Red Sox Sweep the Rays thanks to lifts from Moreland, others

You have tremendous foresight if you were expecting to see the Red Sox sweep the Rays after a weekend series in Tampa. With the tabloids barking for the real Red Sox to stand up, the World Champions were facing adversity really for the first time under Alex Cora. That might still be the case, as Boston still sits at just 9-13 AFTER a series sweep. But the Red Sox are finally showing real signs of shaking their funk.

The Red Sox sweep the Rays with a push from Mookie Betts

As has been the case since Betts showed MVP-ability in 2016, the team goes when he Red Sox Sweep the Raysgoes. When he struggles, so does the offense. It’s no secret Betts was scuffling entering play on Friday, going just 2 of 23 in his last seven games. That changed when he smacked a homer and a double to help lift the Sox over the Rays 6-4 to open the series. Case in point, as he went back-to-back with Mitch Moreland on home runs in the series opening victory. He continued that approach into the next two games. He added two more hits apiece in each contest. If the 2018 MVP continues to stay hot, then he very well might carry the Red Sox back to form.

The starting pitching continues to improve, and that starts with David Price

Price has arguably been the rotation’s most reliable thrower to this point in 2019. While the southpaw has tossed just one quality start so far, he has not allowed more than four runs in a start. Price has worked less than six innings only once too. Given the inconsistencies of Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez, Price’s outings have given the team a chance to win each time out. He was at his best versus Baltimore on 4/14 (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 7 K) but worked out of jams and held the Rays to two runs over five innings with 10 strikeouts on Sunday afternoon. With Eovaldi hitting the injured list, and Chris Sale still yet to truly put it together, Price’s importance cannot be overstated to the rotation’s long term success.

Martinez, Moreland, and Benintendi are all off to strong starts

As important as Betts’ oil is to grease the Red Sox’ engine, the team might be off to an even worse start if it weren’t for J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, and, most notably, Moreland. Through Sunday, Moreland lead the team in homers (7) and RBI (14), and mashed most of those homers to either tie or give the Red Sox the lead. The former Texas Ranger homered again Sunday to pull the Sox within one. Martinez has been one of the best hitters in baseball, hitting .350 with a 1.004 OPS, including four homers and 11 RBI. He is also one of three players (Rafael Devers and Betts) to appear in every game so far. Benintendi crushed his first career grand slam on Saturday to give Boston an early lead. Coupled with his strong defense in the field, the Cincinnati native figures to continue to break out in 2019.

If you expected to read the headline “Red Sox Sweep the Rays” on Monday, you also see why the team has gotten back on track. If the Sox want to keep winning, it is going to take more than what they have received so far from the roster. But a three-game sweep of the first-place Rays is a good starting point. They can now look forward to the upcoming home stand with three straight wins under their belt.

The Top Prospect Gets The Call

Before their game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox made some changes to the club. With injuries to Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt, it’s no surprise that the Red Sox have called up top prospect, Michael Chavis.

Chavis, who is regarded as the number one prospect in the Red Sox organization, willtop prospect play a big part with the big league club. After spending the last few weeks in Pawtucket, he is ready to showcase his work.

The Road To Boston

Chavis was drafted in the first round of the 2014 MLB draft, and was the 26th selection overall. Although he originally committed to Clemson University, Chavis signed with the Boston Red Sox. The Gatorade Player of the Year started his career with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox. There, he batted .269, with one home run and 16 RBI’s over 39 games. The third baseman led the GCL Red Sox to a title in 2014 as well.

In total, Chavis played in six minor league seasons before his call up on April 19th 2019. He started with the Greenville Drive in 2015, and moved up to Pawtucket last season. In 2017, Chavis also played in the Arizona Fall League for the Peoria Javelinas.

Top Prospect Made An Impact in Fort Myers

Chavss was announced as the Red Sox’s #1 prospect prior to Spring Training. Michael Chavis proved his worth during those games. Wearing the number 65, the 23 year old right hander played in eleven games, batting .273 with four home runs and ten RBI’s.

Chavis, who is mainly an infielder, made an impression on the Red Sox staff. Despite being sent to the minors to start the season, many knew it was a matter of time before he would be called up. With the Pawtucket Red Sox this season, he saw playing time at a new position, second base.

Only The Beginning

Despite only playing in a handful of games at second base, the Red Sox still called up Chavis. Manager Alex Cora stated that despite this, Chavis will see playing time. With the call up, Chavis will be a big help offensively. He can also split playing time with Rafael Devers.

In the game last night against the Rays, Chavis got his first big league hit. The pinch hit double was a great sign of things to come.

X Marks The Spot For The Rising Shortstop

2013 saw a special player come to the Red Sox organization. The Red Sox shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, came to the big leagues looking to be the next big rising shortstop star.

For baseball fans who grew up in the 1990’s, there were three shortstops that were wellrising shortstop known in the baseball world. The names Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez would be mentioned countless times, and many considered them to be the Big Three of shortstops.

Each one’s career went in a different path. For Derek Jeter, he spent his whole career with the New York Yankees. He also had his number 2 retired by the team. Alex Rodriguez started out playing for the Seattle Mariners. From there, he went to the Texas Rangers, and to the New York Yankees as a third baseman. Finally, Nomar Garciaparra, the Red Sox Nation fan favorite, was traded at the 2004 trade deadline to the Chicago Cubs. From there, he also played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics.

Before Bogaerts

After the trade of Garciaparra, the Red Sox went through a revolving door of shortstops. Many in Red Sox Nation were looking for the one who could ultimately fill the void at the position for a long time. Maybe a player who can spend his whole career in a Red Sox uniform. Well, look no further than the man we know as X-Man, or Bogey – Xander Bogaerts.

The Shortstop Of The Future

Since the 2004 trade of Nomar Garciaparra, the Red Sox didn’t really have much for homegrown shortstops. The acquisition of Orlando Cabrera in 2004, then the signings of Edgar Renteria and Julio Lugo made for tough times at Fenway Park. Jose Iglesias, who arrived on scene in 2011, was a bright spot for the organization. However, the Red Sox traded him to the Tigers at the trade deadline in a three team deal that brought Jake Peavy to the Red Sox. About a month later, another name came on scene – Xander Bogaerts.

The young infielder started off at third base, making his major league debut against the San Francisco Giants on August 20th, 2013. From there, Bogaerts went onto leading the Red Sox to their third World Series Championship since 2004.

In 2014, Xander went from wearing #72, to the #2. Bogaerts also was the starting shortstop on Opening Day. He had a great first full season for the Red Sox, playing in 144 games, batting .240 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI’s. He was also on hand when the Red Sox honored his hero, Derek Jeter in his final game at Fenway.

2015 for the X-Man saw him play in 156 games. He also led the Red Sox in batting average, batting .320 with seven home runs and 81 RBI’s. He also finished in second place in the American League batting title to Miguel Cabrera. Bogaerts did however win his first Silver Slugger Award. The last Red Sox shortstop to win a Silver Slugger Award? Nomar Garciaparra in 1997.

In the season that saw David Ortiz play his final season, Bogaerts had another stellar year. Not only did he win his second consecutive Silver Slugger Award, but he also made his first All Star Team in San Diego. He also had a 26 game hit streak that went from May 6th to June 2nd.

The last two seasons for the rising star saw him win another World Series Championship. Although 2017 wasn’t great for Bogaerts, as he was injured due to a hit by pitch to his wrist, 2018 saw his numbers jump. Manager Alex Cora had Bogaerts batting behind JD Martinez, which allowed him to hit a career high 23 home runs. Many of those home runs were grand slams, one of which was the game winner against the Blue Jays.

Rising Shortstop’s New Deal

Prior to his seventh season in a Red Sox uniform, the Red Sox awarded Xander with a six year contract extension worth $120 million. This contract, will see Bogaerts in a Red Sox uniform through at least the 2025 season.

In his press conference, Bogaerts stated that the first person he called after signing the extension was Dustin Pedroia. He also stated that “It’s a very special place to play”, and he wants to keep playing and winning in Boston.

Looking Forward

So far in the 2019 season, Xander has played in 18 games, batting .297 with two home runs. The 26 year old from Aruba is set to be the face of the franchise following his extension. If he keeps having career seasons, we might one day see the #2 in right field next to David Ortiz’s #34.

Swihart Designated for Assignment: A Confusing Move

When you begin a season 6-12, especially in a large market, fans react impulsively. If certain players get off to bad starts, people call for their heads. It is not necessarily fair, but it is the nature of a place like big-market Boston. With catcher Blake Swihart being let go after just 17 games, it indeed felt impulsive. Considering turmoil across the rotation, lack of bullpen depth, and an anemic offense, it indeed seemed time for a change. With Swihart designated for assignment, the Red Sox tried to solve a litany of issues by moving one role player, and it’ is hard to understand why.

With Swihart designated for assignment, the roster subtracted a versatile, cost-Swihart Designated for Assignmentcontrolled player yet to blossom. As Alex Cora tussled with how to use the former first round pick throughout 2018, the consensus was that he was a valuable trade chip that provided depth off the bench. The Red Sox never moved him, and it seemed to pay off in the second half after Swihart flashed his ability with increased playing time. 2019 was when Swihart was going to get a real shot at becoming the catcher of the future. Christian Vazquez would get his innings, but Swihart was going to get ample time on the diamond. But after just a handful of contests, a sputtering team decided to make a move. It just does not feel like the right one.

Swihart was never really given a clear path to a major role

With Swihart designated for assignment, it might easy to forget his origins. A first round pick, 26th overall out of New Mexico in 2011, he brought with him a Gatorade National Player of the Year award. The Red Sox drooled over his athleticism, seeing him as a steal at 26 in the first round. He surfaced in the bigs in 2015, which at the time felt a tad premature. He was solid across 84 games as a rookie, particularly showing defensive improvement as the season progressed. It was 2016 where the wheels came off. Trying to incorporate Vazquez back into the mix meant moving Swihart around the field to find playing time. After a nasty ankle injury in left field, it took him nearly two entire seasons to return to full health. From there, Swihart played spottily all over the place, and never settled in. Since the beginning of 2018, there has never been a clear spot for him, and that has now shown through with this DFA.

Removing Swihart hurts the team’s versatility

It is tough to make sense of why removing a cheap, young, versatile player was the best move. On a roster that has underwhelmed, Swihart at least provided intrigue. Despite management shifting his focus to catching in 2019, he still managed to appear at other positions. How could the Red Sox justify keeping him all last season, just to DFA him now? In comparison to other players such as Eduardo Nunez, who is relegated to the infield, why remove the guy that can move around the diamond? Sure, Swihart’s .213/.310/.385 slash line through 12 games played is unimpressive. But looking at what other role players have offered so far, it really is odd to make him the (first?) fall guy.

Perhaps there are issues off the field that the fan base does not know about. Maybe Blake Swihart was not a long term solution. Whatever the case, his days in Boston are numbered, and it remains to be seen what baseball holds for his future.

Believing in Brian Johnson

The old expression is “You gotta believe.” For pitcher Brian Johnson, believing he can assist the Red Sox in the bullpen is something for which he is responsible. Throughout his career, Johnson has gone through a roller coaster ride – from spot starts, to coming out of the bullpen for Boston. Looking for a greater role in 2019 will be interesting for Johnson.

On May 27th, 2017, Red Sox pitcher Brian Johnson did something that hasn’t been done in a Red Sox uniform since Pedro Martinez. Johnson pitched a complete game shut out against the Seattle Mariners. Where was I? Well, I was sitting in the bleachers, a few rows back from the bullpen, watching as Johnson threw strike after strike. The game lasted a little over two hours, which was remarkable.

For the guy who is like the underdog in the Red Sox organization, Johnson has been a constant presence in the Red Sox organization. For manager Alex Cora, relying on the veteran last season was key to the success this team had going into the postseason. Johnson had career highs in game appearances, as well as innings pitched.

From Starter to Reliever Back to Starter

Throughout his career in a Red Sox uniform, Johnson has been a spot starter for the Red Sox. In his 48 MLB appearances, only 19 of them have been starts. Johnson is 7-6 in his career, with a lifetime ERA of 4.69.

Following an injury to Clay Buchholz in 2015, Johnson was called up from Pawtucket, and made his MLB debut on July 21st of that season. He pitched in 4.1 innings in a loss to the Houston Astros. That game was the only one he would play in during the 2015 season, as he was sent back to Pawtucket.

The next time Johnson saw Major League action was in 2017. In that game, he pitched that remarkable shut out against the Seattle Mariners. Following that, he made four more starts for the Red Sox, going 2-0 with a 4.33 ERA.

In 2018, Cora used Brian Johnson quite a bit. He pitched in 38 games, while making 13 starts. Johnson went 4-5 with a 4.17 ERA last season, however, he was not added to the postseason roster.

Johnson, who is currently on the injured list, is part of the 2019 team. So far, he has pitched 4 games out of the bullpen, with all those games being on the road. On Opening Day at Fenway, Johnson was presented with his first championship ring. It was well earned too, due to the work he did during the 2018 season.

Can We Call Brian Johnson The Underdog?

For a guy whose career has been up and down, Johnson has been a consistent presence in the Red Sox organization. I think that he will continue to surprise us all when he runs out of the bullpen. Johnson has the ability to dominate in games. It’s just a matter of trust in his pitches.

Many might disagree when I say that Johnson is the secret weapon in the bullpen. However, when you look at what he has been able to accomplish and overcome in his life, he is truly one of the good guys.

Player Positioning: Red Sox Hitters

We’ve only seen twelve games this season, which accounts for a measly seven percent of the long, 162-game stretch. However, it is never too early to start analyzing how players are performing. Here is a look at each of the Red Sox hitters’ player positioning with the team.

Player Positioning: Catchers

Christian Vazquez – .185 BA, .612 OPS, 4 runs, 5 hits, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 walks, 7 k’s, 1 SBPlayer Positioning 

The Puerto Rico native had a double and a home run in the team’s first 2 games, but has cooled off since, with just 1 extra-base hit in his last 5 starts. Vazquez is valued more as a leader on defense. His most starts in a season came in 2017 when he had 99. Look for him to set a new career-high in that department with the departure of Sandy Leon.

Blake Swihart – .353 BA, 1.009 OPS, 4 runs, 6 hits, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 walk, 4 k’s, 0 SB

Some could make a case for Swihart’s player positioning role to increase. I would have to agree. A former first-round draft pick in 2011, the backstop is finally in a position to earn more playing time with the team. The most games he has started in a season was 84 back in 2015. He has always been known to have potential as a slugger, and he is proving it now. In four starts thus far, Swihart has 3 runs, 5 hits, 2 extra-base hits, and 3 RBI.

Player Positioning: Corner infield

Mitch Moreland – .257 BA, 1.036 OPS, 5 runs, 9 hits, 4 HRs, 10 RBI, 5 walks, 7 k’s, 0 SB

“Mitchy Two Bags” has started 2019 on fire, which has been necessary with his platoon partner, Steve Pearce, beginning the campaign on the Injured List. Moreland, now in his third year with Boston, is slugging .686 through 12 games. He won the Red Sox their first game of the season back on March 29 with a pinch-hit, 3-run homer. With Devers struggling, look for Moreland’s left-handed bat to remain in the lineup as much as possible.

Rafael Devers – .250 BA, .622 OPS, 7 runs, 11 hits, 0 HRs, 0 RBI, 5 walks, 9 k’s, 1 SB

The youngest slugger in the lineup is Devers, who is 22 years old and is in his second year. Cora decided to deploy the third baseman in the three-hole to start the season. The decision warrants much hope and promise from skipper to slugger. ‘Rafy’ had a strong opening series against Seattle, with 6 hits and 4 runs, but has just 5 hits and 3 runs in six games since.

Player Positioning: Middle infield

Dustin Pedroia – 4 PAs, 1 hit

Pedroia started yesterday’s home opener against the Blue Jays. It was his first start since May 29th of last season. He grounded into a double play in his first at-bat. In his last at-bat in the 9th inning, he smacked a liner to right field for a base knock to start a rally. He looked rusty, and while it will take some time for the 35-year-old to get caught up to speed, it was encouraging to see him back in action.

Xander Bogaerts – .263 BA, .839 OPS, 6 runs, 10 hits, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 8 walks, 8 k’s, 0 SB

Bogaerts is a cog at shortstop, especially after signing a long-term extension in Spring Training. He had opened the season with at least one strikeout in six straight contests, but has not struck out in any of the past five games. Instead, he has collected six walks.

Player Positioning: Outfield

Andrew Benintendi – .261 BA, .662 OPS, 4 runs, 12 hits, 0 HRs, 5 RBI, 4 walks, 12 k’s, 1 SB. 

“Benny” led off in all four games against Seattle, then batted second in the next four games against Oakland, and then got switched back to leadoff for three games against Arizona. He has been disappointing for the most part – registering the second most strikeouts on the team. Before yesterday’s 0-for-5 performance, however, he had strung together 4 straight multi-hit games.

Jackie Bradley Jr. – .171 BA, .404 OPS, 3 runs, 7 hits, 0 HRs, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 13 k’s, 2 SB

Also in the discussion for most disappointing start out of the gate is Bradley. “JBJ” has a team-high 13 strikeouts. His defense is what clearly keeps him in the lineup. He won his first Gold Glove in 2018, and also stole a career-best 17 bags. His career OPS of .718 is likely Bradley’s ceiling for this season. He is clearly cold right now and will need a streaky change to come into effect as the season moves forward. It has happened before.

Mookie Betts – .255 BA, .831 OPS, 10 runs, 12 hits, 3 HRs, 7 RBI, 5 walks, 10 k’s, 0 SB.

Like Benintendi, Betts has been shifted around by manager Alex Cora. He has batted second in the lineup in 8 of the 12 games and, on Friday night, manned center field in place of Jackie Bradley Jr. Betts looked shaky in center. He seems much more comfortable in right field, his Gold Glove position. To support the claim, he threw out an Arizona baserunner “by a mile,” according to WEEI play-by-play commentator Joe Castiglione. After starting the season 4-for-15 with no extra base knocks, Betts has compiled 3 doubles, 3 home runs, and 7 RBIs since.

Player Positioning: Designated Hitter

J.D. Martinez – .326 BA, .936 OPS, 6 runs, 15 hits, 3 HRs, 8 RBI, 5 walks, 6 k’s, 0 SB

The back-to-back 40 home run bruiser has been Boston’s best hitter in the early going. “Just Dongs” leads the team in hits, on-base percentage, and total bases. He has also slugged 3 home runs already.

Player Positioning: Platoon hitters

Eduardo Nunez – .167 BA, .367 OPS, 2 runs, 5 hits, 0 HRs, 3 RBI, 0 walks, 3 k’s, 2 SB

“Nuny” has arguably been the most disappointing Red Sox at the plate. He has one extra-base hit in 31 PAs. A former All-Star, he has lacked confidence in the box and while playing the field (mostly second, one game at third). With Pedroia’s activation yesterday, expect Nunez’s player positioning to revert back to a reserve role.

Steve Pearce – 7 PAs, 1 hit (double), 4 k’s

Last year’s World Series MVP has appeared in just two games. He roped a double to deep left in his first game in Oakland. The Red Sox signed Pearce to a $6.5 million, one-year deal in the offseason. He came over from Toronto last July and posted a .901 OPS down the stretch. His bat and experience are extremely valuable to this team.

Brock Holt – 19 PAs, 1 hit, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 7 k’s

The utility man is currently on the Injured List after “being poked in the eye by his son,” per NESN.com. ‘Brockstar’ quietly had his best statistical season in 2018, posting a .774 OPS in 367 PAs. It will be interesting to see how long Holt is held out for and how the team is playing when he comes back. Holt’s player positioning could either continue as the team’s backup second baseman or slot back into his more familiar “service role.”