It didn’t take long for Mitch Moreland to conclude in 2017 that then-20-year-old rookie Rafael Devers represented a special young talent. Less than one week after Devers blasted an opposite-field homer in Yankee Stadium against Aroldis Chapman, Moreland was perhaps even more impressed when the young third baseman, with a runner on third and one out, threw out Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate on a fielder’s choice in a one-run game.
“It was a risky play and he got the out. I was like, ‘Man, he’s playing to win. He’s not playing it safe.’ Guys like that, you can tell he’s going to be special for a long time,” said Moreland. “Obviously, he’s a great player. He’s just young and wants to learn. I love that.”
Moreland has embraced the role of serving as a mentor to Devers. His locker resides by that of the Red Sox third baseman, and as a fellow lefthanded slugger and corner infielder, the two can exchange notes while gameplanning about opposing pitchers and their defensive responsibilities.
From time to time, a language barrier challenges their dynamic. When that happens, Moreland elicits the help of multilingual teammates Eduardo Nunez or Xander Bogaerts to serve as linguistic ambassadors. But mostly, the 33-year-old veteran enjoys his direct conversations with his 22-year-old teammate.
“We all care about him, but Mitch has done an outstanding job with him,” manager Alex Cora. said before Friday night’s 6-4 win over the Orioles. “I don’t know if they understand each other language-wise, but baseball-wise they do.”
“Usually he’s right there with me as far as thinking,” agreed Moreland, who cracked another double — his fifth, and 10th extra-base hit — as part of a 2-for-4 game on Friday. “He constantly asks questions, not just to me, but everybody. He’s trying to learn. He’s trying to get better.”
Moreland sees Devers doing just that. Throughout the 2018 postseason, the two players in platoon roles shared insights that permitted both to make crucial contributions in the season’s biggest moments. In Thursday’s walkoff win against the Blue Jays — in which Moreland tied the game with a ninth-inning double and Devers won it with his first career walkoff — the power of the partnership again became evident.
As Moreland observes his teammate’s growth with almost parental pride, he sees a player with a chance to be a Red Sox anchor for years to come.
“He’s definitely grown, and he’s still growing every day,” said Moreland. “I can’t imagine the stage he’s on and what he’s able to do so far in his career. It’s special to watch. I think at times we take it for granted. You don’t realize that it’s his third year. He’s had parts of three seasons already. He’s going to be good for a long time.”
Buzzing about drone
The drone that flew over Fenway Park during the late innings of Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays proved a disconcerting sight for some members of the Red Sox.
“I watch too much TV. I see some crazy stuff being done with drones. It was an uneasy feeling, honestly. It could have a grenade on it. What can they do? They can’t shoot it down or anything because then it could fall on somebody. It’s an uneasy feeling,” said pitcher David Price. “Unless they put a force field around the stadium that knocks a drone down, there’s nothing you can do.”
The Red Sox noted in a statement on Thursday that the “operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) around large stadium events is in violation of FAA regulations and the club has reported the incident to the Boston Police Department for investigation.”
The Red Sox are monitoring the ominous weather forecast for their scheduled 11:05 a.m. game against the Orioles on Monday. Last year, the Patriots Day game — coincidentally, also against the Orioles — was postponed because of rain, with the Red Sox taking the unusual step of announcing the game’s postponement the night before. The Red Sox have yet to announce a starter for Monday’s scheduled game, though Hector Velazquez would get the ball if he isn’t used out of the bullpen in the next two contests. The team wanted to use a sixth starter given that, after a two-game series in New York next week, it faces a stretch of 20 games in 20 days . . . Though he had a scheduled day out of the starting lineup on Friday, Dustin Pedroia felt good coming out of a game Thursday night in which he delivered a key run-scoring hit and was in the middle of three double plays among several defensive opportunities. “We’re very pleased where he’s at right now,” said Cora. “He feels like he can play 162. But we’ve just got to be careful with him. We can’t push him that hard. We’ll take care of him and see where it takes us.” . . . As part of One Boston events throughout the region, Red Sox players participated in a luncheon for first responders at Fenway on Friday. If Monday’s game is played, the Red Sox will mark the six-year anniversary of the 2013 Marathon tragedy in ceremonies preceding the game.
The season-opening road trip featuring 11 games in 11 days through the West came with any number of challenges, but one of the most significant ones was easy to overlook. Edgertronic video cameras, which capture pitches at roughly 10 times the frame rate of traditional TV cameras, have become a game-changing analytical tool for teams to review pitchers’ mechanics. But they can only be set up to capture pitchers’ deliveries for analysis in home parks.
So, the team didn’t have its usual array of information to identify emerging delivery issues that contributed to early-season struggles — most notably, with Chris Sale. But when Sale started the home opener on Tuesday, the Sox were able to have a clearer compare-and-contrast of his delivery this year compared to when he’s at his peak form.
“Thirty frames per second from an off-axis camera angle vs. 300 frames per second from any angle you want, along with data that’s generated off of it, is a noticeable difference. It’s the equivalent of a doctor evaluating someone with their own eyes versus looking at someone with an MRI or CT scan,” said assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister. “You get a pretty clear MRI of any differences in pitching mechanics. We got that information back, conversations have been had, [Sale] just threw a really good [bullpen session on Friday]. It’s nice to be home.”
Pulling for Davis
Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce was teammates in Baltimore with Orioles slugger Chris Davis from 2013-16, a run during which Davis averaged 41 homers a year and twice led the league in long balls. From afar, it’s been painful for Pearce to watch the plight of his friend, who extended his record-setting run of futility to 0 for 54 on Friday night.
“When he’s on, he can carry a team. His bat can carry a lineup. When he’s off, it’s not fun to watch. It’s not fun for any player to be like this. I know a lot of people say, ‘Ah, he’s getting paid a lot of money. I’m sure he’s not worried about it.’ It’s almost the opposite. No matter how much money you have, you don’t want to play like he’s playing,” said Pearce. “I’m hoping he pulls out of it – just obviously not this series.”
With Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez on the hill, Davis did not start Friday but made the last out as a pinch hitter, lining softly to second against Ryan Brasier.