Jeter Downs gets first callup on 'surreal' day

June 20th, 2022

BOSTON -- Jeter Downs might hesitate the next time he thinks about putting his phone on "do not disturb" mode. 

The Red Sox’s No. 5 prospect, as ranked by MLB Pipeline, hoped to snooze his Monday morning away with Triple-A Worcester having an off-day. 

That off-day turned out to be a monumental Monday that had the 23-year-old Downs rushing to Fenway Park after being called up by the Red Sox for his first taste of life in the Major Leagues.

“I got the call today around 10. So I was sleeping in a little and had my phone on ‘do not disturb’ so I could sleep,” said Downs. “So I missed a couple calls then [Chad Tracy], our manager [at Worcester] texted me, ‘Call me when you get a chance.’ 

“So I called him and he’s like, ‘You trying not to get to the big leagues?’ Or something like that. I was like, ‘It’s my off-day, I’m trying to sleep,’ and I couldn’t believe it. I started crying. It was pretty surreal. I can’t believe I just took BP here [at Fenway].”

Downs was the top prospect the Red Sox got in the deal in 2020 that sent Mookie Betts to the Dodgers

Though Downs has had some ups and downs since joining his third organization, the Red Sox felt the time was right to give him his first callup.

Downs' promotion comes as a result of Monday's deadline for teams to reduce the number of pitchers on active rosters to 13.  

With Kiké Hernández (right hip flexor) and Christian Arroyo (on the mend from COVID) both reasonably close to coming back, there’s a chance Downs will be at Fenway for just this three-game series against the Tigers and then go back to Worcester.

But he’s not complaining. In fact, Downs is slated to get his first MLB start on Wednesday night when the Tigers have lefty Tarik Skubal on the mound. 

“Like I said, I still can’t believe it happened and that I’m here and trying to take it in, every single second. Watch the older guys and how they go about their business and learn as much as possible.”

The right-handed-hitting shortstop has a slash line of .180/.297/.397 with 11 homers and 11 stolen bases this season at Triple-A. 

“It’s how you go about your business,” said Downs. “Sometimes you hit the ball hard, and things don’t fall. The batting average might say otherwise or vice versa. With some guys, things might be going their way and they’re not doing the right thing. I try to do my best each and every day to trust my process, my routine I have going and let everything else take care of itself. 

“I feel like I’m doing a better job controlling the strike zone. I’m just trying to focus on one pitch at a time, not think too much, not trying to think too much ahead of myself, control what I can control.”

Given the circumstances of his callup, Red Sox manager Alex Cora isn’t concerned about the stat line Downs has at Triple-A.  

“Yeah, I mean, obviously people look at the stat line and all that,” said Cora. “There’s more to it. He’s a good defender, good baserunner, right-handed hitter. Obviously, the situation with Kiké and Christian had to do with it. For a while there, Bobby [Dalbec] was our backup shortstop.”

Downs had time to get some of the most important people in his life at the ballpark for his first day in uniform. 

“My mom, my best friend and my girlfriend are here, and my brother,” said Downs. 

And there were many others who reached out to Downs during the chaotic day.

“Oh yeah, I had to put [my phone] aside, because there were too many messages,” said Downs. “Too many calls. Too many texts. Everyone out there wishing me congratulations, thank you. I’ll try to get back to you as soon as I can.”