Red Sox’ Tanner Houck Leaning on Nathan Eovaldi To Help Develop Splitter

As rookie right-hander Tanner Houck prepares to make his third and final start of the 2020 season against the Braves on Saturday, he is also looking ahead to the offseason.

The 24-year-old has impressed during his first two turns through the Red Sox rotation, yielding just one unearned run on three hits and six walks to go along with 11 strikeouts over 11 total innings pitched.

Houck has thrown 171 pitches in those two starts, and according to Statcast, 33% of those pitches have been sliders, 32% have been four-seam fastballs, 30% have been sinkers, and 5% have been split-finger fastballs.

That splitter, Houck’s newest and least-used pitch thus far, is something the former first-round pick is looking to continue to develop over the winter, and he’s seeking out advice from a fellow Red Sox rotation mate in order to do so.

“The main focus is continuing to develop the splitter,” Houck said of his offseason plans when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Friday. “That’s been a pitch that I started throwing during spring training 1.0 of this year. I’ve seen a lot of growth with it. A guy that I’ve talked to a lot about with the splitter is [Nathan] Eovaldi. He’s a great guy to talk about pitching and he has one of the nastiest splits, so I’ve been bouncing questions off him, how he holds it, what he’s thinking whenever he throws it. That’s step No. 1, to just develop that third pitch along with continuing to develop a feel for a two-seam going glove side, a four-seam going arm side, and just being able to move the ball around.”

Per Statcast, Houck is averaging a velocity of 87.1 mph and a spin rate of 1,571 revolutions per minute with the eight splitters he has thrown so far this year. Eovaldi, meanwhile, is averaging a velocity of 87.9 mph and a spin rate of 1,486 revolutions per minute with the 105 splitters he has thrown in 2020.

This isn’t the first time Eovaldi has doled out veteran wisdom to a younger Red Sox hurler, either. Back in August, rookie southpaw Kyle Hart said that the 30-year-old had helped him better understand the system some of the club’s starting pitchers use to scout other teams.

Red Sox Rookie Tanner Houck Planning on Attacking Strike Zone Against Yankees in First Fenway Park Start

Red Sox rookie right-hander Tanner Houck is coming off a superb major-league debut against the Marlins last Tuesday in which he collected seven strikeouts over five scoreless innings en route to picking up his first career victory.

Following that impressive showing, a new challenge for Houck awaits on Sunday, as the 24-year-old hurler will be going up against a red-hot Yankees team in the finale of a three-game series at Fenway Park.

With a 6-5, 12-inning win over Boston on Friday, New York extended their current winning streak to a season-best nine consecutive games. Over that dominant stretch, which goes back to September 9, the Bronx Bombers are slashing an absurd .314/.401/.711 against opposing right-handed pitchers while clubbing 25 home runs and posting a 194 wRC+. These numbers are something Houck will have to keep in mind when he takes the Fenway Park mound for the first time.

“For me, nothing really changes,” Houck said of his mindset going into his first home start of the season. “As long as you go out there and attack the zone, I think good things happen. If you go right at people, get them on their heels early, it sets up a lot more. Typically, whenever you’re behind in the count, a lot of people become more dangerous. So, go out there, attack right away and I’ll definitely real confident.”

In his debut against Miami last Tuesday, Houck faced 19 batters. Among those 19 batters, the former first-round pick fell behind the count on several occasions, but he did manage to limit the opposition to just three walks while mixing in his four-seam and split-finger fastball as well as his sinker and slider.

Limiting traffic on the base paths could prove to be pivotal for the Illinois native on Sunday, as the Yankees have accrued the second-highest walk percentage in the American League (11.9%) going back to the start of their current winning streak.

To construct a proper game plan for a team as dangerous as New York, Houck will need to be diligent in his preparations. He does however have one tool that he did not have available to him in the minor-leagues: advanced analytics.

“It’s definitely got its new challenges with everything,” the Mizzou product said of his introduction to the majors. “There’s a lot more scouting report info to take in, which I love. Being able to go out there and know my opponent just a little bit more helps me set up a game plan a lot.”

On top of the insights he has received from the Red Sox’ analytics department, Houck has also gotten some helpful advice from fellow former Missouri Tigers in the majors, such as Nationals ace Max Scherzer and Rangers right-hander Kyle Gibson.

“Having guys like that reach out is truly an honor,” Houck added. “I’m truly blessed to be a part of that brotherhood. I’ve definitely gotten to talk to Gibson and Scherzer over the years having that Mizzou connection, and just kind of bouncing ideas off them is truly great. It’s more people to learn from and this is a game that you got to learn from your elders a little bit, see what they’ve done and just try to learn from that.”

Houck will get the ball against the Yankees and fellow rookie righty Deivi Garcia on Sunday afternoon.

Top Red Sox Pitching Prospect Bryan Mata Impresses in Sim Game in Pawtucket

Before the Red Sox endured more pitching troubles in a 5-1 loss to the Yankees on Friday night, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects impressed in a simulated game that took place about 180 miles northeast of Yankee Stadium at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI.

There, at the Sox’ alternate training site, Bryan Mata recorded three strikeouts (two looking, one swinging) and one walk over two scoreless innings of work against other players in Boston’s 60-man player pool.

Per SoxProspects’ Ian Cundall, the 21-year-old right-hander “faced seven hitters overall” while “mix[ing] in all of his pitches.”

Bobby Dalbec, another top prospect in Boston’s farm system and a member of the player pool, was on hand to watch Mata work. And although the 25-year-old slugger did not hit against him on Friday, he did say that Mata “had electric stuff.”

Regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s top pitching prospect and No. 4 overall prospect, Mata originally signed with the Sox for $25,000 out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old back in January 2016.

Between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland last season, Mata posted a 3.43 ERA and .237 batting average against over 21 games started and 105 total innings of work.

At one time Boston’s lone representative in the 2018 All-Star Futures Game in Washington, D.C., Mata has filled out considerably since then and is now listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 lbs.

Based off his SoxProspects scouting report, the righty throws from a three-quarters arm slot and works with a pitch mix that includes a 94-96 mph fastball that tops out at 98 mph, an 86-90 mph cutter, a 78-80 mph curveball, and an 84-86 mph changeup.

Given the current state Red Sox pitching is in at the major-league level, Mata is one of several potential candidates who could start games for Boston at some point this season. Of course, like fellow right-handed prospect Tanner Houck, he would need to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster before that can happen.

Still, as is the case with Houck, Mata is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft later this year, so he would need to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster by late November in order to be protected from that.

With that in mind, if the Red Sox are out of contention come late August or early September, it may be in Chaim Bloom and Co.’s best interest to give guys like Mata, Houck, and even Kyle Hart, who is on the 40-man roster, looks at the big-league level.

Red Sox Should Consider Calling up Right-Handed Pitching Prospect Tanner Houck

On Tuesday, the Red Sox saw left-hander David Peterson make his major-league debut for the New York Mets. On Wednesday, if they’re paying attention, they’ll see right-hander Nate Pearson make his long-awaited major-league debut for the Toronto Blue Jays in Washington, D.C.

One thing Peterson and Pearson have in common, other than being two of the more touted pitching prospects in their respective organizations, is that they were both taken in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft.

With that being said, it may be time to for the Red Sox to give their own 2017 first-round pick a look at the big-league level. Who might that be, you ask? Well, that would be none other than Tanner Houck.

Houck, 24, was taken by Boston with the 24th overall selection in the 2017 amateur draft out of the University of Missouri. Since then, he has emerged as the fourth-ranked right-handed pitching prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Bryan Mata, Noah Song, and Thad Ward, according to MLB Pipeline.

A former 12th-round draft pick of Toronto coming out of high school, Houck has yet to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster, but he was added to the club’s 60-man player pool earlier this month and his since been working out at their alternate training site in Pawtucket, where he tossed two innings in an intrasquad game on Tuesday. (Houck pitching starts at around the 40:30 mark)

Per PawSox manager Billy McMillon, this was the first time Houck had faced live hitters since spring training in March.

“He looked like he was under control,” McMillon said of the 6-foot-5, 230 lb. righty. “He was not laboring. He mixed up his pitches. I think the emphasis for him is going to be controlling the strike zone a little bit better, particularly against lefties.”

SoxProspects’ scouting report for Houck says the Illinois native utilizes a 92-95 mph fastball that can top out at 98 mph, a 83-86 mph slider, and an 86-88 mph changeup, all while throwing from a low three-quarters arm slot.

In 16 appearances (two starts) with Triple-A Pawtucket after being promoted from Double-A Portland last July, Houck posted a 3.24 ERA and .209 batting average against over 25 innings of work. He spent parts of the offseason pitching in the Arizona Fall League and for Team USA in the Premier-12 tournament as well.

Given the current state the Red Sox pitching staff is in at the major-league level just five games into the new season, Houck could be a welcome addition as an opener or reliever seeing how he hasn’t exactly been stretched out to this point in time.

Calling up Houck now would also work out in the sense that he needs to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster by late November in order to avoid being eligible for this year’s Rule 5 draft.

Of course, because Boston’s 40-man roster is currently at full capacity, a corresponding move would need to be made in order to get Houck to the majors this season.

 

 

Although They Were Not Named to Initial Training Camp Pool, Expect Top Red Sox Prospects to Join Team in Boston

When the Red Sox announced their initial roster pool for the resumption of major-league spring training, or ‘Summer Camp,’ on Sunday, many were surprised that no top prospects outside of Bobby Dalbec made the cut.

Instead, 47 players were added to Boston’s initial pool, meaning there are still up to 13 open slots that can be filled.

Out of the 47 players already on the list, 37 are on the Sox’ 40-man roster, while 10 are non-roster invitees.

Veteran backstop Jonathan Lucroy was not included in the initial pool of players, but he is expected to report to training camp at Fenway Park this week once some procedural things with his contract are finalized.

So, if you account for Lucroy, the Red Sox, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co., still have 12 available spots to play with if they so choose.

Many clubs across baseball have already invited their most touted prospects to their respective training camps, with some even including their first-round picks from this year’s draft.

According to Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities for the Sox to go down this avenue of roster construction in the coming weeks. That all depends how many players in the initial pool test positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

“We had a lot of conversations about this and the right way to do it,” Roenicke told reporters via a Zoom call earlier Monday. “Do you bring in some of your top prospects that you really don’t want to miss a season? And then you talk about, ‘Well, what happens if we get five or six guys that all of a sudden come in and test positive for the virus? So how do we best fill these 60 spots with what will help us not only this year but next year also?”

Added the former Brewers manager: “We think the testing part is critical to this. If we all get through this testing part clean, and we don’t have some cases or at least not many (positive tests), then they feel like they can proceed with how we’re going to go with the next spots that are open on that 60 list. And I thought it was a really smart way to do this. And I know there’s a couple guys that I talked about, that I got to see in spring training that I thought, these are great looking players. They’re not ready for our team yet but those are guys that I really would like to play and get experience this year so they’re not set back for next year and we don’t lose them for really a year.”

With those potential 12 spots to play with, the Red Sox could add touted prospects such as Jeter Downs, Triston Casas, Bryan Mata, Jarren Duran, Marcus Wilson, Tanner Houck, Durbin Feltman and Thad Ward to their training camp pool.

Personally, after what he did in the spring, I believe Duran more than likely deserves one of those spots.

Going back to that part about clubs adding their 2020 first-round draft choices, could it be possible that the Sox include Nick Yorke, or maybe even third-rounder Blaze Jordan in their training camp pool if the two are able to sign with the team relatively soon? That would be quite the experience for two kids fresh out of high school, I would have to think.

Red Sox Add 47 Players to Initial Training Camp Roster Pool

The Red Sox have added 47 players to their initial player pool for summer training camp, the club announced Sunday.

Teams had until 4 PM eastern time Sunday to submit their initial training camp pools to Major League Baseball and could include up to 60 players.

Seemingly taking the conservative route here, the Red Sox have left 13 open slots in their initial club pool, although they have the ability to add more players later on.

Prior to Sunday, many assumed that Boston would include a bevy of top prospects in their pool, as has been the case thus far with other clubs, but that was not part of the Sox’ course of action, apparently.

Instead, corner infielder Bobby Dalbec was the only premier Red Sox prospect to make the cut. Other touted youngsters in Boston’s minor-league pipleine, such as Jeter Downs, Triston Casas, Jarren Duran, Tanner Houck, or Bryan Mata, did not. At least for the time being, that is.

It’s also worth mentioning that 10 non-roster invitees — Brian Johnson, Yairo Munoz, Domingo Tapia, Cesar Puello, Marco Hernandez Juan Centeno, Jett Bandy, Robinson Leyer, John Andreoli, and catching prospect Connor Wong — made the initial pool.

Veteran backstop Jonathan Lucroy, who signed a minor-league deal with Boston in February, did not make the initial pool, but according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the reason for that is a procedural one.

Among the players who make up the Sox’ 40-man roster, left-hander Yoan Aybar and outfielder Marcus Wilson were the only ones not to receive an initial invite to training camp.

As previously mentioned though, there is still plenty of time for other players and prospects to be added at a later date. We’ll have to see what chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have in store once players begin reporting to training camp this week.

 

 

Red Sox Make Second Round of Spring Roster Cuts

Four days after making their first round of spring roster cuts, the Red Sox cut 15 more players before taking on the Minnesota Twins earlier Sunday.

Out of those 15 players, eight were reassigned to minor-league camp, five were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, one was optioned to Double-A Portland, and one was optioned to High-A Salem.

The players who were reassigned to minor-league camp were cathcer Roldani Baldwin, catcher/infielder Connor Wong, infielder Jeter Downs, first baseman Josh Ockimey, right-handed pitchers R.J. Alvarez, Trevor Hildenberger, and Tanner Houck, and left-handed pitcher Mike Kickham.

The players optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket were infielders Bobby Dalbec and C.J. Chatham, right-handers Mike Shawaryn and Phillips Valdez, and left-hander Kyle Hart.

Outfielder Marcus Wilson was the lone player optioned to Double-A Portland, while right-hander Yoan Aybar was the lone player optioned to High-A Salem.

In total, seven players — Aybar, Chatham, Dalbec, Hart, Shawaryn, Valdez, Wilson — on Boston’s 40-man roster were cut from big-league camp on Sunday.

Out of the 14 non-roster invites still in major-league camp, the most notable are Brian Johnson, Jonathan Lucroy, Marco Hernandez, and Jarren Duran. Take away Duran and the other three are certainly vying for positions on Boston’s 26-man roster to open the season.

Some thoughts:

Seeing the two prospects the Red Sox acquired in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade get cut is not much of a surprise, but it is a bit surprising seeing names like Kyle Hart, Tanner Houck, and Mike Shawaryn be cut at this point in time.

At least in my mind, I thought Hart and Houck were candidates to fill the two vacant spots in the Sox’ starting rotation, while Shawaryn was competing for a bullpen role. Instead of beginning the year in the majors though, it looks like the trio of hurlers will start with the PawSox.

Guys like Chatham and Dalbec probably had an outside chance of making Boston’s Opening Day roster before Sunday, but if we do see them in the majors this season, it will have to come at a later date.

On a final note, I’m looking forward to seeing what Marcus Wilson does in his first full year in the Red Sox organization.

 

 

Nathan Eovaldi’s Strong Spring Continues as Red Sox Win One, Lose One in Saturday’s Split-Squad Action

In their second split-squad action of the spring on Saturday, the Red Sox experienced both victory and defeat, as they topped the Blue Jays by a final score of 5-2 at JetBlue Park, but also fell to the Phillies by a final score of 10-2 in Clearwater. They are now 5-10-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Starting with the game in Fort Myers, it was Nathan Eovaldi making his third start of the spring for Boston in this one.

Having yet to give up a run through his first two Grapefruit League outings headed into the weekend, Eovaldi’s impressive run continued against Toronto, as he held the Jays scoreless over three sharp innings of work while scattering one hit and one walk to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both that hit and walk Eovaldi yielded came right away in the top half of the first, but he was able to maneuver his way around any trouble by punching out Brandon Drury before proceeding to retire the final six Blue Jays he faced in order.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 59, the 30-year-old had his four-seam fastball consistently hovering around 97-99 MPH on Saturday. His fourth start should come against the Rays on Friday.

In relief of Eovaldi, Eduard Bazardo came on to begin the fourth inning, and he served up a solo home run to old friend Travis Shaw in an otherwise clean frame of work.

From there, Josh Taylor struck out the side and stranded two runners in his third appearance of the spring in the fifth, Phillips Valdez fanned three over two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh, Trevor Hildenberger surrendered one run on one hit, one hit batsman, and one RBI groundout in the eighth, and Robinson Leyer closed things out with a shutout ninth to preserve the win.

All in all, Sox pitching combined to give up two earned runs on two hits, one walk, two HBPs, and 13 strikeouts over nine total innings of work against the Blue Jays. Things did not go as swimmingly against the Phillies, which we’ll get to later.

For now, let’s talk about how a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, Christian Vazquez, Bobby Dalbec, Jonathan Arauz, and Rusney Castillo fared against Toronto starter Trent Thornton on Saturday.

Devers got things started right away in the first, as he reached base on a scorcher of a one-out single and came in to score all the way from first on a two-out RBI double off the bat of Martinez that could have been caught in left field had it not been for some nasty wind.

That early one-run lead doubled in the third, with Moreland doubling off Thornton and Dalbec driving him in on a run-scoring two-base hit of his own down the left field line. 2-0.

In the fourth, Devers came through again, this time plating Castillo from second and advancing Benintendi to third on another hard-hit, RBI single off new Blue Jays reliever Brian Moran.

Xander Bogaerts followed that up by grounding into a run-scoring 4-6-3 double play, and just like that, the Red Sox had themselves a 4-1 advantage.

Jantzen Witte and Ryder Jones provided some insurance later on in the seventh, with the former lacing a two-out double off of Julian Merryweather and the latter following with a double of his own to score Witte and make it a 5-1 contest.

Toronto would get one of those runs back in their half of the eighth, but that would be all, as 5-2 would go on to be Saturday’s final score.

Making the trek over to Clearwater now, it was top pitching prospect Tanner Houck making his second start and third overall appearance of the spring for Boston against the Phillies.

Coming off three scoreless innings of relief against the Braves last weekend, the right-hander had a much tougher time of things on Saturday, as he yielded six runs, five of which were earned, on four hits, three walks, and one HBP to go along with three strikeouts in just 1 1/3 innings of work.

The first of those six Philles runs came in the first on a hit batsman, a double, and a wild pitch. The other five all came in the second, although Houck was only on the mound for four of them.

He was charged with all six, but after coming out in a 4-0 game with one out and the bases full, Mike Kickham allowed two of those inherited runners to score on another HBP and wild pitch before eventually retiring the side.

Kickham also worked a scoreless third inning before making way for Domingo Tapia, who surrendered two runs (one earned) on two hits, a walk, and a passed ball on the part of catcher Roldani Baldwin in the bottom half of the fourth.

From there, left-hander Josh Osich worked his way around a two-out walk in an otherwise clean fifth, Adam Lau gave up two more runs on three hits, a walk, and a sacrifice fly in the sixth, and Austin Brice impressed by fanning four over two perfect frames of relief in the seventh and eighth.

Compared to the other game against Toronto where things went pretty smoothly pitching-wise, Red Sox hurlers combined to allow 10 runs (eight earned) on nine hits, six walks, and 14 strikeouts over eight total innings pitched against Philadelphia.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Kevin Pillar, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Plawecki, Josh Ockimey, C.J. Chatham, Marco Hernandez, Jeter Downs, Marcus Wilson, and Baldwin was matched up against Phillies left-hander Ranger Suarez to begin things on Saturday.

Pillar got the scoring started for Boston in their half of the third, and he wrapped up a two-hit afternoon by clearing the bases on a two-run double to left off Suarez.

At the time, that two-base hit trimmed the Phillies’ advantage from six runs down to four, but it turned out to be the only offense the Sox could muster with 10-2 going on to be Saturday’s final score in Clearwater.

Some observations from this win and loss:

Kevin Plawecki against the Phillies: 1-for-3 with one strikeout.

Jonathan Lucroy, off the bench, against the Blue Jays: 0-for-1 with a walk and strikeout.

Mitch Moreland, in his first in-game action since last Sunday: 1-for-2 with one strikeout and run scored.

Nate Pearson, the top pitching prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, is going to be very good.

Speaking of prospects, it was interesting to see Gilberto Jimenez, the Sox’ No. 5 prospect, make a brief appearance as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning of the game against the Blue Jays.

With 10 strikeouts through his first 5 2/3 innings of work this spring, I thoroughly believe Austin Brice should make the Opening Day roster.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park on Sunday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Kenta Maeda will do the same for Minnesota.

Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, and Chris Mazza are among those who are expected to follow Perez.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT. Remember to turn your clocks ahead.

 

Eduardo Rodriguez Fans Four Over Four Innings as Red Sox Drop Fourth Straight

After getting shut out by the Astros on Thursday, the Red Sox were able to muster some offense against the Atlanta Braves on Friday, but still saw their losing streak grow to four games following a 9-7 defeat. They are now 4-9-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Making his second start of the spring for Boston was Eduardo Rodriguez, coming off an impressive debut in which he struck out six Yankees over three scoreless frames last Saturday.

Working the first four innings this time around, the left-hander surrendered two runs, both of which were earned, on three hits and two walks to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.

The first of those two Braves tallies came right away in the bottom half of the first on a two-out pop fly of an RBI single from Marcell Ozuna that probably should have been caught, but instead fell between Jose Peraza and Jarren Duran in shallow left-center field.

A pair of shutdown innings in the second and third preceded more two-out trouble for Rodriguez in the fourth when he served up a solo shot to Austin Riley that knotted things up at two runs apiece.

Riley would wind up being the penultimate hitter Rodriguez faced Friday, as he got the next man he faced in Dansby Swanson to ground out to third to retire the side in the fourth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 59, the 26-year-old’s next outing should come sometime late next week.

In relief of Rodriguez, Matt Barnes got the first call out of the Sox bullpen, and he yielded some hard contact while keeping the Braves off the scoreboard in the fifth before walking two of the first three hitters he faced in the sixth, making way for Colten Brewe to come on for him.

Brewer cleaned up Barnes’ mess with the help of an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play, and he also allowed one run on two hits in the seventh.

From there, minor-leaguer R.J. Alvarez entered in the middle of the eighth with his side having just taken a 4-3 lead, and he saw that one-run advantage turn into a three-run deficit following a four-run, four-hit effort from the Braves before Hunter Haworth came on for Alvarez to end the inning on a strikeout.

Over eight total innings of work, Red Sox pitching combined to give up seven earned runs on 10 hits, five walks, and seven strikeouts.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Duran, Peraza, Michael Chavis, Kevin Plawecki, Bobby Dalbec, Chad De La Guerra, John Andreoli, Nick Longhi, and Roldani Baldwin was matched up against Braves top pitching prospect Kyle Wright to begin things on Friday.

Longhi got the scoring started for Boston in the top half of the third, as he led off with a single, advanced to third on a one-out hit from Duran, and came in to score from third on a throwing error while Duran stole second and also advanced to third.

Duran scored himself on an RBI groundout off the bat of Peraza, and just like that, the Red Sox had jumped out to a 2-1 edge over the Braves.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, after Atlanta had claimed their second one-run lead of the afternoon, the Sox bats answered right back, with Jonathan Arauz driving in a pair on a two-out, two-run single to right field off Braves reliever Chris Nunn.

That put the Sox ahead by one run once more at 4-3, but a four-run rally from the Braves in their half of the inning made it a 7-4 contest.

Still, they at least made things interesting in the ninth, as Rusney Castillo plated one and put the tying run on base with a one-out RBI single off Tucker Davidson. 7-5.

Jantzen Witte followed by drawing a walk to put the go-ahead run at first, but neither Joey Meneses or Johan Mieses could do anything with that, as the former grounded into a force out and the latter struck out to end this one with a final score of 7-5 in favor of the Braves.

Some observations from this loss:

Matt Barnes walked three of the eight hitters he faced on Friday.

Kevin Plawecki went 1-for-1 with two walks and a stolen base while starting behind the plate on Friday. Through 16 plate appearances this spring, he has an OPS of 1.230. Jonathan Lucroy did not play.

Jarren Duran also stole a base on Friday. He is very fast.

This game was on ESPN and both Plawecki and Michael Chavis were mic’d up.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s some split-squad action against the Phillies and Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon.

One group of players, headlined by top pitching prospect Tanner Houck, will travel to Clearwater to take on the Phils, while another group, headlined by right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, will stay behind at JetBlue Park to host the Jays.

Eovaldi has thoroughly impressed through his first two starts of the spring, as he has yet to surrender a run while fanning eight over his first five innings of work.

Houck, meanwhile, also owns an ERA of 0.00 through his first two appearances (one start) of the spring. The 23-year-old right-hander has struck out four over five scoreless frames so far.

First pitch for both contests is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. The game against Toronto will be on NESN, while the game against Philadelphia will be on MLB.TV.

Nathan Eovaldi Fans Four Over Three Scoreless Innings, Rafael Devers Crushes Two-Run Homer as Red Sox Get Back in Win Column Against Braves

After dropping their last three, the Red Sox got back in the win column and improved to 4-5-1 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday following a 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves at JetBlue Park.

Making his second start of the spring for Boston was Nathan Eovaldi, who impressed in his 2020 debut by striking out four Twins over two scoreless innings last Monday.

Working three innings this time around, the right-hander impressed yet again, as he kept the Braves off the scoreboard while allowing just one hit, an infield single, and zero walks to go along with another four strikeouts on the afternoon, three of which came in consecutive order in the top half of the second.

Out of the 40 pitches Eovaldi threw Sunday, 28 went for strikes. And even though the Red Sox are opting to not use a radar gun at JetBlue Park this spring, it’s safe to say the 30-year-old had his fastball working in his favor in this one.

With two spring starts down and four to go, Eovaldi’s next outing should come next weekend against either the Braves, Phillies, or Blue Jays.

In relief of Eovaldi, Brandon Workman came on for his first appearance of the spring to begin the fourth, and he looked like he was in mid-season form with two strikeouts and four straight swings and misses to close a perfect inning out.

From there, top pitching prospect Tanner Houck followed suit by fanning three and walking one over three two-hit innings, making way for Marcus Walden, also making his spring debut, to begin the eighth.

Walden got his first Grapefruit League appearance off to a strong start by retiring the side in order in the eighth, but the ninth was a different story, as the 31-year-old allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach via a leadoff walk and HBP before recording the first two outs and yielding an RBI single to Braden Shewmake to end the shutout and make it a 4-1 game.

Another plunked batter filled the bases for Shea Langeliers, who drove in his side’s second run and subsequently ended Walden’s day by drawing a bases-loaded walk.

So, with the bases still full in what was suddenly just a two-run game, in came left-hander Emmanuel De Jesus looking to close things out. And the 23-year-old did just that, as he got Ryan Casteel to fly out to right for the third and final out, thus ending this one with a final score of 4-2.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured regulars like Michael Chavis, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Mitch Moreland, and Christian Vazquez to begin things on Sunday was matched up against Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz.

The Boston bats didn’t waste any time against the Braves hurler, as Chavis led off the first with a walk to bring up Devers, who unloaded on the fifth pitch he saw from Foltynewicz and crushed deep to dead center for his first home run of the spring in just his third plate appearance. A two-run shot put Boston up by two runs early.

An inning later, it was the bottom of the lineup getting things done against Foltynewicz, with Rusney Castillo and top prospect Jeter Downs putting runners at first and second with back-to-back one-out singles and Nick Longhi driving in Castillo from second on a line-drive RBI double to shallow right field. 3-0.

Fast forward all the way to the eighth, and a bases-loaded walk with one out drawn by Chad De La Guerra off of Braves reliever Huascar Ynoa brought in Brett Netzer from third to make it a 4-0 contest. And after Atlanta rallied with a pair of runs of their own in the ninth, 4-2 would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Mitch Moreland was pulled from this one in the middle of the first inning due to right hamstring tightness. Michael Chavis, meanwhile, only got one at-bat and was pulled after the first inning because he will be part of the group traveling to Lakeland for Monday’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

Rafael Devers in his second spring start: 1-for-2 with that two-run homer and two strikeouts.

Jonathan Lucroy off the bench: 0-for-1. Kevin Plawecki did not play.

Next up for the Red Sox, as I already mentioned, they’ll head to Lakeland to take on the Tigers Monday afternoon.

Right-hander Ryan Weber will get the start for Boston, while left-hander Daniel Norris will do the same for Detroit. Matt Barnes is also expected to make his spring debut for the Sox.

Weber is one of several candidates vying for a spot in Boston’s starting rotation to begin the 2020 season. The 29-year-old struck out one and scattered two hits over two scoreless innings in his last time out against the Orioles this past Tuesday.

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