Red Sox

Jeter Downs explains his name, and how he finally met his hero in a bizarrely random way

Jeter Downs explains his name, and how he finally met his hero in a bizarrely random way

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jeter Downs may be named after the Yankees' Hall of Fame shortstop, but the two had never met until a chance encounter at a Miami traffic light just last week.

"I was driving, me and my brother were driving to go to train," Downs said Wednesday. "My brother, we're in traffic. He sees this Range Rover pulling up. He was like, 'Oh my God, is that Jeter?' He honks and I wave at him.

"I'm doing training with Raul Ibanez. I called Raul and said, 'Tell Jeter that the kid he was waving at was Jeter.' So then he told him that and it was pretty cool that I met him that way."

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A couple of days later, one of Downs' friends attended a Marlins event and arranged for Derek Jeter to FaceTime with his awestruck namesake.

"I've idolized him my whole life," Downs said. "It was finally good to meet him and talk to him a little bit. It was definitely special."

Needless to say, there's a new Jeter in town, and the Red Sox can only hope he's one-tenth the player who gave him his first name.

Jeter Downs was part of the return for Mookie Betts and David Price in the blockbuster with the Dodgers, and the slugging 21-year-old middle infielder hopes to strike his own path in Boston.

"It's cool to be traded for arguably a top-five player in the game," Downs said. "But it doesn't mean anything if I don't go out and do my job. I still have to go out and perform, play well. Things can be talked about after."

So about that name, which he estimates he's been asked about so much, "I can't even count the number of times."

His mom liked the way Jeter played, so she gave that name to her son, who was born in Colombia, but raised in Miami. His older brother, Jerry, is also a Red Sox farmhand, though he's named after their dad, who has always been a Red Sox fan.

"Obviously you get bombarded with this whole name thing," Downs said. "It's pretty cool. I guess my mom knew what she was doing when she named me Jeter."

The Red Sox gave him some special treatment, not only inviting him to big league camp, but giving him a locker next to J.D. Martinez and a number (20) that's about 65 less than the typical minor leaguer.

There's a lot to like about Downs' game. While scouts are split on his ability to remain at shortstop, the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder projects as an everyday second baseman with power. He blasted 24 home runs last year between High-A and Double-A, and there's no reason to think he couldn't move quickly in a Red Sox farm system that's currently thin on top-end talent.

"Honestly I don't care where I'm playing as long as I'm helping the team win," Downs said. "It'd be the outfield if that's what we need to win and make things happen."

And who knows? Maybe he'll even do justice to his name.

"I obviously have the name, so I kind of had to be a fan of his," he said. "I idolized him – the way he played, the way he went about the game, the things he did, how he was respected by every single team. It was pretty cool as a kid. I don't care what team you're from. It was just cool to watch a guy like that."

Red Sox claim RHP Phillips Valdez off waivers, place Dustin Pedroia on 60-day IL

Red Sox claim RHP Phillips Valdez off waivers, place Dustin Pedroia on 60-day IL

The Boston Red Sox have made yet another move to bolster their pitching depth.

On Sunday, they claimed right-hander Phillips Valdez off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. To make room for Valdez, they placed veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the 60-day injured list.


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Valdez, 27, only has 11 games worth of major league experience under his belt. In 2019, he posted a 3.94 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 16 innings pitched with the Texas Rangers. Valdez was claimed off waivers by the Mariners in November, then designated for assignment on Saturday.

Pedroia suffered a "significant setback" during his knee rehab, so his placement on the 60-day IL doesn't come as a surprise. The 36-year-old did not report to spring training with the Red Sox.

Along with Valdez, Boston has added Chris Mazza, Martin Perez, Trevor Hildenberger, to its pitching staff this offseason.

An Opening Day start for Red Sox' Chris Sale: 'I think I'm going to be ready'

An Opening Day start for Red Sox' Chris Sale: 'I think I'm going to be ready'

Already coming off a season cut short by an elbow injury that shut him down last August, Chris Sale's spring training got off to a slow start as he recovered from a bout with pneumonia just as pitchers and catchers reported to Red Sox camp in Fort Myers. 

He says he's progressing after the illness led to him dropping a few pounds from his already thin frame (6-foot-6, 180). He'll throw a side session Sunday and told reporters on Saturday that he thinks he'll be ready for Opening Day March 26.

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"I think I’m going to be ready for [the opener]. But like I said, those aren’t my calls to make. I go out there, do my job, tell them how I feel on a daily basis," Sale said. "Obviously as the workload picks up, we have to see how things work out. I’ve just got to be open and honest with them and then we map out a plan and see how it works out."

In a Friday interview on WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria" show, Sale said having his season end early last summer and going through a rehab process to avoid Tommy John surgery has him raring to go into 2020 despite questions about his stamina.

"I feel like I'm better now than I was then because of going through that [injury and rehab]."

Sale hasn't reached 200 innings pitched since 2017. He went 6-11 in 25 starts (147.1 IP) in what he called "a nightmare season" in 2019 after his and all the starters' workloads were limited in spring training and he struggled with his velocity at times before the injury was diagnosed.

"I feel really good," he told WEEI. "I can sit here and tell you what I want to do, what I think I'm going to do, but I've just got to go do it. I live here in town and put in a lot of work. I was here four to five times a week. It's exciting. For me, this really started last September October when that rehab process began.

"I gotta get back to the basics. Not really worry about fading, the injuries. This is sports. Injuries can happen overnight...I'm not worried about what my track record is or what people are thinking of me."