It’s been about a month since the PawSox season came to a close, which means the MLB playoffs are about to get going. First and foremost, congratulations to the Red Sox for winning the AL East! They had a very difficult task thanks to their second-half schedule, but the Sox used that as an opportunity to showcase that they easily have the best offense in baseball. And the pitching has come together as well (with some bullpen help from Pawtucket). I’ll reflect on some of that in a bit, but first I had the opportunity to chat with a familiar face in a different organization who we last heard from at the Trading Deadline.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
I caught up with Pat Light when the Twins were at Citi Field in New York last month…his first time back in the true northeast (i.e.: not including Rochester or Allentown) since he helped the PawSox complete a sweep of the eventual Triple-A Champion Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders over the final weekend of July.
I split our conversation into four parts. First, he talked about the three weeks or so he spent with the Rochester Red Wings following the trade. This includes his crazy Rochester debut (against his former team), Pawtucket’s scouting report on him, and how it all helped him prepare for the bigs.
Next, we discussed what the Twins like about Pat and his opportunity to finally return to the northeast and pitch on a major league field so close to his home town in New Jersey. (Despite going to school at Monmouth, he had never been to Citi Field before.)
Light then detailed the toughest hitters he’s faced faced so far in the majors, adjusting at big league level and what he learned in his month in the show.
(Pat was referring to Kendrys Morales when discussing the home run off the splitter.)
Finally, we talked a little PawSox. Pat talked about what he missed most about Pawtucket, as well as the great developments for Robby Scott and Brian Johnson. I also asked him if the big leagues have met his expectations and if he could rank Providence, Boston, Minneapolis, New York. You’ll have to listen to see if he actually complied.
Thanks to Pat for his time and we hope he gets to spend many more months on a big league mound.
PawSox Contributions to AL East Title
There have been several other PawSox players to make big league contributions this year as well…but those have all been with the Red Sox.
The biggest such contributor and maybe the surprise of the season was Sandy Leon. He did a great job handling the PawSox pitching staff for the first two months of the season, but nobody ever could have seen his big league prowess at the plate coming. He steadied the most important position on the field for Boston and wrote a great story in the process. The Venezuelan went from being a backup Triple-A catcher for a good portion of April to being an every-day cog in the best lineup in baseball. Of course, he was only called up in early June due to injuries to Ryan Hanigan and Blake Swihart.
Right after Leon, you must point to Robby Scott, whose path I detailed in my last post. But he pitched in higher leverage situations for Boston as September progressed. He tossed three scoreless innings in arguably the Red Sox’ biggest win of the year (the Hanley walk-off vs. the Yankees) on September 15. He was used more as a lefty specialist after that, including when he earned the win in the finale of that key four-game sweep of New York. Scott has pitched his way into consideration for the postseason roster.
Joe Kelly and Heath Hembree both proved to be incredibly dominant at the Triple-A level and they have unsurprisingly helped steady Boston’s bullpen since they were called up at the start of September. Noe Ramirez has not pitched as much as Kelly and Hembree, but he has continued to pitch well since establishing a four-seam fastball in Pawtucket.
We also saw Eduardo Rodriguez make seven starts for the PawSox this year. He needed that time in Triple-A because it clearly took some time for E-Rod to get back to his 2015 form, but now he will be heavily relied upon in the postseason.
And of course, there were several other players who had a hand in the division championship who spent time in Pawtucket this season. From Henry Owens to Sean O’Sullivan on the mound to a slew of position players.
Takeaways From 2016
There are several storylines from the 2016 season. The first is what I just detailed above: all the contributors to the big league club that is currently the favorite in the American League to make the World Series.
Additionally, there was the recovery by Brian Johnson (as his good buddy Pat Light discussed) to regain his form from previous years.
There was the sheer determination displayed by Rusney Castillo to play more like his true potential over the final month of the season. Castillo seemed to have played his way back into the major league picture in 2017.
There was Christian Vazquez finding his way back from Tommy John surgery. After a brief stint with the PawSox to begin the season, the defensive wizard seemed to improve with the bat as the summer progressed. It was a great tool for the Pawtucket pitching staff to have Vazquez lead the way from behind the plate. The beneficiaries ranged from Roman Mendez, Kyle Martin and Chandler Shepherd, who impressed in the bullpen, to starters like Justin Haley, who’s dominance at both Double-A and Triple-A will put him on the radar in 2017.
Even though the Red Sox could not find a spot for PawSox MVP, Chris Marrero, on the 40-man roster this season, his unbelievably impressive campaign at the plate allowed Chris to showcase himself to several different organizations.
And let’s not forget Sam Travis, who was so fun to watch in April and May before his season-ending injury. When he got hot, he ripped balls with searing exit velocity and if all goes well with his recovery, he should be a solid big league contributor at some point next season. There is no doubting his work ethic, especially for a guy who hustles on every single play.
If we look back at the 2016 season overall, a few games and stretches stand out:
- The PawSox got off to their best road start in club history by winning their first seven contests away from McCoy. It would have been a perfect season-opening eight-game road trip if Pawtucket didn’t run into Jose Berrios in the trip’s finale. This proved the 2016 PawSox would likely be a winning team.
- The best game of the season came on June 2 in Norfolk, the opener of a four-game series at Norfolk. It had everything: 14 innings, spectacular catches, miraculous escapes and it ended in a victory. It also marked the last full game that Sandy Leon would play at Triple-A and it propelled the PawSox on a pretty solid run that kept them in postseason contention for much of the summer.
- Henry Owens had a pair of no-hit bids (June 21 and July 16) that stand out as the lefthander demonstrated just how dominant he could be at times.
- Maybe Pawtucket’s best week of the season came to end July as the team posted a 6-1 homestand against two of Triple-A’s best teams, Rochester and Scranton. Three of the six wins were shutouts. That week reinforced the dominance of the PawSox pitching staff this season (the team’s best asset in 2016).
The 2016 season for both Pawtucket and Boston was awfully fun to be apart of and I enjoyed documenting much of it here on this very blog. Very exciting times are ahead. Thanks to Josh, Will and everyone at the PawSox for letting me come along for the ride this season and thanks for reading!
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 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!
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.
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 .308 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 Celebration
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.
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:
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
Two things stood out when I visited in July:
- The Red Sox had one of the better promotions I had ever seen.
- There is a lot of Boston media. Here they are swarming the Red Sox’ new addition at the time, Drew Pomeranz:
Fortunately, I obtained some one-on-one interviews.
First 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 has 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 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.
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.
Of course, I’m still partial to how they mark a victory in Boston.
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:
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.
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.)
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.
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…
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.
Much of the field and surrounding areas were flooded, so it was just fireworks on Saturday and a doubleheader on Sunday.
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 broadcaster 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.
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.
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.
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.
–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.
–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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 ceremonial 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:
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:
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:
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.