Rafael Devers’s eyes lit up when a reporter mentioned Yoan Moncada’s name.
The two are close, and played parts of two seasons together in the minors, but Devers always lived in his buddy’s shadow. Remember, it was Moncada who agreed to a record-setting $31.5 million signing bonus to join the Red Sox back in 2015.
The pair have since gone their separate ways: Devers, becoming the potential franchise cornerstone for the Red Sox, and Moncada, who was a part of the Chris Sale trade back in 2016, as a dominant force for the Chicago White Sox.
Nevertheless, Devers living in Moncada’s shadow still lingers.
Last week, Moncada agreed to a five-year $70 million contract extension, meaning he will have earned more than $100 million by the time he’s 30 years old. Devers, meanwhile, was recently renewed by the Sox at $692,500 for 2020.
“I’m not really looking at what someone else is getting,” Devers said Tuesday through team interpreter Bryan Almonte. “Like, obviously, I’m still focusing on myself right now. Extension talks, it will be great to have if it comes to that, but right now, I’m not really focused on that. I’m focused on playing the game.”
The idea of a Devers extension has lived in the backdrop of what has been a newsy spring training for the Red Sox. It’s just a hypothetical, though one both sides should consider. Yet the reality that the Sox renewed — and couldn’t agree to a contract — with Devers is a bit telling.
“Obviously, we’ve been in contact with everyone to try to come to an agreement on a contract, and that’s what we’re really going to wait on moving forward,” Devers said. “I feel fine. It’s not going to change the way I approach the game or how I work.”
The last player to renew and not agree was Mookie Betts back in 2017, when he earned $950,000. Devers, like Betts that year, is in his final year before arbitration. At the time, Betts said he didn’t agree because he saw value in taking a stand.
“I didn’t know that about Mookie,” Devers said. “I’m just focused on myself and what I’m dealing with, with my contract. I’m just trying to figure that part out.”
Brewer making a good impression
Colten Brewer struggled in his first season with the Red Sox. In 54⅔ innings, he registered a 4.12 ERA and was optioned twice.
This spring, however, Brewer has made quite the impression on interim manager Ron Roenicke. Brewer has a 2.16 ERA in 8⅓ innings, tossing 2⅔ innings of scoreless baseball Tuesday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“He’s throwing the ball great,” Roenicke said. “He’s so much more aggressive in the strike zone. Last year was kind of off and on. When he was in the strike zone, he was really good, and then he would get a little wild. Right now, what I see, he’s just getting after it.”
The Sox stretched Brewer out a good bit Tuesday. They plan to stretch him out even more his next outing, during a simulated game.
“We’re trying to extend him as long as we can,” Roenicke said, “but he’s going to be one of the guys that, depending on what we do with that fifth spot, he could be a big piece of that.”
The team doesn’t plan to start Brewer. Roenicke acknowledged that if they were, he would probably just have started him during the spring instead of bringing him in for relief.
“Right now we love the way he’s throwing the ball,” Roenicke added. “We just want to make sure he’s got the innings.”
Johnson’s role still not defined
Eduardo Rodriguez will most likely be the Opening Day starter. Nate Eovaldi probably will fill the No. 2 spot in the rotation, followed by Martin Perez. The rest, of course, is still a question mark. Brian Johnson could help fill the rotation, he could be a reliever, or he could be the pitcher to follow the opener.
He got the start Tuesday and didn’t do much to move the rotation needle. He threw 62 pitches in three innings, and allowed two runs while also walking three. He allowed the pair of runs in the first inning, but regrouped in the second and third.
“In the first inning, I was rushing a little bit,” Johnson said. “I was really driving off the backside. I would like to have made that adjustment sooner than later, but the second or third inning, I did.”
Johnson wants to win a job as a starter, but acknowledged that he’s ready to be utilized in whichever role the Sox see as the best fit. He had some success when the team used him in short spurts last year as a starter, and is willing to come in as the second pitcher if and when the Sox implement the opener tactic.
“It’s different thinking about it,” Johnson said. “Once they explained it to me last year, it kind of makes more sense, because your first three hitters are probably your best hitters. So, it’s just one less time you would have to turn a lineup over and face them. I have no problem with it.”
The Sox will reassess Chris Sale in 10-14 days, Roenicke said, after consulting with team trainers … Alex Verdugo took 20 swings in the cage for the first time on Monday, and swung again on Tuesday … The coronavirus has put teams on high alert. When a reporter asked Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins if he thinks his club, whom the Red Sox open against on March 26 in Toronto, potentially could open the season in an empty ballpark, he said, “I certainly hope not. I don’t envision that.”