Red Sox’ Marwin González homers from each side of the plate against Twins, Alex Cora says ‘we’ll play him against lefties and righties whenever we have the chance’

During his pregame media availability on Thursday morning, Alex Cora made the point of saying that Marwin Gonzalez was going to be important to not only what the Red Sox do on the field in 2021, but what they do off the field as well.

Gonzalez made his sixth start of the spring for Boston against the Twins at Hammond Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

Batting out of the two-hole behind fellow newcomer Enrique Hernandez, the soon-to-be 32-year-old switch-hitter showed why he can be a valuable addition for a club with championship aspirations by going 2-for-2 at the plate with a pair of home runs, his first two of the spring.

He also stole a base after getting hit by a pitch in the fourth inning.

In his first at-bat, Gonzalez was matched up with Twins starter Matt Shoemaker, a right-hander, so he naturally hit from the left side of the plate with one out and nobody on in the top half of the first inning.

After watching a first-pitch sinker whiz by his knees for a called first strike, Gonzalez did not waste any more time, as he took an 0-1, 77 mph slider right down Broadway and deposited it 406 feet into the left field seats.

His first big fly of the spring — and in a Red Sox uniform — traveled 406 feet off the bat with an exit velocity of over 107 mph, per Baseball Savant.

Fast forward to the fifth, after the bottom of the Sox lineup had been productive with two outs and Hernandez collected an RBI on a run-scoring single, Gonzalez came to the plate once more, this time matched up against Twins southpaw Devin Smeltzer.

The versatile Venezuelan — hitting right-handed this time around — again watched the first pitch go by for a called strike, then proceeded to foul off a curveball to put himself in a quick 0-2 hole.

The third pitch from Smeltzer was an 87 mph heater at the top of the zone, right around the same area his catcher wanted it.

Despite accurately locating the pitch, Gonzalez was ready for it, as he demolished that fastball from Smeltzer and sent it 372 feet to left field, well far enough for his second home run of the afternoon.

This one was good for three runs and had an exit velocity of 101 mph.

Gonzalez’s day would come to an end a half inning later with Jonathan Arauz replacing him at second, but the damage had already been done considering the fact the former Twin was responsible for four of the five runs the Sox scored in what would turn out to be a 5-4 victory over Minnesota in eight innings on Thursday.

“He’s a good player,” Cora said of Gonzalez following the win. “We always talk about versatility and all that and it’s a good at-bat. It’s a good at-bat from both sides of the plate. He’s been very consistent throughout his career. We’ll play him against lefties and righties whenever we have the chance and whenever we find a matchup that we like, or to protect other guys.”

The Red Sox signed Gonzalez to a one-year, $3 million deal last month with the idea that he can play a plethora of defensive positions given his pedigree as a utility man.

In two seasons with the Twins alone between 2019 and 2020, the 6-foot-1, 205 pounder saw time at every position besides, pitcher, catcher, and centerfield.

“That’s the beauty of this, he can get a lot of at-bats playing at first, playing at second, giving Xander [Bogaerts] an off-day, even [Rafael Devers],” Cora added. “He’s been working hard with [Tim Hyers]. It was a tough year for him last year. In ’19, he hit the ball hard. He was top of the league in hard-hit balls. So, just put him in a good spot physically and just let him play. He enjoys playing the game and I’m happy that he’s with us.”

As previously mentioned, Hernandez had a front row seat to what Gonzalez did on Thursday since he was hitting ahead of him in Boston’s lineup.

The two were signed by the Red Sox over the winter for similar reasons, and Hernandez went into detail about what his versatile counterpart can bring to the table.

“He definitely won the MVP of the day today,” Hernandez said while praising Gonzalez’s performance at the plate. “I don’t think there’s going to be a player in baseball with a better day than he had today. Marwin’s a great player. Everybody knows that.

“Last season, it’s a little hard to dictate on players based off a 60-game season,” added Hernandez. “I would guarantee that he’s going to do better this year than he did last year. Also the fact that he can help us on both sides of the ball. Defensively, his versatility, he’s a plus-defender everywhere he plays. He can run the bases just like he did today. He got a great read on a dirt ball and he took off before the catcher or the infielders knew he was running, and he was able to get an extra 90 feet for us.

That’s going to be huge, especially with our lineup,” he continued. “Everybody can do damage. And a lot of times I feel like in Fenway, being at first, you’re already in scoring position, but the extra 90 feet are always huge.”

Given the versatility both Hernandez and Gonzalez — among other position players — can provide, Cora said the Red Sox could very well begin the 2021 season with 14 pitchers and 12 position players on their Opening Day roster.

“These two guys, and others, they help us to accomplish that,” Cora explained.

(Picture of Marwin Gonzalez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora leaning on Kiké Hernández, Marwin González for more than just their versatility

The Red Sox brought in Enrique Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez to provide versatility on the field and in the lineup. That much is true.

What is also true, however, is that the pair of veteran utilitymen were signed by Boston for their sage wisdom and leadership abilities as well.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora has prior connections with both players. He’s known Hernandez since the former Dodgers fan favorite was a kid growing up in Puerto Rico and he served as Gonzalez’s bench coach with the Astros in 2017.

Given those connections, it’s safe to assume that Cora played a role in recruiting both Hernandez and Gonzalez, both of whom won World Series with their previous clubs, to Boston and ensured that the two would not only play key roles on the field, but off the field as well.

“There’s something about those guys and the experience of being with winners that they can add to the equation here,” Cora said Thursday. “As you know, my expectations are the same as the fanbase and it’s to play in October and win a championship. Guys like that, when they talk in the clubhouse and they talk baseball, it’s loud and clear.”

As Cora put it, Hernandez, 29, and Gonzalez, who turns 32 on Sunday, have the “green light” to speak up in the clubhouse in order to help those around them.

One way in which those two are already utilizing that green light is by talking with Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts about their defense.

“They connected with Raffy already,” said Cora. “You can see those two — Marwin and Enrique — talking to him a lot about defense. And it’s a tradeoff. The way they see it is like, ‘OK, we’ll help Xander and Raffy defensively, they’ll help us offensively. And we’ll be good.’ So, it’s a good tradeoff.”

For some veterans, being put in Hernandez’s and Gonzalez’s position would not be easy simply because of the fact they are new to an organization and are already being asked to undertake a vocal leadership role.

Despite that potential hurdle, Cora did not seem all that concerned that the two versatile infielders/outfielders would have any difficulty in familiarizing themselves with their new teammates.

“I told them straight up: We have a bunch of humble kids here,” the Sox skipper recounted. “Like I told you guys in ’18, I think the eye-opening thing about that team was the media during the playoffs was like, ‘They’re just such good kids and they’re such a good group.’ Like I told you guys, I wanted them to be cocky and go out there and do your thing in ’18. I had to push these guys to be something else, like if you hit a home run, enjoy it.

“It’s not the same group, but we still have two very good kids at shortstop and at third base,” he added. “I think these guys are going to push them to be leaders and push them to speak to the group. They know already, and they have the confidence of the manager — not only on the field, but off the field — and I think that means a lot. Whatever they have on their mind, they always come up to me and I tell them that’s a good way to put it or I tell them not to do it.

“They know they have my support in anything they want to do in the clubhouse.”

(Picture of Rafael Devers, Enrique Hernandez, Marwin Gonzalez, and Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox add utilityman Danny Santana on minor-league deal, per report

The Red Sox have signed utilityman Danny Santana to a minor-league deal with an invite to major-league spring training, according to The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams.

Santana, 30, had worked out for teams in Miami this month and the Red Sox were obviously among the teams who were interested.

The Dominican native became a free-agent this winter after getting non-tendered by the Rangers — who he had spent the last two seasons with — in December.

In his time with Texas, Santana truly experienced the ups-and-downs of being a major-leaguer.

Across 130 games in 2019, he slashed .283/.324/.534 to go along with a career-best 28 home runs and 81 RBI over a career-high 511 plate appearances en route to being named the Rangers’ player of the year.

Following up that successful campaign, Santana fell back down to earth in 2020, as he appeared in just 15 games and posted a .511 OPS before going down with a season-ending right elbow sprain in late August.

Rather than pay Santana the $3.6 million he was projected to earn in his final year of salary arbitration, the Rangers cut the veteran switch-hitter loose over the winter.

Originally signed by the Twins as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, Santana has proven capable of playing multiple defensive positions since making his big-league debut in 2014.

With the Rangers alone, the 5-foot-11, 195 pounder played 53 games at first base, 17 at second base, eight at third base, nine at shortstop, 17 in left field, 31 in center field, and 15 in right field.

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman was the first to report that the Red Sox were ‘in the final mix’ for Santana’s services.

As Heyman notes, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom clearly values versatility given the fact he has brought in the likes of Santana, Enrique Hernandez, and Marwin Gonzalez this offseason.

Heyman also tweeted that Santana’s deal with Boston consists of $1.75 million in a base salary, $1 million in potential incentives, a $100,000 bonus if he starts the year in Triple-A, and an opt out if he is not promoted by a certain date.

With the addition of Santana, Boston will now have approximately 34 non-roster invitees at camp, which pushes the size of their major-league spring training roster to 74 players. The maximum number of players teams can carry this spring is 75.

That means that the club will have to clear at least one spot on their spring training roster when catcher Kevin Plawecki and outfielder Franchy Cordero are ready to be activated from the COVID-19 related injured list.

(Picture of Danny Santana: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Yairo Muñoz among Red Sox’ most impressive performers early on in spring training

In his first traditional spring training with the Red Sox, Yairo Munoz is off to a hot start.

Following a 1-for-3 performance against the Rays on Tuesday that was highlighted a hard-hit two-run home run to the opposite field, the 26-year-old came off the bench as a pinch-runner in Wednesday’s contest against the Twins and collected another RBI by lining a run-scoring single in his only trip to the plate in the sixth inning of an eventual 14-6 victory for the Sox.

Through his first four Grapefruit League games of the year, Munoz is 5-for-9 (.555) at the plate with that one homer, one double, and four RBI while playing left field and third base.

The Dominican native is coming into the spring without a spot on Boston’s 40-man roster, meaning he is one of 33 non-roster invitees currently at big-league camp in Fort Myers.

The Sox outrighted Munoz off their 40-man roster in December. That decision was met with much surprise considering the fact that the utilityman impressed over the course of the final month of the 2020 campaign and the team had just signed him a one-year contract for the 2021 season.

After spending a healthy chunk of July and the entirety of August at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, Munoz was called up by Boston on August 31 and made his team debut on September 1.

From that point forward, the right-handed hitter — listed at 5-foot-11 and 200 lbs. — slashed an impressive .333/.333/.511 to go along with one home run, five doubles, four RBI, and two stolen bases over 12 games played before a lower back strain prematurely ended his year on September 19.

Given the fact he performed well and proved more than capable of playing multiple defensive positions (was worth positive-4 defensive runs saved in left field), it, again, was somewhat shocking to see Munoz stripped of his 40-man roster spot three months ago.

Having said that, it might be even more shocking that the ex-St. Louis Cardinal managed to clear waivers without getting claimed by another organization beforehand.

At just 26 years old, Munoz is still relatively young, under team control through 2024, and has one minor-league option remaining. All while just a few years removed from being one of the top prospects in the Athletics’ farm system, which is the organization he originally signed with back in 2012.

In Chaim Bloom’s tenure as chief baseball officer thus far, the Red Sox have clearly placed an emphasis on bringing in — whether by trade, waiver claim, or free agency — versatile players who can be put to the test on the field. Christian Arroyo, Enrique Hernandez, and Marwin Gonzalez are among those on the team’s projected Opening Day roster who fit that mold.

While Munoz may have taken a step back this offseason and still has some work to do in order to crack Boston’s Opening Day roster, he seems to fit that mold, too.

At the end of the day, it’s as MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith wrote earlier Wednesday: “The Red Sox are lucky Yairo Munoz remains in the organization.”

Smith also wrote that Munoz “is one of the top outfield depth options heading into 2021. He will play for Boston at some point this season.”

(Picture of Yairo Munoz: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Newest Red Sox utilityman Marwin González takes pride in his versatility, carries up to five different gloves with him

When Marwin Gonzalez made his major-league debut for the Astros in 2012, the utility role was not looked on as fondly as it is today.

Back then, instead of regularly deploying players who could play a number of positions, clubs would typically start the same nine guys at their respective positions while more versatile options were left on the bench.

Now, Major League Baseball has become a hotbed for players capable of playing multiple positions around the infield and outfield.

The Red Sox put this practice to the test this offseason by signing the likes of Gonzalez and Enrique Hernandez — both of whom have seen time at at least seven defensive positions over the course of their careers — to one- and two-year deals, respectively.

“I think the game has changed a lot by altering things and carrying guys like us that can play multiple positions,” Gonzalez said when speaking with NESN’s Tom Caron on Friday. “I’m happy. Because when I got to the big-leagues, it was basically the nine starters were the guys playing almost 162 games, so the guys on the bench didn’t have a chance.

“I’m happy that everything changed and it kind of opened the doors for guys like Kiké and I to do what we do,” he added. “You see pretty much everybody trying to do the same and carrying guys that can play all over the place. I think for a manager, it kind of makes it easy because they can carry an extra pitcher, and it’s better for the whole team.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora alluded to this on Thursday when discussing the roster flexibility that Gonzalez and Hernandez can provide the club this coming season.

“To have Enrique and Marwin on the same team, just being creative. People talk about creative teams and how cool it is. Well, we have a cool team, too,” said Cora. “They’re going to help us a lot. They know how to play defense. Whenever they play, you’re not worried about them making the right decisions, throwing to the right base, being in line of the cut-off man. Both of them, they’re really solid. We’re going to ask them to do a few things in the clubhouse, too.”

Gonzalez, who turns 32 in March, is coming off a two-year tenure with the Twins in which he slashed .248/.311/.387 to go along with 20 home runs and 77 RBI over 167 total games played between 2019 and 2020.

The switch-hitting Venezuelan also played 35 games at first base, 23 games at second base, 63 games at third base, one game at shortstop, 18 games in left field, and 52 games in right field in his time in Minnesota. So it goes without saying that he wears many different hats, or in this case, gloves.

“I have four game gloves and I practice with another one — I don’t like to practice with my game gloves,” said Gonzalez. “I carry five gloves, but in my locker I have like seven to nine gloves. I get new gloves and try to get them ready for the next year or mid-season, something like that.

“Sometimes, I have to ask one of my teammates if he can carry one or two gloves because there’s not enough room in my bag,” he continued. “That’s kind of a hard thing for me to do. When we’re traveling, it’s a pain for me to pack my bags and put everything in my bags.”

(Picture of Marwin Gonzalez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Matt Andriese, Garrett Whitlock already proving to be interesting pieces of Red Sox’ 2021 pitching staff puzzle

In going about upgrading their pitching staff over the winter, one thing the Red Sox clearly targeted was versatility.

Looking past the additions of traditional starters such as Garrett Richards and Martin Perez and traditional relievers such as Adam Ottavino and Hirokazu Sawamura, two names that stand out in this particular category of pitcher are right-handers Garrett Whitlock and Matt Andriese.

Whitlock, 24, was acquired by Boston in the major-league phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft from the Yankees organization.

A former 18th-round draft selection of New York back in 2017 out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Whitlock comes into Red Sox camp having never pitched above the Double-A level. He also has not appeared in an organized minor-league game since undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2019.

Having said all that, the 6-foot-5, 190 lb. hurler out of Georgia does bring with him a lifetime 2.41 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 42 total appearances (38 starts) and 205 1/3 total innings pitched across four minor-league levels since 2017.

Equipped with a groundball-inducing pitch mix that consists of a mid-90s fastball, a low-80s slider, and a changeup (per Baseball America), Whitlock must make Boston’s Opening Day roster and remain on the major-league roster for the entirety of the season if the Sox do not want to offer him back to their division rivals.

With that in mind, the Red Sox will surely find a way to utilize Whitlock properly in 2021. His new manager, Alex Cora, already seems pretty high on him.

“Whitlock is a guy that I’ll be paying a lot of attention to,” Cora said Saturday when speaking with reporters via Zoom. “He plays the part. He threw a bullpen yesterday (Friday). It was very impressive. The most impressive thing about him is the way he acts. The way he takes care of his body and what he does. He’s a very quiet kid. He knows what he wants to do. I’m looking forward to see him pitch and see where he takes us.”

As for Andriese, the Red Sox signed the 31-year-old right-hander to a one-year, $1.85 million contract for the 2021 season back in December. The deal also includes a $3.5 million club option for 2022 or a $250,000 buyout is said option is declined.

Over the course of a six-year major-league career between the Rays, Diamondbacks, and Angels, Andriese owns a lifetime ERA of 4.57 and a lifetime FIP of 4.23 over 183 total outings — 50 of which were starts — and 460 2/4 innings of work dating back to 2015.

Like Whitlock, Andriese could carve out a role for himself as a swingman for the Sox in 2021.

At the time his signing was made official over the winter, the California native said he believed his role with Boston going into the spring would be to compete for a starting rotation spot, but he also acknowledged that “being in the bullpen is also an option to help the team.”

Going off the notion that he is flexible with his role, Cora said Tuesday that the Red Sox would stretch Andriese out as a starter this spring, but have him ready to do anything once the season begins in April.

“He’s a good pitcher. Good stuff, good fastball, good changeup,” said Cora in regards to the 6-foot-2, 215 lb. hurler. “Actually today, me and Christian [Vazquez] were talking about him. Important role. We’re going to stretch him as a starter and see where we go throughout spring training. He’ll be ready to do anything. He’ll be our utility guy in the pitching staff, and you need those guys. We saw it in ’18, we saw it in ’19 when it didn’t work. Guys like that, they save bullpens, they save the rotation, they help the manager a lot to get some sleep at night. He’s been good.”

Cora added that he believed Andriese proved to be a valuable member of the Angels’ pitching staff last year, which is evident by the fact that he posted a 1.65 ERA and .373 OPS against over his final 10 relief appearances and 16 1/3 innings pitched of the season.

“Besides that, great teammate. Puts work in the weight room. Very smart about pitching,” Cora said. “Guys like that, they’re going to make us better.”

(Picture of Matt Andriese: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Red Sox reach agreement with veteran utilityman Marwin González on one-year deal, per report

The Red Sox and veteran utilityman Marwin Gonzalez have agreed to a one-year contract, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

Per Feinsand, Gonzalez will earn $3 million in 2021 with the chance to earn a little over $1 million more in incentives.

Gonzalez, who turns 33 next month, is coming off a 2020 season with the Twins in which he posted a .211/.286/.320 slash to go along with five home runs and 22 RBI over 53 games (199 plate appearances).

The Red Sox were known to be in the market for a left-handed bat that could potentially complement the right-handed hitting Bobby Dalbec at first base, and Gonzalez, a switch-hitter certainly fits that mold.

The Venezuelan has proven to be quite versatile over the course of his nine year major-league career with the Astros and Twins, as he has seen time at every defensive position minus pitcher and catcher.

Most recently, as a member of the Twins from 2019-2020, Gonzalez appeared in 35 games at first base, 22 at second base, 63 at third base, one at shortstop, 18 in left field, zero in center field, and 52 in right field. He also served as a designated hitter, pinch-hitter, and pinch-runner in his time with Minnesota.

Given the fact he spent the first seven years of his big-league career — including 2017 — in Houston, Gonzalez is obviously already familiar with Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who served as the ‘Stros’ bench coach that year.

The reported addition of Gonzalez comes less than two weeks after the Enrique Hernandez signing was made official, so Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. appear intent on having as versatile team as possible.

As currently constructed, Boston’s 40-man roster is at full capacity, so the club will need to make a flurry of moves in order to officially add the likes of Gonzalez, Hirokazu Sawamura, and Martin Perez.

Also, this is not Gonzalez’s first time with the Red Sox. He spent less than one full day with the team back in December 2011 after being selected from the Cubs in the major-league phase of that year’s Rule 5 Draft before promptly getting traded to the Astros for Marco Duarte.

(Picture of Marwin Gonzalez: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)