Sox Start to Pack Up; Miley Looks Strong in PawSox Loss

by Will Flemming

On the day the Red Sox began to pack up their spring training camp, Boston sent one of their starters over to the Minor League side for a late March tuneup.  Wade Miley pitched effectively – and quickly – on Tuesday for the PawSox in a 1-0 loss to Rochester.  After he allowed an unearned run in the top of the first, Miley cruised for the next six frames, at one point retiring 11 in a row.  The Pawtucket offense was held in check by a trio of Twins pitchers; they mustered just three hits in a brisk affair that was played in just over two hours.

Wade Miley allowed an unearned run in the first inning, then dominated

Wade Miley allowed an unearned run in the first inning, then dominated

Miley was joined on the back fields by his battery mate Ryan Hanigan, as Sandy Leon traveled with the big-league club to Port Charlotte.  Hanigan came to the plate six times; he was 0-for-5 with a walk.

Ryan Hanigan in a familiar spot - the on-deck circle.  He batted six times in seven innings.

Ryan Hanigan in a familiar spot – the on-deck circle. He batted six times in seven innings.

Pawtucket got a leadoff hit in the first from Sean Coyle; they would not have another until Michael Brenly singled with one out in the eighth.  Brenly batted again in the ninth and got the PawSox’ third and final hit of the day.  He advanced to second base on a wild pitch but was stranded when Blake Tekotte struck out.

The back fields at JetBlue Park were a fun place for prospect watchers; Twins’ standouts Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano came over with the AA team and drew crowds of onlookers each time they came to the plate.  A couple of quick impressions on the pair: Sano is HUGE; Buxton – as has been widely reported – looks like an incredible athlete with all the tools to be a superstar.  Buxton faced Sox prospect Simon Mercedes and coaxed an eight-pitch walk.  Sano – the main subject of the documentary Pelotero – also showed off a supremely strong arm at third base.    If the Twins can keep those two healthy, it would come as no surprise to see them both in Minneapolis come September, if not before.

Miguel Sano is a physical specimen in the box

Twins’ prospect Miguel Sano is an imposing figure

Long before Miley toed the rubber for Pawtucket, the facility was bustling with action.  The first moving trucks rolled into the lots around 9 this morning; clubbies began loading the personal effects of players and front office members – the first in a long series of steps to get the Sox up I-95.   Watching the process, I was again struck by just how elaborate the process is to move an entire ballclub up the Eastern seaboard – and how many people work long hours to make that happen.

Homeward bound: the Sox begin to pack for Boston

Homeward bound: the Sox begin to pack for Boston

As suitcases, televisions and file boxes were hauled into the trucks, there were plenty of actual baseball stories to report.  Clay Buchholz, who will start for the Sox tomorrow against the Twins, threw on the side under the watchful eye of Juan Nieves.

Clay Buchholz came out for a little tune-up before his final spring start tomorrow

Clay Buchholz came out for a little tune-up before his final spring start tomorrow

Not long after, Koji Uehara emerged from the clubhouse to throw.  He played catch for roughly ten minutes on flat ground.

Every move Koji Uehara makes is tracked by a horde of media members

Every move Koji Uehara makes is tracked by a horde of media members

I also had a nice chat with Brandon Magee, the NFL safety who joined the Red Sox over the weekend.  Apparently he’s been talking to Bo Jackson about the challenge – and the joy – of playing two sports.

Magee

Some other notes around Sox camp:

As Mookie Betts continues to dominate the Spring, he’s drawing rave reviews – and some heady comparisons, according to Ken Rosenthal.

Whether or not Rusney Castillo begins the year in Pawtucket or Boston is still a subject of some debate; Michael Silverman sees it as an enviable problem.

Mike Napoli hit a ball over the Green Monster in Ft. Myers on Monday night…on a pitch that broke his bat.

David Ortiz has not been able to play first base yet in camp, and John Farrell is not at all concerned, writes Jason Mastrodonato.

As Sean McAdam reports, it looks more likely that Steven Wright will start the season in the Sox rotation.

The PawSox will be back at it tomorrow up the road in Sarasota against the Norfolk Tides.

Until then,
Will

Ties are for Christmas…and March 30th

by Will Flemming

Ernie Banks would have appreciated my first full day on the job with the PawSox.  Port Charlotte by day, Fort Myers by night.  Pawtucket tied the Durham Bulls under bright blue skies on the outer fields at Charlotte Sports Park (more on that later), and I’m writing this from the press box at JetBlue Park, where the Sox have welcomed the Minnesota Twins.  In fact, as David Ortiz has just singled to score Mookie Betts and give Boston a lead, I can say now with even more conviction what I have felt all day: it is a thrill to be a part of the Red Sox organization.

I am so excited to join Josh on the radio and in this space all season long. As a broadcaster for the Indianapolis Indians for the past three seasons, I have seen from afar what the PawSox mean to you, the fans, and to the entire New England community.  I am honored to join the amazing broadcasting tradition in Pawtucket; I will work tirelessly every day to bring the PawSox into your homes and into your lives.

I landed in Ft. Myers at noon yesterday; the minute I walked out of the airport terminal, the warm air washed over me. The long, hard winter I spent in Washington, D.C. was a distant memory.   The only thing that interrupted the infinite blue sky was Red Sox hats.  And Red Sox shirts.  And jerseys.  They were everywhere I looked: in the airport; in my hotel lobby; in the Starbucks down the street; and most especially at JetBlue Park.

JetBlue Day

JetBlue Park’s Green Monster – a sight for sore eyes.

JetBlue is a fabulous place to watch a game.  Since yesterday was my first time in the ballpark, I felt like I just had to take it all in from the top of the Green Monster.   And so that’s exactly what I did.

This seemed like the perfect place to spend my first afternoon at JetBlue

This seemed like the perfect place to spend my first afternoon at JetBlue

Deven Marrero – all but a lock to be the starting shortstop for Pawtucket on April 8th in Allentown – sent everyone home happy with a  game-winning single in the 10th.

Monday morning meant a trip up to Port Charlotte for the PawSox.  I arrived at the Charlotte Sports Park just in time to see Henry Owens begin his warmup routine in the pen:

Henry Owens getting loose before his start on Monday

Henry Owens getting loose in the pen before his start on Monday

After the PawSox went down in the top of the first inning, Owens took the mound to face Steven Souza Jr.  Souza – the Rays’ centerpiece in the three-team deal that sent Wil Myers to San Diego this winter – was over on the minor league side, shuttling between the AAA and AA games to get as many at-bats as possible.  In fact, Owens faced Souza in each of the first three innings; the man whose diving catch secured the final out of Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the last day of the 2014 regular season flied out in the first, struck out in the second and walked in the third.

Steven Souza facing Henry Owens for the first of three times Monday

Steven Souza facing Henry Owens for the first of three times Monday

Owens looked comfortable early, sailing through the first three innings with relative ease.  His own throwing error in the bottom of the fourth led to the Bulls’ first run.  By that time, however, the PawSox had blasted a pair of two-run homers. Sean Coyle hit a laser beam to straight-away center in the third, and Henry Ramos obliterated a ball over the wall in left in the top of the fourth.

In the bottom of the fifth, a pair of infield singles chased Owens, who had reached his pitch limit.  Miguel Celestino came in and allowed both inherited runners to score; as a result, Owens’ final line showed three runs (two earned) in four innings, with three strikeouts and a pair of walks.

Pawtucket parlayed a Durham error in the sixth into two more runs, the last of which scored on a Jonathan Roof single. Durham tied the game with three in the bottom of the 6th; it would end that way after two scoreless frames from Matt Hoffman and a blemish-free ninth from Matty Ott.  Not quite kissing your sister, but a tie nonetheless.

Over on the big league side, the Sox feasted on an array of Twins pitchers pressed into action when Kyle Gibson was scratched with an illness.  Mookie Betts looked particularly impressive; he ripped a ball off the Monster and made a running, over-the-shoulder grab just in front of the warning track in center.  Justin Masterson held the Twins bats in check before he departed with two outs in the sixth.

The biggest news out of Sox camp came earlier in the day, when Boston acquired catcher Sandy Leon from Washington.  The Red Sox placed Christian Vasquez – who is headed to visit Dr. James Andrews – on the 60-Day Disabled List and added Leon to the 40-Man Roster.  The status of Humberto Qunitero – who has an opt-out on April 1st – remains unclear.  I had Leon when I was the broadcaster in Potomac in 2010 and saw him in Syracuse over the last two summers; he’s an excellent receiver with a great arm from behind the dish.  From the Pawtucket perspective, the injury to Vasquez does not appear to impact the plans for top prospect Blake Swihart.

In other news, before Monday night’s game John Farrell reiterated than Shane Victorino is the everyday right fielder in spite of the buzz Rusney Castillo has generated throughout the spring.

Koji Uehara will start the season on the DL; Edward Mujica looks likely to slide into the closer’s role to open the year.

So there you have it.  Day one for me in the books.  Two games, one trade, and maybe a little sunburn.

I will talk to you tomorrow, when the PawSox host Rochester in Ft. Meyers.

Archer Stymies PawSox; Catching Situation Murky

Saturday afternoon the PawSox followed the big league club about 40 miles north to Port Charlotte and played a spring contest against Durham. It was a terrific starting pitching matchup with Eduardo Rodriguez throwing for Pawtucket against Tampa Bay’s scheduled opening day starter Chris Archer.

TB complex

The back side of Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, FL

TB back fields

The PawSox and Bulls played at the back fields on Saturday

The southpaw Rodriguez did not have his best stuff early.  He allowed a run on two singles and two walks in the first, then did not get an out in the second inning and allowed a pair of tallies.  Durham collected four straight hits to start the frame, then Rodriguez walked a batter and reached his inning pitch limit to stop the threat.  The lefty then settled down and tossed scoreless ball in the third and fourth.

Overall, Rodriguez lasted 3.0 innings and allowed three runs (all earned) on seven hits and four walks.  He struck out three Durham hitters.  Mike Aguilera followed and allowed three runs and four hits in 3.2 innings.

lineup at Durham

The PawSox lineup at Durham on Saturday

Pawtucket’s lineup featured Bryce Brentz and Garin Cecchini for the first time this spring.  Cecchini played the entire game at third base and went 1-for-3 with a single, while Brentz was 0-for-4 with four punchouts.

Archer was dominant in what may be his final spring tuneup.  He shutout the PawSox for 6.2 innings while allowing just four hits (all singles) and two walks.  He fanned eight and earned the win in Durham’s 7-1 victory.

Here is the Pawtucket box score from the contest:
Sean Coyle, 2B: 0-for-4, K
Marco Hernandez, SS: 0-for-1 (played 1 inning)
Henry Rodriguez, SS: 1-for-3, double
Travis Shaw, 1B: 0-for-0, 2 walks (played 5 innings)
David Chester, 1B: 1-for-2
Bryce Brentz, DH: 0-for-4, 4 Ks
Garin Cecchini, 3B: 1-for-3, K
Blake Swihart, DH: 0-for-2, HBP, R, GIDP
Henry Ramos, RF: 0-for-3, K
Keury De La Cruz, LF: 1-for-2, BB
Shannon Wilkerson, CF: 0-for-3, GIDP, K
Mike Brenly, C: 1-for-3

Archer pitching

Chris Archer pitched 6.2 shutout innings against the PawSox on Saturday

The big news of the day came in the morning when Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez informed the media that an MRI on his ailing elbow “found something” but he has yet to be firmly diagnosedRyan Hanigan is now slated to open the season as the #1 catcher in Boston.

There has been some speculation that Blake Swihart could be an option to open the season as Hanigan’s backup if Vazquez lands on the DL.  I wonder about that; it seems to me the Red Sox would rather Swihart stay in the minor leagues for at least a few months to get more seasoning.

Swihart w. Archer pitching

Blake Swihart was the DH on Saturday against Durham/Chris Archer

UPDATE: Alex Speier of the Boston Globe lays out the catching options for the Red Sox here.  I agree wholeheartedly with his assessment of the situation.

Sunday is a camp day for the minor league side, so the PawSox will not have a game until Monday afternoon.  We’ll continue to have updates from the Fort on “45 Miles” through the end of next week.  Have a great rest of your weekend!

Josh M

Friday News and Notes From The Fort

The weather in Florida on Friday featured rain throughout the majority of state.  That forced the cancellation of many spring training games today, including a scheduled PawSox home game against Norfolk at JetBlue Park.  Before the rains hit, however, the Red Sox held several intrasquad scrimmages on the minor league fields in the morning.

In one of those, the Pawtucket and Portland groups faced off in a six-inning contest that featured several big names.  In the PawSox lineup this morning were Shane Victorino, Christian Vazquez and Xander Bogaerts, with starting pitcher Joe Kelly working the first three frames on the mound.

Kelly pitching

Joe Kelly working on the back fields at JetBlue Park on Friday morning

Kelly, working his way back from a biceps injury, allowed one run and struck out five in his three innings. Bogaerts and Victorino each played the entire game, while Vazquez left after catching four innings.  Garin Cecchini and Bryce Brentz, each optioned from major league camp on Thursday, were each in the lineup for the PawSox in the short affair.

Victorino AB

Shane Victorino took several at-bats for the PawSox team in the intrasquad game Friday morning

I ran into former PawSox utilityman Justin Henry this afternoon at the complex.  Henry, a very popular member of the squad for the past few seasons, retired from playing after Pawtucket won the Governor’s Cup last September.

The good news is Henry has accepted a coaching job with the organization and will be working with the Red Sox South Atlantic League affiliate in Greenville, South Carolina this season.  He will make a terrific coach and I wish Justin nothing but the best in his new career.

justin henry

Justin Henry will now be coaching in the South Atlantic League for the Greenville Drive

Not much else to report on a quiet day in Fort Myers.  On Saturday the PawSox head to Port Charlotte to take on Durham at 1pm.  I’ll have a recap here shortly after the contest concludes.

Also, don’t miss PawSox Insider on Saturday from 1-2pm on WHJJ (920 AM) for interviews with Kevin Boles, Travis Shaw, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe and Portland Sea Dogs broadcaster Mike Antonellis.

Have a great Friday night!

Josh M

Thursday at JetBlue: PawSox Roster Taking Shape

Hi all, Josh Maurer here again.  In case you missed the news yesterday Will Flemming and I will be co-authoring “45 Miles From Fenway” this season.  Today I spent a full day at the JetBlue complex and have plenty to report.

Thursday morning began with the news that the Red Sox had optioned Garin Cecchini and Bryce Brentz along with relievers Heath Hembree and Zeke Spruill to the Pawtucket roster. Super-prospect starting pitcher Henry Owens was also reassigned to minor league camp and is expected to work with the PawSox group.

Cecchini

Garin Cecchini was optioned back to the PawSox on Thursday morning. John Farrell says he will play some third base, first base and left field this season.

None of these moves come as a big surprise, as it has been widely anticipated that all five of these men would open the season in Pawtucket.  They join catcher Blake Swihart, first baseman Travis Shaw, infielder Sean Coyle and starter Eduardo Rodriguez as players recently optioned from big league camp.

This afternoon the PawSox hosted Rochester at the minor league fields, a game that ended in a 3-3 tie after a very exciting finish.  With Pawtucket trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, infielder Carlos Asuaje lined a game-tying solo home run against former PawSox reliever Ryan Pressly.

Shannon Wilkerson’s solo blast in the bottom of the eighth against Rochester’s Michael Tonkin snapped a 1-1 tie, but the Red Wings rallied to take the lead with two outs in the top of the ninth on James Beresford’s two-run single against Deryk Hooker.

All three of Pawtucket’s runs came via a solo blast, with Keury De La Cruz hitting the first in the bottom of the fifth.  Craig Breslow started for the PawSox and allowed a run on two hits in the first inning.

Dana Eveland throw the second and pitched around two singles to record a scoreless frame, getting a double play to end a Rochester threat when right-fielder Henry Ramos throw out a tagging runner at the plate.

Breslow pitching

Craig Breslow started today’s PawSox game against Rochester

Keith Couch, fighting to make the PawSox roster when camp breaks, fired four scoreless relief innings.  He allowed three hits and walked a pair but struck out three.  Miguel Celestino did not allow a hit or a run in two scoreless frames behind Couch, picking up three strikeouts in the process.

Asuaje, who spent the majority of 2014 in Low-A Greenville, went 3-for-3 with a walk and two stolen bases.  He played both second and third base during the contest.

Here are some notes and observations from a full day at the JetBlue complex:

-I had a chance to speak with Manager Kevin Boles this morning.  He has been assisting John Farrell and his staff in major league camp all spring and has thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  The skipper said he may not join the Triple-A group until only a few days before camp breaks.

Boles says he feels reinvigorated after taking off from working in winter ball this offseason.  You’ll be able to hear the full interview with him this Saturday at 1pm on PawSox Insider.

nice crowd at JetBlue

There was a big crowd on hand for the Major League game at JetBlue Park on Thursday afternoon

-Late this morning Farrell and Torey Lovullo presided over a unique batting practice session at one of the minor league fields, with the participants being the majority of the anticipated major league starting rotation.  It was nice to see knuckleballer Steven Wright included in the group, which also had Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello and a few others.  Jason Varitek throw the big league pitchers several rounds of BP.

pitchers BP in spring

The Red Sox starting pitchers took some BP this morning with Jason Varitek throwing

-Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez did some light throwing over at the minor league fields late this morning with Farrell and members of the training staff watching.  Vazquez is trying to work his way back from a sore elbow.  Farrell said this morning that the team isn’t quite sure if the backstop will be ready for opening day.

Vazquez throwing in spring

Christian Vazquez did some light throwing late this morning

That’s all for today.  The PawSox play Norfolk on Friday at JetBlue at 1pm.  It will be interesting to see if some of the guys recently optioned from major league camp like Cecchini and Brentz are ready to join the squad.

Thanks for reading, enjoy the Sweet 16 NCAA action tonight!

Josh M

Maurer and Flemming Take Over “45 Miles”/Report From Spring Training

Hey PawSox fans, Josh Maurer here! We are just about two weeks away from first pitch of the 2015 season and I can’t wait to get things started. For the remainder of this week, I’ll be blogging from Fort Myers and getting you all the latest information on the team as the roster starts to take shape.

JetBlue Park outside

I got my first glimpse of JetBlue Park in Fort Myers on Wednesday morning – it’s great to be in the Florida weather!

We here at the PawSox Radio Network have two big changes to tell you about. First, it’s an honor to welcome my partner for this season Will Flemming. Will is a fantastic broadcaster who I know you will enjoy hearing every night throughout the 2015 campaign.

Flemming_640x360_2wzqaf8y_f6z1x814

Below is a phone interview I did with Will for last week’s Insider show. If you have ten minutes, this is a great introduction of the newest member of our network.

Also, if you missed my Insider conversation with new PawSox President James Skeffington, you can find it in two parts bewlow. I think you’ll find it an interesting listen:

Also, beginning today I will no longer be writing on my old blog Maurer’s Musings. Instead you will be able to find my insights, combined with Will’s, right here at 45 Miles From Fenway (formerly authored by the great Jeff Levering).

We are making this change with you the reader in mind. Instead of having to check two separate blog sites throughout the season to find all the information from the broadcasters, we wanted to make “45 Miles” your one-stop shop for news from the booth.

Will and I each plan to contribute to “45 Miles” several times a week from now until the end of the season. So please come visit our blog daily to get the same interesting and insightful content (hopefully!) from the PawSox broadcasters that you’ve become accustomed to reading throughout the years.

This afternoon, a very “rough draft” version of the PawSox played Norfolk in Sarasota and lost 4-2.  Portland Sea Dogs skipper Billy McMillon served as the manager, while old Pawtucket hitting coach Dave Joppie was in charge of the offense.

Ed Smith Stadium Sarasota

Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota is the Major League spring home of the Baltimore Orioles but…

Buck ONeill field

The Pawsox and Norfolk played about 20 minutes up the road here at the Buck O’Neil Complex

The PawSox trailed 4-0 into the seventh inning, when Sean Coyle doubled and was driven home by a single from Mario Martinez.  Newcomer Blake Tekotte added an RBI single in the 8th.

Coyle swing and miss

Here is Sean Coyle taking a cut during Wednesday’s contest in Sarasota

Chris Hernandez fired two scoreless innings in relief for Pawtucket, while Robbie Scott pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth.  Many of the players who are projected to begin the season with the PawSox are still participating in big league camp and/or did not make the bus trip this afternoon.

I’ll have plenty of coverage from Fort Myers for the next five days, so please check back to this blog to hear all the news fit to print.  Happy Spring!

Josh M

Bryce Brentz hopes that change in off-season plans pays off

By BRENDAN McGAIR

In 2012, Bryce Brentz went from helping the Pawtucket Red Sox capture the Governors’ Cup straight to the Arizona Fall League.

In 2013, the power-hitting outfielder went from participating in yet another deep International League playoff run to the Dominican Winter League.

What did the 26-year-old Brentz do after a 2014 campaign that saw him make his major-league debut?

Played golf with his dad Charlie and twin brother Jared in his native Tennessee.

“My body has broken down in each of the previous two years. Basically I’ve had four months off in two years, so we thought this time that we needed to give the body a break,” said Brentz when reached earlier this week. “That way, I could relax and start fresh. I think it was a good decision.”

Last season saw Brentz miss 10 weeks with a hamstring injury. The previous year, he underwent

Bryce Brentz enters his sixth season as a member of the Red Sox organization (Louriann Mardo-Zayat)

Bryce Brentz enters his sixth season as a member of the Red Sox organization (Photo by Louriann Mardo-Zayat)

significant surgery to his right knee and was sidelined for nearly two months. Given the unlucky breaks he’s had to deal with, it’s perfectly understandable that he elected a different course of action this offseason – one that involved plenty of built-in downtime.

“For about four weeks after the season, I didn’t pick up a ball or a bat. I relaxed and got all the knots and kinks out. Plus you’re able to look back and reflect on what happened or think about things like your hitting mechanics,” he said. “I didn’t lift a weight, but at some point, you get kind of bored. I didn’t start hitting until right around Thanksgiving.”

Now in his sixth season in the Red Sox organization, Brentz arrived at spring training as just another piece in the team’s crowded outfield picture. With injuries curbing the availability of Rusney Castillo and Shane Victorino, the door has been opened for Brentz to get some run with the first team.

“They’re not hurting for quality outfielders. I think any of us can go out and perform the job. It’s a great problem to have,” said Brentz. “We’re all rooting for each other. There’s only three starting outfielders, but all we can do is try and play our best.

“We’re all competing and getting after it and that makes us all better and become closer as a group,” Brentz continued. ‘One person goes down and the next one steps up and keeps the ball rolling. I’m not worried about who’s going to get the at-bats. Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen, but we’re all going to do our part in helping the team win.”

Brentz already has one home run this spring, yet it was a bases-loaded walk he drew against the New York Mets on Sunday that helps further the belief that he’s becoming a more complete hitter and less of a risk taker, which is how he described his approach when he first got to Pawtucket.

“It was nice considering I was down 0-2. I wish I impacted the ball a little bit, but I took some chances, came up short and battled back,” said Brentz. “I didn’t throw the at-bat away and was able to get in a run.”

Earlier in camp, Brentz was sidelined a few days with right knee inflammation. As someone who is listed on Boston’s 40-man roster and has amassed 29 home runs in 150 games in a PawSox uniform, the injury proved to be nothing more than a minor setback.

“Just some soreness from doing extra outfield drills,” said Brentz. “You just want to be careful. It’s early in spring training.”

Brendan McGair covers the Pawtucket Red Sox for the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call. Follow him on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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