Jeter Downs is beyond excited to be a part of Red Sox Nation and even more thrilled to have been added to their 60-man player pool last week, allowing him to travel north to work at the team’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, R.I. Just don’t do what perhaps any hospitable New Englander would do: Invite him for a bowl of clam chowder.
“I’m allergic,” Downs said with a laugh.
That’ll be the only thing the soon-to-be 22-year-old will be trying to avoid this summer. The team’s No. 1 prospect, ranked No. 44 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, is extremely happy to be north, just a phone call away from Fenway Park.
“Honestly, it’s a blessing just to be here instead of being at home,” Downs said. “Especially being from Miami, right now, it’s kind of tough down there. You can’t really do much. You can’t really leave; the city’s kind of shutting down again. It’s really satisfying being out here and being able to go out to the field and work every day. We all took it for granted before, but now with all of this going on, it’s something. … When you’re here, you have to make the most out of it because you never know again when something like this might happen and everything might shut down again. It’s definitely fun and it’s a great opportunity.”
Downs didn’t get much time to acclimate himself to his new surroundings this spring. Acquired as the top prospect in the Mookie Betts deal with the Dodgers this past offseason, he attended his first camp and appeared in 11 Grapefruit League games before the shutdown. He was just getting used to life in Fort Myers when everyone was sent home.
“I was just starting to get comfortable with people,” Downs said. “We were there for a month or so, you were starting to meet everybody, get used to them, familiar faces, remember names -- that’s the hardest part, remembering all the names -- and then shutting down, you have to restart.”
One ace Downs has up his sleeve is his older brother, Jerry, a 15th-round selection of the Red Sox in 2015. Having someone to guide him around the ins and outs of JetBlue Park and the facility in Florida made Jeter’s entry much smoother than when he was dealt from the Reds, who drafted him at the end of the first round of the 2017 Draft, to the Dodgers after the 2018 season.
“He made the transition so much easier than it was before,” Downs said. “When I was traded to the Dodgers, I didn’t really know anybody there, so having him here was a huge, huge help because he knows everybody. He was able to show me around the complex, where I had to go, where I had to be and things like that.”
Now that he knows everyone and everyone knows him, Downs can really focus on impressing the organization with what he can do on the field. He’s coming off a 20-20 season that saw him reach Double-A, and he was hoping to build on that in the upper levels of the Red Sox system. He’s kept himself in shape during the downtime, though he admits he needs to see more live pitching to be really ready. And even though his time in Pawtucket will largely be beneficial as a summer to work out with more experienced players, he wants to show the decision-makers he is indeed ready to make the relatively short drive to Boston should the need arise.
“I feel everything can get better,” Downs said about improvements he’s hoping to make this summer. “It’s definitely one of those things where I’m looking. … You never know what can happen. I want to be ready if that call comes. I don’t want to be caught on my heels, unprepared.
“It’s just one of those things I’m looking forward to and it’s just fun being out here. That’s the main part. I love and enjoy every single second of it.”
Because of his allergy to all things fish and seafood, he will, however, have to find another regional food to enjoy. Boston baked beans?
“I’ll try that,” he said.