Red Sox

Alex Cora is high on Jeter Downs after strong spring training debut

Downs went 2-for-2, hitting a two-run home run in Sunday's game.

Jeter Downs follows through on his home run swing in Sunday's spring training game. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

After being part of a trade package for one of the best players in baseball a year ago, Jeter Downs entered the Red Sox organization with a lot to prove.

However, he didn’t get that chance in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down spring training just weeks after it started, and with the delayed start and eventual shortened MLB season, minor league teams were left with zero games to play. Instead, minor league players took part in camps at their organization’s minor league facilities.

So, when Downs entered Red Sox camp for the 2021 season, it marked the first time in roughly a year that fans would get to see him play. Downs, who is currently ranked as the Red Sox’ top prospect, lived up to the billing in the team’s spring training opener on Sunday.

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Downs came off the bench in Sunday’s game, replacing Kiké Hernandez at shortstop in the bottom of the fourth inning. In the top of the fifth, Downs made his first plate appearance of the spring, hitting a two-run homer to right-center field to cut the Twins’ lead to 5-4. Downs’s impressive day didn’t end there. In the next inning, right up the middle to score Josh Ockimey, evening things up.

The Red Sox did end up falling to the Twins, 7-6, but Downs’s performance certainly gave them something to be excited about.

“He’s a good player,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Downs. “Everybody knows him. We like him a lot. Slow heartbeat, it seems like. Even during the drills, put a good swing on it there, going opposite field and sat on a breaking ball up the middle. He’s part of the future. We know that. Very happy he was able to perform. We saw a lot of positives today. We put some good at-bats.”

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Downs’s bat wasn’t the only thing that caught Cora’s eye. The Red Sox manager said he knows the group Downs worked with over the offseason (Alfonso Otero and former Major Leaguer Jon Jay), allowing Cora to have a “good feel” about Downs defensively.

“We’ve just got to let him play,” Cora said. “Defensively, it seems like the game comes easy for him. Sometimes too easy and maybe that’s where he makes errors or the lack of concentration happens. First of all, we have to learn the player.”

The Red Sox will get back at it again on Monday, playing the Braves at 1 p.m.

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