‘Overwhelming Majority’ of Red Sox Players Have Reportedly Left Fort Myers or Will Be Leaving Soon Due to Coronavirus Concerns

An ‘overwhelming majority’ of Red Sox players have reportedly already left Fort Myers or are planning to do so soon, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

Per Abraham, the Red Sox feel “it’s best for players, coaches., etc. to go home” while a “small staff will be at Fenway South for any who do stay.”

This news comes on the same day Major League Baseball sent a memo to all 30 clubs stating that, “40-man roster players must be permitted to remain at the club’s spring training site, and are eligible to receive their usual spring training allowances…We understand that many 40-man roster players have chosen to remain in camp to date, but we anticipate that may change in the coming days as events continue to unfold and players become better educated about current conditions.”

In regard to non-roster and other minor-league players not on a club’s 40-man roster, those players “should return to their off-season residences to the extent practical. If it is not feasible for a non-roster player to return home, which may be the case for some international players or players who reside in high-risk areas in the United States, clubs should work with the player to provide suitable accommodations. Non-roster players who require ongoing treatment from the club’s medical personnel may remain in order to receive treatment.”

With Major League Baseball suspending spring training and pushing back the start of the regular season by at least two weeks on Thursday due to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, it’s not all that surprising to see more measures being taken less than four days later with more likely to come this week.

On the same day the above memo was sent to all 30 clubs, a Yankees minor-league player tested positive for COVID-19, leading the team to quarantine all of it’s minor-leaguers for two weeks while delivering food to their hotel rooms, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

The fact that one player has tested positive is far from encouraging, as it could create a trickle-down effect similar to the one we’ve seen in the NBA since Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for novel coronavirus this past Wednesday.

While Red Sox team president Sam Kennedy said in a conference call Friday that no one in the organization has yet to test positive for the coronavirus at that time, he did acknowledge that he “feels a sense of inevitability” that someone within the organization will eventually test positive.

“We are preparing for that as an organization,” Kennedy said in regard to a Red Sox employee potentially testing positive. “If that happens, we’ll be ready with our own protocols and with Major League Baseball’s protocols.”

If something coronavirus-related does happen to the Red Sox in the coming days, I’ll make sure to have something about it on here. So, hopefully nothing happens, but if it does, stay tuned and remember to wash your hands.

 

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, Team President Sam Kennedy Address Coronavirus Concerns That Led MLB to Delay Start of Season

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, as well as general manager Brian O’Halloran and team president Sam Kennedy, spoke in depth Friday on where Major League Baseball is headed in the wake of the remainder of spring training being suspended and the start of the 2020 season being pushed back at least two weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

Earlier Friday, the league made it official that major-league players have the freedom to either remain at their club’s spring training facility, return to their club’s city, or go home themselves at their own discretion.

In a meeting between Red Sox executives, coaches, and players on Friday, Bloom and Co. echoed that same sentiment.

“We’ve just gotten word, and are getting the word out to our players, that since starting to discuss this, it’s been agreed that now our players can leave should they choose to, and go home or go wherever they need to go,” Bloom said in a conference call. “We’re trying to make sure that happens in a safe and orderly manner. We’re working on that as we speak. For players who want to stay here, we will have the facility available to them.”

The Sox have yet to gather a headcount on which players will be staying and which players will be leaving, but despite no official word from the league, they gave their minor-league players the same option as well. Although remaining in Fort Myers may be the most ideal route for them to take due to financial restrictions.

“We recognize, especially as we get into the population of minor leaguers, this may be the best option for them,” Bloom stated. “And we want to make sure that is a good option.”

Typically, the weeks leading up to April involve the movement of dozens of players, major and minor-league alike, in numerous transactions between clubs. But, with the United States now being in a state of national emergency and all, rosters may become frozen for the time being. Or in other words, no roster moves will be allowed until Major League Baseball can resume baseball activities. Nothing has been made official regarding this matter as of now, but Bloom did say that, “We are fully prepared that the next several days will include new information.”

There is also a possibility that rosters could be expanded from 26 players once the 2020 season does start to make up for less preparation time, although, according to Bloom, “There is no indication right now that anything will change.”

Because there is no definite date for a new Opening Day outside of April 9th, which is unlikely to happen, there’s a very real chance that additional spring training games will need to take place once the league resumes in order for players to up their workload once more.

“The short answer is, we don’t know,” Bloom said in regard to a later addition of spring training games. “We don’t have enough of a sense of what this will look like when we start up again.”

Regarding that point about players needing to increase their workload before the season starts, one thing that makes this outbreak-induced delay so challenging is that we simply don’t know when regular season baseball will be back.

As The Athletic’s Chad Jennings notes, “Bloom pointed out that spring training buildup is usually based upon working backward from a known point in time. Opening Day is usually on a specific date, and so players work to be ready on that exact day.

Right now, baseball has no idea when Opening Day will be, so there’s no working backward. The issue of building and sustaining is particularly tricky for pitchers as teams try to find a balance between sustaining their current status and not overworking for a start date that might be far, far down the road.”

How teams will prepare with no set Opening Day date in sight will be interesting to see, and according to Bloom, it will be “one of the tougher questions that I think every club is going to have to answer.”

Turning to some positive news, no Red Sox player has yet to test positive for coronavirus, and the club has even set up their own task force to deal with issues surrounding the virus, per Kennedy.

For the time being, JetBlue Park and the entire Fenway South complex will remain closed to the media and the public through Sunday, while all Fenway Park employees outside of stadium security have been told to work from home.

Fenway Park will also undergo a three-day cleaning starting Saturday morning where “every square inch [of the park] will be disinfected and cleaned,” Kennedy said.

In times like these, baseball takes a back seat as there are more pressing matters at hand. It may stink now, but baseball and the Red Sox will be back eventually.

 

Major League Baseball Suspends Remaining Spring Training Games, Delays Start of Regular Season by at Least Two Weeks Due to Coronavirus

In the midst of the concern surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, Major League Baseball announced on Thursday that all remaining Cactus and Grapefruit League games have been cancelled and that the start of the 2020 regular season would be pushed back by at least two weeks.

“This action is being taken in the interests of the safety and well-being of our players, Clubs and our millions of loyal fans,” the league said in a statement. “Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our players, employees and fans. MLB will continue to undertake the precautions and best practices recommended by public health experts. We send our best wishes to all individuals and communities that have been impacted by coronavirus.”

With the MLS, NBA, and NHL are putting their seasons on hold within the last 24 hours, it was only a matter of time until Major League Baseball followed suit.

There had been discussions about potentially playing games in empty stadiums or at neutral locations that have yet to be stricken by the ever-spreading coronavirus, but postponing the start of the season seems to be the most optimal way to go here for all parties involved.

Two weeks from March 26th is April 9th, when the Red Sox are supposed to be opening up a four-game series against the Mariners in Seattle.

If April 9th is actually the new Opening Day, which appears unlikely at this point, those games would presumably not be played in Seattle given how hard the state of Washington has been hit during this pandemic.

That’s all tentative, though. For now, it looks like the Red Sox could still be hanging around the Fenway South facility in Fort Myers for the time being and still holding their own practices and workouts to remain in playing shape. That goes for the other 29 clubs as well, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

There are still plenty of questions to be answered regarding all this, and when more information becomes available I’ll be sure to keep this updated. So stay tuned for that.

UPDATE: Minor League Baseball will also delay the start of their season, which was originally scheduled to begin on April 9th.

Eduardo Rodriguez Continues to Impress With 10 Strikeouts Over Four Scoreless Innings as Red Sox Top Rays to Win Fourth Straight

After pitching came through in a 3-2 victory over the Cardinals on Tuesday, the Red Sox extended their winning streak to four and improved to 9-10-2 in Grapefruit League play on Wednesday following a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte.

Making his third start of the spring for Boston in this one was Eduardo Rodriguez, who appears to be in line to get the Opening Day nod from interim manager Ron Roenicke despite no official announcement being made yet.

Tossing four full innings for the second time in a row, the left-hander impressed by keeping the Rays off the scoreboard despite scattering six hits and one walk. 10 of the 12 outs he recorded came by way of the strikeout.

As those numbers suggest, Rodriguez did deal with his fair share of traffic on the base paths on Wednesday, but the majority of the trouble he faced came with two outs in an inning, so he was able to work his way around it.

The 26-year-old capped off his night by fanning the last two Rays he faced in the fourth to finish with a final pitch count of exactly 80. His next outing should come on Monday against the Pirates.

In relief of Rodriguez, Ryan Brasier got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen in the fifth, and he tossed a perfect frame in his fourth appearance of the spring.

From there, Heath Hembree put together his first scoreless appearance of the spring in the sixth, Austin Brice worked his way around a leadoff single in an otherwise clean seventh, Domingo Tapia served up a solo home run to Brian O’Grady in the eighth, and Kevin Lenik allowed the go-ahead run to come to the plate on a two-out walk and single before escaping the jam to secure the 3-1 win for his side.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Kevin Pillar, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Michael Chavis, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jonathan Lucroy, Jose Peraza, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Rusney Castillo was matched up against Rays left-handed pitching prospect Shane McClanahan to begin things on Wednesday.

Nothing came against McClanahan in his 1 1/3 innings of work, and it was not until the top half of the third when the Boston bats livened up.

There, three straight two-out hits from the 3-4-5 hitters off of Dylan Covey resulted in the Sox driving in their first run of the night, with Bradley Jr. plating Bogaerts from second on an RBI single up the middle.

Lucroy followed suit a few moments later with an RBI base hit of his own, with this one scoring Chavis from second to make it a 2-0 contest early.

Fast forward to the fifth, and it was Bradley Jr. getting the job done with two outs once more, as he drove in Chavis from second on an RBI double to left off new Rays reliever Anthony Banda.

That two-base hit put the Red Sox up 3-0, and after Tampa Bay pushed across a run of their own in the eighth, 3-1 would go on to be Wednesday’s final score at Charlotte Sports Park.

Some observations from this win:

The Red Sox have won four straight Grapefruit League contests. They have a run differential of +5 over that span.

Austin Brice has yet to give up a run this spring and appears to be a lock to make the Opening Day roster as a bullpen option.

Jose Peraza played left field.

Jonathan Lucroy on Wednesday: 2-for-2 with one walk and one RBI.

Kevin Plawecki, off the bench, on Wednesday: 1-for-2 with a double.

Xander Bogaerts recorded his first hit of the spring on a third-inning single.

Jackie Bradley Jr. owns an OPS of 1.141 through 31 plate appearances this spring.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s their first off day of the spring on Thursday before taking on this same Rays club back at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez is slated to start for Boston, while Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter.

Perez put together his best outing of the spring in his last time out against the Twins this past Sunday as he punched out seven over four scoreless frames of work.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT. This game will not be televised.

Brian Johnson Tosses Three Innings as Red Sox Win Third Straight

After squeaking past the Braves on Monday night, the Red Sox won their third consecutive one-run contest on Tuesday, as they topped the St. Louis Cardinals by a final score of 3-2 at JetBlue Park to improve to 8-10-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Making his second start and fifth overall appearance of the spring for Boston was Brian Johnson, who recently survived the second round of roster cuts as a non-roster invitee over the weekend.

Working the first three innings on Tuesday, the left-hander yielded two runs, both of which were earned, on three hits and three walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Those two Cardinals tallies came on one swing of the bat right away in the top half of the first inning of this one, when after loading the bases with two outs in the frame, Johnson served up a two-run single to Brad Miller to put his side in an early hole.

Other than that one blip though, the 29-year-old fanned Harrison Bader to retire the side in the first before sitting down four of the final six hitters he faced.

Johnson’s next outing could come within the next few days depending on whether or not he pitches out of the bullpen.

In relief of Johnson, fellow left-hander Josh Taylor got the call in the fourth for his fourth appearance of the spring, and he worked a 1-2-3 inning.

From there, Matt Barnes punched out the side in a perfect fifth, Colten Brewer fanned three and scattered one hit over 2 2/3 innings of work to eventually pick up the winning decision, and Robinson Leyer recorded the final out of the eighth before stranding the tying run at third in a scoreless ninth to secure the 3-2 victory.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland, Kevin Pillar, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Jonathan Arauz was matched up against a formidable opponent in Cardinals ace right-hander Jack Flaherty to begin things on Tuesday.

Despite getting on base five times against him through the first three innings, nothing came against Flaherty. In fact, it wasn’t until Flaherty’s first inning off the mound when the Boston bats got it going.

There, in their second trip through the lineup, Pillar led things off against new Cardinals reliever Johan Oviedo with a double off the left field wall. Vazquez followed with a two-base hit of his own, this one plating Pillar to cut the two-run deficit in half at 2-1.

Fast forward to the sixth, and Jantzen Witte came up to the plate with the bases loaded ahead of him, and he delivered in his lone plate appearance by plating two of those runners on a rwo-run single down the right field line.

That base hit drove in both Pillar and De La Guerra to put the Red Sox ahead 3-2, which would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Xander Bogaerts is 0-for-his-first-12 with seven strikeouts so far this spring.

Kevin Pillar, meanwhile, has a .932 OPS through his first 29 plate appearances this spring.

Jonathan Lucroy on Tuesday: 0-for-1 with one walk. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s another game under the lights against the Rays in Port Charlotte on Wednesday.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Dylan Covey will do the same for Tampa Bay.

Rodriguez is coming off an outing in which he fanned four over four two-run innings against the Braves last Friday.

Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, and Austin Brice are also expected to pitch.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 6:35 PM EDT on NESN.

Ryan Weber Hurls Four Scoreless Innings as Red Sox Sneak Past Braves

In their first game under the lights this spring, the Red Sox won their second consecutive one-run contest, as they topped the Atlanta Braves by a final score of 2-1 on Monday to improve to 7-10-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Making his third start of the spring for Boston in this one was Ryan Weber, coming off three one-run (unearned) innings in his last time out against the Tigers last Monday.

Working the first four innings this time around, the right-hander stayed sharp as he kept the Braves off the scoreboard while yielding just one hit and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts on the evening.

That one hit was a two-out single off the bat of Freddie Freeman in the bottom half of the first. Outside of that, Weber retired the other 12 hitters he faced in order.

Finishing with a final pitch count of  60, the 29-year-old’s next outing should come sometime early next week depending on how many days of rest he gets.

In relief of Weber, Brandon Workman, in his third appearance of the spring, loaded the bases on the first three Braves he faced in the fifth, but he got out of it unscathed thanks to an unassisted double play from Jose Peraza and a strikeout of Shea Langeliers.

From there, Marcus Walden allowed Atlanta to score their first run of the night on one hit, one hit batsman, and one sacrifice fly in the sixth before tossing a clean seventh, and left-hander Jeffrey Springs fanned three while tossing scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth innings to close out the 2-1 win for his side.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Andrew Benintendi, Tzu-Wei Lin, Kevin Plawecki, Michael Chavis, Jonathan Lucroy (DH), Peraza, Marco Hernandez, Rusney Castillo, and Jarren Duran was matched up against a familar foe in ex-Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez for Atlanta.

Kicking off the scoring in the fourth, a leadoff walk drawn by Lucroy followed by a single from Peraza put runners at the corners with no outs for Marco Hernandez.

On the third pitch he saw from the Braves’ Hernandez, the Red Sox’ Hernandez laced a line-drive RBI single to the opposite field to drive in Lucroy from third and give Boston an early one-run edge.

Fast forward to the sixth, and it was the same part of the lineup getting things done once more, with Lucroy leading off with another walk against new Braves reliever Touki Toussaint, Jose Peraza advancing the pinch-running Kole Cottam to second on a single, and Hernandez taking a pitch off his left foot to fill the bases for Castillo.

Castillo nearly grounded into a double play, but because of a bad throw from short to second on the part of the Braves, he was credited with an RBI on a groundout that brought in Cottam from third.

That simple play made it a 2-0 game, and after Atlanta got one of their own in their half of the sixth, 2-1 would go on to be Monday’s final score at CoolToday Park.

Some observations from this win:

Andrew Benintendi went 1-for-3 with a double and two strikeouts out of the leadoff spot on Monday.

Tzu-Wei Lin returned to the Red Sox lineup on Monday and went 1-for-1 with a single and a sacrifice bunt.

Kevin Plawecki on Monday: 1-for-3 with a walk.

Jonathan Lucroy on Monday: 1-for-1 with two walks and a run scored.

Jose Peraza is looking pretty good at second base.

Through his first nine innings of work this spring, Ryan Weber has yet to surrender an earned run.

It was nice to see top prospect Triston Casas get some playing time at first base in this one, although he did strike out in his lone plate appearance.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s another afternoon game against the St. Louis Cardinals back at JetBlue Park on Tuesday.

Left-hander Brian Johnson will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Jack Flaherty will do the same for St. Louis.

Following Sunday’s roster cuts, Johnson remains one of the notable non-roster invites still in major-league camp. He is surely vying for a rotation or bullpen spot with Boston to begin the season.

Matt Barnes, Colten Brewer, and Josh Taylor are among the Red Sox relievers expected to follow Johnson.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT. This game will not be televised.

 

Red Sox Renew Rafael Devers’ Contract for 2020 Season After Both Sides Fail to Reach Agreement

The Red Sox and third baseman Rafael Devers were unable to reach an agreement on a figure for his 2020 salary, meaning the club instead renewed the 23-year-old’s contract for the coming season.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Devers will earn approximately $692,5000 this year, about a 13% raise from the $614,500 he made in 2019.

The 2020 campaign will mark Devers’ final season before he becomes arbitration eligible next winter. From this point forward, the Dominican Republic native is under team control for four more years before he reaches free agency for the first time at the conclusion of the 2023 season.

Going back to late last September, it was reported by WEEI’s Rob Bradford that the Red Sox were planning on offering Devers a contract extension at some point during the offseason.

Since that time, as we know, the club had quite the winter, hiring Chaim Bloom as chief baseball officer in October, parting ways with Alex Cora in January, and trading Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers and naming Ron Roenicke interim manager in February.

Those factors, in addition to the mandate of getting under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, more than likely pushed extension talks with Devers further down the to-do list.

“If it comes, it comes,” Devers said, through translator Bryan Almonte, of a potential contract extension. “That would be great. But I’m just focused on right now. We haven’t had discussions about that yet. My agent hasn’t told me anything. As of now, I’m just focused on playing the game.”

Devers is coming off a season in which he finished 12th in American League Most Valuable Player voting after slashing .311/.361/.555 with 32 home runs and 115 RBI over 156 games played in 2019.

In addition to renewing Devers’ contract on Monday, the Red Sox also reached agreements with 19 other pre-arbitration players on one-year deals for the 2020 season.

Those 19 players are Jonathan Arauz, Yoan Aybar, Ryan Brasier, Colten Brewer, Austin Brice, C.J. Chatham, Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, Matt Hall, Kyle Hart, Darwinzon Hernandez, Tzu-Wei Lin, Chris Mazza, Mike Shawaryn, Josh Taylor, Alex Verdugo, Marcus Walden, Ryan Weber, and Marcus Wilson.

Verdugo, the centerpiece in the Betts and Price trade, will earn $601,500 in 2020, per Speier.