by Will Flemming
Spring Training drew ever closer to its conclusion on Wednesday, and the Red Sox were spread all across Lee County. Boston played a pair of games and called upon a bevy of Pawtucket players to fill their rosters in a 9-7 loss to Toronto in Fort Myers and a 4-4 tie with the Twins at Hammond Stadium. Though Sean Coyle and Garin Cecchini did make the trip to Sarasota with the PawSox, a majority of their projected players either remained in big-league camp or were summoned to the Major League side.
As is so often the case during the spring, there was plenty to see and learn on the grounds at JetBlue Park – even before the Major League game got underway. As everyone waited for the official news on Christian Vasquez – who met with James Andrews Wednesday morning – all eyes were on Koji Uehara, who again threw on flat ground for ten minutes behind the Sox clubhouse.
As I walked away from Uehara, a distinctively loud noise could be heard coming from the batting cages. Anyone who’s been around the game long enough will tell you: some guys just SOUND different. Sure enough, I turned the corner and discovered the source of the cacophony:
I watched Ortiz spray balls over the cage; it was particularly fun to watch him cut loose on the last round, which were thrown at his direction “donde sea” (translation: wherever the pitcher wanted).
Ortiz would again act as the designated hitter in the home game against the Jays; he was 0-for-2 with a walk. When asked by The Globe’s Pete Abraham if he would play first base this Spring, Big Papi’s answer was simple: “I hope not.” He then added that he would be ready to play the position when the season begins.
Once Ortiz was done in the cage, I noticed the Blue Jays bus had arrived at JetBlue. My first stop was the Jays’ dugout, where John Gibbons was holding court. He was particularly effusive about the 20-year-old Miguel Castro – who has made the team after finishing the 2014 season in High-A Dunedin.
Castro – and every member of the Jays staff – should get a lift from one of Toronto’s big offseason acquisitions, Russell Martin. Whenever I was around the Pirates the past two seasons, I was always blown away by the impact Martin had on their clubhouse and pitching staff. Today was no different – the veteran backstop was already an obvious leader for the Jays, adding energy even during the team’s stretch and batting practice.
As big an impression as Martin has already made, you only have to spend a few minutes around this Jays team to uncover their unquestioned leader and star: Jose Bautista. From the moment Toronto arrived, Bautista was chatting with teammates, waving to fans and buzzing around the batting cage. When he stepped in, he put on a truly awesome display of power: eight of his last ten swings launched balls over the Green Monster.
Steven Wright – who will either begin the season in Pawtucket (perhaps even as the Opening Night starter) or break camp with Boston and make a start in Philadelphia – took the mound to start the game against the Jays. After striking out Jose Reyes, he gave up a single to Martin and walked Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion before Josh Donaldson belted a two-run, ground-rule double that got trapped underneath the wall in left. After the game, Wright said that not getting enough called strikes in the first allowed hitters to get out of “swing mode,” but that overall he felt like he was able to find all three varieties of his knuckleball.
As the Sox came to bat in the second I headed over to the outer fields, where Joe Kelly started and threw to Blake Swihart in the Salem game. Kelly went four innings and threw 65 pitches, while Swihart ripped a two-run double to left field in the fifth inning.
Adding to the intrigue of the Salem game, Yoan Moncada played second base behind Kelly. He is inredibly well built for a 19-year-old; he looked smooth in the field and displayed a gorgeous left-handed swing.
Back inside JetBlue, some PawSox got into the action for Boston. Luke Montz and Blake Tekotte replaced Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez, respectively. Tekotte’s ninth-inning single scored Quintin Berry for what would be the Sox’ last run of the afternoon.
Pawtucket will host the Durham Bulls in Fort Myers on Thursday with what figures to be a more complete roster; I will be at the facility in the early morning and will send one final report before I pack my personal Atlas Van and head back north.
One last note for today: I want to thank all the people who cover the Red Sox for being so welcoming to me. From the moment I arrived, the writers – who provide such fabulous coverage of the club – have been kind and generous. Pete Abraham, Ian Browne, Nick Cafardo, Gordon Edes, Brian MacPherson, Alex Speier: A sincere thanks to you all.
by Will Flemming
On the day the Red Sox began to pack up their spring training camp, Boston sent one of their starters over to the Minor League side for a late March tuneup. Wade Miley pitched effectively – and quickly – on Tuesday for the PawSox in a 1-0 loss to Rochester. After he allowed an unearned run in the top of the first, Miley cruised for the next six frames, at one point retiring 11 in a row. The Pawtucket offense was held in check by a trio of Twins pitchers; they mustered just three hits in a brisk affair that was played in just over two hours.
Miley was joined on the back fields by his battery mate Ryan Hanigan, as Sandy Leon traveled with the big-league club to Port Charlotte. Hanigan came to the plate six times; he was 0-for-5 with a walk.
Pawtucket got a leadoff hit in the first from Sean Coyle; they would not have another until Michael Brenly singled with one out in the eighth. Brenly batted again in the ninth and got the PawSox’ third and final hit of the day. He advanced to second base on a wild pitch but was stranded when Blake Tekotte struck out.
The back fields at JetBlue Park were a fun place for prospect watchers; Twins’ standouts Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano came over with the AA team and drew crowds of onlookers each time they came to the plate. A couple of quick impressions on the pair: Sano is HUGE; Buxton – as has been widely reported – looks like an incredible athlete with all the tools to be a superstar. Buxton faced Sox prospect Simon Mercedes and coaxed an eight-pitch walk. Sano – the main subject of the documentary Pelotero – also showed off a supremely strong arm at third base. If the Twins can keep those two healthy, it would come as no surprise to see them both in Minneapolis come September, if not before.
Long before Miley toed the rubber for Pawtucket, the facility was bustling with action. The first moving trucks rolled into the lots around 9 this morning; clubbies began loading the personal effects of players and front office members – the first in a long series of steps to get the Sox up I-95. Watching the process, I was again struck by just how elaborate the process is to move an entire ballclub up the Eastern seaboard – and how many people work long hours to make that happen.
As suitcases, televisions and file boxes were hauled into the trucks, there were plenty of actual baseball stories to report. Clay Buchholz, who will start for the Sox tomorrow against the Twins, threw on the side under the watchful eye of Juan Nieves.
Not long after, Koji Uehara emerged from the clubhouse to throw. He played catch for roughly ten minutes on flat ground.
I also had a nice chat with Brandon Magee, the NFL safety who joined the Red Sox over the weekend. Apparently he’s been talking to Bo Jackson about the challenge – and the joy – of playing two sports.
Some other notes around Sox camp:
As Mookie Betts continues to dominate the Spring, he’s drawing rave reviews – and some heady comparisons, according to Ken Rosenthal.
Whether or not Rusney Castillo begins the year in Pawtucket or Boston is still a subject of some debate; Michael Silverman sees it as an enviable problem.
Mike Napoli hit a ball over the Green Monster in Ft. Myers on Monday night…on a pitch that broke his bat.
David Ortiz has not been able to play first base yet in camp, and John Farrell is not at all concerned, writes Jason Mastrodonato.
As Sean McAdam reports, it looks more likely that Steven Wright will start the season in the Sox rotation.
The PawSox will be back at it tomorrow up the road in Sarasota against the Norfolk Tides.
by Will Flemming
Ernie Banks would have appreciated my first full day on the job with the PawSox. Port Charlotte by day, Fort Myers by night. Pawtucket tied the Durham Bulls under bright blue skies on the outer fields at Charlotte Sports Park (more on that later), and I’m writing this from the press box at JetBlue Park, where the Sox have welcomed the Minnesota Twins. In fact, as David Ortiz has just singled to score Mookie Betts and give Boston a lead, I can say now with even more conviction what I have felt all day: it is a thrill to be a part of the Red Sox organization.
I am so excited to join Josh on the radio and in this space all season long. As a broadcaster for the Indianapolis Indians for the past three seasons, I have seen from afar what the PawSox mean to you, the fans, and to the entire New England community. I am honored to join the amazing broadcasting tradition in Pawtucket; I will work tirelessly every day to bring the PawSox into your homes and into your lives.
I landed in Ft. Myers at noon yesterday; the minute I walked out of the airport terminal, the warm air washed over me. The long, hard winter I spent in Washington, D.C. was a distant memory. The only thing that interrupted the infinite blue sky was Red Sox hats. And Red Sox shirts. And jerseys. They were everywhere I looked: in the airport; in my hotel lobby; in the Starbucks down the street; and most especially at JetBlue Park.
JetBlue is a fabulous place to watch a game. Since yesterday was my first time in the ballpark, I felt like I just had to take it all in from the top of the Green Monster. And so that’s exactly what I did.
Deven Marrero – all but a lock to be the starting shortstop for Pawtucket on April 8th in Allentown – sent everyone home happy with a game-winning single in the 10th.
Monday morning meant a trip up to Port Charlotte for the PawSox. I arrived at the Charlotte Sports Park just in time to see Henry Owens begin his warmup routine in the pen:
After the PawSox went down in the top of the first inning, Owens took the mound to face Steven Souza Jr. Souza – the Rays’ centerpiece in the three-team deal that sent Wil Myers to San Diego this winter – was over on the minor league side, shuttling between the AAA and AA games to get as many at-bats as possible. In fact, Owens faced Souza in each of the first three innings; the man whose diving catch secured the final out of Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the last day of the 2014 regular season flied out in the first, struck out in the second and walked in the third.
Owens looked comfortable early, sailing through the first three innings with relative ease. His own throwing error in the bottom of the fourth led to the Bulls’ first run. By that time, however, the PawSox had blasted a pair of two-run homers. Sean Coyle hit a laser beam to straight-away center in the third, and Henry Ramos obliterated a ball over the wall in left in the top of the fourth.
In the bottom of the fifth, a pair of infield singles chased Owens, who had reached his pitch limit. Miguel Celestino came in and allowed both inherited runners to score; as a result, Owens’ final line showed three runs (two earned) in four innings, with three strikeouts and a pair of walks.
Pawtucket parlayed a Durham error in the sixth into two more runs, the last of which scored on a Jonathan Roof single. Durham tied the game with three in the bottom of the 6th; it would end that way after two scoreless frames from Matt Hoffman and a blemish-free ninth from Matty Ott. Not quite kissing your sister, but a tie nonetheless.
Over on the big league side, the Sox feasted on an array of Twins pitchers pressed into action when Kyle Gibson was scratched with an illness. Mookie Betts looked particularly impressive; he ripped a ball off the Monster and made a running, over-the-shoulder grab just in front of the warning track in center. Justin Masterson held the Twins bats in check before he departed with two outs in the sixth.
The biggest news out of Sox camp came earlier in the day, when Boston acquired catcher Sandy Leon from Washington. The Red Sox placed Christian Vasquez – who is headed to visit Dr. James Andrews – on the 60-Day Disabled List and added Leon to the 40-Man Roster. The status of Humberto Qunitero – who has an opt-out on April 1st – remains unclear. I had Leon when I was the broadcaster in Potomac in 2010 and saw him in Syracuse over the last two summers; he’s an excellent receiver with a great arm from behind the dish. From the Pawtucket perspective, the injury to Vasquez does not appear to impact the plans for top prospect Blake Swihart.
In other news, before Monday night’s game John Farrell reiterated than Shane Victorino is the everyday right fielder in spite of the buzz Rusney Castillo has generated throughout the spring.
Koji Uehara will start the season on the DL; Edward Mujica looks likely to slide into the closer’s role to open the year.
So there you have it. Day one for me in the books. Two games, one trade, and maybe a little sunburn.
I will talk to you tomorrow, when the PawSox host Rochester in Ft. Meyers.
Saturday afternoon the PawSox followed the big league club about 40 miles north to Port Charlotte and played a spring contest against Durham. It was a terrific starting pitching matchup with Eduardo Rodriguez throwing for Pawtucket against Tampa Bay’s scheduled opening day starter Chris Archer.
The southpaw Rodriguez did not have his best stuff early. He allowed a run on two singles and two walks in the first, then did not get an out in the second inning and allowed a pair of tallies. Durham collected four straight hits to start the frame, then Rodriguez walked a batter and reached his inning pitch limit to stop the threat. The lefty then settled down and tossed scoreless ball in the third and fourth.
Overall, Rodriguez lasted 3.0 innings and allowed three runs (all earned) on seven hits and four walks. He struck out three Durham hitters. Mike Aguilera followed and allowed three runs and four hits in 3.2 innings.
Pawtucket’s lineup featured Bryce Brentz and Garin Cecchini for the first time this spring. Cecchini played the entire game at third base and went 1-for-3 with a single, while Brentz was 0-for-4 with four punchouts.
Archer was dominant in what may be his final spring tuneup. He shutout the PawSox for 6.2 innings while allowing just four hits (all singles) and two walks. He fanned eight and earned the win in Durham’s 7-1 victory.
Here is the Pawtucket box score from the contest:
Sean Coyle, 2B: 0-for-4, K
Marco Hernandez, SS: 0-for-1 (played 1 inning)
Henry Rodriguez, SS: 1-for-3, double
Travis Shaw, 1B: 0-for-0, 2 walks (played 5 innings)
David Chester, 1B: 1-for-2
Bryce Brentz, DH: 0-for-4, 4 Ks
Garin Cecchini, 3B: 1-for-3, K
Blake Swihart, DH: 0-for-2, HBP, R, GIDP
Henry Ramos, RF: 0-for-3, K
Keury De La Cruz, LF: 1-for-2, BB
Shannon Wilkerson, CF: 0-for-3, GIDP, K
Mike Brenly, C: 1-for-3
The big news of the day came in the morning when Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez informed the media that an MRI on his ailing elbow “found something” but he has yet to be firmly diagnosed. Ryan Hanigan is now slated to open the season as the #1 catcher in Boston.
There has been some speculation that Blake Swihart could be an option to open the season as Hanigan’s backup if Vazquez lands on the DL. I wonder about that; it seems to me the Red Sox would rather Swihart stay in the minor leagues for at least a few months to get more seasoning.
UPDATE: Alex Speier of the Boston Globe lays out the catching options for the Red Sox here. I agree wholeheartedly with his assessment of the situation.
Sunday is a camp day for the minor league side, so the PawSox will not have a game until Monday afternoon. We’ll continue to have updates from the Fort on “45 Miles” through the end of next week. Have a great rest of your weekend!
The weather in Florida on Friday featured rain throughout the majority of state. That forced the cancellation of many spring training games today, including a scheduled PawSox home game against Norfolk at JetBlue Park. Before the rains hit, however, the Red Sox held several intrasquad scrimmages on the minor league fields in the morning.
In one of those, the Pawtucket and Portland groups faced off in a six-inning contest that featured several big names. In the PawSox lineup this morning were Shane Victorino, Christian Vazquez and Xander Bogaerts, with starting pitcher Joe Kelly working the first three frames on the mound.
Kelly, working his way back from a biceps injury, allowed one run and struck out five in his three innings. Bogaerts and Victorino each played the entire game, while Vazquez left after catching four innings. Garin Cecchini and Bryce Brentz, each optioned from major league camp on Thursday, were each in the lineup for the PawSox in the short affair.
I ran into former PawSox utilityman Justin Henry this afternoon at the complex. Henry, a very popular member of the squad for the past few seasons, retired from playing after Pawtucket won the Governor’s Cup last September.
The good news is Henry has accepted a coaching job with the organization and will be working with the Red Sox South Atlantic League affiliate in Greenville, South Carolina this season. He will make a terrific coach and I wish Justin nothing but the best in his new career.
Not much else to report on a quiet day in Fort Myers. On Saturday the PawSox head to Port Charlotte to take on Durham at 1pm. I’ll have a recap here shortly after the contest concludes.
Also, don’t miss PawSox Insider on Saturday from 1-2pm on WHJJ (920 AM) for interviews with Kevin Boles, Travis Shaw, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe and Portland Sea Dogs broadcaster Mike Antonellis.
Have a great Friday night!
Hi all, Josh Maurer here again. In case you missed the news yesterday Will Flemming and I will be co-authoring “45 Miles From Fenway” this season. Today I spent a full day at the JetBlue complex and have plenty to report.
Thursday morning began with the news that the Red Sox had optioned Garin Cecchini and Bryce Brentz along with relievers Heath Hembree and Zeke Spruill to the Pawtucket roster. Super-prospect starting pitcher Henry Owens was also reassigned to minor league camp and is expected to work with the PawSox group.
None of these moves come as a big surprise, as it has been widely anticipated that all five of these men would open the season in Pawtucket. They join catcher Blake Swihart, first baseman Travis Shaw, infielder Sean Coyle and starter Eduardo Rodriguez as players recently optioned from big league camp.
This afternoon the PawSox hosted Rochester at the minor league fields, a game that ended in a 3-3 tie after a very exciting finish. With Pawtucket trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, infielder Carlos Asuaje lined a game-tying solo home run against former PawSox reliever Ryan Pressly.
Shannon Wilkerson’s solo blast in the bottom of the eighth against Rochester’s Michael Tonkin snapped a 1-1 tie, but the Red Wings rallied to take the lead with two outs in the top of the ninth on James Beresford’s two-run single against Deryk Hooker.
All three of Pawtucket’s runs came via a solo blast, with Keury De La Cruz hitting the first in the bottom of the fifth. Craig Breslow started for the PawSox and allowed a run on two hits in the first inning.
Dana Eveland throw the second and pitched around two singles to record a scoreless frame, getting a double play to end a Rochester threat when right-fielder Henry Ramos throw out a tagging runner at the plate.
Keith Couch, fighting to make the PawSox roster when camp breaks, fired four scoreless relief innings. He allowed three hits and walked a pair but struck out three. Miguel Celestino did not allow a hit or a run in two scoreless frames behind Couch, picking up three strikeouts in the process.
Asuaje, who spent the majority of 2014 in Low-A Greenville, went 3-for-3 with a walk and two stolen bases. He played both second and third base during the contest.
Here are some notes and observations from a full day at the JetBlue complex:
-I had a chance to speak with Manager Kevin Boles this morning. He has been assisting John Farrell and his staff in major league camp all spring and has thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The skipper said he may not join the Triple-A group until only a few days before camp breaks.
Boles says he feels reinvigorated after taking off from working in winter ball this offseason. You’ll be able to hear the full interview with him this Saturday at 1pm on PawSox Insider.
-Late this morning Farrell and Torey Lovullo presided over a unique batting practice session at one of the minor league fields, with the participants being the majority of the anticipated major league starting rotation. It was nice to see knuckleballer Steven Wright included in the group, which also had Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello and a few others. Jason Varitek throw the big league pitchers several rounds of BP.
-Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez did some light throwing over at the minor league fields late this morning with Farrell and members of the training staff watching. Vazquez is trying to work his way back from a sore elbow. Farrell said this morning that the team isn’t quite sure if the backstop will be ready for opening day.
That’s all for today. The PawSox play Norfolk on Friday at JetBlue at 1pm. It will be interesting to see if some of the guys recently optioned from major league camp like Cecchini and Brentz are ready to join the squad.
Thanks for reading, enjoy the Sweet 16 NCAA action tonight!
Hey PawSox fans, Josh Maurer here! We are just about two weeks away from first pitch of the 2015 season and I can’t wait to get things started. For the remainder of this week, I’ll be blogging from Fort Myers and getting you all the latest information on the team as the roster starts to take shape.
We here at the PawSox Radio Network have two big changes to tell you about. First, it’s an honor to welcome my partner for this season Will Flemming. Will is a fantastic broadcaster who I know you will enjoy hearing every night throughout the 2015 campaign.
Below is a phone interview I did with Will for last week’s Insider show. If you have ten minutes, this is a great introduction of the newest member of our network.
Also, if you missed my Insider conversation with new PawSox President James Skeffington, you can find it in two parts bewlow. I think you’ll find it an interesting listen:
Also, beginning today I will no longer be writing on my old blog Maurer’s Musings. Instead you will be able to find my insights, combined with Will’s, right here at 45 Miles From Fenway (formerly authored by the great Jeff Levering).
We are making this change with you the reader in mind. Instead of having to check two separate blog sites throughout the season to find all the information from the broadcasters, we wanted to make “45 Miles” your one-stop shop for news from the booth.
Will and I each plan to contribute to “45 Miles” several times a week from now until the end of the season. So please come visit our blog daily to get the same interesting and insightful content (hopefully!) from the PawSox broadcasters that you’ve become accustomed to reading throughout the years.
This afternoon, a very “rough draft” version of the PawSox played Norfolk in Sarasota and lost 4-2. Portland Sea Dogs skipper Billy McMillon served as the manager, while old Pawtucket hitting coach Dave Joppie was in charge of the offense.
The PawSox trailed 4-0 into the seventh inning, when Sean Coyle doubled and was driven home by a single from Mario Martinez. Newcomer Blake Tekotte added an RBI single in the 8th.
Chris Hernandez fired two scoreless innings in relief for Pawtucket, while Robbie Scott pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth. Many of the players who are projected to begin the season with the PawSox are still participating in big league camp and/or did not make the bus trip this afternoon.
I’ll have plenty of coverage from Fort Myers for the next five days, so please check back to this blog to hear all the news fit to print. Happy Spring!