Mookie Betts Set to Make 2019 Spring Debut on Wednesday

Just over a week since the Red Sox held their first full squad workout on February 18th., Mookie Betts is set to make his first in-game appearance of the spring on Wednesday.

The reigning American League Most Valuable Player will make his 2019 debut in some split-squad action against the Baltimore Orioles at JetBlue Park tomorrow afternoon, presumably batting second and starting in right field. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Eduardo Rodriguez will also start.

On the flip side of that, Andrew Benintendi, Michael Chavis, and Brock Holt will travel to Port Charlotte and start against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday. Mitch Moreland will also make his spring debut on the road.

Entering his fifth full season in Boston, Betts, 26, slashed .346/.438/.640 with a career-high 32 home runs and 80 RBI in 136 games played in 2018.

With the recent news of Nolan Arenado’s reported $260 million contract extension with the Colorado Rockies, it would not be all that surprising if Betts’ camp and the Red Sox are able to reach an agreement on a long-term extension of their own within the next few weeks before the start of the regular season.

 

Three Home Runs Power #RedSox to 8-5 Comeback Win over Twins

The Red Sox battled their way back and improved to 2-0 in Grapefruit League play with another 8-5 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon at JetBlue Park.

Making a brief one inning start in this one was ex-Rays right-hander Ryan Weber, who signed a minor league contract with Boston in December.

Greeted right away with a leadoff home run off the bat of Twins slugger Max Kepler, the 28-year-old Weber certainly did not make a positive first impression with his new club, as he went on to surrender an additional run on two doubles and a hit by pitch.

What transpired an inning later was far from promising as well, with left-hander Dedgar Jimenez serving up a pair of home runs to Randy Cesar and Kepler again in his lone frame of work.

From there, Red Sox pitching improved immensely. Brandon Workman, Colten Brewer, Denyi Reyes, Mark Montgomery, and Matthew Gorst all impressed in their spring debuts, combining for six innings of one run ball.

It should be noted that Workman and Brewer both struck out the side in their respective innings of relief.

Brewer, 26, was acquired from the San Diego Padres in November and looks primed to win a spot in Boston’s bullpen to begin the season.

Reyes, meanwhile, is the 30th-ranked prospect in the Red Sox’ farm system, according to MLB Pipeline. The 22-year-old right-hander posted a miniscule 1.97 ERA in 27 appearances (24 starts) and 155.2 innings pitched with Greenville and Salem this past season and was a surprise add to Boston’s 40-man roster in November.

Back to Sunday’s game, 18th-ranked prospect Kutter Crawford came on to close things out in the ninth following a four-run Red Sox rally in their half of the eighth.

Listed at 6’1″ and 192 pounds, the Florida Gulf Coast product worked his way around a bases loaded jam to eventually shut the door on the Twins, thus preserving the save as well as the win.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup featured a fair amount of regulars for the first time this spring.

Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez, and Christian Vazquez represented the top seven of Boston’s batting order and combined for just two hits.

Bradley Jr., who has been working on a modified swing this spring, made his presence felt immediately with a rocket of a solo home run off of Twins starter Martin Perez in the first inning.

In the second, a one out double off the bat of Eduardo Nunez eventually led to Boston’s second run of the afternoon coming around to score on a Sam Travis two out RBI single.

Fast forward to the sixth with the Twins leading 5-2, and Red Sox prospect Tate Matheny, son of former Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, pulled his team to within one run by mashing a monster two-run home run off of Massachusetts native Tim Collins.

Finally, in the eighth, fresh off a solid 2019 debut on Saturday, Michael Chavis impressed yet again by delivering in the clutch with a two-out go-ahead three run home run to left field off Twins reliever Pat Dean. His second three-run homer in as many days.

Following a Minnesota pitching change, Bobby Dalbec, who homered on Friday, tacked on some insurance with an RBI single that plated Jagger Rusconi from third.

That put Boston up 8-5, which would go on to be the final score in this one.

Next up for the Red Sox is the first road action of 2019, with a trip to Bradenton to face off against the Pittsburgh Pirates on deck for Monday.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Bobby Poyner, Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, Tzu-Wei Lin, Sam Travis, Bryce Brentz, Rusney Castillo and Gorkys Hernandez are all set to appear tomorrow while Brian Johnson will handle the starting pitching duties.

RHP Jordan Lyles will make the start for Pittsburgh.

First pitch on Monday is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET at LECOM Park. It does not look like this game will be on NESN.

Top Prospect Michael Chavis Homers as #RedSox Open up Grapefruit League Play with 8-5 Win over Yankees

The Red Sox opened up Grapefruit League play with an 8-5 win over the New York Yankees on Saturday afternoon.

Non-roster invitee Josh Smith got the starting nod for Boston in this contest. The 31-year-old right-hander surrendered three earned runs on six hits, including a solo home run off the bat of Gleyber Torres, in less than two innings of work.

Trevor Kelley came in relief for Smith and retired the lone batter he faced to escape the top half of the second.

From there, Marcus Walden, 15th-ranked prospect Travis Lakins, and former Mariners hurler Erasmo Ramirez combined for five frames of scoreless work heading into the middle of seventh.

New York tacked on an additional pair of runs off of Kyle Hart in the eighth, but former 2015 37th round selection Adam Lau was able to record the needed out to end the inning and preserve Boston’s slim one-run lead at the time.

Brian Ellington, who the Red Sox signed to a minor league deal at the beginning of the month, worked his way around two walks in the ninth to preserve the save and the win.

On the other side of things, Tzu-Wei Lin got the scoring started for the Red Sox with a one out RBI single in the second that plated Bryce Brentz from first and cut the Yankees deficit to two.

An inning later, three straight one out hits, capped off by a Rafael Devers RBI single in his first start of the spring, saw Boston pull to within one run.

Following a Rusney Castillo strikeout and a pitching change that saw veteran right-hander Drew Hutchinson take over for starter Nestor Cortes, the Red Sox bats picked up right where they left off.

Another RBI single, this one coming off the bat of Bryce Brentz, allowed Sandy Leon to score from second and knot this contest at three runs a piece.

That stalemate did not last long though, as top Red Sox prospect Michael Chavis unloaded on a 3-2 pitch from Hutchinson and blasted an opposite field three-run shot to put the Red Sox ahead 6-3.

Chavis, 23, slashed .298/.381/.538 with nine home runs and 27 RBI in 46 games between Low A Lowell, Double A Portland, and Triple A Pawtucket. He was handed an 80-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program last April.

Fast forward to the bottom half of the eighth, and non-roster invitee Juan Centeno provided some much-needed insurance with a one out two-run single off of Yankees reliever Joe Harvey.

That saw Boston’s advantage inflate from 6-5 to 8-5, which would go on to be the final score in this Grapefruit League opener.

Next up for the Red Sox is a Sunday afternoon contest against the Minnesota Twins. It will be the club’s first chance to see new first-year Twins manager Rocco Baldelli in person.

Baldelli, 37, is a native of Woonsocket, RI. and spent the 2009 season with Boston. He had been on Kevin Cash’s staff with the Tampa Bay Rays for the last four years.

First pitch on Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.

RHP Ryan Weber is expected to start for the Red Sox.

 

Free Agent Closer Craig Kimbrel Reportedly Considering Sitting out 2019 Season

UPDATE: It looks like this report may indeed be untrue, according to the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Former Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel may be willing to sit out the 2019 season if he does not receive a contract offer close to his ‘perceived value’, reports The Athletic’s Jim Bowden.

Back at the Baseball Winter Meetings this past December, it was reported that Kimbrel was seeking a contract in the six-year and $100 million range, which would be a record-setting deal for a closer.

Touted by his agent David Meter as the ‘best-closer of all-time’, the 30-year-old Kimbrel posted a 2.74 ERA while converting 42 saves in 63 relief appearances and 62.1 innings pitched with Boston in 2018.

According to FanGraphs, Kimbrel has been the second most valuable reliever in the American League since joining Boston prior to the start of the 2016 season.

His case for being one of the more dominant closers of this generation is certainly there, so it’s understandable why the Alabama native and his camp are trying to squeeze the most value out of his next contract as possible. Still, sitting out an entire season would be an extreme measure that does not need to be taken.

Simply put, Kimbrel, who will be turning 31 in May, may just be on a bit of a decline. Compare his numbers over the last two seasons:

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ERA+ was down, FIP was up, WHIP was up, H/9 was up, HR/9 was up, SO/9 was down, and maybe most importantly, BB/9 increased by nearly three from 2017 to 2018. Now, it’s only a small sample size, but this could be a sign of things to come.

A six-year contract for a relief pitcher over the age of 30 was probably never going to happen given the current state of Major League Baseball. If Kimbrel and his camp can accept that, then it would be intriguing to see if Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox could get the flamethrower back on a one-year deal that closely resembles a qualifying offer in the range of $17-$18 million.

That might be a pipe dream at this point, but it is a better option than seeing one of the more electric arms in this game sitting out a year of his prime just to recoup his value for next offseason.

#RedSox’ Sixth-Ranked Prospect Bobby Dalbec Homers in First at Bat of Spring Training

The Red Sox opened up exhibition play on Friday with a 6-0 win over the Northeastern Huskies baseball team.

Prospect Bobby Dalbec, ranked sixth in the Red Sox’ system by MLB Pipeline, got the scoring started for Boston with a second inning solo blast to dead center off of Northeastern’s David Stiehl.

Jagger Rusconi and Tzu-Wei Lin collected a pair of RBI in the bottom half of the third, while Tate Matheny and Cole Sturgeon combined to do the same in the fourth.

Tyler Dearden, a 29th round selection in 2017, wrapped up the scoring for Boston in the sixth by driving in Joseph Monge on a two out RBI triple.

Blake Swihart caught the first four innings of this contest. He went hitless in two plate appearances.

On the pitching side of things, prospect Mike Shawaryn got the starting nod for the Red Sox. The former University of Maryland product limited Northeastern to just one hit while striking out a pair in two scoreless innings of work.

From there, Darwinzon Hernandez, Domingo Tapia, and Josh Taylor combined for two hits, one walk, and six strikeouts over five shutout frames.

Hernandez, who accounted for three of those strikeouts in two innings, is ranked as the seventh best prospect in the Red Sox’ system.

When asked about Dalbec’s homer, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said, “That was pretty good. Straight center. Yeah. That’s pretty good.”

The 23-year-old Dalbec slashed .257/.361/.558 with 32 home runs and 109 RBI in 129 games between High A Salem and Double A Portland last season.

Dalbec and Red Sox top prospect Michael Chavis, who went 0-for-1 on Friday, should both be interesting to watch over the course of the spring.

Next up for Boston is the Grapefruit League opener against the New York Yankees on Saturday at JetBlue Park.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox will start Rafael Devers at designated hitter, Sandy Leon at catcher, Bryce Brentz, Gorkys Hernandez, and Rusney Castillo in the outfield, Tzu-Wei Lin at second base, Josh Ockimey at first base, and CJ Chatham at short stop.

Josh Smith, Marcus Walden, Travis Lakins, and Erasmo Ramirez are all expected to pitch as well, although a starter has yet to be named.

First pitch against New York on Saturday is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.

 

The #RedSox Play Live Baseball Today.

At long last, Red Sox baseball is back. It’s been approximately 117 days since the club clinched their ninth World Series title over the Los Angeles Dodgers last October, but now it’s timt to defend that trophy and it starts with an exhibition game against the Northeastern Huskies baseball team on Friday.

Ninth-ranked Red Sox prospect RHP Mike Shawaryn, a 2016 fifth round pick, will make the start, while Darwinzon Hernandez, Domingo Tapia, and Josh Taylor are all expected to take the mound Friday as well.

Shawaryn, 24, posted a 3.44 ERA over 26 appearances (25 starts) and 149.1 innings pitched between Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket this past season.

This is how the Red Sox will line up behind him, with Blake Swihart behind the plate and Christian Vazquez serving as the designated hitter.

Get ready and strap in. From here on out, we got Red Sox baseball for the next eight-plus months. Time to defend the World Series crown.

Grapefruit League action for Boston opens up Saturday against the New York Yankees at JetBlue Park. First pitch for that contest is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.

Rest in Peace, Nick Cafardo.

#RedSox Engaged in Extension Talks with Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts

When speaking with the media at JetBlue Park on Monday, Red Sox principal owner John Henry and team chairman Tom Werner made it clear that the club is engaged in contract extension talks with at least two players who are set to become free agent following the 2019 season in Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts.

Although neither Henry nor Werner gave any specific details about where the extension talks were at, both Sale and Bogaerts have stated that they are open to remaining in Boston for the forseeable future this past week.

Regarding Sale, Henry said that, “we would love to be able to sign him. I think he would like to as well. But there are the realities of the marketplace and budgets. This is his opportunity to be a free agent, potentially. Which we’d like to avoid, and I think he would as well. So something could happen.”

Sale dealt with issues in his throwing shoulder in 2018, which could somewhat diminish the value, but Henry believes the Red Sox ace brings much more to the table than what he does on the pitching mound every five days, specifically citing his fiery speech in the dugout during Game 4 of the World Series.

Another thing that could warrant an extension with Sale is what went down between the Red Sox and another big left-hander in Jon Lester five years ago. Like Sale, Lester was entering the final year of his contract with Boston and talks regarding an extension opened up during spring training of 2014. Ultimately, the Red Sox failed to reach an agreement and later traded Lester to the Oakland Athletics that July. Lester would then go on to sign a six-year, $155 million deal with the Chicago Cubs that winter.

“I think we blew the signing (of Jon Lester) in spring training,” Henry said. Perhaps some lessons learned from that ordeal can be applied now.

Sale, set to turn 30 in march, posted a 2.11 ERA and 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 27 games started last season. He finished fourth in American League Cy Young voting and 22nd in MVP voting.

As for Bogaerts, the 26-year-old shortstop told reporters on Friday, “I enjoy my time here. Obviously we’ve had something special going on for the last couple of years now. I think I’ve been a part of it since it pretty much started.”

Bogaerts also noted that, “the Red Sox have treated me and my family amazingly so far. So we’ll see what happens.”

A client of Scott Boras, it is understandable why Bogaerts may want to avoid free agency next winter given the circumstances right now with two of the best players in the game in Bryce Harper and Manny Machado still unsigned with just over a month until Opening Day.

In 2018, Bogaerts slashed .288/.360/.522 with a career best 23 home runs and 103 runs driven in. He finished 13th in American League MVP voting.

#RedSox Catcher Christian Vazquez Considered ‘Someone Teams Could Make a Run at’ in Trade Talks

In his weekly column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo pointed out that teams looking for a backstop may have interest in the Red Sox’ Christian Vazquez now that JT Realmuto is off the board and a Philadelphia Phillie.

Teams Cafardo listed as potential Vazquez suitors were also teams that missed out on Realmuto,  including the Braves, Dodgers, Padres, and Reds.

Now, Vazquez and Realmuto aren’t exactly on the same level in terms of what they bring to the table both at and behind the plate, but Vazquez’s defensive prowess is no joke.

It’s been made pretty much abundantly clear that the Red Sox aren’t planning on carrying three catchers on their 25-man roster in 2019, and with Vazquez due to make $2.85 million, the most of any Boston catcher, this coming season, moving on makes sense, especially when you consider what Leon and Swihart can still provide.

Fresh off signing a three-year contract extension last spring training, the 28-year-old struggled immensely at the plate, slashing a career-worst .207/.257/.283 with three home runs and 16 RBI in just 80 games played in 2018. He also missed a significant amount of time with a fifth finger fracture in his right hand.

To add to the conversation, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Saturday that he feels comfortable with the minor league depth the club has at catcher with this inevitable trade coming, which starts with ex-Rangers backstop Juan Centeno, who Boston signed to a minor league deal last November.

“We’re good,” Cora said. “I had Juan in Houston in 2017. He was part of the playoff roster. So I’m comfortable.”

All three of Centeno, Cora, and Vazquez are natives of Puerto Rico for what it’s worth.

Although Vazquez’s future with the Red Sox is cloudy at this point in time, the same can certainly be said for Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon. The competition between the three of them should really be something to watch these next few weeks.

As for what Dave Dombrowski would want in return for one of the three backstops available via trade, I would venture to say it’s either going to be a middle innings reliever or back-end starter. The possibility that the Red Sox acquire prospects to improve their farm system, like Cafardo says above, is there as well.

Dustin Pedroia Would Not Have Undergone Knee Surgery in 2017 If He Knew What He Knows Now.

When speaking with reporters at JetBlue Park on Friday, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia revealed that if he knew what he does now, he would not have opted to have surgery done on his left knee in the 2017 offseason.

No, I wouldn’t have done it,” he said. “I don’t regret doing it, but looking back and knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it.”

Now 35, Pedroia appeared in just three games for Boston this past season following a cartilage restoration procedure on his left knee two October’s ago.

According to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, “the surgery involved grafting cartilage from a cadaver into Pedroia’s knee. He also had microfracture surgery on his tibia at the same time.”

That held the long time infielder out for approximately seven months until he began a rehab stint with Triple A Pawtucket on May 14th.

Less than two weeks later, Pedroia was back up with the Red Sox, batting sixth in a May 26th contest against the Atlanta Braves.

A las, three games and 13 plate appearances into his 2018 season, Pedroia was on the shelf yet again, eventually being placed on the 10-day injured list on June 2nd with left knee inflammation.

In late July, Pedroia went under the knife once more to remove scar tissue from that same knee and has since been rehabbing as spring workouts begin.

It’s been a complicated year-and-a-half for Pedroia, but now the Arizona native is pushing to make Boston’s 2019 Opening Day lineup, and more importantly, bat leadoff, a promise made by Red Sox manager Alex Cora in November.

“I appreciate him doing that,” Pedroia said. “He better not give me too many days hitting leadoff, I might stay there. But I appreciate that. These guys have seen how hard I’ve worked and what I’m trying to get back from. To give me that opportunity would be cool.”

Since making his debut in 2006, Pedroia has played 1,506 games in a Red Sox uniform, good for 11th most in franchise history. He’s under contract through 2021.

#RedSox Reportedly Seeking Rotation Depth in Catcher Trade Talks as Spring Training Begins.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam reported that the Boston Red Sox are in search of some starting rotation depth. In order to do this, McAdam reports, the club is making any three of their big league catchers available via trade.

Now, this should not come as that large of a surprise, especially since president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowksi said in January that Boston would like to carry only two catchers on their Opening Day roster this season.

What may be surprising here is that Dombrowksi may be looking to shore up the back-end of the Red Sox starting rotation while the bullpen remains the biggest question mark for this club.

As things stand currently, the Red Sox’ starting five will more than likely consist of Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez in 2019. That’s already one of the better rotations in the American League if everyone stays healthy.

Even without the addition of a trade piece, hurlers such as Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, and Steven Wright, when healthy, are more than capable of both pitching out of the bullpen and filling in for a spot start when needed.

So, these rumors are certainly not coming out of nowhere, but when the time comes and one of Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez, or Sandy Leon is dealt, I, for one, would be surprised if the Red Sox receive a back-end starting pitcher instead of a reliever in return for one of their backstops.