by Josh Maurer
The Red Sox have one of the top (if not the absolute best) farm systems in baseball currently. At some of the lower levels of the organization, players like pitcher Anderson Espinoza and third-baseman Rafael Devers have the potential to be big impact players in the years to come.
The two top names among Boston prospects, however, are OF Andrew Benintendi and second-baseman Yoan Moncada. Each is considered one of the prime “can’t miss” talents in the sport today, and each appears close to reaching Pawtucket.
Benintendi was promoted to Double-A Portland last month, while Moncada joined him earlier this week. Yoan’s Double-A debut was a strong one on Tuesday night, as he went 1-for-5 with an RBI and several standout defensive plays.
Here is the audio of Moncada’s first press conference in Portland, held just hours before he made his debut with the club yesterday:
Benintendi, meanwhile, has turned up the offense after struggling at the outset of his Sea Dogs tenure. Over his last 10 games, he is 15-for-41 (.366) with 3 HR, 11 RBI, and 5 doubles.
It will be very fun and interesting to follow those two prized prospects in Portland over the weeks (and possibly months) to come. It would not be a stretch to think that each could potentially see time with the PawSox before the 2016 season comes to an end.
Meanwhile, Pawtucket had a five-game winning streak snapped in game two of a doubleheader against Syracuse on Tuesday night in dropping a close 3-2 decision. In the opener, lefty Henry Owens came within two outs of a seven-inning no-hitter before allowing a single to the Chiefs’ cleanup batter Matt Skole.
Instead, Owens settled for a complete-game one-hitter in which he struck out five and walked three batters. You can see the highlights from his dominant performance below.
On Thursday night, our friends at NESN will televise the finale of the five-game series against the Chiefs following a day game for the Red Sox at Fenway. Will and I will be providing the TV play-by-play on a simulcast with the radio broadcast. We are each looking forward to it!
Overall, the PawSox have won 14 of their last 21 games (dating back to May 31st). They have continued to excel with terrific pitching and solid defense. On Wednesday, Aaron Wilkerson looks to continue his Triple-A dominance as he takes the mound against a struggling Syracuse lineup.
First pitch on Wednesday is slated for 7:05 pm on another beautiful evening at McCoy. We hope to see you at the park. If not, Will and I look forward to speaking to you on the radio!
by Josh Maurer
The PawSox head to Louisville Slugger Field for a three-game series this weekend, trying to bounce back from dropping their first series of June after being swept in Indianapolis.
As we get set for the series, here are some tidbits on some of the guys who are playing just about everyday for Manager Kevin Boles (all stats as of Thursday, June 16).
-CF Ryan LaMarre has taken over as the team’s primary leadoff batter since Rusney Castillo’s recall to Boston at the beginning of the month. He has batted either first or second in the order in each of his last 21 starts (and leadoff in 11 of his last 14).
–Chris Marrero has been the Cal Ripken of this year’s PawSox. He has now started 29 straight games (and 41 of the team’s last 42). He has been a middle-of-the-order staple for Skipper Boles, batting either third or fourth in the lineup in 38 straight starts (3rd the last eight).
After a torrid month of May, Marrero has only 2 extra-base hits and just 2 RBIs in June (14 games). He still has a great chance of being selected as a Triple-A All-Star when the rosters are announced later this month.
-OF Henry Ramos has made a great impression since his recent promotion from Double-A Portland. Ramos, who has batted 6th and played right-field in seven of his eight PawSox starts, hit safely in six straight (before Thursday’s loss in Indy) after going 0-for-3 in his debut (those 6: 8-for-20 (.400), 2 doubles, 3 RBI).
-C Dan Butler has has become the PawSox #1 backstop since Sandy Leon’s promotion to Boston earlier in June. With the regular playing time he’s been given, Butler’s bat has come to life. Over his last ten games played, the veteran is 12-for-31 (.387) with 5 walks, one home run, three doubles and three RBIs.
-INF Jose Vinicio has taken over as the club’s primary second-baseman in June. Vinicio has started 11 of the last 13 games for Pawtucket and has shown a great ability to use the bunt and foot speed to his advantage. During that time, seven of his ten hits have been infield singles (five of which have come on bunts).
-3B Jantzen Witte is now an everyday player at the hot corner for the PawSox. Witte, who was promoted early in the season after a hot start in Portland, has currently started 17 of the team’s last 18 games. He has moved up to the second spot in the batting order each of the last two games.
-SP Aaron Wilkerson, who starts in Louisville on Friday night, continues to impress at every level of the Red Sox system in which he has pitched. The right-hander, who led all Boston minor-leaguers last year in strikeouts, has punched out 30 Triple-A hitters in only 24 innings pitched (against just six walks).
-On Thursday I had a lengthy conversation with PawSox pitching coach Bob Kipper, which you can listen to below. Among the topics discussed: Henry Owens, Roenis Elias heading up to Boston, Wilkerson and Pat Light.
The PawSox will play three night games in Louisville this weekend before heading home for a busy week at McCoy Stadium. Because of an earlier rainout, the club will play a five-game series against Syracuse Monday-Thursday with a doubleheader slated for Tuesday night. Then Scranton comes to town for three beginning Friday the 24th.
There are lots of great promotions coming up next weekend, including 90s Night Fireworks on Friday and a Wade Boggs Bobblehead giveaway Saturday. Hope to see you there; we can’t wait to be back home.
The first homestand of June was a resounding success for the PawSox. Incredible pitching propelled Pawtucket to a 5-2 week. And although the pitching was the story on the field, there was a whole lot more fun being had in and around McCoy.
A Pitcher-Perfect Week
The PawSox allowed 10 runs in seven games last week. So on average, the pitching staff allowed an incredible 1.4 runs per game against the Toledo Mud Hens and Louisville Bats.
It all began with the starters. Roenis Elias closed out the previous road trip by tossing Pawtucket’s first nine-inning complete game in nearly a year. Then the following happened on the homestand:
It’s not hard to understand why the PawSox went 5-2 in that time. All the starters, especially Cuevas, O’Sullivan and Elias have talked about the importance of being efficient and throwing strikes to provide length in the rotation.
Elias’ seven-strikeout outing capped a dominant stretch that has earned him a start this Friday against his former team at Fenway Park.
The pitching staff has been especially outstanding since Dan Butler has taken over as the primarily catcher. I spoke to him about Elias and what the key is for his pitchers and it’s something the Sox have excelled at this month:
It’s all about fastball command…and the bullpen has undoubtedly proved that to be true.
The pen tossed 18.0 innings and allowed only two earned runs in the seven games. Everyone has been contributing. I spoke with a couple of the guys who have been used in short relief in late-game situations recently.
Pat Light spoke about his recent success and why he wants to pitch in the ninth inning.
Noe Ramirez, who like Light, is in the midst of a long scoreless streak, also spoke with me about his Triple-A success. Ramirez, who has been on the “shuttle” between Pawtucket and Boston for most of this season, also opened up about what it meant to him and his family to get called up to the big leagues last season.
If you ever come out to the berm or even join us on our pregame show out on the left field terrace, you get to see some of the antics the members of the bullpen use to pass the time before they come into the game and mow down the opposition. I asked both Light and Ramirez about the games they play to pass the time.
Bowling with the PawSox
PawSox players, staff and fans had a terrific night bowling for a great cause last week. All proceeds from the event were donated the the Tomorrow Fund which helps children with cancer.
While the entire night was in good fun, these PawSox players are professional athletes, so there clearly was also a competitive spirit.
Deven Marrero took the lead after the first round. First, he nailed a clutch spare to earn another shot.
He then converted on said opportunity with a strike.
Deven scored a 192 and called out Mookie Betts in his post-game press conference.
In the next round, Jantzen Witte came on strong, using a strike in the ninth frame to overtake Marrero with a 200.
Here was Jantzen’s reaction to besting Deven and the other PawSox players:
And finally, the moust see shot/reaction of the night comes from everyone’s good friend Paws:
Free Brady Friday
You might have heard about the event we had last Friday. It gained some national attention after a certain IL North rival decided to respond with an ill-conceived idea of their own.
Of course, even Buffalo must know that it is fighting a losing battle. There was another losing battle fought on Free Brady Friday: Roger Goodell vs. the dunk tank.
This had to feel good:
Other Notes and Thoughts
Owens vs. Butler
Henry Owens and Dan Butler are battery mates this season, much like they were two years ago. But last year when Butler played for Syracuse, the two faced off against each other. I asked them both about last year’s matchup and what they each recall is amusing:
Owens’ Musical Critique
There had been a rumor floating around that Owens was a big fan of our new theme song this season. He even belted out a few lyrics at the bowling event. If you somehow haven’t had the pleasure of hearing the song yet this season, take a listen and see if you can tell how Henry feels about it as he warms up:
I actually asked the man for his opinions on the song and here is his detailed response:
Deven on Mookie Part Two
We already heard Deven Marrero tease Mookie Betts at the bowling event. Well, when you see what happened this past offseason, he clearly has reason to get on him.
I had Deven elaborate on the incident:
Of course, it’s all in good fun as the two are good buddies. Deven also spoke about a couple of other close friends: his teammate and cousin, Chris Marrero, and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. Deven was at game five of last year’s World Series in New York and he shared his immediate reaction to Hosmer’s famous mad dash to the plate.
LaMarre’s Hit Streaks
Ryan LaMarre has really flown under the radar with his solid season this year. He’s batting over .300 and he has the two longest PawSox hitting streaks this season – both 12 games. Although if he could have tacked just one more game on to those streaks he really would have made some noise because the last Pawtucket players with longer hitting streaks were two guys by the name of Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley Jr. And those streaks came three years ago.
So there are fun story lines to watch for both on the mound and at the plate. But even if that isn’t enough for you, we’ll have more fun events on next week’s mega eight-game homestand. Join the electric atmosphere on our next fireworks night. We had a sell-out crowd that got to view this last Saturday:
For more fun insights and interviews be sure to tune into the PawSox Radio Network for all the games and PawSox Insider every Saturday.
See you at McCoy next week!
by Will Flemming
“I’ve never known a day when I didn’t learn something new about this game.” – Connie Mack
Connie Mack – a man who managed 7755 games in the Major Leagues – was onto something when he uttered this baseball truism. The minute you think you have America’s pastime pegged, it shows you something that will change your mind. Such was the case this past Thursday night in Norfolk.
Difficult travel is a reality in the minor leagues; on more than a few occasions a ballclub is faced with a schedule that makes it impossible to avoid a situation like the one the PawSox encountered Wednesday night. Even though the series finale in Gwinnett was rained out, the club had to make a nine-hour, overnight bus ride to Norfolk in order to be settled in time to play the opener at Harbor Park on Thursday night.
I expected an ordinary game in the opener – and we got the most extraordinary result of the season thus far (and a game that will be hard to top, as Josh chronicled after the dust settled). The defense stood out above all else, and the PawSox gave us a game we won’t soon forget.
The other wonderful surprise of the road trip – which the Sox won 4-2 – came in a bite-sized package. With Marco Hernandez and Josh Rutledge entrenched in the big leagues and Sean Coyle working to get his feet beneath him in Portland, the PawSox needed a middle infielder. Last Tuesday when word came down that the PawSox were receiving Jose Vinicio from Portland, we hardly batted an eye. Vinicio – who signed for just shy of $2 Million as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican in 2009 – had slipped off most prospect radar screens. A speedy, switch-hitting shortstop with a great glove, had a nice 2012 in Greenville (where he batted .277 and stole 24 bases) but stumbled thereafter. He did enjoy a brief bounce back in 2015, where he hit .294 over 57 games with High-A Salem. But over the last week, Vinicio has shown plenty to remind us why the Sox made such a big investment in him. His speed threatens defenses every time he steps into the box: of the remarkable eight hits he posted in the weekend series in Norfolk, six of them were bunts or infield hits. He was fantastic in the field, showing excellent range (most especially in a fabulous running grab behind the second-base bag in shallow center yesterday) and arm strength. And Vinicio came through in the clutch time and again; he drove in runs in four straight games. Here is a compilation of those big swings:
On the trip, I had fun catching up with Justin Maxwell and Anthony Varvaro. Each told tales of their time in the big leagues and shared the reasons they have enjoyed this PawSox club. Here are those conversations:
Lastly: the scheduling gods were not all bad over the past week. Tuesday, as the PawSox played in Gwinnett, the Atlanta Braves hosted the San Francisco Giants. This was significant to me only because the Giants happen to employ a man that used to sit behind the PawSox’ mic – and a man who I am happy to call my big brother. It just so happened that Tuesday was David’s 40th birthday. After our game wrapped up, I raced into Atlanta and was grateful to spend some time with him – and with Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow (the fabulous television broadcasters for the Giants and two men who have been wonderful to David and to me over the last 13 seasons). Kruk and Kuip can spin a tale, and we had some wonderful laughs and celebrated my brother’s arrival over the hill. Here we were toasting the birthday boy:
Josh and I are looking forward to our first look at the Toledo MudHens tonight at 7:05. We hope you will join us on the pregame show on WHJJ 920 AM and throughout our radio network at 6:35.
by Josh Maurer
Over the course of a long baseball season, inevitably a few games will stand out in the memory bank significantly more than others. Thursday night’s affair between the PawSox and Norfolk Tides at Harbor Park will certainly be one of those for the 2016 campaign.
The PawSox won 3-1 in 14 innings, but the final score doesn’t tell the whole story of a game that featured standout defensive play after standout defensive play, repeated great escapes from Pawtucket relievers and bewildering struggles to hit with runners in scoring position.
After Norfolk scored a two-out run in the bottom of the first against PawSox starter William Cuevas, the Tides were held scoreless for the next 13 innings. In that time Norfolk stranded a remarkable 18 runners on base and went 0-for-23 with runners in scoring position.
Cuevas got early help from centerfielder Ryan LaMarre, who made the catch of the year for Pawtucket to rob Tides catcher Chris O’Brien. You have to see it to believe it – which you can below. By the way, this was O’Brien’s first-ever Triple-A at-bat.
Check out the rest of the saga from Ryan Young’s fantastic write-up on the game:
“After Pawtucket (26-27) tied the game, 1-1, on Jose Vinicio’s RBI single in the seventh inning, the Tides (18-36) would place the leadoff man on base in each of the succeeding six frames. However, a host of PawSox relievers were able to hold Norfolk off the board in each remaining inning.
In the 14th and final inning, Jantzen Witte singled with one out and Vinicio replaced him on the bases after a fielder’s choice against reliever Zach Phillips (3-2). The next batter, Mike Miller stroked a double off the wall in the right field corner that drove home Vinicio with the go-ahead run.
Ryan LaMarre followed with an RBI single to left field, delivering Pawtucket a 3-1 lead, which it held in the bottom half of the frame.
The PawSox have played two contests longer than 10 innings this season and both have been 14-inning victories over the Tides.
When the fog rolled through in the late innings, the PawSox bullpen repeatedly found incredible ways to escape jam after jam.
Relievers Wesley Wright, Pat Light, Anthony Varvaro and Roman Mendez (2-1) combined for 8.1 scoreless innings of relief.
Wright came in to record the final out of the sixth and strand two baserunners.
Light allowed a leadoff double in the ninth but used two groundouts and a fly out from the pinch-hitter Christian Walker to escape the frame.
Varvaro surrendered a leadoff triple to Yastrzemski in the 10th, but with one out, Yaz was caught in a rundown after a groundball to first base. After a walk loaded the bases with two outs, Varvaro fanned Corban Joseph to end the inning.
With a runner on second base and one out in the 11th, Justin Maxwell made a spectacular diving catch as he approached the right field line that robbed Christian Walker of a game-winning hit.
Maxwell’s defense shined again in the 12th inning. After Dario Alvarez led off the frame with a double off of Mendez and advanced to third on a groundout, he was gunned down at home on a terrific throw from Maxwell.
Not to be outdone by his fellow outfielders, Bryce Brentz made a sensational diving catch to begin the bottom of the 13th inning-the first time the leadoff man failed to reach for the Tides since the fifth inning (breaking a string that stretched for seven consecutive innings).
Norfolk still used a hit-batter, walk and wild pitch to get runners on the corners with two outs in the 13th but Mendez struck out Yastrzemski to end the inning.
The Tides used two singles to place the tying runs on base in the bottom of the 14th, but yet again Mendez prevailed, completing his three-inning outing and sealing the win for Pawtucket.
Norfolk stranded nine runners on base in the five extra frames.
Brentz, Witte and Vinicio all tallied three hits in the game.
Vinicio, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning, recorded his first Triple-A hit on a bunt single in his first at-bat of the night.
The two teams combined to go 3-for-37 with runners in scoring position.”
This game had a bit of everything, but to me it was the spectacular defense by the PawSox that stood out most. Time and again it appeared the Tides were about to plate a game-winning run, but folks like LaMarre, Maxwell and Brentz would not allow it to happen.
Check out our post-game recap from Thursday’s nights radio broadcast, featuring all the play-by-play highlights of the wild affair:
On Friday night we will see what the teams have in store for an encore. Will and I hope you will join on for the broadcast beginning at 6:35 pm, when scheduled starter Aaron Wilkerson joins us on the pregame show.
By Ryan Young
It turns out the summer weather did arrive in Rhode Island prior to Memorial Day weekend and it made for a great week to close out May at McCoy.
All About Pitching
The three PawSox wins on the latest homestand can all be attributed to some great starting pitcher performances.
First came Eduardo Rodriguez‘s fifth and final start of his rehabilitation assignment. He struck out seven, walked none and allowed only one run in seven innings, his best outing for the PawSox. Manager Kevin Boles said he looked both more athletic and comfortable on the mound.
His outing indeed was a good sign as one week later, Rodriguez tossed a quality start to earn the win in his return to Boston.
The next night, Roenis Elias fanned eight to follow up his historic 13-strikeout performance.
Prior to the two outstanding efforts, I spoke with catcher Sandy Leon about what was making some of his battery mates so effective.
Finally on Saturday night, the spotlight shone on Aaron Wilkerson, who had been transferred from Double-A Portland to Pawtucket no more than 24 hours before the game. In his second career Triple-A start (his other came on April 22), he fanned nine Indianapolis batters and allowed only three hits.
After striking out the final batter he faced, Wilkerson left to a nice ovation from the PawSox faithful.
The Sox have to feel pretty confident with the way their rotation is going right now.
On the other hand, Pawtucket had to face some of the best pitching the International League has to offer last week. That included a pair of top prospects in the Pirates organization…
Indianapolis starters Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon each earned the win last weekend. Glasnow flashed an electric curveball and Taillon hurled a dynamic fastball.
In between their starts, I had the pleasure of conducting a special 1-on-2 interview with the Indians’ duo. They spoke about how they helped each other, Taillon’s battle back from Tommy John Surgery, their favorite pitchers growing up (including former Red Sox), dealing with speculation/expectations and growing 11 inches in high school.
When you come out to McCoy, chances are you’ll see major league stars in the making on both sides like these two surely are.
The bubbly South African, Gift Ngoepe, also made his McCoy debut this week and if you haven’t head of him, you must read his backstory.
All Around McCoy
The great weather and post-game fireworks culminated in our largest crowd of the season on Sunday evening.
Additionally, fans were able to check out the opening of Mondor Way last weekend. Some checked out the festivities in front of the ballpark while others got an early peek at batting practice from along the left field line.
By the end of Saturday night, one of the many fans who entered McCoy this weekend even stole the spotlight during the game.
And then literally three minutes later the spotlight was stolen again–this time by a squirrel that made its presence known on the field for several minutes. Justin Maxwell tried to chase it off the field, but it finally found its way under the wall just in time to resume the game after a pitching change.
Other Notes and Thoughts
With Will Flemming away for the weekend, we had PawSox President Dr. Charles Steinberg and Treasurer Jeff White fill in on the PawSox Radio Network over the weekend. They also both came out with us to the left field terrace for the pregame show.
They did so well as broadcasters (play-by-play included) that I’m actually quite surprised they let Will come back this week.
Pawtucket played its final series with the IronPigs until August. Nobody on earth can be more disappointed than Chris Marrero. He has gone 16-for-37 with five doubles, four home runs, 13 RBI and 10 R in 10 games against Lehigh Valley. That included a big swing of the bat on Tuesday, when he provided the “blast” part of a game-winning “bloop-and-a-blast” with two outs in the eighth inning.
Patrolling the Outfield
I mentioned how great Blake Swihart looked in left field in my last blog post and he has taken his defense to the majors. He fit in with a strong (and large) group of solid defensive outfielders this year for the PawSox.
One of those outfielders is Ryan LaMarre. I spoke with him about his defense, Swihart, his offensive success this season (did you know Ryan is batting well over .300?) and who keeps the team lose.
LaMarre also admitted that hitting in front of Sam Travis in the lineup over the last couple weeks certainly has assisted him offensively.
Unfortunately, Travis is out for the season after his injury on Sunday. It was such a privilege to be able to watch him play over the first two months of this season. I have no doubt Sam will be back stronger than ever next season, especially with the effort he gives and his work ethic. I’m very excited for what the future has in store for him.
I’m also excited for the next homestand. You might have heard about Free Brady Friday and a visit from Patriots players on Monday and Tuesday. You might as well join us for the fun.
by Josh Maurer
This week the Red Sox will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the famous American League pennant-winning club from 1986. There will be plenty of pomp and circumstance at Fenway as many members of that popular club return to Boston for a couple of nights.
From the Red Sox official press release detailing the events:
“On Wednesday, May 25, close to 30 members of the 1986 Red Sox team will come together at Fenway Park to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the pennant-winning season. Led by American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens and American League batting champion Wade Boggs, the club won 95 games during the regular season before defeating the California Angels in the American League Championship Series.
The following night on Thursday, May 26, in ceremonies taking place before the Red Sox-Rockies game, the club will retire Wade Boggs’s number 26. Boggs helped lead the Red Sox to three postseason berths, including the 1986 American League Championship. The Hall of Famer’s .338 batting average with the Red Sox is second only to Ted Williams, and no one has ever played more games at third base in team history. He was an eight-time All-Star during his 11 seasons as Boston’s third baseman from 1982-92, and during his Red Sox career, he led all major leaguers in batting average (.338), hits (2,098), doubles (422), on-base percentage (.428), and times reaching base safely (3,124), and also topped the American League in OPS (.890).”
One member of that club who will be around for the festivities is current PawSox hitting coach Rich Gedman, the catcher in that memorable season. Geddy was an AL All-Star that season, playing in 135 games and batting .258 with 16 home runs and 65 RBIs.
That year in the ALCS against the Angels, Gedman played in all 7 games of the come-from-behind series win and hit .357 with a homer and six RBIs. He also homered and played in all seven games during the World Series loss to the Mets.
Recently I sat down with Rich to talk about his memories of that incredible season, his thoughts on the upcoming two-day reunion and his feelings about former teammate Wade Boggs getting his number retired at Fenway. You can listen to the entire conversation below:
It’s always a great listen when Mr. Gedman talks baseball. I will look forward to watching him enjoy his time with his former teammates this week.
The PawSox dropped three of four this weekend in Buffalo, the final two of which came on walkoff hits by the Bisons in the bottom of the ninth inning. Up next is a six-game homestand that begins Tuesday night against Lehigh Valley.
Eduardo Rodriguez will re-start his MLB rehab assignment for the Red Sox and make his fifth appearance with Pawtucket this year. It should be fun to watch him pitch and see how the knee responds after being shut down for over one week.
Hope to see you at McCoy this week for the games against the Iron Pigs and then Indianapolis. If not, as always, Will and I will talk to you on the radio. Have a great Monday!