Red Sox manager Alex Cora saw his phone buzz at 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning in Toronto.
It was David Price.
The former Red Sox pitcher has started to gain momentum as a reliever for the Dodgers this year, but that’s not why he was texting Cora early in the morning.
“He was like, ‘That kid is good,’” Cora told reporters in Toronto on Tuesday.
“That kid” is Connor Seabold, the Red Sox prospect who made his second career big league start on Monday and allowed seven runs in the Sox’ 7-2 loss to the Blue Jays.
“I was like, ‘Oh, thank you, thank you for watching,’” Cora said to Price.
Seabold’s bizarre night left many a bit confused. Despite allowing seven runs, he struck out seven batters and generated a remarkable 21 whiffs on 46 pitches swings, a 46% whiff rate that would rank as one of the best in the big leagues if he was doing that on a nightly basis. But he also gave up some loud contact, including three home runs, as the Red Sox saw their seven-game winning streak come to an end.
Evidently, Price liked what he saw.
“I think they recognize the swing and misses,” Cora said. “They saw the changeup. Obviously it’s not an easy lineup but there were a lot of positives from yesterday. We want to make sure he understands that. Obviously the line is the line. He’s not happy with it. But, stuff-wise, it’s a lot better than last year in September.”
Seabold’s fastball averaged just 92 mph, but generated a 42% whiff rate. If he had enough innings to qualify, that would rank as one of the best pitches in baseball. And his changeup was good enough to prompt catcher Christian Vazquez to walk up to Cora and let him know how he felt about it.
Unfortunately, Seabold described his slider as being awful, and he wasn’t wrong. Two of them were demolished for home runs as the pitch was barely moving.
Still, the changeup is “a pitch we haven’t seen in a while,” Cora said. “From everything I hear, that was the pitch when he got traded (from the Phillies in 2020) and he lost feeling of it. One thing that (chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom) mentioned: one inning, the last one in Worcester, and it rated really good. Yesterday, Christian, he felt it was the best pitch.”
Seabold, a third-round pick in 2017, has a 2.09 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 51-2/3 innings with Triple-A Worcester this year.
He was optioned back to the minors on Tuesday but the Sox are considering starting him again on Sunday. They could also utilize Thursday’s off-day and continue with a four-man rotation until one of Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Whitlock or Chris Sale is ready to return from the injured list.
Sale is making a rehab start with Double-A Portland on Thursday and Cora said Hadlock Field is already sold out for that game.
Another pitcher called up
In need of another pitcher while Tanner Houck is on the restricted list due to being unvaccinated against COVID-19, the Red Sox selected right-hander Silvino Bracho to the big league roster.
Bracho, 29, has a career 4.82 ERA over 92 big league appearances with the Diamondbacks from 2015-20. He had a 3.16 ERA out of relief with Worcester this year.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Cora said. “He can give us two or three innings if needed. But at the same time, we can match up with him in certain situations.”
Failing to lead off
For as good as the Red Sox offense has been over the last two months, it’s still searching for a leadoff hitter.
With Kiké Hernandez on the shelf, Jarren Duran has looked like a quality option, but Duran is also unvaccinated against COVID-19 and unavailable for the series in Toronto.
Instead, the Sox turned to Rob Refsnyder again on Tuesday night. The 31-year-old journeyman entered with a .450 on-base percentage over 12 games with the big league club this year.
BOSTON, MA – June 14: Rob Refsnyder #30 of the Boston Red Sox catches Ramon Laureano #22 of the Oakland Athletics fly out during the sixth inning of the MLB game against at Fenway Park on June 14, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
“He controls the at-bats,” Cora said. “Deep counts, good swings. Out of the guys that we have right now, he checks all the boxes as a leadoff guy. He gets deep into the count. He does a good job fouling off pitches so it’s a long at-bat. We feel comfortable with him leading off.”
Entering Tuesday, the Sox ranked near the bottom of the league in leadoff production. Their .224 average ranked 24th, .296 OBP ranked 23rd, and .655 OPS ranked 21st.
JBJ benched vs. righty
Christian Arroyo got the start in right field as Cora looked to get Jackie Bradley Jr. on the bench, although it was unusual to see Bradley on the bench against a right-handed pitcher.
“All the lefties are playing tomorrow so I’ll get (Arroyo) some at-bats,” Cora said.