There’s not many better ways to encapsulate what spring training baseball means than a walk off homer being hit but the other team stays on the field because they don’t realize it was a seven-inning game on the schedule today. The good news is, the Red Sox were the homering team, not the staying on the field team. Boston got back to .500 this spring thanks to a Michael Chavis walk off to get the 6-5 victory over the Rays. Here are some notes from the day.
Eduardo Rodriguez makes his return
Chavis’s swing was the story as far as the result of the game, but it was the Red Sox starter that was the actual story of the game. Boston got Eduardo Rodriguez back on the mound for his first start since he contracted COVID last summer and subsequently, as a result, myocarditis. After his outing, he said he felt like he was making his big-league debut all over again, that’s how excited he was. The lefty wasn’t perfect in the outing, but he also looked solid, particularly given all of the circumstances. Rodriguez ended up going 2 2⁄3 innings, allowing two hits, including a solo homer to Moises Gomez that resulted in the lone run off the Red Sox starter in the game, hitting one batter and striking out two.
The results there are just fine, but it was great that he was able to make it into the third — that’s deeper than any Red Sox pitcher to this point in spring — and by all accounts he felt fine after. Personally, I’ve been a bit nervous about how he was going to be able to work his way up this spring, but the early returns show that all of the comments saying he was just fine and gearing up for a normal spring were on the money. Obviously we’ll want to see how he feels tomorrow, but so far so good. We’ll see how long they go for his next outing.
Michael Chavis walks it off
Before the seventh and final inning, the Red Sox offense hadn’t really been stagnant but there also wasn’t really any performances of note. That changed in the game’s final frame. The Rays had a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh, but Jonathan Araúz got on to lead off the inning thanks to an error. A couple batters later, Chavis showed off his power, blasting one the other way for the two-run shot to give Boston the win. It was Chavis’s second homer of the spring, and also made up for an error he made in the sixth that led to two runs and what ended up giving the Rays their lead in the first place.
Coming into camp, Chavis was one of the players for whom their performance was most important. After getting a chance last season and not making the most of it, he came into 2021 on the outside looking in for the Red Sox infield picture and has gotten some challenging publicly from his manager as well. We all know the deficiencies in Chavis’s game, with the swing and miss topping that list, but the power still plays when he makes enough contact. He’ll likely need an injury to start the season in the majors regardless of what happens this spring, but he’s started off his spring going 3-8 with a pair of homers and, perhaps even more importantly, just one strikeout.
- Rodriguez’s debut deservedly got most of the headlines, but Alex Verdugo also made his first appearance of the spring. He started in center field for this one and smacked a double in his first at bat of the game, helping spark a four-run first. He went 1-2 in the game.
- Enrique Hernández got another chance in the leadoff spot in this one and continued to get on base. He didn’t get a hit on Friday, but he did draw a walk in that aforementioned big first inning. He now has a totally-sustainable .800 OBP in this first week of spring training.
- Also getting hits in this game who have not been mentioned yet were: Marwin Gonzalez, who got the start at first base and went 1-2, knocking in a run with a double in that first inning; Hunter Renfroe, who got the start in right field and went 1-2, knocking in a run with a single in that first inning; Christian Vázquez, who got the start behind the plate and went 1-2 with a base hit; and Christian Arroyo, who got the start at second base and went 1-2 with a base hit and also got caught stealing.
- Also pitching in this game who have not been mentioned yet were: Thad Ward, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects who faced just one batter to finish the third after Rodriguez and got a line out; Kyle Hart, who is looking to bounce back after a disastrous 2020 major-league debut and allowed two runs over two innings of work on Friday, but did strike out five in the process; and Kevin McCarthy, a minor-league signing with major-league experience who allowed two unearned runs in two innings of work.