When the 2016 PawSox schedule came out, I doubt many had April 28th in Syracuse circled as an important date. After all that transpired yesterday at NBT Bank Stadium, it’s safe to say that when the dust settles on another PawSox season, we will be hard pressed to find a day that has a greater impact on the big-league club than yesterday’s affair, which played out under grey skies in front of a couple thousand hearty fans.
I should have known yesterday would be a little different when I walked into the hotel lobby a little after 2 o’clock. For there, sitting on the couch, alone with his thoughts, sat Pedro Martinez. I am totally certain the hotel front-desk staff had no clue they were a stone’s throw away from one of the great pitchers in the history of baseball – from a man who is a national hero in the Dominican. It also got me thinking: how strange (and strangely liberating) must it be for Pedro – who gets mobbed everywhere he goes in the DR, in Boston and in many American cities – to have a small dose of anonymity?
Pedro was here, of course, to watch Eduardo Rodriguez. Eddie, who caught a spike in spring training and has worked his way back from a kneecap subluxation, came to the ‘Cuse to pitch for Pawtucket because of unpredictable weather on the East Coast. As he strolled through the lobby, I had a brief word with Eddie. He seems so much more confident and mature (and still as humble and kind as he always was); it is remarkable to watch what a dominant year in the Major Leagues can do for a guy’s body language and outlook.
The Red Sox realize what a tremendous resource they have in Pedro, and have made sure that Eddie is never far from the latest Cooperstown inductee. They have worked on mechanics, they’ve talked about reading swings and attacking hitters. Through it all, they’ve developed a strong bond; I can hardly imagine a young pitcher anywhere in the game who has a better mentor.
When we arrived at the ballpark, one number stood out: 7. In the third spot on Kevin Boles’ lineup card in the visitors’ clubhouse at NBT Bank Stadium, there it stood: Swihart, 7. For the first time in his professional career, Swihart would play the outfield.
In the first few innings, the only action Swihart saw behind Rodriguez (who was a touch erratic and more than a touch unlucky) was a few ground balls that snuck through the infield. But in the bottom of the fourth, his first real test arrived. Trea Turner hit a ball deep toward the wall in left; Swihart got a great first step, raced back and made the play. First test passed. In the bottom of the 6th, Swihart got an exam of a different kind when Caleb Ramsey hit a sinking liner to left. Here’s what happened next:
Even the train conductor approved of that play.
Back to Eddie. In the bullpen and in the first two innings, it appeared that the left-hander was working with a simplified windup motion. Rather than stand wide on the rubber and step straight back, he looked almost more like he was in a stretch position and began his delivery with a short step toward third base. By the third inning, his move to the plate looked more like 2015. Throughout the night, Eddie was snakebitten; soft ground balls found holes and bloopers landed on the outfield grass. The delivery still looked smooth and effortless, and when he went to his secondary pitches they were effective. I’m sure Eddie would have preferred a better bottom line, but the verdict on yesterday’s outing depends on one simple thing: if he is pain-free today, last night was a resounding success.
Before the homestead finale, I caught up with the skipper to look back on a nearly historic road trip and take stock of the season’s first couple weeks. Here’s my conversation with Kevin Boles:
A few more good reads on a Friday morning:
- Rich Hill – and his story – is starting to make national waves. Sports Illustrated’s Jon Tayler is the latest to chart Rich’s path back to the big leagues as a starter.
- The Red Sox and WEEI are going to be partners for years to come.
- Carson Smith is getting close to returning.
- It sure looks like Travis Shaw has found a home – at third base in Boston.
- Portland starter Teddy Stankiewicz was born without a right pectoral muscle, but he’s pitching with plenty of strength.
- Lastly, Henry Owens gets another shot tonight at the team he saw in his MLB debut.
Tonight in Syracuse, Brian Johnson takes the ball as the PawSox look to even the series. Josh and I will talk to you on the radio; our pregame show begins on WHJJ 920 AM and throughout the PawSox Radio Network at 6:05 P.M.
by Josh Maurer
When Heath Hembree once again began a season as the PawSox closer, it didn’t seem very feasible that he would be helping the big league club win games before the end of April.
But after earning the win with a three-inning appearance in Houston on Sunday night, Hembree seems to have made himself an indispensable part of the Boston bullpen. Since being recalled one week ago, the right-hander has appeared in three games and tossed 7.2 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits while striking out 11 and walking just one.
Hembree has featured a new curveball to go along with his mid-to-high 90s MPH fastball. Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis says that along with his arsenal, his new hurler’s confidence is a big reason for his sudden dominance.
Already this season four pitchers who began the season with Pawtucket have gone to the bigs to try and help the Boston pitching staff – Hembree, William Cuevas, Roenis Elias, Henry Owens and Pat Light.
Cuevas and Elias each struggled in one appearance last week and were each optioned right back. Owens and Light just joined the club Sunday in Houston, and Owens did not escape the fourth inning in his first start.
The Red Sox bullpen should get a big lift soon as Carson Smith is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with the PawSox on Tuesday afternoon. After being acquired along with Elias in the Wade Miley deal last December, Smith was expected to be a big part of the pen before a forearm injury late in spring training landed him on the DL.
Meanwhile, as the PawSox get ready for two more home games to start the week, here are some interviews for you to enjoy from last week:
I sat down with the President of Minor League Baseball, Pat O’Conner, recently to discuss a litany of topics:
Alex Speier of the Boston Globe recently joined Will and I to talk about the Red Sox super-talented Salem High-A affiliate:
New PawSox third-baseman Jantzen Witte joined us on the pregame show last week before his Triple-A debut and talked about his long road to reach this level:
Finally, here’s a conversation with veteran outfielder Justin Maxwell, who has been an everyday player for the PawSox thus far in 2016:
The PawSox are home at McCoy on Monday night, beginning a scheduled six-game week against Syracuse (two at home, then after a day-off on Wednesday four at NBT Bank Stadium). Cuevas, fresh off of his MLB debut, is slated to make the start for Pawtucket. First pitch is at 6:15pm.
Have a great start to the week!
by Josh Maurer
Opening day at McCoy Stadium is drawing even closer (two weeks from the time of this writing!), and the roster situation for the PawSox is becoming clearer. Roster moves made on Thursday morning sent several players to the Pawtucket roster.
Thursday was the final day in Fort Myers for Will and me, and during it we got the opportunity to broadcast one final Red Sox Grapefruit League game from JetBlue Park. Boston defeated a split-squad Mets team, 4-1, behind seven brilliant innings from Joe Kelly.
Kelly improved to 3-0 this spring, and has now allowed only three runs in five starts. David Ortiz delivered his second RBI of the spring with a go-ahead two-out single in the sixth inning, while Xander Bogaerts added some insurance by lifting his first home run this season over the Green Monster in the eighth.
Earlier in the day, the Red Sox announced that six players had been re-assigned from big-league camp; pitchers Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Heath Hembree and Roman Mendez along with infielder Sam Travis and outfielder Ryan LaMarre.
It is possible, maybe even likely, that all six of those players begin the season with the PawSox when the season opens in two weeks. Owens, Johnson and Hembree are all members of the 40-man roster and so each have already been optioned to Pawtucket.
One would think that Owens would be right at or near the top of the PawSox starting rotation along with Johnson, who is now generally recovered from a sprained toe suffered earlier this month.
William Cuevas, who finished the season well with Pawtucket in 2015, veteran hurler Sean O’Sullivan, and lefty Roenis Elias are also possibilities to begin the year in the PawSox rotation.
Elias, received by Boston from Seattle in the Wade Miley deal last offseason, is also a candidate to start the year in the big-league bullpen. He earned a save on Thursday against the Mets by recorded a 1-2-3 ninth inning that included two punchouts.
-Will had an in-depth conversation with new Red Sox President Sam Kennedy prior to Thursday’s broadcast. You can check it out below:
-Here is a video interview with PawSox reliever Pat Light from Wednesday. Light says he feels very confident as he gets ready to head north and begin his second season pitching in the International League.
Thanks to everyone for reading our coverage from “The Fort” over the past couple of weeks. We owe a big debt of gratitude to the Red Sox broadcasting and media relations departments for allowing us to broadcast from JetBlue and giving us access to all the players and coaches. It has been a lot of fun.
We’ll talk to you soon from New England!
Today is one of only two scheduled days off for the big league club, who returned to Fort Myers after three days on Florida’s east coast. On the back fields, Rick Porcello was the headliner; he struck out eight over six innings in the PawSox’ game against Durham. Porcello worked with Christian Vasquez on Field 4 and looked strong; here’s video of a punchout that ended the fifth inning:
The Major-League side was mostly quiet today, though all pitchers who had a scheduled bullpen (David Price and Pat Light amongst them) were on site and worked with Carl Willis.
After Porcello wrapped up his outing, we sat down and chatted with Light:
Around 10 o’clock, the PawSox finished their morning session with batting practice (here is a clip of Sean Coyle taking some hacks):
After that, Josh celebrated National Puppy Day by spending some time with Homer, the Sox’ clubhouse dog:
Josh and I logged a video diary from the visitors’ dugout at JetBlue:
It was an otherwise slow news day at the Fort, but there were a couple items of note:
- Carson Smith will start the year on the DL with a strained flexor mass
- The Rays played Cuba in Havana, and the event drew rave reviews
- Tamp was stuck on the tarmac because of a mechanical issue for seven hours
Josh and I will have the call of the Sox and Mets on MLB. com tomorrow at 1 PM; we will log a video preview in the morning and will be available for a Facebook video chat at 10:30.
Talk to you then!
by Josh Maurer
Oftentimes during spring training, when established Major League players want to get in some extra work on the mound or take extra at-bats to work on some things at the plate they go take part in one of the minor league games. On Monday, Will chronicled how David Ortiz and Junichi Tazawa (and others) played in the PawSox game at JetBlue.
Tuesday afternoon when the PawSox headed north to Sarasota to take on the Norfolk Tides (Orioles Triple-A affiliate), they ran into some important pieces of the Baltimore big-league roster in a game played at the Buck O’Neill Complex at Twin Lakes Park (about a 15-minute drive from the Os spring home Ed Smith Stadium).
Ubaldo Jimenez pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings against a lineup that feature PawSox infielder Sean Coyle, among others. Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters, infidlers Chris Davis and Pedro Alvarez and outfielder Hyun Soo Kim all batted against a Pawtucket pitching staff that included William Cuevas and Edwin Escobar.
Will and I were fortunate enough to be at the contest in Sarasota, and here is a photo/video recap of the afternoon:
Edwin Escobar, a man who has spent a large portion of the past two seasons pitching for the PawSox, entered the game in the middle innings and got to face both Davis and Wieters. Here is a video clip of Escobar retiring Davis on a fielder’s choice:
And here is Wieters lining a single to right against Edwin in the same inning:
-We have been very fortunate to get the opportunity to interview some great guests during our time in Fort Myers this spring. On Monday, I sat down with new Red Sox pitching ace David Price and talked about, among other topics, his impressions of Henry Owens and Brian Johnson.
Tuesday morning Will caught up with PawSox Hall of Famer-to-be Jim Rice, and chatted with the Red Sox great about his impressions of the current Boston outfield situation.
Finally, here is a video interview with Red Sox reliever Noe Ramirez, who has had a strong spring and is in the mix for a big-league bullpen spot to start the season (especially after the injury to Carson Smith on Monday).
-Earlier on Tuesday back at the JetBlue Complex, Rick Porcello threw a bullpen session with Pawtucket pitching coach Bob Kipper standing in the batter’s box as a “dummy” hitter.
Porcello is expected to pitch on Wednesday during the PawSox game on the backfields. We will bring you a recap of his outing, as well as the rest of the game information, tomorrow afternoon here on “45 Miles From Fenway.”
Thanks so much for reading, we will talk to you again on Wednesday from The Fort!
Today was further proof of a little-known truth about Spring Training: the slowest days are often the best days. Many of the big league regulars spent Monday in Jupiter in a game against the Cardinals – and the traveling pack that covers the Red Sox went with them. As a result, there was an unmistakably laid-back vibe around JetBlue Park this morning; everyone was in the mood to talk, so Josh and I did just that. Josh landed interviews with David Price and Joe Kelly (look for those on our website and in an upcoming episode of PawSox Insider) before we had an on-camera chat with Noe Ramirez.
The big leaguers that stayed back in Ft. Myers had a workout on the big field at 9:30. Here’s a brief montage of swings taken by Blake Swihart and Sam Travis:
Ater BP, I chatted with both Rich Gedman and Bob Kipper. Then it was off to the outer fields, where Junichi Tazawa, Chris Young and Swihart were slated to play in the PawSox game. On any day, that would draw a horde of fans to the exterior of JetBlue. Today, however, those who came onto the grounds at Fenway South were greeted with an even bigger name in the AAA game:
David Ortiz batted third in each of the first three innings; in between, he spent some time in his former club’s dugout.
Yesterday in Port St. Lucie, John Farrell told reporters that he wants to see as much of Travis Shaw at third base as he possibly can, and candidly admitted that nothing is settled at the hot corner. Not surprisingly, this admission sent ripples less for what it says about Shaw (who had two more hits today and scored on a Jackie Bradley, Jr. double) than what it may mean for Pablo Sandoval.
Here is yet another double for Shaw:
Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez continues to look solid at first base:
Hanley was on the back end of this spectacular diving play by Brock Holt:
A few final notes for the day:
- Josh and I will head up to Sarasota tomorrow to cover the PawSox game against Norfolk.
- Pete Abraham took a more in-depth look at the Sox’ dilemma at third
- David Murphy hinted that if he doesn’t make the big-league club, this could be the end of the line.
- All eyes are on the Sox’ starting rotation, but Pedro Martinez thinks they have a future ace in the lower levels of the minor leagues.
That’s all for now on a chilly day in Ft Myers (66 degrees at the time of this writing!). We will talk to you tomorrow from Sarasota.
by Josh Maurer
First-baseman Sam Travis has been the talk of the camp at JetBlue Park. Not many paid attention when Travis was named a non-roster invitee to spring training, and those who did likely assumed he would have been re-assigned to minor league camp by this juncture.
The Red Sox’ Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2015 had other ideas, however. He has hit for average. He has hit for power. He has hit in the clutch. Through Friday’s action, Travis is batting a cool .600 (15-for-25) with two home runs and a remarkable 13 RBIs.
John Farrell said on Friday that the quiet-spoken Indiana Hoosier has made the big leage coaching staff take notice.
“He’s got lightning-quick hands and a compact swing. I marvel at a guy who sits for two hours, then comes up (late in the game) and hits line drives. He’s a gritty, hard-nosed type of player and for someone who’s come into major league camp for the first time, you hope they make an impression.”
“He’s made an impression on everyone who’s sat in the stands and watched games, let alone us who work with him day-in, day-out,” said Farrell.
Earlier on Saturday Will Flemming and I caught up with Travis before the Red Sox’ rain-shortened 3-1 victory over St. Louis. Here is the interview, as heard on this week’s edition of PawSox Insider.
-If you have a few minutes, do check out this terrific look at PawSox Manager Kevin Boles’ winter working as the skipper for Perth of the Australian Baseball League by MassLive’s Jen McCaffery. It paints an interesting picture of what the Aussies are doing to try and grow America’s National Pastime on their continent.
-Also on PawSox Insider Saturday, Will and I had a fun sitdown with Gordon Edes, the longtime Red Sox beat reporter recently turned team historian. Gordon has so many stories to tell, and in his new role he’ll have some new forums to relay them.
We hope you had a chance to check out the Open House at McCoy this afternoon. Opening Night is less than three weeks away!
We will have more updates from Fort Myers throughout the weekend and all of next week. Have a great rest of your Saturday, and thanks for stopping by!