Shaw’s Frank Redemption

by Will Flemming

This is the kind of swing that got Travis Shaw back to the big leagues.

This is the kind of swing that got Travis Shaw back to the big leagues.

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:

shaw-AB

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.

Let There Be Light: Hard-Throwing Righty Joins PawSox Pen

by Josh Maurer

Thursday night was the Triple-A debut of reliever Pat Light, a Red Sox first-rounder in 2011 who was converted this season from being a starting pitcher.  Light, a New Jersey native, earned a save in the PawSox’ 5-3 win over Toledo with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.

In 21 appearances with Portland this season, Light went 1-1 with 3 saves and a 2.43 ERA (29.2 IP, 18 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 11 BB, 32 K). After a few early blips on the radar screen, he really seemed to settle into his relief role and excelled after the end of April. Over the final 17 games he pitched with the SeaDogs (from 4/26-6/7), Light was 1-1 with a 0.98 ERA (18.1 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 9 BB, 19 K).

Light pitching old

Over his first three seasons in the pros, Light had only made 1 career relief appearance. In 2014 he combined with Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem to go 8-6 with a 4.83 ERA (71 ER/132.1 IP) in 25 starts. Coming into this season Light was ranked the 30th best prospect in system by Baseball America.

Light throws a fastball that comfortably sits in the mid-to-upper 90s on the radar gun, in addition to a split-finger fastball and an occasional slider.  His stuff was impressive on Thursday for sure, and it really makes me look forward to seeing what he’ll be able to do at the back-end of the PawSox bullpen for the next little while.

As we get ready for three more games with Toledo at McCoy Stadium this weekend, here are some news and notes for your reading enjoyment:

Travis Shaw has officially caught fire.  Shaw is batting .351 his last 20 games played (26-for-74) with two home runs, four doubles and a triple.  He has driven in nine runs during those 20 games and now leads Pawtucket with 26.

Shaw congrats at plateShaw has also started at 3rd base the last five games and has continued to impress with his glove at the hot corner.  He has only been charged with one error in 28 games played at third (in 76 total chances).

-It’s been a good week for Garin Cecchini.  The team-leader in RBI in 2014 has picked up six in the last six games played, including a grand-slam home run at Syracuse last Sunday afternoon against stud right-hander A.J. Cole.

On Wednesday, Cecchini delivered a walkoff RBI double in the ninth against a lefty (Jarret Casey) to win a game for the PawSox and avoid a series sweep at the hands of the Knights. In his last six games, Cecchini is 6-for-23 (.261) with two homers and a double.

-Reliever Jonathan Aro has become one of the best stories in the Red Sox organization these days. Aro, 24, was in Low-A with Greenville at this time last season. In fewer than 12 months, the native of the Dominican Republic has not only made it to Triple-A but has become one of the best relievers in the PawSox bullpen.

Aro pitching old

Over his last 5 appearances (starting on 5/21), Aro has pitched 12.0 straight scoreless innings (8 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 16 K). He has pitched multiple innings in all 7 appearances with Pawtucket and continues to get a lot of swings and misses with his fastball.

-Here’s a tip of the cap to PawSox infielder Mike Miller, who was promoted late last month from Portland after injuries had landed both Sean Coyle and Jemile Weeks on the disabled list. Miller has started 17 of the team’s 18 games since he was called up (12 at 2nd base and 5 at shortstop).

Miller batting

Mike Miller has stabilized the middle of the infield for the PawSox in recent weeks with some terrific glove work

Miller’s glove has been spectacular and he has teamed up with Deven Marrero to form one of the best double-play combinations in the IL. After a slow start with the bat Miller has started to heat up offensively, going 6-for-16 with a home run and two doubles in his last five games played.

-Closer Heath Hembree continues to pitch lights-out ball for the PawSox. He has only allowed a run in 2 of his 18 appearances, each time allowing game-winning run in 10th inning (5/9 @ COL, 5/21 @LOU). Otherwise, Hembree has been unblemished in Pawtucket and has been clocked at 98 MPH in recent outings.

Hembree pitching

I sat down with Hembree for last week’s PawSox Insider show, and here is the audio of that conversation:

Keith Couch gets the ball for Manager Kevin Boles on Friday night. Don’t forget, the first 4,000 fans aged 14 and under get a free PawSox Mini-Bat. Hope to see you at the park this weekend…the weather is making it feel like summer!

If not, as always, Will and I will talk to you on the radio.  Have a great weekend!

Josh M

It’s Draft Day, PawSox Play Home Run Derby, My Brother and POTUS

by Will Flemming (@WillFlemming)

Draft Day

It’s Draft Day in Major League Baseball.  Assuming Kevin Costner doesn’t take over for Ben Cherington tonight (which would mean the Sox will have drafted Mike Trout with the 7th pick, packaged their 10th and 12th round picks to move up and pick Gerrit Cole, and swapped an organizational bullpen arm for Andrew McCutchen), Boston will pick 7th in the first round of the amateur draft.  Baseball is so different from the other major sports in two main regards: first, it is far more difficult to project what impact any of tonight’s selections will have (since the body of work against high-level competition is so much smaller than in football or basketball); second, it will take much longer for tonight’s draftees to make a measurable impact in MLB (on average, three to five years).

The difficulty of projection and longer incubation period does not mean we can’t have some fun considering whom the Sox may take later tonight.  Most of the speculation has centered around three main players: Andrew Benintendi, a centerfielder from Arkansas some describe as “a Jacoby Ellsbury clone with a strong power/speed combination”; Alex Bregman, the LSU shortstop who is a close friend of Blake Swihart’s (who attended Blake’s Boston workout in 2011) and the player most evaluators view as the safest pick in the top 10 with the longest track record of proven success; and Vanderbilt right-hander Carson Fulmer.  Here’s Keith Law’s report on Fulmer:

“There are three guys from Vanderbilt who have a chance to go in the top 10 this year: the Walker Buehler, Dansby Swanson and Fulmer. Of those three, Fulmer has the most volatily, possessing the most explosive stuff/tools but the most question marks as well. Fulmer’s arm is lightning-quick, and he uses his natural arm strength to sit 92-94 mph and touch the high 90s. The curveball is a swing-and-miss pitch, a power curve with very hard spin that he buries down in the zone. He also has better command of it than he does his fastball.”

Cherington spoke earlier this week about the nuance involved in the draft and the club’s approach, saying “I think the draft is really difficult. I think one of the hardest things we do is try to project amateur talent and (director of amateur scouting) Mike (Rikard) and his staff have been working hard, really hard, to do that all spring. “So whatever our selection is on Monday night, as Mike said before, is going to be based on what we feel is the best player for the Red Sox, not with any particular vision on when that player might get there.”

A little on Mike Rikard – in his first year as the Red Sox’ director of amateur scouting – from NESN’s draft preview:

“Rikard, who was promoted to Red Sox director of amateur scouting over the offseason when Amiel Sawdaye was promoted to vice president of amateur and international scouting, is entering his first draft in his new position. He, like Cherington, noted Boston’s open-mindedness, saying the Red Sox are “still considering a lot of options” with their first-round selection. “I think this draft class may be a little non-typical, just because there still is some uncertainty in front of us,” Rikard said. “There maybe hasn’t been those guys at the top of the draft that have kind of solidified themselves. So there is some gray area as far as what maybe the teams may do in front of us, but we’re trying to just continue to weigh out all the options and we’ll continue to do so for the next few days.”

No matter what happens tonight, remember this: pay no attention to the immediate grading of drafts.  In my opinion, nothing could be less valuable – we simply DO NOT know what these players will become.  A quick glance back at knee-jerk draft grades uncovered a B- grade for Oakland selecting Addison Russell (who has emerged as a young star for the Cubs), and an A+ for the Mariners after they selected Dustin Ackley with the second pick in 2009 (Ackley is a career .242/.305/.342 player who has faced demotion back to AAA).  Having said all that, one scout reviewing the 2009 draft 3 hours after the completion of the first round certainly nailed on thing:

25. Los Angeles Angels — Mike Trout (OF) from Millville Senior High School (NJ); Trout hit .531 with 18 HR’s this season, and is an extremely good switch hitter that could possibly turn into the best position player of the draft in 5 years. At this pick in the draft, Trout is an absolute steal.

Grade: A+

One other thing to remember: As hard as it is to project and develop young baseball players, you need look no further than yesterday’s box scores to underscore the impact the draft can have on big-league teams.  Gerrit Cole (the first pick in 2011) pitched the Pirates to a series win; Kris Bryant (the Cubs’ top choice in 2013) has set the NL ablaze and was a homer shy of the cycle yesterday; Joe Panik (the Giants’ first choice in 2011) extended his hitting streak to 12; and Matt Wieters (the 5th overall pick in 2007) came back from Tommy John and hit his first homer since May.

Homer Happy 

Even though the PawSox won just two of six on their most recent three-city roadtrip, the ballclub enjoyed a tremendous power surge.  Pawtucket blasted ten homers in the six contests (including two three-homer games).  If you missed any of the homers, here is a mashup of all ten radio calls:

If you include the final two games of the last homestand, the Sox have ripped 13 big flies over an eight-game stretch. Pawtucket leads the International League with 46 homers, but has scored the fourth fewest runs in the circuit (209).  Ten of the Sox’ 44 hits in June have been homers, including four two-run shots, Cecchini’s slam and five solo blasts.

Kevin Boles has to be particularly encouraged by Cecchini, who hadn’t homered (or driven in a run) since April 13th and has now left the yard in consecutive games.

Last week also featured Allen Craig’s first homer of the season, and the continuation of his surge since he was outrighted to Pawtucket.  In the 21 games Craig has played with the PawSox, he has at least one hit in 17 and two hits or more in eight.

I had a chance to sit down for an extended conversation with Allen over the weekend.  You can listen here:

In spite of all the homers, the best play of the week came when the PawSox were in the field.  We’ve grown accustomed to special defense from Jackie Bradley, Jr.  But this play took our breath away:

One last thing: my brother David – the voice of the PawSox from 2001-3 and now a broadcaster for the San Francisco Giants – had a special week.  For the third time in five years, he had the honor of visiting the White House with the World Champion Giants.  I thought Pawtucket fans might enjoy a couple shots from his day.

The voice of the PawSox from 01-3 stands behind Matt Cain in the East Room as the Giants get ready for the President

The voice of the PawSox from 01-03 stands behind Matt Cain in the East Room as the Giants get ready for the President

David and his Hall of Fame partner Jon MIller (courtesy: Jon's Instagram feed)

David and his Hall of Fame partner Jon MIller (courtesy: Jon’s Instagram feed)

The PawSox begin a seven-game homestand tonight at 7:05 with the Charlotte Knights in town.  Josh and I look forard to talking to you then.

Thanks for reading,
Will

JBJ Destroying IL Pitching

by Josh Maurer

While casual Red Sox fans may not have noticed based upon his limited at-bats at the big league level in 2015, Jackie Bradley, Jr. has made incredible offensive strides since last season.  He is, at present, one of the best hitters in the International League and I think a candidate for league MVP.

Jackie Bradley dives for ball

In 31 games played for Pawtucket, Bradley is hitting a robust .349 with three homers, ten doubles, 17 runs scored and 12 driven in.  He is only two plate appearances shy of qualifying for the league leaderboard in batting average, in which he would currently rank third among all IL hitters.

In recent weeks Jackie’s offensive numbers are even better.  Since April 25th, Bradley has reached safely in 16 consecutive games he has played for Pawtucket.  During his last 14 PawSox games (beginning 4/27, with a two-week MLB stint mixed in the middle) he has gone 24-for-57 (.421) with eight multi-hit efforts, 4 walks, 3 HR, 4 doubles, 6 RBI and 9 runs scored.

What’s been perhaps most impressive recently has been the rejuvenation of Jackie’s power stroke.  Bradley belted his third home run of the season on Monday night in Scranton.

Just a few days earlier, he took MLB-rehabbing Masahiro Tanaka deep on an impressive swing at McCoy Stadium. He also doubled against Tanaka in that outing on May 27th during which he collected one of his five three-hit games for the season.

As always, Bradley is playing a gold-glove caliber centerfield that is a joy to watch.  Despite two largely unsuccessful MLB call-ups thus far in 2015, Jackie has kept a great attitude about him during his time in Pawtucket and the results are speaking for themselves.

Jackie Bradley makes catch

Bradley has proven just about everything he can at the minor league level.  Now the next step is for him to get another regular shot in the Majors and to produce to his potential.  Only time will tell if and when that happens, but I’m betting that it will sooner rather than later.

Here are a few other notes as the PawSox get set to play game two of a seven-game road trip Tuesday night in Scranton:

-Kudos to Allen Craig for his great offensive work since being optioned to Pawtucket.  Craig has hit safely in 14 of 17 games played since joining the PawSox on May 12, with multiple hits in 6 of those games.  In his last 10 games (5/21-pres), the MLB veteran is 13-for-32 (.406) with 9 walks, a home run and 3 RBI.

Allen Craig in batters box

Craig has really turned on some pitches over the past few days.  He has found a home in the Pawtucket cleanup spot in the order where has batted the past four games.

-Veteran Luke Montz has come back this year from missing nearly two full seasons due to injuries.  After showing a bit of rust at the outset of the year, Montz’s bat has sprung to life recently.  In his last 8 games (5/20-pres), Luke is 8-for-28 (.286) with 4 BB, 1 homer, 4 doubles and 8 RBI.

Here is an interview I did with Montz for last week’s PawSox Insider show, in which he discusses his long road back to full health:

Couch pitching

Tuesday night Keith Couch takes the ball for the PawSox at PNC Field in Moosic, PA.  First pitch is scheduled for 6:35pm, while our radio coverage begins at 6:20.  Talk to you on the radio!

Josh M

Fare Thee Well, Fast Eddie

by Will Flemming (@WillFlemming)

Eduardo Rodriguez introcduced himself to the world last night  (credit: Brandon Wade / AP)

Eduardo Rodriguez introcduced himself to the world last night (credit: Brandon Wade / AP)

The PawSox were off on Thursday, which was great on a couple of levels.  I had dinner with my wife for the first time in weeks, and I got to watch Eduardo Rodriguez make his Major League debut in Texas.  Since our games are often played at the same time, It is so rare that I can watch an entire Sox game.  The PawSox’ first day off in two weeks synched up perfectly; I settled in front of the TV at 8 and hoped Eddie would bring his electric stuff to the mound at The Ballpark in Arlington.  I was thinking of a couple memorable debuts as the game began, and wondering into which camp Eddie’s would fall.  I happened to be in the yard for the first big-league starts of both Stephen Strasburg (when he struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates) and Tim Lincecum (who allowed 5 runs in 4.1 innings, including a massive two-run homer to Ryan Howard).

One thing we have been constantly impressed by from Eddie through the first two months of 2015 is his mound presence.  He’s never rattled when he has the ball and seems to be in total control.  I smiled when I read this quote from Eddie this morning about the seconds before he forever went into the Major League record books:

“I never get nervous,” Rodriguez said. “I just get nervous when I throw my first pitch in the game. I get on the mound, I’m looking around and my heart is almost broke because this is what we feel the first time we get to the big leagues. After that, I did what I can do.”

What can he do? Overpower hitters with his fastball and changeup.  Working with Blake Swihart – as he did in Pawtucket on two occasions – Eddie threw those two pitches more than 80 percent of the time and dominated the Rangers.

Earlier in the week, I had spoken to Pawtucket pitching coach Bob Kipper about Rodriguez.  In hindsight, Kip’s evaluatuon of the lefthander seems ever more prescient:

Tonight was a great night for so many people.  Rodriguez and his family – including his young daughter Annie – must be floating on cloud nine.  But last night was cause for celebration for the whole Red Sox organization: the scouts who identified his potential; Ben Cherington and his staff who insisted upon Rodriguez in the deal that sent Andrew Miller to Baltimore; Bob Kipper, Ralph Treuel and the entire staff of Sox pitching development; Ben Crockett and the Sox’ player development staff, who plotted the course for Eddie from Portland to Pawtucket to Arlington.

The most interesting thing Eddie talked to me about when we spoke last week was the ways in which the Red Sox have embraced Eddie and let him be the pitcher he wants to be.  There were times in Baltimore when he felt constrained, like he wasn’t allowed to throw certain pitches in certain spots.  The Red Sox encouraged him to throw the change-up at a speed that felt natural, and told him to be himself.  Here is that conversation:

How amazing life can sometimes be: as a young boy, Eddie – naturally right-handed – fell while climbing in a truck and began throwing a baseball with his left hand.  That instant in Valencia, Venezuela Could be turn out to be one of the more fortuitous slips in Red Sox history.

As Nick Cafardo writes, Red Sox fans found out that Eddie was worth the wait.

Peter Abraham gives the full chronicle of Eddie’s magical day, including a long chat the lefthander had with David Ortiz.

Closer to home, the PawSox lost for the fifth straight time on Wednesday, but it was not a day without some serious positives.  Jackie Bradley, Jr. doubled and homered off the rehabbing Yankees’ ace Masahiro Tanaka.  Here’s the call from the homer:

Our apologies that something went a little haywire at the apex of the call; there must be something about Flemmings and home run calls.  

A couple other storylines heading into tonight’s opener with Louisville:

Allen Craig has used video to rediscover the swing that made him an All Star with the Cardinals.

Justin Masterson is set to make a rehab start at McCoy on Sunday.

Watching Rodriguez on Thuesday reminded Masterson of his own Red Sox debut back in 2008.

Mike Miller appears to have settled in and found his swing.  The second baseman was promoted from Portland last Saturday, and now has RBIs in two straight, hits in four consecutive tilts.

Brian Johnson has pitched well enough to put himself in the conversation to join the Boston rotation; he’s allowed 16 hits over his last 13 innings and looks to play the role of stopper for the PawSox tonight at 7:05.  We hope you will join us on WHJJ, throughout the PawSox Radio Network or online at pawsox.com.

Talk to you tonight,

Will

Working Overtime/Memorial Day Weekend in The Bluegrass State

by Josh Maurer

The PawSox have made extra innings a regular occurrence this season, especially in the past week.  The team has played past the ninth inning four times in the last seven days, including back-to-back on Friday/Saturday and Wednesday/Thursday.  That stretch was capped by a 10-inning loss in Louisville on Thursday night.

The unfortunate thing – the team has lost all four of those games.  You can even take it a step further: Pawtucket has played extra innings in 6 of its last 13 games (since Saturday 5/10 at Columbus) and has only won 1 of those six.  They are now 2-6 in extra inning affairs in 2015.

Rusney WalkOff

Rusney Castillo celebrates a walk-off hit in extra innings on 5/12 vs. Indianapolis

Interestingly enough, four of those five extra-inning losses the past two weeks belong to two of the PawSox’ most reliable relievers in Heath Hembree and Miguel Celestino.  Also in the past seven days, Pawtucket’s offense has not scored a run in 13 innings at bat after the ninth.

The margin of error is so slim once a game reaches extra innings.  One pitch here, another pitch there can decide a game.  So I would certainly attribute the recent slide to a bit of bad luck.  Who knows, maybe things even out and the squad wins its next four extra inning games.

Louisville Slugger Field

Louisville Slugger Field in Louisville, KY

The PawSox continue their trip out west with three more games in Louisville over Memorial Day weekend.  Here are a few notes to get you ready for a holiday weekend:

-OF Quintin Berry has now reached base safely in 19 straight games played (beginning on 4/26).  The longest on-base streak in the IL this season is 22 games.  Berry should continue to man the leadoff spot in the PawSox order in the near future.

Berry gives high fives

Quintin Berry is on a 19-game on-base streak as of Friday

-INF/OF Allen Craig went 3-for-4 with two walks on Thursday night.  He has hit safely in 6 of the 8 games he has played since being optioned to the PawSox (and has multiple hits in 4 of those 8).  Craig’s batting average is currently .306 (11-for-36) with 4 doubles.

-The Red Sox announced on Wednesday that they had acquired hard-throwing reliever John Cornely from the Braves and optioned him to Pawtucket.  We will see when Cornely will join his new team.  Here are the vitals on Cornely from the PawSox game notes:

Acquired by BOS from Atlanta for cash considerations on 5/20 and optioned to PAW (Atlanta had DFA’d him on 5/19 to create 40-man spot for Nick Masset)…Appeared in 12 games for Triple-A Gwinnett, going 2-2 with 1 save and a 4.42 ERA (18.1 IP, 15 H, 10 R, 7 BB, 24 K)…Was promoted to Atlanta on 4/24, then made MLB debut on 4/29 vs. WAS and allowed 4R in 1IP (3H, 1BB, 1 K) and was optioned back to GWN on 4/30.

2014: Spent season with Double-A Mississippi and appeared in 46 games, going 7-3 with 7 saves and a 2.49 ERA (68.2 IP, 45 H, 19 R, 34 BB, 71 K…Held opponents to a .186 batting average, second best among Southern League relievers.

cornely with braves

John Cornely should join the PawSox bullpen sometime in the next few days

-Welcome back to Jeff Bianchi.  The utilityman, who missed 21 games on the DL with a shoulder injury, was activated at the beginning of the current road trip and has hit extremely well.  In 4 games since returning, Bianchi is 6-for-12 with 3 walks and 3 RBI.

-In case you missed it, former Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon was at McCoy Stadium last weekend and I had a chance to sit down with him for a few minutes on the PawSox Insider show.  Here is that interview:

The PawSox will start Keith Couch on Friday night at Louisville Slugger Field against MLB-rehabbing Manny Parra for the Bats.  On Saturday Eddie Rodriguez gets the ball for manager Kevin Boles, while the trip concludes on Sunday night with Brian Johnson on the mound.

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone!  Have fun and be safe, hope to talk to you on the radio from Louisville.

Josh M

Meet The New Guys!

by Josh Maurer

Hi everyone, I hope you’ve had a great week.  The PawSox have thus far, going 3-1 during the first four of a seven-game homestand.  Kevin Boles’ squad took two of three from Indianapolis, then won the first in a four-game set with Columbus on Thursday night.

The team is back holding the best record in the IL (21-14) and has matched its largest lead in the division to date (2.0 games ahead of Rochester, 18-15).  Things are looking good despite some recent roster turnover that was precipitated by player movement up to Boston.

Over the past week the squad lost Matt Barnes, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Steven Wright to the big leagues in addition to Noe Ramirez to the disabled list.  With these changes to the squad, I thought it would be a good time to introduce you to some newcomers to Pawtucket.

Taking the place of those four players were two position players coming from Boston- Allen Craig and Luis Jimenez (reportedly), along with two relievers promoted from Portland – Dayan Diaz and Jonathan Aro.  Without further ado, here’s a quick primer on each new guy:

Allen Craig in batters box

Allen Craig has played in 3 straight games for Pawtucket this week.

Allen Craig – OF/1B: We start with the guy you are certainly most familiar with, one of the best hitters in the National League from 2011-2013 while slugging for the Cardinals.  Craig batted over .300 in each of those three seasons while also earning a reputation as one of the best hitters with runners in scoring position in the game.  Here are the notes from the PawSox game notes on Craig:

2015: Has started 3 straight games since joining team (5/12-pres), hit safely in all 3…Hit RBI double in 1st PAW at-bat 5/12 v IND…Optioned from BOS on 5/10, joined team on 5/12…Was batting .135 in 24 G (7-52) w Boston 1 HR, 2 RBI and 17 K at time of option to Triple-A…Started games in LF, RF, 1B, DH with Boston.

2014: Hit .215 (99-for-461) with 20 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, and 46 RBI in 126 games between the Cardinals and Red Sox…Acquired by BOS at non-waiver trade deadline. Began the season with 97 games for STL, hitting .237 (87-for-367).

2013: Set career highs in games (134), AB (508), hits (160), 3B (2), RBI (97), BB (40), and OBP (.373)… Made 1st career All-Star Game. Led the majors with a .454 AVG (59-for-130) with RISP while ranking T-3rd in MLB with 83 RBI with RISP…Was the 3rd-highest AVG with RISP since data began being tracked in 1974, trailing only George Brett (.469, 1980) and Tony Gwynn (.459, 1997).

2012: Ranked 6th among NL leaders in AVG (.307), 5th in SLG (.522), and T-15th in RBI (92)…Led the team in SLG despite being limited to 119 games due to 2 trips to the DL. Led MLB with a .400 AVG (50-for-125) with RISP…Finished the season with 92 RBI in 119 games for an NL-leading 5.1 AB/RBI.

Personal: Acquired by the Red Sox on 7/31 with RHP Joe Kelly in exchange for RHP John Lackey, minor league LHP Corey Littrell, and cash considerations. Attended the University of California at Berkeley, drafted by STL in the 8th Round of 2006 Draft…Was named to the Academic First Team All-Pac 10 Team.

Dominican Republic's Luis Jimenez hits a double off Puerto Rico's starting pitcher Giancarlo Alvarado in the fifth inning of their game during the Caribbean Baseball Series in Hermosillo, Mexico, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Luis Jimenez has been a power source throughout his Minor League career (mostly in the Angels system)

Luis Jimenez – 3B: Jimenez has yet to join the PawSox, but has reportedly cleared waivers after being designated for assignment by the Red Sox earlier in the week (to create a roster spot for Shane Victorino).  When he does join Pawtucket, Jimenez should provide a nice burst of power to the lineup.  Check out his recent seasons in Triple-A with the Angels organization, again for the PawSox game notes:

2015: Designated for assignment by BOS on 5/11…Played in 1 G with BOS (5/6 vs. TB), going 0-for-1…Designated for assignment by MIL on 5/2, claimed off waivers by BOS on 5/3…Made opening day roster for MIL, played in 15 games, batting 1-for-15 with 1 BB.

2014: Spent the majority of season with Triple-A Salt Lake City, where he hit .286 with 34 2B, 3 3B, 21 HR, and 76 RBI in 117 games…Led Salt Lake in hits (134) and doubles (34, also 3rd in PCL)…Played in 18 games for LAA and batted .162 (6-for-37) with 2 doubles and 2 RBI.

2013: Played in 34 games with LAA, starting 30 of those, and batted .260 with 0 HR and 5 RBI…Made MLB debut on 4/12 vs. Houston…Played in 48 games with Triple-A Salt Lake City (.284, 4 HR, 42 RBI)…Missed 2 months (6/16-8/10) with right shoulder injury.

2012: Batted .309 with 16 HR, 85 RBI and 17 SB in 122 games at Triple-A Salt Lake City…Led the team in batting average, doubles (38) and RBI.

Personal: Claimed off waivers by Boston from Milwaukee on May 3, 2015…Originally signed by LA of Anaheim on August 22, 2005 from Santo Domingo in the Domincan Republic…Is married to Kelli…Nickname is “Lucho”.

dayan diaz portland

Dayan Diaz was having a great start to the season with Portland before being promoted to Pawtucket this week

Dayan Diaz -RHP: Diaz, a hard-throwing reliever, was promoted from Portland on Monday.  After spending many years in the Cubs and Astros systems, he signed with Boston before last season and has made a steady climb up the ranks.  Now, Diaz is finally getting his first taste of Triple-A baseball.  Check out his information from the game notes:

2015: Pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in PAW debut 5/12 vs. IND w.3 K (was also Triple-A debut)…Promoted from POR on 5/11…with POR: 9 app, 0-0, 2 SV, 1.15 ERA (15.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2BB, 17 K)… Scoreless in 7 of 9 outings…5 outings from April 19-May 5: 10.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, BB, 10 SO…Season-high 2.1 perfect on May 5th at Binghamton…

2014: Went a combined 2-2, 1.80 ERA (10 ER/50.0 IP) in 35 games between Portland and High-A Salem, making his debut in the Red Sox system…Fanned 56 batters on the season, compiling a 10.1 strikeouts-per-9-innings…Converted 7 of 8 save chances between Salem and Portland…Promoted to the Sea Dogs on July 11th and went scoreless in 9 of 11 appearances, going 2-1. 2.76 ERA…

2013: Signed by the Cubs as a minor league free agent on 1/19. Started the season on the DL from 4/4-7/2. Had a 3.00 ERA (7 ER/21.0 IP) in 13 games while making stops at the Rookie-level Arizona League Cubs, High-A Daytona, and Double-A Tennessee. Signed by the Red Sox as a minor league free agent on 12/5.

ACQUIRED: Signed by the Red Sox as a minor league free agent on December 5, 2013.

PERSONAL: Signed by Chicago Cubs as a minor league free agent on January 19, 2013…Originally signed by the Houston Astros as an international free agent in October, 2005, spent 6 seasons (’06-’08, ’10-’12) in Astros system (never pitched higher than Low-A).

jonathan aro with greenville

Jonathan Aro has made a meteoric rise up the Red Sox farm system over the past 12 months.

Jonathan Aro -RHP: Aro has sped through the Red Sox organization over the past two years, moving from Low-A Greenville at this time in 2014 all the way to Pawtucket in short order.  The native of the Dominican Republic has yet to make his Triple-A debut.  Read more about him here:

2015: 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.

2014: Split the season between Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem, where he combined to go 3-3 with 8 saves and a 2.16 ERA in 32 appearances (1 start)…spent the majority of the campaign with Greenville, where he made 25 relief appearances (1-3, 7 saves, 2.27 ERA)…Was named a South Atlantic League mid-season All-Star and the Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Month for April…Promoted to Salem on 7/29 and made 7 appearances (2-0, save, 1.80 ERA).

2013: Spent the season with Short-A Lowell and went 5-3 with 3 saves and a 2.14 ERA in 15 appearances (1 start)…Posted the 2nd-lowest ERA on the team (min. 50 IP)…Limited opponents to 2 ER or fewer in all 15 appearances.

ACQUIRED: Signed by the Red Sox as an international free agent on June 6th, 2011 from La Vega in the Dominican Republic.

So there you have it; four new players joining the team during the current homestand.  Thus far the results have been very good, especially for Craig (4-for-10, BB in 3 games played) which is a great sign for Boston.

In case you missed it, I recently sat down with Manager Kevin Boles for a “State of the Union” conversation on PawSox Insider as we reached the one-month mark of the season.  We covered lots of topics, including the current and possible future roles of Blake Swihart and Matt Barnes in the big leagues.  You can hear the entire interview below:

Henry Owens takes the mound on Friday night looking to bounce back from a rough outing last Sunday against this same Columbus team.  Hope to see you at McCoy; if not our radio pregame coverage begins at 6:50pm.

Henry Owens pitching

Henry Owens takes the mound at McCoy on Friday night

Happy Friday!

Josh M

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