The Red Sox are picking up where they left last October, winning all three of their early spring training games. Obviously that’s mostly tongue-in-cheek, because we’re only two games in Grapefruit League action and we know spring training results don’t really matter. The guys who have won these games are mostly not players that will have huge impacts in the regular season. That said, last year both Alex Cora and the players indicated they felt it was important they played well last spring before the regular season. I mostly believe that’s just a thing players and coaches tell themselves after they play well, but maybe there’s something to it. At the very least, winning is always better than losing.
Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec come through in the clutch
Cora and the coaching staff pencilled most of the regulars into the lineup on Sunday for the first time this spring, which was exciting but also meant some of the young guys we’d been seeing in the first couple games. Of course, in spring training the starters aren’t remaining in for the entire game, and those young players populate the later innings. That was the case here, and two of the most exciting young players came through with the big swings. Boston was down 5-4 heading into the bottom of the eighth when things turned around quickly. After Tate Matheny — who had a big day in his own right — singled and Chad De La Guerra drew a walk, Michael Chavis would come up with two on and two out. The young third baseman, and arguably the top prospect in the system, got a ball down below the zone that he sent into orbit out to left field. As we said yesterday, Chavis has almost as much raw power as Bobby Dalbec, and his hit tool is more advanced. It was Chavis’ second homer in as many days, and it gave Boston a 7-4 lead. A few batters later, Dalbec came up with two on and two out, and while he couldn’t blast one out he drove in another run with an RBI single. These two had four plate appearances between them, going 2-3 with a single, a home run, a walk and a strikeout. Pretty good!
As for Matheny, mentioned above, he went 2-2 off the bench with a single and a home run. Matheny isn’t a top prospect, but he’s got solid athleticism and can play all over the outfield, so he could have a future as a bench piece if things go well.
Jackie Bradley Jr. and his new swing leave the yard
Among the many players making their spring debuts for the Red Sox on Sunday against the Twins was Jackie Bradley Jr. There has been a lot of talk about the center fielder this spring, and specifically about a new swing. He started tinkering with things in the second half last year, and if you’ll recall he was much more consistent at that point in the year. Bradley worked with new coaches out in California on the recommendation of J.D. Martinez, with the main goal being to launch the ball more. Time will tell if it will lead to a more consistently productive hitter in 2019, but the year did get off to a hot start. In his first at bat of 2019, he got a breaking ball that stayed up in the zone and he blasted it out to right field for a solo home run, off a left-handed pitcher no less. Again, it’s way too early to think any of these results will be telling, but if Bradley can be consistent this year it would be a massive boost for this lineup.
Colten Brewer and Brandon Workman open eyes
Cora and company continue to ease their starting pitchers into camp and it’s likely going to be a bit until we see any appearances from them. We are starting to see some of the guys we expect to see in the bullpen this coming year, and two of them were fantastic on Sunday. Colten Brewer is one of the most exciting relievers in camp this year, and the Red Sox are excited about the righty as well. They had tried to acquired him a couple times before actually getting him, and think they can take him to the next level. It was one inning against spring training competition, but it was a hell of a first impression. The former Padre struck out all three batters he faced on Sunday. That came one inning after Brandon Workman did the same, too. I think both of these guys will be on the Opening Day roster, and Boston is going to need a couple of players like them to step up and help Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier in the late innings if this bullpen is going to work. They’ve come into spring firing.
The rest of the pitching struggles
Brewer and Workman were fantastic, but for the most part the rest of Boston’s pitchers struggled a bit. Ryan Weber, a minor-league signing this winter, only tossed one inning and allowed two runs on a pair of doubles and a home run. Dedgar Jimenez, a right-handed pitcher who has shown flashes in the minors but doesn’t really have major-league stuff, allowed a pair of solo home runs in his inning of work. Denyi Reyes was the most exciting prospect to appear in the game, as the righty had a huge year in 2018 and was added to the 40-man this winter despite not having appeared above High-A. He allowed one run over two innings on a walk and a triple, striking out one. Kutter Crawford, another intriguing arm down on the farm, didn’t allow a run to close things out but did load the bases. Mark Montgomery and Matthew Gorst pitched well, to be fair, combining for a pair of scoreless innings with three strikeouts.