Red Sox

Dodgers' Cody Bellinger blasts Astros, says Jose Altuve stole 2017 AL MVP

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USA TODAY Sports

Dodgers' Cody Bellinger blasts Astros, says Jose Altuve stole 2017 AL MVP

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger did not hold back when asked about the Houston Astros apologizing Thursday for illegally stealing signs.

The Astros received unprecedented penalties from Major League Baseball in January after its investigation concluded Houston created and used a sophisticated sign-stealing operation over the last few years. Several people lost their job in the aftermath of the MLB's report, including Astros manager A.J. Hinch, Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran. Cora was the bench coach for the Astros in 2017 before he left to join the Red Sox as their manager ahead of the 2018 season. He was named 11 times in the MLB's nine-page report on the Astros. Beltran was the only player named in the Astros report. He retired after winning the 2017 World Series with the Astros.

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The team they beat in that World Series was the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bellinger was on the 2017 Dodgers squad that lost Game 7 at home to the Astros, and he put Houston, its owner and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on blast Friday with scathing comments.

"I thought the apologies were whatever," Bellinger told reporters at spring training, via Blake Harris of TrueBlueLA. "I thought (Astros owner) Jim Crane's was weak. I thought Manfred's punishment was weak, giving them immunity. I mean, these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don't realize is (Jose) Altuve stole an MVP from (Aaron) Judge in 2017. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us."

He also added: "I know, personally, I lost respect for those guys. I would say everyone in the big leagues lost respect for those guys."

In addition to stealing signs, there have been accusations of the Astros using buzzers to relay signs to hitters. One example is Altuve telling teammates not to rip off his jersey after he sent the Astros to the 2019 World Series with a walk-off home run against New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. The MLB said it "found no evidence" of the Astros using wearable devices.

"I don't know what human hits a walk-off home run off Aroldis Chapman to send your team to the World Series, and, one, has the thought to say, 'Don't rip my jersey off,' but, two, go into the tunnel, change your shirt, and then come out and do your interview," Bellinger said. "That makes no sense to me."

The MLB is also investigating the Boston Red Sox for illegally stealing signs in 2018, although players are confident the team did nothing wrong. The investigation into the Red Sox reportedly will extend into spring training.

Tomase: The time is now for Benintendi to take the lead

MLB Rumors: Yasiel Puig to sign with 2020 Red Sox opponent Braves

MLB Rumors: Yasiel Puig to sign with 2020 Red Sox opponent Braves

The Boston Red Sox aren't acquiring Yasiel Puig, but they'll still see him in 2020.

The free-agent outfielder is signing with the Atlanta Braves, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported Tuesday. Puig's deal with the Braves is still tentative pending a physical, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.

The Red Sox reportedly were among a few teams interested in signing Puig, who split the 2019 season between the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians.

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The Baltimore Orioles reportedly made Puig a contract offer, but it appears the 29-year-old is headed to Atlanta, where he'll play two three-game series -- from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 and from Sept. 25 to 27 -- against the Red Sox during the shortened 2020 MLB season.

While Puig's career with the Los Angeles Dodgers got off to a promising start, the Cuba native has struggled to sustain that success, hitting no better than .267 over the last five seasons. Puig hit .297 with 23 RBIs in 49 games with Cleveland, though, and perhaps he'll benefit from another change in scenery.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, are rolling with an outfield of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Verdugo and platoon man Kevin Pillar after trading star right fielder Mookie Betts this offseason.

2020 MLB Season: Five newcomers who could make an impact for Red Sox

2020 MLB Season: Five newcomers who could make an impact for Red Sox

The Red Sox weren't good enough in 2019 to make the playoffs, so it stands to reason that if they're going to find a way over the hump in this dine-and-dash 2020 campaign, some new faces will have to deliver.

Because chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was only able to spend what he could scrounge from Dave Dombrowski's old couch this winter, the Red Sox did most of their tinkering on the fringes of the roster.

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They added one potential impact piece in outfielder Alex Verdugo, albeit at the steep cost of former MVP Mookie Betts. Otherwise, they're seeking contributions from a host of under-the-radar sources.

Perhaps we'll be pleasantly surprised. Here are five newcomers to watch.

1. Alex Verdugo

We wrote about the new right fielder on Monday, and he's the closest thing to an All-Star the Red Sox added. Verdugo does a little bit of everything from the left side, hitting for average, developing power, and not fearing the moment. He owns one of the strongest arms in the game and could be a plus defender as well.

Andrew Benintendi has already been penciled into the leadoff spot, which leaves Verdugo batting fifth in all likelihood. But if Benintendi falters, as he did last year, Verdugo could easily end up hitting in front of No. 2 man Rafael Devers and trying to make the offense go.

2. Jose Peraza

There's a reason Peraza was one of Bloom's first moves, signed back on Dec. 13. The 26-year-old Venezuelan is a former top prospect who was non-tendered by the Reds after hitting .239 in 141 games last year.

He once ranked as high as 54th in Baseball America's list of the game's top 100 prospects, however, and he's only two years removed from hitting .288 with a career-high 14 homers. Peraza is in a battle with Michael Chavis for the starting second base job, and if Peraza has an edge, it's his glove. While Chavis was drafted as a third baseman and profiles as more of a corner infielder, Peraza has spent his entire career at second and short.

He's considered an above-average defender at second, and his speed plays as well, with three straight 20-steal seasons before sliding back to seven thefts last year.

3. Martin Perez

This one could go either way. Perez's ceiling is as a league-average left-hander, which certainly has value. The problem is, he hasn't reached that ceiling in three years. He's the best candidate to replace what Rick Porcello gave the Red Sox last year, which is 175 innings (prorated, of course) of a 5.00 ERA.

That may not sound like much, but on a team desperate for pitching, there's a value in taking the ball every five days and lasting six innings.

The Red Sox hope they can tinker with Perez by rediscovering the cutter that made him so effective last spring before abandoning him for most of the summer. In a perfect world, he wouldn't be the team's third starter, but these are far from perfect times.

4. Jonathan Lucroy

Red Sox history is littered with veteran reclamation projects who never really went anywhere after some early promise, from Ramon Martinez to John Smoltz to Grady Sizemore. Lucroy represents the latest attempt at reclaiming some past magic.

A two-time All-Star who finished fourth in the 2014 MVP voting after blasting a league-leading 53 doubles with the Brewers, Lucroy has been savaged by neck issues over the last three years. He underwent surgery to repair a ruptured disc this winter, however, and claims to have restored his former bat speed.

If that's true, then the 34-year-old could still have something to give, whether it's at catcher, first base, or DH. It also doesn't hurt that he's a favorite of manager Ron Roenicke from their days together in Milwaukee, where they led the Brewers to the playoffs in 2011 for just the second time in 30 years.

5. Collin McHugh

Speaking of reclamation projects, McHugh might have the highest upside of any newcomer, provided he can actually make it back to action. A former 19-game winner and Cy Young contender with the Astros, McHugh is only two years removed from posting a 1.99 ERA in 58 relief appearances.

He returned to the Houston rotation last season and won three of his first four starts with a 1.96 ERA before elbow soreness took its toll. He was bounced from the rotation in May and shut it down for good at the end of August with a flexor strain.

It seems unlikely that McHugh will be ready for Opening Day as he continues throwing bullpens and side sessions, but the hope is that he's available before the end of the season.