By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
With the arrival of pitchers and catchers to Fort Myers, the Red Sox announced five new non-roster invitees to Spring Training on Tuesday morning.
Among those on the list are infielder Jeter Downs and utility player Connor Wong, who were acquired over the weekend as part of the Mookie Betts trade. You can read a breakdown on each player’s ability and projections here.
The other three players invited are pitcher Denyi Reyes, outfielder Cesar Puello, and catcher Juan Centeno.
Reyes is the highlight of that group. A 23-year-old right hander from the Dominican Republic, he’s been an organizational favorite in the system since signing with the team as an international free agent in 2014. After a dominant 2017 campaign with the Lowell Spinners that saw him post a 1.45 ERA in 15 outings, the Red Sox placed him on the 40-man roster to prevent losing him in the Rule 5 (he is no longer on the 40-man).
Reyes spent last season with Class-AA Portland, where he turned in a 4.16 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 26 starts. His experience and success as a starter at the minor league level makes his invitation to Spring Training notable, as the Red Sox are desperately short when it comes to starting pitching. Just four of the starters on the Red Sox 40-man roster have two or more years of MLB service time. While Reyes may not be a candidate to earn the fifth spot in the rotation out of camp, he could factor in later in the year if the team’s rotation is thinned out even further due to injuries. A strong performance this spring could be his key to making his MLB debut at some point in 2020.
While Reyes’ major league projection doesn’t exceed that of a back-of-the-rotation starter, he has at times flashed brilliance, like when he threw a 92-pitch complete game shutout for the Class-A Greenville Drive in 2018:
Outfielder Cesar Puello comes to the Red Sox after hitting .248 last season in 44 games split between the Angels and Marlins. Once one of the top prospects in the Mets organization, Puello rose as high as sixth in the organization before being suspended 50 games following the 2013 MLB Biogenesis investigation (the same investigation that saw suspensions handed to Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, and 11 other players).
It took some time for Puello to prove his status was more than drug-induced, but a strong 2017 campaign in Triple-AAA earned him his first major league call late that season. After playing 17 games late that summer, he found himself back in Triple-AAA the next year, putting together another impressive run hitting .313 in 86 games. 2019 saw Puello spend equal time between the majors and minors, before he was released in late October. He signed with the Red Sox on Tuesday and was simultaneously awarded the invitation.
Catcher Juan Centeno returns after spending 2019 with the Red Sox organization, playing seven games with the big club and 81 with Triple-AAA Pawtucket. As one of only four catchers employed the Red Sox with MLB experience, Centeno will battle with Jett Bandy (also a non-roster invitee) for the role of emergency call-up should anything happen to Christian Vazquez or Kevin Plawecki.
Centeno has played 118 major league games in a career spanning six teams and seven seasons. He saw nearly half of his MLB action in 2016 when he played in 55 games for the Milwaukee Brewers, hitting .261 in 176 at bats. The 30-year-old Centeno has also played for the Mets, Twins, Astros, and Rangers.
Pitchers and catchers reported to Fort Myers on Tuesday, officially kicking off Red Sox Spring Training. The remainder of the roster is due to report on the 16th (although some have already arrived). Their first game action will come Feb. 21 against Northeastern, with their first MLB action the next day against Tampa.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.