Daniel McGrath, coming off his best season as a professional, hopes he’ll get a chance to build on that success at some point in 2020. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

When spring training camps closed in mid-March, pitcher Daniel McGrath waited in Florida, hoping baseball would resume soon.

“I stayed for a couple of weeks to get a feel around the league of what was going to happen,” McGrath said.

It was a good thing that McGrath did not wait too long, as this coronavirus pandemic grew, and borders closed.

“Australia has one of the strictest lockdowns,” said McGrath, a Melbourne native.

“Just before Australia had its big restrictions, I was able to fly home, and have been here since late April.”

McGrath, 25, has no idea when he is coming back.

As with many rising minor leaguers, this pandemic was ill-timed for McGrath’s career. He was coming off his best professional season in 2019, becoming the ace of the Portland Sea Dogs and getting an invitation to the Red Sox major league spring training camp in February.

“That was a good experience,” McGrath said.

But instead of pitching for Triple-A Pawtucket right now, at the threshold of the major leagues, McGrath is simply trying to stay in shape.

“I’ve been running and working out at home,” he said. “I’ve just started being able to throw again with a partner recently, so that’s been great to long toss and get some mound work in.”

It was in Australia where the Red Sox discovered McGrath, then 17. Signed to a $400,000 signing bonus, McGrath was big news at the time, but slowly faded into the shadows of the minor leagues. With an 89 mph fastball, his stuff was not overpowering. But McGrath matured as a pitcher and, with a deceptive curve and change-up, the left-hander broke out last season.

McGrath began 2019 as a reliever and spot starter. He earned a spot in the rotation and dominated. Not only did McGrath pitch 481/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run, he recorded a 1.68 ERA – a Sea Dogs record, and the lowest ERA in the Eastern League since 1985.

“Last year certainly gave me a lot of confidence that I can compete well at the upper levels,” McGrath said. “Once you get in a routine – a rhythm – it is a good feeling to know you do belong out there and you can do it.”

Although McGrath was eligible for free agency after 2019, he re-signed with Boston.

“I’ve always liked the Red Sox organization,” he said. “I think it’s a very fair and accommodating organization. There is also a good opportunity in the coming year, or years, to break through to the (majors), hopefully.”

Now McGrath waits, like everyone else, for a chance to play. It seems unlikely that a minor league season will take place, but McGrath could be called back if there’s a major league season. The speculation is that the majors would use 30-man rosters, along with “taxi squads” of players to be called up in case of injury. Presumably, those taxi squads would be comprised mostly of pitchers.

McGrath showed he can pitch effectively. But he is no longer a touted prospect. He needs to keep proving himself. And for that to happen, he needs to pitch.

THE RED SOX cut 22 minor leaguers on Friday, mostly at the lower levels. It was speculated that most of the players would have been cut at the end of March if spring training had not been halted.

Among those cut were former Sea Dogs infielder Nick Lovullo and reliever Matthew Gorst.

Gorst, 25, dropped quickly on the depth chart. In 2018, he recorded a 1.59 ERA in Salem, was promoted to Portland and dominated (201/3 innings, no earned runs). But he struggled in 2019 (4.62 ERA in Portland).

Lovullo, 26, was a utility infielder with a career .225 batting average. The son of Arizona Manager Torey Lovullo, he bounced between Class A, Double-A and Triple-A, providing depth where needed.


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