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Red Sox 3, Rays 7: Time to end spring

We have reached our tipping point, folks.

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

This game had the most “please let spring be over” energy of any game to date, with a large number of the regulars getting the day off and the scheduled starter staying behind for a B game. As a result, we got to a see a handful of prospects starting, which was cool, and we also saw a 7-3 loss to the Rays.

A prospect kind of day

The Red Sox weren’t mailing it in on Friday, and they certainly weren’t completely bereft of major-league regulars on the diamond for this one, but it was also one of their least-loaded rosters of the spring to this point, with some of the prospects getting a chance to take center stage. Among them was Thad Ward, who got the start for this game. Normally, this would have been Nick Pivetta’s spot in the rotation but the righty had made each of his last two starts against the Rays and Boston didn’t want to make it three in a row, so they had him pitch in a B game against the Twins, in which things reportedly went well.

So, that left an opportunity for Ward to get on the bump for this one. Entering his age-24 season, the righty is one of the most interesting prospects in the system and is generally ranked in the bottom half of top ten organizational lists. After a breakout in Greenville and Salem back in 2019, he seemingly just missed the cut for the Alternate Site, making this upcoming season a big one for his development. He has a chance to stick as a back-end starter long-term, and we’ll be looking to see if his cutter continues to work the way it did as a new pitch in ‘19. As for today, things were rough against Tampa as he just didn’t have his best command. He allowed a run over 1 23 innings on three singles and three walks with two strikeouts. Look for him to start his minor-league campaign in Portland in May.

Ward didn’t have a great game, but a fellow prospect in Jeter Downs had a nice swing. One of the top two prospects in the system, Downs has gotten a lot of chances as a late-game sub this spring but Friday was a rare start for him, especially in this later portion of camp. Playing shortstop rather than second base, where he’s expected to spend most of his time this summer in Pawtucket, he gave the Red Sox their first runs of the day. The 22-year-old (he’ll turn 23 in late-July) took a pitch down in the zone and blasted it out to the power alley in left-center field for a two-run shot. He also drew a walk in this game and struck out in his other plate appearance.

Those were the two most notable prospect performances in the early portion of today’s game. They also got an appearance from right-handed pitcher Frank German, the prospect who came over from the Yankees in the Adam Ottavino deal. He allowed two runs in two innings on a home run, a single, two walks and two strikeouts. Look for him to join Ward in Portland’s rotation. Jarren Duran also got the start in this one, but he had a rare rough day, striking out in all three trips to the plate.

Other Notes

  • As I said, while the prospects were certainly under the spotlight more than they’ve been for much of the spring, there were a few big leaguers on the field today. Franchy Cordero continued his quest to be ready for Opening Day, starting in left field and going 1-3 with a triple, a run and two strikeouts. Michael Chavis would take his roster spot if Cordero can’t go, and Chavis started at first base for this one, going 1-2 with a base hit, an RBI and a nice diving play in the field. Christian Arroyo and J.D. Martinez also started in this game, at second base and DH, respectively, and they both went hitless.
  • Also getting a hit who has not been mentioned yet was Nick Yorke, who did not start today but is another prospect who played on Friday and he went 1-2 with a double and a strikeout.
  • Also pitching in this game who has not been mentioned yet was: Seth Blair, a minor-league signing from last summer who figures to serve as emergency bullpen depth this year, and he allowed a run on a home run over 1 13 innings; Colten Brewer, who is likely on the outside looking in for the final spot in the Opening Day bullpen, and he struggled here, allowing three runs on two homers, two singles and four strikeouts over two innings of work; and Marcus Walden, who will start the year in Worcester as he tries to get back up to the majors following a rough 2020, and he struck out two in a perfect inning.