Red Sox promote former top prospect Jeter Downs: ‘I couldn’t believe it’

This wasn’t the moment Jeter Downs expected to get called up to the big leagues for the first time.

The Red Sox farmhand was dead asleep as the organization attempted to get ahold of him on Monday morning.

“I got the call today around 10 a.m.,” said Downs, who was called up to replace right-hander James Norwood on the active roster. “I was sleeping in a little and had my phone on ‘do not disturb’ so I could sleep. So I missed a couple calls then our manager (Chad Tracy) texted me, ‘Call me when you get a chance.’ So I called him and he’s like ‘You trying not to get to the big leagues?’ I was like, ‘it’s my off-day, I’m trying to sleep.’

“I couldn’t believe it. Started crying. It was pretty surreal. I can’t believe I just took BP here.”

Once considered a top-50 prospect by MLB’s rankings, Downs had been hitting just .180 with a .694 OPS in Triple-A Worcester. But the Sox were in need of a middle infielder and needed to trim their roster down to 13 pitchers on Monday, as MLB began to reinforce a rule that had previously been relaxed to provide teams flexibility coming off the shortened spring training.

Downs was the prospect added to the Mookie Betts trade at the last minute after the Red Sox changed their minds on acquiring pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol, who has since become a key piece of the Dodgers’ bullpen.

The Sox didn’t like the medical report on Graterol and requested Downs, a middle infield prospect, to go along with Alex Verdugo and Connor Wong in the trade that sent Betts to Los Angeles just before the 2020 season.

Downs is the last of the three to make it to the big leagues. He has struggled mightily since the trade, hitting just .187 with a .637 OPS over 152 games with Worcester since 2021.

“Obviously people look at the stat line and all that,” manager Alex Cora said. “There’s more to it. He’s a good defender, good baserunner, a right-handed hitter. Obviously, the situation with Kiké Hernandez (injured list) and Christian Arroyo (COVID-19-related injured list) had to do with it.”

Hernandez and Arroyo are both expected to go on a minor league rehab assignment before they return to the big leagues, paving way for a short stint for Downs to be the backup infielder.

Cora said he expects Downs to start at third base against Tigers’ lefty Tarik Skubal on Wednesday. The Sox are off on Thursday and could get Hernandez and/or Arroyo back in time for the start of their series with the Cleveland Guardians on Friday.

 

“Hopefully that’s the case, but we have to see,” Cora said.

Downs, who was ranked as a top-50 prospect before the 2021 season but has since fallen off the top-100 altogether, has at least shown some ability to hit for power this year. He has 11 homers in 53 games.

“Jeter obviously has the power numbers and (is good at) running,” Cora said. “The average is not where we want it to be but at one point everybody was talking about this guy like he was going to be a good big league player and we still believe that.”