ATLANTA — The Red Sox are waiting on Rich Hill to produce two negative COVID tests before activating him. Manager Alex Cora said prior to Wednesday night’s 5-3 loss to the Braves that the team is hopeful Hill can pitch Saturday at Texas, then have a bullpen game Sunday. If Hill can’t go Saturday, the Sox would have a bullpen game that night and hope Hill will be ready for a Sunday start.
The Red Sox had Garrett Whitlock slated to start Sunday, but considering he threw 82 pitches in Tuesday night’s start, the Sox felt it prudent to push Whitlock back a day. Tanner Houck won’t start this weekend but will be available out of the bullpen.
Whitlock struggled Tuesday against the Braves, lasting three innings while walking a career-high four. Whitlock also yielded three runs, including a two-run blast by Travis d’Arnaud in the third.
Cora had some thoughts Wednesday after having more time to digest what he saw from Whitlock.
“One thing we always talk about is that we want him to attack,” Cora said. “Regardless if it’s pitching late in the games, or starting the game, and I do believe yesterday we were shy of the strike zone.”
Whitlock tossed 44 sinkers, his go-to pitch, but 18 were balls.
“He’ll be the first one to tell you that he wasn’t aggressive in the strike zone,” Cora said.
Martinez on a hot streak
Despite the lackluster offense by the Sox, J.D. Martinez continues to be a consistent force in the lineup. Martinez owns the longest active on-base streak (29 games) and the longest hitting streak, which he extended to 13 games with an RBI single in the top of the third Wednesday. It’s worth noting that Martinez has done this despite battling adductor tightness.
“He recognizes where he’s at right now,” Cora said before the game. “Probably he’ll be the first one to tell you that he’s not locked in. He’s been missing some pitches that he usually drives but he goes to grind and that’s something we’ve been talking about as a group.”
Before Martinez, the most recent Red Sox to reach base safely in the first 23 games of his season was Manny Ramirez in 2001. Martinez entered Wednesday hitting .289/.330/.500 with three homers. Cora said Martinez’s ability to adjust despite not feeling like himself at the plate is the sign of a true pro.
“That’s something we were looking for as a group,” Cora said. “We know where we are, we know we’re going to swing, we’re going to be okay. But at the same time, when you’re going through stuff like this, it’s kind of like, hey, we got to compete with whatever we have.”
Bradley feels right at home
Right field is working out for Jackie Bradley Jr. He’s tied for first in outfield defensive runs saves with Padres’ Jurickson Profar (six) and tied for third among outfielders with three assists. Bradley, known for his arm and defense, said he’s learned when to use it and when not to.
“There’s times where we’re maybe going left to right where you probably want to get it out quick,” Bradley said. “It’s just better to be quicker than harder. Just kind of getting rid of it and letting the infielder handle it. Eighty-five percent of my throws are good enough as long as they’re on target.”
Bradley, normally a center fielder, said there is a difference between throwing from right versus center.
“I don’t have to throw over a mound,” Bradley said. “I’m throwing home. Everything is different. Closer.”