Red Sox Find “New” Hitting Coach

It has been widely reported over the last 24 hours, although yet to be confirmed ‘officially’ by the Red Sox, that Chili Davis has been named the new hitting coach of the Boston Red Sox. He replaces Greg Colbrunn who was the hitting coach for the last two seasons.

Colbrunn said that he wanted to spend more time with his family and would not be returning because of that reason, not due to his injury that forced him to miss six weeks of the season due to bleeding on the brain in early June. Under Colbrunn, the Red Sox rode one of the American League’s strongest offenses to the 2013 World Series championship. In 2014, Boston scored 219 fewer runs, tying for 11th in the American League with 634.

Davis, 55 in January, returns to the Red Sox organization after spending three seasons as the hitting coach with the Oakland A’s. He was previously the PawSox hitting coach in 2011 where the squad finished 3rd in the International League in runs scored at 4.63 runs per game.
2011 Pawtucket Red Sox
His Oakland clubs have consistently been at or near the top of the American League in on base percentage the last three seasons, even leading the AL in walks in 2014, despite being in the lower half of the league in team batting average.

The former 19-year big leaguer with San Francisco (1981-87), California Angels (’88-90, ’93-96), Minnesota Twins (’91-92), Kansas City (’87) and New York Yankees (’98-99) had a career batting average of .274 with 350 homers and 1,372 RBI in 2,436 big league games. And among switch hitters, only Mickey Mantle (536), Eddie Murray (504) and Chipper Jones (468) have more career homers than Davis.
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He was also a three-time World Series Champion with Minnesota (’91) and the Yankees (’98 and ’99) and a three-time All-Star with the Giants (’84 and ’86) and Angels (’94).

Following his playing days, Davis was a part-time instructor for the Dodgers in their 2010 fall instructional league and a hitting coach in the Australian Summer League in 2003 and 2004. He also worked in the business world.

In an odd twist of fate, Davis was asked during the 2011 season by Pawtucket Times reporter Brendan McGair about his future with the Red Sox. He said, “I don’t know where this game is going to take me. I got back into it because this is the environment I’m used to. We’ll see what happens at the end of the season. Whether they’ll ask me back, I don’t know that. I’m not trying to count on anything, but if I have to be back [in Pawtucket] with these guys next year, I definitely won’t be disappointed.”

He’s a couple years removed from that quote, and has worked with MANY former Red Sox in his three years in Oakland, but Chili is back in Boston.

The Sox chose Davis from a pool that also included Red Sox hitting coordinator Tim Hyers, Red Sox Double-A hitting coach Rich Gedman, Angels hitting coordinator Paul Sorrento and former Cubs hitting coach Bill Mueller.

Thanks for reading,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

World Series Set After Thrilling NLCS

I understand this is a blog for Red Sox fans and followers of their minor league system (and I’ll swing some Red Sox into this). However, just as a pure baseball fan, the National League Championship Series between the Cardinals and the Giants was one for the ages.

Great pitching from both sides.

Manager’s decisions galore!

Clutch hitting (sometimes).

Stellar bullpen work (mostly from the Giants).

And it featured a number of ways in which to score runs. For the Cardinals, LOTS of solo homers. For the Giants, they scored in just about every way possible. In fact, before Game 5, the Giants scored 22 runs; 12 without the benefit of the hit. Ground outs, sacrifice flies, walks, wild pitches, throwing errors (See: NLCS Game 3)…you name it, the Giants did it. Giants third base coach Tim Flannery even coined the phrase, “RTI…Runs Thrown In”.

San Francisco hit one homer in the play-in Wild Card game in Pittsburgh (Brandon Crawford’s grand slam). They hit one homer in the Division Series in Washington (Brandon Belt’s game winner in the 18th inning). After Belt’s shot, they went 242 straight postseason plate appearances without a homer. Then, in Game 5, Joe Panik homered for the first two runs; he hit one homer in 269 at-bats this season. Pinch hitter Michael Morse hit his first since Aug. 15 (the game tying blast in the 8th). And Travis Ishikawa ended the game, and the series, with a walk-off three-run homer — the first walk-off homer of his career and the fourth walk-off homer ever to end an LCS, joining Chris Chambliss, Magglio Ordonez and Aaron Boone. And the last walk-off homer hit by a Giant to put them in the World Series came in 1951 when Bobby Thomson hit “The Shot Heard ‘Round The World”.

It was an incredible five games where in every contest, fans had their finger nails glued to the arm rests in their chairs flexed and white knuckled. Again, even if you aren’t a fan of either team, this was a GREAT baseball series.

It now sets up a match-up with those pesky Kansas City Royals. The Team that has not lost in the month October. The team that was six outs away from their season being over, yet came from behind to win against Oakland. They swept the team with the two best records in the American League, Anaheim and Baltimore, in sweeps.

Now they get the Giants, a team they swept in a three game series in August this year in Kansas City.

Speed will be the name of the game in the 2014 World Series. Can the Giants stop the ground attack of the fleet footed Royals. And can San Francisco get an early lead, because, as we learned in the AL Division and Championship Series’, you aren’t scoring against Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland after the 6th inning.

You’ve got the “tug on the heart stings” factor for a team that hadn’t been to the PLAYOFFS since 1985 in the Royals. You’ve also got the “I’ve been playing a long time and have never gotten out of the first round guy” in Tim Hudson. Jake Peavy could get his second straight World Series ring (wonder if he buys a cable car if they win it?). Javier Lopez could win his 4th World Series ring (2007, 2010, 2012). Both Peavy and Lopez are former Red Sox (that’s my tie in, a stretch, I know).

There’s also the experience factor. 14 players from the 2012 Giants World Series run are still currently with San Francisco. Kansas City has just TWO that have ever played in a postseason before, James Shields (Tampa Bay) and Omar Infante (Detroit ’06, Atlanta ’10, Detroit again in ’12 and ’13).

A further glance into both bullpens

The Royals bullpen just keeps getting better and better. It has a 0.96 ERA since the start of the ALDS. In Game 3 of the ALCS, the pen threw four perfect innings, the third time a team has ever done that in postseason history. The Royals have won four one-run games this postseason, a tribute mostly to the threesome of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. This season, those three had 21 games in which they all pitched, and none of the three allowed a run. No other team had more than 16 such games from any threesome. That’s why the Royals were 65-4 when leading after six innings during the regular season. Herrera and Davis have not allowed a home run this year. And advanced metrics tell us that of the past 100 batters the three have faced combined, there have been only five hard-hit balls.

How good is the San Francisco bullpen? It has been terrific this postseason, posting an ERA under 2.00. The Giants might not have a threesome like Kansas City’s, but anyone who saw the 18-inning game against the Nationals in Game 2 of the LDS knows how deep and versatile that pen is. In that game, Yusmeiro Petit, who set a major league record this year with 47 consecutive batters retired, threw six scoreless innings and struck out seven, the most ever in extra innings of any postseason game. Petit has pitched nine postseason innings, allowing no runs and two hits. Closer Santiago Casilla has been really good; he hasn’t allowed a run in 17 consecutive postseason appearances (although things got hairy in Game 5 of the NLCS). Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt has gone 19 straight appearances in the postseason without allowing a run. And another lefty, Javier Lopez, has gone 15 straight scoreless appearances in the postseason. The Giants appear to have a slight advantage because the best starting pitcher in the postseason has been Madison Bumgarner (1.72 ERA), who is pitching so deep into games that he keeps the pen fresh. Don’t forget about their two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum who has yet to pitch in the playoffs…he’s also a weapon out of the bullpen.

And then the Managers

The Giants’ Bruce Bochy is attempting to become the 10th manager to win three World Series. The other nine are in the Hall of Fame. He is one of 12 managers to manage 20 years, have a career winning record and win multiple World Series; 10 of the other 11 are in the Hall of Fame. That’s where Bochy is headed. He is the master of staying calm, and he is one of the best in the game at using his bullpen.

The Royals’ Ned Yost is not going to the Hall of Fame, but he has more wins than any manager in Royals history. And he is the only manager ever to win his first eight postseason games. It’s not push-button managing by any means, but Yost has basically used the same starting lineup since he moved Alcedes Escobar to the leadoff spot, and Lorenzo Cain to the No. 3 hole, on Sept. 13. And when right fielder Norichika Aoki gets on base in the late innings of a close game, Yost pinch-runs speedy Jarrod Dyson, then keeps him in center field and moves Cain to right, creating the best defensive outfield in the game. And, of course, when he gets to the seventh with a lead, he brings in Herrera, Davis and Holland for an inning each.

So who wins? My heart says Giants in 6…my brain says Royals in stingy 7 game series. Who do you have?

On this Date 25 Years Ago

In a crazy twist, TODAY is the 25th anniversary of the 2nd largest earthquake in California history, the one that rocked the 1989 Bay Bridge World Series between the Giants and the A’s and delayed it 10 days. Coincidentally the day AFTER the Giants won the National League Pennant.

ESPN did a fantastic 30 for 30 Documentary on it and, if you have the time, watch it.

I was 6 years old sitting in my kitchen in Sacramento (90 miles from San Francisco) doing homework awaiting the start of Game 3 when I felt the ground shake. My mom told me to look at the chandelier and it was swinging like Tarzan from vine to vine. Then we walked through the dining room to look to the back yard where we saw the water from our pool sloshing up again three quarters up onto the wood seven foot high wood fence.

It’s a very vivid memory for me, even being so young, but I would encourage everyone to watch the documentary just to get a feel for what that day and subsequent ones after it were like in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

The Brockford Files

And one update from the “Brockford Files” (my son Brock, and me trying to be clever to integrate him into the blog)…He’s doing great! Nearly 10 pounds, born at just over 9 just over two weeks ago, and continues with his off-season workout program :) and he slept for five straight hours Wednesday night (WOW!!). Mom is recuperating more and more every day as we figure this “parenting” thing out.

Our first outing at just 8 days old to the Pumpkin Patch at Wards Farm

Our first outing at just 8 days old to the Pumpkin Patch at Wards Farm

Oh, hey...there's a smile!

Oh, hey…there’s a smile!

Channeling the 2010 Giants before Game 5 of the 2014 NLCS against St. Louis

Channeling the 2010 Giants before Game 5 of the 2014 NLCS against St. Louis

And…Happy birthday Dan Butler!

Thanks for reading, enjoy the weekend!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

PawSox 2015 Schedule is HERE

It’s tough to say what’s going to happen six months from today. But, one thing is for sure, the PawSox home opener in defense of their second Governors’ Cup Championship in three years begins in EXACTLY six months.

The Champion Pawtucket Red Sox will play their 2015 home-opener at McCoy Stadium on Thursday, April 16th against the Rochester Red Wings at 7:05 pm. The PawSox 2015 season will actually start one week earlier on April 9th when they play in Allentown, PA against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

The April 9th opener will equal the latest the PawSox have begun a season since 2009 (also April 9th that year in a 6-4 win at Buffalo). Other than 2009, the 2015 season-opener will be the latest for the PawSox in 17 years since they began the 1998 season on April 10 at Syracuse (4-1 loss). Furthermore, the April 16th home-opener at McCoy in 2015 will be Pawtucket’s latest home debut since the PawSox fell to Lehigh Valley, 4-3 on April 17, 2009. Besides that date in 2009, however, the 2015 home-opener on April 16 will mark the latest McCoy Stadium opener since all the way back in 1991 when the PawSox beat Rochester, 2-0 on April 18 to begin their 1991 home schedule.

The 2015 International League schedule will be substantially different from years past although the PawSox will once again play 144-games with the usual 72 games at home and 72 on the road. Pawtucket will play 81 of their 144 games against their five IL North division rivals and only 63 games against the other eight IL clubs from the West and South divisions. Furthermore, the PawSox have always played 16 games against each of their North opponents but now that number is unbalanced as the Sox will face Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 19 times (8 home & 11 away), Syracuse 19 times (11 home & 8 away), Lehigh Valley for 18 games (8 home & 10 away), Rochester for 18 (10 home & 8 away), and Buffalo for 17 games (9 home & 8 away).
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Because of the unbalanced nature of the schedule, the majority of series played during the season will be 3-game sets as the PawSox will have 28 3-game series (14 home & 14 away) compared to 12 4-game series (6 home & away) and just 6 2-game sets (3 home & away). Pawtucket’s longest homestand of the season is 9-games from August 17-26, but the bulk of their homestands are 7-gamers (six total including each of their first three homestands of the year). Their longest roadtrip is 8-games from July 16-23.
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The PawSox will begin 2015 with a 7-game roadtrip from April 9-15 featuring a 4-game series at Lehigh Valley followed by a 3-game set in Buffalo. Pawtucket’s home-opener on April 16 will begin with a celebration of the 2014 Governors’ Cup team as returning PawSox players will receive their championship rings as part of special pre-game ceremonies. The initial 7-game homestand at McCoy includes a 4-game series vs. Rochester from April 16-19 followed by a 3-game set vs. Buffalo from April 20-22.
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Pawtucket’s home schedule consists of 53 night games and 19 day games with the following breakdown by month: April (11), May (16), June (14), July (11), August (13), and September (7).

PawSox home night games through May 1 will begin at 6:15 pm with the exception of Opening Night on April 16 at 7:05 pm. Pawtucket will begin regular 7:05 pm weeknight starts on May 11 and play virtually all of their weeknight home games at 7:05 pm for the remainder of the season. The PawSox will play each of their Saturday night home games one hour earlier than weeknights beginning at 6:05 pm. Sunday games will remain at 1:05 pm with the exception of September 6 at 6:05 pm. Games on May 25, June 13, July 2, July 3, August 8, and September 6 will all feature post-game firework displays at McCoy with additional firework games possibly added at a later date.
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Pawtucket will conclude the regular-season on Labor Day (September 7) vs. Buffalo at 1:05 pm at McCoy. The PawSox will be bidding to make the International League Playoffs for the 5th year in a row. Four teams will again qualify for the playoffs that begin on September 9 – the three division winners and one wild card (the second-place team with the best record). The PawSox will be looking to repeat as Governors’ Cup Champs when the 2015 Governors’ Cup Finals are played from September 15-19. The Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game between the IL Champ and the PCL Champ will be staged on September 22 in El Paso. The PawSox have played in that game twice in the last three years.

All 14 International League teams are back in the same divisional set-up as last year with the same Major League affiliations. The Pawtucket Red Sox and the Boston Red Sox own the longest affiliate relationship in all of the IL (since 1973).

Post Season/Fall League Updates and More Awards

I trust everyone enjoyed their Columbus Day weekend!

The American and National League Championship Series are both in full swing and will resume today in Kansas City and San Francisco, respectively.

The Royals have been on some kind of run, being six outs away from getting knocked out in the play-in game against Jon Lester and the A’s, and now up 2-0 against the Orioles. The team that hit the fewest homers in Major League Baseball in the regular season, has been clobbering the ball in October. And the way they play the game, stealing bases, defense and pitching has been a bit of a revelation.

The PawSox saw this approach first hand in the Gildan Tripe-A Championship game against Omaha. The Storm Chasers were aggressive on the bases, had power arms out of the bullpen and played mistake free baseball in winning their second straight crown. But this philosophy has been instilled in the Royals system for years. Home-grown players like Eric Hosmer (best friends with PawSox shortstop Deven Marrero), Mike Moustakas, catcher Salavdor Perez and outfielder Alex Gordon have all come through the organization with the same message.

A skill that the Red Sox have gotten better at over the last few years, and you can see the results with all the young players contributing in Boston now.

Kansas City gives the ball to Jeremy Guthrie, who Red Sox fans know well after his years in Baltimore originally. It’s his first career post season appearance and in just the second Royals playoff game at Kaufmann Stadium since 1985 (after last nights rain out).

Former PawSox players in this series: Only Andrew Miller (traded from Boston to Baltimore for LHP Eduardo Rodriguez at the trade deadline). He’s pitched in four games (6.1 IP) having allowed no runs on just one hit with seven strikeouts. Miller was with Pawtucket in 2011 and 2012.

On the other side of the ledger, the Giants and Cardinals are tied 1-1 with game three coming up this afternoon. A 3-0 shutout by Madinson Bumgarner set the tone for San Francisco in Game 1, but homers by St. Louis in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings beat the Giants in Game 2 (all homers hit by home-grown players for the Cardinals) 5-4.

Former Red Sox/PawSox are prevalent in this series as John Lackey starts for the Cardinals in Game 3. He’ll be working with…short time Red Sox catcher AJ Pierzynski. After being released by Boston in late June, Pierzynski did not play much with St. Louis down the stretch, but has been thrust into duty after the injury to Yadier Molina (oblique strain).

Lackey dominated the Dodgers in the Division Series tossing seven innings of one run ball while striking out eight and walking just one. He has some playoff pedigree being a 2-time World Series champion with Anaheim in 2002 (clinched the series in Game 7 against…the Giants) and in 2013 with Boston.

The Cardinals 25-man playoff roster features 16 players developed from within their system. Incredible.

The Giants, in contrast have just nine. But they do feature a pair of former Sox, Jake Peavy (dealt in July this year for PawSox playoff standouts Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree) and lefty specialist Javier Lopez.

Peavy took a no decision in his start in Game 2 in St. Louis (2 ER in 4 IP) but has been very sharp in his two postseason starts so far (1-0, 1.86 ERA, 2 ER in 9.2 IP). Lopez, who has been a playoff standout with San Francisco in each of their World Series runs in 2010 and 2012, has pitched in 4 games so far and has allowed just 1 hit and recorded strikeouts to 2 of the 3 outs that he’s been asked to get.

This series has the makings to be a great one, nothing new to these two historic franchises who also met in 2012 in a series that went seven games won by the Giants (and had to come back from being down 3-1).

Who do you think wins each series?

As we talked about last week, the Arizona Fall League in ramping up. The Surprise Saguaros are 3-3 after a week and Rusney Castillo continues to shine. He’s played in four games thus far and is hitting .350 (7-for-20) with 3 2B, an RBI and a stolen base.

2B Sean Coyle has played in just two games going 3-for-7 with a triple and 2 RBI.

And SS Deven Marrero is hitting .300 (3-for-10) with an RBI, 3 walks, and 2 stolen bases.

Pitchers Aaron Kurcz and Robby Scott have yet to allow a run in their 2 games pitched (each an inning per appearance). And Madison Younginer allowed his first run in 2 games (2 IP, ER, 2 H, 2 K’s, 3 BB).

And the Post Season accolades continue to roll in for the Red Sox system. No surprise but Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart were named to the MLB.com’s All-Prospect Team by Jonathan Mayo. To view to full list and read scouting reports on each of the players, follow this link…http://m.redsox.mlb.com/news/article/96473094/mlbpipelinecoms-2014-all-prospect-team

Betts also found himself on the Baseball America All-Rookie Team with the likes of White Sox slugger Jose Abreu and speedster Billy Hamilton. The rest of the All-Rookie Team is as follows:

C: Travis d’Arnaud, New York Mets
1B: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
2B: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
3B: Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers (With Toledo in 2013)
SS: Danny Santana, Minnesota Twins (Rochester, 2014)
OF: Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds (Louisville, 2013
OF: Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay Rays (Durham, 2013 and 2014)
OF: George Springer, Houston Astros
DH: Kennys Vargas, Minnesota Twins
SP: Jake deGrom, New York Mets
SP: Collin McHugh, Houston Astros
SP: Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays (Buffalo, 2014)
SP: Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees
SP: Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals
RP: Dellin Betances, New York Yankees (Scranton/WB, 2013

And, finally, Baseball America also unveiled its Top 20 Prospects in each League (International League to be announced later).

The Eastern League featured SIX Red Sox in the Top 20…oddly enough, all were in a PawSox uniform at some point in 2014.

#2 2B Mookie Betts
#6 LHP Henry Owens
#7 LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
#8 C Blake Swihart
#9 LHP Brian Johnson
#19 SS Deven Marrero

The rest of the list and rankings for the other leagues can be found here…http://www.baseballamerica.com/majors/2014-league-top-20-prospects-index/

Will keep you posted on the International League Rankings. Got to believe there will be a good number of PawSox listed.

Don’t forget to vote for the MILBY’s! Many, Many PawSox in the mix for awards. Vote early and often!

Enjoy the the Game 3’s tonight,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

PawSox Still Making Headlines

Pardon the absence of 45 Miles from Fenway for the last 10 days or so…But my wife and I welcomed our son, Brock William Levering, to the world on October 1st (barely, 11:51pm). Mama and baby are doing great and it’s truly amazing how fast time flies by!
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On his way home!

On his way home!

Dad and Brock relaxing

Dad and Brock relaxing

This kid is ALL IN on baseball so far!

This kid is ALL IN on baseball so far!

Meeting Grandma Lev for the first time!

Meeting Grandma Lev for the first time!

And Grandpa Lev too!

And Grandpa Lev too!

Now, onto the baseball…

While the PawSox season has been over for nearly a month, the squad from Pawtucket still is receiving national recognition.

MILB.com has unveiled its award nominees from the 2014 season, aka the MiLBY’s. And the PawSox are on center stage.

Among the nominees:

Mookie Betts was nominated for Top Offensive Player
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Lefties Henry Owens and Brian Johnson are nominated for Top Starting Pitchers. Johnson spent most of the season in Portland (save for 5 starts with Salem at the beginning of the year) plus a playoff start in Game 2 of the Finals against Durham with Pawtucket (combined numbers: 13-3, 2.13 ERA, 143 2/3 IP, 132 K, 0.97 WHIP). Owens, the well documented former 1st rounder in 2011, finished with a combined record was 17-5 with a 2.94 ERA in 159 IP including 170 K and a 1.13 WHIP.
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Somehow, the PawSox were omitted from the Best Team category, but the Portland Sea Dogs are in the mix (so send them a vote or 10).

The Red Sox System IS in the mix for the Best Farm System, and why not, the system AS A WHOLE posted a winning percentage of .529 (368-328) throughout the minor leagues and all but two of their teams went to the playoffs (Greenville and Lowell) with two capturing league titles (Pawtucket and the Gulf Coast League).

Game 4 of the Governors’ Cup Finals, the one where Rusney Castillo saved the PawSox season with a game tying single in the 9th, Bryce Brentz saved the season AGAIN in the 10th throwing out the winning run at home and Ivan De Jesus homered in the 13th to beat Durham, is nominated for the Game of the Year. If this one DOESN’T win I’d be shocked.

Individually, the Bryce Brentz game saving throw at home is up for the Play of the Year and Corey Brown’s catch against the fence and knocking a PAIR of pads off the wall at McCoy Stadium has been deemed to be a Top Blooper in 2014.

Voting is VERY simple. Just visit the link below and vote as many times as you want.

http://www.milb.com/news/awards/y2014/index.jsp

In other Red Sox news, the Arizona Fall League kicked off earlier this week. Some notable players are with the Surprise Saguaros (Rusney Castillo, Deven Marrero, Keith Couch and Sean Coyle among them) and are off to a strong start going 2-1 in their first 3 games.

Castillo went 2-for-4 with a double and a walk in his debut. Marrero was 1-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base in his lone game so far and Coyle was 0-for-2 with a pair of walks in his only game.

Couch, the PawSox Finals Game 5 starter and winner, made a start going four innings allowing two runs on four hits in his second straight fall in Arizona. Aaron Kurcz, who spent his season in Portland, tossed a scoreless inning while striking out the side in his debut and Madison Younginer, a reliever with High-A Salem in 2014, also threw a scoreless frame in his only inning with a pair of punch outs.

The Fall League runs for roughly six weeks from October 7th through November 13th with the AFL Title game set for Nov. 15th televised on the MLB Network.

That’s it for now…enjoy your Columbus Day weekend!

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to vote early and often for the MiLBY’s,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Red Sox Announce Minor League Awards

It was a busy weekend for pre-game ceremonies at Fenway Park. Not only was Derek Jeter honored (over and over again), but the Boston Red Sox also announced their minor league award winners Saturday.

LHP Brian Johnson won the prestigious Pitcher of the Year award. In a year where he had very stiff competition within the system with standout seasons by Henry Owens, Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes, Johnson stood above the rest.

The 23-year-old Johnson went 13-3 with a 2.13 ERA (34 ER/143.2 IP) and 132 strikeouts compared to 39 walks in 25 starts combined between high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland. He posted the best ERA among qualifying Red Sox farmhands and ranked among organization leaders in wins (3rd) and strikeouts (2nd). He finished off his stellar season with a start in the Game 2 of the Governors’ Cup Finals against Durham tossing six innings of two run ball while allowing just four hits and striking out seven. Not a bad Triple-A Debut.
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Shortstop Deven Marrero received the Defensive Player of the Year Award, and was at Fenway on the day Derek Jeter was playing in his second-to-last Major League game.

“It’s awesome. That’s someone who I want to be,” said Marrero to MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “I want to be the Derek Jeter of the Red Sox. That’s my goal. He does everything right. He plays the game hard. He’s a champion. That’s all I want to be. To see him finish out like this is so cool. I really wish I could have played with him on the same field, but I just want to continue his legacy. I hope I can continue that in Boston.”
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Marrero played in 50 games with the PawSox, all at shortstop, and committed just six errors in 219 total chances. He also took part in 34 double plays. In Portland, Marrero played in 66 games making, again, just 6 errors in 271 chances. All told, in 116 games his fielding percentage was .976.

Mookie Betts, who excelled for the Red Sox over the final six weeks of the season, earned the club’s Offensive Player of the Year. Kind of a no brainer here as the 21-year-old (22 next Tuesday) combined between Portland and Pawtucket hit .346 with 11 homers, 30 doubles, 5 triples, 65 RBI, 87 runs scored and 33 stolen bases. He walked 61 times and struck out only 50 times in 399 at bats over 99 minor league games.
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Promoted to Boston three different times, his first June 28th, Betts hit .291 in 52 games with 5 HR, 18 RBI and 34 runs scored.

More importantly, when he was with the PawSox, the team was 30-15 in his 45 games including winning 20 of their last 26 with him in the lineup. His .335 average, 31 runs, 31 RBI and 5 homers in such a short amount of time with the club garnered him team MVP honors.

This one swing of the bat, the day before going up to the big leagues for a 2nd time, might have been his most notable with the team.

Manuel Margot is the Baserunner of the Year. Outfielder Rawinson Lameda is the Latin Program Player of the Year, while righty Daniel Gonzalez earned the Latin Program Pitcher of the Year.

Catcher Dan Butler, who finished the season in the Majors, got the Lou Gorman Award, given annually to a player who demonstrated dedication and perseverance. For a guy who was not drafted and signed as a minor league free agent after Red Sox scouts saw him in the Cape Cod summer league, he made his big league debut August 10th in Los Angeles against the Angels. Butler went 4-for-19 (.211) in his 7 games with Boston and got his first big league hit Sept. 10 at Fenway against Baltimore. He was the PawSox team MVP in 2013.
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Steven Wright won the Lou Gorman award last year.

Congrats to all the award winners. Very well deserved.

Thanks for reading!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

PawSox Making Big Impact in Boston

If you’ve watched the Red Sox this year, and judging by the folks that read this blog consistently you have, you’ve noticed the influx of players from Pawtucket that have made a LARGE impact on the big league club this season.

In fact, in Wednesday night’s game against Tampa Bay, 13 of the 15 players that played in the game, spent time in a PawSox uniform this year. Of the starting 10 (starting pitcher included), 8 were in Pawtucket.

Here was the starting lineup
Mookie Betts
Xander Bogaerts
Daniel Nava
Yoenis Cespedes
Allen Craig
Garin Cecchini
Rusney Castillo
Bryce Brentz
Christian Vazquez
and
Anthony Ranaudo

The only two that weren’t with Pawtucket at any time were Bogaerts and Cespedes. Craig rehabbed for two games. Nava spent a month with the PawSox in late April and into May and the others were key members to the PawSox Governors’ Cup Championship.

The Red Sox also used Drake Britton (still yet to allow a run in the big leagues this year) and PawSox playoff start Edwin Escobar out of the bullpen. Ryan Lavarnway entered that game as a sub as did Dan Butler and Jackie Bradley Jr.

13 out of 15…that’s representing!

Anthony Ranaudo earned his 18th victory of 2014 (14 with Pawtucket and 4 with Boston now). An impressive season of a talented guy. And a PawSox…ahem, I mean a Red Sox 11-3 victory.

Oh and Garin Cecchini did this…

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_09_24_tbamlb_bosmlb_1&mode=video&content_id=36562205&tcid=vpp_copy_36562205

Fast forward to Thursday night and the same starting 9 were out there…Betts, Bogaerts, Nava, Cespedes, Craig, Cecchini, Castillo, Brentz and Vazquez with Allen Webster starting on the mound. Then manager John Farrell used Alex Wilson and Koji out of the bullpen and Bradley Jr and Lavarnway off the bench…only 3 did not spend time in Pawtucket…11 out of 14.

And the rookies, AGAIN, did work.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_09_25_tbamlb_bosmlb_1&mode=video&content_id=36592877&tcid=vpp_copy_36592877

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_09_25_tbamlb_bosmlb_1&mode=video&content_id=36591683&tcid=vpp_copy_36591683

That’s three rookies in two days to hit their first career big league dinger; Cecchini, Castillo and Vazquez. Impressive stuff and certainly at the right time with a flurry of moves expected in the offseason.

In the game Thursday, Castillo (2-for-4, 3 RBI), Brentz (2-for-4, RBI) and Vazquez (4-for-4, 3 RBI) combined to go 8-for-12 with 2 HR, 2 2B, 7 RBI and 6 runs scored for the 7-8-9 spots in the order. And an 11-1 win behind seven dominant innings from Allen Webster.

Brentz is now hitting .400 (6-for-15) in 6 games since his call up, still waiting for his first homer.

Of all the guys that could have been called up after the PawSox season ended, I was happiest to see Bryce get his first chance. A player riddled with injuries the last two seasons, he came on strong in August this year and was a key cog in the PawSox lineup in the playoffs.
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Now the Yankees come to Fenway for the final three days of the regular season. Not much to play for other than pride AND Derek Jeter’s final hurrah. Pretty nice way to go out at Yankee Stadium though. A walk off winner for the Captain. Impressive.

Baby watch 2014 still continues (for now) and today is our due date and Little Levo is still subletting mama’s high rent apartment! Eviction notice is coming soon.

Enjoy the final weekend of Red Sox baseball for the 2014 season. Should be a fun race for the teams still in the hunt!

Thanks for reading,

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Who Says Ball Players Don’t Have Fun

As is the tradition with every baseball team over the years, the Rookies get to strut their stuff at the end of the season in the major leagues.

For the most part, rookies, especially bullpen guys, have to carry the bullpen bag (the bag with snacks, gum and other things) and that’s extent to their hazing, at least publicly.

But, at the end of the year, all team’s rookies get dressed up for their final road trip.

The veterans pick out the most embarrassing outfits for the newbies, make them change into their new gear in the clubhouse and get on and off the plane still dressed up like it’s a “Bad Costume Halloween Party”.

Just as an example, here are former PawSox OF Bryce Brentz and C Dan Butler

Here’s IL Pitcher of the Year Anthony Ranaudo and the rest of the rookies.

This is from 2013…

And if you thought this was just only a Red Sox thing…

Here are the Blue Jays Rookies

The Tampa Bay Rays in Mario Kart outfits.

The Tigers…

The Reds…
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The Miami Marlins…
//instagram.com/p/s8UJ8Vxy0C/embed/
The Cubs…

The Mets…

The Mets from 2013…

The Diamondbacks from 2013…

Great stuff, huh?!

It must be the offseason, doing a blog about the rookie dress up day.

Hope you enjoyed your first PawSox-less weekend since March. It was tough not going to a ballpark to go to work on the weekend, but certainly was nice to relax a bit before the newest edition of the Levering family is set to debut sometime this week (due Friday).

Thanks for reading!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

The Cup Comes Back to Pawtucket

The winner take all Game 5 was never in doubt.

The PawSox rode their momentum from their thrilling, 13-inning Game 4 victory into Saturday night’s game in Durham and led wire to wire.

Bryce Brentz, who’d had just one hit in the Finals, ripped an RBI double into the left field corner to give the Sox a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning.

In the 3rd, Rusney Castillo hit a ground-rule double to right center, stole third (after being picked off and got out of a run down safely) and scored on Ivan De Jesus sacrifice fly.

Ryan Lavarnway continued his hot hitting in the finals by blasting a solo homer in the 5th to go up 3-0.

Keith Couch, working on 17 days rest, showed ZERO rust. He dominated the Bulls lineup with his array of sinkers, sliders, changeups and curveballs for 6.2 scoreless and 1 hit innings. Only four men reached against him the whole night (2 BB and a HBP) and only one batter/runner reached scoring position.

Pawtucket added another run to their total in the 8th as Garin Cecchini doubled and Corey Brown doubled him home to grab a 4-0 lead with just six more outs to get.

The 4-0 lead felt like 10-0 the way that Couch was pitching. Miguel Celestino entered with two outs in the 7th and gave up a base hit to put runners on the corners before striking out Wilson Betamit looking to end the lone Durham threat in the game. Celestino would allow a solo homer in the 9th, but the Sox needed just two more outs to get.

A ground ball to Garin Cecchini…out number two.

Then…one pitch later…

The Cup returns to Pawtucket!

Ryan Lavarnway was awarded with the first ever Governors’ Cup Most Valuable Player award…fitting since he went 10-for-22 with two doubles, a homer, 3 RBI and 4 runs scored.
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What was almost eerie was that is was EXACTLY two years to the day that the PawSox ended their 28 year Cup winning drought by beating Charlotte in 2012 in a sweep. The score of that game…Also 4-1.

And this is what ensued on the Durham Bulls home field (a year after the Bulls celebrated a title at McCoy a year ago today)

Miguel Celestino celebrates

Miguel Celestino celebrates

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MVP's get to drink from a chalice

MVP’s get to drink from a chalice

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PawSox President Mike Tamburro, GM Lou Schwechheimer and Red Sox Dir. of Player Development Ben Crockett

PawSox President Mike Tamburro, GM Lou Schwechheimer and Red Sox Dir. of Player Development Ben Crockett

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Ryan Lavarnway drinks from his MVP trophy

Ryan Lavarnway drinks from his MVP trophy

Dave Joppie and Game 4 hero Ivan De Jesus

Dave Joppie and Game 4 hero Ivan De Jesus

What a way to end the season…on top of the International League!

Needing to win two in a row, the PawSox did it.

Pawtucket was down to their final strike in Game 4 (Castillo game tying single) and final inch (Brentz throwing out winning run at the plate in the 10th) and they found a way to win.

Now they get to hoist the cup for the second time in three years and their fourth overall in Franchise History (1973, 1984, 2012, and now 2014).

What a team…what a staff…what a ride! I’m just honored to have been a part of it for every nail biting pitch.

Now it’s on to the Triple-A Championship Game in Charlotte. Pawtucket against the winner of the PCL, the Omaha Storm Chasers, for a one game showdown for Triple-A supremacy. The PawSox have never won the National Title. Reno won it 2012, Omaha in 2013. The PawSox are hoping for a win to bring the trophy back to the International League.

Pawtucket will send LHP Edwin Escobar, who has been unreal in the playoffs (1-0, 1.72 ERA, 3 ER in 15.2 IP with 12 strikeouts and no walks), to the hill Tuesday night.

This National Championship game will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports network at 7pm Tuesday night and will also be available along the PawSox Radio Network.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the 2014 season as much as I have…It has been a wild ride!

Thanks for reading and listening!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Nothing Like a Game 5

Well, Game 4 was fun, huh?! Wow! The win extended their season and there were three absolutely key reasons why.

According to PawSox Manager, “One of the single best games I’ve ever been a part of”.

I can’t disagree.

Pawtucket was down to their finals strike…

Rusney Castillo keeps the season alive.

All square 2-2 in the 10th after 2.1 scoreless innings of relief from Dalier Hinojosa out of the bullpen, Ryan Verdugo issued a four pitch walk to Cole Figueroa. Then it was closer Heath Hembree in to pitch. Figueroa stole 2nd to set up Hembree vs. Mikie Mahtook, Durham’s team leader in RBI.

If my call didn’t describe it well enough, here’s the video.

The most impressive part to me was Swihart’s pick at the plate. Take nothing away from the great throw by Brentz, but the pick and tag was what made the play happen and AGAIN saved the PawSox season.

Pawtucket failed to score in both the 11th and 12th innings, but in the 13th, they finally broke through thanks to Ivan De Jesus.

For Ivan, a guy traded to Boston from Baltimore on the second to last day of the regular season, it was his first homer of the playoffs and his first pair of RBI in the series.

Don’t let the fantastic start by Eddy Rodriguez go by the way side either. The 21-year-old was dazzling in his Triple-A debut allowing just two runs (all in the 4th) on six hits with six strikeouts. All those who were really frustrated with the trade of Andrew Miller, to get Rodriguez in return was a terrific return. 94-96 MPH from the left side with a great changeup and slider…Nasty!

Pawtucket’s bullpen continued to be outstanding in the series. They’ve allowed just 2 ER in the first four games of the series and have allowed just 1 run in the last two games; none last night in 6 innings.

So now it comes down to this. Game Five TONIGHT!

Pawtucket turns to Keith Couch who has made exactly 1 Triple-A appearance in his career (8/6/13 at Buffalo). He was 8-2 with a 2.96 ERA in 18 games with Portland, but has not made an appearance in 17 days, Aug. 27 vs. Reading.

This will be the PawSox first postseason Game 5 since last year’s Semi-Final round against Rochester…which Pawtucket won. It’s their first Game 5 in the finals since 1984 when the PawSox beat Maine for their 2nd Governors’ Cup Title in franchise history.

For Durham, they lost their last Game 5 in the finals in 2007 to Richmond, also the last Game 5 in the Championship Round. They also lost in 1998 to Buffalo in a Game 5.

It’s win or go home time…and the players aren’t ready to go home yet!

Let’s go PawSox!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

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