Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Back to McCoy and 9 Days Until the Opener

It was a shock to the system when I stepped off the airplane at TF Green airport at 12:45am this morning going from 80 degrees to 20. And, while the week in Ft. Myers was great and productive, it’s good to be back home because the season is rapidly approaching.

My broadcast partner, Josh Maurer, will be in Ft. Myers later tonight and will be there through the week with all the latest and greatest information on the PawSox and the Red Sox. It will be a great chance for him to meet the coaching staff, the players and immerse himself in the Red Sox system for the first time.

The PawSox were scheduled to play in Sarasota today against the Orioles, but the game was cancelled due to rain. An intersquad between the PawSox and Portland Sea Dogs was scheduled (results not available) and even Jake Peavy stayed behind to through six simulated innings, albeit in the batting cage. And Craig Breslow threw an innings today, 18 pitches, 11 strikes in the A-Ball game against the Orioles at JetBlue.

More news and notes from down in Flordia…

NESN’s Ricky Doyle did his best to prognosticate the Red Sox Opening Day Roster, just a week away, and you can view the whole list here…http://nesn.com/2014/03/red-sox-roster-projection-2-0-craig-breslow-grady-sizemore-players-to-watch/

It’ll be interesting to see how they handle the Grady Sizemore/Jackie Bradley Jr. situation because Sizemore has out played the latter to this point. Health is a big issue, as we’ve chronicled throughout the spring.

The other interesting move is to see how John Farrell replaces Craig Breslow in the bullpen. By most accounts, Breslow won’t be ready to go to start the season. He did pitch today for the first time this spring, as mentioned earlier. With that said, does Brandon Workman get the “swing man” job, or does non-roster invite Francisco Cordero get the job? What move is made by Boston make room for Cordero on the 40-man roster if he DOES make the team?

There aren’t too many jobs to be won, but these two spots are intriguing.

The crew with SoxProspects.com was in Ft. Myers last week and they were all over the place. They had guys with the PawSox, Sea Dogs, Salem Red Sox, Greenville Drive, Lowell Spinners and even some of the GCL guys. They do their homework and they know everyone in the system…pretty impressive stuff and they have come up with their preseason organizational All-Stars. A good number of these guys have been in Pawtucket or will be in the next few seasons. Hats off to Chris Hatfield and the rest of his crew for coming up with the list… http://news.soxprospects.com/2014/03/2014-soxprospects-pre-season-all-stars.html

And, finally, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had an interesting piece for his Sunday column. The subject in the main article was regarding why so many pitchers are having elbow and shoulder problems/surgeries. Is it the work out routines with more emphasis on heavy weights? He talked to a number of former players and even super agent Scott Boras (who thinks rosters should expand to 27 just to have more pitchers available) to ask their opinions on why more players are getting hurt now throwing fewer innings than the players of yesteryear who threw more. Read the article here, again, great stuff as always from Nick…http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2014/03/22/baseball-teams-thrown-for-loop-pitching-injuries/9zRkUklK1hIyb9ZBhrhr7K/story.html

Just a few thoughts on a Monday. The PawSox roster will be taking shape over the next few days as the Red Sox still have 38 players in camp and need to cut that number to 25 before the March 31st opener in Baltimore.

This is when the fun begins!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Day 7 from the Fort

Another more relaxed day on the Fort as the big league team was in Orlando playing the Braves. The lower level clubs (Salem, Greenville, Lowell) hosted the Twins lower clubs and the Double-A and Triple-A squads spent the afternoon playing at the Twins complex about six miles west in Lee County.
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The Twins actually were hosting the Yankees at Hammond Stadium, about 300 yards away from the back fields, so it created a bit of a mess with all the Yankee fans running around the parking lot. But, nonetheless, we managed to weave through the parking maze to get to the PawSox/Rochester game.

Pawtucket would beat Rochester 3-0 thanks to five doubles (they had six total hits) and a pitching performance that allowed just four hits.

Chris Hernandez started for Pawtucket and pitched well, as he has for the better part of the spring. His final line was 4 IP, 0 Runs, 0 Hits, 1 BB and 3 strikeouts. But, he was efficient. He threw just 68 pitches, 43 for strikes. He was down in the zone. His curve ball had good bite and his cutter carved up righties. He did not allow a hit until the 4th and was able to pitch around a pair of errors which forced him to throw a couple extra pitches. Solid effort from the PawSox lefty.
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Chris Balcom-Miller tossed a perfect 5th striking out one and getting two groundouts to earn the win. He threw 13 pitches, 11 for strikes, and his changeup/split finger was nasty.

Matty Ott, who finished 2013 in Portland, looked sharp as well firing two more scoreless innings. He allowed a seeing eye single to center and walked one. His 3/4 delivery also helped to induce a double play to end his outing. He threw 29 pitches, 17 strikes. Ott, more than likely will be in the Sea Dogs bullpen to start the year.

Jose Valdez finished off the game for the PawSox throwing two run-free innings allowing a double and walking one while striking out three. He should start the year in the PawSox bullpen.

As for the offense, they amassed three runs on six hits, again with five of those six knocks going for doubles.

They started the scoring in the 2nd where Alex Hassan and Heiker Meneses had back to back doubles to make it 1-0. After a fly out, Scott Cousins doubled to left center to score Meneses to make it 2-0.

No more hits for the PawSox until the 7th when Garin Cecchini doubled into deep right center field and Brandon Snyder followed suit doubling into the same alley making it 3-0.

Prior to Snyder’s double, the 1st/3rd baseman had struck out twice and looked to PawSox hitting coach Dave Joppie, who was in attendance at the game because the Red Sox were on the road, for counsel. Not sure what was said between the two or if an adjustment was made, but the result was the RBI double the opposite way. The comment of the day came afterwards when Joppie said, “And that’s why they call me the guru.” All it take is just a little tweak sometimes to get a hitter going.

The only other hit recorded by Pawtucket was an 8th inning single by Mike Brenly, son of former catcher and Arizona Diamondbacks Manager Bob Brenly.

A swift two hour 30 minute game for the final spring contest that I’ll see in Florida. The next game action for me will come on April 3rd when the PawSox open up the 2014 season at McCoy Stadium against Lehigh Valley. Only 12 days away!!!

My broadcast partner this year, Josh Maurer, will be on the Fort starting on Monday. He has been occupied with the UMass basketball team which suffered a tough loss in the second round (really the first round since it’s the round of 64) of the NCAA tournament to Tennessee (co-worker A.J. Lewis is a happy camper). But, after the loss, Josh will have his focus solely on the PawSox. I know he’ll get some great info and have even better stories from Ft. Myers in the final week before the regular season starts.

It’s been a great week to say the least. The warmth has been welcomed, the baseball has been plentiful and I can’t thank the PawSox and the Red Sox enough for allowing me to come down for the week to work. Another terrific experience and a fantastic way to signal the beginning of the season!

Travel day tomorrow, back to grind at McCoy on Monday!

Have a wonderful rest of your weekend.

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Day 6 from the Fort

A calm day down on the Fort with the Red Sox traveling to Clearwater and the Pawtucket and Portland teams staying behind to play Rochester and New Britain, respectively, on the back fields.

After a morning of early work, no fog today to stop on-field BP or infield drills, the PawSox played host to Rochester at 1pm. Allen Webster was to get the start for Pawtucket, his first outing since being optioned by the Red Sox.
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By all accounts, Webster has struggled in the 1st inning of games. It was that way in 2013 with the PawSox and the Red Sox, and it has been that way, to an extent, so far this spring. He did not get off to a strong start this afternoon as he allowed a leadoff single before issuing a walk. However, he coaxed a comebacker which Webster turned into a 1-6-3 double play to help himself. Another walk and a hit batter loaded the bases before Webster finally got out of the inning with a fielder’s choice.

Pawtucket saw some of its 2014 regulars in the lineup with Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder coming back down from big league camp. But also some Red Sox regulars David Ortiz and David Ross stayed behind to get some at-bats as well.
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Ortiz came to the plate three times for the PawSox. He lined out to right once and bounced into two double plays. He saw about 6 total pitches, four of which came in his last at-bat.

David Ross singled and lined out in his two at-bats with Pawtucket. He had a couple more at-bats on the adjacent field with Portland.

Because of the presence of Ortiz and Ross, there was a better than average crowd on the back fields. Created a fun atmosphere.

Back to the game action where Allen Webster settled in and had a quick second frame. In the 3rd, he started by allowing back to back singles before notching a strikeout and a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. A clean 4th kept the game 0-0.

The PawSox finally got on the scoreboard in the 4th as J.C. Linares and Bo Greenwell singled before Papi bounced into a double play. A Brock Holt walk put runners on the corners for Christian Vazquez who promptly doubled down the left field line to score the game’s first two runs.

Webster, finally pitching with a lead, retired the leadoff man in the 5th before allowing a triple and an RBI single to cut the score to 2-1. A shallow fly out went for the second out, then a walk and a two-run double turned the score to 3-2 in favor of Rochester. One more walk and the inning came to a close an out short and the day was done for Webster. His final line was not pretty because of the 5th: 4.2 IP, 3ER, 6H, 4BB, HBP and 2 k’s. He was much better than that, but maybe ran out of steam in the 5th.

There was no offense for the PawSox until the 7th when Bo Greenwell blasted a solo homer to right to tie the game 3-3. What made the homer even better was that his dad, Mike who played for Pawtucket in 1985 and 1986 and Boston from 1985 through 1996, mom and aunt and uncle were all in attendance to watch.

Right before the homer, Mike was standing behind me and we struck up a conversation and chatted through the rest of the game. It’s not hard to root for a guy like that, and for his son, who has had a career marred by injuries while with the Indians system, a fresh start in the Red Sox system might be just what he needs.

The Pawtucket pitching was strong after Webster and Shunsuke Watanbe pitched two scoreless allowing a double while striking out two. Noe Ramirez tossed a scoreless 8th which included two more k’s and Chris Resop struck out two in a perfect 9th.

Still tied 3-3 into the bottom of the 9th, Justin Henry led off with a walk. A fly out and strikeout later, Henry was still at first with Holt at the plate. Henry then stole second fairly easily a pitch before Holt lined a double down the right field line to end the game with a 4-3 PawSox victory.

For guys like Holt and Snyder, who were just sent back to the minor leagues, their spirits could have been down, but both had hits in their return and I’m sure they are happy to be getting consistent at-bats day in and day out until the start of the season. Both had hits, Snyder with a single in the 2nd inning and Holt with his game winning double also walked and scored a run.

The PawSox are back to work Saturday with a 1pm game against Rochester at Lee County.

As for the big boys in Clearwater, they finished in a 2-2 tie with Philadelphia in 10 innings. Jon Lester looked great on the hill tossing 5.2 scoreless innings allowing just four hits while striking out five.

Boston had just four hits in the game and the two runs were driven in by A.J. Pierzynski in the 6th inning.

The Red Sox will be in Orlando Saturday to take on the Braves at 1:05pm with John Lackey making the start, his second to last tune up before the season starts on March 31st. His first start is scheduled for April 2nd at Baltimore.

That’s all for now. Hope your brackets are still in tact after what has been a pretty wild first two days of the NCAA tournament.

Less than two weeks to go until the opener at McCoy April 3rd.

Go PawSox!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Day 5 from the Fort

Another day of thick fog plastered over the JetBlue Park and the back fields on this Thursday. But fear not, the fog lifted around 2pm and the sun arrived. I know, all of New England just cursed me for saying there was “some fog”.

But it was pretty serious…

The back fields

The back fields

JetBlue from the Monster

JetBlue from the Monster


See, it’s not ALWAYS sunny in the Sunshine State.

After early work which saw almost all of the PawSox players in the batting cages, games for Portland and Pawtucket were scheduled on the back field against Montgomery and Durham, respectively.

Pawtucket saw Anthony Ranaudo start and he battled command issues from the outset.
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After walking the leadoff batter, Ranaudo retired the rest of the side in order, but he was not his usual efficient self.

The PawSox scored two runs in the 2nd inning against Durham starter Enny Romero, who got the win in the 14 inning, Game 4 thriller in the Governors’ Cup Playoffs. Travis Shaw started the frame with a single and scored on a Scott Cousins RBI double. Two batters later, Derrik Gibson singled to right to score Cousins and give the PawSox a 2-0 lead.

In the 3rd, Ranaudo’s command faltered as he issued a walk before two stolen bases put the runner at third with one out. A sacrifice fly would bring the score to 2-1. Ranaudo then hit a batter, highly debated as well, and allowed a single before escaping the inning.

He’d walk the leadoff man in the 4th before an error on a dropped pop up put runners at 1st and 2nd. But Ranaudo was helped out by a double play and a ground out to third to end the inning.

The big righty went out for the 5th and walked two of the three batters he faced before they stopped the inning due to Ranaudo’s pitch count. He finished going 4.1 innings allowing a run on two hits with five walks, a hit batter and two strikeouts. Not his best stuff, but he was able to battle through a strike zone that resembled a thimble.

Alex Wilson was able to work a 1-2-3 6th and used a limited amount of pitches in the process.

Dayan Diaz, signed as a minor league free agent in December, worked a perfect 7th before walking one and allowing two hits in the 8th. With two outs, Diaz was removed for Miguel Celestino who promptly coughed up the lead in allowing a three-run, bases clearing double to 21-year-old Rays prospect Andrew Toles to put Durham in front 4-2.

Pawtucket’s offense was quiet after a Christian Vazquez single in the 3rd inning as they had just one base runner, a Shannon Wilkerson 7th inning walk. All told, they had just four hits.

The PawSox will get another crack at getting back in the win column as they host Rochester Friday afternoon at 1pm.

In other Pawtucket related news, it was announced by the Red Sox today that Brock Holt and Rubby De La Rosa have been optioned to the PawSox and Brandon Snyder has been re-assigned to minor league camp. So the PawSox will have some thump in the middle of the order with Snyder, a leadoff/#2 type hitter who can play 2B, SS and 3B and a power arm in Rubby De La Rosa. And, from the sound of it, Rubby will begin the season in the starting rotation. The probable rotation now looks to be, and not in this order necessarily, Ranaudo, Webster and De La Rosa with Barnes on the way soon (shoulder stiffness early in spring), Wright (recovering from sports hernia surgery) and maybe even a Brandon Workman or Drake Britton. Pretty strong starting staff to say the least.

Double duty again tonight as the Yankees invade JetBlue. Not many “stars” from New York making the trip as the biggest names are Teixeira and Ichiro. However, one of my favorite minor league names, Zealous Wheeler is starting for the pinstripes and DH’ing.

For Boston, Clay Buchholz makes the start and will have this lineup behind him.

Grady Sizemore CF
Shane Victorino RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Daniel Nava LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ross C
Jonathan Herrera 3B

Enjoy the game…it’ll only be on three networks, NESN, ESPN and YES.

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Day 4 from the Fort

What started as a day that was cloudy, and, I dare to say, chilly, turned warm and beautiful in Ft. Myers.

On all the printed material, the PawSox were supposed to play Norfolk in Sarasota today, about a 90 minute drive from JetBlue. However, that schedule did not match the one that was posted in the clubhouse which said the club was to play Norfolk at home. Thank you kindly scheduling!

After a morning of individual work for the infielders and outfielders, pick-offs and PFP’s (pitchers fielder practice) for the pitchers, games were under way as the sun peaked through the morning marine layer.
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A nice surprise was learning that Grady Sizemore was going to be playing for the PawSox rather than appear in the 7pm Red Sox/Pirates game a few hundred yards away.

Keith Couch started on the mound for Pawtucket and breezed through the first.

Sizemore gave the better than average minor league crowd a jolt as he swung at the first pitch he saw and blooped a double into left field. He would be stranded at third base in the inning.

Couch was able to pitch around a leadoff, Jack Cust double in the 2nd, before retiring the next seven batters in order.

Pawtucket finally cracked the score column in the 4th as Garin Cecchini singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and then to third on a Travis Shaw single, who was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. A walk and a strikeout later, Carlos Rivero lined a single to left scoring Cecchini.

Other than Grady Sizemore, who added two more singles to his double to finish his day 3-for-4 in seven innings of play, the offense was rather quite until the 9th for Pawtucket.
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Couch ended his outing after four innings of work allowing just two hits while walking one and striking out three. Chris Balcom-Miller followed throwing two scoreless frames allowing a hit.

Mike Olmsted, known as “Big Mike” for his 6’6″, 280lb frame, pitched around a walk and a single in the 7th, but allowed a pair of runs in the 8th to the Tides. After a lead off solo homer by Cust, on a fastball near his shoulders, Olmsted walked one and allowed a hit and run single to put runners on the corners. A batter later, the Tides executed a double steal to score the go-ahead run. Olmsted did pitch out of trouble recording a pop up and a fly out to end the 8th.

Jose Valdez tossed a perfect 9th including a strikeout.

In the bottom half of the 9th, the PawSox faced a familiar foe in former Pawtucket reliever Brock Huntzinger. Mike Brenly led off with a single, but then Huntzinger struck out Travis Shaw and Justin Henry. After a Shannon Wilkerson single to center put runners at second and third (Wilkerson took second on the throw to third), Ryan Dent singled to left to tie the game, 2-2. Derrik Gibson then battled before lining out to a lunging shortstop stranding the winning run at third ending the game in a 2-2 tie.

The PawSox are now 2-3-2 in Grapefruit League action.

I get to double-up as the Red Sox and Pirates play in a couple hours. Jake Peavy will make the start for Boston. The rest of the lineup…

Jonny Gomes LF
Shane Victorino RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Xander Bogaerts SS
A.J. Pierzynski C
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Looks a lot like an Opening Day lineup March 31 at Baltimore. Unless Grady Sizemore has anything to say about it.

Happy Wednesday!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Day 3 from the Fort

The PawSox were on the road today in Port Charlotte to play against Durham. So, I got an early start at minor league camp at JetBlue before hopping in the car to drive an hour north on I-75 to head to Charlotte.

Unfortunately, not a lot of action on the back fields as the rain that fell in the middle of the night washed out today’s early work. While the grounds crew feverishly worked to get the fields ready for the 1pm Low-A games, pitchers did get their bullpens in.

Among those throwing were Allen Webster and Matt Barnes. Webster, who was just optioned to Pawtucket yesterday, was working on his fastball command and changeup, among other things. After his bullpen, I chatted with the righty for a bit and he said, “I just need to be more consistent with everything. I had a great experience up there and even some success, but I just need to be better more consistently.” You can hear more of the interview on this Saturday’s edition of PawSox Insider all along the PawSox Radio Network from 2-3pm.

Matt Barnes, who has battled shoulder stiffness this spring and was shut down a couple weeks ago, finally got on the mound. He threw mostly fastballs, but, despite the layoff, he worked down in the zone and looked sharp.

I also caught up with Roving Catching Coordinator Chad Epperson who has a glut of talent at his disposal behind the dish, up and down the system. We chatted about PawSox favorites Ryan Lavarnway and Dan Butler, newcomer Christian Vazquez and future back stop Blake Swihart. Tremendous insight from “Eppy”, as always, and another interview you can hear on this weekend’s Insider Show.

It was time to hit the road for Port Charlotte.
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Jeremy Kehrt made the start and was very good. He did not allow a hit until the 3rd inning. He was just two over the minimum, as a batter reached on an error, but his command was on and he was throwing all of his pitches for strikes down in the zone. He struck out three and did not walk a batter.

The PawSox were quiet in the first couple of innings on offense against the Rays set-up man Joel Peralta and Durham closer from 2013 Josh Lueke. But, in the 4th against Merrill Kelly, who earned the win against the PawSox in the clinching Game 4 of the Governors’ Cup Finals for Durham, Pawtucket took advantage of some rare wildness. After walks to Bryce Brentz and Travis Shaw, Alex Hassan hit a comebacker which Kelly spun and threw to second. However, his throw was behind the shortstop covering the bag and went into center field. Brentz scored on the play and the PawSox led 1-0.

The Pawtucket pitchers dominated the game from there. Shunsuke Watanbe, the submarine style pitcher who almost scrapes his knuckles on the ground when he throws, threw a perfect 4th, in large part because of a sensational catch by Bo Greenwell in left field.
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Noe Ramirez followed with two scoreless innings despite walking two and allowing a single. He struck out four of the nine batters he faced.

Chris Resop, who was in Oakland last season, retired all six batters he faced in order. And lefty Nathan Reed picked up the save in the 1-0 win.

In all, the staff allowed just three hits, all singles, while walking just two and striking out 10 Durham hitters.

The PawSox offense was not outstanding, but they grinded out at bats in deep counts despite having just four hits. Mike Brenly doubled, Ryan Dent tripled and Travis Shaw and Heiker Meneses each had singles. Meneses also stole a base.

Pawtucket is now 2-3-1 in the spring and will play in Sarasota Wednesday at 12:30pm. I’ll be in attendance with live tweets of the action.

The ‘big boys’ were in Tampa to play against the Yankees and it did not go well in an 8-1 loss.

A few bright spots: Brandon Workman pitched out of the bullpen going 2.1 innings allowing just a run (a solo homer to Alfonso Soriano) on three hits with three k’s. Justin Henry singled off the bench. A couple of potential PawSox in lefties Rich Hill and Tommy Layne threw scoreless innings out of the pen. The offense as a whole had nine hits, only Jonathan Herrera had two. Dan Butler and Ryan Lavarnway singled while Jackie Bradley Jr. and Corey Brown doubled.

Felix Doubront struggled in the start going just 3.2 innings allowing seven runs on 10 hits while walking three. Good news, though, he’s still got some time before the season starts. Doubront is slated as the Red Sox number four starter.

And, in an odd twist to the Red Sox/Yankees game, a heavy swarm of bees delayed action for seven minutes in the middle of the third inning.

Mike Carp was the first player on the field to notice the heavy swarm, which was concentrated in the area of the left-field visitors’ bullpen at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

“Not a big fan of bees flying around my head,” Carp said. “It’s just one of those things I’ve never seen happen — or, I’ve seen it happen, but it’s never happened to me. I’m sure they’ll get their laughs on ESPN tonight.”

Carp walked toward the infield and pointed the issue out to the umpiring crew, and the players congregated in the middle of the field while the grounds crew sprayed the area. Carp estimated that there were “a couple thousand” bees.

This is not the first time a game has been delayed by bees. It happened in July of 2009 when the Astros were in San Diego when a swarm was found in the not so often used tarp. And even last season when the the Mariners were in Anaheim playing the Angels.

Mark Teixeira came out of the dugout with two bottles of honey in a joking manner. Pretty funny stuff.

Thanks for checking in, back to work tomorrow for a double dip as I’ll be in Sarasota for the PawSox/Tides game then back to JetBlue for the evening game between the Red Sox and Pirates.

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the Fort!

Green overflowed at JetBlue Park at Fewnway South on this Monday. Warm but cloudy and windy conditions did not effect the crowds, not only at the main stadium, but at the back fields as well.

Due to the threat of a rain storm (which has yet to arrive at the time of writing this post), the minor league games with Baltimore’s farm clubs were pushed up to 11am, from the originally scheduled 1pm.

The PawSox had a familiar lineup featuring names like Hassan, Brentz, Henry and Meneses as well and some newer names like Cecchini, Swihart and Shaw.

Pawtucket only managed one run in the game as Bryce Brentz doubled and scored on a Travis Shaw opposite-field double into left center. With the howling wind, a ball that looked destined for center field, ended up in the alley with a slice that would make any golfer swoon.

Justin Henry added a single in the game.

The PawSox hitters got a little taste of the big leagues as Ubaldo Jimenez came down from Sarasota to pitch. He looked sharp mixing and matching his fastball with his curveball, over-powering hitters at times.
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On the hill, PawSox starter Mickey Pena held the Norfolk club in check not allowing a run over his outing.

Fireballing reliever Miguel Celestino, who has been rumored to hit 100mph on the radar gun, drew a crowd for his two innings. He didn’t hit 100, but he was consistently between 95-98. His slider was effective in his two scoreless frames.

Unfortunately, Norfolk scored four times in the top of the 9th, three of which came on a three-run homer by Matt LaPorta, sending the PawSox to a 4-1 defeat.

On to the main field for the Cardinals/Red Sox game.

I was fortunate to spend a couple minutes with Red Sox Senior Advisor Jeremy Kapstein, and it just so happened that Boston blew up for five runs in the frame as I was sitting right behind home plate. Three on a Mike Napoli homer where the folks in Pawtucket froze the TV with my noggin just above Napoli’s hands.
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Just a perk of the job I suppose.
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Dustin Pedroia had a couple hits including a two run homer and an RBI single. Grady Sizemore continues to add to his case to be the starter in centerfield in Boston as he had three hits, scored three times and made a sensational catch in the left centerfield alley. He’s now hitting .381.

Ryan Lavarnway even blasted a homer in his lone at bat, his 2nd of the spring.

Reliever Rubby De La Rosa was able to get into the groove as he went 1.1 scoreless inning while striking out two and allowing just a hit.

Enjoy a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day! Very lucky to be spending it at the ballpark with the birthday boy, my dad, Bruce! Happy 60th!
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Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Day 1 at the Fort

The yearly trek to Ft. Myers is here. Goodbye to the cold for a week and hello sunshine.

Nothing but baseball over the next eight days.

This is how the day started…
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I mean, really…What a view! Bright and early, dew still on the field. Nothing better.

Sunday is a camp day in the Minor League world. The big league club traveled north to Port Charlotte to play Tampa Bay and brought a number of potential PawSox with them. But, we’ll focus on the back fields, because that’s where I was.

Games started on Wednesday for the ‘Pawtucket’ team and they are off to a 1-2-1 start. Anthony Ranaudo started on Saturday afternoon and pitched well going four innings and allowed just a hit and a run with five strikeouts. To read the full recap of yesterday’s game, click here…http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140315&content_id=69424980&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_t533&sid=t533

But “Camp Days” are for fundamentals and a day of rest.

Admittedly, the guys were ready to start playing games two weeks ago after taking countless ground balls, hitting cut off men and working on run downs, but a nice afternoon off can do the mind some good.

So, today was all four back fields filled with individual position drills, a handful of bullpens, some agility work and batting practice. There was one simulated game, mostly between the low-A offensive guys. Chris Hernandez, who pitched in Pawtucket and Portland last year and needed some work, pitched three innings allowing just a couple walks. His cutter was sharp and he was efficient with his pitches.

Justin Haley, who spent 2013 in Greenville, allowed just a single in his three innings of work. He featured a firm fastball, a sharp breaking ball and an average changeup. He’ll more than likely be in Salem this year after going 7-11 with a 3.68 ERA with the Drive.

A handful of former and future PawSox got work in defensively and a round of BP. Alex Hassan, Bryce Brentz, Heiker Meneses and Garin Cecchini were the feature players back on Field 5.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox players who did not make the trip to Port Charlotte worked in the bullpen and the position players had a light workout in front of a handful of fans.

Some gathered by the bullpen to watch Felix Doubront get his work in.
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Earlier Brandon Workman watched Tommy Layne, Andrew Miller and Rich Hill throw their bullpens.
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I ran into PawSox manager Kevin Boles as he was headed to one of the back fields as well as pitching coach Rich Sauveur, coach Bruce Crabbe and trainer John Jochim. All were eager to get the season started, but certainly enjoying the warmth while they still can.

A couple of PawSox related injury notes. Matt Barnes has been throwing at 120 feet for the last few days and the hope is to have him throw a bullpen over the next few days. With the shoulder stiffness and subsequent shut down/restart, it’s unlikely that he’ll break camp with the PawSox. But, he won’t be too far behind.

Another PawSox standout, Steven Wright, who is coming off of sports hernia surgery, is ahead of his work out schedule. He was playing catch at 75 feet today, something he usually wouldn’t be doing for another week. But, after talking with him for a bit, he’s doing well, feeling good and hoping to be game ready in six weeks (beginning of May). And his knuckleball was dancing all over! One particular knuckler crossed up his catching partner and almost hit Jim Rice as he was chatting near the clubhouse a good 100 feet away. The near miss elicited a comment along the lines of, “Hey, if you you wanted me to work with you, all you have to do is ask!” Both smiled and continued with their work.

A few random shots from JetBlue…
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High atop the Green Monster...just a few feet HIGHER than the one in Boston

High atop the Green Monster…just a few feet HIGHER than the one in Boston

The backfields from The Monster

The backfields from The Monster

As for the big league game in Port Charlotte which Boston lost 8-4, Allen Webster started and was ok. Four innings, three runs (two earned), three hits, three walks and three strikeouts. Of the 68 pitches he threw, 38 were strikes. A “run of the mill” start for Allen at the moment.

Drake Britton struggled for the first time this spring going just 1.2 innings while allowing five runs (all earned) on six hits with two walks. In all, he faced 13 batters and eight reached base.

Brayan Villarreal, Francisco Cordero and Jose Mijares all added scoreless innings.

Deven Marrero is still opening eyes, now, more so, with his bat as he slugged his first spring homer in the 9th and is hitting .333 thus far.

Ryan Lavarnway has found his hitting stroke as he went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI as his average sits at .320. And Brock Holt added an RBI double and is hitting .292 in his battle with Jonathan Herrera for the back up infield job in Boston.

Tomorrow, as most of you know, is St. Patrick’s Day! The Red Sox will be hosting the Cardinals at JetBlue Park and I’ll be covering that game after spending the morning on the back fields. I should have some news and notes mid-day and then an evening nightcap edition. I’ll be emceeing the Future Stars Luncheon for the BoSox Club after the game, so the run down of the festivities will be delayed. Attendees for the event include William Cuevas, Wendell Rijo, Daniel McGrath, Bryan Hudson, Jordan Weems, Carson Blair and Greenville Pitching Coach Paul Abbott.

Don’t worry, I’ll wear my green and have a green beverage later!

More to come throughout the week.

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Red Sox, PawSox Each Tally Wins against Twins

Both Boston and Pawtucket drove a few miles west on Daniels Parkway to play against the Twins and Rochester, respectively, in Lee County. And both garnered one-run victories.

First, on the feature field, Hammond Stadium, the Red Sox edged the Twins 4-3. Jake Peavy made his spring debut and looked pretty sharp. He would go three plus innings allowing a run on two hits with two walks and two strikeouts while using 53 pitches (31 strikes). Peavy was removed after issuing a leadoff walk in the 4th.

Lefty Andrew Miller, who has been exceptional to this point in the spring, promptly gave up a double to Oswaldo Arcia before throwing a wild pitch to allow a run to score from third. Kurt Suzuki added an RBI single off Miller as part of a three-run inning.

Boston’s pitching shut down the Twins from there allowing just four hits over the next five innings. Matty Ott (more than likely ticketed for Portland) walked two in .2 innings. Brandon Workman tossed three scoreless innings allowing just a pair of hits and striking out three. Dalier Hinojosa and Francisco Cordero finished off the game with clean frames.

Peavy has been tinkering with a new pitch, a splitter, to add to his repertoire. He gives all the credit to Koji Uehara who, “wouldn’t be the pitcher he is without it”. He unveiled the new pitch in his debut Thursday and according to his manager John Farrell, “It’s got some action in the bottom of the zone. Not too many offered swings at it. It’s something that he’s been working on here as he’s got to camp. But in addition to that, the one thing he talked about last year was trying to kill some of the speed of his curveball. You saw some in the mid-70s, which was good separation from his fastball. For the first time out, he had a good assortment of pitches today.”

The Red Sox sent their “A” lineup and they produced four runs on seven hits against Minnesota, who started with Phil Hughes on the mound. The Twins committed three errors which led directly to all four Boston runs scoring. Seizing opportunities is the name of the game, right?

Shane Victorino had an RBI single in a 2-for-3 afternoon and Dustin Pedroia’s two-run double in the 5th put Boston in front for good. Pedroia finished 2-for-3 in the game. Will Middlebrooks singled and stole a base and Deven Marrero doubled in his lone plate appearance.

A few hundred yards away on the back fields, the PawSox beat Rochester 5-4 to improve to 1-0-1 after two games of Grapefruit League play.

SS/OF Ryan Dent led the way going 4-for-4 (all singles) with two RBI and two runs scored. Third baseman Carlos Rivero went 3-for-4 with an RBI triple and a run scored, his second straight strong offensive game. Second baseman Mookie Betts had two hits, an RBI, a run scored, and a stolen base while OF Bo Greenwell, son of former PawSox and Red Sox star Mike Greenwell, delivered an RBI double which proved to be the winning run.

Lefty Henry Owens made the start for the PawSox and gave up two runs in 3.1 innings. His final line – 3.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO. The win went to Kyle Kraus (1-0) in relief who was charged with one unearned run over two-innings. The recently sent down Miguel Celestino earned the SV (#1) with two scoreless innings along with two strikeouts.

The PawSox will play Norfolk this afternoon in Fort Myers.

Today, the Red Sox will travel to Dunedin to take on the Blue Jays.

Clay Buchholz will try to continue his strong start to the spring and build off his impressive outing last Sunday against the Pirates. The rest of the lineup:

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Jonathan Herrera 3B
Mike Carp DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Jonny Gomes LF
Corey Brown RF
Ryan Lavarnway C
Brock Holt SS
Mike McCoy 2B

An injury update on pitcher Matt Barnes. The former first rounder has been dealing with a sore shoulder and was shut down close to two weeks ago. Barnes is now playing catch from 120 feet and the Red Sox hope to get him on a mound by the end of the month. What that means is that he would be a long shot to open the season with the PawSox. It might not be too far from the beginning of the season when he joins the club, but opening night seems far fetched at this point.

Nonetheless, John Farrell says that Barnes is making excellent progress.

Tomorrow is a travel day for me as I head down to Ft. Myers for a week to cover the team in person. I’ll be covering both the PawSox and the Red Sox throughout, so expect some photos and up to the minute updates on all the spring training action.

Happy Friday!

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

Minor League Games are Under Way

While the roster for the PawSox is far from set, the “Pawtucket” roster played against the “Rochester” roster yesterday on the back fields at JetBlue Park to a 5-5, 10 inning tie.

Most of the Pawtucket roster featured players that will be in either Portland or Salem, but the team got a nice boost with starter Felix Doubront pitching to keep with his regular rest. The lefty went 4.2 innings allowing two runs on three hits while striking out five. Nathan Reed (Independent/Mexican League in 2013) followed and threw 1.1 hitless innings. Mickey Pena (Salem/Portland/Arizona Fall League) went the next three innings and allowed seven hits and three runs. Chris Resop (Oakland/Sacramento) needed only four pitches to retire the side in the 10th-inning but the game was called after the top of the 10th.

Stefan Welch (Altoona/Salem, mid-season trade with PIT) launched a three-run homer in the bottom of the 4th-inning to give the PawSox a 3-2 lead. Third baseman Carlos Rivero (Syracuse, Harrisburg) added an RBI double in the 7th-inning to tie the game at 4-4 and catcher Dan Butler (Pawtucket Team MVP) delivered a run-scoring single in the bottom of the 8th to even the score at 5-5. Butler had two hits in the game.

The PawSox will play Rochester again today, but in Lee County just down to road.

Boston will be back in action as well as they will play the Twins in Lee County, a few hundred yards away from the PawSox.

Jake Peavy is scheduled to make his spring debut after he cut his left index finger (non pitching hand) while fishing. Here’s the rest of the lineup and pitching assignments after Peavy.

Daniel Nava LF
Shane Victorino RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
A.J. Pierzynski C
Xander Bogaerts SS
Will Middlebrooks 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Pitching after Peavy: LHP Henry Owens, RHP Brandon Workman, LHP Andrew Miller, LHP Jose Mijares, RHP Dalier Hinojosa, RHP Francisco Cordero.

The Red Sox made their first round of cuts earlier today. Among the names that were optioned to Pawtucket: RHP Anthony Ranaudo, RHP Alex Wilson, RHP Alex Hassan, OF Bryce Brentz and 3B Garin Cecchini. And these players were sent to minor league camp: RHP Matt Barnes, INF Heiker Meneses, LHP Henry Owens, C Blake Swihart, RHP Noe Ramirez, RHP Miguel Celestino and 1B Travis Shaw. Now, this doesn’t mean these players won’t still appear in big league spring training games, as evidence of Owens pitching today, but they won’t be making the Boston roster. And, to be fair, none really expected to make the initial roster with the exception of maybe Wilson. There are just not many jobs to be won this year, a stark contrast from a season ago.

Still “on the roster” are new comer Dalier Hinojosa and shortstop Deven Marrero. There is speculation now that Marrero could be the starter in Pawtucket the start the year. Whether he is or not is still a couple weeks from being determined, but to say that John Farrell and the rest of the Boston brass is not impressed with his defense is an understatement.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing these guys got “cut”. It just means they’ll be getting more consistent work, it’ll just be on the back fields. With the big league regulars starting to stretch out their playing time, the at-bats and the innings just aren’t there for some of these guys to get their reps. These moves allow them to do just that.

Boston now has 46 players in camp. They’ll need to make 21 more cuts to get to the final roster limit of 25 before their March 31st opener at Baltimore. Not a ton of jobs to win on the big club, but certainly a lot of intriguing names that could end up in Pawtucket because of the competition.

On the lighter side, my blogging buddy Rick has been singing the theme song for the Lansing Lugnuts for months now. Literally, at least 10-15 times a day he’ll just randomly pop out a, “You gotta go nuts, go nuts, go nuts”. It was quite entertaining for the first couple weeks…it’s getting a little long in the tooth now. Just to get a taste…

Everyone in the office is now trying to get a new song stuck in his head…any suggestions?! We started this one today, but it just doesn’t have the traction yet.

At least it’s a good deal…Like our Dollar Menu Mondays…where all your ballpark favorites are just a buck…Hot Dogs (a better deal at McCoy), Peanuts, Chips, Popcorn and Cracker Jacks all just a dollar on Mondays.

Makes me ready for Opening Day, which is just 21 short days away, against Lehigh Valley April 3rd.

Go Sox (Red and Paw!),

Jeff
@jlevering4
jlevering@pawsox.com

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