The Red Sox had won their first three games of the spring heading into Sunday’s game, which we all know is extremely important in evaluating a team’s chances come regular season time. (This is sarcasm, just in case that wasn’t clear.) They added a fourth win to that total with a victory over the Orioles, using a three-run third to win this one 3-2. Also, they signed Trevor Story today, which is neat. Here are some takeaways from today’s game.
Tanner Houck makes his spring debut
In the wake of the rib injury to Chris Sale that will keep him out for an undetermined but presumably fairly significant amount of time, it seems as though Tanner Houck is going to get the first shot filling that slot in the rotation, which is certainly no surprise given the upside he’s shown in that role. He made his first start of 2022 on Sunday, and it was a bit of a mixed bag.
His first inning was mostly fine, with an extra emphasis on “mostly.” That’s because the second batter of the game was infielder Ramon Urías, who got a pitch — it looked like it was a two-seamer to me, but I’m not certain on that — up and away that was a little two straight and he drove it out to right field for a solo shot. There was more trouble in the second as well, with Houck walking the first two batters and three of the first four, but was helped out by his defense (more on that down below) to get out of the inning unscathed. He’d come back out to retire two batters to start the third before being taken out for pitch count reasons.
The overall stat line here isn’t going to look great for Houck, who walked three and struck out two while allowing a home run in 2 2⁄3 innings of work, but there was some good in here as well. Specifically, he threw a few sweeping sliders that remains one of the very best pitches on the entire Red Sox staff when he’s commanding it. We’re not going to get too many answers about his ability to go deeper into the game in spring training, which is the biggest thing holding him back from being a sure-fire future starter, but he’s at least getting the innings in and mixing in some positives along with the command issues on display here.
- The two players potentially most affected by the aforementioned Story signing were Christian Arroyo, who loses his presumed spot as the starting second baseman, and Xander Bogaerts, who stays at shortstop for now but also has his long-term future with the club suddenly in question. Both players got the start in this one, and they had the only two extra-base hits for Boston on the day with contributing a double.
- We mentioned above that Houck was helped out by his defense to get out of the bases loaded jam, and it was Jackie Bradley Jr. reminding us what he can do on that side of the ball. Baltimore tried to push things a little too aggressively on a relatively shallow fly ball to center field, and Bradley showed off the cannon of an arm that we all know and love, gunning down the runner at the plate to keep the Orioles off the board. Coming off a season in which he was arguably the worst hitter in the majors in 2021, Bradley really shouldn’t be playing every day to start the season, but this was a reminder that his defense can be extremely valuable off the bench and in a part-time role.
- Beyond Houck, we got a look at a handful of interesting prospects on the cusp of the majors on the mound as well. Kutter Crawford is had the best day of that group, throwing a perfect inning with two of those three outs coming by way of the K. Josh Winckowski, meanwhile, had a bit of a tougher day, getting through a scoreless inning and striking out one, but allowing a double and a single in the process. Both of those guys figure to serve as rotation/long relief depth this year.
- Meanwhile, Durbin Feltman gave up the other run of the day, allowing a solo shot to Yusniel Diaz, a young outfielder Baltimore received in the Manny Machado trade a few years back. It looked like Feltman was trying to get a fastball down in the zone by Diaz on a full count, but left it belt-high and it was smoked. Closing out the game was Eduard Bazardo, trying to come back from an injury-riddled 2021. Bazardo allowed a double but otherwise was perfect in a scoreless inning of work. Both Feltman and Bazardo figure to be among the first relievers to be called up this year, and are also arguably the two most exciting.
- Also getting hits in this game who have not been mentioned were: J.D. Martinez, who got the start at DH and went 1-3 with an RBI single; Bobby Dalbec, who stayed in the yard in this one but went 1-2 with a single while starting at first base and later shifting over to third; Kevin Plawecki, who started behind the plate and got a single in his lone plate appearance; Franchy Cordero, who got the start in right and went 1-2 with a single; Gilberto Jimenez, who came in off the bench in left field and had a single in his lone at bat; and Kole Cottam, an underrated bat-first catching prospect in the system who went 1-3 with a single.
- Also pitching in this game who has not been mentioned was: Geoff Hartlieb, a waiver claim from last September who recorded the last out of the third after Tanner Houck was removed; Taylor Cole, another recent minor-league signing who hit one batter in an otherwise perfect inning; and Tyler Danish, yet another recent minor-league signing who struck out two in a perfect inning of work.