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Red Sox 7, Rays 6: The Christian Koss Show

Yeah, ties are allowed this time of year.

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Boston Red Sox Photo Day Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

It looked like we were heading for a tie on Friday afternoon at JetBlue Park after the Red Sox rallied late to knot the score up at six. Christian Koss had other ideas, though. He hit two home runs on the day, and the second was a walk off job to give the Red Sox their second win of the spring. More notes on the game below.

Bobby Dalbec homers again

In Thursday’s spring opener against the Twins, the Red Sox largely went with young minor leaguers and depth players in the lineup, but Bobby Dalbec was the exception to that. He was the lone regular in the starting lineup, and sure enough in his first plate appearance of 2022 he went deep. Now on Friday, for a second straight day he left the yard. With men on the corners in the fourth, he got a pitch right in his wheelhouse over the middle of the plate and down in the zone. Once again, he did not miss. Dalbec launched a three-run shot out to left field for his second homer in as many days.

There’s not much else to say here because we kind of went over it yesterday, right? Dalbec is a bad man when he’s hot, and he has come into spring training hot. Does that mean he will get off to a hot start this season? Of course not. Well, not necessarily anyway. But it’s better than the alternative, isn’t it?

Nathan Eovaldi makes his spring training debut

Alex Cora announced this week that Nathan Eovaldi is going to be his Opening Day starter, which was certainly not a surprise after the Chris Sale injury news, and there was probably even a decent chance of that happening if Sale was healthy. Eovaldi’s road to that Opening Day nod began on Friday with his first outing of 2022. Overall it was a solid showing from the Red Sox ace, as he was perfect in his first two innings with three strikeouts in the process. But in the third he got into some trouble, giving up a pair of doubles — including one to old friend Esteban Quiroz — along with a single for a two-run inning. He did get through the inning, though.

Not that this wasn’t the case before Sale’s injury, but Eovaldi’s importance to this team only grows with that news. Boston has a rotation for which you can project a good performance if you really squint hard enough, but it undeniably has a lot of questions as well. They really need a high-level pitcher at the top, and Eovaldi showed last year, and in 2018, that he can be that guy when healthy. This was certainly not a perfect outing, but that’s not what you’re looking for in your first outing of the year. He got through it, and had a couple of really strong moments in the process. It’s all about getting ready for Opening Day, not dominating a spring training lineup.

Christian Koss, the hero

It’s March Madness down in the Grapefruit League too. We usually don’t recap the flow of a spring training game because, well, who cares? But Christian Koss made it worth it for this one. The Red Sox were down by a couple of runs in the eighth inning of this game, but Koss helped spark a comeback by leading off that inning with a solo home run crushed out to left field. Boston eventually tied the game, and it was still knotted up with two outs in the ninth, and Koss did it again. His second home run was a walk off, easily making him the star of this game.

Koss is an interesting prospect in the Red Sox system, first coming over prior to last season from the Rockies in exchange for Yoan Aybar in a move to clear space on the 40-man roster. Spending 2021 at High-A Greenville, Koss hit .271/.325/.451 over 468 plate appearances, hitting 15 homers and 18 doubles while also stealing 10 bags. He should get the bulk of the time at shortstop at Double-A Portland this season, and a couple years down the line he has the profile of a potential utility man who can cover all infield spots so long as his bat continues to develop. If Friday was any indication, it will.

Other Notes

  • Perhaps Christian Arroyo heard those Trevor Story rumors, because he came to play in this one. Getting the start at second base, Arroyo came through with singles in each of his two at bats in this game. Right now, he is slotted to start at second base, though a move with Story would certainly displace him. Arroyo is a solid player and can be a workable option at second in a good lineup, though he’s had trouble staying on the field consistently.
  • We got a look at a couple of the top depth options in terms of relievers in this one, with both Kaleb Ort and Durbin Feltman getting into this game. The former struggled a bit, allowing a run on two singles in his inning of work. Feltman, though, was perfect, retiring all three batters he faced. Barring multiple injuries, neither is likely to make the roster out of spring training, but they are names to watch as the season rolls along.
  • We also got looks at Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and Jackie Bradley Jr. in this game, with those three starting at shortstop, third base, and center field, respectively. It wasn’t a great showing, though. The trio went a combined 1-6 with a walk and a single, striking out twice.
  • Other players getting hits in this game were: Tyreque Reed, a first baseman who got off to a hot start last year but struggled to keep it going; Ceddanne Rafaela, who is looking good in these first two games and is a young super utility player to keep an eye on the next couple years; Jeter Downs, who is looking for a bounce back year after a brutally tough 2021; and Izzy Wilson, a minor-league signing this past winter who has spent his career to this point in the Angels organization.
  • Other pitchers in this game who have not been mentioned were: Brian Keller, a minor-league Rule 5 selection from this winter who struggled in this one, allowing three runs in 1 23 innings on two walks and a home run while also striking out three; Joan Martinez, who longtime readers will know is a personal favorite of mine and came in to get the last out in Keller’s second inning; Silvino Bracho, a recent minor-league signing with some big-league experience who worked around a single for a scoreless inning with a strikeout; and Victor Santos, who was acquired last year for C.J. Chatham and worked around a double and a walk for a scoreless inning.