers from the Diamondbacks and added him to their 40-man roster, where he would stay until early February.

At that point in time, the Sox designated Payamps for assignment in order to clear a roster spot for then-recently-signed right-hander Garrett Richards.

With seven days to trade him, release him, or sneak him through waivers, the Red Sox nearly retained Payamps’ services until he was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays on February 10.

Less than two weeks later, the 6-foot-2, 225 lb. hurler had been DFA’d again — this time by Toronto — and was once more claimed off waivers by Boston on February 22.

Payamps had been at Red Sox camp in Fort Myers and even got into a Grapefruit League game and tossed a scoreless inning against the Rays this past Tuesday, but he will now make the trek up north to Dunedin to re-join the Jays for the time being.

For his major-league career, which spans two seasons with the D-backs from 2019 through 2020, Payamps has allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits, six walks, and five strikeouts over four total appearances spanning seven total innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 3.86 and a FIP of 4.35.

He also made eight relief appearances for Estrellas de Oriente of the Dominican Winter League this offseason, where he posted a 1.38 ERA over 13 innings pitched out of the bullpen.

Per Baseball Savant, Payamps primarily works with a a four-seam fastball, slider, sinker, and changeup. He will have the chance to show off that pitch mix with the Blue Jays once again, though it would not be too surprising to see him back with the Red Sox before Opening Day.

That being the case because Payamps still has one minor-league option remaining, so he does come with some flexibility if a club were willing to use a 40-man roster spot on him.

Speaking of 40-man rosters, Boston’s 40-man now stands at 39 players. This might signal that backup catcher Kevin Plawecki, who has been on the COVID-19 related injured list since late February, is ready to be activated from the IL considering the fact he started behind the plate for the Sox on Saturday.

We will have to wait and see if the Red Sox make a corresponding roster move sometime between now and the end of the weekend, so stay tuned for that.

(Picture of Joel Payamps: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas back in Fort Myers: ‘The fact that he’s here already is a positive step,’ Alex Cora says

Red Sox infield prospect Triston Casas returned to Fort Myers on Thursday night and is currently undergoing the intake process before reporting back to the Fenway South complex.

Casas, the top prospect in Boston’s farm system according to Baseball America, had been in Boston for a non-baseball-related medical issue.

“With Casas, we’re getting closer,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters Saturday morning. “He’s actually here in Fort Myers. He’s not here in the facility, still going through intake and all that stuff. But we feel confident that, hopefully, he can join the team over the course of the week. So things are trending in the right direction.”

Casas, who turned 21 in January, is currently one of 34 non-roster invitees at major-league spring training. The left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing corner infielder was originally selected by Boston in the first round of the 2018 amateur draft out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla.

The specific reason as to why Casas was in Boston is unclear, but the fact that he was there to be evaluated for a non-baseball medical issue caused quite the stir in regards to thinking about the Florida native’s long-term outlook.

“As of now, there’s a lot of people involved in this situation,” said Cora. “And people are feeling better the last few days. So hopefully, like I said, if you see him joining the team, that’s a good sign. The fact that he’s here already is a positive step and hoping that he can join us. I think a lot of people are feeling better the last few days.”

With no minor-league baseball last year, Casas is coming off a 2020 season in which he spent time at both the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and fall instructional league in Fort Myers, where he was one of the more impressive position players in attendance.

The last time he saw any organized minor-league action, the 6-foot-4, 252 lb. infielder slashed .256/.350/.480 with 20 home runs and 81 RBI over 120 total games between Class-A Greenville and High-A Salem en route to being named Boston’s 2019 minor league offensive Player of the Year.

Casas is slated to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland, but the hope is he will have the opportunity to get into some Grapefruit League games before then.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata has slight tear in his UCL

The MRI Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata underwent on Thursday revealed a slight tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, manager Alex Cora announced Saturday morning.

Mata, 21, was originally slated to pitch in Wednesday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Twins, but was ultimately scratched from that appearance due to soreness behind his right triceps.

After undergoing that aforementioned MRI the following day, it turns out that Mata has a slightly torn UCL. The Red Sox will try to treat the ailment without surgery for the time being.

“Unfortunately with Bryan, he has a slight tear in his UCL,” Cora told reporters earlier Saturday. “So we’re going to shut him down. The way we’re going to go with him is going to be treatment. The doctors and the physicians feel that it’s small enough that with treatment and doing that, he should be fine.”

A fiery right-hander out of Venezuela, Mata came into spring training as the top pitching prospect — and the No. 4 overall prospect — in the Red Sox farm system according to Baseball America.

There is currently no timetable set for his return, but it would appear that the Sox have already created a roadmap of sorts for their young hurler.

“There’s no timetable,” said Cora. “There’s going to be a few checkpoints throughout the process, and if he’s disciplined and follows everything that we are set to do, the hope is for him to come back.”

Boston originally signed Mata out of Venezuela for just $25,000 back in early 2016. Since making his pro debut later that year, the 6-foot-3, 238 lb. righty has compiled a 3.40 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 69 career starts spanning 315 innings pitched across four minor-league levels.

With there being no minor-league season in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and all, Mata spent time at both the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and fall instructional league in Fort Myers last year. He was added to the club’s 40-man roster in November.

Given how he has risen through the prospect ranks, it appeared that Mata was primed to make his big-league debut at some point this season, but that may now have to wait due to this unexpected hurdle.

“As you guys know, he’s very important for us,” said Cora. “It’s a tough one, but at the same time we do believe that he’s going to bounce back and he’s going to be OK.”

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Mata’s pitch mix consists of a high-octane fastball, a curveball, a slider, and a changeup. His fastball sat between 96-97 mph at the alternate site over the summer and tops out at 100 mph.

“Obviously we have to be patient and see how he reacts,” Cora said in regards to Mata’s road to recovery. ““When you start talking about the UCL, obviously it’s something that we don’t feel comfortable, of course, because it’s the UCL. We’ve just got to be patient. And he has to be patient. He’s young enough that probably everything’s going fast for him right now. But he’s mature enough, too, to understand that these things happen over the course of your career. He did an amazing job in the offseason to get in shape and get his arm where it’s supposed to be. It’s an obstacle in his career. But we do feel like he’s going to bounce back and he’s going to be OK.”

(Picture of Bryan Mata: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora looking forward to seeing top prospect Gilberto Jimenez in action at spring training: ‘It should be fun to see him run around the bases’

In case you missed it, the Red Sox added top outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez to their major-league spring training roster as a non-roster invitee Friday afternoon.

Jimenez, who does not turn 21 until July, is now the second-youngest player at Red Sox camp behind 2020 first-round draft pick Nick Yorke.

Manager Alex Cora has had high praise for the 18-year-old infielder since he arrived in Fort Myers for his first ever big-league spring training last month. His attention now shifts to another youngster at the Fenway South complex in the form of Jimenez.

“Just like the other kids, to be able to have him here, work out with us and learn the game,” Cora said of the 20-year-old outfielder following a 5-4 win over the Rays at JetBlue Park on Friday. “Hopefully, he can get some at-bats and see what he can do.”

Jimenez is currently ranked as the No. 5 prospect in Boston’s farm system by Baseball America.

Last time he saw any organized minor-league action, the Dominican national slashed .359/.393/.370 with three home runs, 19 RBI, and 14 stolen bases across 59 games for Low-A Lowell in 2019.

At that time, Jimenez was listed at 5-foot-11 and around 160 lbs. Since then, he has bulked up tremendously. And he put that added muscle on full display at the Sox’ fall instructional league last year (2020).

“The young Dominican is now listed at 212 pounds, up significantly from where he was with Lowell,” SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote of Jimenez’s showing at fall instructs in December. “Even though he has added that much size, he still is an elite athlete and has only lost a little speed, now grading as a 70 runner rather than 80.”

Among minor-leaguers in the Red Sox system, the switch-hitting Jimenez is perhaps one of, if not the quickest prospect the organization has to offer.

That aspect of his game — as well as his strength — is something Cora is looking forward to seeing in action.

“This is the first time I’ve seen him,” the Sox skipper said. “Strong kid. Strong. Looking forward to him to go out there and learn from the guys. It should be fun to see him run around the bases.”

Cora wanting Jimenez to learn from the veterans around him at camp should come as no surprise. He did after all encourage Yorke to follow around Enrique Hernandez during workouts.

“He’s going to spend a lot of time with us, but that’s what I want him to do,” Cora said of Yorke late last month. “Just learn, keep working, understand what it takes to be a big-leaguer, and he’ll be a big-leaguer. He’ll be a big-leaguer.”

Though he did not say it on Friday, it’s safe to assume Cora wants Jimenez and Yorke to share the same sort of experience this spring.

Put another way, neither of the organization’s most talented prospects have a realistic shot of cracking Boston’s Opening Day roster or getting called up to the majors this year, but what they learn right now could help them down the line as they continue on with their development.

Jimenez, who signed out of the Dominican for just $10,000 back in 2017, is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville, whose season does not start until sometime in May at the earliest.

This year has the potential to be an important one for the speedster, as he is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his professional career this December.

At this point, one would have to assume that Jimenez is a favorite to secure a spot on Boston’s 40-man roster some time between now and November 20, but a strong season in Greenville — or wherever else he plays — certainly wouldn’t hurt, either.

(Picture of Gilberto Jimenez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Might recently-signed Danny Santana cost Christian Arroyo his spot on Red Sox’ roster?

Could the Red Sox signing utilityman Danny Santana to a minor-league contract on Thursday ultimately cost Christian Arroyo his spot on the club’s 40-man roster. One writer in particular — MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo — thinks that may be the case.

In his weekly notes column for MassLive, Cotillo made 10 predictions for the Sox’ 2021 season, and one of those predictions was that Santana makes the team out of spring training after winning the competition for the final bench spot.

“Though he’s a late entrant into the competition for Boston’s final bench spot, Santana is actually a better fit for the roster than the club’s other options,” Cotillo wrote Friday. “The other three competitors — Christian Arroyo, Michael Chavis and Yairo Muñoz — are all right-handed hitters, which limits Alex Cora to an extent.”

Cotillo notes that while the handedness of the hitters on the Red Sox’ bench would change on a game-to-game basis, “the fact that the backup catcher (Kevin Plawecki) is right-handed means a left-handed bat would be preferable.”

As currently constructed, Jonathan Arauz and Marwin Gonzalez are the only infielders on Boston’s 40-man roster who can hit from the left side of the plate, as both are switch-hitters.

Arauz, who is still just 22 years old, figures to begin the 2021 season at the Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester to continue his development, while Gonzalez, who inked a one-year, $3 million pact with Boston last month, figures to see most of his playing time come in left field as opposed to the infield.

Having said that, Cora and Co. are somewhat limited in what they can do in regards to bench flexibility. That is where Santana — a switch-hitter — comes into play.

In seven major-league seasons between the Twins, Braves, and Rangers, the 30-year-old out of the Dominican owns a lifetime .266/.304/.422 slash line against right-handed pitching and a lifetime .243/.287/.407 slash line against left-handed pitching going back to 2014. He has also seen playing time at every defensive position besides pitcher and catcher.

Arroyo, who unlike Chavis is out of minor-league options and unlike Munoz is on Boston’s 40-man roster, unsurprisingly owns a lifetime .213/.297/.381 slash line in 176 career plate appearances against righties dating back to 2017. He has seen playing time at just three different positions: second base, third base, and shortstop.

Taking those points into consideration, Santana — as noted by Cotillo — “makes more sense than the others,” including Arroyo.

Coming into the spring, Arroyo seemed like almost a lock to make the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster considering the fact that he is out of minor-league options like Nick Pivetta is.

The 25-year-old former top prospect had a decent showing in limited action with the Sox last season, going 12-for-50 (.240) at the plate with three home runs, eight RBI, and four walks over 14 September contests (54 plate appearances).

If Boston were to roll with Santana over Arroyo out of the gate, though, that would likely mark the end of Arroyo’s run on the club’s 40-man roster.

In other words, you could see a transaction where the Red Sox purchase Santana’s contract — and in doing so add him to their major-league roster — while designating Arroyo for assignment to clear a roster spot.

The goal then, as Cotillo writes, would be for the Red Sox “to try to sneak Arroyo through waivers” while both Chavis and Munoz would be optioned down to the alternate site.

In this scenario, this would not be the first time the Sox designated Arroyo, as they did the very same thing just days after claiming the Florida native off waivers from the Indians last August.

For what it’s worth, Santana, who turns 31 in November, is only under club control through the end of the 2021 season. Arroyo, meanwhile, turns 26 in May and is under club control through the 2024 season.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Santana will earn a base salary of $1.75 million if he makes it to the majors with the Red Sox this year with the chance to earn an additional $1 million in incentives and another $100,000 in the form of a bonus if he starts at Triple-A.

Those contract details, per Cotillo, makes it “seem like the Red Sox have plans to bring him up to the majors.”

We will have to wait and see if those hypothetical plans come to fruition before Opening Day.

(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Pitching prospect Zach Bryant joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by newest Red Sox right-handed pitching prospect Zach Bryant, who the club acquired from the Chicago Cubs last weekend.

Among the topics Zach and I discussed were how he grew up a Red Sox fan despite being born and raised in Florida, how weightlifting helped turn him into a legitimate prospect, how he works out with Orioles outfielder Austin Hays and Rockies first-round draft pick Zac Veen in the offseason, how Driveline Baseball has helped him improve, how he faced off against Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani while at the Driveline facility, what Red sox fans can expect out of him in 2021, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Zach for taking some time out of his busy schedule to have a conversation with me. You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here, and you can follow him on Instagram by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Zach Bryant: Aussiedi Photography)

Red Sox add top outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez to major-league spring training roster

The Red Sox have added outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez to their major-league spring training roster as a non-roster invitee, the team announced Friday.

Jimenez, 20, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 7 prospect in the Red Sox farm system, ranking second among outfielders behind only Jarren Duran (No. 5).

Boston originally signed the young outfielder out of the Dominican Republic for just $10,000 back in August 2017.

Since then Jimenez has hit wherever he’s gone, most recently posting an impressive .359/.393/.470 slash line to go along with three home runs, 19 RBI, and 14 stolen bases over 59 games for Low-A Lowell in 2019.

With there being no minor-league season in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the switch-hitter was not included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool at any point last year, but he did participate in the organization’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

There, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Jimenez was identified by scouts as “the top prospect” at instructs.

“The biggest development for Jimenez at Instructs was his newfound ability to drive the ball, especially from the right side of the plate,” Cundall wrote back in December. “Jimenez has tweaked his stance and filled out considerably, allowing him to impact the ball. He showed plus raw power from the right side and a vastly improved swing from the left, in which he no longer is just looking to slap the ball. While his right-handed swing likely will always be better than his left-handed swing, the improvements he made should help ensure he is not a liability from his weaker side against more advanced pitching. Defensively, Jimenez showed a solid all-around skill set with plus range and an above-average arm. He still will make the odd mistake out there, but given his speed and decent instincts, he has a chance to develop into a very solid defender.”

On the 20-80 scouting scale, Jimenez’s speed — or run tool — is graded at a 70, making him one of, if not the quickest prospect in the organization.

While maintaining his elite athleticism, Jimenez has also bulked up recently as he is now listed at 5-foot-11 and 212 lbs., which, as noted by Cundall, “is up significantly from where he was with Lowell.”

Now one of 34 non-roster invitees currently at big-league camp in Fort Myers, Jimenez is projected to begin the 2021 season with High-A Greenville, whose season does not start until sometime in May at the earliest.

For the time being, though, it should be fascinating to see what Jimenez, who turns 21 in July, can do once he gets into some Grapefruit League games this spring. One would assume he will have the opportunity to leave an impression on Red Sox manager Alex Cora and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom if he performs up to his standards.

(Picture of Gilberto Jimenez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

What pitching in front of fans again meant for Red Sox prospect Durbin Feltman

Red Sox pitching prospect Durbin Feltman made his first appearance of the spring against the Orioles in Sarasota on Thursday afternoon.

Working in relief of fellow right-hander Tanner Houck, Feltman came on in the bottom half of the third inning with two outs to get and the bases loaded in what was at the time a one-run game in favor of Boston.

The 23-year-old managed to limit the damage, as he allowed just one inherited runner to score on a sacrifice fly before getting Ramon Urias to ground out to second to retire the side.

For Feltman, who made his 2021 Grapefruit League debut in front of approximately 1,700 spectators at Ed Smith Stadium, it was his first time pitching with fans in the stands since August 2019.

“It was just good to be out there in front of fans,” Feltman told BloggingtheRedSox.com Thursday night. “It brings back the atmosphere of the game and I couldn’t be happier to have people in the stands no matter the capacity. It causes you to have to lock in more during the game, which I think in turn helps you perform better. I love it.”

One of 30-plus non-roster invitees currently at big-league camp for the Red Sox, Feltman should find his way into more games between now and the end of the month.

Boston selected the flame-throwing righty in the third-round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University. He proceeded to post a 1.93 ERA over 22 relief appearances and 23 1/3 innings pitched between three different levels (short-season Lowell, Class-A Greenville, High-A Salem) in his inaugural season as a pro.

Feltman’s first full professional campaign, however, was a different story. The young reliever struggled to the tune of a 5.26 ERA and 5.02 FIP in 43 appearances and 51 1/3 innings of work out of the bullpen for Double-A Portland in 2019.

The inconsistencies Feltman displayed with the Sea Dogs in ’19 likely worked against him when the Red Sox were deciding who to include in their 60-man player pool the following summer after the 2020 minor-league season was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

From the middle of July through the end of September, they had the opportunity to invite Feltman to their alternate training site in Pawtucket, but did not take it.

That, in turn, motivated the Texas native as he made preparations to participate in the team’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

“I came in there with a chip on my shoulder and was like ‘Hey, this is what you missed out on at the alternate site,’” Feltman said back in December. “Hopefully I showed enough, I felt like I did. And I’m carrying that into 2021 as well.”

Feltman did indeed show enough at instructs this past fall to get an invite to major-league camp this spring after not receiving one a year ago.

The 6-foot, 208 pounder is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 30 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He is projected to begin the year at the club’s alternate training site in Worcester after the start of the Triple-A season was recently pushed back to May.

2021 could prove to be a pivotal year for Feltman simply because he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December. The Red Sox would need to add the former Horned Frog to their 40-man roster before November 20 in order to prevent that from happening.

“Obviously, I don’t want to have to go through the Rule 5 Draft,” he said. “Because if you’ve been in the big-leagues you’re not getting Rule 5 drafted.”

With that thought in mind, it would appear that Feltman, who turns 24 next month, is shooting to make his major-league debut — or at the very least be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster — at some point this season. He has plenty of time to prove that he belongs.

(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Zachary Roy/Getty Images)