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.)

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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

Red Sox Sign Lefty to Minor League Deal

The Red Sox have agreed to terms on a minor league deal with left-hander Dana Eveland. He will receive an invite to big league camp.

The 31-year-old enjoyed a solid half-season with the Mets in 2014, notching a 2.63 ERA in 27.1 innings. That work represented his first stint in the Majors since 2012, when he playing in Baltimore.
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Eveland debuted as a 21-year-old reliever with the Brewers back in 2005 and struggled to establish himself in either the bullpen or the rotation with Milwaukee or Arizona over the next three seasons. Traded alongside Brett Anderson (now LA Dodgers), Chris Carter (Houston) and Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado) from the Diamondbacks to the A’s in the Dan Haren blockbuster of 2007, Eveland tossed 168 innings of 4.34 ERA ball in his first season in Oakland.

He owns a lifetime 5.27 ERA in 420 big league innings, though he did make some significant strides in 2014. Eveland now relies on two-seam fastballs and sliders. Left-handed hitters batted just .241 against him last year.

And, for those of you curious whether or not lefty Cole Hamels will end up in Boston…Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said this, “I think Cole Hamels is going to be in our uniform, frankly. I don’t really foresee him being moved. It is possible because we’re literally keeping our minds and eyes and ears open on every player that we have on our roster. That said, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. And so, if we were to move him, we’re going to have to get some of the best prospects in baseball back.”

Cue the Law And Order theme song!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Red Sox Sign Quintin Berry to Minor League Deal

Quintin Berry slid across the plate to seal the North Division in 2013, just days after the Red Sox acquired him from Kansas City for Clayton Mortensen.

He now has a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training with the Boston Red Sox. The 30-year-old outfielder has seen infrequent action since making his major league debut with the Tigers in 2012. That year, he hit .258 in 330 plate appearances with 21 steals for a team that went to the World Series. He’s since served short stints with the Red Sox and Orioles as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.

Berry played mostly for the Norfolk Tides in 2014 hitting .285 (3rd highest BA in his career) with 3 HR, 35 RBI, 53 runs scored and 25 steals.

This Just In

Max Scherzer is a Washington National. He will receive $210MM for seven years of work, but the contract has an unusual structure, with Scherzer receiving $15MM per season for the next 14 years. That means the Nationals will be paying Scherzer through 2028. The deal reportedly includes a $50MM signing bonus that will be paid out “over a portion of time” for tax reasons. Scherzer’s deferral is the largest one in MLB contract history, leaving Bobby Bonilla and the Mets’ lengthy $29.8MM (which ran out last year…not really, but for Mets’ fans, they probably think that).

So here’s the question…Do the Nats have the best rotation in baseball now. Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez and now relegating emerging star Tanner Roark to the bullpen (or trade bait). Pretty formidable if you ask this guy.

Now that Scherzer is off the table, where does James Shields end up? Does Cole Hamels get dealt (and the Red Sox are supposedly in that mix)? There is still so much dust to settle before pitchers and catchers report in nearly a month (February 20th).

More news to come…I’m sure!

And finally, congrats to one of the best in the business, Brendan McGair. The Pawtucket Times PawSox beat writer has been named the Rhode Island Sportswriter of the Year. Quality writer, better person. Well done, Brendan! Congratulations.

http://pawtuckettimes.com/content/mcgair-named-2014-ri-sportswriter-year

Thanks for reading,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Dan Butler Traded to Washington

The Red Sox have traded catcher Dan Butler to the Washington Nationals in exchange for lefty Daniel Rosenbaum. Butler had been designated for assignment a week ago to make roster room for Craig Breslow.

Though Washington seemed to be set at the big league level, with three catchers on the 40-man (Wilson Ramos, Jose Lobaton and Sandy Leon) and another (Steven Lerud) coming to camp, the 28-year-old Butler apparently held enough appeal to add. He reached the big leagues briefly for the first time last year, but owns a .248 average with 22 home runs over 739 career at-bats with Pawtucket. He hit a career high 13 homers and was named the PawSox team MVP in 2013.
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Rosenbaum, 27, rose from a 22nd-round pick (from Xavier University) to the highest levels of the minors and even earned a Rule 5 selection before the 2013 season.

A prototypical soft-tossing/crafty lefty, Rosenbaum has not carried his domination of the lower minors into the upper ranks. Across 178.1 Triple-A frames with Syracuse, he owns a 3.94 ERA. He will need to finish rehabbing back from Tommy John surgery last spring before he can take the hill for the first time in the Sox organization. He pitched in just 4 games last season including 6.2 shutout innings against Pawtucket April 9th.

That the Nationals parted with an upper-level arm, rather than the usual cash settlement, could indicate that there was slightly more at work here than the average DFA deal. It could be that Washington faced competition in pursuing Butler and/or that the organization felt it had enough depth and was ready to move on from Rosenbaum, who would become a minor league free agent after the end of the season.

Thanks for reading,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Sox Young Stars Coming to Boston Soon

With the minor league Opening Day just 87 days away (94 from the opener at McCoy on April 16th), it’s time to dive in, head-long, on what’s to come for Boston and Pawtucket.

First, the Red Sox will have 10 participants in their Rookie Development Program that starts this week. The program is designed to prepare players who are likely to reach the big leagues within an 18-month window. Last year’s participants included Christian Vazquez, Garin Cecchini, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart, Travis Shaw, Deven Marrero, Henry Owens, Noe Ramirez and Dalier Hinojosa. All appeared in Pawtucket during the 2014 season, four with the Red Sox in Boston.

Several of this year’s participants made it to Boston last year, but will still benefit from the program.

Among the atendees:

C Blake Swihart (2011 draft, first round (No. 26 overall), HS)

Triple A Pawtucket: 18 games, .261/.282/.377, 1 HR
Double A Portland: 92 games, .300/.353/.487, 12 HR – Team MVP

Notes – Threw out 46 percent of would-be base stealers. Baseball America’s top-ranked Red Sox prospect entering 2015. His second straight appearance at the Rookie Development Camp and another chance to familiarize himself with the big league staff. Worked out with catching coordinator, Chad Epperson, in the offseason prior to his appearance at the PawSox Holiday Party in December. Strong leadership behind the plate and improving defensive abilities for a player who had limited exposure to catching in high school. Added to the 40-man roster in the offseason.

Barring injuries to either Ryan Hanigan or Christian Vazquez, he is expected to spend most of 2015 in Pawtucket.
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2B Sean Coyle (2010 draft, third round, HS)

Double A Portland: 96 games, .295/.371/.512, 16 HR, 13 SB (1 CS)

Notes – Added to the 40-man roster this offseason, had somewhat of a breakthrough in 2014 after struggling with either injuries or performance (sometimes both) for much of two years in High-A Salem in 2012-13. He got off to a huge start that earned him a spot in the All-Star Futures Game before tailing off down the stretch. Shows significant power and an ability to drive the ball to all fields. Plays second base primarily, but handled himself well at third base last season.

OF Mookie Betts: (2011 draft, fifth round, HS)

Majors: 52 games, .291/.368/.444, 5 HR, 7 SBs (3 CS)
Triple A Pawtucket: 45 games, .335/.417/.503, 5 HR, 11 SBs (4 CS)
Double A Portland: 54 games, .355/.443/.551, 6 HR, 22 SBs (3 CS)

Notes – Betts went from a fringe prospect with the projection of a utility player to one of the top young players in the game in 18 months after starting in Single-A Greenville, High A Salem, Arizona Fall League in 2013 and 2014 going from Double A to Triple A in June and Boston by July. His appearance at this years camp (did not attend last year) will give him a chance to work with the big league staff on his outfield defense (lots of right field work expected). Bottom line: Betts is good and he’ll be around a while (most obvious statement ever).
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OF Rusney Castillo: (Signed as free agent to seven-year, $72.5 million contract (2014-20) in August, 27 years old)

Majors: 10 games, .333/.400/.528, 2 HRs, 3 SBs (0 CS)
Triple A Playoffs: 4 games, .278 (5-for-18)/.381/.389, 2 2B, SB, RBI, 2 runs

Notes – Castillo took advantage of his initial exposure to pro ball in the US in 2014, after not having played for nearly two full years. His quick learning curve breeds much optimism moving forward. He struck out only six times in 40 plate appearances in the big leagues, and 10 times in 80 plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League and Puerto Rican Winter League. Though he has speed on the bases, his swing is geared for driving the ball in a way that results in a big follow through; thus, making him an average runner from home to first. However, his speed and instincts show potential to be an above-average defensive outfielder (with a good enough arm) with the potential to hit for average, some power, and steal bases.

He hit the first pitch he saw in the National Championship Game against Omaha out of the park and saved the PawSox season with a two-out, two-strike RBI single to tie Game 4 of the Governors’ Cup Finals against Durham. He had two doubles and a steal in the clincher in Game 5.
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OF Henry Ramos: (2010 draft, fifth round, HS)

Double A Portland: 48 games, .326/.368/.431, 2 HR, 2 SB (4 CS)

Notes – Ramos was off to an great start in Portland before a stress fracture in his left knee ended his season. He did return to play winter ball in Puerto Rico, where he hit .217 in 32 games. One of the better athletes in the Red Sox system, a strong defender and also runs well. Very limited amateur career in Puerto Rico, more of a soccer player, so if he develops his offense, some evaluators believe he has a chance to be an everyday outfielder in the big leagues.

LHP Eduardo Rodriguez: (Trade with the Orioles for Andrew Miller – July 2014, 21 years old)

Double A Portland: 6 GS, 37 IP, 3-1, 0.96 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 1.9 BB/9
Double A Bowie: 16 GS, 83 IP, 3-7, 4.79 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9

Rodriguez looked like the best prospect in the system after being acquired from the Orioles at the trade deadline. He’s the one pitcher with a mix that suggests true top-of-the-rotation potential. He has two above-average pitches (a fastball that sat at 92-94 but could be bumped up to 96-97 when needed, along with a swing-and-miss changeup) while showing the makings of an average to above-average slider. With the input of Portland pitching coach Bob Kipper (now the pitching guru for the PawSox), Rodriguez started attacking hitters inside and using his change against lefties with great success. He made his Triple-A debut in Game 4 of the Finals against Durham allowing two runs over seven frames on just six hits while striking out six. The camp will give Rodriguez a chance to become familiar with the big league staff of his new organization as he is the most intriguing depth option in the organization.
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LHP Brian Johnson: (2012 draft, first round, college-Florida)

Double A Portland: 20 GS, 118 IP, 10-2, 1.75 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9
High A Salem: 5 GS, 25 2/3 IP, 3-1, 3.86 ERA, 11.6 K/9, 2.5 BB/9
One playoff start with Pawtucket: 1 GS, 6 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, 7 k’s

Johnson delivered a fantastic season and finished the year by allowing two earned runs or fewer in 22 of his last 23 starts (24 of his last 25, including playoffs). While he lacks a true swing-and-miss pitch like fellow lefties Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez, he knows how to pitch to locations and change eye levels. Johnson features an 88-92 fastball (94 at times) to go with the best curveball in the Sox system, a slider and a changeup that developed last year into a pitch he believes in now. His tempo in quick which keeps hitters on edge and misses barrels consistently.

Johnson should open the year in Pawtucket, but could provide big league starting depth soon.
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LHP Edwin Escobar: (Trade with the Giants for Jake Peavy-July of 2014, 22 years old)

Majors: 2 G, 0 GS, 2 IP, 4.50 ERA, 9.0 K/9, 4.5 BB/9
Triple A Pawtucket: 5 GS, 27 IP, 0-2, 4.28 ERA, 6.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9
Triple A Fresno: 20 GS, 111 IP, 3-8, 5.11 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 3.0 BB/9

Escobar has touched 95 with his fastball, but more often works in the low 90s with inconsistent command, while showing a slider and changeup that are average. He could have the ceiling of a back-end starter, though some believe that with the chance to air out his stuff from the bullpen, his lefthanded crossfire delivery could make him a late-innings weapon. He pitched in 20 winter league games in Venezuela, all out of the bullpen, compiling a 4.05 ERA with 16 strikeouts and 9 walks in 20 innings. His role with the Sox is to be determined, but given that the team does have a number of highly regarded lefthanded starting prospects in front of him (Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson), the likeliest big league job is in the bullpen.

He was brilliant for the PawSox in the playoffs as their #1 starter turning in a pair of dominant appearances against Syracuse in the Divisional Round (8.2 IP, ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 7 K), in the Finals against Durham (7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 5 K) and even started the Triple-A Championship Game (5 IP, 2 ER, cut short due to bad weather)
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RHP Heath Hembree: (Trade with the Giants for Jake Peavy (July 2014), 25 years old)

Majors: 6 Gs, 10 IP, 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 5.4 K/9, 4.5 BB/9
Triple A Pawtucket: 7 Gs, 7 IP, 2.70 ERA, 12.2 K/9, 6.8 BB/9
Triple A Fresno: 41 Gs, 39 IP, 1-3, 3.89 ERA, 10.5 K/9, 3.0 BB/9

Hembree leverages the ball down with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and slider. He dominated righthanders (.224 average against) but got hit hard by lefties (.317). As a reliever with an option, he represents bullpen depth. Hembree allowed just one run and earned two saves in the playoffs for the PawSox in 5 appearances.
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RHP Zeke Spruill: (Trade with the Diamondbacks for RHP Myles Smith-December 2014, 25 years old)

Majors: 6 Gs (1 GS), 23 IP, 1-1, 3.57 ERA, 5.6 K/9, 1.6 BB/9
Triple A Reno: 28 Gs (11 GS), 79 IP, 3-7, 6.04 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9

Spruill, like Hembree, will offer righthanded bullpen depth. He has a track record of being a strike-thrower who keeps the ball on the ground, and his stuff seemed to play up as a reliever. He works in the low 90s with his sinker and also features an average changeup and slider.

Handicapping the Red Sox Prospects with Projected Numbers

An intersting read from Jake Seiner of milb.com looked at the top prospects in the American League East and their potential major league numbers if they played the whole season in the big leagues.

http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20150112&content_id=105761494&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_milb&sid=milb

Congrats to the Patriots in advancing to their fourth straight AFC Championship Game after beating Baltimore last Saturday. Pats…Colts…Brady…Luck…should be a fun one Sunday night. As will Packers/Seahawks in Seattle.

Happy Monday!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

2015 PawSox Coaching Staff Announced

The Pawtucket Red Sox and the Boston Red Sox are pleased to announce that Kevin Boles will return as PawSox manager for the 2015 season and will once again be joined by coach Bruce Crabbe who is also back for his second season in Pawtucket. The clubs also announced today that former Portland (AA) hitting coach Rich Gedman will be the new PawSox hitting coach while former Portland pitching coach Bob Kipper has also been promoted to that same role with Pawtucket for 2015. Additionally, trainer Jon Jochim is back for his sixth year on the PawSox staff.

Dave Joppie, who had been the PawSox hitting coach for the last two seasons, will replace Gedman in Portland as Joppie returns to the Sea Dogs in 2015 after being their hitting coach for five years from 2008 – 2012. Rich Sauveur, the PawSox pitching coach for the last seven years from 2008 – 2014, decided to leave the organization following this past season.

Kevin Boles, 40, had a tremendous Triple-A debut season as he led the PawSox to the 2014 International League Governors’ Cup Championship. In so doing, the PawSox became just the third team in the 131-year history of the IL to go to three straight Governors’ Cup Finals with three different managers (Arnie Beyeler in 2012 when the PawSox won the Cup, Gary DiSarcina in 2013 when the PawSox lost in the Cup Finals, and Boles in 2014 when the PawSox recaptured the Cup).
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Last season it took 143 games (out of 144 regular-season games) for the PawSox to secure the IL wild card and earn their 4th consecutive trip to the International League Playoffs. The PawSox endured a total of 225 player transactions during the year, employed 66 different players, sent 25 players to Boston, received 16 players from Portland, and Boles used a rather amazing 150 different line-ups in 153 total games (and those included the batting order only and not the starting pitcher). Through it all he steered the PawSox to their second championship in three years (after a 27 year stretch with no Cups from 1985-2011) as Pawtucket swept Syracuse, 3 games to 0 in the semi-finals and then rallied to beat the Durham Bulls, 3 games to 2 in a thrilling championship series.

The upcoming season will mark Boles’ eighth year in the Red Sox organization. He had been the manager of the Portland Sea Dogs from 2011-2013 which marked his first seasons at the Double-A level after he spent the first 10 years of his managerial career at either the Rookie or Single-A level with the Marlins, Royals, Twins, and Red Sox organizations. Overall in 14 years as a minor league manager, Boles has compiled an 876-851 career record.

Bruce Crabbe, 52, will be back for his second season as a coach on the PawSox staff. He was the manager of the Lowell Spinners (Boston’s short-A affiliate) in 2012 and 2013 (along with 2006 & 2010) and he spent the 2011 season as skipper of the Salem Red Sox (high-A). Bruce has been in the Red Sox organization for the past ten years. His tenure with the Red Sox began in 2005 when he was the hitting coach for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (A). He was Boston’s minor league infield coordinator from 2007-2009. From 1995-97, Bruce was a coach and the director of player development for the Colorado Silver Bullets, a professional women’s baseball team. He returned to Minor League Baseball as a manager, infield instructor, and batting coach in the Texas Rangers system from 1998 to 2004.
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Rich Gedman, 55, has been promoted from the Portland Sea Dogs (AA) to become the new hitting coach for the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2015. Gedman has been the hitting coach in Portland for the past two seasons working with such notables as Xander Bogaerts, Garin Cecchini, and Christian Vazquez in 2013 and last season with Mookie Betts (.355 in 54 games), Deven Marrero (.291 in 68 games), and Blake Swihart (.300 in 92 games). Portland finished the 2014 season with an 88-54 record to win the Eastern League Northern Division.

A Worcester, MA native, Gedman played for Boston for 11 seasons from 1980-1990. In 906 career games with the Red Sox he hit .259 with 83 HR & 356 RBI. His best seasons came in 1985 and 1986 when he was an American League All-Star catcher both years…hitting .295/18/80 in ’85 and .258/16/65 in ’86. During that 1986 season Rich caught Roger Clemens’ 20-strikeout game on April 29 and played in all 14 of Boston’s post-season games in 1986 as he hit .357 with a HR in the ALCS vs. California and added a homer in the World Series vs. the Mets.

Gedman signed with Boston as a non-drafted free agent in 1977 and played for the PawSox in 1980 (batting .236 with 11 HR in 111 games). He also played for the PawSox for 25 games in 1981 (going 1-for-3 during The Longest Game in Baseball History in April of that year) and had a brief injury rehab assignment with Pawtucket during the 1988 season. He finished his big league career playing for Houston in 1990 and St. Louis in 1991 & ’92.

This will be Rich’s fifth year as a coach in the Red Sox system. In 2011 he was the hitting coach for the Lowell Spinners, in 2012 he served in that same role for the Salem Red Sox, and in 2013 & 2014 he was Portland’s hitting coach. His coaching career actually began as bench coach for the North Shore Spirit of the Can-Am Independent League before he became manager of the Worcester Tornadoes in that same league from 2005-2010.

Rich and his wife Sherry currently live in Framingham, MA and have three children: Michael, Marissa, and Matt (a 26-year-old infielder in the Red Sox system who has played for Salem for the past two seasons).

Bob Kipper, 50, has spent the last five seasons as Portland’s pitching coach (2010-14). His 2014 staff led the Eastern League in ERA (3.41), Wins (88), CG (9), and SHO (14). Three highly-touted lefties had superb seasons under Kipper. Henry Owens, 22, went 14-4 with a 2.60 ERA to finish 3rd in the league in ERA while leading the EL in both wins and strikeouts (126). Brian Johnson, 24, was 10-2 with a 1.75 ERA to win the league ERA championship. And Eddie Rodriguez, 21, acquired in a trade deadline deal from the Orioles, was 3-1 with a 0.96 ERA in 6 starts for Portland. The Sea Dogs rolled through the Eastern League with an 88-54 record which was the third best mark among full-season minor league clubs in 2014.

Kipper has also worked with several other top Red Sox pitching prospects in the past few seasons in Portland including Matt Barnes, Drake Britton, Keith Couch, Anthony Ranaudo, Junichi Tazawa, and Brandon Workman among many others.

Bob will be entering his 17th year in the Red Sox organization as a coach. He has been pitching coach for Lowell (1999), Augusta (2000-01), Portland (2003-04), Greenville (2005-06), Lancaster (2007), Greenville again (2008-09), and Portland again (2010-14). Kipper was the Boston Red Sox bullpen coach in 2002 under manager Grady Little.

Kipper was the 8th overall pick in the 1982 June Draft by California. He was 27-37 with 11 saves and a 4.34 ERA in 271 games (45 starts) over eight big league seasons with the Angels (1985), Pittsburgh (1985-91), and Minnesota (1992). Born in Aurora, Illinois, Bob and his wife Kristin reside in Greer, South Carolina and have two daughters, Kaylyn (20) and Kendal (16).

Fan Favorite, Dan Butler, Designated for Assignment

The Red Sox have designated catcher Dan Butler for assignment to clear roster space for left-hander Craig Breslow, who was re-signed recently.
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The acquisition of Ryan Hanigan (trade from San Diego for Will Middlebrooks in December) as a backup to Christian Vazquez and the presence of Blake Swihart on the 40-man roster made Butler an expendable asset for Boston. The 30-year-old Butler made his Major League debut (4-for-19, 3 doubles) in 2014 after signing with the Sox as an undrafted free agent in 2009. He has a nice track record at the Triple-A level. In 192 games with Pawtucket, Butler hit .248 with 22 home runs while throwing out 31 percent of those who attempted to steal bases against the PawSox. He was Pawtucket’s team MVP in 2013 and slugged a career high 14 homers.

Butler could end up back with Boston on a new minor league deal if he isn’t traded and passes through waivers unclaimed.

Former PC Standout Retires

For a guy who didn’t think he’d ever get a shot in the big leagues, veteran infielder John McDonald has decided to retire after 16 major league seasons.

McDonald, 40, said in September that he recognized the 2014 season could be his last, telling reporters that he got more out of his career than he ever thought possible. “I didn’t think I’d get a day in the big leagues, let alone parts of 16 years,” McDonald told MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez.

McDonald’s career closes with a .233 batting average, 28 homers and 34 steals in 2,651 Major League plate appearances split between the Indians, Blue Jays, D-Backs, Pirates, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels and Tigers. On an anecdotal note, he also holds the rare distinction of being traded for himself. In July of 2005, Toronto sent him to the Detroit in exchange for a player to be named later, only to complete the deal by re-acquiring him from the Tigers in exchange for cash considerations four months later.

More to come later today!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

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