Franchy Cordero wasn’t in Sunday’s lineup with the Mariners starting lefthander Nick Margevicius on the mound. But Cordero’s recent results — 1-for-22 with 14 strikeouts his last eight games — have raised questions about whether he’ll be able to maintain his role as a left-handed platoon option in left field.
For the season, Cordero is hitting .200/.265/.244, striking out in 23 of 49 plate appearances, a gruesome 46.9 percent that ranks second highest in the majors among players with at least 40 plate appearances.
“He’s in between right now,” manager Alex Cora said. “He’s late on fastballs and out in front on offspeed pitches and that’s not a good place to be. It’s very uncomfortable.”
The problem is not just pitch types. Cordero is also chasing pitches outside the zone and taking pitches in it, a formula for struggle. It shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise given that injuries have limited him to 111 plate appearances since the start of 2019.
Evaluators agree that Cordero has the gifts to be an above-average big league corner outfielder, but his lack of playing time in his mid-20s represents a considerable hindrance to his development. Yet that also presents a chicken-and-egg problem for the Sox: Cordero’s future production likely depends on steady exposure to big-league pitching, but it’s hard to afford him playing time if he doesn’t produce.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that the minor-league season isn’t scheduled to start until May 4, something of which the Sox were aware when they acquired Cordero from the Royals in the Andrew Benintendi deal.
“We have to keep working with him,” said Cora. “People might say, ‘Let’s send him down to get competitive at-bats.’ Where? Where are the competitive at-bats? That’s, I mean, if I can get that answer, well, we might make a decision like that, but there are no competitive at-bats in the minor leagues right now. There are no competitive at-bats in spring training, or in Triple A right now in Worcester. We’re going to stick with the player, trust the player. … We know the swing-and-misses. But it’s not like he doesn’t have talent.
“You’re not going to give up on a player on April 25. If not, you made the wrong choice with our roster,” Cora added. “So we’ll keep pushing.”
Cordero may be nearing a crossroads, however. He can be optioned to the minors, and the Triple-A season is slated to start next week. Meanwhile, superutility option Danny Santana, signed to a minor league deal this spring, is playing in minor league spring training games in Fort Myers as he returns to health following a foot infection that sidelined him in mid-March.
Santana’s minor league deal included an April 30 opt-out if not called up to the big leagues, but according to a major league source, he and the club have an informal understanding that they’ll push back that opt-out date by a couple of weeks.
“He’s feeling good,” Cora said of Santana. “He’s progressing well.”
Injury concerns for Arroyo, Verdugo
Second baseman Christian Arroyo shouted in pain after he got drilled in the hand by a Drew Steckenrider fastball with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning. But after a brief visit from a team trainer, Arroyo — who as a Giants prospect missed the final two months of the 2017 minor-league season due to a broken hand suffered on a hit-by-pitch — remained in the game.
However, the 25-year-old was clearly uncomfortable, repeatedly looking at his hand throughout the game to reassess. X-rays taken after the game came back negative.
“[It] hurt pretty bad, but he was able to play defense,” said Cora. “I told him just don’t worry about your at-bats. If you can play defense, just grind it out, and he did.”
Arroyo wasn’t originally part of the lineup on Sunday, but the Red Sox inserted him about an hour before first pitch to give Alex Verdugo (originally slated to play center, with Kiké Hernández at second) the day off. Verdugo experienced what he described as cramping in his hamstring on Saturday. The Sox initially planned for him to play, but with a wet outfield on a drizzly Sunday, trainer Brad Pearson suggested that Cora remove Verdugo from the lineup.
After Monday’s off-day, Cora said he might also rest Verdugo on Tuesday against the Mets, but expected him to be back in the lineup by Wednesday against Jacob deGrom.
With Verdugo out, Hernández played center and Arroyo started at second. Xander Bogaerts got a partial day of rest as designated hitter, while Marwin Gonzalez got his third start of the year at short. Hernández made an impressive shoestring catch in front of the Red Sox bullpen on a ball that appeared to take a hard right, while Gonzalez made a brilliant glove-hand flip to Arroyo on an eighth-inning grounder to initiate a 6-4-3 double play.
Chris Sale continues ascent
Lefthander Chris Sale, who was at Fenway during the just-completed 10-game homestand, will head to Fort Myers to continue his rehab from Tommy John surgery. Pitching coach Dave Bush said Sale is close to pitching off the mound for the first time since March 1, 2020. “He feels great. He’s making a lot of progress,” said Bush. “I think he sees the horizon for the first time in a while and he’s excited and ready to go and wants to get back here as soon as he can.” Bush said there’s still no timetable for when Sale might return to the big-league rotation . . . Ryan Brasier (calf) is throwing and doing light running in Fort Myers, but has yet to start throwing off a mound. “He still has a little ways to go,” said Bush. “I don’t have a finish date for him yet, but he’s on the right path” . . . Red Sox players continued to get COVID-19 vaccinations on Sunday. Cora said that the team brought in a Spanish-speaking doctor last week to answer questions from members of the team, and that some who participated in the session got vaccinated after to the series finale against Seattle.
This story has been updated to reflect that some Red Sox players were vaccinated after Sunday’s game, not before.
Alex Speier can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.