The Red Sox snapped their seven-game losing streak on Thursday, but because spring training is dumb and meaningless that is not the same as saying they won. Instead, their game against the Tigers ended in a tie. Clearly important baseball is being played! There were some negatives for the Red Sox here, but I think overall the good outweighed the bad. It’s the first time in about a week we’ve been able to say that.
Durbin Feltman impresses in the ninth
Of all the potential depth and mid-season relief the Red Sox have in the minors, none are the cause of as much excitement as Durbin Feltman. Last year’s third round pick out of TCU was seen by most as the player with the best chance of reaching the majors the same year as being drafted in the class of 2018. The Red Sox didn’t push him quite that hard, but it seems almost certain he’ll get up to the highest level in 2019, barring injury. Although he didn’t get an official invite to major-league camp this spring, we knew we’d see him in big league games at least once or twice, and on Thursday he made his Grapefruit League debut. Coming in for the bottom of the ninth in a tie game, it was no small situation, either. (Obviously these games don’t count, but for a minor-leaguer pitching in his first major-league game of any kind, it counts for him.) He impressed in his inning of work. The young righty showed off a good fastball sitting in the 94 mph range and a sharp slider. Feltman struck out the first two batters he faced, and after walking the third he picked him off as the runner left too early on a stolen base attempt. It goes without saying the competition in the ninth inning of a spring training game wasn’t top-notch, but again this was his first game at this level. I wouldn’t expect Feltman to be a realistic option in the majors until June, but based on what I saw today he has a chance to make them think about it much earlier than that.
Steve Pearce homers. Twice
The Red Sox offense wasn’t great by any means on Thursday, but they had a couple of strong performances. By far the best was from Steve Pearce, who returned to his hometown of Lakeland, Florida for this game. He put on a show in front of his hometown fans, going deep twice. In the fourth, he came up with a runner on first and one out and he blasted a middle-in fastball way down the left-field line for a two-run homer. At the time, it brought the Red Sox to within one run. A couple innings later the veteran got another fastball down the middle and he hit another one over the fence in left field. The second wasn’t nearly as deep as the first, but the solo shot did break a 3-3 tie. Pearce had been hitless in his previous four spring games, so it’s nice to see him get a little bit of confidence in this one. He should, of course, play a big role for the Red Sox in 2019.
Eduardo Rodriguez has one bad inning
As the Red Sox continue to stretch out their starters in anticipation of Opening Day, Eduardo Rodriguez worked his way up to five innings in Thursday’s start. That’s by far the longest a Boston pitcher has worked this spring. Things were mostly good for the lefty, who struck out eight batters in his five innings of work while walking two. He did allow three runs, though, all in a rough second inning. There, he allowed two walks and two doubles in the span of five batters before settling down and getting the last two outs of the inning. Unfortunately, the three runs had already crossed the plate at that point. Still, if you take away that inning (I’m aware you can’t simply erase pieces of starts, but I’m going to do it anyway. Sue me.) his other four innings included one hit, no runs, no walks and seven strikeouts. That second inning happened, but all in all this was a positive day for the Red Sox lefty.
- Feltman was the big story out of the bullpen, but Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree looked good too. The former struck out two and allowed just one baserunner on a Bobby Dalbec error. More importantly, his fastball velocity got back up over 90 mph, though it was still a bit below where he’s typically sat. Hembree, meanwhile, made his first appearance of the spring and struck out all three batters he faced.
- The one poor performance in the bullpen was from Domingo Tapia, who is simple emergency minor-league depth at this point. He blew a one-run lead on two walks and two doubles in the eighth inning.
- On offense, the other strong game besides Pearce came from Rafael Devers, who has having a scorching spring. The young third baseman is a popular breakout pick not only among Red Sox players but through the league as a whole, and he’s showing why. After a 2-3 performance on Thursday he is hitting .448 with a 1.138 OPS this spring.
- Spring training gives us ties, and it gives us action shots of baseball players spitting.