Although they are not done playing exhibition games, the Red Sox did move one step closer to playing meaningful baseball today, as they defeated the Minnesota Twins 6-1 in their last Grapefruit League game of the spring. They finish Grapefruit League play at 20-8-1.
Like Chris Sale did yesterday, David Price made his final start before the regular season begins today. The lefty tossed three innings of one run ball while facing 12 batters and fanning four of them. The only run he gave up came on a solo shot off the bat of Twins slugger Brian Dozier in the second inning. He’ll be on the mound again next Friday, facing off against the team he began his career with in the Tampa Bay Rays.
Bobby Poyner, Craig Kimbrel, Matt Barnes, and Dedgar Jiminez also got some work in today, and they all combined to throw six shutout innings while only allowing three total runners to reach base.
Offensively, the Red Sox were carried by the top half of the lineup. Mookie Betts, JD Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, and Andrew Benintendi were responsible for all six runs scored. The three home runs the team hit today belong to just Betts (2) and Benintendi. To put it simply, all three were hit far.
As for what’s next, the Red Sox will be hosting the Chicago Cubs over the next two days at Fenway South. After that, it’s an off day, then we finally arrive at Opening Day in St. Pete on Thursday. It took a while, but we are just FOUR days away from meaningful baseball being back in our lives for the next seven months. I’ll make sure to have a season preview out soon.
The Red Sox made an unsurprising move today. Out of Brock Holt, Blake Swihart, and Deven Marrero, there was a very small chance all three would make the Opening Day roster. After this trade, we now know that Holt and Swihart are essentially locks to make it. While Marrero goes to Arizona, the Red Sox receive either a PTBNL or cash considerations in return.
Since he was drafted by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft, Marrero never put it all together. His defense is at a borderline elite level, but offensively, he brought almost nothing to the table. In 109 big league games, Marrero owns a career batting average of only .208 and a measly .259 On Base Percentage. Despite that, I have to give him credit for what he did for the Red Sox in 2017. The team went through Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt, and Josh Rutledge at third, and it was a circus. Before Rafael Devers got called up, Marrero stepped up and provided some stability defensively at that position.
Maybe he’ll figure things out in Arizona, a place he is familiar with since he played college baseball for the Sun Devils of Arizona State University. There is also more familiarity with Diamondbacks leadership. The man who traded for him, Mike Hazen, was a part of the Red Sox front office when the team drafted him. And the manager of the Diamondbacks, Torey Lovullo, served as the Red Sox bench coach when Marrero was with the big league club for parts of the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
It’s nor clear what his role with the DBacks will be, but I would expect him to get the majority of his at bats against left-handed pitchers. That’s where he has found the most success at the plate in his big league career. I mean, his OPS increases by over 200 points when facing LHPs compared to facing RHPs. So best of luck in AZ, Deven. Maybe the Red Sox will see you again in October.
Also, this is my favorite Deven Marrero game.
Making his last start of the spring, Red Sox ace Chris Sale did not have the most ideal day. After facing only four batters, the lefty had to exit the game because of a line drive he took off his left hip.
It was a scary moment, but it appears that Sale is fine and will start on Opening Day as scheduled. While talking to reporters, Sale said, “It looked a lot worse than it actually is” and that he is “Not at all” concerned that he’ll miss his next start. He has a standard five days to prepare for it and he will toss a bullpen sometime in the next two days as well. The bottom line is that Sale and the Red Sox got lucky. That JD Davis line drive could have done some damage, but thankfully, it did not. The San Francisco Giants just lost their ace Madison Bumgarner to a broken hand yesterday, and even though he has only been here for one season, losing Sale would be as detrimental to the Red Sox as it was for the Giants losing MadBum. Opening Day cannot get here soon enough.
Entering his age 27 season and the last year on his previous contract, Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez is here to stay for a while. The two sides came to terms on a three-year deal worth approximately $13.35 million over that span. He’ll still make $1.425 million in 2018, then the extension will kick in next season. The new contract also includes a club option worth $7 million in 2022, where Vazquez will be 31 years old.
The Puerto Rico native has been with the Red Sox since 2008, when he was drafted by the Red Sox in the ninth round in the amateur draft that year. In 211 career big league games, Vazquez owns a slash line of .261/.311/.355. He has always been known for his abilities behind the plate, but he really came through with the bat in his hands in 2017, putting up career high numbers in multiple offensive categories while also appearing in a career high 99 games. One of the more memorable moments of last season is because of Vazquez, when he walked it off for the Red Sox on August 1st against the Cleveland Indians.
With his new contract, Vazquez has committed to making annual donations to the Red Sox foundation. Great move on his part. Should be an exciting season for the number one catcher.
On a day where Chris Sale was pitching, I am surprisingly not writing about him. Instead, I am writing about today’s starting short stop, Xander Bogaerts. Before the lineup scored four runs in the bottom half of the ninth, Bogaerts had been the only source of offensive production for the Red Sox. In his three at bats, the 25-year-old Aruba native reached base twice while driving in two runs. The first RBI came on a solo shot in the fourth inning, the second on an RBI single in the sixth. Here they both are in this convenient video:
Today’s performance at the plate now puts Bogaerts’ batting average at .353 for the spring, to go along with an impressive OPS of 1.025.
With less than ten days until Opening Day, the Red Sox have now won seven Grapefruit League games in a row. Craig Kimbrel came back from his family emergency today as well, so things are looking up right now. A healthy Xander Bogaerts could be a big addition to this Red Sox lineup, even more so if he can get his power numbers up. In three full big league seasons, the most home runs the short stop has hit is only 21, which took place in 2016. He has already hit two in 37 plate appearances this spring, so we could be looking at Xander hitting home runs at a much higher clip in 2018. Expecting X to bounce back in a big way this year.
Going into today winning their last five games, Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi did his part in ensuring the winning streak continues. The bats were quiet up until the top half of the fifth inning. After Christian Vazquez led off the inning by flying out to center, the next three Red Sox hitters reached base. A single by Rusney Castillo was followed up by a Mookie Betts RBI double, giving the Red Sox their first and only lead of the game. With the very next at bat, Andrew Benintendi launched a pitch from Brett McKinney of the Pittsburgh Pirates over the right field wall in Bradenton, and hit it over everything.
Benintendi ended the game 1 for 2 with that solo shot, and he is now slashing .433/.486/.900 this spring. That’s an OPS of 1.386. I know they’re just spring training numbers, but it’s hard not to be impressed with what Benintendi has done with the 30 at bats he has gotten this month. I expect a borderline great season from our everyday left fielder in 2018.
The Red Sox celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in style on Saturday. Rocking the green uniforms and clinching their fifth straight win in Grapefruit League play with a narrow 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. The lineup did not do much today, but they didn’t need to thanks to the efforts of two first basemen, Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis.
Trailing by four runs, Moreland put the first Red Sox run on the board in the home half of the fifth inning, taking a 2-1 pitch from Rays pitcher Andrew Kittredge and sending it over the right field wall.
In the very next inning, with runners on second and third, Sam Travis took the game into his own hands and gave the Red Sox a one-run lead by mashing a three-run home run over the Fenway South Monster.
That was all the scoring the Red Sox bullpen needed to lock down this win. With those two home runs, Moreland and Travis now have two and four long balls this spring respectively. The way things look now, it’s difficult to see how Travis will find at bats with the big league club, but performances like the one he had today certainly help his case.
Also, one more shout out to these beauties. I wish they could be worn more than once a year.