D. Hernandez still in mix for Sox bullpen

Pearce exits for precautionary reasons; Price scratched with illness

March 17th, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox top lefty prospect Darwinzon Hernandez has pitched just six innings at Double-A in his career, which would seem to make it a long shot that he could break camp with the team.

But this isn’t a conventional spring for the Red Sox when it comes to the bullpen.

There is a wide-open competition for the last couple of spots, and Hernandez should not be ruled out, according to manager Alex Cora.

Hernandez is ranked No. 4 among Red Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline, and first among pitchers.

"I think he's in the running, yeah," said Cora. "He’s impressed people obviously with his stuff."

With a full arsenal of pitches, Hernandez projects as a starter in the long term. But for the short term, he could be a valuable lefty out of the 'pen for the Red Sox.

"We know what he can do and what he needs to do to be a starter," said Cora. "He's been good. Working on a few things delivery-wise, stuff-wise. [Catcher] Sandy [Leon] actually brought up some points yesterday, which was good, having Sandy behind the plate and seeing what the kid has and talking to him about his stuff. I think it's going to help him out. We don't rule out anything right now. Like I've been saying all along, everybody that's here has a shot."

Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree and Brian Johnson are the four relievers who are certain to make the roster. Brandon Workman, Hector Velazquez, Colten Brewer and Tyler Thornburg are also in the running, as is the 22-year-old Hernandez.

Cora said Hernandez will probably pitch in relief again for Tuesday’s home game against the Blue Jays. In five games this spring, two of which have been starts, Hernandez has a 0.90 ERA and 12 strikeouts over 10 innings.

Pearce exits with leg ailment

In the split-squad game in Bradenton vs. the Pirates, first baseman Steve Pearce grounded out in the top of the first inning and then didn't take his position for the bottom of the first. The reason? A lower left leg injury.

Pearce said he left the game, an 8-1 loss, for precautionary reasons.

"I'm not worried about it at all," Pearce told reporters in Bradenton.

Cora echoed Pearce's sentiments.

"He’s OK. He was a little bit tight, his calf," said Cora. "I just saw [president of baseball operations] Dave [Dombrowski] and he should be fine."

Price scratched with illness

Lefty David Price was supposed to make his second start of Spring Training on Sunday at home against the Rays, but Cora announced a few hours before the first pitch that he was sent home with an illness.

Brian Johnson filled in for Price and gave up two hits and two runs over 2 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out three in the Red Sox's 3-2 win.

"I just talked to [Price]," said Cora. "He's feeling better. It started yesterday, so hopefully he can come in tomorrow and play catch and get back into the groove and the program. We just have to wait and see."

Futures game

With the Red Sox short on available players due to Sunday's split-squad action, 19-year-old prospect Triston Casas was called up from Minor League camp for the first time this spring.

Casas, who was Boston's first-round Draft pick last June, played first base and had two plate appearances in the win against the Rays and worked a tough walk and struck out. The walk came against Emilio Pagan, who has 89 Major League pitching appearances.

Casas left a good first impression on Cora.

"That was a great at-bat, wow," Cora said of the walk. "Controlled the strike zone, guy had good stuff, actually great stuff, he took a breaking ball, I think it was 1-2, saw it well, then Pagan threw a cutter inside, he took it. Pretty good at-bat, that was cool to see."

Up next

Hard-throwing righty Nathan Eovaldi makes his second start of Spring Training on Monday when the Red Sox take the short bus ride across town to play the Twins. Barnes and Workman, two important pieces to the bullpen, should also see action. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.