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Red Sox 11: Rays 7: The prospects lead a comeback

A comeback that was necessary because of a rough day from Nathan Eovaldi.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox came back from a day off to grab a win on Friday, taking down the Rays by a score of 11-7. They were losing for most of this one after a rough outing from their starter, but some of the organization’s top prospects had big swings late to give Boston the lead, and eventually the win. Here are the day’s notes:

Nathan Eovaldi has had better days

The Red Sox season is going to in large part be determined by the health and performance of their rotation. On the health front, so far so good. The performance we’re not judging too much at this point, but to the extent we are it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. On Friday, it was Nathan Eovaldi taking the mound for Boston, and he was on the more negative side of that bag.

The righty once again had his velocity going, but also showed that velocity simply is not everything. Even hard fastballs can be hit even harder. And sure enough, in the top half of the first, Eovaldi left a pitch right over the heart of the plate and Mike Zunino was all over it, sending it way out to straightaway center for a solo homer. In the second, the Rays managed back-to-back triples off the Red Sox righty, and followed that up with two singles, a double and a walk before Eovaldi managed to get out of the inning. To his credit, he did settle down some after that, allowing just a single over the next two innings to finish his day. In all, he allowed the four runs on eight hits (a homer, two triples, a homer and four singles), a walk and five strikeouts.

As we’ve said, the real key for Eovaldi is certainly to make it through the spring healthy. Generally speaking, he’s been solid when healthy since joining the Red Sox, even if he may not pitch entirely to the contract. Still, it’s been known for his whole career that he can’t get by on velocity alone, and he’s been hit around at times this spring. Overall, he has now allowed 11 runs over 9 13 innings on 17 hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts. The control of the zone is good, but it sure would be nice to see him get a clean outing or two in before the games start counting.

Hunter Renfroe and Jarren Duran lead the offense

The outfield has some questions itself heading into the season, and the two stars in the lineup today could help that. We’ll start with the guy who will be there righty away in Hunter Renfroe. He showed off his power once again in this one, taking a hanging breaking ball and smashing it way out to center field off the batter’s eye, which is a long way away. That was his second homer of the spring, and he’s up to a .754 OPS. It’s been a mixed bag all spring for him, as he’s shown the good and the bad. The Red Sox will be hoping for more of the former as Renfroe figures to play nearly everyday, at least early in the season, swapping between right and center field. In this game he started in right and went 1-3 with a strikeout added in as well.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, it was Duran getting the start in center. One of the best prospects in the system, he had been getting a lot of starts early in spring and was showing out, but has seen more time late in games with Alex Verdugo getting more involved. Duran didn’t waste his chance back in the starting lineup here. He didn’t have a home run, but he came as close as you can get, smashing one out to center field that hit the very top of the wall and bounced back in play. He had to settle for an RBI double. Duran also had a three base hits in this one, going 4-5 on the day with a run and three RBI. He’s up to a 1.236 OPS, and the timeline for him is going to be one of the most fascinating stories to watch this spring.

Garrett Whitlock continues a hot spring

Garrett Whitlock continues to be one of the bright points of the spring. The Rule 5 selection has certainly looked the part of a guy who is going to stick around all year, and Friday was perhaps his best outing yet. He came out for the sixth inning on Friday, easily cruising through his first frame in order with a pair of strikeouts. He’d come back out for the seventh, and pick right back up, this time striking out all three batters he faced. The Red Sox would then push him back out for a third inning of work, his longest outing of the year. He finally giving up his first hit of the outing on a one-out single, but came back with two more outs.

In all, he retired nine of the 10 batters he faced with five strikeouts to go with that. With this outing, he’s now up to nine innings this spring with one run on eight hits, no walks and 12 strikeouts. Expect Whitlock to start in something of a long relief role early, but if he keeps throwing like this his role will quickly become more prominent.

Other Notes

  • Speaking of hot starts, Michael Chavis is all but guaranteed to get the final roster spot if Franchy Cordero is not ready, and he continued to make that case on Friday. He didn’t start this game, rather coming in as a late-game sub, but in his first at bat he smashed a solo home run for his fifth of the spring. He’d add a base hit as well, pushing his spring OPS up to 1.168. He’s still going to have to earn playing time in real games, but he’s gaining confidence right now, to say the least.
  • The Red Sox had a third home run in this one as they dominated the game late to eventually win. The exclamation point was a two-run homer from Chris Hermann. It was his first homer of the spring. The veteran catcher was signed as a minor-league free agent shortly before camp and he will be fighting for the third catcher role to start this year.
  • Also getting hits in this game who have not been mentioned were: Xander Bogaerts, who was back out in the field at shortstop and went 1-3 with a double, a run and an RBI; Kiké Hernández, who led off and played second base while going 1-3 with a single and a run; Christian Vázquez, who started behind the plate and went 1-2 with a single and a strikeout; Gilberto Jimenez, one of the organization’s top prospects who will start this year in either Greenville or Salem, who came in as a late-game sub and singled in his only at bat and coming around to score a run; and Triston Casas, who is the top prospect in the organization, and he had his first hit of the spring with a late-game RBI single.
  • Also pitching in this game who have note been mentioned were: Raynel Espinal, who is going to pitch in Worcester’s bullpen this year, and he allowed two runs (one earned, though the error leaded to the unearned run was his) on two hits and a strikeout; and Adam Ottavino, who struck out a pair in a perfect inning of work to finish off the game.