By Eddie Pannone
PROVIDENCE, R.I., – It is safe to say that the Providence Bruins are off to a better start than their parent club in Boston. Despite earning just one win in three games, the P-Bruins have earned a point in every game so far in 2015 and are one of only two teams with double digit goals already.
This hot start offensively is in large part due to rookie forward Frankie Vatrano. Vatrano is on an absolute tear in the first three games, including a four-goal performance Sunday against the Portland Pirates. Signed as free agent from UMass-Amherst, he scored just seven seconds into the game and is leading the AHL in scoring early on. Just how good has his performance been? Vatrano leads in scoring despite not recording an assist. He is doing this based solely on goal scoring, as he has six on the year while no other player has more than three.
Not surprisingly, his fellow line mates are enjoying success as well. Alexander Khokhlachev and rookie Austin Czarnik are both among the league’s leading scorers as they each have five points. Czarnik has a goal and four assists while Khokhlachev has five helpers. This line has a combined +9 rating just three games in and combined for all the scoring in Sunday’s win.
Starting goaltender Malcolm Subban has been sidelined with a lower-body injury and has yet to see any action. In his absence, rookie Zane McIntyre has stepped in and played well. Sunday’s victory was his first as a pro and he has stopped 91 of 101 shots on the season. Both marks are far and away tops in the league while he also leads in minutes played.
Not even a full week into the season and Providence has already seen its roster take a hit, though it is probably one that Tommy Cross is happy about. The P-Bruin captain received his first call-up to Boston and made his NHL debut last night. With the young Bruin defense core struggling early on, Cross has a chance to make an impact if he plays well.
The team is back in action tomorrow as they begin a home-and-home series with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
It has been quite the baseball journey for Rochester Red Wings pitcher Michael Bowden to say the least. It’s a journey that has taken him from Boston to Chicago to Japan on his quest to return to the big leagues.
Originally a first round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2005, Bowden made his MLB debut in 2008 for the club, recording a win in his first start. With depth in both the rotation and the bullpen, it was tough for him to stick in the big leagues and was constantly sent back and forth between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket. Bowden was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2012 and the same situation presented itself despite him posting solid numbers. He was released following the 2013 season and his dream of being a big league pitcher seemed as far away as it ever had.
But Bowden continued to fight and find a way, even if it was a way that not many players have taken. Many times we hear about Japanese players that make the transition over to America, though it is uncommon to hear about Americans that head over to Japan. That’s the road Bowden decided to take, and it is one he is glad he got to experience.
“It was unbelievable,” Bowden said. “I like to travel, so I figured if I had the opportunity to play baseball there and see another part of the world, it doesn’t get much better than that. The fans, the food, the culture, the games, I had a great time.”
Obviously there are going to be challenges anytime one goes to a foreign place to work for the first time. Fortunately for Bowden, the daily routine of a ball player in the states was not among them.
“It’s fairly comparable,” he said about comparing the two. “Batting practice might be a little longer and the days are probably a little longer. Overall it is very much the same as over here.”
Aside from enjoying a new environment and a new culture, Bowden continued to grow as a pitcher with the Seibu Lions. While working to show he could still compete at a high level, he was also able to pick up some new tools that are helping him this year.
“There’s plenty that I learned there,” he explained. “I feel like I’m a student of the game everyday I come to the park, and my time in Japan was no different. My split-finger that I throw now is a good pitch for me and I learned it over there.”
Bowden earned another chance in the states following his run in Japan, signing a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds to start 2015. His contract was purchased by the Baltimore Orioles at the end of spring training and he was assigned to the Norfolk Tides. Bowden shined for his new team, making the International League All-Star team while pitching as both a reliever and a starter. After opting out of his contract on July 16, he signed with the Minnesota Twins on July 26 and was sent to Rochester in hopes of getting back to the MLB. He continues to impress in their rotation, maintaining his place amongst the International League’s ERA leaders. Bowden certainly has done enough to earn a chance to pitch in the majors for the first time since 2013, but until then he continues to do whatever is asked of him while putting up quality numbers.
“I’m just trying to go out every time and get outs while being as consistent as I can in whatever role I’m in,” he said. “Hopefully the results speak for themselves and I’ll have another opportunity.”
PAWTUCKET, R.I. – As children growing up who enjoyed watching and playing baseball, we all had that certain player we idolized. Someone who we wished we could be like or play with. For millions across the country that player could be Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, Giancarlo Stanton or a number of other MLB superstars.
For Pawtucket Red Sox shortstop Deven Marrero, it was his cousin Chris.
Chris Marrero is two years older than Deven and was a star baseball player from a young age in Florida. Despite the cousins being only two years apart, the duo never played much together due to Chris’s early success.
“We played together back in the day when I was 8-years old and he was 10,” Deven said. “He was always playing older than his age, sometimes three years above because he was the best player in Florida.”
Chris Marrero took this success all the way to the pros, as he was drafted in the first round by the Washington Nationals out of high school in 2006. Deven took a different path than his cousin, opting to go to Arizona State for three seasons and play college baseball before becoming a first round pick in 2012. Even though this was different from what Chris did, Deven still credits him for opening up that door in his life.
“He was the one who created a path for me and really got the name Marrero out there,” he explained. “He and his brother (Christian) got the Marrero reputation out there and I’ve just tried to continue that reputation and live up to that last name the best I can.”
Fast-forward to 2015 and the Marrero’s are still working towards their goal of being major league regulars. Deven remains a prospect with Boston and has Gold Glove potential at shortstop. Chris has had to fight his way back into the league, starting the year in the Independent League before the Chicago White Sox gave him a chance. After getting released by the club in early August, an opportunity to reunite with his cousin for the first time in years presented itself. Boston signed him to a minor league deal and assigned him to Pawtucket, thrilling his younger cousin.
“Chris being here makes me feel really comfortable and really happy,” Deven said. “To play with my idol and someone I’ve looked up to ever since I was born is amazing. I’ve always wanted to be like him and to have him by my side is awesome. To both live our dream together is pretty cool.”
The Triple-A season is coming to an end and Pawtucket is far out of contention, so the amount of games the two have together is likely numbered. However, it is an experience they are savoring and enjoying. After all, it isn’t everyday you get to play ball with your idol
by PATRICK CAVANAUGH
(MANCHESTER)—Before Sunday afternoon’s game at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, Seacoast Helicopters was in attendance with one of their helicopters sitting in centerfield, as they gave one lucky fan the opportunity to take off from the ballpark and enjoy a birds-eye view of the Queen City, before landing back on the field and delivering the game balls.
“This is going to be quite the memory for one lucky fan,” said Fisher Cats president and GM Rick Brenner in a press release. “Riding in a helicopter is such a thrilling experience, but landing in the outfield and then delivering the ball to home plate takes it to a new level. We look forward to working with Seacoast Helicopters to create this memorable opportunity.”
It was quite the sight for fans that arrived at the ballpark early on Sunday afternoon for the Fisher Cats game. Most fans expect to see batting practice, athletes playing catch, or coaches hitting their infielders ground balls, not a helicopter stationed in straightaway center-field.
The gates to the ballpark opened at noon, and the Fisher Cats allowed fans onto the field for a half-hour to take pictures with the R66 helicopter and enjoy an on-field sing-a-long with Lil’ Iguana Children’s Safety Foundation.
So how did the lucky fan win this one-of-a-kind experience?
The Fisher Cats hosted an online contest on their Facebook page, and anyone over the age of 18 was free to enter. The random winner was selected on Friday, August 14, amd will depart from the outfield by chopper at approximately 12:40 PM and return at 1:15 PM with the game balls in hand to deliver to today’s umpires at the pre-game plate meeting.
The Fishers host the Erie SeaWolves today and finish off their homestand at 1:35 PM. New Hampshire looks to avoid being swept after falling in the first two games of the series. RHP Asutin Bibens-Dirkx takes the hill for New Hampshire. Be sure to stay tuned to BSU18’s social media outlets for live updates and a game recap.
by PATRICK CAVANAUGH
Erie wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, as they plated their first run in the top of the first inning on a Jason Krizan RBI single that scored leadoff man Wynton Bernard from third base. The SeaWolves tacked on three more runs in the third inning after a sacrifice fly and a 2 RBI single from Dominic Ficociello. Then in the 5th inning, Dean Green hit a loud RBI double to left-field, which gave Erie a 5-0 lead.
New Hampshire finally broke the silence in the bottom of the 6th inning. Christian Lopes led off the inning with a single, before Kevin Nolan reached on an error, and Ryan Schimpf cleared the bases with a three-run homerun over the right-field fence, reducing Erie’s lead to 5-3. However, the Fisher Cats could not capitalize on any further opportunities.
New Hampshire starter Scott Barnes was charged with the loss after tossing three innings, giving up five hits, four runs (all earned), walked two, and struck out four. Josh Turley, his Erie counterpart, was credited with the win. SeaWolves reliever Joe Mantiply was credited with the save.
The Fisher Cats are back in action tomorrow afternoon as they finish off the series and the homestand with a Sunday afternoon matinee against the Erie SeaWolves. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 PM. RHP Austin Bibens-Dirkx (4-6, 4.82) is slated to start for New Hampshire. You can follow Patrick Cavanaugh on Twitter for live updates throughout the game.