Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis, Mo Vaughn and Ellis Burks are rejoining the Red Sox, this time in broadcasting roles.
NESN announced its 2021 Red Sox broadcast lineup on Friday afternoon, and three former members of the Red Sox will make their debuts as part of the Boston media.
Play-by-play man Dave O’Brien is back in the booth for his 31st year as a baseball broadcaster, sixth as NESN’s lead voice, and he’ll be alongside Jerry Remy and Dennis Eckersley on a regular basis.
Burks, 56, played seven years with the Sox from 1987-92, then again briefly in 2004. He will be a regular contributor to the pre-game and post-game shows. He’ll also fill-in as an in-game color analyst in the booth, though NESN didn’t specify how often. He’s worked for the Indians, Rockies and Giants in various roles since retiring after the ’04 season.
Papelbon, Vaughn and Youkilis will join the NESN broadcast once a week to break down the action before and/or after the game. None of them have regular broadcasting experience, but were interesting quotes during their tenures as Red Sox players.
Papelbon, 40, was notoriously unpredictable during his interviews, often dropping hilarious one-liners and unexpected commentary, while Youkilis, 42, was more straightforward, but often very thoughtful in his on-camera interactions. Vaughn, 53, was perhaps more soft-spoken but never without confidence.
Jim Rice, Lenny DiNardo and Tim Wakefield will continue to be regular parts of the pre- and post-game coverage.
NESN has often tried out former big leaguers, but rarely had a lineup as distinguished as the one this year.
There will also be a change in the sideline reporting duties, with Jahmai Webster taking over for Guerin Austin.
At this point it would be the shocker of the century if the Red Sox send Garrett Whitlock back to the minor leagues.
A Rule 5 pick from the New York Yankees, the right-hander has dominated all spring and took another step forward Friday during the Sox’ 11-7 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, throwing three scoreless innings while striking out five. He allowed just one hit.
In nine innings out of relief, Whitlock has struck out 12 and allowed just a single run.
“I’m very excited for him,” said starter Nathan Eovaldi, who watched Whitlock throw on Friday. “The first time I saw him throw in spring training, it was early in camp, and I was very impressed. He’s got a great changeup, he’s got great command, he’s quiet. He’s very focused and determined to be a part of this team, and he’s doing everything. He’s going about his business the right way.”
Coming off Tommy John surgery, the 24-year-old wasn’t added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster before the Rule 5 deadline in December, making him eligible to be selected. Given the Sox’ poor finish in 2020, they had a low enough pick in the draft (No. 4 overall) to steal a pitcher who could factor into Alex Cora’s bullpen. The Sox have to keep him on the big league roster all year or offer him back to the Yankees.
“I’m not surprised with what he’s been able to do out there on the field just because of the way he’s handling himself in and around the clubhouse and out there in the bullpen,” Eovaldi said. “He’s kind of our secret weapon right there. He’s looking great.”
Struggles continue for Eovaldi
Eovaldi allowed five runs on eight hits over four innings, striking out five. He has a 10.61 ERA this spring.
“Early on, I feel like their approach was hunting my fastball,” he said. “Fastball and the cutter. I felt like they were staying hard on that. It took me too long to make the adjustment, took me two innings. By then the damage was already done. The last two innings I switched it up, more off-speed, keeping them out in front. And it showed.
“A little too late (to make adjustments), but (it’s) spring training. We won’t be making those same mistakes during the season.”
Cordero’s status creates competition
Oft-injured outfielder Franchy Cordero, acquired from the Royals in the Andrew Benintendi trade, is likely to make his Red Sox debut on Saturday as the designated hitter. He got a late start after he contracted the coronavirus. The Sox are hopeful he can play the outfield on Monday, but Cora said the team will be careful with him given his injury history. Opening Day remains a question for him.
Meanwhile, Christian Arroyo and Michael Chavis are battling it out for the final roster spot and Cora said he’s been impressed with both. Both could make the team if Cordero isn’t ready to go. Chavis still has minor league options.
Utility man Danny Santana was cleared after a foot injury, but is not yet ready to get back to baseball activities. Ryan Brasier remains behind due to a late start in spring training. ... Jeter Downs is likely to return from a minor injury this weekend. ... Top prospect Triston Casas hit a game-tying, RBI single in the eighth inning for his first hit of the spring. ... Jarren Duran was 4-for-5 and is hitting .407 with a 1.263 OPS this spring. ... Chavis was 2-for-2 with his fifth homer of the spring. He’s hitting .317 with a 1.168 OPS.