FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A rare Red Sox prospect who has flown under the radar, lefty reliever Bobby Poyner has emerged as a legitimate candidate to make the team.It would be an impressive climb for Poyner, who came to camp as a non-roster invitee after splitting last season between Class
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A rare Red Sox prospect who has flown under the radar, lefty reliever Bobby Poyner has emerged as a legitimate candidate to make the team.
It would be an impressive climb for Poyner, who came to camp as a non-roster invitee after splitting last season between Class A Advanced Salem and Double-A Portland. Poyner, 25, was a 14th-round pick by the Red Sox in the 2015 Draft out of the University of Florida.
"He's in the mix," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "He's a guy that deception comes into play. He can get lefties and righties. That changeup plays and that fastballs plays, too. His poise on the mound is great."
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Cora doesn't mind the fact that Poyner has never pitched in Triple-A.
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"You look at the numbers and they're impressive. If you can pitch you can pitch. There are a lot of people who have made the jump from Double-A to the big leagues, from A-ball to the big leagues or not play in the Minor Leagues to the big leagues. He understands his craft. He's confident."
Though he did allow an inherited runner to score in Saturday's 4-3 win over the Rays, Poyner bounced back by striking out Carlos Gomez to end the inning.
Poyner, who is ranked No. 23 among Red Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline, doesn't mind the fact he's never gotten much hype. A lot of it has to do with the fact he's not a high-velocity guy.
"I've never really been on any of the prospect lists or anything like that," Poyner said. "Just trying to get outs at every level and go from there."
Poyner joins Robby Scott and Roenis Elias as lefties trying to win a spot in the bullpen. In eight Grapefruit League outings, Poyner has a 1.23 ERA and five strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.
The numbers Poyner put up at Double-A last year (0.94 ERA, 52 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings) are eye-opening.
They didn't happen by accident.
"When I went from Low A to High A and I struggled, I was working with Paul Abbott, the pitching coach there, and we changed the way I was kind of holding my changeup and really just kind of fine-tuning that," said Poyner.
The changeup is the pitch he got Gomez to chase.
"It's become huge," Poyner said. "It's been my best pitch the last couple of years."
After pitching in big games throughout his career at the University of Florida, the electric crowd at Fenway Park wouldn't be much of a culture shock.
Travis rakes away, but no path to roster spot
Sam Travis, ranked No. 5 among Red Sox prospects by Pipeline, mashed a three-run homer over the Green Monster on Saturday. Travis leads the Red Sox with four homers and 13 RBIs this spring. But it would take an injury to another player for Travis to crack Boston's roster.
What is the message for Travis, given he seems to be blocked in his path to the Majors at this point?
"To keep playing hard, keep working. There's always other stuff he can do to get better," Cora said. "Versatility is one of them. We've seen him play left field. He'll play more left field this week. But that's something that we'll make sure he does. Make him as versatile as possible."
Swihart to test hot corner Sunday
Blake Swihart has already played catcher, first base and left field this spring. He will add another position to the mix on Sunday when he plays third base for the Red Sox in Bradenton.
When was the last time Swihart played third?
"Probably my senior year in high school," Swihart said. "I've got to get a lot of reps in and practice in, but errors happen all the time. If they happen, they happen. I just have to get my feet wet and try it out. Spring Training is to get practice in so just have to go out and do it."
Moreland mashes one
In a fight for playing time given Boston's logjam at first base and DH, Mitch Moreland took an impressive swing on Saturday, blistering a solo shot into the bullpen in right-center to open the bottom of the fifth.
It was Moreland's second homer of Spring Training. With J.D. Martinez now in the fold, Moreland is sharing first base with Hanley Ramirez. There will also be some rotating when Martinez plays the outfield and Ramirez can DH, which will give Moreland other opportunities to be in the lineup.
"Good swing," said Cora. "With Mitch, it's about timing right now. He hasn't had too many at-bats so he played yesterday, he played today, he's playing tomorrow, trying to get them into rhythm. We all know what kind of hitter he is. He can hit the ball out of the ballpark, and he can also shoot it the other way in the air and hit the wall. Very comfortable with that."
Left-hander Christopher Johnson, who is trying to win a spot in the rotation, takes the ball for Sunday's 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Pirates in Bradenton. Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vazquez and Moreland are all scheduled to be in the lineup. The game can be seen on MLB.TV.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.