Thursday at JetBlue: PawSox Roster Taking Shape

Hi all, Josh Maurer here again.  In case you missed the news yesterday Will Flemming and I will be co-authoring “45 Miles From Fenway” this season.  Today I spent a full day at the JetBlue complex and have plenty to report.

Thursday morning began with the news that the Red Sox had optioned Garin Cecchini and Bryce Brentz along with relievers Heath Hembree and Zeke Spruill to the Pawtucket roster. Super-prospect starting pitcher Henry Owens was also reassigned to minor league camp and is expected to work with the PawSox group.

Cecchini

Garin Cecchini was optioned back to the PawSox on Thursday morning. John Farrell says he will play some third base, first base and left field this season.

None of these moves come as a big surprise, as it has been widely anticipated that all five of these men would open the season in Pawtucket.  They join catcher Blake Swihart, first baseman Travis Shaw, infielder Sean Coyle and starter Eduardo Rodriguez as players recently optioned from big league camp.

This afternoon the PawSox hosted Rochester at the minor league fields, a game that ended in a 3-3 tie after a very exciting finish.  With Pawtucket trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, infielder Carlos Asuaje lined a game-tying solo home run against former PawSox reliever Ryan Pressly.

Shannon Wilkerson’s solo blast in the bottom of the eighth against Rochester’s Michael Tonkin snapped a 1-1 tie, but the Red Wings rallied to take the lead with two outs in the top of the ninth on James Beresford’s two-run single against Deryk Hooker.

All three of Pawtucket’s runs came via a solo blast, with Keury De La Cruz hitting the first in the bottom of the fifth.  Craig Breslow started for the PawSox and allowed a run on two hits in the first inning.

Dana Eveland throw the second and pitched around two singles to record a scoreless frame, getting a double play to end a Rochester threat when right-fielder Henry Ramos throw out a tagging runner at the plate.

Breslow pitching

Craig Breslow started today’s PawSox game against Rochester

Keith Couch, fighting to make the PawSox roster when camp breaks, fired four scoreless relief innings.  He allowed three hits and walked a pair but struck out three.  Miguel Celestino did not allow a hit or a run in two scoreless frames behind Couch, picking up three strikeouts in the process.

Asuaje, who spent the majority of 2014 in Low-A Greenville, went 3-for-3 with a walk and two stolen bases.  He played both second and third base during the contest.

Here are some notes and observations from a full day at the JetBlue complex:

-I had a chance to speak with Manager Kevin Boles this morning.  He has been assisting John Farrell and his staff in major league camp all spring and has thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  The skipper said he may not join the Triple-A group until only a few days before camp breaks.

Boles says he feels reinvigorated after taking off from working in winter ball this offseason.  You’ll be able to hear the full interview with him this Saturday at 1pm on PawSox Insider.

nice crowd at JetBlue

There was a big crowd on hand for the Major League game at JetBlue Park on Thursday afternoon

-Late this morning Farrell and Torey Lovullo presided over a unique batting practice session at one of the minor league fields, with the participants being the majority of the anticipated major league starting rotation.  It was nice to see knuckleballer Steven Wright included in the group, which also had Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello and a few others.  Jason Varitek throw the big league pitchers several rounds of BP.

pitchers BP in spring

The Red Sox starting pitchers took some BP this morning with Jason Varitek throwing

-Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez did some light throwing over at the minor league fields late this morning with Farrell and members of the training staff watching.  Vazquez is trying to work his way back from a sore elbow.  Farrell said this morning that the team isn’t quite sure if the backstop will be ready for opening day.

Vazquez throwing in spring

Christian Vazquez did some light throwing late this morning

That’s all for today.  The PawSox play Norfolk on Friday at JetBlue at 1pm.  It will be interesting to see if some of the guys recently optioned from major league camp like Cecchini and Brentz are ready to join the squad.

Thanks for reading, enjoy the Sweet 16 NCAA action tonight!

Josh M

Maurer and Flemming Take Over “45 Miles”/Report From Spring Training

Hey PawSox fans, Josh Maurer here! We are just about two weeks away from first pitch of the 2015 season and I can’t wait to get things started. For the remainder of this week, I’ll be blogging from Fort Myers and getting you all the latest information on the team as the roster starts to take shape.

JetBlue Park outside

I got my first glimpse of JetBlue Park in Fort Myers on Wednesday morning – it’s great to be in the Florida weather!

We here at the PawSox Radio Network have two big changes to tell you about. First, it’s an honor to welcome my partner for this season Will Flemming. Will is a fantastic broadcaster who I know you will enjoy hearing every night throughout the 2015 campaign.

Flemming_640x360_2wzqaf8y_f6z1x814

Below is a phone interview I did with Will for last week’s Insider show. If you have ten minutes, this is a great introduction of the newest member of our network.

Also, if you missed my Insider conversation with new PawSox President James Skeffington, you can find it in two parts bewlow. I think you’ll find it an interesting listen:

Also, beginning today I will no longer be writing on my old blog Maurer’s Musings. Instead you will be able to find my insights, combined with Will’s, right here at 45 Miles From Fenway (formerly authored by the great Jeff Levering).

We are making this change with you the reader in mind. Instead of having to check two separate blog sites throughout the season to find all the information from the broadcasters, we wanted to make “45 Miles” your one-stop shop for news from the booth.

Will and I each plan to contribute to “45 Miles” several times a week from now until the end of the season. So please come visit our blog daily to get the same interesting and insightful content (hopefully!) from the PawSox broadcasters that you’ve become accustomed to reading throughout the years.

This afternoon, a very “rough draft” version of the PawSox played Norfolk in Sarasota and lost 4-2.  Portland Sea Dogs skipper Billy McMillon served as the manager, while old Pawtucket hitting coach Dave Joppie was in charge of the offense.

Ed Smith Stadium Sarasota

Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota is the Major League spring home of the Baltimore Orioles but…

Buck ONeill field

The Pawsox and Norfolk played about 20 minutes up the road here at the Buck O’Neil Complex

The PawSox trailed 4-0 into the seventh inning, when Sean Coyle doubled and was driven home by a single from Mario Martinez.  Newcomer Blake Tekotte added an RBI single in the 8th.

Coyle swing and miss

Here is Sean Coyle taking a cut during Wednesday’s contest in Sarasota

Chris Hernandez fired two scoreless innings in relief for Pawtucket, while Robbie Scott pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth.  Many of the players who are projected to begin the season with the PawSox are still participating in big league camp and/or did not make the bus trip this afternoon.

I’ll have plenty of coverage from Fort Myers for the next five days, so please check back to this blog to hear all the news fit to print.  Happy Spring!

Josh M

Bryce Brentz hopes that change in off-season plans pays off

By BRENDAN McGAIR

In 2012, Bryce Brentz went from helping the Pawtucket Red Sox capture the Governors’ Cup straight to the Arizona Fall League.

In 2013, the power-hitting outfielder went from participating in yet another deep International League playoff run to the Dominican Winter League.

What did the 26-year-old Brentz do after a 2014 campaign that saw him make his major-league debut?

Played golf with his dad Charlie and twin brother Jared in his native Tennessee.

“My body has broken down in each of the previous two years. Basically I’ve had four months off in two years, so we thought this time that we needed to give the body a break,” said Brentz when reached earlier this week. “That way, I could relax and start fresh. I think it was a good decision.”

Last season saw Brentz miss 10 weeks with a hamstring injury. The previous year, he underwent

Bryce Brentz enters his sixth season as a member of the Red Sox organization (Louriann Mardo-Zayat)

Bryce Brentz enters his sixth season as a member of the Red Sox organization (Photo by Louriann Mardo-Zayat)

significant surgery to his right knee and was sidelined for nearly two months. Given the unlucky breaks he’s had to deal with, it’s perfectly understandable that he elected a different course of action this offseason – one that involved plenty of built-in downtime.

“For about four weeks after the season, I didn’t pick up a ball or a bat. I relaxed and got all the knots and kinks out. Plus you’re able to look back and reflect on what happened or think about things like your hitting mechanics,” he said. “I didn’t lift a weight, but at some point, you get kind of bored. I didn’t start hitting until right around Thanksgiving.”

Now in his sixth season in the Red Sox organization, Brentz arrived at spring training as just another piece in the team’s crowded outfield picture. With injuries curbing the availability of Rusney Castillo and Shane Victorino, the door has been opened for Brentz to get some run with the first team.

“They’re not hurting for quality outfielders. I think any of us can go out and perform the job. It’s a great problem to have,” said Brentz. “We’re all rooting for each other. There’s only three starting outfielders, but all we can do is try and play our best.

“We’re all competing and getting after it and that makes us all better and become closer as a group,” Brentz continued. ‘One person goes down and the next one steps up and keeps the ball rolling. I’m not worried about who’s going to get the at-bats. Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen, but we’re all going to do our part in helping the team win.”

Brentz already has one home run this spring, yet it was a bases-loaded walk he drew against the New York Mets on Sunday that helps further the belief that he’s becoming a more complete hitter and less of a risk taker, which is how he described his approach when he first got to Pawtucket.

“It was nice considering I was down 0-2. I wish I impacted the ball a little bit, but I took some chances, came up short and battled back,” said Brentz. “I didn’t throw the at-bat away and was able to get in a run.”

Earlier in camp, Brentz was sidelined a few days with right knee inflammation. As someone who is listed on Boston’s 40-man roster and has amassed 29 home runs in 150 games in a PawSox uniform, the injury proved to be nothing more than a minor setback.

“Just some soreness from doing extra outfield drills,” said Brentz. “You just want to be careful. It’s early in spring training.”

Brendan McGair covers the Pawtucket Red Sox for the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call. Follow him on Twitter @BWMcGair03

A look at the top players to pass through McCoy Stadium during Ben & Madeleine Mondor’s ownership of the PawSox

By BRENDAN McGAIR

Last week marked the end of an era for the Pawtucket Red Sox as the franchise officially changed ownership hands.

To commemorate the long and successful reign of the late Ben Mondor, who built the franchise from the ground up upon rescuing it from bankruptcy in 1977, and later his wife Madeleine, who held the title of principal owner for four seasons (2011-14), we have compiled a list of the top ballplayers who performed at McCoy Stadium during the Mondor regime.

To merit consideration, one must have gone on to achieve notable feats in the majors. (Note: We are beginning at No. 20, so no scrolling to the bottom to see who received top billing!)

No. 20: Josh Beckett, RHP (Pawtucket)

The staff ace on two World Series winners and a World Series MVP recipient, Beckett appeared in two rehab games for the PawSox in 2010. He retired after last season with 138 wins.

No. 19: Dale Murphy, OF (Richmond)

Murphy appeared in 127 games with the Atlanta Braves’ top affiliate in 1977. He went on to win two National League MVPs and hit 398 home runs over 18 MLB seasons.

No. 18 (tie): Jacoby Ellsbury, OF (Pawtucket) & Jon Lester, LHP (Pawtucket)

They joined the parent team a season apart with Lester ascending in 2006 and Ellsbury a later after a PawSox stint that saw him steal 33 bases in 87 Triple-A games. Lester and Ellsbury were the starting pitcher and starting center field the night the Red Sox clinched the 2007 World Series in Colorado and were instrumental in bringing a championship back to Boston in 2013.

Lester made 26 starts spanning two seasons for Pawtucket.

Jon Lester pitched for the Pawtucket Red Sox during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

Jon Lester pitched for the Pawtucket Red Sox during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

No. 17: Jason Varitek, C (Pawtucket)

Long before he held the captaincy position for the BoSox, won two World Series and was behind the plate for four no-hitters, Vartiek was known primarily as one of the two key pieces (Derek Lowe being the other) that the Red Sox received from Seattle in exchange for Heathcliff Slocumb in 1997. Vartiek was in Pawtucket for 20 games that season and returned to McCoy Stadium for rehab assignments in 2006 and 2010.

No. 16 (tie): Bernie Williams, OF (Columbus) & Andy Pettitte, LHP (Columbus)

Both were key catalysts during the Yankees’ late 90s/early 00s dynasty, so it’s fitting to list them together. Williams was a member of the Triple-A Clippers for parts of three seasons before going on to appear in five all-star games and win a batting title. Pettitte pitched for Clippers during the 1994 and 1995 seasons and went on to win 256 games over 18 major-league seasons.

No. 15: Willie McGee (Pawtucket)

McGee enjoyed an 18-year career that featured one MVP, four all-star game nods and three Gold Gloves. His last big-league game came at age 40. At age 36, he appeared in five games for the 1995 PawSox.

No. 14: Mo Vaughn, SS (Pawtucket)

Known as “The Hit Dog,” Vaughn played parts of three seasons for the PawSox in the early 1990s. He won the American League MVP in 1995 and finished with 328 home runs over a dozen major-league seasons.

No. 13: Chipper Jones, SS/3B (Richmond)

Jones is a cinch to be enshrined in Cooperstown thanks to a star-studded career that included 468 home runs, one batting title, one MVP and eight all-star game nods. As a 21-year-old in 1993, Jones appeared in 139 games for Richmond.

No. 12: Nomar Garciapara, SS (Pawtucket)

Garciaparra made what amounted to a cameo appearance at McCoy Stadium in 1996, but what a jam-packed 43-game stint it was with 16 home runs and a .343 batting average. He went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year the following year and consecutive batting titles before getting traded midway through the 2004 season. Garciaparra also appeared in a PawSox uniform during the 2001 and 2004 seasons.

Dustin Pedroia logged 162 games between the 2005 and 2006 seasons for the PawSox.

Dustin Pedroia logged 162 games between the 2005 and 2006 seasons for the PawSox.

No. 11: Dustin Pedroia, 2B (Pawtucket)

His time with the PawSox in 2005 and 2006 was the equivalent of one major-league season. Bigger and better things have since followed, including two World Series rings along with Rookie of the Year and MVP nods. A four-time all-star, Pedroia stopped by McCoy Stadium in 2010 for a rehab stint.

No. 10: Manny Ramirez, OF (Pawtucket)

In June 2002, Ramirez made an 11-game rehab stint with the PawSox. He didn’t encounter much success, hitting .100 (3-for-30) with one homer, but he qualified as a major hit as fans flocked to McCoy Stadium in droves. Part of the legendary 2004 World Series outfit, Ramirez belted 555 home runs over 19 seasons.

No. 9: Curt Schilling, RHP (Rochester, Pawtucket)

Schilling won 17 games for the Triple-A Red Wings between the 1989 and 1990 seasons, but he is best remembered around these parts as the PawSox’ 2005 Opening Day starter in Indianapolis – one year after helping the Red Sox capture their first World Series in 1918. Schilling appeared in nine games for the PawSox spanning two seasons.

No. 8: David Ortiz, DH (Pawtucket)

Big Papi’s 2008 rehab appearance with the PawSox proved memorable in every sense. He homered during each of the three games he appeared in, much to the delight of the capacity crowd. Ortiz returned to McCoy Stadium for the 2013 home opener. He enters his 19th major-league season with 466 home runs.

No. 7: Mariano Rivera, RHP (Columbus)

The game’s all-time saves leader was a starting pitcher when he visited McCoy Stadium as an opponent during the mid 90s. His Hall of Fame ticket includes 652 saves, five World Series rings and longevity. Rivera retired at the age of 43 after logging 19 seasons, all coming in a Yankees uniform.

No. 6: John Smoltz, RHP (Pawtucket)

His Hall of Fame credentials were long cemented before appearing in three games for the 2009 PawSox. A pitcher who found success as both a starter and a reliever, Smoltz’ day in Cooperstown will take place this July. He finished with 213 wins and 154 saves.

No. 5: Tom Glavine, LHP (Richmond)

The southpaw’s tour of International League ballparks came during the 1986 and 1987 seasons. His Hall of Fame credentials speak volumes about the kind of career he enjoyed: 305 wins, two Cy Youngs, 10 all-star games and five 20-win campaigns.

 No. 4: Dennis Eckersley, RHP (Pawtucket)

Like Smoltz, Eckersley enjoyed a Hall of Fame career that featured success as a starter and a reliever. At age 43, he appeared in two games for the 1998 PawSox.

 No. 3: Roger Clemens, RHP (Pawtucket)

“The Rocket” breezed through the PawSox during the 1984 season, making just six starts before getting summoned to Boston. He posted a 1.93 ERA in seven Triple-A games that season. Clemens returned to McCoy in 1993 and 1995 with at the time three Cy Young awards on his résumé.

No. 2: Derek Jeter, SS (Columbus)

Another Hall of Famer in waiting, Jeter was 21-years-old when he showed up in the visitors’ clubhouse at McCoy Stadium in 1995. From championships to personal milestones, his career with the Yankees hit all the prerequisite high notes.

 No. 1 (tie): Wade Boggs, 3B (Pawtucket) & Cal Ripken Jr. (Rochester) 

As a member of the PawSox, Wade  Boggs hit .306 in 1980 and .335 in 1981, a mark that led the International League. Perhaps just as significant, Boggs was part of the longest game in professional baseball history.

As a member of the PawSox, Wade Boggs hit .306 in 1980 and .335 in 1981, a mark that led the International League. Perhaps just as significant, Boggs was part of the longest game in professional baseball history.

They will forever be joined at the hip due to participating in “The Longest Game” in 1981. Boggs went 4-for-12 with one RBI in that memorable 33-inning game while was Ripken went 2-for-13. They both ended up in the Hall of Fame with Boggs getting the call in 2005 and Ripken likewise two years later.

Honorable Mention: Carlos Delgado, 1B (Syracuse, Pawtucket); Don Mattingly, 1B, (Columbus), Bruce Hurst, LHP (Pawtucket), Derek Lowe (Pawtucket),

Brendan McGair covers the PawSox for the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call. Follow him on Twitter @BWMcGair03

Spring training is here and Matt Barnes is set to roll

By BRENDAN McGAIR

Spring has sprung … in Fort Myers that is where Red Sox pitchers and catchers have officially gotten down to business.

To those hailing from New England, doesn’t it warm thy heart knowing that there are some parts of the country that are devoid of snow and sub freezing temperatures? You wouldn’t know it when looking out the window, but your local MLB franchise is presently laying the groundwork for the 2015 campaign underneath the Florida sunshine.

There were no formal workouts at JetBlue Park on Friday as pitchers and catchers underwent their physicals. Saturday marked the first official workout of spring training, though in some respects, it must have felt like another day at the office – or at the ballpark in this case.

Stories about who has reported to camp have been circulating long before the New England Patriots captured Super Bowl XLIX. For someone in Matt Barnes’ position, it’s perfectly understandable why he would get a jump on spring training. The 24-year-old pitcher grew up in Connecticut and still makes his offseason home in The Nutmeg State.

“I got down to Fort Myers on Feb. 9. I like coming down early and getting settled in. You get acclimated to the weather because it’s a little different then up in Connecticut,” said Barnes when reached Friday afternoon. “You’re actually out on an official ball field as opposed to being inside.

“You’re anxious to do your thing before everyone gets here. Then it’s full team practices,” Barnes continued.

A 2011 first-round selection out of the University of Connecticut, Barnes spent the vast majority of last season with the Pawtucket Red Sox before making his big-league debut in September. He wound up making five relief appearances for Boston, though he doesn’t anticipate pitching out of the bullpen as being his primary role with the organization moving forward.

“I’m preparing in spring training to be a starter,” said Barnes, who has started 72 minor-league games the past three seasons.

Last year, Barnes saw his time in spring training cut short due to right shoulder tenderness. The setback wound up costing him all of March and nearly the first month of the regular season.

It took some time before Barnes started to feel like his old self. In early July, his Triple-A ERA stood at 4.85. Thanks to a stellar month of August where he posted a 2.16 ERA in six starts, Barnes was able to lower his season mark to 3.95 before heading up to Boston.

“You can’t make a team from the training table. My goal is to stay healthy during spring training. You want to go out there and pitch well, but it’s more about getting out there every fifth day and letting the rest take care of itself,” said Barnes. “I tried a different approach this offseason by throwing a little earlier than I normally would. It’s about building yourself up so that when the season starts, you’re good to go.”

On a personal level, Barnes admits that’s there’s a different vibe in camp with three of his 2014 Pawtucket rotation mates – Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa – now pitching for different organizations. Barnes was particularly close to Ranaudo, who helped mentor him when times got rough last year.

“Those guys gave you great energy, but the pitchers the Red Sox brought in are all very talented,” said Barnes, referencing fresh faces Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello and Wade Miley. “They bring a wealth of experience and are all very good guys.”

Brendan McGair covers the PawSox for the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call. Follow him on Twitter @BWMcGair03

Matt Barnes is all systems go as Red Sox pitchers get down to business in sunny Fort Myers, Fla. (Photo by Louriann Mardo-Zayat)

Matt Barnes is all systems go as Red Sox pitchers get down to business in sunny Fort Myers, Fla. (Photo by Louriann Mardo-Zayat)

 

A look at the 2015 Boston Red Sox … through the eyes of the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook

In the eyes of Baseball America, pitcher Matt Barnes was ticketed to be a member of Boston's rotation this season. (Photo by Louriann Mardo-Zayat)

In the eyes of Baseball America, pitcher Matt Barnes was ticketed to be a member of Boston’s rotation this season. (Photo by Louriann Mardo-Zayat)

According to Baseball America, Blake Swihart enters the season as the top-ranked prospect in Boston's minor-league system (Photo by Louriann Mardo-Zayat)

According to Baseball America, Blake Swihart enters the season as the top-ranked prospect in Boston’s minor-league system (Photo by Louriann Mardo-Zayat)

By BRENDAN McGAIR

Within the treasure trove that is Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook, lies a section that offers a sneak peak into what major league teams may look like a few years down the line.

Lists like the one Baseball America cobbles together are intended to promote healthy debate, a rough draft if you will. Nothing is set in stone – far from it in fact. Consider it a jumping off point that serves as a means to promote discussion in an era of players constantly coming and going and wondering whether any of them will still be with their given team a year from now.

At a time when the Red Sox’ commitment to integrating pieces from their farm system is as strong as ever, let’s hop in the DeLorean and explore Baseball America’s projected 2015 lineup that appeared in the 2012 Prospect Handbook. (Note: the cover boy for the 2012 edition is Mike Trout.)

 ***

Catcher – Blake Swihart (The anticipated Opening Night starter behind the plate for the PawSox enters the season as the top-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.)

First base – Adrian Gonzalez (Far removed from the equation and presently cashing checks with ‘Los Angeles Dodgers’ written on them.)

Second base – Dustin Pedroia (He’ll be 31 on the first day of the 2015 season and has a contract that will carry him through the end of the 2021 campaign.)

Shortstop – Jose Iglesias (Now property of the Detroit Tigers and looking to rebound after missing all of last season with stress fractures in both shins.)

Third base – Will Middlebrooks (His lock on the position officially became null and void the moment the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval to a lavish contract. Here’s hoping he has a soft landing in San Diego.)

Right field – Xander Bogaerts (This is not a misprint. It’s clear though that Baseball America believed that Iglesias was Boston’s long-term answer at shortstop, which in turn would leave Bogaerts in no-man’s land as far as a position. Rest assured that the Red Sox aren’t ready to go the Hanley Ramirez route and take a player who has been a shortstop his whole life and turn him into a flycatcher.)

Center field – Jacoby Ellsbury (The folks in the projecting business must have believed that the marriage between Ellsbury and the Red Sox would continue after Ellsbury became a free agent following the 2013 World Series.)

Left field – Carl Crawford (See Adrian Gonzalez.)

DH – Kevin Youkilis (You were expecting David Ortiz and not the Greek God of Walks?)

No. 1 starter – Jon Lester (He’s taken his talents to the North Side of Chicago with the hope of breaking a World Series drought that stretches back to 1908.)

No. 2 starter – Clay Buchholz (For now, he’s the de facto ace of Boston’s pitching staff.).

No. 3 starter – Josh Beckett (Retired and the owner of two World Series rings.)

No. 4 starter – Anthony Ranaudo (With Boston set on their major-league rotation and with a host of up-and-comers such as Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez anchoring what should be a stacked Pawtucket rotation, Ranaudo appeared to be caught between a rock and a hard place. The Red Sox may have done the 2014 International League Most Valuable Pitcher a favor when they traded Ranaudo to Texas last month.)

No. 5 starter – Matt Barnes (Still property of the Red Sox, Barnes figures to be first in line for a call-up should a need for a major-league starter arise.)

Closer – Daniel Bard (In hindsight, this should have been the move the Red Sox made after Jonathan Papelbon departed. Bard is looking to make a comeback with the Cubs.)

 ***

Clearly there’s some swings and misses with the above group, but that’s why it’s important to keep “projected” in mind. Oh, and for the record, Baseball America didn’t have Mookie Betts listed among Boston’s Top 30 prospects in 2012. Betts was drafted in 2011 and had all of four at-bats with the Gulf Coast Red Sox to his name when the 2012 Prospect Handbook hit the shelves.

Brendan McGair covers the Pawtucket Red Sox for the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call. Follow him on Twitter @BWMcGair03

Thank You PawSox Nation

As many of you have read by now, my time with the Pawtucket Red Sox will come to a close today.

I have taken a job with the Milwaukee Brewers radio broadcast team and will also play a role in their new media department hosting a podcast, among other things.

It’s an opportunity to fill in for the legendary Bob Uecker. He’s been broadcasting for 45 years now and he’s earned the right to not do every game. So, I’ll do the road trips he doesn’t want to go on with fellow broadcaster Joe Block.

This, truly, is a dream come true; the opportunity to broadcast major league baseball games.

But, I would have never had this chance without the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, Springfield Cardinals AND Pawtucket Red Sox. They all gave me a chance. They could have all hired any number of other skilled broadcasters, but instead each club at one point chose me.

The Quakes hired me to be their full time broadcaster having a TOTAL of six games of experience calling baseball on the radio. The Cardinals gave me a shot at the Double-A level after three seasons in the California League (High-A). And, after three years in the Texas League, the PawSox job opened and they offered me the gig. Thank you to each organization for having faith and allowing me learn from my mistakes and chase a dream.

I’ve called over 1,000 games in my 8-year minor league career now. And I have improved leaps and bounds from year one through year eight. But, especially the last two years in Pawtucket.

Red Sox fans keep you on your toes. The PawSox are blessed to have the largest radio network in minor league baseball with 13 stations. You never know who could be listening at any given moment, so, as a broadcaster, you can’t take pitches off. Just like the players who can’t have lapses in concentration, broadcasters can’t either. It’s a little easier to do when the radio station you broadcast on can’t be heard unless you are in the physical parking lot of the station (yes, that really happened). And, truth be told, I’m glad no one could hear me during my first season, because I was awful.

But, not only the number of stations and the strength of our flagship, WHJJ, but the fans keep you honest. Red Sox fans are really smart. As a broadcaster, if you get your facts wrong you lose credibility. Some fans would let it go, but not Red Sox fans. They’ll wear you out if you make a mistake. By no means do you have to be perfect, but you better get it right eventually.

So, thank you FANS for making me better, more accountable and for putting your faith in me to provide you PawSox baseball the last two seasons. You have made me a stronger person and a better broadcaster because of your support.

I would also like to specifically thank Mike Tamburro, Bill Wanless, Lou Schwechheimer and Matt White of the PawSox. Almost every minor league broadcaster aims for McCoy Stadium and these four men put their reputation on the line and hired me among more than 150 other applicants in 2013. Current Mariners Broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith deserves a lot of credit as well for putting his name behind my work and recommending me as he was on his way to “the show”. He’s a true friend and one that I’ll certainly enjoy crossing paths with at Spring Training in Arizona.

From managers Gary DiSarcina and Kevin Boles, coaches Bruce Crabbe, Dave Joppie and Rich Sauveur, and many players, just too many to name, to our press box staff and other International League broadcasters, I was able to work alongside some incredibly talented people who kept standards high and my head on a swivel. This was exactly the kind of environment I was hoping for and the kind I know I’ll be entering in Milwaukee.

As I close out this final edition of 45 Miles from Fenway we all know, we can’t get anywhere in life without the help of others around us and I’ve had dozens of mentors over the course of my life. From college professors to big league broadcasters, these people have helped create the person I am today. When thinking about writing this, I kicked around the idea of mentioning some of the specific people I just described, but if I do this, I know I won’t possibly be able to include everyone.

The only people I’d like to mention are the most important: my dad, my mom and my wife. Not only have they always been there for me, but they have always held me to a standard higher than I thought was possible, making me so much better than I should have ever been. Listening to bad demos, schlepping me all over the country for baseball games/tournaments, assisting in my moves from Rancho Cucamonga to Springfield to Pawtucket, and putting up with the demands that come with this crazy industry. Needless to say, they were all overjoyed when I received the call from the Brewers on New Year’s Day while visiting my parents in California. While a phone call would have been a fun way to break the news, getting a chance to tell them face to face was even more special and, frankly, something they nor I will ever forget.

To everyone else who has guided me along the way, I hope I’ve done a good enough job letting you know who you are and all you’ve done. Because none of this would be possible without you all.

It has been an honor and a privilege to be your broadcaster the last two years, PawSox Nation. And to continue the legacy set forth by my predecessors in the McCoy booth means the world to me.

Thank you…Thank you…Thank You

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

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