The Red Sox started their spring training action on Friday with a win against Northeastern, but Saturday marked the beginning of their Grapefruit League schedule. Fittingly, the 2019 season really got started against the Yankees, though it obviously wasn’t filled with the players we’ll be seeing when the games begin to count. Still, there were some fun names on both sides and good performances all around. In the end, the Red Sox were able to head home with a 1-0 record down in Florida following an 8-5 victory.
Michael Chavis leads the way
Players can’t really affect a game in a terribly significant way in spring training, particularly early in camp when most of the guys are playing about half a game at most. Still, it’s very easy for one or two guys to stand out at the end of the day, and on Saturday it was Michael Chavis. The former first round pick came off the bench — and played out of his natural position at second base — against Northeastern, but against the Yankees he got the start at the hot corner and hit sixth. He didn’t waste any time making an impact, either. The righty came up in the bottom half of the third and got a breaking ball on the outer half that he went with to right field, popping it over the fence for a three-run shot. Chavis has his issues, with defense being one of them, but he has serious power and has been improving his hit tool the last couple of years. We saw with this swing that the power plays to all fields, and that when he’s on he will go the other way. In the past, he has gotten too pull-happy which led to a very low batting average. It’s good to see he’s not falling into that habit early this year. Chavis also added a single in this game and went 2-3.
Rafael Devers leads the rest of the multi-hit crew
Chavis certainly had the most noteworthy game, and he had the only home run for the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon, but a few other notable players grabbed a couple of base hits on the day. The biggest name in the lineup was one of them, with Rafael Devers going 2-3 with a couple of singles, a run and an RBI on the day. Defense will likely be the biggest story for him this year, but we didn’t see any of that today as he served as the team’s DH. Still, even on offense he has some strides to make but the young lefty has the talent to be a major breakout in an already-great Red Sox lineup. Meanwhile, Tzu-Wei Lin got his second consecutive start and went 2-3 with a double and an RBI. Bryce Brentz made his first appearance since rejoining the organization and he had a couple of singles, a couple of runs and an RBI.
Travis Lakins makes his 2019 debut
The pitching side of things for the Red Sox didn’t feature a ton of notable names on Saturday, and it’s not likely to for a while. Alex Cora has made it clear since the start of the winter that he plans to ease his pitchers into the action. That said, we did see one of the more exciting relievers expected to start the year in Triple-A with Travis Lakins. The righty, of course, broke out last year after being converted into a reliever, and probably deserved a September call-up. He didn’t get that chance in 2018, but all signs point towards him making his debut in 2019. This was his first chance to impress his coaching staff against major-league opponents in game action, but it wasn’t terribly smooth. On the plus side, he didn’t allow a run over two innings of work and got three ground outs (including a double play) along with a pop up. However, he also allowed three hits and didn’t strike anyone out. All things considered it really wasn’t a terrible debut or anything like that particularly since all three hits were singles and two of them were hit on the ground.
A mixed bag from the other pitchers
Josh Smith got the start in this one, and he is a deep, deep sleeper to serve as depth both as a starter and a reliever this season. Things would likely have to go pretty wrong for him to get a real chance, though crazier things have happened. He didn’t get off to a great start, though, allowing three runs on six hits that included a Gleyber Torres home run as well as four doubles over just 1 2⁄3 innings. Smith will look to turn things around in his next start in hopes of not being totally buried on the depth chart. On the more positive side, Marcus Walden pitched well after Smith, coming in for two scoreless innings with two strikeouts and his only runner reaching on a single. Later in the game, Erasmo Ramírez came in for a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts. Walden and Ramírez, but particularly the latter, are better bets to get a chance as emergency depth at some point in 2019.