Matt Barnes Recalled, Makes First Appearance in ’15 for Sox

Matt Barnes

The Boston Red Sox placed Shane Victorino on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring injury on Saturday, then recalled right-handed pitcher Matt Barnes from Triple-A Pawtucket to join the Major League club in Baltimore for their series against the Orioles at Camden Yards.

After being told on Saturday afternoon that he had been promoted, Barnes drove from Matt BarnesScranton, PA to Baltimore, MD and arrived approximately two hours before the start of the game.

He was called on to make his 2015 debut by replacing Justin Masterson in the bottom of the eighth, and responded by firing two scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out one.

Barnes was actually in line for his first big league win after Xander Bogaerts hit the first pitch he saw from Brad Brach for the go-ahead home run in the top of the 10th inning, making the score 4-3, but had his hopes quickly dashed as Boston’s closer Koji Uehara blew the save opportunity by  giving up a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the frame, his first blown save of the season.

“It was a crazy day,” Barnes told Ian Browne of MLB.com. “It’s not how I envisioned [the day] when I woke up this morning, but I’m happy to be here … trying to do what I can to help the ball club win.”

Many thought the 24-year old native New Englander would make the Opening Day roster as a reliever after throwing in the high-90s for most of Spring Training, but he was sent down to Triple-A during the last round of roster cuts and subsequently reverted back to a starting role.

Barnes made two starts for the PawSox before being recalled on Saturday, posting a 0-0 record with a 5.63 ERA. He made five appearances for the Major League ball club last season, allowing four runs on eleven hits, over nine complete innings.

Daniel Nava Proving His Worth for the Red Sox

Daniel Nava

After much was made about which of Boston’s plethora of outfielders would make the Opening Day roster during Spring Training, Daniel Nava has wasted little time showing how much value he has for the Red Sox despite playing in a bench role.

The 32-year old Redwood City, CA native played a key role in the Red SDaniel Navaox victory over the New York Yankees on Friday night, going 2 for 3 with two runs batted in. Nava laced a 98-MPH Nathan Eovaldi fastball into right field for a single in the top of the fourth, then lined a change-up that ricocheted off Mark Teixeira’s glove, allowing Pablo Sandoval and Mike Napoli to score in the top of the sixth.

The 19-inning marathon contest lasted six hours and 49 minutes, and included a 16-minute delay to fix malfunctioning light towers near the foul poles caused by a power surge. The game was the longest in terms of time in Red Sox history, despite playing a 20-inning contest against the Yankees in August of 1967.

Nava continued his success against the Yankees on Saturday afternoon, not even 12 hours after the conclusion of Friday night’s contest, again going 2 for 3 with two runs batted in, a walk and a run scored.

With two outs and Mike Napoli on third base in the top of the second, Nava hit a ball into left field that was badly misplayed by Yankee’s outfielder Brett Gardner, which allowed Napoli to score and Nava to cruise into second base with a double. He added another RBI single in the top of the fourth, lining an Adam Warren fastball to center field scoring Pablo Sandoval.

In his career against the Yankees, Nava is hitting .308/.410/.523 with a .933 OPS and eight extra base hits, 15 runs batted in and 10 walks in 65 at-bats. Nava has home runs against three of the Yankee’s starting pitchers—C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Saturday’s starter, Adam Warren.

Will We See Brian Johnson in the Majors This Season?

Brian Johnson

After one of the more impressive seasons for a Red Sox minor league pitcher in recent memory, Brian Johnson has continued to impress many with his Spring Training performance.

Johnson added another effective start to his Grapefruit League resume last Sunday afternoon (March 29) at JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers, FL, tossing four innings and allowing two earned runs on six hits and three strikeouts.

“I think this has been a very productive spring for him,” Red Sox manager John Farrell toldBrian Johnson Sean McAdam of Comcast Sportsnet. “He has certainly helped his cause here. He’s has a very good mound presence, good poise. He’s attacked the strike zone and he works as a very quick pace. Sometimes that gets the better of him, where he might rush into some pitches. But he’s shown very well.”

The only glaring number for Johnson is his eight walks in just 15 1/3 innings, which equates to 4.7 walks per nine innings.

“He’s a guy who’s typically has good command of the strike zone,” Farrell said. “A couple of times during the course of his outings, there’s been some base-on balls that have lead off an inning that result in a run.”

Despite a lack of command at times, it has not wavered the 24-year old first round draft pick’s confidence.

“I’m confident with any pitch in any count,” Johnson told Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com. “I threw a couple 2-2 changeups, 3-2 cutters and 3-2 curveballs today. Didn’t always work out, but I’m confident when I throw it.”

Johnson is coming off a season in which he was voted the Boston Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year, as well as earning a runner-up finish to fellow teammate, Henry Owens, in the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Voting. Johnson finished 2014 with a 13-3 record with a 2.13 ERA in 25 starts between AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket.

Mookie Betts Has Come A Long Way Since Last Opening Day

mookie betts

Mooke Betts began the 2015 regular season right where he left off in Spring Training—going 2 for 4, including a home run, an RBI and two runs scored in the Red Sox 8-0 shutout victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Betts led off the bottom of the third inning by lacing an 89 MPH first-pitch cutter frMookie Bettsom Cole Hamels over the left field fence, extending the Red Sox lead to 2-0 at the time. Betts is the youngest player to hit lead off on Opening Day for the Red Sox since Rico Petrocelli did the honors in 1965, according to ESPN.

The road to the show for Betts has been a long one, as the 22-year old Nashville, TN native began last season as the starting second baseman for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs against the Phillies (this time of Reading, PA), before transitioning to center field mid-season.

Betts started that 2014 campaign, one that saw him reach the majors for 55 games with the Red Sox, in a similar fashion to this year. In his first at bat Betts drilled a home run, finishing the day 4 for 4, with three runs scored an a RBI.

“He’s taken an uncommon path to get to this point when you consider last year at spring training he wasn’t even in major league camp and now he’s hitting leadoff in a whole different position,” Red Sox manager John Farrell told Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com.

Even though the last 12 months or so have been a whirlwind for the young outfielder, Betts has remained humble and focused.

“It feels kind of normal now,” Betts said prior to his Opening Day start. “That I got to play last year, then the off season to think about it, and coming to big league spring training, it’s kind of normal now. I got used to it.”

“Everything starts from zero now—I’m not trying to roll anything over, I’m just trying to go out and continue to do whatever I do.”

Former Sea Dogs Shine for Sox on Opening Day

Opening Day

The Boston Red Sox put on an impressive Opening Day show against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Monday, with many former members of the Portland Sea Dogs contributing in big ways.

Dustin Pedroia, a 2005 alumni of the Sea Dogs, didn’t waste any time Opening Day getting the scoring started when he crushed a first inning, one-out pitch from Cole Hamels over the left field fence for a solo home run.

22-year old Mookie Betts, who was the starting second baseman for the Sea Dogs against the Reading Phillies to begin last season, started in center field and went 2-4 with a long solo home run off Hamels to lead off the third inning.

Pedroia launched another home run to left field with one out in the fifth, showing that for the first time in a few seasons, he may be completely healthy. He added a brilliant defensive play in the bottom of the seventh inning, scooping up a ball on a short hop and firing to second base to force out Grady Sizemore and save a run from scoring.

Sea Dogs Hall of Famer, Hanley Ramirez, who spent 2004-05 with the Double-A club, followed suit in the fifth with a long home run of his own to left field.

Ramirez added his second home run in the top of the ninth inning, a grand slam, giving him five RBI’s on the day to go with two hits, a walk and two runs scored.

Clay Buchholz, a 2007 Double-A All-Star for the Sea Dogs, took a huge step in the right direction in showing he is ready to take over as the ace of the staff. Buchholz fired seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and a walk while striking out nine. The tall right-hander seemed in complete control of his full arsenal of pitches, throwing 66 of 95 of them for strikes.

Baseball America Votes Red Sox Minor League Second Best

minor league

The Boston Red Sox have been voted as having the second best farm system in the major leagues with seven of the top-100 MLB prospects, according to Baseball America. The Chicago Cubs topped the list, with six top-ten prospects in the MLB’s top-100.

Leading the top prospects for the Red Sox is newly acquired Cuban shortstop, Yoan Moncada. Boston officially inked the international free-agent earlier in the month to a minor minor leagueleague contract and a $31.5 million signing bonus. Because the Red Sox had already gone over their allotment of international bonus money with the signing of fellow Cuban, Rusney Castillo, Boston was forced to pay a 100 percent tax, bringing the total cost closer to $63 million.

Second on the list is 22-year old Blake Swihart, who is considered the top catching prospect in all of baseball. Swihart spent 2014 between AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket, where he hit .293/.341/.469 with 13 home runs and 64 runs batted in, while throwing out 46% of attempted base stealers. Despite Boston’s starting catcher Christian Vazquez beginning the 2015 season on the 60-day disabled list, Swihart is still projected to start the year with the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox.

The Red Sox top pitching prospect, Henry Owens, ranks third on the list, just ahead of fellow southpaws Eduardo Rodriguez (5) and Brian Johnson (6). Owens was voted the 2014 Eastern League Pitcher of the year in 2014, after going 14–4 with a 2.60 ERA and striking out 126 batters, before being promoted to Pawtucket in early August.

Brian Johnson was voted runner-up to Owens in the 2014 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year voting, after being promoted to Portland in early May, and going 10-2 with a 1.75 ERA, 0.932 WHIP, allowing only six home runs over 20 starts for the Sea Dogs.

Other notable names on the list include outfielder Rusney Castillo (4), third baseman Rafael Devers (7), outfielder Manuel Margot (8), pitcher Matt Barnes (9) and shortstop Deven Marrero (10).