Category Archives: Baseball
The Red Sox season is FINALLY over. As the they develop their shopping list I thought I would take a look at each position for 2015. The good news is that the July trades of Jon Lester and John Lackey helped solidify the outfield situation. The bad news is that the Red Sox are severely lacking a #1 and #2 starter (and maybe a #3 depending on Clay Buchholz).
Let’s start by looking at the pitching staff…
Starter #1: TBD. Many fans are expecting the return of Jon Lester but I am not sure that the Red Sox will go beyond 5 years and $125 million dollars so Lester will need to take the “hometown discount” he has mentioned in the past if he is coming back to the Sox. A fallback to Lester could be Cole Hamels who is on a more “reasonable” contract but Hamels will cost the Red Sox 3-4 top prospects.
Starter #2: TBD. James Shields seems like a good fit here. He is battle tested in the AL East and his age would seem to limit the years/total dollars that the Red Sox want to avoid.
Starter #3: Clay Buchholz. Buchholz has been incredibly inconsistent since he started off last year as one of the best pitchers in the AL. He could be a #1 or be out of the rotation by May 1 next year. 2015 is a make or break year for Buchholz.
Starter #4: Joe Kelly. Kelly came over to Boston in the Lackey deal and has been decent. If he is your #4 starter then you are in pretty good shape.
Starter #5: One of the “kids”. This should be a great battle in spring training. Rubby De la Rosa would seem to have the inside track based on his performance this year but Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo and Henry Owens could also been in the mix.
Bullpen: Koji Uehara’s struggles have put his return in question. He is a free agent and it is hard to tell if he is tired from the workload of the past two seasons or if he is becoming less effective because of his age. Other relievers should include Junichi Tazawa, Burke Badenhop (has been effective this year), Craig Breslow and Brandon Workman (long man). Expect some veteran pitchers to be added in the off season, especially a potential closer as insurance.
Catcher: Christian Vazquez would seem to be the starter in 2015. He has handled the pitching staff fairly well and his defense is excellent. Blake Swihart is close but may be a September 2015 call up. I would expect the return of David Ross on a one year deal to help mentor the younger catchers.
First Base: Mike Napoli. He is in the last year of his contract and needs to provide more power than he did this year but he should be a solid part of the lineup in 2015.
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia. There is also an outside shot that the Sox could move Pedroia and his long contract and put Mookie Betts at second. I would be surprised if the PR conscious Red Sox traded one of the most popular players on the team.
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts. Hopefully the Sox have stopped moving around Bogaerts and will give him a complete season at shortstop.
Third Base: Big ?. I don’t see Will Middlebrooks bouncing back although his right handed power ability will make the Sox give him one more shot in the spring. Brock Holt is an option here as well but a solid Free Agent may be the most likely scenario.
DH: David Ortiz. Not much to say here. He continues to rake. His career will end soon but he should have an above average season in 2015.
Outfield: There are a lot of candidates. Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig seem like the outfield as of today. Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. will also fight for playing time. The most likely scenario would have the Sox packaging at least one of these players in exchange for a #2 pitcher or a Third baseman.
Overall, the outlook is good for the Sox. The July trades and the signing of Castillo gave the Sox some much needed depth and they have the money to go after top free agent pitchers. General Manager Ben Cherington will have a lot of options and the Red Sox could go from worst to first again if he makes the right decisions.
By Ryan Winn
It doesn’t matter how you slice it, 2014 was a tremendously successful year for the Pawtucket Red Sox. The team made it to their third straight Governors’ Cup Final, and for the second time in those three years they came away with the Cup. It was an epic series filled with excitement, big moments, and players with little Triple-A experience stepping up with big performances.
But even before the team clinched the Cup, the season was still a big time success.
While winning at any level is good to see, minor league wins and losses don’t define the success of a season. It is all about player development and any organization will admit as much. Winning the Governors’ Cup, along with getting players some postseason experience, is icing one cake so long as the goal of player development is accomplished.
Going into the season, the biggest thing I wanted to see was how the team’s young pitchers grew and adjusted. I needed to see that Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, and Rubby De La Rosa were ready to contribute at the big league level. Each in their own way showed that they were ready to be Major League arms.
Ranaudo made the biggest impression by far, winning the I.L. Pitcher of the Year. Ranaudo’s numbers were dominant with Pawtucket, producing several brilliant stretches that Ranaudo himself described as “the best run of his career.” He was able to make adjustments early in the season to his delivery, something he attributes his success to. In limited MLB action he’s had his ups and downs, but has ultimately shown he can be successful.
De La Rosa bounced back from a rough 2013 season, showing why he was a highly regarded prospect. He made an impact with Pawtucket early and spent most of the year in Boston’s rotation. Barnes started off the year injured, but after a rocky start dominated in the finals months of the season. Webster was promoted in July, and though again his MLB numbers aren’t impressive he showed he has graduated from Triple-A.
The bottom line for all four of these young arms is they reestablished their value at a critical point in their careers. Will they all make Boston’s rotation, or roster, next year? That is highly unlikely, as there won’t be enough room for all of them. One would assume the organization goes out and acquires at least one established free agent arm to join Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly, leaving two openings in the rotation. With many the many needs the organization wants to address in the offseason, the value of these young arms with MLB experience becomes huge for trade purposes. The possibilities are endless for how they manage these prospects, but they have certainly lived up to their end in 2014.
The offensive player I was looking forward to seeing coming into this year was Garin Cecchini, and I was happy with the season he put up. The numbers don’t jump out, especially after a hot start with Pawtucket. He struggled in the middle of the season, specifically in June and July where he hit under .200 in each month. However, he was able to fight through it, make adjustments in his swing, and deliver strong numbers the rest of the way. Factor in the fact that he learned the outfield in addition to his normal third base position, and one has to be happy with how he progressed this year. Will Middlebrooks has done nothing to show he deserves the third base job in 2015, so the idea the Cecchini could start there is very possible.
As the season moved forward, more and more of the Sox future passed through McCoy. Henry Owens dazzled in his Triple-A debut, giving the organization a glimpse of what he can do on the mound. He also had some struggles at this level, but that is to be expected. At just 22 years old, he is the number one pitching prospect in the Boston system and will almost certainly start 2015 with the PawSox. As he gets more innings under his belt, expect the dominance to continue and a big league call up to be not far away.
2014 also saw “Mookie Madness” hit Pawtucket, as Mookie Betts tore up the minor leagues on his way to Boston. Betts showed that he can do a little bit of everything on the baseball field, impressing me more than I though he would. Learning the outfield was very easy for him as he transitioned out of second base plus he didn’t let the move impact his offense. A ceiling of dynamic leadoff hitter for Boston in 2015 is not out of reach based on what he has shown.
Three players that will likely start 2015 with Pawtucket after coming up in the final months of the season are Blake Swihart, Deven Marrero, and Edwin Escobar. Each of these players made huge contributions to the team’s championship run and will look to continue their growth after promising years.
As we look back on 2014, the PawSox have a lot to be proud of. They were able to develop the organization’s young pitchers and hitters, promote some of their brightest Double-A talent to McCoy, send major league ready players to Boston, and return the Governors’ Cup to its rightful home.
Brian Johnson, who spent most of this year dominating in Portland, was summoned to make his Triple-A debut when Matt Barnes was called up to Boston on Monday. He faced off against Alex Colome who has spent time in the big leagues this season for the Rays.
Johnson pitched strong, but the PawSox lost 4-3 after letting a late lead slip away. Their series is now tied 1-1.
For the second consecutive game, Pawtucket struck quickly with runs in the first two innings. The team loaded the bases with no outs in the first, though only managed one run on a groundout from Ryan Lavarnway. Ivan DeJesus Jr. started off the second with a triple and Corey Brown launched a two-run home run giving Pawtucket a 3-0 lead.
That would chase the ineffective Colome from the game after an inning and a third, marking the second time in as many games a Durham starter didn’t make it past three innings.
Durham responded with a two run home run in the third inning by Mike Mahtook to make it 3-2, but that would be all the offense until the later innings. Pawtucket had plenty of scoring chances early, though didn’t capitalize nearly enough on them.
“We had a chance to blow it open,” Manager Kevin Boles said. “We missed some opportunities. I liked how we burned through their starter and get opportunities but we just couldn’t push runs across.”
Johnson looked solid in his six innings of work, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks while striking out seven. He flashed an impressive curveball, though did not factor in the decision.
“He pitched well,” Boles said. “He settled in with a good pitch mix and he gave us what we needed tonight.”
“I was excited to get out there,” Johnson said of his debut. “I got on the same page as Lavarnway pretty quick. This year has been fun for sure and hopefully we finish on the right note.”
Heath Hembree, who was shaky in last night’s appearance despite recording the save, came out for the ninth but gave up a game tying solo home run to Vince Belnome making the score 3-3. Brown led off the ninth with a double for Pawtucket, but was stranded at third.
Pawtucket again squandered a golden chance to win it in the 10th, loading the bases with two outs for Brown who struck out.
The Bulls would not waste their chance to win in the 11th. With runners on first and second, Mike Fontenot lined an RBI single to right off John Ely, giving the Bulls a 4-3 lead. The PawSox limited the damage, but Pawtucket wouldn’t score in their half and fell by that final.
The Rusney Castillo watch continued, as he went 1-4 with a walk in his second Triple-A game. He had a chance to win the game in the ninth, however popped out weakly with a runner on third and one out. Once the game went into extras, he was removed as the plan was for him to play nine innings. He has shown that he will continue to be an aggressive player and when watching him play it is tough not to see flashes of fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig. Boles said that it is doubtful he plays in game three.
Pawtucket will hope to regain their series lead tomorrow as Henry Owens takes the mound against Matt Andriese.
Tuesday marked Game One of the 2014 Governors’ Cup at McCoy Stadium, but more importantly for Red Sox fans it marked the Triple-A debut of Rusney Castillo. The 27 year old outfielder has come with plenty of hype, even though many aren’t quite sure what to expect from the Cuban. Though not a tall guy, reports indicate that he is fully capable of playing centerfield in the big leagues right now with the ability to have gap power and good speed. If this is the case, the organization is looking not only at their centerfielder of the future, but a potential leadoff or number two hitter.
Though he has already played in some games within the organization, this will be the highest level of baseball he has competed in. Not to mention it comes in the most crucial series the PawSox have played in all season.
For the third straight season (second against the Durham Bulls) the Pawtucket Red Sox will play in the Governors’ Cup Finals, though they will be without one of their star pitchers Matt Barnes. Barnes was called up to Boston for the first time on Monday after a great outing in the semi-finals. Edwin Escobar, coming off a brilliant semi-final effort as well, took the ball in game one against hard throwing Rays prospect Enny Romero.
Behind another strong outing from Escobar, Pawtucket won 3-2 to take the lead in this best of five series.
Pawtucket struck quickly in the first when Ivan De Jesus Jr. singled to right and eventually scored on an RBI single from Travis Shaw. They added to their lead in the second after Blake Swihart doubled and scored on an opposite field single from Deven Marrero to make it 2-0 PawSox.
Durham responded with two in the third on a two out, two run single by Mike Mahtook but Pawtucket quickly regained the lead on an 11 pitch sacrifice fly from Garin Cecchini.
The early theme for the PawSox offense was working counts as they were able to chase Romero from the game by making him throw 77 pitches through three innings.
Doug Mathis was called upon to silence the Pawtucket bats, and he did a good job of that in the middle innings. However Escobar was able to the same to the Bulls’ bats, keeping them off balance and limiting chances. He had to give way to the bullpen in the eighth inning, but they were able to close it out and secure the 3-2 PawSox win.
Escobar picked up the win, going seven innings giving up two runs on six hits and five strikeouts. For the second consecutive postseason start he didn’t walk a batter. Hembree earned a four out save, escaping trouble in the eighth and ninth innings. This included getting out of a bases loaded, one out jam to close the game.
“He was impressive and had a good mix,” Manager Kevin Boles said of his starter. “The tempo with him and Swihart was good and he did a good job keeping the defense involved.”
Castillo ended his debut going 1-4 with two strikeouts. His first Triple-A hit came on a sharp single past the third baseman, however he was quickly erased on a caught stealing. Both strikeouts came on 96 mph fastballs, one looking and one swinging. Though it’s tough to judge on just one game, his swing has some resemblance to fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig.
“He expanded the zone a couple of times but he’s an athlete and you can tell,” Boles said. “It stands out. We’re going let him play his game and be himself. There’s a lot to like.”
“I felt good,” Castillo said through his translator. “It was nice to pull out the win in a tight game but I felt more comfortable as the game progressed. I may have been a little over aggressive at first but I tried to be more patient after my third at bat.”
Pawtucket looks to take a commanding 2-0 series lead tomorrow night when Brian Johnson makes his Triple-A debut against Alex Colome.
Coming off a walk off victory last night, the Pawtucket Red Sox looked to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their best of five series against the Syracuse Chiefs. Matt Barnes took the hill for the Wild Card Champion PawSox looking to build upon his strong campaign while Scott McGregor got the start for the I.L. North Champion Chiefs.
Barnes was able to follow up Edwin Escobar’s tremendous start with a great outing of his own, leading the PawSox to an 8-2 victory.
After both offenses started out cold in game one, Pawtucket wasted no time striking first in game two. Jackie Bradley Jr. singled to start the first and scored on a Travis Shaw double. After a Ryan Lavarnway ground out plated another run, last night’s hero Garin Cecchini singled home Shaw giving the Sox a 3-0 lead.
The pitching dominance then picked up right where it left off, as neither team would see many scoring chances through five innings. The closest Syracuse came to Barnes was a one out double by Jeff Kobernus in the sixth, but that’s all Pawtucket’s young hurler would allow.
Pawtucket opened it up in the bottom half of the inning, taking advantage of the Chief’s bullpen. Shaw and Cecchini reached to begin the inning and moved into scoring position on a balk from Felipe Rivero. Ryan Roberts drove them home with a two run double and scored on Devin Marrero’s single to make the score 6-0 after six.
“We had a lot of quality at bats, and if we made an out it was a tough out,” manager Kevin Boles explained. “Cecchini has turned a corner and he’s back to the guy we know. He’s using the whole field and impacting the baseball.”
The PawSox added two more in the seventh on a Cecchini triple and a Roberts single, winning by the final of 8-2.
Barnes earned the win pitching seven strong innings, scattering three hits while striking out six and walking no one.
“I felt pretty good,” Barnes said after the game. “I was able to establish my fastball early and let the change up play off of that. Being here last year for the playoffs got me used to the atmosphere and what its like. You know you have to go out there, put up zeros, and pitch as deep as possible.”
“He was terrific,” Boles said of his pitcher. “Not walking anyone was a huge key for him. He was able to attack this lineup and that was huge.”
Cecchini paced the offensive attack going 4-4 with two RBIs while Roberts went 3-4 with three RBIs. Bradley and Marrero each added two hits of their own.
Pawtucket looks to end the series tomorrow in Syracuse, as top prospect Henry Owens takes the mound against Mitch Lively.
It came down to the last series of the year but the Pawtucket Red Sox clinched their fourth consecutive playoff berth with a win over the Rochester Red Wings. In a game featuring over two hours of rain delays the PawSox were able to weather the storm, winning 10-4 to secure the I.L. Wild Card and set up a playoff series with the I.L. North Champion Syracuse Chiefs.
They got their postseason off to a good start, taking game one of this best of five series 2-1.
Minor league rosters are impacted by Major League September call-ups, as clubs want to see if some of the young talent they have can make an impact at the highest level. Pawtucket will be without Anthony Ranaudo (I.L. most valuable pitcher), Brandon Workman, Mookie Betts (2014 PawSox MVP), Steven Wright, and Dan Butler (2013 PawSox MVP) as they were all promoted to Boston in recent days. However, the depth of the Boston organization is on display as Pawtucket’s roster is still formidable for the postseason.
The lineup features top prospects and players with MLB experience, most notably Jackie Bradley Jr. Their rotation in particular features tremendous talent, as top prospects Henry Owens and Matt Barnes will be anchoring the staff. It also features Edwin Escobar, another young pitcher acquired in the Jake Peavy trade who took the mound for game one.
The 22 year old Escobar showed why he is highly thought of in his start, dominating the Syracuse lineup. His fastball topped out at 95 mph while showing very good off speed pitches. He also showed good command, not walking a batter and not giving Chiefs hitters many good pitches to hit.
Meanwhile, Pawtucket’s hitters were equally quiet offensively. Though the team had some early chances off Chiefs starter Taylor Hill, they were unable to push home any runs through the first five innings.
That would change in the sixth, as Travis Shaw launched the first pitch of the inning into the Chiefs bullpen to give the PawSox a 1-0 lead.
That would remain the score until the ninth, when Syracuse would fight back to tie the game at one. Down to their last out, Brandon Laird hit a towering home run to left field chasing Escobar from the game.
The game went into extra innings, and the middle of Pawtucket’s offense did not disappoint. Bryce Brentz doubled to lead off the inning and got to third on a wild pitch. Shaw and Ryan Lavarnway walked to set up Garin Cecchini for the heroics, and he delivered a walk off single up the middle to give the Sox a 2-1 win.
In his best start with Pawtucket Escobar fired 8.2 innings allowing one run on five hits while allowing no walks and striking out seven.
“Everything was working,” joked Escobar. “The defense was good, the catcher was good. I feel strong right now.”
Heath Hembree earned the win, pitching 1.1 innings of perfect ball out of the bullpen. Former PawSox pitcher Manny Delcarmen was charged with the loss.
Shaw finished the game 2-3 with a pair of walks while Blake Swihart went 3-4. Bradley Jr. continued his slump going 0-5 with two strikeouts. Laird finished 1-4 while Jhonatan Solano went 3-3 with a double.
To see Manager Kevin Boles talk about the victory, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/223562408/20140903_221454.mp4 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d50WqeA9XYk&list=UUJGUYa3IGT6SeKFVskP3Jiw
Pawtucket looks to take a commanding 2-0 series lead tomorrow night at McCoy as Matt Barnes will face off against Scott McGregor.
The Minor League baseball season is in its final weeks and the Pawtucket Red Sox are right in the mix of the playoff picture. The PawSox are just three games behind first place Syracuse and have a three game lead over Rochester for the Wild Card. As is usually the case at the Triple-A level roster additions and subtractions down the stretch can make a huge impact on the standings, and with Pawtucket playing both the Chiefs and Red Wings to close out their season they could be a deciding factor.
This week has seen a number of moves, the most notable of which was the demotion of Jackie Bradley Jr. The center fielder’s struggles at the plate have been well documented, and the organization finally decided that he needed more time in Triple-A. Mookie Betts was promoted to take his spot in the outfield, and a good performance from him could earn him a starting spot somewhere in the 2015 Boston outfield.
The timing of Bradley’s demotion seems odd as offensive struggles have been a problem all year, but the team will now see what Betts can do with his chance. Bradley has always been a mentally tough player, and his toughness and love for the game will get him back on track soon according to Manager Kevin Boles.
“We talked to him the first day before we even knew he was going to report.” Boles explained. “He said ‘I want to play tonight.’ His frame of mind has been terrific from the jump.”
Bradley hit just .216 with Boston, striking out at a very high rate and looking overmatched at times in the batter’s box. His glove and arm in center field may have been the best in the majors this year, but his offensive growth needed work and Pawtucket may be the best spot for him to this.
“There’s a plan with the offensive approach that’s been laid down and he’s taken to it,” Boles continued. “I’m sure he’s had some disappointment but he hasn’t shown any of that. Knowing what type of athlete he is the adjustment period should be shorter than longer.”
The coaching staff and organization constantly express their admiration for his work ethic and natural talent, so his demotion isn’t a sign that they are ready to give up on the youngster.
With David Ross being activated off the DL, it is not a surprise that Dan Butler was sent back to Pawtucket. Butler is coming off his first MLB stint, and though he failed to record a hit in his 11 at bats the fact that the undrafted catcher worked his way to the big leagues is a credit to his perseverance. Butler will likely see time at both catcher and DH while being a strong candidate for September call ups.
His time at catcher will likely be limited however, as Ryan Lavarnway and Blake Swihart will also be behind the dish. Boles said that all three would play and that they would find creative ways to play them all, but Swihart will likely get the bulk of the time. Swihart has only spent two weeks with the club, but Boles said he and the team are impressed with him.
“We’ve seen him where he can impact the baseball from both sides of the plate. We’ve seen a more consistent approach from the right side of the plate, but he has the chance to be a real impact bat. Defensively he’s shown above average arm strength and a very quick release. He’s not afraid and he’s learning the pitch plan. Guys are taking to him.”
Swihart isn’t the only youngster catching the eye of the team. Much was made of Henry Owens and his dominating debut, but his last two starts don’t look nearly as good on paper. Owens gave up four runs in each of his last two outings, though continued his impressive strikeout numbers.
“I liked his last two starts,” Boles raved. “He showed flashes of real quality stuff. The three pitch mix, being able to throw his change at any point in the count, being able to throw it left on left. The breaking ball is better than everybody advertises. He has a lot of weapons.”
When asked about managing his workload, Boles said that they would keep an eye on it but they didn’t expect it to be an issue because he has been managed well all season.
Another young player the organization is high on is Garin Cecchini. It hasn’t been the easiest season for him, as he has dealt with slumps and position changes. However, August has been a different story as he is hitting above .310 and driving in plenty of runs. Boles attributes this to his adjustments and his familiarity with Triple-A.
“Being familiar with the league he’s made the adjustments and seen how they’re trying to attack him. He’s also taken care of his business too as far as staying back and getting in a better position to hit. Younger hitters tend to drift and get out on their front foot but we are seeing him stay more balanced.”
In other PawSox news, the team welcomed back Steven Wright and said goodbye to Alex Hassan, who was promoted so Boston had more depth on their bench. With Mike Napoli ailing, having someone like Hassan who plays both OF and 1B is a valuable asset.
Matt Barnes continued rolling in his last start, going 6.1 innings giving up no runs while allowing just two hits and striking out seven. He has been dominant since the All-Star break, and on a staff of young pitchers like Anthony Ranaudo and Owens, Barnes has been their best pitcher in the second half.
“Any time you can string together a few good outings its fun,” Barnes said, “but the most important thing is going out and giving quality starts. When you have other young guys performing well it definitely motivates you. We’re all trying to go out there and do the best we can to get up to Boston as fast as we can and help them win. When you have someone pushing you it makes you work harder.”
The PawSox continue their series with the Iron Pigs Thursday as Owens will get the ball looking for his second Triple-A win.
July 31 has come and gone, and like any trade deadline for a minor league team the Pawtucket Red Sox roster has seen many changes. With Boston trading away Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, and Felix Doubront, PawSox starters Allen Webster, Brandon Workman, and Anthony Ranaudo were called up to pitch for the Red Sox. While Ranaudo has since been sent back down, Pawtucket’s prospect filled roster received two more prized players to fill their spots.
Pitcher Henry Owens and catcher Blake Swihart both made their Pawtucket debuts together on Monday, a fitting way for the two top prospects to begin their PawSox careers.
“He and I have been together for four years now,” Swihart said pre-game. “There’s a comfort level. He knows what I want and I know what he wants.”
Owens is highly regarded and considered the top Red Sox pitching prospect. While he won’t light up the radar gun he throws in the low 90s with good movement on all his pitches. He also works very quickly, taking very little time between pitches. He did not disappoint in his PawSox debut, going 6.2 innings for the victory allowing two hits and three walks while striking out nine. He struck out the first four he faced and five of his first six.
“I was just excited to get back on the mound,” Owens said after his dominating start. “I had command of all my pitches, and aside from a few I thought I was able to go in and out whenever I wanted.”
“He definitely has the pitch mix,” Boles said of the young pitcher. “He had fastball command with some late life and deception. The breaking pitches were quality and there is a lot to be excited about. The amount of bad swings stood out tonight, especially against this lineup. He was unpredictable and never let them get in a grove. He attacks the zone and has no fear of contact. He’ll throw any pitch at any time. That mound presence and poise is a plus for him.”
“It looked like he was having fun out there,” said Swihart. “He was the same old Henry having fun and competing.”
Owens’ and Swihart’s relationship was evident as they were in a groove all night. The two only disagreed on a pitch one time.
“I disagreed with him once and I walked a guy,” Owens joked. “I probably should have listened.”
Owens’ curveball was his put-away pitch, getting many swings and misses on pitches that fell right out of the zone. The separation between his pitches allowed his fastball to come in looking harder. Hitters aren’t usually late on 92 MPH but that speed consistently jammed them and went right by their bats. Known more for his changeup, Owens made it a point to showcase his curve.
“I’ve been working on it the whole year, not just on the mound but on the days I don’t start.” Owens said.
“He told me people don’t think I have a curveball so hey lets go show them that I do,” Swihart explained. “There it is.”
“It’s always been a weapon,” said Boles, “and the difference in velocity between the pitches is tremendous.”
With Owens producing such a dominating debut, Swihart’s debut flew under the radar. He has enjoyed a lot of success at the Double-A level, hitting .300 with 12 homers, 55 RBIs, and seven steals for the Sea Dogs. Now that he’s with Pawtucket, he will look to build on his success.
“I just have to stay consistent,” Swihart explained. “Consistent at the plate, consistent behind the plate, and helping out my pitchers as much as possible. I have to go out there with the same approach everyday and have fun.”
“He was very athletic behind the plate,” Boles raved. “He wasn’t afraid to take control. He does a lot of things well.”
Swihart is always trying to grow at the position, and has received advice from Jason Varitek on being an everyday catcher. Whether it be hitting or preparing for a game, Varitek was able to help him.
“Tek is like an encyclopedia,” Swihart said. “You can ask him anything and he knows the answer.”
In other PawSox news, Bryce Brentz was activated from the DL this week after missing over two months with a hamstring injury. In two games back he hasn’t missed a beat, going 5-9 with a home run to dead center field Monday night.
“He’s been tested,” said Boles. He was getting to some balls in left and busting it down the line. It’s nice to have him back.”
Also, Garin Cecchini left Monday’s game after getting hit with a throw in the face running down the line. According to Boles, he avoided serious injury.
“He’s OK. The ball hit off his jaw but all signs point to him being fine.”
Pawtucket finishes their home stand tomorrow afternoon at 12:05.
By designating AJ Pierzynski for assignment today, the Red Sox unofficially announced what many fans had figured out for some time now: they aren’t contenders in 2014. They are throwing in the towel. Waving the white flag. Call it what you want. But it’s clear, and John Farrell said as much, that they are going young the rest of the season to see what they have in the system. After Pierzynski was designated for assignment, highly regarded prospect Christian Vazquez was called up to split catching duties with David Ross. This was to be expected as the team originally signed Pierzynski as a bridge to Vazquez.
With the trade deadline approaching and plenty of desirable players, more trades and moves are bound to be coming. There are several different ways they can go come July 31, but here’s what I would like to see done.
Trade Jake Peavy and John Lackey
It is all but assured that Jake Peavy is going to get traded. In the final year of his contract, he is a veteran starter that could fit nicely into a fourth or fifth starter role on a contending team. Peavy himself acknowledged that trade rumors are real and with so much young depth at pitching, there won’t be room for him next year. Since they won’t be signing him anyways, it only makes sense to get something for him.
Lackey is a bit more of a long shot, but I think a move that should be done. He has been very good for the Sox since coming back from Tommy John surgery, playing a big role in the World Series Championship and winning back the Boston fans. He too will help any contender’s pitching staff, and has an interesting contract. Due to his Tommy John surgery, Lackey will only make league minimum next season (around $500,000). There may not be a bigger bargain in baseball for that price and that lack of salary could lead to a better prospect return for him.
Promote Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo
Moving Peavy and Lackey opens up room in the rotation for some of the young pitchers the Sox have. Workman, Webster, and Ranaudo have all performed well this year and are ready to show that they can play at the big league level. While one of these pitchers (Rubby De La Rosa as well) will have to move to the bullpen for the time being, the important thing is that they get big league innings under their belt. The organization can use the second half of the season to determine if these prospects are part of their future or whether they can be packaged in a bigger trade down the road. This would also allow room in Pawtucket’s rotation for another young pitcher, Henry Owens.
Trade Koji Uehara, other bullpen/bench pieces
As much as this one hurt me to put in, there is no point in keeping Uehara around this year. He will forever be a Boston legend based on last year’s remarkable run, but the reality of the situation is he is an aging pitcher on the last year of his deal that you will probably have to overpay to resign. As the best relief pitcher on the market, the Sox could get a nice package for him as he will bolster any bullpen that he’s in. Other bullpen parts like Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, or Craig Breslow would also be nice additions to a contender. The team has options in triple-A (Drake Britton, Alex Wilson) to replace the players they would lose in any bullpen trade.
The bench could also see some moves, the most likely being Jonny Gomes who is a free agent after the year. His value may not be high, but he is still a useful player capable of helping a good team. Mike Carp has more value, but fits in better long term with the Sox.
Trade Stephen Drew, put Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, Will Middlebrooks at third
It didn’t work out. At all. It’s time to admit the mistake and move on. When the team signed Stephen Drew, the team was struggling to get big hits. Drew is known for his defense and his offense has been problematic, so this signing from the get go was a mistake. And I like Drew as a player. But he is holding the organization back right now. Whether it is by trade or release, Drew’s time in Boston should come to an end.
If the team truly believes Xander Bogaerts is the shortstop of the future, they will make this move. With nothing to lose, the organization needs to let him grow at the position he knows and loves. We will never know how he can do there if he never plays. This also allows the team to play Will Middlebrooks at third base once he comes back healthy. He needs to show that he can be consistent at the major league level again, and the second half of 2014 could give him this chance.
Sit Shane Victorino for the remainder of the year, play Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts everyday
Every time Shane Victorino takes one step forward in his rehab, he takes two steps back. What started as a hamstring injury has turned into a back issue now and his return continues to get delayed. What is the point of getting him back now and risking injury again if this season is a loss? The outfielder, who has had injury problems in the past, should remain out of the lineup for the rest of the year and make sure he is fully healthy.
With no Victorino, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts will have the chance to play everyday for the rest of the season with no threat of playing time being taken away. Bradley can continue his offensive improvements while Betts can get accustomed to big league life without as much pressure.
It isn’t the season that anyone expected, and I know I wasn’t expecting this team to become sellers at the deadline. However being in the situation they are in, I think these are the best moves to help build the next great Red Sox team.
After much of the season struggling to get the offense going, the Pawtucket Red Sox started to figure things out in June. The team posted a 17-12 record, including six straight wins to end the month. Several players have picked up their pace at the plate, leading to a monster home stand for the offense.
Alex Hassan, who really struggled for the first two months of the season, had a tremendous June at the plate. The outfielder hit .367 with 13 RBIs and 11 extra base hits to go along with a .465 OBP. This was by far his best month of the year, as he failed to hit above .222 in either of first two months of the year.
Hassan’s hot hitting comes after his first big league call-up. Hassan was recalled on May 30 and was sent back to the PawSox on June 8. He appeared in two games with Boston, recording his first big league hit.
Carlos Rivero was another key member of Pawtucket’s June surge, driving in clutch runs all month long. He drove in 22 runs, including hitting .478 with two outs and runners in scoring position. The shortstop was up and down from Portland in the early months but has established himself as a productive part of this lineup. He was recently named I.L. Batter of the week for his production at the plate.
They were just a few of the hot hitting PawSox. Travis Shaw, Ryan Roberts, and Christian Vazquez have put together strong campaigns all season long and the team will look to ride this wave of offense into July.
The PawSox added veteran outfielder Andres Torres to their roster recently to improve the organizational depth at the position. Much has been made of Boston’s outfield struggle, so the speedy Torres may be able to make an impact for them if he plays well in Pawtucket. Torres was scheduled to play in his fifth game Tuesday but was replaced before first pitch with a cramp.
“His right calf cramped up,” manager Kevin Boles said. “He was coming off the field and he said it cramped up so we are going to air on the side of caution.”
In an effort to improve this depth further, third baseman Garin Cecchini has seen time in left field.
“He’s had some pretty good jumps and reads,” Boles said of his new left fielder. “He was a little jumpy tonight but overall he’s been pretty good. We’re impressed.”
The organization has shown they aren’t afraid to move around their top prospects from position to position (Mookie Betts for example), so expect to see him receive time at both third and left.
“We are going to move some pieces around as you saw tonight,” Boles said. “We had pieces all over the field.”
Pawtucket’s starting rotation received a lot of hype heading into the year, and as we pass the midway point of the year they have lived up to all of it. Allen Webster and Anthony Ranaudo have been their two best pitchers all year long and they lead the team in almost all pitching categories. Matt Barnes and Rubby De La Rosa also pitched well in this rotation, with De La Rosa coming back down from Boston to pitch Tuesday. It wasn’t the easiest outing for him in his return, going 5.2 innings giving up eight hits and five runs while striking out four, but four of those runs came in the first with some shaky defense behind him.
“He threw some good fastballs down in the zone,” Boles said of his outing. “We didn’t play defense behind him in the first inning and I thought he should have only given up two runs. He settled in and kept battling. He went a little heavy on his off-speed and I thought he could have established his fastball better just to make his changeup even better.”
“I felt good physically, my arm was loose and my body felt great,” De La Rosa said after the game. “My mindset is good and I just want to come here and work.”
All of these prospects are ready to make an impact at the big league level, the only question is how they get there. With the trade deadline approaching, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Sox made a move involving their starters. This could mean trading someone like Jake Peavy to make room for a young pitcher in their rotation. We already saw them move Felix Doubront to the bullpen to accommodate Brandon Workman. The other option is packaging these pitchers in a bigger trade to help the big league team.
Mike Carp (foot) and Will Middlebrooks (finger) continued their rehabs at McCoy, with Middlebrooks beginning his second 20 day rehab after a setback. Middlebrooks was out early before the game throwing, hitting, and fielding and served as the DH Tuesday night.
He went 1-3 with a triple while Carp was 0-3 as the first baseman.
“Their main concern is seeing pitches and getting their timing down,” Boles explained. “We just want to get them through the workouts and at-bats healthy.”
“I was feeling good, seeing the ball well when I was shut down so that was frustrating,” Middlebrooks said of his recent setback. “We are starting over so hopefully I can get back to where I was before. My timing was a little off tonight. My throwing is getting better. It’s tough for it to not be sore but at the same time you have to test it. Hopefully I can put the glove on in a game in a couple days.”
Pawtucket will close out their home stand Wednesday and Thursday against the Red Wings before hitting the road for a ten game trip. Barnes will start on Wednesday and Webster will toe the rubber Thursday. Both games are at 6:15.