BALTIMORE — When the Red Sox traded infielder Deven Marrero to the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, it was for a player to be named later. Nine days later, lefthander Josh Taylor was sent to the Sox and assigned to Double A Portland.
His arrival to the organization did not gain much notice.
Now Taylor has become an important member of the bullpen. He threw a scoreless inning in Saturday night’s 17-6 rout of the Baltimore Orioles. Taylor has a 3.74 earned run average over 21 appearances and 21⅔ innings while striking out 28. The 26-year-old has allowed one run in his last nine games.
What’s been the catalyst for him?
“I’m just getting more comfortable with pitching to my strengths than trying to be perfect,” Taylor said Saturday. “I’m just going after hitters and trying to let them hit it versus trying to pitch around them. When you’re trying to pitch around them and not get hit that’s when you tend to make mistakes because you’re less aggressive with your pitches.”
Said manager Alex Cora: “He’s been good. He’s been throwing the ball well. He’s a guy that has a big arm. He’s been learning how to pitch at this level. When we sent him down the last time we talked about certain things he needed to do. When he got back we knew he was going to be OK. There were certain times that we extended him because we were very limited in the bullpen.”
He’s the only lefty in the bullpen, too, and Cora hasn’t been afraid to use him in high-leverage situations.
“It’s shows the confidence they have on me,” Taylor said. “It helps me gain more confidence in my stuff. Being able to pitch in big situations and hand it off to the next guy it’s a step in the right direction.
When Mitch Moreland went first-to-third in his rehab game Friday night at Pawtucket, Cora said he was nervous. Afterward, he was waiting for the moment Moreland might feel his right quad tighten up. That moment didn’t come for the Sox first baseman, which is a step in the right direction.
“It was one of those mental hurdles you kind of have to jump and he felt good about it,” Cora said.
Moreland played seven innings Saturday night, going 0 for 3. He’s 0 for 5 with a walk in two games. The plan is for Cora to sit down with Moreland and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to decide what the next steps will be.
Eovaldi set to go
Nathan Eovaldi can only help this Sox bullpen. And with the team officially activating him for Saturday night’s contest, Cora believes he will do just that.
“First of all, he wanted to contribute as soon as possible,” Cora said. “This is the way we feel he can do that. He’s in good spirits and he’s ready to go. It’s just a matter of going out there and performing.”
Martinez ‘just off’
J.D. Martinez was hitting just .204 since July 2 after going 0 for 3 in Friday night’s loss. He had just one homer in that span and hadn’t been getting on base, sporting a .278 on-base percentage in that time frame.
“He’s expanding,” Cora said. “He’s just expanding. He’s getting in some good hitter’s counts: 2-0, 3-1 and just swinging at pitches in the zone, but not exactly where he wants it. He’s very disciplined with his approach and his plan. It seems like lately he’s been just off.”
From the start of the season through June 30, Martinez chased outside the zone 33.6 percent of the time. That number has jumped to 37.6 percent July 2 to July 19.
Yet maybe Saturday’s game is what gets him going. Martinez was 3 for 5 with a walk and drove in two. His average on the season is back up to .288.
Bogaerts leading way
After his team’s embarrassing 11-2 loss to the Orioles on Friday, Xander Bogaerts called the showing unacceptable. After going 2 for 4 in Saturday’s win, he is hitting .314 with a .399 OBP. His OPS is up to .966 with 31 doubles and 21 homers.
For as good as he’s been on the field, he’s been equally impressive in the clubhouse.
“We made a huge commitment to him,” said Cora, referring to the six-year, $120 million contract extension agreed to in April. “He’s very responsible and he understands everything that’s going on with the organization. He got here in 2013 and he’s been great. The consistency not only on the field, but off the field is what impresses me.
“Very smart guy with a presence and I’m glad that he’s taking that step because he’s going to be here for a while. He’s one of those guys that I’m going to rely on when I need to send a message.”
The Sox released Eduardo Nunez on Saturday after he was designated for assignment earlier in the week. Cora said he hopes Nunez can latch on somewhere else. “Hopefully, in the right situation,” Cora said. “He can help a team. He’s very helpful with the young players. He’s a winning player. Those are always needed.” . . . It was 97 degrees at first pitch Saturday night, the highest temperature for a Sox game since July 25, 2012, when it was 98 at Texas.
Julian McWilliams can be reached at email@example.com.