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Fuego Latino Prepares to Light Up Polar Park  

Marcelo Mayer, Wikelman Gonzalez and Luis Perales were part of the Rookie Development Program prior to the start of Spring Training
February 28, 2024

The 2024 season will mark a clean slate for the entire Boston Red Sox organization, including the farm system. With Craig Breslow in his new position as head of baseball operations, the Sox seem to have three clear goals: Pitching development, top prospects development, and above all, to get back

The 2024 season will mark a clean slate for the entire Boston Red Sox organization, including the farm system. With Craig Breslow in his new position as head of baseball operations, the Sox seem to have three clear goals: Pitching development, top prospects development, and above all, to get back to being a winning organization. To achieve its objectives, it will be necessary for the Red Sox to work with talent at home and start generating good chemistry among the new generation of players who dream of one day making Fenway Park fall in love with them.

The Rookie Development Program, which started on Monday, January 15, welcomed the Red Sox' most interesting prospects to get their first glimpses of what it takes to be a major league player. It's a 10-day program where prospects receive physical and mental mentorship to play in a market like Boston. They touch on topics such as dealing with the press, financial management, dealing with umpires, and other obstacles that they may encounter in the near future.

Within the program, prospects have a chance to get to know one another, especially if they didn't meet at different levels of the minor leagues. The front office selects players to attend that could very well be promoted to Boston sooner rather than later.

Latin culture was present in the development week, with Venezuelan pitchers Wikelman Gonzalez and Luis Perales in attendance, along with Boston's No. 1 pick in the 2021 MLB draft: Mexican-American shortstop Marcelo Mayer.

WooSox Spanish-language Content Coordinator Michael Smithers had the opportunity to talk with each Latin prospect about the week of intense activity. Mayer represents perhaps one of the most important hopes in the Red Sox organization. Born in San Diego, California, Mayer always had the opportunity to stay close to his Mexican roots and practice his Spanish.

"My mom grew up in Nogales, Sonora [Mexico], and so did my dad," he said. "They don't speak a lot of English, so in my house we only speak Spanish. We live 10 minutes from the border with Tijuana, and every Christmas, we go to Sonora. I'm very close to Mexico."

Being the first pick in the draft will always represent extra pressure for any player, but Mayer, at 21 years old, prefers to take it easy and enjoy his process, considering the enormous change that comes with moving from the beaches of California to the cold winter of New England.

"I've struggled with a lot of ups and downs, but I'm comfortable with how my body feels and I'm really excited to start the season," Mayer said. "Of course it's different [being in Boston], but I like it because I can live both lives, [in San Diego] on the beach in the sun and here in Boston and Portland in the cold, but I'm doing what I love, which is playing baseball."

Regarding the Rookie Development Program, which was also attended by Red Sox first baseman Triston Casas, Mayer commented that chemistry is on point to start the season.

"We have a really good team, and we have a lot of players that can make a difference on the field," Mayer said. "I think that in the Red Sox, we're a family and we all get along really well."

Mayer added that playing for Mexico is one of his dreams, and that if presented with the opportunity to participate in the World Baseball Classic, he would not think twice.

As previously mentioned, the Latino presence in the week was highlighted by two Venezuelan right-handed pitchers, Wikelman Gonzalez and Luis Perales. Gonzalez, 21, is ranked in the Top 10 prospects by Baseball America and the highest-ranked pitcher among Boston prospects. In 2023, he split his season between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland with a 9-4 record and a 3.96 ERA, leading all minor league pitchers with 13.58 strikeouts per 9 innings.

"I've felt great, it's never easy to go all the way [from being signed in the Dominican Republic to where you are]," Gonzalez said. "It's my second time in Boston, and it feels great to be in the clubhouse of the big leagues. With a lot of encouragement, I'm grateful to the team for being here."

In 2023, Gonzalez won the Red Sox organization's pitcher of the season award, an award that represents great motivation for the future.

"I feel very motivated, last season I had ups and downs, from the lows I learned and from the highs I kept going, I never stayed there and that was what helped me finish last season well," he said. "God's timing is perfect, and every opportunity I get from the team I will take in a good way and always grateful."

Perales is also ranked in the Top 10 of Boston's pitching prospects, and Baseball America rates his fastball as the best within the entire organization. He split his season between Single-A Salem and High-A Greenville, going 4-7 with a 3.91 ERA and 115 strikeouts.

Rookie Development Week was the first time Perales tasted what his future could be at Fenway Park. The right-hander shared how he currently feels on the path that could take him to the big leagues, noting that he is "grateful" for opportunities that "don't happen every day."

"The road is not easy, but I have stayed healthy, which is the important thing, and worked day by day," Perales said. "There's no pressure. We're where we want to be, it's motivation to keep going, to meet my goals.”

With Red Sox Spring Training already underway, activity at Polar Park is right around the corner. It is the hope of every Red Sox fan that they can expect players such as Marcelo Mayer, Wikelman Gonzalez, and Luis Perales to ignite the Worcester Red Sox with magical nights and electric performances.