Arroyo crushes grand slam in two-homer game

Abreu tacks on second slam, Houck goes 1 2/3 innings in spring debut

March 2nd, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Even if Christian Arroyo wasn’t Plan A to start at second base for the Red Sox this season, the team is plenty confident he will do the job as Plan B.

And if Arroyo wants to go into power mode like he did in Thursday’s 15-3 rout of the Phillies, all the better.

The right-handed hitter mashed a solo shot into the Boston bullpen in right field in the second inning and followed with a grand slam that soared over the replica Monster and out of JetBlue Park an inning later.

The opposite-field shot was the most surprising. Did Arroyo know he had enough pop to hit one roughly 380 feet to right field? He had never done that at Fenway, so he was a little surprised he made it at happen with the same dimensions at JetBlue Park.

“My best bolt I can remember from the last two years [to right field] was against Miami. I hit a 2-2 heater middle away and I one-hopped the bullpen and I thought that was the best bolt I had,” Arroyo said. “And then I hit another one actually against Philly right before the All-Star break in ‘21 that hit the top of the fence and I thought that was it. So to be able to finally clear it, it felt pretty good.”

The plan going into the season was for Trevor Story to play shortstop with Kiké Hernández getting the nod at second base. Arroyo would be back in his familiar utility role. But when Story underwent an internal bracing procedure on his right elbow in January, things changed.

Hernández will play short and Arroyo will get most of the reps at second. Story’s timetable to return is unclear, but it is unlikely to be prior to the All-Star break.

“I've literally just tried to do exactly what I've done every year and not overthink it,” said Arroyo. “I think that's the thing for me is, I feel like I expect perfection from myself all the time in a game that failure is so common. But especially now when you're gonna get more opportunity, you can't ride the highs and the lows.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora is confident in his second baseman.

“I've been saying all along, he's a good player,” said Cora. “It’s just, we’ve got to keep him on the field -- that’s the most important thing. We will protect him. When everybody's healthy, we'll protect all of them. I think we're deep enough that we can accomplish that.”

A second slam … by Abreu

The ball was flying out of JetBlue Park on Thursday. Wilyer Abreu, who was acquired along with Enmanuel Valdez in the trade with the Astros for Christian Vázquez last August, unloaded for a grand slam over the visitor’s bullpen in the seventh.

Cora has raved the past week or so about Abreu and Valdez.

“Beautiful,” Cora said of Abreu’s swing on the slam. “I'm telling you that those two kids, they're really good hitters, they are. They control the strike zone and they’re not afraid to let it go and they do damage and it was a good matchup for him down in the zone, and he put a great swing on it. It was good to see.”

Houck rusty in debut

Red Sox righty Tanner Houck, trying to earn a spot in the starting rotation, looked rusty in his first game appearance in nearly seven months. Houck missed the final seven weeks of last season due to a balky back that required surgery.

Facing the Phillies, Houck had four walks while lasting just 1 2/3 innings. His goal this season is to throw more strikes.

“It’s good to honestly be out there for the first time,” said Houck. “Results aren’t exactly what I wanted, but that’s OK. First one of the year, knocked the rust off, now get back to work, come back in tomorrow and watch video with [pitching coach Dave Bush]. I felt a little quick on the mound the whole time. I was just leaving the arm hanging behind. But I know what to do. I know how to make the adjustment. That’s all I can really do.”