Red Sox Activate Darwinzon Herndandez From COVID-19 Related Injured List, Designate Christian Arroyo for Assignment

Before taking on the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, the Red Sox made yet another roster move, activating left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez from the 10-day COVID-19 related injured list and designating infielder Christian Arroyo for assignment.

Hernandez, 23, had been on the injured list since July 14 after testing positive for COVID-19 while at home in Venezuela.

Upon recovering from the virus, the southpaw reported to Fenway Park late last month for Summer Camp workouts and was subsequently shuttled down to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket to continue to build up his stamina.

While in Pawtucket, Hernandez had been getting stretched out and most recently worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings in an intrasquad game this past Sunday.

Per Sox manager Ron Roenicke, Hernandez will likely be used as a bulk-inning reliever first before a potential move to the starting rotation is made towards the later stages of the 2020 season.

Because Hernandez was not counted towards Boston’s 40-man roster while he was on the IL, the Red Sox needed to clear a roster spot in order to activate the young hurler, hence the move, albeit a surprising one, to designate Arroyo.

Arroyo, who was claimed off waivers from the Indians last Thursday, was activated from the COVID-19 related injured list himself on Wednesday and appeared as if he would make his Red Sox debut in this series against the Orioles.

That outlook has since changed though, and I would have to imagine the Sox would like to see the 25-year-old former top prospect slip through waivers. If not, Arroyo’s tenure with the Red Sox was certainly a short one.

With this transaction made, the Sox’ 60-man player pool is now at 59, so the club has one open slot to work with there. Pretty solid breakdown from The Providence Journal’s Bill Koch on that matter here:

Red Sox Activate Josh Taylor off Injured List, Option Chris Mazza To Pawtucket in Slew of Roster Moves

Before wrapping up a four-game series against the Yankees on Monday night, the Red Sox made a series of roster moves, activating left-hander Josh Taylor off the 10-day COVID-19 related injured list, optioning right-hander Chris Mazza to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, and placing newly-acquired infielder Christian Arroyo on the injured list retroactive to August 14.

Taylor had been on the IL since July 14 after testing positive for COVID-19 during intake screening in Boston before the start of Summer Camp. After getting cleared to return to baseball activities after self-isolating in a hotel room in the city, the 27-year-old had been building up his stamina while working out at McCoy Stadium prior to Monday’s announcement. His return to the Red Sox bullpen will be a welcome one.

Mazza, meanwhile, was optioned back down to Pawtucket shortly after making his first career major-league start at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night. The 30-year-old hurler surrendered four runs on eight hits and one walk over three innings pitched in his second appearance of the season with the Red Sox, and it now appears as though the club will turn to someone else next time through the rotation.

As for Arroyo, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo suggests that the Sox placing the 25-year-old on the COVID-19 related  injured list does not imply a positive test, just that the intake process is not yet complete. Per Cotillo, the “hope is to activate him [Tuesday].”

A former top prospect selected in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft by the Giants, Arroyo was claimed off waivers by Boston from the Indians last Thursday.

The Florida native has not exactly lived up to that first-round hype to this point, as he owns a lifetime OPS+ of 66 through his first 71 major-league games dating back to 2017, but he is capable of playing all around the infield, so he certainly comes with plenty of versatility.

When the time comes for the Red Sox to activate Arroyo, which again could be as early as Tuesday, expect a 40-man roster move to be made then.

 

Red Sox Reliever Phillips Valdez Pitching Himself ‘Into Bigger Role,’ Ron Roenicke Says

One week into the 2020 season, Red Sox relievers own the 15th-best ERA (4.54), the 15th-best FIP (4.21), and the 20th-best fWAR (0.0) in baseball. Put simply, the Boston bullpen has been rather mediocre to begin things this year, which is understandable given the current state the starting rotation is in.

Despite that ‘mediocire’ notion, there have been a handful of Sox relievers who have stuck out in a positive way thus far, and one of them worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees on Friday night. His name? Phillips Valdez.

Yes, the right-hander scattered three hits and struck out three batters in relief of Ryan Weber in Friday’s series-opening loss to New York. With that outing in mind, Valdez has yet to give up a run through his first three appearances and 5 2/3 innings pitched as a member of the Red Sox.

Originally claimed off waivers by Boston from the Seattle Mariners back in February, the 29-year-old hurler has struck out more than 27% of the 22 hitters he has faced so far this season while holding them to a .200 clip.

Because of his strong first impression, Valdez could find himself in more high-leverage spots out of the Red Sox bullpen in the near future. His manager, Ron Roenicke, said as much when speaking with reporters Friday night.

“He’s pitching himself maybe into a bigger role,” Roenicke explained. “That’s why we stuck with him today because he’s been throwing the ball well when he starts going through some of these really good hitters and getting them out.”

Some of those “really good hitters” Valdez has gotten out thus far include Aaron Judge and Luke Voit, who both fell victim to 84 mph changeups from the Dominican Republic national on Friday.

Signed by the Indians as a 17-year-old out of the DR back in 2008, Valdez made his major-league debut with the Texas Rangers last June and is under team control with Boston through the end of the 2025 season.

Per Statcast, the slender 6-foot-2, 160 lb. righty primarily works with a changeup and sinker, while his slider and four-seam fastball lean more towards secondary pitches.

At the time he joined the Sox during the first version of spring training earlier this year, Valdez seemed like a long shot to make Boston’s Opening Day roster. But, coming out of the pandemic-induced layoff, the club obviously liked what they saw during Summer Camp and he was in there pitching against the Orioles last Friday.

Now, after getting off to a hot start with his new team, Valdez could become a legitimate weapon out of the Red Sox bullpen if he continues to prove that he can handle tougher situations as a reliever.

Red Sox to Add Chris Mazza, Remove Jonathan Lucroy From Roster Ahead of Wednesday’s Series Opener Against Mets

UPDATE: Jonathan Lucroy has been designated for assignment.

Before taking on the Mets in Queens on Wednesday, the Red Sox will be recalling right-hander Chris Mazza from the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, according to The Athletic’s Chad Jennings and Ken Rosenthal. In order to make this happen, veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy will be removed from the Sox’ 30-man roster.

A somewhat surprising move considering the player taken off the roster, but on a team that needs plenty of pitching help at the moment, removing another catcher in Lucroy for a fresh arm in Mazza makes plenty of sense for the Red Sox.

Starting with Mazza, the 30-year-old right-hander was left off Boston’s Opening Day squad earlier this month, nearly seven months after he was claimed off waivers from the Mets back in December.

Throughout Summer Camp workouts at Fenway Park, Mazza looked like a potential candidate to open games for the Sox, but instead of including him on the Opening Day roster, the club opted for more unproven pitchers like Dylan Covey or Phillips Valdez instead.

Now, after joining the Sox in New York for this upcoming road trip, Mazza will get the chance to prove he belongs with his new team. He only has nine career major-league relief appearances under his belt, all of which came with the Mets last season.

As for Lucroy, the 34-year-old backstop made the Sox’ Opening Day roster as the club’s third catcher but only got into one game as a defensive replacement against Baltimore last Friday, and as Jennings mentions in the tweet above, never got an at-bat.

At the time he signed a minor-league deal with Boston back in February, it appeared as though Lucroy could legitimately contend with Kevin Plawecki for the Red Sox’ backup catcher spot behind Christian Vazquez.

Both Lucroy and Plawecki were impressive during the spring, and because of the 30-man rosters for the first two weeks of the season that were implemented as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Sox were able to carry all three backstops on their Opening Day squad.

But, as SoxProspects’ Ian Cundall notes, “It didn’t make much sense to carry three catchers when you can have one on the taxi squad, who doesn’t take up a roster spot. With the Red Sox pitching struggles, another arm is much more useful at this point.”

Former Brewers and Angels catcher Jett Bandy will now be the third catcher on the Sox’ taxi squad and will not take up a roster spot in doing so.

Following Wednesday’s moves, the Red Sox could have an open spot on their 40-man roster depending on what happens with Lucroy. Perhaps they could use that opening on someone like Tanner Houck?

Red Sox’ Michael Chavis Helping Teammate Alex Verdugo Get Acclimated to New Club

Upon getting traded from the Dodgers to the Red Sox in February, Alex Verdugo never could have expected what was in store for him or the 2020 Major League Baseball season. That being Opening Day getting pushed back nearly four months because of a global pandemic.

At the time he first reported to the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers on February 15, it looked as though Verdugo would miss the opening stages of the 2020 season due to a stress fracture in his lower back.

Now though, in part because of the long, pandemic-induced layoff, the young outfielder is just about all systems go as Opening Day 2.0 approaches.

Verdugo, along with the rest of the Red Sox for that matter, have been getting back into playing shape these past few weeks at Summer Camp in Boston, and it has given him the opportunity to get closer, but not too close, to some of his new teammates.

As a matter of fact, one of those new teammates reached out to Verdugo and asked if he would want to share a Fenway Park suite with him during camp. That teammate’s name? Michael Chavis.

When speaking with NESN’s Jahmai Webster on Thursday night’s installment of After Hours, Verdugo went into detail about how that over-the-phone exchange between Chavis and him played out.

“He texted me ‘Hey bro, did you have anyone you wanted to room with?'” Verdugo recounted to Webster. “I was like, ‘Man, I don’t really know anybody…I don’t know…no?’ And he was like, ‘All right, I’m putting your name down for mine.’ I was like, ‘All right, cool, man. It’s all good.’ I think it helps. It’s made this transition easy, cool. We kind of already knew each other. We’ve been messing around with each other, talking hitting and just picking each other’s brains. I know when I’m getting frustrated he’s there to be like, ‘Hey man, I know you can hit, bro. Just relax, you’re good.’ So, it’s cool to have that.”

Seeing as how they were both drafted out of high school in 2014, I would assume that’s how Verdugo and Chavis knew each other a little bit prior to them being on the same major-league ballclub.

Both players are also 24 years of age, and both are coming into a season where they will be competing for at-bats in a rather crowded Red Sox infield and outfield. Fortunately, they can both play multiple positions, as Verdugo is more than capable of moving around the outfield when necessary, while Chavis can play a little bit of first and second base depending on different pitching match-ups.

For Verdugo, coming into a new organization after only knowing one for the last 5 1/2 years of your life has to be somewhat of a daunting task. That being said, it’s encouraging to see that the Arizona native appears to be getting more comfortable with his new club with the help of a fellow 2014 draft class member.

Also, it was quite amusing when, on the subject of not being able to access the home clubhouse at Fenway Park due to COVID-19 concerns, Verdugo said, “We’re so used to having no space, now we have all the space in the world” when referencing the aforementioned suites that have been converted into locker rooms on the pavilion level.

 

Zack Godley Works Three Scoreless, No-Hit Innings in Red Sox’ Final Exhibition Game Before Opening Day

In their final tune-up before the start of the 2020 regular season, the Red Sox only managed to play 4 1/2 innings of exhibition baseball against the Blue Jays on Wednesday night due to the weather. If games were official after only 4 1/2 innings, the Sox would have lost by a final score of 2-0, but it’s not like that matters too much anyway.

Zack Godley got the start for Boston in this one, and he made a solid case for a spot in the back end of the Sox’ rotation by working three scoreless, no-hit innings to go along with just one walk and two strikeouts on the night.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 35, 24 of which were strikes, the veteran right-hander turned to his curveball exactly 40% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday while also topping out at 91 MPH with his cutter, a pitch he threw 16 times.

If things align the way he wants them to, Godley could open the season as Boston’s No. 4 or 5 starter, meaning his first official start in a Red Sox uniform would come in next week’s interleague series against the New York Mets.

In relief of Godley, Brian Johnson was the only other Sox hurler to get some work in on Wednesday due to the weather, and he did not look his best given the fact that he served up a two-run blast to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on a hanging, 3-2 curveball down the heart of the plate in the top half of the fourth.

Still, if there is any positives to take away from the left-hander’s rather rough outing, it’s that he tossed a scoreless fifth inning right before this game was going to be called.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup, fresh off plating six runs on Tuesday, was matched up against Blue Jays right-hander Trent Thornton to begin things on Wednesday.

As it turns out, the Boston bats were only able to muster one hit off of Thornton, a two-out single from former Blue Jay Kevin Pillar in the third, and another hit off of Toronto reliever Shun Yamaguchi in the fourth. That being a two-out single off the bat of Xander Bogaerts.

Other than that, not much to report on seeing how Mother Nature cut this exhibition contest short.

Some observations from this one:

Should Zack Godley start over Brian Johnson? The answer at this point seems to be leaning towards ‘yes.’

Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette is pretty good.

Next up for the Red Sox, the games finally start to count. Opening Day is this Friday and a three-game weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles is on tap.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will be making his first career Opening Day start for Boston, while lefty Tommy Milone will be doing the same for Baltimore.

The Sox won 63% of their games against the O’s last year. That would translate to six wins in 10 games against their divisional foes in 2020.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Real baseball is back, folks.

 

J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland Club Homers as Red Sox Fall to Blue Jays in First of Two Exhibition Games at Fenway Park

For the first time in over four months, the Red Sox played a baseball game against another team on Tuesday, as the club hosted the Blue Jays in the first of two exhibition contests held at a fan-less Fenway Park.

Getting the start for Boston in this one was Ryan Weber, who is lined up to be Boston’s No. 3 starter to open the 2020 season.

Working six innings against Toronto, the right-hander yielded four runs, all of which were earned, on six hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts on the night.

The first pair of those runs came in the top half of the third, when Weber allowed Danny Jansen and Bo Bichette to reach base before Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. drove them in on a sacrifice fly and run-scoring groundout.

Fast forward to the sixth, after Weber had settled into a bit of a rhythm, Rowdy Tellez put a stop to that by clubbing a two-out, two-run homer off the 29-year-old to put any hopes of a quality start to bed.

Still, Weber stuck with it, retired the next hitter he faced in Teoscar Hernandez, and ended his outing on a somewhat more positive note.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 86 (58 strikes), the Florida native threw his sinker and curveball a combined 51 times on Tuesday. He got six swings and misses on those pitches while topping out at 89.1 mph with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw just three times.

As previously mentioned, Weber’s next start should come on Sunday afternoon against the Orioles right back at Fenway.

In relief of Weber, Matt Barnes got the call for the seventh and served up a solo shot to Derek Fisher in an otherwise clean frame, Brandon Workman tossed a perfect eighth, and Ryan Brasier saw a one-run lead for his side turn into a two-run deficit as he surrendered three runs on two hits, one of which being a two-run blast off the bat of Fisher.

By the time Brasier had ended the ninth, the Red Sox were trailing 8-6, which would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against top Blue Jays prospect Nate Pearson, who is regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 3 pitching prospect in all of baseball.

Xander Bogaerts kicked off the scoring against the 23-year-old right-hander right away in the first inning by ripping an RBI single to center to plate J.D. Martinez from second and Mitch Moreland followed by clobbering a three-run homer over the Red Sox bullpen in right field. Just like that, it was 4-0 Boston.

Later on in the fifth, Andrew Benintendi greeted new Blue Jays hurler Ryan Borucki with a one-out double off the Monster, and Martinez, who had been slugging during Summer Camp workouts, picked up where he left off and tattooed a first-pitch sinker on the inner half of the plate to the opposite field. Vintage stuff right there.

That two-run big fly put Martinez’s side up four runs at 6-2, but as already mentioned, Sox pitching kind of fell apart and 8-6 Blue Jays would go on to be your final.

Some observations from this loss:

I’m blocked by @RedSoxStats on Twitter now, so I won’t be able to put the neat stuff he tweets during and after games on here anymore.

Look at Rafael Devers:

Alex Verdugo has a cannon for a left arm:

It was only an exhibition game, but as you have probably already heard or read, Tuesday’s loss was very reminiscent of a game the 2019 Red Sox would give away. The pitching staff, rotation and bullpen alike, is going to have a lot of pressure on them to perform, especially when the lineup isn’t bringing in a ton of runs.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s *hopefully* the last exhibition game of the year against the Jays.

Left-hander Brian Johnson will get the start for Boston as he looks to compete for a rotation spot, while right-hander Trent Thornton will be doing the same for Toronto.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

 

Red Sox Prospect Jarren Duran Belts Two Doubles, Shows off Speed in Fenway Park Debut

Despite not seeing any live pitching during the pandemic-induced shutdown period, Red Sox prospect Jarren Duran had himself quite the night in the Red Sox’ final intrasquad game of Summer Camp at Fenway Park on Monday.

Making the trek up from Pawtucket along with Jeter Downs and Josh Ockimey, Duran started in center field and hit out of the nine-hole for the Home Sox in Monday’s contest and went 2-for-3 with a pair of hard-hit doubles, the first of which drove in two runs off left-hander Jeffrey Springs in the second inning.

On the defensive side of the ball, Duran was just as impressive, as the Sox’ eighth-ranked prospect put his speed on full display while robbing Marco Hernandez of an extra-base hit off Martin Perez in the top half of the sixth.

That flash of the leather prompted Perez to tell reporters after the game that “[Duran’s] really good, man.”

As for what Duran himself thought about his performance, the 23-year-old led off by saying that it was “just surreal” to play at Fenway Park and that “he couldn’t stop looking around” the ballpark.

“I wasn’t really thinking,” Duran added when speaking to reporters via Zoom. “I missed baseball so much. It was an honor just to be here.”

Before spring training was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Duran was opening up eyes around Red Sox camp as it looked like he was going to start the year with Double-A Portland.

Instead, the 2020 minor-league season was eventually cancelled last month, and Duran, like so many other prospects across baseball, lost the chance to continue to hone his craft in actual games.

Still, the southern California did not view that cancellation as a massive road block and instead opted for a more optimistic outlook on things.

“I think it just depends on how bad you want it,” he said. “We have the resources to push ourselves.”

For Duran, those resources were made available at Long Beach State, his alma mater, where he hit during the layoff before the Angels took over the facility for their own workouts.

Because there will be no organized minor-league baseball at all in 2020, Duran will likely spend his second professional season as a member of the Red Sox organization in Pawtucket at the club‘s alternate training site, otherwise known as McCoy Stadium. 

The former Dirtbag was taken by Boston in the seventh round of the 2018 amateur draft and is regarded by FanGraphs as the second-fastest prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Gilberto Jimenez.

Like Duran, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke is also a native of southern California. The Sox skipper liked what he saw from the speedster during spring training earlier in the year, and he certainly liked what he saw from him at Summer Camp on Monday.

“How do you do that?” Roenicke asked rhetorically. “You sit for 3 1/2 months and you come back right where you left off. If he figures it out he’s going to be some kind of player.”

 

 

Red Sox Manager Ron Roenicke Views Jose Peraza, Kevin Pillar as Potential Options to Lead off Against Left-Handed Pitching

Although the Red Sox roster is just about set for the start of the 2020 season, manager Ron Roenicke still has some decisions to make in terms of who will be hitting where in the team’s lineup.

More specifically in this case, Roenicke is looking for other candidates not named Andrew Benintendi who could potentially lead off against a left-handed starter. Two players he has in mind for that role are Jose Peraza and Kevin Pillar.

Peraza has been someone the Red Sox have been impressed with since the team regrouped for Summer Camp at Fenway Park earlier this month. Roenicke even said two weeks ago that he’s been “so impressed” with what the 26-year has been doing offensively.

Prior to signing a one-year deal with Boston back in December, Peraza batted out of the leadoff spot in 98 games for the Reds going back to the start of the 2016 season.

Over those 98 games, the Venezuela native accrued 120 plate appearances against left-handed pitching and posted a decent .318/.361/.400 slash line to go along with a 5.8% walk rate, a 7.5% strikeout rate, and a wRC+ of 102. In terms of counting stats, Peraza collected seven doubles, one triple, and four RBI while scoring 15 times.

Pillar, meanwhile, has accrued 387 career plate appearances out of the leadoff spot over seven big-league seasons between the Blue Jays and Giants. 118 of those plate appearances have come against left-handed pitching.

In that relatively small sample size, the now-31-year-old, who also signed a one-year deal with the Sox in February, slashed .303/.339/.541 while walking 5.1% of the time, striking out 12.7% of the time, and posting a 131 wRC+. He hit three homers and collected 14 RBI over that same time frame as well.

“I know Pillar can do it. I feel good with him up there against the left-handers,” Roenicke said of the veteran outfielder batting leadoff against southpaws. “And then we’ll just kind of see.”

The reason why Roenicke is pondering using a different leadoff hitter besides Benintendi is mainly because he is wary of deploying two left-handed hitters — Benintendi and Rafael Devers — at the top of the lineup against left-handed starters.

“I think we have some options. But right off the bat, I may go with the two left-handers and give those guys a chance to do it,” added the Sox skipper. “And I know we’ve talked about the short season, how we need to get off to a good start. But I still know that if those two guys are hitting well, Andrew and Devers like we’ve seen so far — they’re hitting left-handers and right-handers right now — so I feel pretty comfortable with both of them.”

Following the same criteria used for Peraza and Pillar, Benintendi owns a career .752 OPS and 103 wRC+ in 91 plate appearances against left-handed pitching while batting out of the leadoff spot since making his major-league debut in August 2016.

As you may already be aware, this all comes as the Red Sox prepare for their Opening Day opponent: Orioles left-hander John Means, who really had his way with the Boston bats during his rookie year last season, posting a 2.89 ERA over five starts and 28 innings of work in 2019.

Red Sox’ Collin McHugh Opts Out of 2020 Season

Right-handed pitcher Collin McHugh has opted out of the 2020 season, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke announced Sunday.

Per Roenicke, McHugh made this decision based off the fact that he really was nowhere close to appearing in a game anytime soon and it had nothing to do with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Under normal circumstances, the 33-year-old would have begun the year on the injured list and it would have taken about “half a season” to get him back healthy. Now, while at Summer Camp with the Red Sox, it became apparent that McHugh, who is recovering from an elbow procedure, was more in “rehab mode” rather than “game prep mode,” as Roenicke put it. In other words, “His arm just didn’t respond as fast as he’d like it to.”

By opting out of the 2020 season, McHugh will be removed from Boston’s 40-man roster, meaning the club now has two open spots on said roster to work with. Those two spots could go to Brian Johnson and Zack Godley.

As for McHugh, the veteran right-hander initially signed a one-year, major-league deal with the Sox back in February after undergoing a non-surgical procedure to repair a flexor strain over the winter. He will now return to his family in Atlanta.