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Homestand Recap (9/1-9/5): The Finale

by Ryan Young

We’re already a week removed from the final game of the 2016 season. It’s hard to believe. But they did save the best for last. Before the goodbyes, it was time for call-ups, awards and more shenanigans.

The Call-Ups

The Red Sox delayed their first round of September call-ups by a day because they had an off-day on September 1. When they announced them, the best story of the 2016 season unfolded. This was the only season I have spent around a Triple-A team, but I don’t think anything more fulfilling can happen than witnessing Robby Scott get the call to the show.

There were indications that Scott’s call-up would come. Manager Kevin Boles and pitching coach Bob Kipper were pushing for him to get an opportunity and he was being used in shorter outings and against more lefthanded batters as August progressed. Such a role replicated what he would do in Boston, different from how he was used (mainly in spot starts and long relief) for much of the season.

Regardless of his role, Scott was terrific on the mound and thus was Pawtucket’s most valuable pitcher in 2016. Sensing what could be on the way, I had an extensive conversation with Scott on August 31 in Allentown (about 30 hours before he got the call to the Red Sox). Here’s the entire interview, where we talked about the reason for his success, his various roles this season, the potential of playing in the big leagues and much more. I even quizzed him on the four PawSox players who remained on the active roster from the beginning of the season through the end of August.

 

The following night (after the first game of the homestand), I was able to speak again with Robby after he found out the news.

Listen to Robby’s first three words again. “Dreams come true.” Sound familiar?

“PawSox Baseball, where dreams come true.” Those are the lyrics to our theme song, that the great Charles Steinberg created for this season. It’s almost too perfect, but that’s what this level of baseball, and for that matter, sports, are all about.

All of us at the PawSox and many people in the Red Sox organization could not be happier for Robby. Not only did he have to climb his way up the ladder from Independent ball, but along the way he has been such a great asset to the community. In fact, he won this year’s Sullivan Tire PawSox Spirit Award for his work off the field. (He’s the only player in PawSox history to earn that honor in addition to being named Most Valuable Pitcher.)

Scott then struck out the first two batters he faced in the majors!

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In addition to Robby, both Joe Kelly and Deven Marrero hopped on a flight to California on the morning of September 2nd. Being the wizards that we are at the PawSox Radio Network, you can listen to interviews with all three call-ups from that weekend’s PawSox Insider:

While Deven Marrero discussed his recent play on the field and the challenge of playing a bench role in the big leagues, he also talked with me about the ping pong antics that took over the PawSox clubhouse in August.

 

Meanwhile, Kelly pulled no punches in his final Triple-A appearance of the season.

Big congrats to Christian Vazquez, Noe Ramirez and Heath Hembree on getting the calls to the Red Sox as well. Certainly no surprises there.lmz_7979

Slugging Through the End

There was no surprised when it was revealed that Chris Marrero won team MVP honors this season. He was the team’s iron man (played
131 of 142 games), while he hit .284 with 23 home runs and 71 RBI. I spoke with him about receiving such an awa
rd and his entire season.

 

Three men (who played 10+ games) batted at least .300 for Pawtucket this season:

Marco Hernandez hit .309 and looked terrific at this level offensively. He deservingly earned a call to Boston a week before September arrived.

Dan Butler hit .3lmz_830208 and he was absolutely remarkable in his various catching roles throughout the season. He was the starting catcher in between Sandy Leon’s call to the bigs and Christian Vazquez’s return to Pawtucket. But otherwise, he was incredibly consistent off the bench. As a PawSox veteran, Butler truly deserves to be commended for his season.

Ryan LaMarre hit .303 with a career high-tying 10 home runs. Without having to worry about injuries last offseason, he was able to make adjustments that delivered him the best season of his professional career, which included a team-high 27-game hitting streak and a month up in Boston. I spoke with Ryan about his season and if was recognized on the streets of Boston during his time up in the majors.

One Last Celebrationimg_5177

Following the final night game of the season, over 1,000 of our fans set a world record on the field for the largest game of catch!

Not to be outdone, our baseball team set some records on the field as well the next afternoon.

Fortuantely, Hurricane Hermine stayed away long enough and we were able to play the season finale on Labor Day at McCoy. The PawSox won their third straight game to end the season with stellar pitching in each game.

In fact, the Sox allowed their fewest runs in a season ever (512 runs), a full 30 runs less than the previous record set by the 1975 squad. Additionally, the 3.36 team ERA was Pawtucket’s best mark since the club sported a franchise record 3.30 ERA in 1981.

All that great pitching, mixed with solid hitting and defense led the PawSox to the ninth-best record in Triple-A. (It’s possible that if they played in any other Triple-A division, they would have been a playoff team.) Thus, there was plenty to celebrate after the season finale.

First came the final out.

Then, after I spent all season talking about the team’s celebrations, Chris Marrero and Chris Dominguez pulled a fast one on me as I tried to interview Bryce Brentz to cap the season.

Sigh. Next, the PawSox players stepped over the puddle they created as they lined the third base line one last time.

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Finally, they participated in a McCoy tradition to close the season.

And then it was goodbye. The players quickly filed out, and only packages to be sent to their various destinations remained. Here is a small fraction of them in our offices:

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What a way to end a fantastic season at McCoy. More reflections coming later this September. Hope you enjoyed the “homestand recaps” and thanks for reading.

Homestand Recap (8/22-8/25): The Stretch Run, the Young Gun and Some Summer Fun

by Ryan Young

Incredibly, we reached the penultimate homestand of the season last week at McCoy. The PawSox had a busy four days on and off the field. Fortunately, with our “Summer Spree When Kids Are Free” promotion (which continues this week), plenty of fans got to take part in the fun as well.

Heating Up Down the Stretch

This is the first time I have witnessed the stretch-run of  Triple-A season up close and there are many intriguing facets to it. First there’s the race for the postseason. Unfortunately, the imbalance in the International League divisions this year forced the PawSox back to the fringe of the Wild Card race for most of August. (Even though Pawtucket has one of the top-10 records in Triple-A!)

Just look at the divisional standings at the end of August (you’re attention will probably be draw to four teams in the middle, part of a division that will live in infamy):

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There also is the fact that September 1st is when major league rosters expand. Of course, everyone on the Triple-A club hopes to get the call either on the 1st or once the minor league season ends.

Several PawSox have played especially well during this stretch drive. Joe Kelly is heading back to Fenway for good reason. He allowed one run in his 13 relief appearances for Pawtucket. In those 16.0 innings pitched, he totaled 25 strikeouts and two walks.

Meanwhile Robby Scott has been terrific all year (for much of the season as the lone Sox lefty in the bullpen). He has not allowed a run in 12 of his last 14 appearances.

Chandler Shepherd has also been terrific in the bullpen. In fact, he was even entrusted with the Robby Scott-specialty (a spot start) a couple of weeks ago. I spoke with Shepherd about pitching longer outings, veterans in the bullpen, his traded teammates, ping pong in the clubhouse and his recent adventures in Providence.

 

As for starting pitchers, Brian Johnson had a fantastic five-start span before a hiccup in his last outing and Sean O’Sullivan has gotten back on track with his last two starts.

Offensively, Ryan LaMarre, who has maintained his .300 batting average all season, sparked the team over the last week. LaMarre had never homered twice in a professional game before last Wednesday…when he homered twice in two innings!


Much like LaMarre, Bryce Brentz is hoping to patrol the Fenway Park outfield once again this month. Brentz, whose stint in Boston lasted nearly two months, returned to McCoy with four hits and two doubles in three games last week.

I caught up with Bryce to talk about his experiences in the big leagues, including playing at Fenway, playing alongside his good buddy JBJ and what he enjoyed the most. If nothing else, make sure to tune in around the 4-minute mark, where we discussed his first #WinDanceRepeat, which I asked Brock Holt about back in June. (Let’s just say he had to learn it at the last minute.)

 

Even as LaMarre, Brentz, Rusney Castillo have played terrific recently, nobody has gone on quite a power surge like Chris Dominguez did last week. He homered five times in five games. In fact, only two PawSox hitters recorded multi-homer games all season before last Wednesday (including Dominguez the previous week)…then LaMarre and Dominguez both did it in the span of three innings. That’s why baseball is the greatest.

Here’s a brief clip of Dominguez discussing his recent hot streak:

 

Pit Stop to DC

We’ve seen several PawSox players get the call to Boston this season and now that September has arrived, even more guys are heading back up there.

But we’ve also seen many top prospects from the opposition head from McCoy to the big leagues within weeks or in the case of Lucas Giolito, within days. (See Turner, Judge, Sanchez, Berrios, Taillon, Glasnow,

Giolito pitched only one inning against the PawSox last Tuesday to keep him available to pitch over the weekend in Washington. And indeed, he made the start for the Nationals on Sunday.

Not only did he stand out on the mound, but Giolito was probably my most interesting interview subject of the season. Here is the full interview, where we talked about everything from his call to the majors to his admiration of Bob Gibson to his very talented family.

Lucas was optioned back to Syracuse after his start in DC last weekend, so if you come to McCoy for this series, there is a good chance you might get to see baseball’s top pitching prospect in action.

One Busy Afternoon

The final Thursday in August may have been the busiest afternoon of the season for PawSox players.

First, we were nominated by the Rochester Red Wings in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. So, after securing enough buckets to fill with ice and water, the team of front office staff and interns assembled over the railing.

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And then, well…here is a different angle of the festivities for you to enjoy:

 

 

Hardly an hour later, it was time for one of the bigger events of the season. The whole team went out to the field to sign autographs…and lots of fans lined up along the warning track to take advantage of the opportunity. It was a fun scene. Here were all the parings:

Thanks to all the PawSox players for giving so much both on and off the field during the stretch run of the season.

Sadly, we only have five more games to watch them play. But the good news is that they’re all at McCoy! Hope to see you there as we close things out.

45 Miles from McCoy

by Ryan Young

Believe it or not, the title does not refer to a trip to Connecticut. But indeed, I’ve had the privilege of heading up to Fenway a couple of time while the PawSox were on the road. I had only been there once in my life before this summer and I’m so glad that got to change. (And it didn’t hurt that I got to interview some pretty cool people…see below…)

I imagine most people reading this blog are familiar with Fenway, so I’ll spare just describing the experience. But I must admit that Yawkey Way sets the tone just as well as the new Mondor Way does at McCoy.

And while the sold-out crowds are awesome, Fenway (as most ballparks are) is even cooler when the place is empty.

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Two things stood out when I visited in July:

  1. The Red Sox had one of the better promotions I had ever seen.IMG_4622.JPG
  2. There is a lot of Boston media. Here they are swarming the Red Sox’ new addition at the time, Drew Pomeranz:  IMG_4609.JPG

Fortunately, I obtained some one-on-one interviews.

BradleyJr_PawSoxFirst and foremost I spoke with All-Star centerfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. He spent parts of each of the previous three seasons in Pawtucket and after he heated up at the end of his PawSox stint in 2015, JBJ has finally reached his full potential.
I spoke with JBJ about all sorts of topics, including his time with Pawtucket, seeing his good buddy Bryce Brentz succeed, being in a playoff race and the outfield celebration.

 

Last week, I was also able to catch up with Jackie’s current (and past) teammate, Travis Shaw. It was barely over a year ago when both men still played at McCoy.

Shaw hasShaw_PawSox-Swing played mostly played third base this season after surprising many by both making the big league club out of spring training and then getting off to a tremendous start.

I asked Travis about his mentality coming into the season, his relationship with some PawSox coaches, how the fans have taken to him in Boston and if he is now recognized on the streets.

 

I also had the privilege of speaking with former PawSox broadcaster Dave Flemming and Boston Globe writer Alex Speier in my time at Fenway.

I caught up with Flemming (the brother of one of our current broadcasters…I’ll let you figure out which one) when the Giants were in town in July.

He spoke about some of his favorite PawSox memories, his younger brother and his favorite ballparks.

 

I caught up with Speier last week to discuss Boston’s push for the playoffs. He talked about the keys for the Red Sox down the stretch, the PawSox we might see at Fenway next month and some other notable players in the lower levels of the minors.

 

One point from Speier worth reiterating: Sandy Leon leads the majors in OPS (min. 100 AB)! It was just yesterday (well just shy of three months ago) when I sat down with him at McCoy. It’s worth noting that when I asked him about his offense in that conversation, he told me “I like to catch better than hit.” That still might be the case, but I bet he find hitting pretty cool by now.

He might not be Sandy Leon, but David Ortiz has also been incredible to watch up close this season. In fact, forget the fact that this is his final season…if you want to talk about clutch, he homered in all three games I attended this summer. (Somewhat kidding.) Here’s some shoddy proof (I promise that’s Big Papi pointing to the sky three times):

So, if you guys want me to keep coming to Fenway into the fall, I wouldn’t mind. I’m available. Although, I’m sure Ortiz will find a way to work his magic this October no matter what…as long as the Red Sox can find their way there.

Thanks to the Sox for letting me come out. Now it’s back to McCoy. Only nine home games left. Make sure to come by before it’s too late. As Speier and I discussed, there will be a handful of guys who will (also) make the 45-mile trip to Fenway next month.

Homestand Recap (8/5-8/11): Celebration, Exploration & Precipitation

by Ryan Young

The PawSox are currently in the midst of very possibly their greatest stretch at McCoy Stadium in club history. Following the 5-1 homestand, the team has won 14 of their last 16 home games. Besides the winning baseball, we saw some fascinating low-budget celebrations, learned more about some red-hot Pawtucket pitchers and witnessed some surreal happenings over the weekend.

Another Win, Another Celebration

The PawSox have clearly had a ton of wins to celebrate at McCoy since the All-Star Break. They almost always involve indulging in a cake from Gregg’s Restaurants in the clubhouse. Of course, they earn those cakes by going through the pain of doing interviews with myself. The player involved in the post-game interview has also been consistently honored with a plastic crown.

 

Christian Vazquez went 7-for-13 on the homestand as he has begun to rack up the line drives to right field. And we learned that on his day off, he might take the opportunity to douse you postgame.

 

If anybody has needed to be cooled down this season, it’s Chris Marrero, who tied for the league lead with his game-winning home run on Thursday (his 22nd of the season).

There’s another routine before the game that includes a better use of water.

The @redsox love to #WinDanceRepeat and we like to call this the #WinChugRepeat #YES #PregameRituals

A video posted by Pawtucket Red Sox (@pawsox) on

 

Of course, I’m still partial to how they mark a victory in Boston.

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Getting to Know Your PawSox Pitchers

While guys like Marrero, Vazquez  and lately, Rusney Castillo, have been part of Pawtucket’s offensive success, much of the pitching staff has been terrific over the recent run at home. I caught up with a few of them last week and here are some clips of the more interesting/amusing parts of our chats:

William Cuevas

Cuevas has pitched much better in recent outings in both relief and starting roles. I spoke with him about his first couple of trips to the majors this season, his parents coming from Venezuela to join him in the U.S. for first time, learning English and how he keeps it loose in the clubhouse.

It was great to see the Cuevas family in attendance for the Durham series. Hopefully they will get to see William pitch at Fenway at some point down the road.HaleyforBlog

Justin Haley

Haley has been absolutely untouchable in his last three outings. He’s tossed 21.0 scoreless innings over those three starts. I spoke with Justin about the glut of double plays he has been inducing, his seamless adjustment to Triple-A, which parts of Rhode Island he has explored on his off days and how he compares to his teammates in Pokemon Go.

Literally the only thing Haley has lost over the last month has been his Pokemon Go username. (He’s 5-0 in his last five starts.)

Heath Hembree

Hembree was so dominant for the PawSox that you knew it was only a matter of time before he would once again be recalled to Boston. Hembree has struck out half of the batters he has faced in Triple-A this season, while he racked up the saves for Pawtucket. I asked him about pitching in the ninth inning, the success of the PawSox bullpen, who keeps things loose in the Red Sox bullpen and his favorite spot in Providence.

Indeed, Heath rejoined the Red Sox in Ohio yesterday. He certainly has earned the charter flight from Cleveland to Baltimore over the bus ride from Buffalo to Allentown.

Noe Ramirez

Ramirez has also been on a roll with the strikeouts lately (he’s fanned 10 of the last 14 batters he’s faced). He’s been dominant ever since his fourth appearance with Pawtucket. He told me about the new pitch he’s added that has him mowing down Triple-A lineups. I also asked him about who he would like to kick out of the PawSox bullpen, the ‘pen’s reaction to the Pat Light trade and how he spent his off day with teammate Henry Owens.

Three of these four hurlers pitched during an absolutely wild weekend at McCoy…

Wacky Weekend

The weekend began with a surreal third inning on Friday night where the PawSox lucked into 3/4 of the incredibly rare twilight-aided cycle. The Buffalo Bisons outfield lost three balls in the sky that resulted in a double, triple, and inside-the-park home run for Marco Hernandez.


Pawtucket scored 7 runs in the inning and won, 8-2.

The following evening, a 45-minute storm came out of nowhere and ripped its way through Pawtucket. It left a mess throughout the ballpark, but some framable scenes as well.

A shot for the ages- Rainbow forming over McCoy after passing shower leaves field and dugouts completely flooded.

A photo posted by Pawtucket Red Sox (@pawsox) on

 

Much of the field and surrounding areas were flooded, so it was just fireworks on Saturday and a doubleheader on Sunday.

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But the highlight of the weekend was learning more of the talents of team President Charles Steinberg.

First of all, he is quite the musician. I present to you the greatest video to ever grace this blog…Dr. Steinberg sings his awesome PawSox anthem: PawSox Baseball:

He is also a great broadLMZ_3957caster as well. I hope you were able to tune in to hear some of his story. (Saturday’s rain delay came at the perfect time!)

He and Will were joined by the great Jerry Remy in the booth when Vazquez cleared the bases.

Haley tossed a complete-game shutout in that seven-inning contest.

Also, quick shoutout to Haley’s college teammate Aaron Judge for homering in each of his first two major league games. He pulled off the historic back-to-back home runs feat with Tyler Austin in the duo’s first major league at-bats. I wrote about Judge in an earlier blog and Austin hit three home runs in a game at McCoy back in June.

Fortunately for Red Sox fans, the Yankees are still a long-shot to grab a playoff spot. (Stay tuned to this blog later in the week for lots more on the Red Sox and their playoff push.)

But for now make sure to stay tuned to Josh and Will on WHJJ and the PawSox Radio Network for the rest of this road trip in Pennsylvania. The PawSox pulled within seven games of the IronPigs in the Wild Card race last night.

Rusney, Marco On Fire For The PawSox

by Josh Maurer

Over the past two and 1/2 weeks, the PawSox have won 12 of 16 games to move a season-high eight games above .500 (63-55).  The squad just completed a 5-1 homestand on Thursday afternoon, culminating with a 6-5 comeback victory over Durham that gave Pawtucket a three-game sweep of the Bulls.

It was the third three-game sweep of the season for Kevin Boles’ club, which has now won all five of its series at McCoy Stadium after the All-Star break.  The PawSox have won a remarkable 14 of their last 16 affairs at home dating back to July 15th.  Unfortunately, they have only 9 home games remaining (of their final 25 scheduled contests).

Two of the biggest reasons for the team’s recent success rest right at the top of the order, with leadoff hitter Rusney Castillo and third-hole man Marco Hernandez.  Each has played in all 16 games during the current hot stretch, and each has been on fire at the plate.

Rusney Castillo swinging in Red

Starting on July 27th, Castillo is batting .407 (24-for-59) in 14 games with nine multi-hit efforts.  Rusney has three doubles and three triples during those 14 affairs, and while he has not walked once during that stretch he has scored 11 runs.  The native of Cuba recorded a triple in each of the last two games in the Durham series.

During that same time frame, Hernandez is hitting .358 (19-for-53) in 14 games with seven multi-hit games.  Marco has homered twice (including an inside-the-parker last Friday and a game-tying shot in the eighth inning on Thursday against Durham) and collected three triples and a double in those 14. He has 13 RBI in the past two weeks.

Pawsox/Scanton 4-11-16

With those two providing some series thump at the top of the lineup card, Pawtucket’s offense has flourished during this recent stretch.  The PawSox are batting .257 as a team this year, good for fourth-best out of any I.L. club.

Chris Marrero has gotten hot again, having homered in back-to-back games to finish the series against the Bulls.  Marrero’s go-ahead blast with two outs in the eighth inning on Thursday gave the team an eventual victory and tied him for the top spot in the I.L. home run race with 22 on the year.

When Marrero has hit long balls this season, they have tended to come in bunches.  That would lead you to believe that the Buffalo Bisons pitching staff might be in for a long weekend with Castillo, Hernandez and Marrero all currently mashing the ball at the plate.

Here are a few other roster notes to keep an eye on as Pawtucket prepares for a long road trip:

-The Red Sox outfield situation became muddled this week when Mookie Betts left Wednesday’s game against the Yankees with right calf tightness and was listed as day-to-day.  Bryce Brentz was optioned back to the PawSox on Thursday afternoon to make room for Roenis Elias, who may be needed as a long man over the next few days with Clay Buchholz entering the starting rotation.

Chris Young, who began a rehab assignment with the PawSox on Thursday afternoon and went 0-for-2 in five innings as the DH, should resume action on Saturday night in Buffalo.  When deemed ready, Young could essentially take Brentz’s spot as a platoon left-fielder with Andrew Benintendi.

Chris Young swinging

Sean O’Sullivan, who had struggled in three rehab starts with the PawSox since returning from a knee injury, was outrighted off the Boston 40-man roster for the second time this season on Thursday.  He returns as a regular member of the Pawtucket roster and should remain in the PawSox starting rotation.

Sean O'Sullivan pitches

Allen Craig has been rehabbing his knee injury with Short-A Lowell for the past two weeks.  Craig, who has missed 77 consecutive PawSox games since injuring the knee in Buffalo on May 19th, has played in five games for the Spinners since July 28th and gone 4-for-16 with three walks and two RBI.

It would be nice to see Craig play in some games for Pawtucket over the final few weeks of the season.  Because of two separate injuries, he has only been able to appear in six contests total for the squad this year.

Allen Craig on swing follow through

As mentioned earlier, the PawSox are getting ready for a lot of bus rides around the I.L. North for the next three weeks.  They will play 16 of their next 20 contests on the road, beginning with a season-long 10-game trip that will take them to Buffalo, Lehigh Valley and Scranton.

The trip represents an opportunity for Pawtucket to make up some ground on both teams currently sitting in a playoff position from the division – Lehigh (wildcard leaders) and Scranton (North leaders).  As of Thursday afternoon, the PawSox had climbed to within 7.5 games of the IronPigs in the wildcard standings.

The RailRiders have played remarkable baseball for three months, and at 74-43 still lead Pawtucket by 11.5 games in the standings after having won their last seven straight games.  The PawSox will play each of their final 25 games inside of the North Division.

Will and I are looking forward to our first trip to Buffalo since the weekend before Memorial Day.  It will be three days full of baseball, hospitality and wings!  We hope you will join us on the radio for the action this Friday as Justin Haley takes the mound for the PawSox at 7:05.

Josh M

Homestand Recap (7/25-7/31): Honoring and Beating the Best

by Ryan Young

The PawSox closed out July with their best homestand (of at least five games) since 2013. Pawtucket went 6-1, beating two of the top teams in the league, Rochester and Scranton, three times apiece. The PawSox even kept hope alive in the playoff race despite looking up at the toughest division in Triple-A.

And it wasn’t just about beating the best…The PawSox also honored the best with their Inaugural Hall of Fame Induction on Friday, one of the highlights of another eventful summer week at McCoy.

Winning Ways:

The PawSox found several different ways to win their six games last week. In fact three of the games featured come-from-behind victories, while the other three wins came in shutouts.

Brennan Boesch captured Pawtucket’s second straight comeback win to begin the homestand with a walk-off, 11th-inning blast.

Boesch homered again in the third offense-driven win of the week on Saturday, but Chris Marrero had maybe the most impressive jolt of the season. His 20th home run of the season (which at the time tied for the league lead) left the entire ballpark.

Marrero is the first PawSox player to tally 20 home runs in a season since Mauro Gomez had 24 in 2012.

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Jantzen Witte also had a great week at the plate for Pawtucket as the third baseman recorded a double in five separate games.

I spoke with Jantzen about his recent success, what stands out about Triple-A and his former teammate at TCU, Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter.

As you heard me discuss with Jantzen, there has been an incredible amount of roster turnover this season for the PawSox. Witte has stayed on the active roster since he was promoted from Double-A Portland on April 18, but this is a rare example.

In fact, of the 55 players who have been on Pawtucket’s active roster at some point this season, only four have remained on it for the entirety of the season (up to this point): Chris Marrero, Kyle Martin, Roman Mendez and Robby Scott.

Scott and Mendez contributed to the first of three shutouts that the PawSox dealt in a three-game span last week. The pitching staff delivered pair of five-hitters (Wednesday and Friday) and then a one-hitter on Sunday to wrap up the week (Pawtucket’s first nine-inning one-hitter since May 27, 2009.)

Mendez has tossed 19.2 straight scoreless innings.

Heath Hembree closed out all three shutouts, retiring nine of the 10 batters he faced.

Heath Hembree

Hembree has struck out 16 of the 30 Triple-A batters he has faced this season. That’s almost difficult to comprehend.

It was an incredible feat to sweep the RailRiders and shut them out twice in the process. Scranton been swept only one time all season…way back in April. Pawtucket helped Lehigh Valley catch the RailRiders in the IL North standings.

Hall of Fame Night:

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Just before the series with Scranton started, we had our Inaugural PawSox Hall of Fame inductions in a terrific pregame ceremony on Friday evening.

Wade Boggs, Jim Rice and the late PawSox owner Ben Mondor made up the first Hall of Fame class. After Boggs, Rice and Ben Mondor’s widow, Madeleine, each spoke, the 2016 Pawtucket team took the field to pay its respects. A IMG_4693ceremonial first pitch from all three honorees followed.

Boggs and Rice then posed for pictures with fans.

Boggs played two full seasons for the PawSox in 1980 and 1981. He missed out on winning the batting title by one at-bat in 1980 before claiming the title the next season. The story of the final day of the 1980 season is incredible and I dug up a couple articles from that day that retell the incredible story:

Boggs Story 1

Boggs Story 2

That is as close to an “unbelievable” end to a batting title race as you will ever hear. Yet, speaking of inconceivable thoughts, I present to you the following sentence from the first article about the future MLB Hall of Famer without comment:

“Boggs knows exactly what obstacles are built into his upward mobility–he’s not fast, hits with no discernible power and is not blessed with great quickness afield.”

Other Guests at McCoy:

Aside from the Hall of Famers, there were several other special guests at McCoy last week.

Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel made a rehab start (even if he only faced three batters due to a pitch limit) on Saturday. It was one of the quickest rehab stints you will ever see, but it was fun to have him throwing 98 MPH at McCoy.

Mason Williams returned to McCoy but he has been a guest at the ballpark on several occasions throughout his life. The Scranton outfielder grew up in Pawtucket. He played little league in Darlington and frequented McCoy Stadium before he eventually moved to Florida for High School.

Williams made his debut as a player at McCoy in May of last season before he was called up to the Yankees later in the month. From what we can tell, he’s the first Pawtucket-born player to make the big leagues. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury derailed his season. Williams finally made his way back to the RailRiders last month and I asked him about coming to McCoy as a kid.

 

Sadly, Williams injured his ankle later that day. Hopefully he’ll return to the RailRiders and then to the Bronx in short order.

We also had thousands of guests (also known as fans) at McCoy throughout the week. One lucky group got an appearance from Deven Marrero, who took pictures, signed autographs and gave out some advice.

Other Notes and Thoughts:

Soccer Stars

Puerto Ricans Christian Vazquez and Henry Ramos have bonded off the field. In fact, Ramos’ daughter is Vazquez’s goddaughter. The two are frequently seen playing soccer with a cast of other PawSox. (Pictured below, the duo is joined by Rusney Castillo, Ali Solis, Roenis Elias and William Cuevas.)

On the baseball field, Vazquez has shown more power at the plate lately but his offensive game is still a work in progress. The Pawtucket catcher has eliminated a leg kick that he used earlier in the season, simplifying his batting stance so he uses his hands more.

From Further Down on the Farm

Andrew Benintendi, Yoan Moncada and Mauricio Dubon all made their way from Salem to Portland this season. And, of course, Benintendi just made the jump all the way to the big leagues.

I asked Red Sox Minor League Hitting Coordinator, Greg Norton, about the prospects when he was at McCoy last week.

 

Boston decided not to deal away any of its top hitting prospects this Trading Deadline, but the team did make on deal on Monday:

Lights Out

As Josh detailed in our last post, Pat Light was traded for pitcher Fernando Abad on Monday. He is so great to work (and a pretty darn good closer as well) with and we wish him all the best in the Twins organization.

 

He had quite the debut for Rochester against the PawSox this week.

 

The lights turn back on at McCoy tomorrow, as we begin a six-game homestand with a pair of postgame fireworks shows. We hope to see you there or speak to you on the PawSox Radio Network.

Lights Out – PawSox Closer Traded To Minnesota

by Josh Maurer

Happy August everyone! Right before the MLB trade deadline on Monday, the Red Sox aquired lefty reliever Fernando Abad from the Twins as part of their continuing effort to upgrade the big-league bullpen.

In exchange for Abad, Boston sent Pat Light back to Minnesota. We have gotten to know Light extremely well in Pawtucket over the past two seasons, and it is exciting to see him get a fresh start with an organization that is full of opportunity at the major league level.

Pat Light pitching

Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times spoke with Light after he learned of the trade, and it sounds like he is taking the life-altering news in stride.

Pat was putting together a fantastic season with the PawSox.  In 25 appearances in relief, he was 1-1 with seven saves (in seven chances) and a 2.32 ERA.  Light allowed just 21 hits in 31 innings pitched while recording 36 punchouts.  The I.L. was batting just .188 against him at the time of the trade.

Here are some other highlights from Light’s 2016 season, courtesy of Ryan Young and the PawSox Game Notes:

-15 appearances since 5/21: 1.08 ERA (2 ER/16.2 IP)…

-In 9th inn: 16.0 IP, 2 R, 23 K, 7 BB, .183 opponent AVG (11-for-60)…

-Did not allowed more than 1 H in 21 of 25 app…

-19 of 25 appearances were scoreless…

-Reached 101 MPH on final pitch of 5/21 appearance at Buffalo for K and save…

-Tossed consecutive multi-inning appearances (5/16-5/11) for 1st time since he had 4 straight such outings from 8/1/15-8/12/15…

-Had at least 2 Ks in 5 straight games from 4/12-5/2…

-Struck out 7 of 15 batters faced in his 3 appearances from 4/12-4/19, tallying 4.0 scoreless IP

Pat Light pitches

Light was twice called up to the big leagues this season (for the first times of his career), and his struggles during his two appearances no doubt stick out in Red Sox fans’ minds (2.2 IP, 7 H, 8 R).  Still, its hard to argue that with his high-90s fastball and sometimes devastating splitter Pat can’t be an effective major league reliever.

I sat down and chatted with the New Jersey native back in May after he had returned from his first MLB stint, and he described in great detail the emotions and the terrific experience it was for him.  You can listen to that conversation below:

For a time after returning from that initial journey to the show, Light was as dominant as we had seen him during his two seasons with the PawSox.  Here in mid-May he struck out the side in the ninth inning to finish a victory against Gwinnett.

In spring training this year, Will caught up with Pat just a couple of weeks before camp broke and he headed up to Pawtucket. You can see in watching this interview how personable and thoughtful Light is with the media.

In a strange twist of fate, the PawSox will face Pat’s new team for the next three days as we head to Frontier Field for a series in Rochester.  It will certainly be a strange feeling to see Light in the opposing team’s bullpen, especially immediately after the trade to Minnesota occurred.

In other news, it looks like the Andrew Benintendi era in Boston will begin Tuesday night.  While I’m sure PawSox fans are disappointed they will not get to see the super-prospect play at McCoy for now, Dave Dombrowski obviously felt he was ready to make the leap and the Red Sox should benefit from his bat.

Benintendi

The PawSox meanwhile are looking to extend the moment from a 6-1 homestand as they battle the Red Wings for the next three days beginning on Tuesday night.  Here are some tidbits from Sunday’s sweep-clinching 4-0 victory over first-place Scranton:

-Pawtucket claimed its first nine-inning one-hitter since May 27, 2009 at Louisville.

-The RailRiders (67-41), who still hold the best record in Triple-A despite the sweep, suffered only their second sweep of the season. (Also done on April 22-24 at Syracuse.) Scranton dropped three games in a row for the first time since June 4-6.

-The PawSox (57-52) earned the sweep with two shutouts sandwiched around last night’s offensive attack. Pawtucket has not allowed a run in three of its last five games.

Pretty good work by a team that entered the previous homestand having dropped six of seven games on the recent western road swing to Toledo and Columbus.  Now that August is upon us the squad will hope to keep its winning ways to try and move up in the I.L. North and I.L. Wildcard standings, where they are currently 10.0 GB in each.

Thanks so much for reading, Will and I look forward to speaking to you from Rochester!

Josh M