Notes: Youth power; Kiké hits 1st; Nate's heat

February 28th, 2021

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Perhaps by next Spring Training or the one after, Jeter Downs will be spending his time in camp cementing a full-time job with the Red Sox.

In his current development phase, the team’s No. 1 prospect as rated by MLB Pipeline gets the chance to make impressions on people through Grapefruit League cameos.

In his first chance of the spring, in the fifth inning of Sunday’s 7-6 loss to the Twins, he belted a two-run homer to the opposite field in right. In the sixth inning, he smoked an RBI single to right-center.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was not with the club last season, so this is the first extended look he’s had of the middle infielder who came over from the Dodgers in that blockbuster trade for Mookie Betts and David Price.

“He’s a good player,” said Cora. “Everybody knows him. We like him a lot. Slow heartbeat, it seems like. Even during the drills, he puts good swings on the ball. Going opposite field for the homer, and he sat on a breaking ball [for the hit] up the middle. He’s part of the future.”

Given the lack of a Minor League season last year and the fact Downs has played just 12 games above Class A, expect him to start this season at Double-A Portland. If all goes well, he'll make it to Triple-A Worcester.

As far as when he gets to the big leagues, the Red Sox will monitor his progress, and it will happen when it is supposed to.

Downs had company in the power department on Sunday.

Bobby Dalbec, projected to open the season as Boston's starting first baseman, roped a solo shot to right-center in the second inning on the first pitch of his first at-bat. Dalbec hammered eight homers in 80 at-bats after getting called up last season.

Michael Chavis, who could be competing for the final bench spot, helped his cause by hammering a towering two-run shot to left to lead off the fifth.

Kiké leads off the spring
Kiké Hernández, an acquisition the Red Sox are excited about, hit leadoff on Sunday.

Cora hasn’t said who his leadoff man will be this season, but it appears that Hernández, who went 1-for-2, is at least a candidate.

“I'm going to challenge him,” said Cora. “This is a guy, he can impact the baseball. He can hit extra-base hits. I do believe that there's more there. We'll see where it takes us. Kind of like what I preached in '18, '19 -- if it's there, put a good swing on it. Hopefully he hits it out of the ballpark, off the wall or in the gap. We'll see. It's not that he's [definitely] going to be our [leadoff] guy, but I'll take a look at it.”

Nate brings heat, was in a rush
In his first outing of Spring Training, projected No. 2 starter Nathan Eovaldi had his heat, reaching back for 99.5 mph to blow a fastball past highly touted Twins prospect Alex Kirilloff.

What Eovaldi was lacking, however, was command. He threw 38 pitches and had to come out of the game after 1 1/3 innings. Eovaldi, who gave up two hits and two runs while striking out two, admitted that adrenaline was a factor in him not being as sharp as he would have liked.

“I feel like it was just tempo. I was excited to be out there,” said Eovaldi. “We had fans out there. It was great having them back in the ballpark. First game, I was just excited. I felt like I was rushing through my delivery. My offspeed wasn’t very good. My fastball was good. The cutter ... was the best pitch today. I felt like I was locating it pretty well. The curveball was good. The slider/splitter not so much. I was just rushing.”