Why you should take note of Dalier Hinojosa (and some others in Red Sox camp)

Rob Bradford
February 06, 2015 - 6:51 am
The Red Sox announced Friday a group who will be invited to big league camp while living lives with minor league deals. The list includes: Dalier Hinojosa, Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Deven Marrero, Noe Ramirez, Matt Spring, Keith Couch, and Jemile Weeks. While it would take the unforeseen for any of the aforementioned invitees to crack the big league roster come Opening Day, they are names (and spring training performances) you should file away for later in the 2015 season. A perfect example of a player in the group who could ultimately contribute in the major leagues at some point in the coming season is Hinojosa. The 28-year-old (he turns 29 Tuesday) came to the Red Sox last year after defecting from Cuba. The organization committed a $4 million signing bonus to the righty, having been sold on Hinojosa's performance against major league quality hitters (having had notable success against former Red Sox Yoenis Cespedes). But Hinojosa's 2014 didn't go quite as planned, struggling out of the Pawtucket Red Sox' bullpen in April (6.75 ERA), May (4.05) and June (6.30). The struggles could have very well been a byproduct of not pitching competitively in 2013. In the season's final few months, however, things turned. In July and August, Hinojosa totaled a combined ERA of 1.86 in 17 outings, striking out 28 and walking nine. The gregarious Cuban was one of the first to show up in Fort Myers, intently watching the bullpens of Rick Porcello and Justin Masterson before executing one of his own under the watchful eye of pitching coach Juan Nieves Wednesday. (There is clearly a desire to get a jump start on spring training after struggling last year with a 6.48 ERA -- giving up 14 hits in 8 1/3 innings -- last exhibition season.) Even with a standout 1 1/2 months with the Red Sox in spring training, Hinojosa has an uphill climb to make the club out of camp. He still has options, he's not on the 40-man roster and (barring injuries) the Red Sox appear to have a full complement of relievers ready to make up their bullpen. But if Hinojosa continues down the path he set out in the second half of last season, is a very real possibility he could be among the contributors for the 2015 Red Sox. As for some of the other invitees to major league camp, it will be the first go-round in the big clubhouse for Couch, Spring, and Johnson. It is also always interesting to witness the increased confidence in the minor leaguers having gone down this road for a season season, as will be the case with Owens. The highly-regarded lefty clearly had some butterflies during his stint with the major leaguers last spring, appearing in two official Grapefruit League games, allowing four runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings. Marrero was clearly a more confident player in camp last spring, having already been assigned to big league camp in 2012. The shortstop turned heads with his major league-ready defense, while hitting .333 in 26 plate appearances.