Like many in Massachusetts, members of the Red Sox organization are waiting to find out when they’ll be able to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. But whether or not to get vaccinated has been left up to individual players and staff members throughout Major League Baseball, and it remains unclear how many will commit to the personal safety and public health measure.
MLB and the Players Association are trying to incentivize widespread vaccinations. Some of the COVID-19 protocols will be relaxed, both at and away from the park, for teams where 85 percent of Tier 1 individuals (comprised mostly of players, coaches, support staff, and high-ranking team officials) get vaccinated.
For instance, no more masks required in the bullpen and dugout. They can resume communal activities — playing video games, and cards in the clubhouse. They can dine indoors. Vaccinations also have competitive implications, as those who receive vaccines won’t automatically be subjected to contact tracing isolation should a member of the team test positive for COVID-19.
Manager Alex Cora said that he’ll get vaccinated, but reiterated it’s up to each member of the Red Sox to decide.
“There’s a lot of ongoing conversations about vaccinations, and obviously that’s something that the individual has to decide what he wants to do. We’ll talk about it,” said Cora. “We’ll bring people to explain the effects or aftereffects — or no effects — of the vaccine. But at the end, the player, the individual, the coach or whoever is in the organization will decide if he wants to do it.
“From my end, I’m all for it. Whenever I get a chance to do it, I’ll do it.”
Already, the Angels and Cardinals have announced that they’ve reached the 85 percent threshold. Cora did not hazard a guess as to whether the Red Sox will do so.
“Right now I can’t answer that question because I’m not sure if the information is there for them to make a decision,” said Cora.
Eddie ready, Houck on hold
The Red Sox believe Eduardo Rodriguez is beyond his dead arm struggles, and the lefthander will make his much-anticipated first start of the 2021 campaign — and his first since the final day of the 2019 season — on Thursday in Baltimore. The Sox believe Rodriguez is capable of five or six innings in his first outing.
“We do believe that he’s ready to go deep into the game,” said Cora.
It seems almost certain that righthander Tanner Houck, who was available out of the bullpen on Tuesday, will be sent to the alternate site in Worcester when Rodriguez joins Nate Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Nick Pivetta, and Martín Pérez in the rotation. Even with the Red Sox amidst a season-opening stretch of 24 games in 25 days, including scheduled games on 16 straight days starting on Saturday, Cora ruled out employing a six-man rotation, and Houck is the only starter who can be optioned to the minors.
Houck has excelled in four big league starts, going 3-1 with a 1.23 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 22 innings since his callup last September. Still, the Sox see him as a still-developing pitcher rather than a finished product.
“You can be successful here, but it doesn’t mean that you have checked all your boxes from our end,” said Cora. “You can keep getting better.”
A handful of gloves
Marwin Gonzalez said that he keeps eight gloves at Fenway, five of which travel with him ― four gamer gloves for his assortment of positions, as well as one for practice. Just four games into the season, he’d made use of a wide assortment of them, having started at first, second, third, and in left field. On Tuesday, Gonzalez finally made a repeat appearance at a position, getting the nod at first for a second straight night with Bobby Dalbec sitting out against Rays ace Tyler Glasnow. “I enjoy moving around,” said Gonzalez. “The times I get to play in my career for a week straight [at] just one position, it’s kind of weird. … It’s funny, but that’s weird now for me and the guys like Kiké [Hernández], too. You don’t play one position that many straight games” . . . Dalbec, 0-for-10 with five strikeouts and one walk, sat for a second straight day. Cora noted that Dalbec has struggled since taking a hard grounder off his right hand near the end of spring training and could benefit from another day of work behind the scenes. “He feels like there’s a few things that he’s working on, and he needs to do adjustment wise,” said Cora . . . Wednesday afternoon’s Red Sox-Rays game will be broadcast exclusively on YouTube. It can be found by searching for “MLB” either on YouTube’s website or the YouTube app on smart phones or smart TVs . . . The Rays placed outfielder Kevin Kiermaier (strained left quadriceps) on the injured list and called up infielder Kevin Padlo. Padlo made his major league debut as the starting third baseman, pulled for a pinch hitter after going 0 for 2.