Bobby Dalbec’s chances of making the Red Sox roster were hurt by a COVID-19 diagnosis in June, and he has yet to play in an intrasquad game. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

An uncertain year for Bobby Dalbec got even more uncertain in early June.

A top Boston Red Sox prospect, Dalbec was on a path to compete for a spot on the major league roster in spring training before the COVID-19 pandemic shut MLB down for three months. Then, as he was gearing up for the season’s restart, the corner infielder’s return was unfortunately delayed even longer.

On June 7, Dalbec tested positive for COVID-19 while at home in Arizona, but was asymptomatic. He was still named to the Boston’s initial player pool for summer camp and arrived on June 30, when he was tested again. The results of that test are unclear, but he then quarantined until July 10 and was finally cleared to rejoin the team for workouts at Boston College.

Dalbec said he feels fortunate in how it all played out.

“I was asymptomatic the entire time,” Dalbec said. “No spike in fever. I never felt tired. No body aches, nothing. I had my taste and smell the whole time. I obviously consider myself lucky that the way I did get it was that way. I was fortunate. Other than that, I felt good the whole time. I was just ready to get back playing and doing my thing.

“I’m glad to be back and working out every day, conditioning and getting back in shape after sitting around in the room for a while. It’s good to be back.”

Dalbec admitted that when he learned he tested positive, there was some anxiety.

“I think the first day I was a little nervous, but after that I just tried to calm myself down,” Dalbec said. “If it happens, it happens, and I’ll take the necessary steps to get better. I felt good the whole time. I wasn’t careless with anything, I followed all the guidelines and the rules and self-isolated and everything so I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”

The Red Sox took every precaution upon Dalbec’s return, and he is being careful, too. Dalbec wore a Red Sox mask during his press conference Wednesday over Zoom.

“Obviously it’s a serious thing and the last thing I want is for anyone on the team to feel uncomfortable with me being around,” Dalbec said. “I think the staff addressed everyone very well. They weren’t going to let me come back if I wasn’t good to go. The doctors and the joint committee, they’re not going to cut me corners and they’re going to make sure, they’re going to be certain that I’m good to come back. I think they all realize that. I’m not going up to anyone right away if I make them feel uncomfortable. Speak when spoken to and get my work in.”

Now, the question with Dalbec is how much he’ll be able to contribute this season, and how soon. Dalbec, the second-ranked Red Sox prospect by Baseball America, hit 59 home runs combined in 2018 and 2019, and was impressive during the Premier12 tournament in Japan last fall.

The 6-foot-4, 234-pounder said he didn’t think his bout with COVID-19 set him back too far. He was still working out daily at a couple facilities back home – even saying he overworked himself a bit – and the week before he came to Boston, he said he was hitting almost every day.

But it’s obviously a strange set of circumstances for Dalbec. With almost a week to go before Opening Day, it’s unclear how soon he can get some real at-bats during intrasquad action, and there’s no minor league season for him to get more reps. But Dalbec said he’ll be ready to go whenever he’s called upon.

“I’m just kind of taking it one day at a time, getting my work in, trying to get extra work when I can,” Dalbec said. “Whenever they deem that I’m ready to play again, I’ll do that.
“I feel pretty good. Obviously not seeing pitches is pretty tough. It’s not like everyone is getting 10 at-bats a day right now, so hopefully whatever their plan is, they’re going to make sure I’m ready.”

RED SOX starting pitching depth is thin with Eduardo Rodriguez (coronavirus) on the injured list and Chris Sale sidelined for the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Martin Perez is in line to start Game 2 next weekend after Nathan Eovaldi pitches the opener. Both pitchers will need to carry this rotation until Rodriguez’s return.

“It doesn’t matter what game you’ve got,” Perez said during a Zoom call Wednesday. “It’s the same responsibility because you’ve gotta go out there and win games.”

Perez pitched five innings during an intrasquad game at Fenway Park on Wednesday. He struggled in the first inning, but then settled in. He allowed five runs in five innings.

“I was trying to feel something that I’ve been working on my bullpen days,” Perez said. “And I think I find it. I’m trying to attack the hitters and keeping the ball down. Start with my fastball in and work on my changeup and my breaking pitch.”

Perez said the adjustment is mechanical.

“Especially with my upper body, trying to stay strong and keep my left arm close, and not trying to go too long,” he said. “And I feel that today.”

Perez posted a 7-1 record with a 2.95 ERA, .236 batting average against and .356 slugging percentage in his first 11 starts last year through May 23. But he went 3-6 with a 6.29 ERA, .300 batting average against and .479 slugging percentage in his final 21 starts.

He has the ability to dominate. But he also has the struggled for long stretches.

“I feel strong. I tell to our pitching coach that I feel strong after five innings,” Perez said.

His most important pitch is his cutter. He added it last year and it quickly became his most effective pitch. He threw it 30.8% of the time, holding opponents to a .214 batting average against and .343 slugging percentage, according to Statcast.

The average velocity of his four-seam fastball increased from 92.8 mph in 2018 to 94.2 mph in 2019. His two-seam fastball also averaged 93.9 mph. But the opposition batted .370 vs. his four-seamer and .302 vs. his two-seamer.

He used his sinker the second most (24.8%), then his changeup (22.2%), four-seamer (17.5%) and curveball (4.7%).


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