Gomez Goes Deep as PawSox top Durham, 6-5
Forget Opening Day, my first PawSox game of 2012 is in the books. So maybe a Spring Training minor league game isn’t quite the same as a regular season affair, but it was still a blast to see live baseball again and get my first taste of Fenway South.
The most obvious storyline about today’s PawSox game was that Red Sox right-hander Alfredo Aceves got the start for Pawtucket. Having an established big leaguer who can really pitch start a minor league game played on a nondescript backfield is definitely a contrast, but one that’s fun to watch. Aceves picked up the win despite getting knocked around: seven hits including four doubles. Overall he gave up three runs and left some pitches up, but he was still a pleasure to see live.
(Above) Aceves warming up prior to the fifth inning. He worked with catcher Matt Spring who appeared in three games with the PawSox last year. While in the dugout following the sixth inning, Spring complimented Aceves on his communication.
Kevin Bloes, the manager of the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, is doing the managing for the PawSox games while Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler is assisting the Red Sox coaching staff in big league camp. I talked with Boles after the game this afternoon and when I asked about Aceves he described him as a pitcher with “plus commanded who has life to his fastball and who can change speeds well.”
Offensively, the biggest eye-opener for me was the bat of Mauro Gomez. The former Gwinnett Brave connected on the first pitch see saw today and blasted a no-doubter over the left field fence. Now the new PawSox’ first baseman, Gomez was a force last year with Gwinnett, finishing the year batting for average and power (.304/24 HR/90 RBI).
While it was Gomez’ bat that initially opened eyes today, he made an outstanding play at first in the early innings. The Durham batter hit the ball sharply to Will Middlebrooks at third base and, as a result, Middlebrooks’ throw to Gomez at first was high and slightly down the line. Gomez – wh0 has a thick, stocky build – sprung into the air, stretched his arm above his head to make the catch, and then slapped the tag on the runner a split-step before his foot hit the bag. I asked Boles about the play and, as impressed as he was with it, he said he hasn’t seen enough of Gomez to know if that type of play was out of the ordinary for him. Nevertheless, in the nine innings I’ve seen him play, he’s better defensively than I initially thought.
(Above) Will Middlebrooks at bat in the first inning. The Red Sox No. 1 Prospect (Baseball America) finished the day 1-for-3 with a single.
- Che-Hsuan Lin, the track star from Taiwan and current Red Sox outfield prospect, is pretty impressive up close. I had never seen him in person and was surprised to see that he’s well built and doesn’t have the slim build we imagine most speedsters having.
- I had a chance to speak with newly acquired right-hander John Maine during today’s game (he was in the stands). He’s very well-spoken and describes himself as an “East Coast guy.” John and his wife make their off-season him in Charlotte and one month ago they welcomed their first child, a baby girl named Reese.
One of the highlights for me today was speaking with Red Sox base-stelaing legend, Tommy Harper. Now in his 10th season as a player development consultant with the Sox, Harper held the Red Sox’ single-season record for stolen bases in a season (54 in 1973) until 2009 when former PawSox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury set the new club mark with 70. Mr. Harper gave me a 20 minute crash course in the art of base stealing which was a really fun moment for me. He left me with this piece of knowledge: “a good base stealer reads [the pitcher] – he doesn’t guess.”
- While I was writing my first blog around noon today from the press box at JetBlue Park, I looked to my left and spotted Jonathan Mayo, the (great) minor league writer for MLB.com. He was kind enough to let me interview him for about 10 minutes after the PawSox game and I plan on posting that audio interview here later this evening/early tomorrow. He was very kind and humble to talk with and had some terrific insights on the Red Sox minor league system.
Time to grab some dinner and prepare for my “road trip” to Port Charlotte tomorrow where I’ll watch the PawSox play Durham at their place. We’ll chat again soon.