Kyle Hart was called into a meeting with Red Sox minor league director Ben Crockett, Triple A manager Billy McMillon, and two of the pitching coaches at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket earlier this week.
They told the lefthander that Major League Baseball was fining him for not wearing his mask when he was supposed to.
Hart, knowing such a thing could well happen, was worried for a second.
Then he was told he could pay his fine at Fenway Park … because he was being called up to face the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday afternoon.
Even in a pandemic, pranking a player on his way to the big leagues for the first time continues.
Hart was quick to call his family and friends with the good news. In a normal season, they’d all be on their way to Fenway Park, but they will settle for watching on television instead.
“It totally is a disappointment. But it’s something everybody is dealing with,” Hart said. “We all kind of have to lean on each other.”
Ryan Hart decided to fly to Boston anyway. He plans to find a bar near Fenway and watch his brother pitch from there.
“That’s just who he is,” Kyle Hart said. “I’d love to be able to wave at him.”
Righthander Aaron Slegers, one of Hart’s college teammates, was called up by the Rays on Wednesday. He made his major league debut in 2017.
Slegers was thrilled when he heard Hart was getting a chance.
“I jumped up out of my chair and gave a little shout in my hotel room,” he said. “I made a point when pitchers were stretching out there on the field to walk out there and give him a little chest bump congratulations from the opposite foul line, a socially distant congratulations.”
That Hart is starting a major league game in the first place is its own story.
He had Tommy John surgery in 2014 while playing for the University of Indiana. The Red Sox liked Hart enough to select him in the 19th round of the draft in 2016, but they invested only a $5,000 signing bonus.
“I wanted to give it a shot. I didn’t know how much I’d love it,” he said.
Most college draft picks start out at Lowell in the New York-Penn League. Hart was sent to the Gulf Coast League Red Sox with the high school kids.
But Hart posted a 3.13 earned run average in 77 games, 71 of them starts. At 27, he’ll make his debut.
“None of this was handed to me. I earned every drop of it,” Hart said. “I’m going to continue to earn every drop of it.”
Hart doesn’t throw hard but attacks hitters with a variety of pitches. He changes angles and speeds. In essence, he knows how to pitch.
The Red Sox have been running what amounts to a tryout camp on the mound with an assortment of no-hopers getting opportunities.
At least Hart is a product of the organization. As manager Ron Roenicke noted, it’s a good day for the people who worked with Hart along the way.
Aaron Judge was out of the lineup for the Yankees on Wednesday with what was described as lower-body soreness by manager Aaron Boone.
His status for the four-game series against the Red Sox that starts Friday in the Bronx is uncertain.
“That’s a long way from now,” Boone said.
Judge hit .290 with nine home runs and 20 RBIs through his first 17 games. He was 4 for 12 in three games against the Sox earlier this season with four home runs and eight RBIs.
Eovaldi pushed back
Nate Eovaldi, who started on Sunday, will not pitch again until Saturday against the Yankees. The Sox decided to give him an extra day off. “We all thought that was really the best way to do it,” Roenicke said. “I know Nate still wants to come back and pitch on his fifth day. But whenever we can do it, we’d like to take care of those starters.” The Sox have not named a starter for Friday night. Martin Perez would be available for Sunday … Michael Chavis beat himself up after the game Tuesday after a mental error at second base, saying he has worked hard on defense since being drafted. He started at first base on Wednesday and misplayed the first ball hit his way. He later got a ball stuck in the webbing of his glove and couldn’t throw home on what should have been an out. The Rays went on to a 9-5 victory … Tampa Bay used righthander Andrew Kittredge to get the final two outs against the Red Sox on Monday, then started him against the Sox on Tuesday. Kittredge lasted only two batters before leaving the game with an elbow injury that proved to be a sprained ulnar collateral ligament. He was placed on the 45-day injured list and is likely to require Tommy John surgery.