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But Can He Pitch?

Updated: 2018-02-25T09:01:01-05:00


Give David Price a chance


You may be disappointed with his first two years, but don’t give up hope yet If you think David Price is going to opt out of the contract that is scheduled to net him $127 million over the next four seasons, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Yet, just a few days into Spring Training, that seems to be a topic of conversation surrounding the Red Sox and their $217 Million Man. The 32-year-old lefty hasn’t done enough to command that kind of money on the open market in its current climate with his track record the last two years, so why in the world would he leave a pretty cushy situation where he’s already making that kind of money? That’s settled, then. He’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future and he will likely be a fixture on this team for the next few years. So, please, it’s time to accept that. Price’s base salary this season will be $30 million, meaning he’ll bring home more money than Craig Kimbrel ($13 million), Drew Pomeranz ($8.5 million), Joe Kelly ($3.8 million) Eduardo Rodriguez ($2.35 million) and Steven Wright ($1.1 million) combined. He occupies almost 15 percent of the team’s overall payroll of nearly $200 million. So I definitely understand those somewhat unreasonable expectations associated with his first two years in Boston, and can agree with those proudly waving the flag of Team He Hasn’t Earned That Kind Of Money. But he would have to perform nearly flawlessly for seven consecutive years in order to “earn that kind of money.” Price was going to get the kind of deal Boston gave him regardless of where he ended up as a free agent in 2016. It just so happens that the money is coming out of Boston’s pocket, making the “underperformance” all the more frustrating for us. Regardless, here we are, about to start year three of the David Price Experience. I realize the group of us that are confident in Price is shrinking, and that’s okay. My confidence in him has only gotten stronger. Upon arriving in Fort Myers for Spring Training last week, Price did something he hadn’t done in awhile by saying all the right things to a media scrum that he clashed with on almost a daily basis one year ago. Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports “I could have handled it better last year, absolutely,” Price told reporters last week, “I look forward to getting off on the right foot. … I’ve always been one to lead with my actions. I didn’t do that very well last year. I know that.” He must be referring to the infamous fight with Dennis Eckersley, or the not-so-subtle discussion he had with a member of the Boston media in the bowels of Yankee Stadium last June. The past is the past, David. Water under the bridge. Hell, even Evan Drellich - the target of Price’s tirade in the Bronx last year - is saying it’s time to give the guy a chance. If he were to find his groove this year and get back to the Cy Young form that he’s certainly more than capable of, he wouldn’t be the first free-agent signing to do so in his third season with Boston. It just takes some players more time to adjust to playing here, especially when said player spent the first six seasons of his MLB career in the absolutely booming baseball market of Tampa Bay. Some of you may remember Johnny Damon, a first-round draft pick by the Kansas City Royals in 1992. He didn’t have issues quite as dramatic as Price’s well-documented bouts, but it did take some time for him to adjust to the brighter lights, too. Damon signed a four-year deal with Boston following the 2001 season - the only one he spent in Oakland. Playing centerfield and leading off almost exclusively, Damon made one of two career all-star appearances in his first season with the Sox, but he slipped slightly in his second year, hitting just .273 with 12 home runs and 63 RBI. Damon bounced back in his third season, though. He finished second on the team in batting average (.304), behind only Manny Ramirez and hit 20 home runs, drove in 94 runs from the leadoff spot and finished with 19 stolen bases. Damon [...]

Red Sox sign Tommy Layne to a minor-league deal


He’s back I’ve talked a lot over the last few years about how the Red Sox could probably use some help in the left-handed relief department. While they’ve had plenty of solid, adequate arms to fill that role, they haven’t really had someone who could be trusted in a high-leverage spot against righties and lefties. They didn’t address that need on Saturday, and honestly it’s a goal that’s much easier said than done, but they did add another name to the depth chart by brining back an old friend. According to Brian MacPherson, formerly of the Providence Journal and apparently filling in for them on a temporary basis, Boston signed Tommy Layne to a minor-league deal. Tommy Layne is at Red Sox camp. Tony Clark said earlier today that Layne signed out of the MLBPA-run free-agent camp, but he didn't say that Layne had signed with the Red Sox.— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) February 24, 2018 As MacPherson mentions in the tweet above, Layne had been among those who were working out at the free-agent camp down in Florida. Obviously, this signing doesn’t really move the needle all that much, but it does give Boston another line of defense from the left side in their bullpen. Right now, Robby Scott is the de facto number one southpaw in relief. Brian Johnson could also be in the bullpen to start the year, but one would imagine he’d serve more of a multi-inning role rather than a LOOGY-type role. They also have Williams Jerez, Roenis Elias, Jalen Beeks and Bobby Poyner as minor-league depth. Any or all of those names could be fine, but it’s not as if there is not room for another body to be involved in competition. That’s where Layne would presumably fit in, though he apparently hasn’t even been invited to major-league camp. There’s no one area in which the 33-year-old will stand out, but he can be solid if used correctly. Of course, most of us are familiar with him already since he played in Boston in 2014, 2015 and part of 2016. He’ll get a solid number of strikeouts, though nothing that will blow anyone away, and he’ll also get in trouble with his control from time to time. The key for Layne is inducing weak contact. He’s like Scott in that way. He has also been very good against left-handed batters over his career, holding them to a .187/.286/.230 line. It should be mentioned, though, that he had a tough 2017 with the Yankees as he pitched to a 7.62 ERA in 13 innings and allowed a .799 OPS to lefties. It’s probably not smart to expect much of anything from Layne, and it wouldn’t really be surprising if we never saw him in the majors. That said, there’s no risk in a minor-league deal for the Red Sox, so it’s worth a shot to add him to the depth chart, even if he’s going to have to fight just to become part of the conversation. [...]

Red Sox 4, Rays 3: A good start, then some rough defense


A so-so game in a so-so part of the year. There was no major standouts in this game, but the Red Sox did pick up another Grapefruit League win and it’s now fair to expect them to break the major-league single-season win record. If we were to pick players of the game, they would go to Jackie Bradley Jr. and Roenis Elias, I suppose. The big names hit The Red Sox didn’t score a ton of runs in this game (they scored four, if you skipped the headline), but they did start things off with a bang. As you’ll get used to, there were only a handful of regulars in this lineup, but they all had strong first innings and good games overall (at least at the plate). The top six hitters are expected to at least compete for an Opening Day job, and those were: Bradley, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Mitch Moreland, Brock Holt and Sandy Leon. Deven Marrero also got a start and hit eighth. Bradley and Benintendi started the game off with back-to-back singles and Devers drove one in on an RBI double. Moreland would drive Benintendi in on a ground out, and Devers would eventually score on another double from Holt. Bradley and Benintendi would each reach base one more time, too, with the former smacking a double and the latter drawing a walk. Lower on the depth chart, Boston got a double from Mike Olt and a triple from Aneury Tavarez. On a more negative note, it was a rough day for Moreland even with the RBI out. He also had another RBI chance with Bradley on third and two outs, but Moreland would go down on strikes to end the frame. Leon and Sam Travis were the other Red Sox not mentioned above who got hits, with each contributing one single. The former also drew a walk. The defense showed some rust The infield defense for the Red Sox is at least a slight concern heading into the season, and that’s probably understating it. Well, as a group they didn’t look great on Saturday, though much of that was from players who won’t be seen much if at all in the majors in 2018. Devers will be in the majors, though, and his defense is likely the biggest concern of the infielders. In the third inning he had a chance at a double play but threw the ball short and to the left field side of the bag for his first error of the spring. It would lead to two unearned runs. Esteban Quiroz, the Mexican League signing from the start of the winter, and Mike Olt each had a couple of throwing errors themselves. Then, in the ninth inning, Josh Ockimey kept things going when he booted a ground ball down the line on a play that could have otherwise ended the game. Overall, I wouldn’t worry a ton about early-spring defense — rust is to be expected from pretty much everyone — but there’s no denying that Devers’ defense in particular is something that will be watched closely throughout camp. Mostly good performances from the pitchers The Red Sox are still holding off on their major-league starting pitchers — you can probably expect to wait about a week until we see them — so Roenis Elias got the start on Saturday. The oft-forgotten lefty pitched very well in this game, throwing two perfect innings with two strikeouts, two ground outs, a pop out and a fly out. Brandon Workman came in after that and did allow two runs, but they were the unearned runs courtesy of Devers mentioned above. Daniel Gonzalez had to come in and finish that third inning, and got out of it with a strikeout but not before allowing a bases loaded walk. Heath Hembree was next, and he tossed a scoreless frame with a walk and a strikeout. From there, Bobby Poyner and Kyle Martin each pitched a scoreless inning with the latter striking out the side, before Ty Buttrey allowed an unearned run in his inning of work. Dedgar Jimenez — a starter who split 2017 between Salem and Portland — and Adam Lau — a reliever who spent 2017 in Salem — finished off the game with a scoreless inning apiece. [...]

Red Sox vs. Rays lineup: Will the miracle ‘spring’ continue?



If the Red Sox improve to 4-0 in February, it won’t mean a thing... and we will like it anyway.

One day after taking a one-game lead in the battle for the Mayor’s Cup, the Red Sox will face the little-brother Rays this afternoon at JetBlue Park at 1:05 p.m. in their quest for the dream season (no losses, ever, from February to October). If it’s like any early Spring Training game, it should pass without incident. If it’s like any Red Sox/Rays game, it’ll feel like getting a tooth pulled.

Friends, is no time for dentistry, but here’s the non-sequitur tooth: This is the gamethread. GROAN. Yeah, well, here is the Boston lineup:

  1. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
  2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  3. Rafael Devers, 3B
  4. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  5. Brock Holt, SS
  6. Sandy Leon, C
  7. Sam Travis, DH
  8. Deven Marrero, 2B
  9. Steve Selsky, RF

SP: Roenis Elias, LHP

A J.D. Martinez update and Marco Hernandez heads back to Boston



We’re still waiting for the J.D. Martinez signing to be official

J.D. Martinez still has not signed

It’s been since Monday that the Red Sox reportedly agreed to terms with J.D. Martinez and transformed their lineup, but we still are waiting for official word that the deal is done. The slugger was seen arriving in Fort Myers on Wednesday, presumably to start his physical. Well, it is not Saturday morning and we are still waiting for things to be completed. This, understandably, is causing some worry among Red Sox fans, particularly because it’s not as if Martinez has been a model of health through his career (though I’d argue his injury history is overstated, but tomato tomahto). Fortunately, there haven’t been any reports that things have gone awry at this point. Right now, the assumption has to be that they are simply waiting for their own doctors to either get down to Florida, or perhaps for Martinez to get up to Boston to see doctors there, or some other logistical issue that I’m not smart enough to think of. I don’t think there’s much of anything to worry about at this point, though obviously that becomes less true every day and I wouldn’t blame anyone for getting panicked about this, because the Martinez saga just won’t end.

Marco Hernandez heads back to Boston for another shoulder procedure

Hernandez just cannot catch a break right now. Fortunately, it’s not a major surgery or anything like that, but the second baseman was still feeling discomfort in the shoulder on which he underwent surgery last May. Now, he’ll be heading up to Boston to have pins removed from the shoulder. This doesn’t seem like something that should keep him out for too long, but I’m certainly not a doctor. According to Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe, he’s not going to play again this spring. The Eduardo Nuñez signing likely pushed him down to Pawtucket anyway, but the Red Sox could use all the depth they could have and one could argue that Hernandez is their best depth piece when he’s fully healthy. Hopefully we see that version of the 25-year-old in 2018.

Red Sox 4, Twins 3: The Grapefruit League slate starts with a win


Alex Cora is undefeated! He’s amazing! The Red Sox began their game action on Thursday when they swept a doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College, but Friday marked the beginning of official spring training games around the league. Boston started their Grapefruit League off against their fellow Fort Myers residents, the Minnesota Twins. We all know how super important the results of these games will be over the next month, so you’ll be relieved to know that the Red Sox game away with a 4-3 victory on Friday, almost coughing up the lead in the ninth before closing things out. Extend Alex Cora! Hector Velazquez starts and pitches well This game wasn’t televised, unfortunately, so I can’t say with any sort of confidence how Hector Velazquez looked in his start on Friday afternoon, but I can tell you that his line ended up on the pretty side. The righty tossed two scoreless innings with one strikeout and one hit. The strikeout was against Byron Buxton in the first at bat of the game, and the hit was a single off the bat of Jorge Polanco in the second at bat of the game. From there, he got three ground outs and two fly outs. As I wrote earlier on Friday, Velazquez is likely to be a big part of Boston’s depth chart in 2018 even if it’s likely that he’ll start the year in Pawtucket. Obviously we can’t make any big judgements from his first spring training start, but he made it through with a full bill of health and his line at the end of the day was strong. That’ll do! Some regulars play, but the depth shines on offense As is the case with most of these games, the top half of the starting lineup was an exciting group of impact players, and the bottom half was full of depth pieces and minor leaguers. Of course, after a few innings it was all depth pieces and minor leaguers. The top four hitters today were Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez and Christian Vazquez, and that group went a combined 0-7. Bogaerts did draw a walk and score a run while he and Ramirez each tallied a strikeout. There was no big standout in this game, but Blake Swihart and Jeremy Barfield had the best days. The former was the only Red Sox hitter to reach base twice, drawing a walk in the second and hitting a double and eventually scoring in the fourth. Swihart also had a triple in the game against Northeastern, so it’s a nice little start for him at the dish. Barfield, meanwhile, gave Boston a lead they would never relinquish with a two-RBI double in the fourth. He’d eventually come in to score on an Ivan De Jesus single. Sam Travis, aka the Grapefruit League Mike Trout, had the team’s only other extra base hit and RBI, which both came on the same hit (a double). Infielder Chad De La Guerra had the other hit in the game, a single. A lot of minor leaguers finished the game out of the bullpen As the Red Sox are seemingly getting their big pitchers started slowly in an effort to keep everyone fresh throughout the entire season, there weren’t really any notable names coming in behind Velazquez. Right-handed reliever Fernando Rodriguez, who the team picked up towards the end of last season, tossed a couple of scoreless innings. From there, Kyle Hart and Matthew Gorst — both of whom split 2017 between Greenville and Salem — tossed a scoreless inning before Logan Boyd (who also split 2017 between Greenville and Salem) allowed one run on three walks, a hit batsman and no hits in a third of an inning. Daniel McGrath (2017 in Salem) finished off that inning with two quick outs. Trevor Kelley (2017 in Salem and Portland) was likely the most exciting non-Velazquez pitcher to throw on Friday and he tossed a scoreless inning before Josh Smith (Portland and Pawtucket) struggled in the ninth allowing two runs before closing things out. Feel the excitement of spring! Box [...]

Red Sox vs. Twins lineup: The Mayor’s Cup battle begins anew



It’s a Fort Myers free-for-all when the Red Sox face the Twins

Goodbye, college kids. Hello, pros. The Red Sox, fresh off Thursday victories versus Northeastern and Boston College, kick off the rest of Spring Training today with a 1:05 p.m. radio-only game against the Twins at JetBlue Park in the first game of the annual “Mayor’s Cup” series with our Fort Myers “friends.” Gotta get that hardware.

Still, like yesterday, I wouldn’t expect your favorite players to stick around too long in this one. You’ll get to hear Mookie, Xander and Hanley hit at least once, which is fun. Hector Velázquez gets the start, which is less fun, but we’re starting slow, and he has real swingman potential, so he’s more than just a punchline. Also here’s a reminder that this is your gamethread. Namaste.

  1. Mookie Betts, RF
  2. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  3. Hanley Ramirez, 1B
  4. Christian Vázquez, C
  5. Blake Swihart, DH
  6. Jeremy Barfield, LF
  7. Rusney Castillo, CF
  8. Ivan De Jesus, 2B
  9. Chad De La Guerra, 3B

SP: Hector Velázquez

One Big Question: Can Velazquez continue to limit damage on balls in play?


Or was his success too fluky? Welcome back to the One Big Question series here at Over The Monster. For those who weren’t around for last year’s series or simply forgot what it entails — there’s a lot going on in the world today, so don’t be ashamed! — here’s a brief reminder. Every day, Monday through Friday, for the next eight weeks we’ll profile a new member of Red Sox 40-man roster. Rather than simply going through a simple profile of their overall game and what they offer the team, we’ll focus on the one question that could very well dictate how their season will go in 2018. In order to keep the order objective and avoid side conversations like ranking the players on the roster, we’ll go straight down the roster in alphabetical order by position. In other words, we’ll go by how things are ordered here. If you miss any editions or would like to look back on some of last year’s, you can see all of them here. Today, we’re looking at Hector Velazquez. The Question: Will Hector Velazquez be able to repeat his low BABIPs from 2017? The Red Sox are going to have to rely plenty on rotation depth this season. There are the obvious reasons for this and it’s the case for literally every team in the league. Injuries happen all over the diamond, but they happen particularly often on the mound. Teams generally need double digit starts throughout the year, or at least something close to it, because of injury and underperformance. The Red Sox seem particularly risky this year with David Price still having those elbow issues looming over him entering 2018 and both Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright battling knee issues. Beyond the injury risk, new pitching coach Dana LeVangie and Alex Cora appear to be serious about getting rest for their pitchers, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see them skip starts here and there and perhaps even game the 10-day disabled list like the Dodgers did a lot in 2017. Whatever the method by which they get there, you can bet on the Red Sox relying on at least a few arms beyond their top six in 2018. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports There are a few names to look for in this group, of course, but one could very easily make the argument that Hector Velazquez is the most important player among the depth. This is true despite the fact that Brian Johnson may have a leg up in terms of making the Opening Day roster, as that’s only due to the latter being out of minor-league option years. Last year, though, Velazquez went from a virtual unknown to being a really solid option out of Triple-A for Boston in the second half. It’s not just last year to be excited about, either, as he had developed a nice reputation for himself in the Mexican League, and while there’s never any guarantee that kind of success will carry over Velazquez showed he had enough talent to make it work at the highest level. Given the question marks and the amount of rest expected to be given to Boston’s starters, they could really use a repeat performance from Velazquez. Of course, when I say a repeat performance that clearly means that they don’t need him to take a step forward and become a star, but rather just be a solidly fine, average-at-best arm for the back of the rotation. If he’s being counted on to be more than that, something has gone very wrong or very, unexpectedly right. In 2018, Velazquez pitched to a 2.92 ERA over 24 2⁄3 major-league innings (three starts, five relief appearances) while also posting a 2.21 ERA over 102 Triple-A innings. Of course, while those ERA’s are nice and shiny, nothing about his peripherals were all the exciting. His 3.43 FIP in Pawtucket was solid thanks to good control, but his 4.55 FIP in Boston was, well, it came in a small sample size so let’s not get too carried away. The one theme that stood out for the righty all year, tho[...]