Boston Red Sox

How Mitch Moreland stayed in baseball shape with the help of his 'party barn'

How Mitch Moreland stayed in baseball shape with the help of his 'party barn'

Mitch Moreland found one way to stay in baseball shape during the pandemic — install batting cages in his party barn.

Moreland bought land in Alabama this offseason, razed a couple of existing structures, and prepared to build a new home. So his family would have a spot to watch construction, they first built a fully furnished barn, which they assumed they could use to host friends and which Moreland described as a "party barn."

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But when the pandemic struck, he found a practical use for the space, installing a full batting cage and pitching machine.

"It just happened to come at just the right time," Moreland said. "Obviously, it's an unfortunate time with everybody having to go back home and kind of stay isolated as much as possible, but having the barn there, being able to get the cage up in it, like I said, it just came about at the right time really."

Moreland's Instagram account includes multiple shots of the barn-as-batting-cage, including one of his son losing a tooth by tying a string to baseball and letting it fly.

"It worked out great," Moreland said. "It was a blast being able to kind of be there and watch the finishing touches. Me and a couple of the guys put the cage up ourselves in like three hours, so I was fired up about it. Something I've always wanted. I think my boys are getting just as much use out of it as I am. It's fun to have and it just kind of worked out well during this time to have it."

The 34-year-old Moreland returned to the Red Sox on a one-year, $3 million deal with a team option for 2021. After spending the first seven years of his career in Texas, he has now made a home in Boston, where he is entering his fourth season.

But it's the new home he's building, with personal batting cage/party barn, that caught the attention of his teammates.

"Actually guys have talked about it here," he said. "They've already brought it up and they said they're all coming to stay with me. I was like, I'll wait until all this stuff is cleared up and then you all can come up anytime you want."

J.D. Martinez is unsurprisingly a big fan of MLB's universal DH rule

J.D. Martinez is unsurprisingly a big fan of MLB's universal DH rule

There will be a universal DH in baseball for the first time in 2020. J.D. Martinez can only hope it's not the last.

The Red Sox slugger would benefit more than any other player in baseball by the full-time adoption of the position in the National League, and he makes no secret of his wish to see it happen. Because the players and owners could not agree on a proposal to play the 2020 season, the universal DH will only be used this year out of safety concerns, before reverting back to an AL-only position in 2021.

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"You're kind of asking a biased person here," Martinez said. "I'm all for it. I'm a DH. I think you could speak to a lot of pitchers who are for it, too. A lot of pitchers like it and a lot of pitchers in the AL like it because they feel the pitchers in the NL have an advantage. It's one less hitter they have to face and one less elite hitter they have to face, really, because of it."

Martinez can opt out of his contract after this season, which is an iffy proposition in the midst of a pandemic. But the only way it happens is if the NL market suddenly opens up, creating 15 potential new landing spots for the best DH in the game.

Martinez will otherwise make $19.75 million in each of the next two seasons as part of a five-year, $110 million contract. When he addressed the DH issue via a Zoom call on Sunday, he focused on the competitive implications.

"I like it to even the playing field across the board," he said. "I understand the history of it and stuff like that, so I see the other side of it, too, but I'm in favor of it. I think it keeps everybody safe. It keeps our pitchers safe, it keeps the game fun, it's more offense, which is what fans like to see. And I think you don't have the whole, 'Oh he had 2.00 ERA in the NL so in the AL that's really going to be a 3.00.' Now it makes it easy and makes it even across the board for everybody."

J.D. Martinez has sobering outlook on 2020 MLB season amid coronavirus pandemic

J.D. Martinez has sobering outlook on 2020 MLB season amid coronavirus pandemic

Which teams will benefit from Major League Baseball's shortened 60-game schedule?

J.D. Martinez thinks there's a pretty straightforward answer.

"It’s crazy to say it but I have a feeling that this season is going to come down to what team can stay healthiest and what team can stay corona-free," the Boston Red Sox designated hitter told reporters in a video conference Sunday, via MassLive.com.

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Martinez is among many players aware of how the coronavirus pandemic could impact the season. A handful of players and team staffers already have tested positive for COVID-19 while returning to their facilities for training camp, and players who test positive during the season won't be able to return to their teams until they pass several health tests.

"One blow to a team with corona and you knock out two or three of the star players," Martinez said. "I mean, anything can happen in this league. You never know.

" ... I think the Red Sox have done a good job of keeping us aware of that and keeping us safe, giving us the best opportunity to not get corona. And everybody on our team is on board with it.”

Two Red Sox players -- pitchers Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor -- tested positive for COVID-19 last week and are quarantining, while left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is awaiting the results of his test.

Martinez, who has asthma, admitted he's fearful of contracting the virus and has avoided group hitting sessions with his teammates.

"It definitely changes it. I’ve already had a couple guys ask me, ‘When can you come to the cage?' I’m like, ‘I can’t. They won’t let me,' " Martinez said. "I’m asthmatic. I’m very scared of everything. But it definitely changes the role. I try to do my best."

Martinez said his "love for the game" will outweigh that fear once he starts playing games. But the 32-year-old is right in that the 2020 MLB season -- which is set to begin July 23 and 24 despite COVID-19 cases spiking in a number of states -- could turn into a war of attrition.

"I want to say I’m confident (in MLB making it through the whole season)," Martinez said. “But the way 2020 has been, you never know what’s going to happen anymore.

"It’s crazy to think that way but we’re all definitely going to do our best to stay as healthy as we can and keep this going. I think this is big for the country, for our fans, for everyone who lives here."