by Josh Maurer
At the beginning of this season, the PawSox starting rotation was being touted as one of the best in Minor League Baseball. Guys like Matt Barnes and Eduardo Rodriguez were headlining a five-man group that fans felt could compete with some of the lower-end major league units.
But soon Barnes, Rodriguez and Steven Wright went to Boston. And the names in the Pawtucket rotation were not turning as many heads every time the team rolled into a new city.
Now, after recent changes at made at the top by Boston, the PawSox starting pitching group seems as robust as it has all year. How about this for a group of five: Brian Johnson, Joe Kelly, Steven Wright, Henry Owens and Keith Couch. Zeke Spruill, a 40-man roster member and a reliever all season until last homestand, has also stayed in the rotation because of this week’s doubleheader in Rochester.
Pawtucket’s terrific starting pitching was on full display during last week’s seven-game homestand. Today we’ll take a closer look at how well each starter pitched, starting with a man who many Red Sox fans are calling for to get a big-league opportunity.
Johnson had one of, if not his best, start of the season last Wednesday against Rochester. He allowed only one hit and one unearned run in 6.2 innings of work. The lefty was in complete command of all his pitches, throwing 71 of his 93 pitches for strikes. The only runner who scored reached base on Johnson’s own throwing error.
Brian currently ranks 1st in the IL in wins (8) and WHIP (1.07), 4th in ERA (2.57), T-2 in strikeouts (76) and 4th in opponent batting average (.207). He has followed up his breakout season in Double-A last season with another gem of a first half in 2015. A call up to the next level may not be too far away.
Kelly made his PawSox debut on Sunday after being optioned from Boston a few days earlier (Justin Masterson took the right-hander’s spot in the big-league rotation). The Red Sox were hoping for a quick turnaround from a man who was expected to be a huge part of their rotation this season but had struggled, especially of late (final three starts with Boston: 0-1, 6.75 ERA, 14.2 IP, 20 H, 11 R).
Kelly was sharp against Gwinnett on Sunday, tossing seven strong innings and allowing just five hits and two runs (one earned). He struck out four of the first nine batters he faced, but then did not record a punch out after the third inning. Still, pitching on a damp day at McCoy, the former Cardinals hurler made the Gwinnett batters look over-matched for much of the afternoon.
Wright’s first start after being optioned from Boston last week was perhaps his best ever in a Pawtucket uniform. The knuckleballer was unbelievable on Friday night against Gwinnett, tossing a nine-inning complete-game and allowing just one run on four hits. Wright took a two-hit shutout into the ninth, then allowed a single and an unlucky bloop double to plate the game’s lone run.
The amazing thing about Wright’s outing was his command of the knuckleball and ability to throw it for strikes. Steven needed only 87 pitches to get through NINE innings, and 70 of those were strikes. It was a brilliant performance, and one that could get him recalled to Boston in the very near future.
Owens could not hold an early 3-0 lead against Rochester on Thursday night, giving up two runs in the fourth and then a game-tying home run in the fifth inning to the Red Wings. He lasted a season-high 6.2 innings and threw a season-high 103 pitches in the outing, giving up three runs and five hits while walking only one and punching out six. And check out the great camo-colored uniform he wore on Armed Services Night.
Owens’ command has improved greatly of late. While he still leads the IL with 46 walks issued, the lefty has only issued four bases on balls in 19 innings over his last four outings (Last 3 starts (6/14-pres): 0-0, 2.84 ERA (19.0 IP, 13 H, 6 R/6 ER, 4 BB, 14 K). Owens has been ridiculously hard to get hits against all season, and he still leads all IL hurlers in opponent batting average (.195).
Couch, maybe the forgotten man in the PawSox rotation, had arguably his best outing of the season last homestand when he no-hit Rochester for the first six innings of the contesst on Tuesday night. Couch, who would end up allowing two runs in the seventh to tie the contest, pitched 6.2 innings on June 23rd and allowed just two earned runs and three hits.
While his season win/loss record stands at 3-7, Couch has generally pitched well enough to keep his team in the game when he has taken the ball. He has pitched at least five innings and allowed three runs or fewer in seven of last nine starts (beginning May 12). He should remain in the Pawtucket rotation moving forward regardless of changes made to the rest of the group.
Pretty impressive starting rotation, huh? The PawSox will look for continued success from their hurlers in a difficult week in which they will play nine games in the next eight days (four at Rochester Monday through Wednesday, two vs. Scranton on Thursday and Friday, three at Syracuse Saturday through Monday).
Hope to talk to you on the radio from Rochester for Monday’s doubleheader. Pregame coverage for game one (a continuation of a rain-suspended game from June 5th with the Red Wings leading 1-0 after two innings) begins at 4:50pm.
Have a great start to the week!
by Josh Maurer
On Thursday morning the Red Sox promoted three Pawtucket players – Jackie Bradley, Jr., Deven Marrero and Jonathan Aro – to replace Dustin Pedroia (disabled list), Joe Kelly (optioned) and Erik Kratz (designated for assignment). So today I thought I’d take a close look at the season all three of those players have put together for PawSox.
Jackie Bradley, Jr.:
Simply put, Jackie has been an MVP candidate in the International League (and perhaps the favorite for the award). He is the overall IL leading vote getter (among position players) for the Triple-A All-Star Game. Bradley is currently second in the league in batting average (.322), second in on-base percentage (.398) and fourth in slugging percentage (.468).
Mix all of that in with his usual gold glove-type defense and you can make an easy argument that Jackie has been the best player in the IL this season. Check out the catch Bradley made at McCoy Stadium on Tuesday night:
UPDATE: Here is a great column from terrific baseball writer Richard Justice speaking about Bradley’s promotion. I agree with just about all of his points.
Here are the bullet points on Bradley from the PawSox game notes:
Had 6th 3-hit game of season on 6/23 vs. ROC…Has started 27 of team’s 28 games since return from MLB (5/25-pres, day off 6/14), those 27: 32-for-106 (.302), 14 BB, 3 HR, 9 2B…Hit walk-off RBI 2B in 12th in on 6/12 vs. TOL…Had 19-game on-base streak & 9-gm hitting streak snapped 6/6 in SYR…15-game stretch from 4/27-6/2: 9 multi-hit, 26-61 (.426), 3 HR, 5 2B…Hit HR and 2B on 5/27 vs. M. Tanaka (SWB) in 1st 2 inn of game…Promoted to BOS on 5/10, played in 6 games, went 0-for-11 w.2 K, optioned back 5/22 (R. Castillo recalled)…Promoted to BOS on 4/28, optioned back 4/29 (DNP)…Hit leadoff in 18 of first 19 games (4/9-4/27).
Marrero has had somewhat of an up-and-down campaign, both with his bat and his glove. He has gone through some extreme hot and cold streaks offensively, and at the time of his first big-league promotion was just 4-for-23 (.174) with five strikeouts in his last six games played for Pawtucket.
Deven has also made a PawSox-leading 15 errors, most of which have come at shortstop. It’s interesting – Marrero has the ability to make spectacular plays at short but this season has shown some very atypical lapses in being able to complete the routine ones. I don’t think the error totals are anything to worry about long term; I assume his recent defensive issues will be temporary.
Here is Marrero’s in-season summary from the PawSox game notes:
Snapped a 0-for-8 with a 3-for-4 night on 6/23 vs. ROC; Has 5 multi-hit games over last 14 games played (only had 1 multi-H gm from 5/16-6/6)…Had 8 SBs on 5/16, only 1 since…6/7 at SYR: 3-for-4, BB, HR off D. Fister…9-game stretch from 5/29-6/6: 4-for-29, 2 BB, 4 K…Batted 2nd in 5 straight games from 6/1-6/6…IND/LOU trip 5/18-5/24 (5 games): 3-for-22, BB, 8 K…7-game stretch from 5/9-5/15: 10-for-23 (.435), 4 BB, HR, 2B, 4 RBI…Started 19 str games before off day 5/18 in Indy (4/28-5/17)…9-game stretch from 4/29-5/8: 3-for-32, HR, 2 RBI, 11 K…Batted above 6th in batting order for 1st 2 times in Triple-A career on 5/2 & 5/6 (2nd)…Played 3B for the first time in career 5/6 at TOL…Played first career game anywhere other than at SS when started at 2B on 4/25 at SWB…Reached base safely in 1st 9 games (4/9-4/19, .321 BA).
Aro is the most interesting promotion of the bunch. At this time last season the right-hander was pitching for Low-A Greenville in the South Atlantic League. After beginning this year with Double-A Portland, he earned a quick promotion to Pawtucket in May and after a couple of shaky early outings Aro has been unhittable.
Aro has not given up a run since May 18th, tossing eight straight scoreless appearances that spanned at total of 19 innings. Most impressive has been his strikeout/walk ratio: which in 22.1 innings pitched has been 30 punch outs and just 3 bases on balls.
He has shown the ability to miss a lot of bats despite not generally throwing his fastball harder than 92-93 miles per hour. Aro has advanced through the Boston system about as quickly as any player in recent memory. It will be interesting to see how fast he adjusts to MLB hitters.
Here are the Aro vitals from the PawSox game notes:
Last 8 appearances (5/21-pres): 0-0, SV, 0.00 ERA (19.0 IP, 10 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 27 K)…Recorded first Triple-A save with 3.0 scoreless IP on 6/19 at GWN (2H, 1BB, 5K)…Pitched multiple innings in his first 9 appearances with PAW…Made Triple-A debut on 5/15 vs. COL and allowed 3R and 4H in 2IP (inherited 5-0 lead in 7th inn)…Promoted to PAW on 5/14…Appeared in 8 games with Portland (all in relief) and went 3-2 with a 2.82 ERA (22.1 IP, 15 H, 12 R, 7 ER, 8 BB, 19 K)…Held opponents to a .181 batting average.
So there you have the information on the three newest members of the Boston roster. In other news, Pawtucket has announced that recently-optioned pitchers Steven Wright and Joe Kelly are going to join the PawSox rotation.
Wright will start on Friday night at McCoy Stadium against Gwinnett, while Kelly will make his Pawtucket debut on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 versus the G-Braves. They join Brian Johnson, Henry Owens and Zeke Spruill in the five-man rotation, with Jess Todd moving to the Pawtucket pen.
Thursday night is Armed Services Night at McCoy; one of the most moving and inspirational nights to be held at the ballpark annually. Make sure to get your tickets at pawsox.com, or come in person to the box office prior to the contest – first pitch is slated for 7:05pm.
Hope to see you at McCoy this weekend. If not, as always, Will and I will speak to you on the radio with all the broadcast coverage. Thanks for reading!
by Will Flemming (@WillFlemming)
The PawSox rolled into McCoy Stadium a little after 3 A.M. on Monday morning on the heels of a six-game road swing through Charlotte and Gwinnett. So the offense deserves a pass after a 3-2 loss in the series opener to Tyler Duffey (who was impressive for the second straight start) and the Rochester Red Wings. Zeke Spruill was solid in his first official start in 2015; he retired the first nine hitters Monday night, gave Pawtucket five innings and allowed only one run. He wobbled a little the second time through the order but made big pitches to limit the Wings to the single run; as Spruill gets truly stretched out, his ability to work through a lineup two and three times will dictate his tenability as a starter.
Once Spruill was lifted, Edwin Escobar came in and had his second straight shaky outing. If there is one key hurdle that stands out as Escobar works back to full health, it is the leadoff batter: in four consecutive innings, Escobar has allowed the leadoff man to reach base (three walks and a double). All four of those runners have scored. The good news from last night: Edwin can build off his strong seventh-inning finish. After a pair of doubles had plated a run, Escobar buckled in and got a groundout before he struck out Eric Fryer to end the inning.
The next two men out of the bullpen were predictably dominant. Jonathan Aro continued his incredible run and extended his scoreless innings streak to 19 (look for a more in-depth post on Jonathan later this week). After a pair of strikeouts ended the 8th, Aro handed the baseball to Matt Barnes. Barnes showed off a cutter, a brand-new weapon that has been deadly for him. In his first appearance with Pawtucket after being optioned back, Barnes struck out all five Charlotte hitters he faced – and relied heavily on the cutter in so doing. Last night in the ninth, he fanned a pair – the first on a cutter, the second on a wicked curveball. You can check out the video of that appearance here:
The other revelation from the roadtrip was Carlos Peguero. Peguero – whom the Red Sox acquired in a trade on May 27, designated for assignment on June 4 and signed to a minor-league deal on June 15 – had a series for the ages in Gwinnett. In three games against the Braves’ AAA affiliate, Peguero blasted three home runs and drove in ten runs with seven hits in twelve at-bats. Here is an audio montage of the wreckage bestowed by Peguero at CoolRay Field:
It’s no secret why Carlos found a new nickname for the plane ride home; The Babe had earned it.
Pat Light has emerged as a serious weapon in the Pawtucket bullpen. Though Light allowed his first runs with Pawtucket on the roadtrip, some extenuating circumstances contributed to the righthander’s first hiccup. There are times when a schedule laid out by the parent club mandates an outing in a lower leverage situation. Such was the case when Light was summoned to pitch in Charlotte, with the PawSox trailing 13-3. After having grown accustomed to pitching late in tight games, Light surrendered his first two runs on three hits. Pat and I had spoken before the game; that interview is below.
The Sox spent Fathers’ Day in Gwinnett. Every one of us has a special story of the role our dad has played in our lives and how they’ve guided our baseball journey. Perhaps none is more direct than the PawSox’ skipper Kevin Boles, whose father John is a lifelong baseball executive and managed the Marlins on two separate occasions. We spoke with Kevin about that relationship before Sunday’s game:
Some other links before Game 2 of the series with the Wings tonight at 7:05:
Keith Law went to Greenville to scout Yoan Moncada, and came away in awe of Rafael Devers.
It’s amazing what one offensive eruption can do to the mood of a club (and to that of the horde that covers them). After 8 doubles, 3 homers and a barrage from the top 3 hitters Sunday in KC, Jason Mastrodonato is one of many who suddenly sees signs of hope for the Sox.
The Red Sox continue to wait for Joe Kelly to master his pitch mix, and Carl Willis thinks the proliferation of hard throwers in every bullpen has posed a challenge for Kelly, writes Tim Britton.
Ryan Hanigan had three at-bats for the Sox last night as he works his way back from a broken knuckle. Hanigan is progressing toward catching consecutive games, and won’t be eliegible to come off the 60-day DL until July 1.
One last thing: Allen Craig has been a class act from the moment he arrived in Pawtucket, and he was at his best again on Sunday. I was lucky to have my Uncle Paul and my cousin Avery come join me in Gwinnett; Avery is a huge Cardinals fan and was eager to see Allen with the PawSox. When we came back from a Fathers’ Day brunch on Sunday, Allen was in the hotel lobby waiting for the team bus. I asked him if he could take a moment to meet Avery; not only did he oblige, but he engaged with Avery, asked him about being a Cardinals fan and took a picture with him. Here’s that shot of Craig with my cousin, who was tongue tied and had the kind of boyhood memory he will cherish forever. So thanks to Allen for making Avery’s day (and year):
Keith Couch takes the ball for the PawSox tonight at 7:05. Josh and I will catch you on the pregame show at 6:50.
by Josh Maurer
The PawSox return to McCoy Stadium Monday night to open a big seven-game homestand that begins with four games against Rochester. Pawtucket (34-36) will become very familiar with the Red Wings (35-33) over the next week and a half, playing eight of their upcoming 11 games against the North Division rivals.
The two teams are currently fighting for second place in the division standings, as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (41-30) has taken command of first at the moment with a great run in June. Rochester was swept in a four-game series by the PawSox back on April 16-19, the first home series of the season.
On Tuesday, Pawtucket will reach the halfway mark of the season as it plays game #72. While the team is currently under .500 for the campaign at 34-36, recent history suggests the squad still has a good opportunity to make a run at the postseason.
In 2014, the PawSox stood at 35-37 through 72 games but then finished 44-27 in the second half of the season and went on to win the Governor’s Cup championship. In 2013 the squad finished 36-35 in the second half. It will be interesting to see how this year’s club performs over the next two months.
Kevin Boles’ team is currently in a stretch of playing 26 straight days leading into the All-Star Break next month. I think the way the team performs during the next three weeks, while battling mostly divisional opponents, will go a long way towards determining whether or not it will remain in the playoff hunt in 2015.
Speaking of Boles, congratulations go out to the PawSox skipper for being named a coach for the International League team in next month’s Triple-A All-Star Game. He will work with Syracuse Manager Billy Gardner, Jr. during the game that will be played in Omaha, Nebraska.
Bolesy told me he is very excited for the opportunity to get out there and see all the great players involved with such a high-level All-Star contest. I think getting to interact with some of the best players and coaches that Minor League Baseball has to offer has to be one of the best parts of participating in a game like that.
Over the past two weeks I’ve gotten to interact with two prominent figures from baseball’s past; two men who were often controversial yet each a terrific player in his own right.
During the last homestand, four-time World Champion Darryl Strawberry was at McCoy Stadium as part of an appearance with his “Strawberry Ministries.” Darryl’s life has really taken on new meaning in recent years, as you’ll hear in the interview below, having become an ordained minister along with his wife Tracy.
He doesn’t spend much time thinking about baseball these days. Check out the conversation from the PawSox Insider show:
When the PawSox were in Charlotte last week, the Knights had brought in former Red Sox Cy Young Award winner Bill Lee to sign autographs for fans and meet with players from each team. “The Spaceman” is still his old outlandish self; he is not afraid to say anything and everything that comes to his mind.
We chatted before Tuesday’s game about everything from his current relationship with the Boston brass to his thoughts on Eduardo Rodriguez’s electric start to his MLB career and even how Bill would turn around the big-league Red Sox. Check out the interview below:
Reports say Boston catcher Ryan Hanigan may join the PawSox to begin an MLB rehab assignment this week at McCoy. Hanigan fractured his knuckle back on May 1st, prompting the Red Sox to call up Blake Swihart from Pawtucket.
Blake has been Boston’s number one catcher ever since, although his injured his foot on Saturday night in Kansas City. One wonders what the Red Sox will decide to do with the catching situation once Hanigan is fully healthy.
On Monday night, righty Zeke Spruill will try and make a strong first impression as he moves into the PawSox starting rotation and gets the ball for Kevin Boles. Spruill has been a reliever all year (save for one start earlier this month that was suspended by rain), however previously in his career he had been mostly used in a starting role.
Hope to see you at the ballpark this week. If not, Will and I will look forward to talking with you on the radio. Happy homestand!
by Will Flemming
Caddyshack was the comedy soundtrack of my childhood. I watched it more than any other film, memorized most of the script, and quoted it constantly to friends and family. ‘Big hitter, the Lama… long.’ ‘A flute with no holes is not a flute; a donut with no hole is a danish.’ ‘Hey baby you must’ve been something before electricity.’
So when I learned that Wednesday was Caddyshack night at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, a lot of memories came back to me. All the times I watched it on family vacations, the countless laughs I shared with my brother, my father and my uncles re-living the hilarity at Bushwood Country Club.
Michael O’Keefe, the actor who played Danny Noonan, would be at the ballpark. I took a flier and reached out to Tommy Viola, the fabulous director of media relations with the Knights to see if I could have a few minutes with Noonan. Tommy almost immediately replied: “Not a problem at all. I’ll be happy to set you up with him.”
This was an interview for which I would not need much preparation. Even though I had never met O’Keefe, it felt like I was going to sit down with an old friend.
Sure enough, around 3:30 on Wednesday, Michael walked into the press box at BB&T. Tommy made an introduction, and we settled into the auxiliary broadcast booth. I was tempted to open with “This isn’t Russia. Is this Russia?” We launched into an effortless, fascinating conversation. We spoke for 15 minutes before recording the official interview. Michael told me about his stint on Homeland, how he was in awe of the preparation and professionalism of Claire Danes from the moment he set foot on the set. He spoke of his commitment to meditation, and the ways in which it has impacted his life and his perspective as a new father. He even shared some great behind-the-scenes stories about Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase.
You can hear our full interview here; I am so grateful to Michael for being friendly, gracious and generous with his time. Later in the evening, I introduced my uncle Luther – who lives in Charlotte and had initially introduced me to Caddyshack – to O’Keefe, which was a wonderful, full-circle moment.
On Tuesday, Justin Masterson – one of the few players currently with the PawSox old enough to remember Caddyshack as I do – put forth another strong outing. He went six innings and allowed just two runs in the band-box that is BB&T Ballpark. His second consecutive steady start begged an obvious question: what is next for Masterson?
NESN’s Zach Cox explored the decision facing the Red Sox as Masterson’s time on the DL draws to a close.
The Globe’s Pete Abraham indicated in his piece that the Sox are likely to make a decision soon, and that John Farrell thinks Masterson has done enough to warrant a spot on the Boston roster.
Tonight in Charlotte, the PawSox give the ball to Keith Couch and hope to salvage the finale of this three-game series. The status of Bryce Brentz is unknown; he left the game with a left thumb injury last night after singling in the go-ahed run in the seventh. You can watch the play here:
In the last three games (all losses after a four-game winning streak) the PawSox have left 31 runners on base. The bright side, of course, is that the Sox are giving themselves myriad opportunities to score.
A few other notes from Charlotte: in the 106th home game at their new home, the Knights welcomed their millionth fan. We will have an in-depth look at one of the IL’s crown jewels later in the week – and explore the many ways it offers a glimpse into what PawSox fans could have in downtown Providence.
A night after his older brother won the NBA championship with the Warriors, Trayce Thompson had a big night. He’s now hit four of his nine homers against the PawSox.
And Kevin Boles has been named the manager for the International League in the All Star Game in Omaha. A well deserved honor for the skipper. We’ll get Bolesy’s thoughts on the honor and share them on the broadcast tonight.
Josh and I will talk to you at 6:50 tonight on WHJJ and throughout the PawSox radio network.
Until then, be the ball.
by Josh Maurer
The search for answers with the big league club in Boston has had John Farrell and Ben Cherington shuffling the roster frequently in recent days. By nature of the business, all of that movement is making a big impact on the PawSox roster.
So as the team heads south to Charlotte on Tuesday, I thought I’d try to catch you up on some upcoming changes to the Pawtucket club.
–Matt Barnes was optioned back to the PawSox on Sunday morning. Barnes, who allowed a game-winning home run Saturday to Toronto’s Russell Martin, had been given a key setup role in the Boston bullpen this season but had a few shaky outings in June.
Overall in 15 relief appearances for the Red Sox, Barnes went 2-2 with a 4.24 ERA in 17 innings of work. Even though he began the season in the PawSox starting rotation, I would expect Barnes to be in the bullpen with the team for the near future.
–Travis Shaw, who got an at-bat with Boston on Sunday afternoon, was optioned back to Pawtucket Monday so the Red Sox could activate Craig Breslow from the Paternity Leave List. Shaw rejoins the PawSox for Tuesday’s game in Charlotte after his second one-game stint in the big leagues.
That also means that reliever Heath Hembree will stay with Boston for now. Hembree pitched well in two appearances against the Blue Jays last weekend, pitching a total of four scoreless innings and allowing only one hit.
–Justin Masterson will make the fourth start of his MLB rehab assignment (and third with the PawSox) on Tuesday night in Charlotte. The Knights new home, BB&T Field, is a hitter’s paradise and thus should provide a great test to see if Masterson is ready to return to the major leagues.
–Carlos Peguero, who was designated for assignment by Boston when the team traded for Alejandro De Aza, cleared waivers and elected to become a free agent. Peguero then decided to sign a minor league deal with the Red Sox and has been assigned to Pawtucket.
–Brandon Workman underwent successful Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Monday. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, FL. Workman had been with the PawSox coming out of spring training and was expected to be in the team’s bullpen, but never pitched in a game this season before being shut down with the elbow injury.
–Jeff Bianchi was designated for assignment by Boston for a second time this season, as the Red Sox needed to recall a pitcher for Monday’s game with Atlanta (Robbie Ross re-joined the Boston bullpen for his fifth different stint this season). Should Bianchi clear waivers, it’s quite possible he will be back with the PawSox in a week or so.
-Former PawSox infielder Luis Jimenez has had his contract purchased by a team in Korea. The man known as “Lucho” was placed on the Temporarily Inactive List on June 6th. In 14 games with Pawtucket, Jimenez hit a pair of home runs but was only batting .140. I wish him all the best.
Lots of news for a three-day period, right?!? The PawSox series in Charlotte begins at 7:05pm on Tuesday night. Our radio pregame coverage gets underway at 6:50 on WHJJ and across the PawSox Radio Network. Will and I will talk to you then!
by Will Flemming
The PawSox saw their four-game losing streak snapped on Sunday afternoon – but not for a lack of opportunities. The Sox had 16 baserunners in the game, and in six of the nine innings put more than one man aboard. In many ways, however, the story of Sunday – and of the week – was written an hour before the first pitch of the series finale, when Travis Shaw was recalled to Boston. It is impossible to see Shaw’s promotion as anything but well deserved; Shaw has been on an absolute tear and has been – along with Jackie Bradley, Jr. – the most dangerous and consistent hitter in the Pawtucket lineup.
As we packed the equipment for the roadtrip to Charlotte and Gwinnett, Shaw got an opportunity as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning on an otherwise forgettable day at Fenway. And even though it will look in the box score like a harmless fly-out, it was anything but that. Shaw displayed the composure and approach he honed over the last month in Pawtucket. Against the lefthander Phil Coke, Travis fell behind 0-2. He then battled like we saw so many times at McCoy. He took ball one, then fouled off two pitches. When Coke offered his sixth, Shaw ripped a fastball to the gap in left-centerfield. Ezequiel Carrera made a fantastic running catch, robbing Shaw of his first big-league hit.
Here’s the pitch/FX scatter chart of that excellent plate appearance:
I know John Farrell took notice of the quality of that at-bat; I would not be at all surprised to see Shaw’s name on tonight’s lineup card. And don’t forget another underrated aspect of Travis’s game – his defense. Shaw played 30 games at third (at a .988 fielding pct. with just one error), 22 games at first base (.995, 1) and three games in the outfield (1.000, 0). His agility is impressive, and the accuracy of his throws from every position has always been excellent.
Consider these numbers: Shaw has more than one hit in 11 of his last 22 games. He has been on base 26 times in his last 13 contests. Shaw is 30 for his last 83 (.361) with two homers and ten runs scored. The versatile left-handed hitter has the PawSox’ last two three-run games.
One other note about Travis’s second stint in the big leagues: When he made his debut in Toronto, because he got such late notice (and figured it would be a one-game stint), his family was not able to make the trip. His father Jeff – a successful big-league reliever himself – can hopefully be at Fenway tonight and tomorrow.
On Sunday, the PawSox left 11 on base, which tied the season high in a nine-inning game (the other was Monday, the first game of the homestand). The PawSox consistently put themselves in a position to score runs throughout the seven-game stint at McCoy, in which they won four games. In the four Toledo games Pawtucket rapped out 38 hits, including three homers, five doubles and a triple.
Other notes from the homestand: Pat Light has a chance to be special – and to get to Boston soon. Check back later this week for a more in-depth look at Light.
Jemile Weeks is likely to come off the DL on the upcoming roadtrip. The obvious domino effect question: what will Weeks’ return mean for Mike Miller? With Shaw in Boston, Miller’s roster spot is likely secure. If Shaw were to return, Miller could head back to Portland. I spoke with him about that on Friday; Mike says he is proud of the job he’s done in Pawtucket, and understands the numbers game. And he should be: Miller is 6 for his last 13 and has played excellent defense at both second base and shortstop.
The Sox enjoy their final off day today before a string of 26 straight takes us to the All Star break. Check back here throughout the week – we will be in touch from Charlotte and Gwinnett.