Red Sox’ rain-shortened 3-1 loss to Yankees overshadowed by fan throwing baseball at Alex Verdugo

Well, after two days of waiting, Jarren Duran’s highly-anticipated major-league debut was certainly an eventful one.

The Red Sox ultimately fell to the Yankees by a final score of 3-1 in a rain-shortened, six-inning contest at Yankee Stadium on Saturday night, but not before two rain delays, two ejections, one player getting hit in the back by a baseball thrown by a fan, and a period of time where baseball was being played in an absolute downpour.

Still, Boston saw their unbeaten run against their division rivals come to a close on Saturday, as they are now 7-1 this year when facing off against New York.

Nathan Eovaldi made his 19th start of the season for the Sox, and he was once again solid while going up against his former team.

Over five strong innings of work, the veteran right-hander yielded just one earned run on two hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with seven strikeouts on the night.

While Eovaldi was rolling early on, the Red Sox lineup backed him up in their half of the second inning.

There, with one out and the bases empty, Duran stepped up to the plate for the very first time in his big-league career with Yankees ace Gerrit Cole on the mound waiting for him.

On the very first pitch he saw from Cole, a 95 mph fastball on the lower half of the plate, Duran ripped a line-drive single to center field for his first career hit.

The speedy outfield prospect would not be on first base for long though, as he advanced to second on a groundout before coming in to score on an RBI single off the bat of Christian Arroyo that gave the Red Sox their first lead of the night at 1-0.

From there, Eovaldi continued to sit down Yankees hitters left and right — and even took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before yielding a two-out double to Greg Allen to break up the no-hit bid.

Allen, known for his speed, was driven in on a game-tying RBI base knock from D.J. LeMahieu moments later, which resulted in Eovaldi’s outing coming to a close as soon as he recorded the final out of the fifth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 94 (66 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler did not factor into Saturday’s decision, though he did lower his ERA on the season down to 3.57. His next start should come against this same Yankees team back at Fenway Park next Friday.

Venable, Plawecki ejected for arguing strikes

In the top half of the sixth, the Red Sox failed to score off Cole, though they certainly had a golden opportunity to do so.

A two-out walk drawn by Rafael Devers followed by a Hunter Renfroe single and Duran free pass filled the bases for Christian Vazquez, who fell behind in the count at 0-2 before offering a half-hearted swing on a slider that was well outside.

While the argument can be made that Vazquez did not break the plane in his swing attempt, the veteran backstop was called out on strikes anyway, prompting a bit of an eruption from the Red Sox dugout in protest of the call.

Because of said reaction, bench coach Will Venable and backup catcher Kevin Plawecki were ejected from the contest, which — in theory — left the Red Sox with only one catcher.

Chaos in the bottom of the sixth

As Hirokazu Sawamura prepared to take over Eovaldi out of the Red Sox bullpen, rain continued to pour in the Bronx-area.

Before a pitch could even be thrown in the sixth inning, pandemonium ensued when a Yankees fan in the left field bleachers threw a baseball at Alex Verdugo that struck the outfielder on the back.

That sequence, which came as a result of Verdugo attempting to throw the ball he was playing catch with to a Red Sox fan in the stands, led Verdugo to become visibly upset, as he began to charge towards the left field wall in search of the fan who hit him.

Duran and some Red Sox coaches were able to hold Verdugo back, but manager Alex Cora opted to pull his team off the field until things cooled down a bit.

By the time Boston had retaken the field and Sawamura was ready to go, Gary Sanchez greeted the right-handed reliever by crushing a solo home run that just snuck over the right field fence to give New York a 2-1 edge.

Gleyber Torres followed suit by clubbing another solo shot to right field, and the Yankees went up 3-1 over the Red Sox because of it.

Left-hander Josh Taylor was deployed after Sawamura gave up his second homer of the night, and he was able to escape the sixth without giving anything else up.

At that point, though, the volume at which the rain was falling from the sky truly began to pick up, and that led to the tarp coming on the field and another rain delay.

Approximately 52 minutes into said rain delay, the game was called, resulting in a 3-1 win for the Yankees in six innings.

With the loss, the Red Sox drop to 56-37 on the season, though they remain 1 1/2 games up on the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Duran’s debut

In his major-league debut, Duran — starting in center field and batting out of the six-hole — went 1-for-2 with a single, a walk, a strikeout, and one run scored.

Next up: Perez vs. Taillon

The Red Sox will go for the series win over the Yankees in the rubber match of this three-game set on Sunday night.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the ball for Boston in the finale, while right-hander Jameson Taillon will do the same for New York.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. eastern time on ESPN.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

Friday’s Red Sox-Yankees game is on; Thursday’s postponed contest to be made up as part of split doubleheader on August 17

After Thursday’s game was postponed due to multiple COVID-19 tests, the Red Sox will be playing the Yankees as scheduled at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.

Thursday’s contest was postponed approximately 2 1/2 hours before first pitch on account of the fact that the Yankees had at least three players — pitchers Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes, and Wandy Peralta — test positive for COVID-19, while three additional players (Aaron Judge, Gio Urshela, and Kyle Higashioka) were going through COVID protocols.

While additional testing and contact tracing had to be conducted following Thursday’s postponement, it now appears that both clubs have been given the go-ahead to continue their series from Major League Baseball.

As for when Thursday’s game will be made up, that will happen in the form of a split doubleheader between the Sox and Yankees in the Bronx on August 17.

The two teams were originally slated to play a two-game series against one another at Yankee Stadium from August 17-18, but that has now essentially turned into a three-game set.

“After conducting testing and contact tracing involving members of the New York Yankees’ organization, the Club’s home game vs. the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium will proceed as scheduled,” MLB announced in a statement Friday afternoon. “The postponement of Thursday’s game will be made up as part of a split doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, August 17. The first game will be played at 1:05 p.m. (ET), followed by the previously scheduled 7:05 p.m. (ET) game.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, weekend weather played a factor in the decision to not make up Thursday’s game right away, as the National Weather Service forecasts that there is a 60% chance of precipitation in the Bronx-area on Saturday and a 70% chance of precipitation on Sunday.

With Friday’s series-opening contest scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. eastern time, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will be making his 18th start of the season for the Red Sox.

The Yankees, meanwhile, will turn to fellow southpaw Jordan Montgomery to do start things off for them.

Friday’s game will be broadcast on both NESN and MLB Network for those watching out of market. First pitch, again, is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time.

(Picture of Yankee Stadium: Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees game postponed because New York has multiple positive COVID-19 tests

Thursday night’s game between the Red Sox and Yankees at Yankee Stadium has been postponed, Major League Baseball announced earlier Thursday evening.

Per an official statement from the league, the reasoning behind the postponement has to do with positive COVID-19 tests from within the Yankees organization. By postponing Thursday’s game, MLB can now conduct further testing as well as contract tracing to ensure the situation does not worsen.

According to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, the Yankees cancelled their pre-game batting practice session shortly after 4 p.m. eastern time “out of an abundance of caution as they advance through COVID-19 protocols.”

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that Thursday’s contest between Boston and New York would be postponed at approximately 4:32 p.m., and the announcement from MLB was released shortly thereafter.

The Red Sox (55-36) and Yankees (46-43) were slated to open up a four-game weekend series in the Bronx on Thursday night, but those plans have since been halted.

As stated by MLB, a makeup date for Thursday’s postponed game has yet to be announced and scheduling updates will be provided as available. Friday’s game is, at the moment, still on schedule for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch time.

On that note, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters (including Hoch) that the decision to postpone Thursday’s game came from the Commissioner’s Office and that “it is too soon to know what this means for the rest of the weekend.”

Cashman also said that Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes, and Wandy Peralta are three of the confirmed COVID-19 cases within the Yankees’ ranks, while there are three more who have “pending cases,” according to The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler.

(Picture of Yankee Stadium: Al Bello/Getty Images)

Garrett Whitlock on 2021 Red Sox: ‘We’re here to win’

It’s fair to say that Garrett Whitlock has quickly immersed himself into the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

As a former Yankees prospect who came over to the Sox by way of the Rule 5 Draft over the winter, that was probably to be expected. Still, Whitlock has seemingly exceeded expectations while serving a key role out of the Boston bullpen in his rookie season, especially when going up against his former club.

Sunday afternoon’s outing at Fenway Park proved to be the latest instance of that, as the right-hander was dispatched in the seventh inning of a 6-2 game in favor of the Sox.

Inheriting a situation in which the Yankees had put runners at first and second while only recording one out, Whitlock walked the first man he faced in Gary Sanchez, which brought the tying run to the plate in the form of one of, if not New York’s most dangerous hitter: D.J. LeMahieu.

On just four pitches, Whitlock struck out LeMahieu, getting the two-time batting champ to go down looking on a 96 mph sinker on the outer half of the plate.

Having cleared one hurdle, the next challenge for the young reliever was to retire the vaunted Aaron Judge, who had already gone deep off Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez the inning prior.

This time needing three pitches, Whitlock got Judge to pop out to first baseman Danny Santana in foul territory, thus putting out the flames by leaving the bases loaded going into the bottom half of the seventh.

When asked about what his approach was while going up against a hitter who has the ability to drive one out of the ballpark at any moment such as Judge, Whitlock credited his catcher, Christian Vazquez, for the preparation that went into that anticipated matchup.

“I was trusting Vazqy,” he said. “During our meetings, we knew exactly how we were going to attack him. So I trusted Vazqy and we just stuck to the approach and got some executed pitches and, luckily, he got out.”

The pitch Whitlock got Judge to pop out on was a well-executed, 84 mph slider on the outer half of the plate that the Yankees slugger got under with no real force.

The slider is a pitch Whitlock has been implementing more and more into his repertoire — especially against right-handed hitters — as of late to complement his fastball and changeup as well as add another dimension to his effectiveness. It has proven to be a useful asset thus far.

“It’s something we needed to implement against righties,” said the Georgia native. “Because, as you all saw, once the quote-unquote book got out on me, they were just taking the fastball to the opposite field, and that would make them on-time for the changeup.

“So with the slider, it adds a third speed and a different direction that the ball moves,” he added. “So it’s just something that to try so that the hitters can’t just sit fastball the other way and be on time for changeups. Now we’re just trying to be able to have a three-pitch mix rather than just two.”

After the Red Sox added to their lead in the seventh, Whitlock came back out for the eighth, worked his way around a leadoff single by inducing an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Gio Urshela to face the minimum, and later earned his sixth hold of the season in what would go down as a 9-2 win for Boston.

On the 2021 campaign as a whole, Whitlock has been more than impressive, as the 25-year-old rookie now owns an ERA of 1.42 and batting average against of .234 over 22 relief appearances spanning 38 total innings of work.

Against the Yankees specifically, Whitlock has essentially been lights out. Sunday’s performance marked the righty’s third appearance of the year against the team he began his professional career with, and he has yet to give up a run to them while scattering three hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings pitched in those appearances.

This weekend also marked the first time Whitlock had the opportunity to pitch against the Yankees at Fenway Park, as his only outing against them earlier this month had come in the Bronx.

While taking the mound at either venue has proven to be nothing out of the ordinary for Whitlock performance-wise, he certainly appreciates having the support of the home fans when working at Fenway as opposed to Yankee Stadium.

“I would say it was a lot more fun today because this time the crowd was behind me, rather than cheering on me to not do good,” Whitlock said when asked about the atmosphere the fans created on Sunday. “Got to love the Red Sox faithful. That’s for sure.”

With a 9-2 win over New York, Boston improved to 6-0 on the season against their archrivals, having swept them twice this month alone. From 2019-2020, the Sox went a combined 6-23 when going up against the Yankees.

“Any time we get a win against anybody, it’s great,” Whitlock said. “But obviously, with the history between the Red Sox and Yankees, you love to beat the Yankees any chance you get. To take six of them so far this year, hopefully we take a lot more than just six.”

For someone who is just three months into his major-league career with the Red Sox, Whitlock is certainly establishing himself as a driving force for why the team has been so successful this year.

After being given just a 39% chance to make the postseason by FanGraphs prior to Opening Day, the Sox are nearly halfway into their 2021 campaign and are currently in possession of first place in the American League East with a record of 47-31.

As is the case with Whitlock, this year’s Red Sox — led by Alex Cora — have unquestionably exceeded preseason expectations, but don’t tell that to anyone inside the Boston clubhouse.

“We’re here to win. This isn’t just another year for the Red Sox,” said Whitlock. “We’ve got a competitive team and we’re trying to go out there every single day. We believe we can win every single day.”

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi dazzles with 7 2/3 1-run innings as Red Sox secure series win over Yankees with 4-2 victory; Connor Wong picks up first big-league hit in Fenway Park debut

The Red Sox did not need to tear the cover off the ball to get the job done against the Yankees at Fenway Park on Saturday night.

Boston scored two runs on two sacrifice flies in the second inning, an additional run on an infield single in the third inning, and one more on another sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.

Things got a bit shaky towards the end, but the Sox were able to hold on and pick up a series-clinching 4-2 victory over New York.

Matched up against Yankees left-hander Jordan Montgomery to begin things on Saturday, Xander Bogaerts proved to be the catalyst for that two-run bottom of the second by dribbling a leadoff single a mere four feet past home plate.

Rafael Devers followed by drawing an eight-pitch walk, and Hunter Renfroe loaded the bases with a hard-hit single that eluded Montgomery on the mound.

Following a brief mound visit, Enrique Hernandez brought in his side’s first run on a sacrifice fly to center field that brought in Bogaerts and advanced Devers to third, while Bobby Dalbec doubled an early lead by plating Devers on yet another sac fly, though this one only traveled 152 feet and was caught by Yankees first baseman Luke Voit in foul territory.

Still, Voit had to catch Dalbec’s pop fly with his back towards home plate, and that allowed Devers to come into score to make it a 2-0 game.

An inning later, the Sox offense struck with two outs, this time with Bogaerts ripping a two-out double, Devers reaching on an infield single, and Renfroe driving in Bogaerts on another infield knock that came as a result of the Yankees infield playing in a shift.

Fast forward to the seventh, and Bogaerts supplied what would prove to be an important insurance run when he brought in Michael Chavis on a run-scoring sacrifice fly to center field.

While the Red Sox lineup was soft-contacting the Yankees to death, Nathan Eovaldi put together one of his more impressive outings of the season against his former team on Saturday.

Over 7 2/3 innings of work, the veteran right-hander surrendered just one run while scattering seven hits and zero walks to go along with six strikeouts on the night.

That lone tally Eovaldi gave up came at the hands of the last batter he faced, as he served up a two-out solo homer to D.J. LeMahieu in the top half of the eighth.

Besides that one miscue, Eovaldi was thoroughly locked in, never facing more than four Yankees in a single frame thanks to keeping the ball on the ground for the most part and inducing a pair of double plays as a result of doing so.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 109 (72 strikes) to set a new season-high, the 31-year-old hurler ultimately improved to 8-4 on the season in addition to bringing his ERA down to 3.67. His next start should come against the Royals on Thursday.

Red Sox bullpen barely holds on

In relief of Eovaldi, Hirokazu Sawamura got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen with one out to get in the eighth, and he proceeded to walk the bases loaded to bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate in the form of Voit.

That sequence prompted Sox manager Alex Cora to turn to Adam Ottavino, who got Voit to ground out to short to extinguish the threat.

With closer Matt Barnes unavailable, Ottavino was also responsible for the ninth inning as he had a 4-1 lead to protect.

The Yankees made things interesting in their half of the ninth, with LeMahieu plating a run to bring the possible go-ahead run in Aaron Judge. But Ottavino fanned Judge on six pitches, punctuating the at-bat with a nasty 96 mph sinker down and away to preserve the 4-2 victory and notch his fifth save of the year.

With the win, the Red Sox improve to 46-31 (22-17 at home) on the season while remaining a half game back of the Rays for first place in the American League East.

Wong’s first career hit in his first career start

Red Sox catching prospect Connor Wong made his first career start behind the dish on Saturday after debuting as a pinch-runner earlier this week.

The 25-year-old picked up his first big-league hit in the second inning as part of a 1-for-3 night at the plate. He also caught a decent game for Eovaldi and Co.

Next up: Cole vs. Rodriguez

The Red Sox will look to improve to a perfect 6-0 against the Yankees this season by going for the three-game sweep over their division rivals on Sunday afternoon.

Ace right-hander Gerrit Cole will get the ball for New York in the series finale, while left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will do the same for Boston.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN and TBS.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Red Sox lineup: Kiké Hernández dropped down to seventh for Game 2 against Yankees, J.D. Martinez scratched due to sore left wrist

For the first time this season, Kiké Hernández will not be batting leadoff for the Red Sox while still being in the starting lineup.

Hernández has been dropped down to the seven-hole and will start in center field for Saturday night’s game against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The switch-hitting Danny Santana will start at designated hitter and bat leadoff in Hernández’s place.

“Danny’s swinging the bat well, though he’s not getting on base,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of his lineup decision. “He hit a ball hard in Houston. He hit a ball hard yesterday. He brings speed to the equation. Just felt like today, with this matchup, it was good to put Danny there. Hopefully we can exploit a few things from their starter and be more aggressive on the base paths.”

J.D. Martinez was originally going to DH and bat third, but has since been scratched from the lineup due to a sore left wrist that he jammed on a slide into second base on Friday night. The slugger will be available to pinch hit later in the game if needed, per Cora.

Coming into play Saturday, Hernández is carrying with him a .228/.284/.383 slash line to go along with eight doubles, one triple, five home runs, 12 RBI, 26 runs scored, one stolen base, 11 walks, and 38 strikeouts through his first 43 games of the season. This includes four pinch-hit appearances in which he replaced the No. 2, No. 8, and No. 9 hitters.

After missing nearly two weeks with a right hamstring strain and being activated from the injured list on May 17, the 29-year-old initially got off to a hot start with hits in four of his first six games back in action.

Since the Red Sox left Philadelphia, though, Hernández has cooled off significantly as he is currently in the midst of a 1-for-25 (.040) skid over his last seven games played dating back to May 25. He did not play in Thursday’s game against the Astros or Friday’s game against the Yankees.

What is surprising about the right-handed hitter’s recent struggles is that he has still proven to be effective when leading off a game (.289/.308/.395 in 39 plate appearances) or an inning (.275/.315/.522 in 73 plate appearances).

Still, the rather low on-base percentage Hernández has put up to this point without a doubt sticks out here.

Among 27 big-league leadoff hitters who have accrued at least 100 plate appearances thus far, Hernández ranks 20th in walk percentage (6.5%), ninth in strikeout percentage (20.8%), 25th in on-base percentage (.298), 21st in OPS (.700), 23rd in weighted on-base average (.305), and 23rd in wRC+ (91), per FanGraphs.

Prior to joining the Red Sox on a two-year, $14 million deal over the winter, the native of Puerto Rico batted out of the seven-hole in a grand total of 126 games between the Astros, Marlins, and Dodgers from 2014-2020.

In those 126 games, Hernández hit .200/.287/.335 with 16 homers and 48 RBI over 443 total plate appearances.

“Sometimes you got to breath,” Cora said of dropping Hernández down in the lineup. “Hitting him seventh, he’ll probably see the pitcher for one inning where he can see it from a different perspective and get feedback from the other hitters, and he can get going.”

Saturday’s contest in the Bronx will mark just Hernández’s third career game at Yankee Stadium, and his first since September 2016 when he was with the Dodgers.

Santana, meanwhile, will be batting leadoff for the third game in a row and the fourth time this season overall. The versatile 30-year-old is slashing .125/.222/.375 with two home runs and three RBI over his first 11 games as a member of the Red Sox.

What is Cora looking for out of the leadoff spot moving forward?

“We want somebody that can get on base,” he said. “Or somebody that can drive the ball. We want to set the tempo, and right now — we had that through stretches — but we haven’t been consistent.”

Here is how the rest of the Red Sox will be lining up alongside Santana, Hernández, and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who will be looking to bounce back from a rough month of May in his first start of June.

Right-hander Jameson Taillon will be getting the start for the Yankees. A handful of Red Sox hitters have faced him before, including Santana and Hunter Renfroe.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. eastern time on FOX.

(Picture of Kiké Hernández: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: The Providence Jorunal’s Bill Koch joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Bill Koch, who covers the Red Sox for The Providence Journal.

Among the topics Bill and I discussed were how his New England roots shaped his interest in sports journalism, what led him to covering the Red Sox for The Providence Journal, how he goes about writing and tweeting about the Red Sox, his thoughts on Boston’s season thus far, what Alex Cora will have to deal with in the Bronx this weekend, his prediction for what Chaim Bloom will do before next month’s trade deadline, when Jarren Duran could be making his major-league debut, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thank you to Bill for taking some time out of his busy in-season schedule to have a conversation with me.

You can follow Bill on Twitter (@BillKoch25) by clicking here. You can check out his work for the Providence Journal by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Fenway Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Rule 5 picks Tyreque Reed (1.166 OPS at High-A), Kaleb Ort (0.00 ERA at Triple-A) among early Red Sox minor-league standouts

Back in December, the Red Sox selected right-hander Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees in the major-league phase of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.

Since arriving in Fort Myers for the start of spring training in February, Whitlock has done nothing but impress in his time in a Red Sox uniform to this point.

Through his first 10 appearances out of Boston’s bullpen this season, the 24-year-old rookie owns an ERA of 1.77 and an xFIP of 2.92 in addition to 21 strikeouts to just three walks over 20 1/3 innings of work.

To say that Whitlock — who had not pitched above Double-A and underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2019 before joining the Red Sox — has been one of the club’s biggest and brightest surprises this year would be an understatement.

Having said that, though, Whitlock is not the only player the Sox selected in last December’s Rule 5 Draft that has gotten his 2021 campaign off to an impressive start.

In addition to taking Whitlock, Boston also selected first baseman Tyreque Reed from the Rangers and right-hander Kaleb Ort from the Yankees in the minor-league phase of the draft.

Reed, who turns 24 next month, is a former 2017 eighth-round draft pick who played for three Texas affiliates over three seasons before joining the Red Sox organization over the winter.

Known for his power, Reed — listed at 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds — has been crushing the ball with High-A Greenville so far this spring.

Over his first eight games with the Drive, the right-handed hitter is slashing .240/.406/760 with four home runs, nine RBI, nine runs scored, and five walks in 32 trips to the plate.

His latest home run was a walk-off piece that gave Greenville a 10-9 win over the Brooklyn Cyclones at Fluor Field on Sunday.

Among the top hitters in the High-A East (formerly the South Atlantic League), Reed ranks second in homers, 10th in RBI, 11th in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and second in OPS (1.166).

The Mississippi native has also struck out in 25% of his plate appearances, which he has shown the tendency to do. But by getting on-base at a solid .406 clip, Reed has proven to be effective at the plate thus far, as evidenced by his early 207 wRC+.

“Power bat,” Red Sox vice president of pro scouting Gus Quattlebaum said of Reed this past December. “Big, physical right-handed hitting first baseman with big, big power that you see not only with the scout’s naked eye but also with the batted ball data. There’s a propensity from some strikeouts. We know he’s not immune to that. We really believe in the power potential. We’re really excited to bring him into the organization.”

Kaleb Ort, meanwhile, was selected by the Red Sox in the minor-league portion of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft after spending the previous four seasons as a member of the Yankees organization.

Unlike Reed, Ort was not drafted out of college and instead began his professional career in the Frontier League (independent) before signing as an undrafted free-agent with the Diamondbacks in 2016.

After being cut by Arizona the following spring, the Michigan native returned to the Frontier League before signing with New York in May 2017.

While with the Yankees, Ort appeared in a total of 90 games across five levels between 2017-2019 prior to getting scooped up by the Red Sox in December.

After receiving an invite to big-league camp in February, the 6-foot-4, 233 pound hurler opened the 2021 season at the Sox’ alternate training site and later Triple-A Worcester.

In six appearances out of the WooSox’ bullpen thus far, the 29-year-old has been lights out, as he has allowed just one unearned run on three hits and no walks to go along with nine strikeouts over six innings pitched. He has also converted four of a possible four save opportunities in the process of emerging as Worcester’s primary closer.

“Kaleb Ort is a guy who has really stood out to me, he took the closer role and ran with it,” WooSox pitching coach Paul Abbott recently told MassLive.com’s Katie Morrison. “He’s come in and slammed the door without really any threat of a hiccup at all. He’s throwing strikes, aggressive, and he’s been impressive.”

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Ort works with a two-pitch mix that consists of a mid-90s fastball that can top out at 98 mph and a slider.

That two-pitch mix has proven to be a potent combination for the righty reliever thus far, as he is holding opponents to a .150 batting average against while boasting a 40.9% strikeout rate, a 0.89 FIP, and a 2.20 xFIP.

What Ort has been doing in Worcester has caught the attention of Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who got to first know him earlier this year during spring training.

“He’s a good one,” Cora said before Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jays . “His stuff plays. I really like what I saw. Velocity got better in spring training and he was throwing the ball well down there. He’s a guy we’re looking at, obviously, for the right reasons. We’re very excited with what he’s doing, what he did in spring training and what he can do, probably, in the future.”

With that, it sounds as though Ort could garner big-league consideration at some point this season if he continues to turn heads while closing out games for the WooSox.

Because the 2021 minor-league season is less than two full weeks old, it’s no sure thing that either one of Reed or Ort will be able to keep up with the level at which they are performing at at the moment.

Still, what these two Red Sox minor-league Rule 5 picks have done in their first month with their new organization has been eye-opening to say the least. If they can keep it up over the course of the summer will be something worth monitoring for sure.

(Picture of Kaleb Ort: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Rule 5 pick Garrett Whitlock makes Red Sox’ Opening Day roster; ‘His reaction was priceless,’ Alex Cora says

It goes without saying that Garrett Whitlock has been one of the feel-good stories at Red Sox camp throughout the spring.

Selected from the Yankees organization in the Rule 5 Draft over the winter, Whitlock came into camp with the proposition of having to stick on the Sox’ active roster throughout the entirety of the 2021 season or he would otherwise be offered back to his former club.

That may seem like a daunting task for a 24-year-old right-hander who hadn’t pitched in an organized minor-league game since 2019 and was working his way back from Tommy John surgery, but Whitlock has clearly been up to the challenge.

Through four Grapefruit League appearances this spring, the Georgia native has allowed just one earned run on eight hits and no walks to go along with 12 strikeouts over nine total innings of work.

To say Whitlock has been impressive would be an understatement, and he was informed on Thursday that he made the Sox’ Opening Day roster.

“Yesterday we informed Garrett Whitlock that he made the team,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced Friday morning. “With everything he’s done throughout camp, not only on the field but also the way he acts, the way he conducts himself. That adds to the equation, and we were very pleased to tell him yesterday.”

Whitlock, a former 18th-round draft pick of the Yankees out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2019. His recovery from the procedure coincided with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re going to be careful with him, obviously,” Cora said. “He’s a Rule 5 pick and he hasn’t pitched in a while. But everything we’ve seen has been good. So he’ll be with us. It’s another addition, and obviously we have to make decisions in the upcoming days, but I do believe this is a solid bullpen.”

While Cora added that the game will dictate how Whitlock will be used, it does seem likely that the lanky righty — despite having 38 career minor-league starts under his belt — will be used in a swingman role with more of an emphasis on pitching multiple innings out of the bullpen when needed.

The Red Sox are planning on carrying 14 pitchers on their 26-man Opening Day roster. For Cora, informing Whitlock that he would be one of those 14 pitchers was a very enjoyable experience.

“He can be a Rule 5 or a 10-year vet, but the way he threw the ball — you guys saw it — he’s getting better and better,” said the Sox skipper. “It’s one of those that as a manager, as a president of baseball operations, GM, whatever, it’s a great moment when you tell somebody that you’re going to be a big-leaguer.

“His reaction was priceless,” added Cora. “It’s all about him. The organization did their homework and we decided to draft him. From there on, it was up to him and he did everything possible to make the team. And I know he’s not going to stop. Trying to keep getting better, studying the game, doing all the right things for him to get to the next level.”

It’s been a unique journey for Whitlock to get to where he is today being on the cusp of making his major-league debut at some point next month.

The 6-foot-5, 190 pound hurler mentioned earlier this spring that getting “to play a kid’s game for a living” is extremely fun and that he’s looking forward to embracing whichever role he is given with his new team out of the chute.

“My college coach told me the best pitching advice I’ve ever had,” Whitlock said while reflecting on his time at UAB. “And that was: ‘When they hand you the ball to go get outs, you go get outs until they come take the ball away from you.’ And so whatever role that is, that’s always going to be my mindset.”

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

Rule 5 pick Garrett Whitlock shaping up to be potential ‘secret weapon’ for Red Sox pitching staff

It wasn’t too long ago that Garrett Whitlock was at a crossroads in his professional baseball career.

The lanky right-hander — originally selected by the Yankees in the 18th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of University of Alabama — had his 2019 season cut short after undergoing Tommy John surgery that July.

He didn’t know it at the time, but Whitlock had pitched in his last game as a member of the Yankees organization on July 3, 2019 as his recovery from Tommy John coincided with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The deadline for clubs to add Rule 5-eligble players to their 40-man rosters came and went in November, and Whitlock — who was eligible — was not added by New York, meaning he was now eligible for the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.

The following month, the 24-year-old was taken off the board by the Red Sox, breathing new life into his baseball journey as a kid from Snellville, Ga.

By being selected by Boston in the Rule 5 Draft, Whitlock was now tasked with making Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training and sticking there for the entirety of the 2021 season or he would otherwise have to be offered back to his former club.

Prior to joining the Red Sox over the winter, Whitlock had primarily served as a starter in his time with the Yankees organization, but given the fact his new team is flush with starting pitching depth, a spot in Boston’s Opening Day rotation was essentially out of the question.

Instead, the 6-foot-5, 190 pound righty was to be made a swingman of sorts who could pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen or make a spot start or two when needed.

He was to still be stretched out over the course of the spring, but not with the intentions of being a fulltime starter once the season begins.

Thus far, handing down that role to Whitlock has netted nothing but positive results at big-league camp in Fort Myers.

Through his first four Grapefruit League appearances, the Georgia native has yielded just one earned run on eight hits, no walks, and 12 strikeouts over nine total innings of work, most recently fanning five Rays hitters over three scoreless, no-hit frames at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon.

“What Garrett did today, that was impressive,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “But he’s been doing that the whole spring. It’s a good fastball. He’s able to elevate with it late in counts, and it was a great day for him.”

For someone who had not pitched in a competitive environment in nearly two years, the way in which Whitlock has gone about his business on and off the mound has stood out to Cora.

“He was hungry to compete,” said the Sox skipper. “He hasn’t been able to compete in a while. And he’s bought into the concept of the things that we do here, and he’s executing. He’s very talented… He watches every bullpen, he watches the B games, he goes to sim games, and he goes to the dugout when he’s not pitching. That makes you a better baseball player, and in his case it makes him a better pitcher.

“I think it’s that confidence that he has,” Cora added. “First of all, we trust him, right? Because we decided to pick him in the Rule 5 after coming from surgery. Second, with the things that we’re preaching and what he’s doing, he has to feel great. But one thing about him, he’ll show up tomorrow and he’ll ask a question: ‘What can I do better?’ That’s the key of this thing and he’s done that the whole camp.”

Working the sixth through eighth innings of Friday’s contest against the Rays, Whitlock, donning the No. 72, was one of three pitchers who relieved starter Nathan Eovaldi.

A fellow right-hander who knows the ins-and-outs of Tommy John surgery, it’s safe to say Eovaldi has been impressed with what he’s seen from Whitlock so far at camp.

“I’m very excited for him,” Eovaldi said during his in-game media availability. “The first time I saw him throw at spring training, it was early in camp and I was impressed. He’s got a great changeup, he’s got great command, he’s quiet, he’s very quiet and determined to be a part of this team, and he’s going about his business the right way.

“So I’m not surprised with what he’s been able to do out there on the field just because of the way he’s handling himself in and around the clubhouse and out there in the bullpen,” the fireballer added. “He’s kind of our secret weapon right there, so he’s looking great.”

Whitlock himself is not taking anything for granted this spring. He explained on Friday how undergoing Tommy John surgery changed his perspective on multiple facets of his life — including his faith — and how he is just overjoyed to be playing baseball for a living.

“When you have an operation like Tommy John, it’s never given that you’re going to play again,” he said. “I promised to myself that if I was going to get a second chance and I was going to be back out on the field, I would never take a day for granted again. Because every little kid’s dream is to play professional baseball, and I don’t care if it’s in the [Gulf Coast League] level or the major-league level, I get to play a kid’s game for a living. It’s so much fun.”

Given how he has performed this spring, Whitlock, as previously mentioned, is a sure bet to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster as a swingman/hybrid-type reliever who can also start when necessary.

Regardless of what role he undertakes beginning April 1, though, Whitlock will just be going out there to do his job, or in other words, get outs. That is something that was drilled into him during his time at UAB.

“My college coach told me the best pitching advice I’ve ever had,” he recalled. “And that was: ‘When they hand you the ball to go get outs, you go get outs until they come take the ball away from you.’ And so whatever role that is, that’s always going to be my mindset.”

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