Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward faces live hitters for first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward took another important step in his road back from Tommy John surgery on Friday. At JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, the right-hander faced live batters for the first time since going under the knife last June.

“First Live BP today!” Ward tweeted. “Another box has been checked, we’re getting close!”

Ward came into the 2021 season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 10 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He made just two starts for Double-A Portland before being shut down with a forearm strain that would ultimately require Tommy John. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Andrews on June 3.

As the one-year anniversary of Ward’s elbow reconstruction nears, it appears as though the 25-year-old is close to getting back into minor-league games. Since it has been more than a year since he last pitched competitively, his first assignment will likely come in the Florida Complex League.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida, Ward drew plenty of attention in his first full professional season. The Fort Myers native posted a 2.14 ERA and 3.28 FIP with 157 strikeouts to 57 walks over 25 starts (126 1/3 innings) between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem en route to being named the organization’s 2019 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

After the 2020 campaign was lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic and his 2021 season was for the most part lost because of surgery, Ward is now regarded by Baseball America as the No. 20 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks ninth among pitchers in the organization.

Prior to undergoing Tommy John, Ward operated with a repeatable delivery and worked from a pitch arsenal that included a 93-96 mph sinker, a slider, a cutter, and a changeup.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Ward can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter if the Red Sox do not add him to their 40-man roster by the November deadline. Because of this, the righty — as noted by FanGraphs’ Kevin Goldstein and Tess Taruskin — could be a prime candidate to pitch in the Arizona Fall League later this year.

That way, the Sox would get an extended look at Ward before determining if he was worthy of a 40-man roster spot. Other teams, meanwhile, would also get the chance to evaluate Ward in the event that he was not protected from the Rule 5 Draft this fall.

While it’s extremely unlikely Ward will contribute at the big-league level in 2022, he does project as a back-end starter or multi-inning reliever in the future.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward plays catch for first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward posted a video on social media of himself playing catch on Wednesday, marking the first time he has done so since undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Ward, 24, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 14 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking seventh among pitchers in the organization.

The right-hander was originally selected by the Sox in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida and had opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland.

Just two starts and eight innings into his tenure with the Sea Dogs, however, it was revealed that Ward would require Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow after he suffered a forearm strain in mid-May. The procedure was later performed by Dr. James Andrews in Florida in early June, thus ending the righty’s year prematurely.

Fast forward six months later, though, and it appears that Ward is on the right track towards a full recovery. While it’s likely that he won’t pitch in a game again until late 2022 at the earliest, the Red Sox will still have an interesting decision to make regarding Ward’s status in the coming weeks.

Major-league clubs have until November 19 to add eligible minor-leaguers to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, which is slated to take place during the winter meetings in December.

Along with the likes of Jeter Downs, Brayan Bello, and Gilberto Jimenez, Ward is one of several top Red Sox prospects who could become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they are not added to Boston’s 40-man roster later this month.

A native of Fort Myers, Fla., the 6-foot-3, 192 pound hurler is certainly an interesting candidate to be added. In his first full professional season in 2019, he posted a 2.14 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 157:57 over 25 starts spanning 126 1/3 innings pitched between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem.

This past spring, he put up a 5.63 ERA and 2.64 FIP to go along with 11 strikeouts to five walks in his two outings for Portland prior to getting injured.

With that being said, there would be some caveats to adding Ward on account of the fact that he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, which can take anywhere between 12-18 months to heal from.

Put another way, if the Red Sox were to add Ward to their 40-man roster before the Nov. 19 deadline, he would essentially be taking up a spot on their roster going into next season. Boston could place Ward, who turns 25 in January, on the 60-day injured list to temporarily clear a roster spot, but would subsequently be starting his service time clock as a result of doing so.

If Ward were to be left unprotected heading into next month’s Rule 5 Draft, other clubs would have the chance to select him. Any team that picks him up, though, would then ordinarily be tasked with carrying him on their active roster for a minimum of 90 days.

Since that would be unlikely to execute in Ward’s case, his new club would presumably place him on the 60-day injured list for the entirety of the 2022 campaign before being subject to the same set of rules in 2023.

Those rules being that once healthy, Ward will have to remain on his new team’s 26-man roster for the entire 2023 season or otherwise be offered back to the Red Sox.

It’s a fascinating situation, and one that can definitely be classified as unique and maybe even somewhat confusing. That said, all signs seem to point to the Red Sox not adding Ward to their 40-man roster by the Nov. 19 deadline and thus exposing him to this winter’s Rule 5 Draft.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Garrett Richards makes Red Sox debut as sloppy defense leads to 5-3 loss at hands of Braves

The Red Sox opened the home portion of their Grapefruit League schedule on Monday by falling to the Braves by a final score of 5-3 in seven innings at JetBlue Park.

Newcomer Garrett Richards, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with Boston last month, made his first start of the spring for Boston in this one.

Working two “full” innings, the veteran right-hander surrendered two earned runs on three hits and two walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Atlanta runs came in the top half of the first, when Richards managed to record just one out before the rest of the inning was called off for pitch count purposes.

The 32-year-old was able to rebound in the second inning, however, as he retired the Braves’ 7-8-9 hitters in order to end his day on a more positive note.

Ultimately hit with the losing decision in what was his Red Sox debut, Richards will look to pick up where he left off in his next time out, which should come against the Braves once again on Sunday.

In relief of Richards, left-hander Kyle Hart, a non-roster invitee, came on for the third and yielded two runs — both of which were unearned thanks to a Bobby Dalbec fielding error — on a pair of walks and a two-run single.

From there, right-hander Kevin McCarthy — another non-roster invitee — worked a scoreless top half of the fourth, while right-handed pitching prospects Thad Ward and Connor Seabold combined to toss a pair of shutout frames in the fifth and sixth innings.

Zac Grotz, a right-hander, was responsible for the seventh, and he gave up one unearned run before being injuring his elbow on a pitch that required him to leave the game immediately.

All in all, Sox pitchers allowed five total runs, but only two of those runs were earned due to sloppy defensive play that resulted in five errors being committed; one from Dalbec, one from Ward, one from Marwin Gonzalez, and two from Jeter Downs.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup featured the likes of Christian Arroyo, Gonzalez, J.D. Martinez, Dalbec, Michael Chavis, Yairo Munoz, Cesar Puello, Jeisson Rosario, and Jett Bandy.

Matched up against right-hander Huascar Ynoa — one of the top pitching prospects in Atlanta’s farm system — Bandy kicked off the scoring for his side by drawing a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the second.

Fast forward to the fourth, and the bases were loaded once more. This time with one out as Rosario, one of the two prospects Boston acquired from the Padres in the Mitch Moreland trade, came to the plate to face Touki Toussaint.

Rosario managed to pick up an RBI, but only by dribbling a grounder to the right side of the infield that gave Chavis enough time to score from third and make it a 4-2 contest in favor of Atlanta.

In the seventh, a leadoff double off the bat of catching prospect Kole Cottam resulted in another Boston run crossing the plate when Jonathan Arauz grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

That sequence cut the Sox’ deficit to two runs at 5-3, and it allowed the tyring run to come to the plate in the form of Roldani Baldwin, who stuck out against Jasseel De La Cruz to put this one to bed.

Some notes from this one:

Nick Yorke, the Red Sox’ first-round pick in the 2020 draft, made his spring debut on Monday. The 18-year-old infielder went 1-for-1 off the bench with a walk and a fifth-inning single off Braves reliever A.J. Minter.

Ward and Seabold, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 10 and No. 11 prospects in Boston’s farm system, were probably the two most impressive pitchers the Red Sox threw out there on Monday.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the ball for Boston, and he will be opposed by veteran righty Michael Wacha.

Garrett Whitlock, Joel Payamps, Ryan Weber, Josh Winckowski and Andrew Politi are also expected to pitch for the Sox.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on ESPN, which means we are in for nine innings of baseball since this will be a nationally-televised game.

(Picture of Garrett Richards: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox Set To Kick off Fall Instructional League This Week With Bevy of Top Prospects in Attendance

The Red Sox are set to kick off their fall instructional league in Fort Myers on Monday. And according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, several of the club’s top prospects will take part in these offseason activities.

Among the 62 minor-leaguers who will report to Fenway South starting this week, several had just spent at least part of their summers at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. Those names, per Speier, include pitchers Bryan Mata and Jay Groome, infielders Triston Casas, Nick Yorke, and Hudson Potts, and outfielder Jeisson Rosario.

As for the prospects who did not receive an invite to the alternate site this season, there are right-handers Brayan Bello and Thad Ward, left-hander Chris Murphy, infielders Brainer Bonaci and Matthew Lugo, and speedy outfielder Gilberto Jimenez.

On top of that group of players, infielder Blaze Jordan and pitchers Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland — the rest of Boston’s 2020 draft class — are also expected to attend this offseason program that will run until November 12.

Although it is not yet clear if teams will be allowed to play games against one another due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these instructional leagues do allow the Red Sox, as well as the other 29 clubs, to get back in contact with the core of their minor-league talent.

Speaking of minor-league talent, as of September 1, the Sox had the No. 25 farm system in baseball according to MLB Pipeline.

As underwhelming as that ranking may be, there appears to be optimism from within the organization that things in that developmental area are steadily improving. PawSox manager Billy McMillon opined as much when speaking with reporters this past Friday via Zoom.

“I think it’s very promising right now,” McMillon said regarding the state of the Red Sox farm system. “Some of the returns that we got back in some of the various trades and offseason acquisitions, I think that’s going to raise the level of our minor-leagues. We saw some guys develop, get a little bit better. There’s encouraging news from guys that impressed on the mound to seeing how some of the position players developed. I think the cupboard is getting full again, and I think there’s reason for optimism with some of the guys that we saw in the alternate camp.”

Expect the full list of Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be attending fall instructs to be released relatively soon.

UPDATE: Here’s the full list of the 62 Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be at full instructs, courtesy of SoxProspects.

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 Promote No. 19 Prospect Kutter Crawford to Double-A Portland

The Red Sox have promoted right-handed pitcher Kutter Crawford to Double-A Portland, per SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

Crawford’s MiLB.com page appears to indicate the promotion as well.

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Ranked as Boston’s 19th best overall prospect and seventh among right-handed pitchers, Crawford put together a first half of the 2019 season worthy enough of a Carolina League All-Star bid with High-A Salem, where he posted a 3.39 ERA and .262 batting average to go along with 77 strikeouts and 30 walks over 14 starts and a total of 69 innings pitched.

A 16th-round selection out of Chris Sale’s Florida Gulf Coast University back in 2017, the 23-year-old’s pitch arsenal includes a 91-94 MPH fastball, an 85-87 MPH cutter, a 77-78 MPH curveball, and a changeup.

Per MLB.com’s and SoxProspects.com’s scouting reports, Crawford seems to best profile as an option out of the bullpen rather than the starting rotation once he hits his ceiling. There’s still plenty of time for the young righty to prove otherwise, though.

In other minor league promotion news, right-hander Thad Ward was promoted from Class-A Greenville to Salem to take Crawford’s spot on the Red Sox’ roster, while right-hander Eduard Bazardo was promoted from Salem to Portland after also being named a 2019 Carolina League All-Star.