Baseball season is underway.
The Red Sox are about to wrap up their first full week of spring training games, going 3-3 in their first six games. In their latest game, Michael Chavis sent the Red Sox home with a victory by hitting a walk-off home run in a 6-5 win over the Rays on Friday.
Here are five things we’ve learned about the Red Sox in the first week of spring training.
Enrique Hernandez or Alex Verdugo will be the leadoff hitter.
The Red Sox will have multiple options for their leadoff hitter spot in 2021. Their biggest offseason acquisition Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez has held the top spot in the lineup in four of the team’s first six spring training games.
Manager Alex Cora signaled that outfielder Alex Verdugo, who was the team’s leadoff hitter for much of last season, could hold that spot again this season.
“The way I see it, Alex is going to leadoff or hit second (during the regular season),” Cora said.
In their first game with Hernandez and Verdugo in the lineup, Hernandez got the top spot while Verdugo hit second. Hernandez went 1-for-1 with a walk. Verdugo hit a double and later scored in his spring training debut.
J.D. Martinez will hit in the middle of the lineup.
With the top two spots in the lineup likely going to Hernandez and Verdugo, will have their designated hitter back in the middle of the lineup. The Red Sox briefly had J.D. Martinez hit in the second spot of their lineup in 2020, but Cora will have him in the middle of the lineup for the upcoming season.
“The way we want to play, we want those good baserunners in front of him,” Cora said. “When he hits the ball in the gap, they score from first. Hitting J.D. second was a decision the organization made last year, but for me, it’s like, ‘J.D. gets on base by a walk, it’s going to take a while for him to score.’ Nothing against him. He’s not getting paid to steal bases or score from first.”
Martinez has hit in the third spot in all four of his appearances so far in spring training. Third baseman Rafael Devers has hit cleanup in all of his spring training appearances. This could change though when Xander Bogaerts returns.
A couple of players are dealing with injuries to start spring training.
Speaking of Bogaerts, he’s one of a few notable players that’s missing the opening games of spring training due to injury. The Red Sox full-time shortstop was shut down for a few days after suffering soreness in his shoulder from a throwing program in Aruba.
The Red Sox don’t expect Bogaerts to be out for long, however. Cora said Bogaerts threw Thursday and would throw again on Friday, saying Bogaerts “feels good.”
“Another thing about Xander, when he starts talking about soccer, that’s a good sign with him, too, he’s getting locked in,” Cora joked.
One of the Red Sox top prospects is also out. First baseman Triston Casas traveled to Boston this week to get a non-baseball medical matter taken care of. Casas rejoined the team in Fort Myers on Thursday.
“They found something medically that we have to take care of,” Cora told reporters Thursday. “It’s actually not baseball-related. It’s actually personal. So I’ll leave it at that. We’re hoping everything is fine.”
Pitching prospect Bryan Mata received an MRI Thursday for his right triceps soreness. No update has been provided on his status. Outfielder Franchy Cordero, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, is now in camp and is taking an intake physical, Cora told reporters Friday.
Of course, Chris Sale remains out indefinitely after having Tommy John surgery last spring.
Some prospects have stepped up.
While a pair of top Red Sox prospects are dealing with injuries, some more are stepping up.
Outfielder Jarren Duran might be the star of spring training so far for the Red Sox. Duran, who’s the No. 5 prospect in the Red Sox system according to Baseball America, is 5-for-11 from the plate with two homers.
Jarren Duran is on 🔥
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 4, 2021
First baseman Bobby Dalbec has stepped up, too. He’s 4-for-10 from the plate in spring training with three homers. While he did play with the Red Sox for a bit in 2020, he still qualifies as a prospect, ranking as the fourth-best prospect in the Sox system by Baseball America.
Shortstop Jeter Downs, who’s the N0. 2 prospect in the Red Sox system according to Baseball America, went 2-for-2 and hit a homer in his spring training debut.
“He’s a good player,” 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.”
Nick Yorke, who the Red Sox picked in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft, also had an impressive debut. The 18-year-old hit a single to the opposite side of the field and drew a walk in his debut against the Braves on Monday.
The Red Sox outfield will look different.
The biggest news involving the Red Sox this week came from a move they didn’t make. After eight seasons in Boston, Jackie Bradley Jr. is leaving the Red Sox, signing a two-year, $24 million deal with the Brewers early Thursday morning.
Bradley Jr.’s departure from Boston will leave the Red Sox with a different-looking outfield after they traded Andrew Benintendi to the Royals in February. Verdugo remains in Boston, and with Bradley Jr. out of the picture, he could move to center field after spending all of last season in right field. Verdugo did play in center in his spring training debut on Friday.
In the outfield corners, it’s been speculated that Hunter Renfroe will be the team’s starting right fielder in most games while Cordero will start in left. Renfroe, who signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox this offseason, has played right field in all of his spring training appearances thus far.
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