FORT MYERS, Fla. — At the end of last season, Mitch Moreland wasn’t sure if he was playing his last games with the Boston Red Sox. But after a winter full of uncertainty, he’s back in Red Sox camp after re-signing with the club on a one-year, $3 million deal in January.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s getting easier to go through (free agency),” Moreland said. “Ultimately, when it came down to it, this was my No. 1 choice. Had a blast here, made some great memories, some friends. Obviously familiar with everything here and comfortable with it. It’s always nice not having to go into somewhere and having to relearn the system, being the new guy again. Excited about coming back.”

Moreland has gone through the free agent process three times in the last four winters, signing a one-year deal with Boston after 2016 and a two-year contract a year later. In a market that in recent years hasn’t been kind to aging position players, he waited significantly longer to get a deal done than he had in his previous two go-arounds.

At the outset of the offseason, Moreland seemed like an unlikely fit for a Red Sox team that was looking to slash costs and get younger in 2020. But as the roster shaped up in mid-January, there was a clear need for a left-handed hitting first baseman to share time with Michael Chavis (and potentially top prospect Bobby Dalbec later in the season).

“It seemed like it wasn’t going to happen early,” Moreland said. “Talked to a few other teams that seemed pretty interested, and then it seemed like it shifted back around. Thankful it did. Like I said, this is where I wanted to be and where I wanted to play.”

Moreland didn’t actively worry about securing a deal in time for spring training, figuring he’d get more time to fish at home in Mississippi if he stayed a free agent. Though his family had questions about where they were going to live over the summer, the 34-year-old stayed busy without getting too caught up in thinking about his future.


“My offseasons are crazy in a different way,” Moreland said. “Three kids running around, got a 2-year-old running around we’re chasing, changing diapers. It seems like Disney Channel is on more than ESPN or MLB Network.”

Not counting Dustin Pedroia, Moreland is now the oldest player on the roster and has the most service time of any Red Sox player. He’s ready to embrace his role as the team’s elder statesman – a role he doubted he’d get the chance to fill at times over the last few months.

“The first two (signings), it was kind of the same way,” he said. “We’ll be in touch, then all the sudden I was back. I didn’t really know. I didn’t know how it would work out. I’ve learned over the years to keep an open mind because you never know what’s going to happen.”

BRADLEY WELCOMES PILLAR: A clubhouse attendant walked in and dropped a Toronto Blue Jays bag in front of an empty locker. Soon after, Kevin Pillar followed.

The Red Sox have yet to make the move official, but Pillar has agreed to a one-year, $4.25-million contract, according to multiple reports.

The 31-year-old outfielder is coming off a career year in which he hit .264 with 37 doubles, 21 homers and 14 stolen bases for the Giants, earning him one vote for National League MVP.


Pillar is 6-feet tall and 210 pounds, with a beard that would make Mike Napoli proud. He’s expected to provide backup duties to Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field, but given his history of playing terrific defense, he could get more playing time than a typical fourth outfielder.

Bradley, Andrew Benintendi and Alex Verdugo all hit left-handed. Verdugo is expected to miss the start of the season because of a back injury, the Boston Globe reported on Thursday.

“Obviously with three left-handers, it would be nice to have a right-hander,” interim manager Ron Roenicke said on Wednesday.

That should result in more playing time for Pillar, the longtime Blue Jays center fielder who has hit .281 with a .766 OPS against lefties during his career.

“He’s going to be able to help the team win,” Bradley said. “If upper management thought he’d be able to make a difference, then bring him on. That’s good.”

Bradley, a free agent after this season, said he’s not worried about losing at-bats to Pillar in center field.


“I’m going to focus on what I can control and play my ball,” Bradley said. “I respect him as a player. I think anybody at this level who can play the game at a high level is very talented and can help a ballclub on both sides of the ball. So, ultimate respect for him.”

Pillar was notably suspended for two games by the Blue Jays in 2017 for using a homophobic slur toward former Braves pitcher Jason Motte. He then issued a public apology.

“I really felt embarrassed for myself, for my family, for this organization,” Pillar told reporters at the time. “I was ashamed.”

He’s expected to be introduced in Fort Myers on Saturday.

UPDATE ON MLB PROBE: Major League Baseball’s investigation into alleged sign-stealing practices by the Red Sox in 2018 is expected to conclude by the end of the month, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

Commissioner Rob Manfred previously said he hoped to have the inquiry completed before spring training camps opened in Florida and Arizona, but reporting dates have already come and gone. Instead, it appears the league is taking its time in determining whether the Sox improperly used a video replay room to decode opponents’ signs in 2018, as The Athletic reported in January.


Red Sox players have already been interviewed by the league, with first baseman Mitch Moreland becoming the first to publicly confirm he spoke to investigators Friday morning. It’s unclear if the league has spoken to former manager Alex Cora or his coaching staff about what went on in Boston.

Multiple members of the Red Sox, including Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez, have proclaimed the club’s innocence in recent weeks. In a radio interview Thursday, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said he had no reason to believe the team had done “anything untoward” that would deserve a punishment from the league.

MLB came down hard on the Astros after investigating them for sign-stealing last month. The league issued one-year suspensions to then-manager A.J. Hinch and then-general manager Jeff Luhnow, fined the club $5 million and stripped them of their top two draft picks in each of the next two drafts.

Any punishments for the Red Sox are expected to be much less severe. Cora, who was implicated as a key player in the Astros’ scheme, is expected to be punished once the Boston investigation is complete.

Comments are not available on this story.