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A Slice of Heaven in the Heartland

by Will Flemming (@WillFlemming)

The PawSox completed their first swing through the West Division on Sunday, a 3-3 roadtrip to Toledo and Columbus.  Along the way, the Sox saw three huge pieces (Jackie Bradley, Jr., Matt Barnes and Steven Wright) promoted to Boston, witnessed Travis Shaw make his Major League debut in Toronto and took their first look at two of the crown jewel ballparks in the International League.  In many ways, Huntington Park in Columbus embodies the vision of the PawSox new ownership group and Baseball Rhode Island.  A spectacular stadium in the heart of downtown Columbus, Huntington Park has become a cornerstone in a revitalized commercial district and provides the people of Ohio’s capital with breathtaking and affordable entertainment.   In this edition of 45 Miles from Fenway, we will look back at the week gone by and bring you a 360-degree tour of the marvelous home of the Clippers.

Let’s begin with my favorite moment of the week.  It’s 4:00 on Wednesday afternoon, and we are sitting on the bus outside Fifth Third Field in Toledo (another gorgeous monument to the wonder of modern, downtown ballparks).  I’m one bite into my first ever chili dog from Tony Packo’s, a Toledo institution.  How I missed these dogs in all my trips to Toledo with Indianapolis is beyond me, but I am in Josh’s debt for introducing me to these:

It is impossible to make a better chili dog than Tony Packo's

It is impossible to make a better chili dog than Tony Packo’s

Everyone is on the bus except for one man – the manager, Kevin Boles.  The skipper boards the bus and calls to Travis Shaw.  A murmur percolates through the bus; “Is he?” “Do you think?” “Hope you packed your passport!”  A moment later, Travis returns to the bus and calmly breaks the news: “I’m going to Toronto.”  David Ortiz had lost his appeal and would miss Friday night’s game at the Rogers Center, and Shaw was being brought to the big leagues to play first base in the series opener.  He had indeed brought his passport, and he was off to realize a lifelong dream.  Travis was 0-for-3 with a walk in his big-league debut on May 8 and rejoined the club the next day in Columbus – which is 30 miles from his hometown of Washington Courthouse, Ohio.  We chatted with Travis the afternoon he returned; here’s what he had to say not 24 hours after his first MLB game:

Travis had spearheaded the three-game sweep in Toledo with six RBIs and a three-run, opposite-field home run…. there’s something about Shaw in the Buckeye State.

The PawSox were swept in the series in Columbus – the middle game of which was as wild as you will ever see, featuring three ejections, a controversial sacrifice fly that tied the game and a walk-off loss in the 10th.  Before that crazy affair, I sat down for an extended conversation with Rich Gedman, the PawSox hitting coach.  Rich is a bit of a philosopher, and he touched on a wide range of fascinating topics:

We taped that interview inside Huntington Park, which is on the short list for best ballparks in the IL.  It sits at the end of Nationwide Boulevard in the heart of a rejuvenated neighborhhod.  The walk down the tree-lined boulevard from the hotel to the yard displays a perfect marriage between city and ballpark.   The Arena District, as it is called, bustles with activity before, during and after games.

The entrance to the Arena District, chock full of bars and restaurants

The entrance to the Arena District, chock full of bars and restaurants

Along the boulevard, a swath of local businesses are thriving.  Every day, you walk past people enjoying all the the District has to offer:

Hours before the game people are buzzing around the ballpark

Hours before the game people are buzzing around the ballpark

On the approach to the ballpark, fans are greeted by a tribute to Harold Cooper, a Columbus institution and the namesake for the Clippers’ erstwhile home:

Harold Cooper, the father of baseball in Columbus

Harold Cooper, the father of baseball in Columbus

The sightlines inside Huntington Park are breathtaking.  The view from behind home plate in the broadcast position showcases the downtown skyline; you can close your eyes and imagine the buildings of Providence towering above the Seekonk River:

One of the better views anywhere in baseball

One of the better views anywhere in baseball

Directly behind home plate, fans gather in the best bar in the league.  Flat screen TVs, a full bar and an uninterrupted view of the park beckon:

Right behind home plate in CBus  - what a setup

Right behind home plate in CBus – what a setup

One thing I love about Huntington Park: the open-air concourses throughout.  Fans can walk the concourse and when the mood strikes, sidle up to a vendor without missing a second of the action:

Hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, and a view of the field at all times

Hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, and a view of the field at all times

As in most new ballparks, both outfield corners offer fabulous group picnic areas.  On all three nights, the corners teemed with birthday parties, bachelorette parties and corporate outings throughout these wonderful alcoves:

Birthday party? Bachelorette Party? They've got you covered

Birthday party? Bachelorette Party? They’ve got you covered

Off in the distance, you can see one of the unique features of HP – within the brick building behind left field, the Clippers have built out a restaurant/bar and their Team Store.  These offer yet another distinctive vantage point:

Quite a spot to shop for Clippers gear

Quite a spot to shop for Clippers gear

High above the left field wall, a restaurant in a building that brings the Warehouse at Camden Yards to mind

High above the left field wall, a restaurant in a building that brings the Warehouse at Camden Yards to mind

Throughout the open-air concourses in Columbus, the Clips pay homage to their history and many of their great players:

A nod to the Clippers of years gone by

A nod to the Clippers of years gone by

From field level, you get a true sense of the enormity of the downtown skyline and can bask in all of Huntington Park’s glory:

Kevin Boles had this view for three May days

Kevin Boles had this view for three May days

I said this on the air and meant it:  every PawSox fan owes it to themselves to visit Huntington Park.   Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada didn’t play at Huntington Park, but their spirit is celebrated there.  There is an energy inside Huntington Park – an electricity that is emanates through the thousands of fans who walk through its doors every night.  They experience affordable, entertaining baseball in a yard that feels as big-league as any park anywhere.   Hours before the first pitch and hours after, they pour into local business. They turn a three-hour ballgame into an entire evening with friends; every minute we spent there was a treat, too.

Westward Ho! PawSox Hit The Road

by Josh Maurer

After enjoying their first scheduled off-day of the season, the Pawtucket squad is heading to Ohio for a six-game trip at Toledo and Columbus.  This continues a stretch that began last weekend in which the team will play 23 consecutive games out of their division.

Toledo Park

A view of Fifth Third Field in Toledo, OH from my hotel room straight across the street!

Perhaps its a good time for a change of scenery for the PawSox.  While the team just completed a 4-3 homestand and still sits at 15-10 overall, the offense has sputtered for the past two weeks.

Over the last 15 games (beginning on Sunday April 19th) Pawtucket is hitting just .201 (88-438) and is averaging just 2.9 runs per game (43 total runs).  The team has only scored more than four runs in one of those 15 games and only collected more than six hits in four.

They say hitting is contagious, and right now it seems much of the PawSox roster is in a bit of an offensive funk.  Rusney Castillo (0-for-11 since returning from DL), Travis Shaw (4-for-35 in his last ten games), Garin Cecchini (3-for-27 since returning from DL) and Deven Marrero (1-for-16 in his last five games) are a few big names who have struggled recently.

Marrero swinging

Deven Marrero is one of the PawSox hitters hoping to turn around some recent struggles at the plate

Of course, the loss of catcher Blake Swihart to the big leagues took away the team’s most productive offensive player to this point.  Swihart was 10th in the IL in hitting (.338) at the time of his promotion, and in his final seven games with the PawSox he went 9-for-22 (.409) with six walks.

Still, with the talent on the Pawtucket roster you have to figure this lineup will start producing more runs and hits in short order.  Perhaps a journey to some hitter-friendly parks in the West Division will be just the remedy for the hitters.

Here are a few other notes to get you ready for the series at Toledo:

-Don’t look now, but Pawtucket’s batting order has continued its constant state of flux that we saw for the entire season in 2014.  Manager Kevin Boles has already used 25 unique starting lineups in the first 25 games (counting batters 1-9 in the order, regardless of defensive position). Last season the squad used 150 unique lineups in its 153 games.

Boles bundled in dugout

Manager Kevin Boles continues to mix and match his lineup cards this season

Matt Spring has done a great job with the bat thus far this season.  After missing the first week on the disabled list, the veteran has started 12 of the team’s 16 games since.  He has collected at least one hit in 11 of his 12 games played (including a current six-game hitting streak).

-Veteran lefty Dana Eveland is doing a great job in a multi-inning bullpen role.  Eveland has not allowed a run over his last eight innings, spanning a total of five appearances.  I chatted with him for this past week’s PawSox Insider show.  I found it interesting that Dana says at this point in his career he would rather be a left-handed specialist.  Check out the full interview below:

Eveland handshake w. Swihart

Dana Eveland has been sharp in the bullpen for the PawSox in his first year with the club

Henry Owens is on the mound tonight for the PawSox.  Radio broadcast coverage begins at 6:15, first pitch from Toledo is slated for 6:30pm.  Talk to you tonight, and a Feliz Cinco de Mayo a todos!

Josh M

Pitching Changes A-Plenty, Rusney Returns!

by Josh Maurer

Happy Wednesday everyone!  The PawSox have won back-to-back games at McCoy against Syracuse and are back with the best record in the International League at 13-7.  The squad continues to win despite some serious roster turnover over the past few days.

With the announcement that relievers Tommy Layne and Dalier Hinojosa have been promoted to Boston on Wednesday, the PawSox pitching staff has seen five players called up to the Majors in the past five days.  Overall six players have been promoted since Saturday.


Matt Barnes was optioned back to Pawtucket on Sunday after pitching two scoreless innings for Boston Saturday in Baltimore

Matt Barnes (Saturday), Heath Hembree (Sunday), Steven Wright (Monday) preceded Layne and Hinojosa, who is making his first foray to the big leagues.  Hinojosa allowed three runs in his first appearance this season, then pitched three straight scoreless outings of exactly two innings from April 15-24th.

It was only a one-day stint with Boston for Barnes, Hembree and Wright as each hurler was promptly optioned back to the PawSox the following day (Barnes and Hembree are back active, Wright should be on Thursday).  We’ll see how long Layne and Hinojosa can stick in the Red Sox bullpen – one that could certainly use some fresh arms.

Steven Wright pitch2

Steven Wright should be back in the PawSox rotation in the next few days

It was also just a one-day stay with the big league club for Jackie Bradley, Jr., who was recalled on Tuesday and optioned back Wednesday afternoon.  Jackie has played so well early in the season – both offensively and of course with his glove – but John Farrell said he would only be used as a reserve in Boston.  It makes sense to have him in Pawtucket playing every day.

There is some more good news for the PawSox outfield, as Rusney Castillo has been activated off the disabled list.  The electrifying native of Cuba had missed the previous 17 games after injuring his right shoulder during the third game of the season in Lehigh Valley.  Castillo adds some serious thump to the order.

Rusney Castillo in dugout in jacket

Rusney Castillo is expected to be back in the lineup for the PawSox on Wednesday night

The PawSox have welcomed several newcomers this week.  Relievers Jess Todd and Robby Scott joined in time to help lead the PawSox to a 4-1 win over Syracuse on Tuesday night.  Todd made a spot start (his first since 2008!) and threw four scoreless innings, while Scott made a trip for Portland in the morning and then earned a win at McCoy with three innings of one-run ball.

Jonathan Roof, a veteran utilityman who had been in Portland to begin the season, came before the start of the homestand and made his PawSox debut on Monday night.  He made a very nice defensive play at second base to help the team to a 3-1 victory.

Finally, Kevin Boles’ squad has lost two players to the disabled list in the past two days. Valuable reliever Noe Ramirez has been placed on the DL Wednesday (retroactive to April 27th) with tightness in his back. Utilityman Jeff Bianchi went on the DL Tuesday with a left shoulder problem.

Got all that?  Good!

If you didn’t get to listen over the weekend, check out my interview with International League President Randy Mobley in which we discussed at length the new pace of play regulations in Triple-A baseball:

Also, a heads up for those of you who live in Central Mass: our PawSox broadcasts on Charter TV 3 are scheduled to begin on Thursday afternoon with a 12:00 matinee against Syracuse.  Check out the complete schedule of games that Charter will air this season right here.

Game three of the seven-game homestand is scheduled for Wednesday night at 6:15 as the PawSox try to take three in a row from visiting Syracuse.  It will be Henry Owens’ fourth start of the season, and he’ll look to improve upon some command issues he has battled over the first three.  Owens has not walked fewer than four batters in a start thus far in 2015.

Henry Owens pitching

Henry Owens is on the bump for the PawSox on Wednesday night

Looking forward to speaking to you on the radio at 6:00pm tonight!

Josh M

A Split in The Electric City

by Will Flemming (@WillFlemming)

In 1880, the Dickson Locomotive Corporation in Scranton, PA illuminated its facility with electric lights.  Six years later, the coal-mining hub built the first network of electric streetcars anywhere in the country, leading the Baptist minister David Spencer to dub Scranton “the Electric City.”

Scranton - It's Electric

In the years since, Scranton has watched the coal industry ebb and flow, and the eastern Pennsylvania town has gained notoriety as the fictional home of “The Office.” Over the last four days, the Pawtucket Red Sox did not go on any paper sales calls with Michael Scott – but they did spend their share of time at the sparkling PNC Field, the renovated home of the Scranton RailRiders.

The PawSox split four games over the last three days after the opener was snowed out.  The series saw another dominant start from Eddie Rodriguez, a three-hit game from Blake Swihart and more impressive contributions from Humberto Quintero.  Garin Cecchini returned off the Disabled List and hit the ball extremely hard three times on Sunday.  You can listen to Humberto’s third big-fly this week below:

Sox manager John Farrell told reporters that Rusney Castillo may DH for Pawtucket as early as Wednesday, according to the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham:

Given that the PawSox saw the promotion of both Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree to Boston throughout the weekend and that they played their third doubleheader in less than two weeks, the club has to feel fine about splitting the four-game set.

Throughout this 2015 season, we are going to take you on virtual tours of many of the new ballparks in the International League.  With a new yard on the horizon for the PawSox, we’ll highlight some of the wonderful features in parks around the circuit.  From dugout suites to party decks to polished club seating, the International League has vaulted the fan experience into the 21st century.

PNC Field was renovated throughout the 2013 season; the seating capacity was reduced to 10,000 fans.  The revamped seating bowl offers fans a far more intimate setting, improved sightlines and better access to the game.

Fewer seats mean better sightlines in Scranton.

Fewer seats mean better sightlines in Scranton.

The RailRiders built bars in both outfield corners.  As you’ll see in later posts from places like Durham and Indianapolis, these terraced bars are a fantastic option for fans: full service bars and restaurants just atop the outfield wall offer a unique and entertaining perspective.

Fans get food and beers hand delivered - a few feet away from the rightfielder.

Fans get food and beers hand delivered – a few feet away from the rightfielder.

Throughout the concourse, PNC Field offers fans a wide range of concessions options; they’ve got all the basics from hot dogs to hamburgers, but adventurous patrons can indulge in gyros, steak-covered fries (a Josh Maurer favorite as you can see below) and local barbeque.

Decadent food options delight fans and broadcasters alike

Decadent food options delight fans and broadcasters alike

After a chocolate milkshake from a local creamery, I was able to roll myself up to the Mohegan Sun Club level.  Fans find a dedicated entryway:

The entryway is nice....

The entryway is nice….

But it’s only once the elevator doors open upstairs that they see the real prize:

Flat screens, granite countertops and a VIP feel welcome you to the Club level

Flat screens, granite countertops and a VIP feel welcome you to the Club level

On Saturday night, fans took in the ‘Riders game, NBA and NHL playoffs and the Yankees/Mets game with a cold drink in hand at this spectacular bar.  Behind the bar, an expansive restaurant beckons:

club restaurant

The corridors of the entire ballpark are decorated with wonderful Yankees’ memorabilia.  These high-end finishes give PNC Field a truly big-league feel:

Joe D, Yogi and The Mick - the history of the Yankees is everywhere

Joe D, Yogi and The Mick – the history of the Yankees is everywhere

The suites themselves are polished and sparkle.  Indoor/Outdoor seating options, customizable menus and waitress service accompany these luxurious boxes:

A bevy of menu options are just one of the many amenities in PNC's suites

A bevy of menu options are just one of the many amenities in PNC’s suites

And when in the suites, the ‘fridge is never far away:

You never have to go far to find food and drink

You never have to go far to find food and drink

Ten steps away from a personal bar, you can find yourself in some of the best seats in the house:

It's hard to find a better seat than these

It’s hard to find a better seat than these

At the end of the suite level, PNC boasts a massive party deck:party deck

In case it’s cold, the ‘Riders have you covered with heaters built into the deck’s roof:

On a cold night in Scranton, they've got you covered (and heated).

On a cold night in Scranton, they’ve got you covered (and heated).

On my walk back down to the clubhouse, Joe D offered one last smile:

On the way to 56, Dimaggio tied Wee Willie Keeler's 44-game streak

On the way to 56, Dimaggio tied Wee Willie Keeler’s 44-game streak

Even the Yankee Clipper would like the clubhouses in Scranton; big-league stall lockers for every player, with the batting cages immediately adjacent:

An expansive clubhouse welcomes players to Scranton

An expansive clubhouse welcomes players to Scranton

All in all, PNC is a great place for fans to watch a ballgame – and for ballplayers to compete in one.

Josh and I look forward to talking to you from McCoy tomorrow night at 6:00 P.M.  First pitch slated for 6:15, and we’ve got a fabulous pitching matchup between Brian Johnson and Syracuse’s A.J. Cole.

Until the pregame show on WHJJ and the PawSox Radio Network, I wish you a goodnight from somewhere on Highway 84.

Where Are They Now; Catching Up On Some 2014 PawSox

by Josh Maurer

As the PawSox get ready to begin their four-game series at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre one day later than expected because of a “snow out” on Thursday night, I thought we would take a look at where some of the members of the 2014 Governors Cup championship team have moved to since the title was clinched last September.

There was a large amount of turnover at the upper levels of the Red Sox minor league system last off-season.  Some of that can be attributed to the normal course of veteran Triple-A players looking for better opportunities with different organizations, but a lot of the turnover came in the form of trades made to provide immediate help to the big league club.

So without further ado – here’s a glimpse at the new surroundings for a good number of 2014 PawSox players.  Let’s start with those who were either traded or claimed off of waivers by a different organization.  These are listed in no particular order.

Alex Hassan: Round Rock Express (Triple-A, Texas Rangers) (waviers)

Alex Hassan

Hassan had quite the eventful off-season.  He was originally claimed off of waivers by Oakland on November 11, 2014.  One month later the Orioles claimed him, but then the As claimed him back at the beginning of spring training.  Finally it was the Rangers who claimed Hassan off of waivers at the end of March.  He is still on their 40-man, but has played the season in Triple A (in 12 games Hassan is batting .233/0/7).

Ryan Lavarnway: Baltimore Orioles (waviers)


Lavarnway had a similar off-season path to that of Hassan.  He was claimed off waivers three times in December; first by the Dodgers, then by the Cubs and finally by the Orioles where he has found a home.  He made the Baltimore opening-day roster as the back-up catcher and in four games played is 1-for-13.

Carlos Rivero: Tacoma Rainiers (Triple-A, Seattle Mariners) (waviers)


Rivero was claimed by Seattle off waivers in November 2014.  He was waived again a month later, cleared, and signed back with the Mariners on a minor league deal in December.  In 14 games with Tacoma thus far he is is off to a hot start, batting .319/2/8.

Dan Butler: Syracuse Chiefs (Washington Nationals) (trade)


Butler was traded to Washington in January for LHP Danny Rosenbaum (who is currently on the PawSox DL).  He had been designated for assignment one week earlier, so the Red Sox worked out a deal to get something in return for the popular catcher.  While still on the Nationals 40-man, Butler is back in the IL currently playing with Syracuse (8 games played, .214/0/5).  We should see him in Pawtucket next week.

Drake Britton: Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs) (waviers)


Britton was claimed off waivers by the Cubs in February, then outrighted to Triple-A Iowa at the end of spring training.  The lefty has appeared in four MiLB games so far and gone 1-2 with a 4.26 ERA.

Rubby De La Rosa: Arizona Diamondbacks (trade)


Rubby was traded (with Allen Webster) back in November in the deal that brought the Red Sox Wade Miley.  De La Rosa made the starting rotation for Arizona to begin the season, and in three starts has gone 2-1 with a 6.00 ERA (18 IP, 23 H, 13 R).

Allen Webster: Reno Aces (Arizona Diamondbacks) (trade)


Webster was also part of the November deal that brought the Red Sox Wade Miley (with De La Rosa).   Unfortunately, Allen did not make the big league rotation coming out of spring training and then struggled through his first two starts at Triple-A (0-1, 7.0 IP, 17 H, 15 R).  He was recently placed on the Reno disabled list.

Anthony Ranaudo: Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers) (trade)


Ranaudo, the IL’s Pitcher of the Year last season, was traded to the Rangers in January for lefty reliever Robbie Ross.  The big right-hander did not make the Texas season-opening starting rotation, but he has been called up to make one start for the big league team on April 14th against the Angels.  Unfortunately he gave up six runs in 1.2 innings pitched and was optioned right back to Triple-A.  With Round Rock he has only allowed one run in 10.0 innings over two starts.

Alex Wilson: Detroit Tigers (trade)


Wilson was included in the Red Sox December deal with Detroit that netted Boston Rick Porcello.  After starting the season in Triple-A Toledo, the righty has just been called up to Detroit.  In four relief appearances with the Mud Hens, Wilson went 1-0 with three saves and did not allow a run in 5.1 innings pitched.

Now let’s look at some other key members of last season’s Governors Cup championship team who left the Red Sox organization as free agents.  Again, no particular order here.


Corey Brown (right), Justin Henry (center) and Mike McCoy (left) have all moved on from Pawtucket this season

Corey Brown: Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays)

Brown led the PawSox with 17 home runs last season.  He signed as a free agent with the Rays this off-season and has been playing in the IL again with Durham.  In eight games thus far Brown is 5-for-32 with one home run.

Derrik Gibson: Bowie Baysox (Baltimore Orioles)


Gibson played the final two months of the season last year as a super utilityman for the PawSox.  He signed with the Orioles in the off-season and is playing in Double-A Bowie.  Thus far in 13 games played, Gibson is batting .250/0/5.

Mike McCoy: El Paso Chihuahuas (San Diego Padres)


McCoy was the veritable “swiss army knife” player for the PawSox last season, playing all over the diamond defensively and providing leadership in the clubhouse.  He signed with the Padres in the off-season and is hitting .171 thus far in 11 games with Triple-A El Paso.

John Ely: Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Milwaukee Brewers)

john ely

Ely was a valuable member of the PawSox bullpen in 2014.  He signed as a free agent with Milwaukee in the off-season and has been pitching in Triple-A Colorado Springs as a starting pitcher.  After making two starts and allowing eight runs in 7.2 innings pitched, Ely went on the disabled list.

Ryan Verdugo: Nashville Sounds (Oakland As)

Verdugo helped the PawSox pitching staff as a long reliever and fill-in starter during the final two months of last season.  He signed with Oakland in the off-season and has been pitching in a similar role with Triple-A Nashville thus far in 2015.  In three outings (one start), Verdugo is 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA.

Brandon Snyder: Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (Independent)

Snyder, a big power-hitting infielder, was injured and played only two months at the beginning of the 2014 season.  He has caught on with Southern Maryland in the Atlantic League.

Rich Hill: Syracuse Chiefs (Washington Nationals)

The Massachusetts native Hill pitched the first three months of last season in the bullpen for the PawSox, then opted out of his contract for a big league deal with the Angels in July.  He has bounced around since, but has landed in the Nationals organization to begin 2015 and is back in the IL pitching for Syracuse.  He has only allowed one earned run in six innings over his first five appearances this season.

Finally, here are some 2014 PawSox players who are no longer active in the game at the beginning of this season.

Justin Henry, Coach (Greenville Drive, Red Sox Single-A)

justin henry

Henry was a popular member of the PawSox for the past two seasons.  He has retired from playing and is now a coach in the Red Sox organization at Low-A Greenville.  I am confident he will move up the ladder in the coaching ranks quickly.

Ryan Roberts: not playing


Roberts was the regular second-baseman for the PawSox for most of last season.  The Tatman was in spring training with the Royals but was released in late March.  He does not appear to have caught on with another organization as yet.

Jose Valdez: not playing

The veteran Valdez was on the mound for many key outs during the Governors Cup playoffs last season, including the final out in the 13th inning of Game 4 in Durham.  From what I can tell, Valdez is not playing in 2015.

Chris Hernandez: not playing

chris hernandez

The southpaw Hernandez pitched for the PawSox in various roles for most of the last three seasons.  He was released by the Red Sox at the end of spring training and does not appear to have caught on with any other organization as yet.

So there you have it.  Pretty interesting to see where these guys have landed, no?

Will Flemming and I will talk to you from PNC Field in Moosic, PA tonight at 6:50 for pregame coverage.  Henry Owens is on the mound for the PawSox with first pitch scheduled for 7:05pm. Happy Friday!

Josh M

PawSox Home Schedule Opens With Sweeping Success

by Josh Maurer

Happy Patriots Day everyone! The PawSox will have to wait another day to continue their seven-game opening homestand, as Monday’s scheduled opener of a three-game series against Buffalo has been postponed due to rain.  There will now be a doubleheader on Tuesday at McCoy beginning at 5:05pm.

Each team is red-hot coming into the set, with the PawSox having just completed a four-game sweep of Rochester while Buffalo swept four from Lehigh Valley and has won six straight overall.

Pawtucket holds the best record in the IL at 8-3 through the first three series of the year (Buffalo and Charlotte are 0.5 games behind at 7-3).  After dropping a doubleheader in Buffalo last Wednesday and not having scored in 19 consecutive innings to end that series, the PawSox came home last Thursday to face a Rochester squad that had opened the season 5-1.

opening night ceremony

The home opener at McCoy on April 16th featured lots of pregame ceremonies

Thursday’s home opener began with a championship ring presentation ceremony, as approximately 20 players, coaches and support staff members received some jewelry for winning a Governors Cup title last September.  The ring has drawn rave reviews from everybody.

championship ring

The 2014 PawSox championship ring is an incredible piece of jewelry

After falling behind by scores of 3-0 and then 7-3 on Thursday, Pawtucket’s offense roared to life and scored the final five runs of the contest.  Deven Marrero and Sean Coyle hit back-to-back homers to begin the rally, while Blake Swihart’s two-out, two-run double in the seventh tied the score at 7.

Then in the ninth, Bryce Brentz stepped front and center with one out and the score still tied. Facing former Red Sox farmhand Ryan Pressly, Brentz fell behind in the count 1-2, but struck a no-doubt-about-it shot over the bullpen in left field to end a memorable opening night.

Friday’s game two saw more of the same, as again Pawtucket was forced to play from behind after Rochester’s Eddie Rosario drove a grand slam home run against Henry Owens in the fifth inning to put the Red Wings in front 4-2.  But Quintin Berry’s RBI single scored Marrero on a beautiful slide in the sixth cut the deficit in half.

Then it was Brentz again striking with a longball to give the PawSox the lead, this time in the seventh against tough reliever A.J. Achter. It was his second game-winner in as many nights and third on the young season. It’s been fun to watch Bryce get off to such a hot start.

Coyle would homer again the eighth, his third of the season, and recently-optioned Tommy Layne tossed a scoreless ninth to earn a save in his season debut with the club. Pawtucket won the contest 6-4.

On Saturday afternoon Pawtucket scored early and often against a tiring Rochester pitching staff. Veteran catcher Humberto Quintero gave the Sox the lead for good with a two-run homer in the second against starter Mark Hamburger. Quintero later drilled his second of the day in the fifth against Stephen Pryor to make the score 6-2.

The PawSox were far from finished mashing home runs against Pryor. In the sixth Berry smacked his first of the season, a two-run shot to right. Four batters later Matt Spring, activated from the DL right before the game began, hit a moonshot inside the pole in left to make the score 11-2 and chase Pryor after he allowed three blasts.

Pawtucket would win the game 13-3 and collect a season-high 17 hits. Starter Eddie Rodriguez was strong in earning his first Triple-A victory, striking out five batters in six innings of work.  Swihart led the charge with four hits including a pair of doubles.

The PawSox completed the four-game sweep on Sunday afternoon, plating a pair of of runs in the bottom of the eighth on a wild pitch and an error to earn a come-from-behind 4-3 victory. With two outs and the go-ahead run at third base, Quintero hit this ground ball to shortstop that former Red Sox farmhand Argenis Diaz booted to allow the winning run to score.

Pawtucket did not sweep a single series last season until after the All-Star break (July 17th-20th). The squad only swept two four-game series throughout the entire 2014 regular season. It didn’t take long to get one in 2015.

In the Rochester series the PawSox offense totaled 31 runs, 44 hits and nine home runs. The Red Wings bullpen, which had allowed only one run in 21 innings over the team’s six games before heading to McCoy, was tagged for 19 runs in 11.1 innings this series. Pressly took two losses and two blown saves in his two appearances.

Blake Swihart has hit safely in all 8 games he has played in this season

Blake Swihart has hit safely in all 8 games he has played in this season

Swihart, Brentz and Coyle led the way for Pawtucket in the four games against Rochester. Blake especially had an unbelievable series, playing all four contests (one as the DH) and hitting 10-for-17 with three doubles and seven RBI. Brentz went 6-for-12 with two walks, two game-winning homers, two doubles and four RBI in three games played. Coyle also homered twice and went 5-for-14 (.357) with three walks and six runs scored in four games.

Here are a few other notes for you to before the Buffalo series begins:

-There have already been three birthdays celebrated in the PawSox clubhouse during this homestand: Travis Shaw’s 25th on Thursday (4/16), Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s 25th on Sunday (4/19) and Garin Cecchini’s 24th on Monday (4/20).  It looks as though the team has decided to do some princess-themed decorating in the clubhouse for the birthday boys this season.

Pretty creative, huh?

-I loved this quote from an unnamed scout talking about Mookie Betts‘ unlimited potential from Michael Silverman’s article in Sunday’s Boston Herald.  The scout was comparing Betts’ future to that of Xander Bogaerts:

“I’d bet on Betts without hesitation, for sure, to have the All-Star type of career you’re talking about over Bogaerts. And I’d still give Bogaerts a better than 50-50 chance of doing the same thing. I think Bogaerts has a good shot to be above the norm in his career, but Mookie — Mookie Betts makes quicker adjustments to his game than anybody I’ve seen in the last 20 years. I couldn’t sit here and tell you what he’s not capable of doing.”

-This is somewhat old now, but here is an interview with PawSox utilityman Jeff Bianchi from last week in which he describes the crazy circumstances surrounding his three-inning pitching outing at Lehigh Valley on April 12th.  Noteworthy from the conversation: he really wanted to pitch and also seemed to love every minute of it!

-The PawSox roster has already lost two opening-night starters to the DL with shoulder injuries.  Rusney Castillo has missed the last eight games with right shoulder inflammation, while Cecchini has been out since last Friday (4/17) with a left shoulder problem.  Hopefully each will return shortly.

That’s all for now.  Check back to “45 Miles” later this week for a “Where Are They Now” on several members of last season’s Governors’ Cup championship squad.  Talk to you Tuesday late afternoon for some doubleheader baseball!

Josh M

Wild Opening Series In The Books With Lots of Free Baseball

by Josh Maurer

The PawSox took three out of four from Lehigh Valley to begin the 2015 season this weekend.  It was a good start for Kevin Boles’ prospect-laden team by getting a shutout on Thursday and then pounding out 16 hits on Friday night, but it was the final two contests against the IronPigs that made the opening series fairly epic.

Those games featured 29 innings of baseball, three position players pitching (two for the PawSox) and one win for each side.  Saturday’s affair lasted 13 frames, and Blake Swihart’s single past a drawn-in infield provided the game-winning tally for Pawtucket.


Top prospect Blake Swihart collected the game-winning hit in the 13th inning on Saturday

On Sunday as they looked for a four-game sweep, the PawSox held a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh thanks to a strong starting pitching effort from Eddie Rodriguez in his regular-season Triple-A debut (5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 4 K).

Lehigh Valley then rallied for three runs against reliever Dalier Hinojosa to take a 4-3 lead into the ninth.  Down to their final two outs, the PawSox sent up newcomer Luke Montz, who had missed most of the 2013 and 2014 seasons due to shoulder injuries and has been working to regain his timing at the plate.  Here is how he picked up his first hit in a Pawtucket uniform:

The game continued into extra innings for the second consecutive day, and as we pushed into the 13th once again Montz would draw a bases-loaded walk to score Jeff Bianchi and give the PawSox a 5-4 lead.  But little did we know that Pawtucket pitching coach Bob Kipper was out of available options in the bullpen.

Bianchi, a utility infielder signed this offseason from the Brewers organization with 162 MLB games on his resume, entered the game as an emergency pitcher in the bottom of the 13th to try and earn a save.  He couldn’t hold the lead as Tommy Joseph’s RBI double tied the score, but Bianchi did strand a runner at third base to send the game to the 14th.

Bianchi spring

Jeff Bianchi pitched three innings for the PawSox on Sunday after playing shortstop for the first 12 innings.

Bianchi, throwing tosses that registered around 60-65 MPH on the radar gun, somehow managed to pitch scoreless ball in the 14th and 15th innings to keep the game knotted at 5.  Not a bad effort for a guy who had never pitched in a professional game before Sunday.

In the 16th, Lehigh Valley had also exhausted its pitching options and turned to DH Russ Canzler on the mound.  Canzler had already had quite an opening week of the season, missing the opener because of the birth of his daughter and then celebrating his 29th birthday on Saturday.

Pawtucket scratched together a run against Canzler when Quintin Berry singled home Deven Marrero to put the visitors ahead 6-5.  But in the bottom of the 16th, Bianchi was no longer allowed to pitch (why risk injury right?) and the centerfielder Berry was called upon to try and save the game.

Unfortunately for the PawSox, Berry’s foray into pitching did not go as well as Bianchi’s.  After receving back-to-back walks from the lefty-throwing Berry, Lehigh Valley sacrificed runners to second and third base and then hit a sac fly to tie the score at 6.  That left a runner at 2nd base with two outs.

Quintin Berry

Quintin Berry played centerfield for 15 innings on Sunday, then was called in to pitch and try to save a win

Then the wheels fell off for Berry (could you blame him?) – he walked the next three batters on 12 total pitches, including a bases-loaded walkoff walk to (who else) Canzler, winning the game for the IronPigs 7-6.

So to recap Sunday’s craziness: Jeff Bianchi scores the go-ahead run, then blows a save but pitches three total innings.  Quintin Berry collects a go-ahead RBI single but then blows a save in the bottom of the inning.  Russ Canzler gives up a go-ahead run but then drives in the game-winner in the bottom of the frame to give himself the victory.

Said Lehigh Valley manager Dave Brundage: “I don’t believe I’ve ever been a part of a game like that. It’s tough to wrap your head around it.”  Check out more quotes here in the recap from Lehigh Valley Live.

This tweet from the great baseball writer Jayson Stark I think sums up the absurdity of Sunday’s contest:

One more note to put the past two days in perspective.  Pawtucket did not play a single game that lasted longer than 12 innings the entire regular season in 2014.  So of course game three and game four in 2015 would each go into the 13th.  How great is baseball?!?

Here’s a few links for your reading pleasure to get the work week started:

-Want to get to know my new broadcast partner Will FlemmingRead this, courtesy of Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times.  If you’ve had an opportunity to tune in to any of the first four broadcasts, I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to us.

-Here is an interview from this past week’s PawSox Insider show with second-year manager Kevin Boles.  He talks about the early-season plans for many of his high-prized talents:

In case you haven’t heard, the Insider shows this season air one hour prior to game time each Saturday.  So make note of the time change from previous years to listen to our weekly magazine-style program.

-I love this quote from Garin Cecchini in this blog post from’s Ryan Hannable:
“I like to have fun,” Cecchini said. “There is a place and time to have fun, like right now you can have fun. After a loss you can’t have fun. I like to have fun because you’re going to die one day and what are you going to look back on? Are you going to have fun in your life or are you just going to sit back and mope around?”

Now if that doesn’t epitomize Cecchini in a nutshell, I don’t know what would.  By the way, Garin played first base Sunday for the first time in his career in Allentown.  I joked on the broadcast that he will enjoy that position because he’ll have more people to chat with!


Garin Cecchini is one of the great in-game talkers you’ll find!

-Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes about potential breakout stars from the Red Sox farm system in 2015.  He suggests a couple of current PawSox players.  It’s a good look at the Sox minors leagues from top to bottom.

Monday night the PawSox seven-game trip continues in Buffalo with the opener of a three-game series against the Bisons.  Matt Barnes makes his season debut on the mound for Pawtucket, with first pitch scheduled for 6:05pm.  Let’s hope for no extra innings, otherwise who knows who might have to pitch!


Matt Barnes will start in Buffalo Monday night.

Talk to you on the radio tonight.  Thanks for reading!

Josh M


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