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Red Sox 4, Braves 5: Another rough day for Garrett Richards

The righty is working through some mechanical issues.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox, coming off a cancelled game on Saturday and coming ahead of a day off on Monday, played a rare nine-inning affair on Sunday against the Braves to try and make up for some lost action. It was a close game (not that we really care about wins and losses), but the Braves got the win. The big story for Boston here was a second shaky start for Richards to start his 2021. Here are all the notes from the day:

Another rough day for Garrett Richards

New Red Sox starter Garrett Richards was the first pitcher in the projected rotation to get a second start this spring, trying to come back strong after struggling with control in his first outing. To be fair, in that first outing he struggled in his first inning of work but looked much better in the second. This time around he was scheduled to go three frames, but that is not what happened. Once again, Richards struggled with his command and while the stuff looked mostly sharp, it doesn’t matter if it’s not going where it’s supposed to. Going up against a lineup full of Braves regulars (one of the best lineups in baseball), the righty gave up a single and a double while issuing two walks and throwing a wild pitch in a three-run first. He was a little sharper in his second inning, but not by much. There, he allowed another run on a triple and two walks. As stated above, due to pitch count he didn’t get a third frame.

This is certainly not the first impression Richards was looking for in a new uniform, nor was it the initial look fans were hoping to get from the new rotation member. That said, we’re obviously talking about two spring starts, so the common refrain of not worrying too much about these results very much still stands. Over his career, Richards has generally hung around league-average with his control, so two rough outings in the spring won’t take me off that expectation. For what it’s worth, after the game he said he is still trying to get his mechanics right and that things are a bit out of whack right now timing-wise. Righting those issues is exactly what spring is for. If we’re still seeing this in a couple weeks, my concern level will raise. But for now, it’s slightly annoying in that watching good pitching is better than the alternative, but it’s not a major concern for the regular season.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Good starts continue

A few hot springs continued here on Sunday for the lineup. Kiké Hernández continued to make the case for himself atop the Red Sox lineup, smoking a single in his first at bat of the game. He went 1-2 this afternoon and has a .750 OBP through all of 12 plate appearances. Meanwhile, Michael Chavis has done well himself. He stayed in the yard in this one, but he did smack a double and draw a walk in this one. He’s got a 1.462 OPS early on. And then finally, Yairo Muñoz has responded to his surprise DFA with a good start to his spring. He had a big two-run double off the bench and then a single in his next at bat. He’s at a 1.418 spring OPS.

As far as the season ahead for these three, Hernández obviously has his spot on the roster locked up, and he will be nearly an everyday player, though where he plays is still not entirely clear. He got the start at second in this one, for what it’s worth. The real question, though, is where he hits in the lineup. I’ve stated my disagreement with the idea of him hitting leadoff and still feel that way, but to his credit he has very much taken to the public challenge he got from Alex Cora to prove he can succeed in that role.

For Chavis and Muñoz, they very much are battling for a roster spot out of camp. They both started the spring on the outside looking in and are likely still there, but it’s worth noting today that Cora indicated there’s a chance Franchy Cordero will not be ready for Opening Day after this late start that has been brought on by hitting the COVID list. He is making his way back, but he seems to be right on the edge as far as being ready to start the season.

If he can’t, a bench spot opens up and Chavis and Muñoz both figure to be right in that competition. Chavis has the edge in that he is on the 40-man, but they may want to get him more consistent at bats, even if it’s just at the Alternate Site. Danny Santana, who’s signing was made official today, also figures to be part of that competition were it to come to pass.

Other Notes

  • Matt Barnes, who as we have noted is fighting for the closer role in one of the lone “battles” in Red Sox camp this year, got his first appearance of the spring. He looked fantastic in his one inning of work, retiring all three batters he faced including a pair of strikeouts, with the final one coming against Ronald Acuña Jr. Just like with Richards, we’re not buying too much into one outing here, but it’s a good foundation on which to build for Barnes.
  • We got some looks at a few potential big-league relievers after Barnes as well. Josh Taylor and Colten Brewer each tossed a scoreless inning. Neither of these two are guaranteed an Opening Day spot, but I expect Taylor to make it with Brewer starting out at the Alternate Site. Garrett Whitlock is a near-lock, but after a good first outing he got hit around here on Sunday. The righty allowed a run on four hits over two innings. To his credit, though, he did strikeout three and in his second inning he worked out of a two-on, nobody out jam.
  • Also pitching in this game who has not been mentioned was: Josh Winckowski, part of the return in the Andrew Benintendi trade who tossed a perfect third with a strikeout.
  • Also getting hits in this game who have not been mentioned were: Marcus Wilson, who came in off the bench to play center field and went 1-3 with a single, a run scored and a strikeout; Hunter Renfroe, who got the start in right field and went 1-3 with a single; Michael Gettys, who came in as a sub for Renfroe and went 1-2 with a double, a run scored and a strikeout; Christian Arroyo, who came in as a sub at second base and went 1-2 with an RBI single and a run scored; and Marwin Gonzalez, who started as the DH today and went 1-3 with a single and a strikeout.