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Red Sox 5, Braves 3: The Houck and Dalbec show

Two rookies led the way in Wednesday’s win.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Minnesota Twins
Here’s Bobby Dalbec touching home after a home run that was not hit today.
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox are back in the win column here in the all important Grapefruit League standings, picking up a 5-3 victory against the Braves on Wednesday. We can joke about the results not mattering all day (and we basically will) but there were legitimately encouraging takeaways from this game from a pair of rookies. Here are the notes from the day:

Tanner Houck shines in three innings

Before the game, Alex Cora was speaking of Tanner Houck and stated that the team had no plans to put him in the bullpen. That makes sense given what he did last year, and there are still long-term concerns that he could end up there regardless of what the team says now, but he will be starting out the year as a starter. Nothing he did this afternoon following those comments will change that. Hocuk was outstanding as the third pitcher of the day for Boston, coming in for the fifth and tossing three strong innings. He was perfect in his first frame, including a strikeout against his first batter of the day, faced the minimum in the sixth despite issuing a two-out walk thanks to an inning-ending caught stealing, and then faced the minimum again in the seventh, following up a one-out single with an inning-ending double play.

Put it all together and you get three scoreless innings for the righty in which he allowed just a hit and a walk — but still faced only nine batters — with three strikeouts to top it off. Houck, as we have discussed previously this spring, is likely going to need at least one injury in front of him to make the Opening Day rotation. Based on his performance over three starts to end last season he looks like a big leaguer, but he has minor-league options while Nick Pivetta does not, and that tips the scale out of favor for Houck.

This outing was still very nice to see, particularly after he struggled his last time out. In his first appearance of the spring he allowed three runs on two hits and five walks while recording only two outs. (He was taken out of his first inning of work with just one out, then came back in for the next inning but again was lifted with just one out.) It should be mentioned that this game was not on TV and I was not able to catch the radio broadcast, so I can’t speak to how his splitter looked, which is the most important piece of his development for the coming season. The results, though, are impossible to complain about.

Bobby Dalbec hits a grand slam

Speaking of rookies who showed off the strong points in their skillset over the final stretch of 2020, Bobby Dalbec also made himself known in this game Wednesday afternoon. We’ve seen both sides of Dalbec this spring, meaning both the power and the strikeouts. The big swing in this game was from the power side of things, though. Dalbec came up with the Red Sox trailing 3-1 in the sixth and the bases full, and he sent one a long, long way for a no-doubt grand slam over the faux monster. (Note to self: Start a decoy blog called OTFM.)

Dalbec has been showing off his power all spring, with this being his fourth homer in seven games played this spring. This comes on the heels of his eight homers over 23 games in the final month of last season. As mentioned above, however, he has been striking out quite a bit this spring as well, with one in this game and nine total for a 50 percent rate. That rate in and of itself isn’t something to really pay too much attention to, but he did strike out over 40 percent of the time this year. The balance of his power and strikeouts will be what makes and breaks him this season, and we’ve seen the good and the bad early in camp.

Other Notes

  • Adam Ottavino made his first appearance in a Red Sox uniform in this one, and did well. The righty tossed a scoreless inning with two strikeouts while giving up just a single. Both he and Matt Barnes, who are ostensibly the front-runners for saves this season, had good first showings in spring training action.
  • Before Ottavino entered in the fourth, Matt Andriese got the start. The righty allowed three runs over three innings of work on a double, two singles and a walk while striking out one as well. Andriese will start the season in the majors, though the role is not yet known. He’ll be a swingman this year, and if they start the season with a six-man rotation as they’ve hinted they may, he’d probably be the favorite for that role unless Houck forces himself into that role.
  • We talked a bit about Rafael Devers’s somewhat slow start in yesterday’s recap, so it’s only fair we mentioned he had an RBI double in this one. Overall he went 1-3 with the double as well as a strikeout.
  • Also getting hits in this game who have not been mentioned were: J.D. Martinez, who got the start in left field and went 1-3 with a run scored and a strikeout; Hunter Renfroe, who got some time in center field for the first time this spring and went 1-3 with a run scored; Marwin Gonzalez, who got a look at shortstop today and went 1-3 with a run scored; Christian Vázquez, who started behind the plate and went 1-2 with a double; and Marcus Wilson, who came in off the bench and hit a single in his only at bat of the game.
  • Also pitching in this game who have not been mentioned were: Frank German, a prospect who came over from the Yankees in the Ottavino trade and tossed a scoreless inning in which he struck out one while allowing a single and issuing a walk; and Austin Brice, who looks likely to make the Opening Day bullpen and tossed a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts while allowing two singles.