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Red Sox 8, Rays 2: Garrett Richards gets back on track

And Michael Chavis homered again.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The Red Sox have won two in a row, picking up an 8-4 victory over the Rays on Friday. Next stop: World Series. They got a much-needed good performance from their starter in this one, a debut from one of their most important players, and three homers from the infield. Here are the notes from the day:

Garrett Richards cleans it up

The first two spring starts for new Red Sox number three starter Garrett Richards were, frankly, terrible. They were early spring starts so it was obviously too early to get too worked up over it, but it was still not what you want. Still, there were some worried eyes (well, ears) getting ready for the righty’s third start of the spring on Friday against the Rays.

Richards passed the test. He still wasn’t perfect, and control in particular was still an issue, but by and large he got the job done. The veteran ended up tossing four innings in this one, the deepest he’s gone this spring as he continues to build up his arm, and there was only one hit off of him. That was a double off the bat of old friend Manuel Margot. Additionally, he struck out seven Rays, though he walked three, bringing him up to nine walks over eight spring innings.

Control issues aside — and Richards has always had at least roughly average control, so that’s not a major concern looking ahead — this was the kind of start he needed to get things back on track. After his previous two outings he had commented that he was trying to get his mechanics in sync, and he was able to accomplish that here. Additionally, Rob Bradford (who was on the radio call today) indicated the curveball in particular was working well for Richards. The righty is going to be an important figure for the Red Sox rotation this year, so seeing him get on the right track is a good thing.

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The infield homers thrice

The Red Sox got the offense going in this one for eight runs, though the production didn’t exactly come from their starts. Instead it was three players who could see some bench time getting the job done. The first homer of the day was from the player of the trio who is basically guaranteed a bench spot in Christian Arroyo. He got the start at shortstop, and in the third hit a two-run shot to put Boston’s first runs on the board. A couple innings later, it was Jonathan Araúz, who started at second base and also had a double right before Arroyo’s homer, hitting a two-run shot of his own. Finally, Michael Chavis got in on the action in the blasting a three-run homer to put a cap on Boston’s scoring for the day. He got the start at first base this afternoon.

As mentioned, these three are hoping to get some bench time this year. For Arroyo and Araúz, their destination to start the season is almost certainly clear. The former will be in the majors barring injury, as his flashes late last season along with his lack of minor-league options open up that road for him. Araúz, meanwhile, was able to stick in the majors all season in 2020 (probably largely due to the expanded rosters and shortened schedule), and now will get some much-deserved consistent playing time in the minors, most likely Triple-A. He could see some time in the majors later in the year depending on circumstances (relating both to his performance and that of others on the depth chart), but for the most part the focus will be on consistent at bats.

Chavis, though, is more interesting. Coming into camp it seemed like he needed at least one injury in front of him to have a chance, due both to his poor 2020 and the fact that he, unlike Arroyo, does have options. It wasn’t exactly an injury, but Franchy Cordero’s delayed start due to COVID will likely cause him to miss the start of the season, opening up another bench spot. Chavis has competition there, probably mostly from Yairo Muñoz and Danny Santana, and it seems like the team wants to start him in the minors.

However, he is making his case — his homer today was his third of the spring and brought his OPS up to 1.201 — and he does have an added benefit of already being on the 40-man, which can’t be said for the other two. Right now I’m leaning towards Muñoz getting the call, but Chavis is doing his best to make the case he deserves another shot early.

Other Notes

  • It was a day of spring debuts for Boston. On the position player side of things, it was Xander Bogaerts and Danny Santana making their first appearances. The former is still not playing shortstop due to his shoulder issues — they’re hoping to get him in a game there as soon as Tuesday — but he started at DH in this one. He went 0-2 with a strikeout, but it was good to just get him into game action. Santana, meanwhile, came in off the bench and had a single in his first at bat, going 1-2 on the day.
  • Meanwhile, Hirokazu Sawamura also made his debut in this one. The reliever who comes over from the NPB had a bit of a rough Stateside debut here. He allowed a run while recording only two outs, walking three and giving up a double.
  • Also getting hits in this one who have not been mentioned were: Jeter Downs, who came in late to play shortstop and had a single in his only at bat; J.D. Martinez, who started in left field and went 1-3 with a single and a strikeout; Hunter Renfroe, who started in right and went 1-3 with a single, a run and a strikeout; and Christian Vázquez, who started behind the plate and went 1-2 with a double and a run scored.
  • Also pitching in this one who have not been mentioned were: Raynel Espinal, who came in to finish Sawamura’s inning and struck out the only batter he faced; Eduard Bazardo, who is a sleeper to make an impact in the bullpen this year and allowed a solo home run and a walk in two innings of work with two strikeouts; Kevin McCarthy, minor-league signing from this past winter who tossed a perfect inning with a strikeout; and Seth Blair, a minor-league signing from last summer who had a perfect inning with two strikeouts.