Hembree A Huge Boost To Sox Pen

by Josh Maurer

When Heath Hembree once again began a season as the PawSox closer, it didn’t seem very feasible that he would be helping the big league club win games before the end of April.

But after earning the win with a three-inning appearance in Houston on Sunday night, Hembree seems to have made himself an indispensable part of the Boston bullpen.  Since being recalled one week ago, the right-hander has appeared in three games and tossed 7.2 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits while striking out 11 and walking just one.

Heath Hembree

Heath Hembree has been spectacular in the Red Sox bullpen since his recall last week

Hembree has featured a new curveball to go along with his mid-to-high 90s MPH fastball.  Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis says that along with his arsenal, his new hurler’s confidence is a big reason for his sudden dominance.

Already this season four pitchers who began the season with Pawtucket have gone to the bigs to try and help the Boston pitching staff – Hembree, William Cuevas, Roenis Elias, Henry Owens and Pat Light.

Cuevas and Elias each struggled in one appearance last week and were each optioned right back.  Owens and Light just joined the club Sunday in Houston, and Owens did not escape the fourth inning in his first start.

Henry Owens pitch follow through

The Red Sox bullpen should get a big lift soon as Carson Smith is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with the PawSox on Tuesday afternoon.  After being acquired along with Elias in the Wade Miley deal last December, Smith was expected to be a big part of the pen before a forearm injury late in spring training landed him on the DL.

Meanwhile, as the PawSox get ready for two more home games to start the week, here are some interviews for you to enjoy from last week:

I sat down with the President of Minor League Baseball, Pat O’Conner, recently to discuss a litany of topics:

Pat O'Conner

MiLB President Pat O’Conner

Alex Speier of the Boston Globe recently joined Will and I to talk about the Red Sox super-talented Salem High-A affiliate:

New PawSox third-baseman Jantzen Witte joined us on the pregame show last week before his Triple-A debut and talked about his long road to reach this level:

Finally, here’s a conversation with veteran outfielder Justin Maxwell, who has been an everyday player for the PawSox thus far in 2016:

Justin Maxwell gets congrats in dugout

The PawSox are home at McCoy on Monday night, beginning a scheduled six-game week against Syracuse (two at home, then after a day-off on Wednesday four at NBT Bank Stadium). Cuevas, fresh off of his MLB debut, is slated to make the start for Pawtucket.  First pitch is at 6:15pm.

William Cuevas throws pitch good

William Cuevas is on the mound Monday night for Pawtucket

Have a great start to the week!

Josh M

 

 

 

PawSox Rotation Starting To Take Shape

by Josh Maurer

Opening day at McCoy Stadium is drawing even closer (two weeks from the time of this writing!), and the roster situation for the PawSox is becoming clearer. Roster moves made on Thursday morning sent several players to the Pawtucket roster.

Thursday was the final day in Fort Myers for Will and me, and during it we got the opportunity to broadcast one final Red Sox Grapefruit League game from JetBlue Park.  Boston defeated a split-squad Mets team, 4-1, behind seven brilliant innings from Joe Kelly.

Joe Kelly

Kelly improved to 3-0 this spring, and has now allowed only three runs in five starts. David Ortiz delivered his second RBI of the spring with a go-ahead two-out single in the sixth inning, while Xander Bogaerts added some insurance by lifting his first home run this season over the Green Monster in the eighth.

Earlier in the day, the Red Sox announced that six players had been re-assigned from big-league camp; pitchers Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Heath Hembree and Roman Mendez along with infielder Sam Travis and outfielder Ryan LaMarre.

Johnson on mound

Brian Johnson was optioned to the PawSox on Thursday

It is possible, maybe even likely, that all six of those players begin the season with the PawSox when the season opens in two weeks.  Owens, Johnson and Hembree are all members of the 40-man roster and so each have already been optioned to Pawtucket.

One would think that Owens would be right at or near the top of the PawSox starting rotation along with Johnson, who is now generally recovered from a sprained toe suffered earlier this month.

Henry Owens pitching

Henry Owens is a good candidate to start on opening night at McCoy Stadium on April 7th

William Cuevas, who finished the season well with Pawtucket in 2015, veteran hurler Sean O’Sullivan, and lefty Roenis Elias are also possibilities to begin the year in the PawSox rotation.

Elias, received by Boston from Seattle in the Wade Miley deal last offseason, is also a candidate to start the year in the big-league bullpen.  He earned a save on Thursday against the Mets by recorded a 1-2-3 ninth inning that included two punchouts.

roenis elias

Roenis Elias

-Will had an in-depth conversation with new Red Sox President Sam Kennedy prior to Thursday’s broadcast. You can check it out below:

Sam Kennedy

Sam Kennedy

-Here is a video interview with PawSox reliever Pat Light from Wednesday.  Light says he feels very confident as he gets ready to head north and begin his second season pitching in the International League.

Thanks to everyone for reading our coverage from “The Fort” over the past couple of weeks.  We owe a big debt of gratitude to the Red Sox broadcasting and media relations departments for allowing us to broadcast from JetBlue and giving us access to all the players and coaches.  It has been a lot of fun.

We’ll talk to you soon from New England!

Josh M

Porcello with the PawSox

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We had Fenway South to ourselves this morning

Today is one of only two scheduled days off for the big league club, who returned to Fort Myers after three days on Florida’s east coast.  On the back fields, Rick Porcello was the headliner; he struck out eight over six innings in the PawSox’ game against Durham. Porcello worked with Christian Vasquez on Field 4 and looked strong; here’s video of a punchout that ended the fifth inning:

The Major-League side was mostly quiet today, though all pitchers who had a scheduled bullpen (David Price and Pat Light amongst them) were on site and worked with Carl Willis.

After Porcello wrapped up his outing, we sat down and chatted with Light:

Around 10 o’clock, the PawSox finished their morning session with batting practice (here is a clip of Sean Coyle taking some hacks):

After that, Josh celebrated National Puppy Day by spending some time with Homer, the Sox’ clubhouse dog:

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Mr. Maurer spent some quality time with Homer

Josh and I logged a video diary from the visitors’ dugout at JetBlue:

It was an otherwise slow news day at the Fort, but there were a couple items of note:

Josh and I will have the call of the Sox and Mets on MLB. com tomorrow at 1 PM; we will log a video preview in the morning and will be available for a Facebook video chat at 10:30.

Talk to you then!

PawSox Face Some Big-Name Orioles in Sarasota

by Josh Maurer

Oftentimes during spring training, when established Major League players want to get in some extra work on the mound or take extra at-bats to work on some things at the plate they go take part in one of the minor league games.  On Monday, Will chronicled how David Ortiz and Junichi Tazawa (and others) played in the PawSox game at JetBlue.

Tuesday afternoon when the PawSox headed north to Sarasota to take on the Norfolk Tides (Orioles Triple-A affiliate), they ran into some important pieces of the Baltimore  big-league roster in a game played at the Buck O’Neill Complex at Twin Lakes Park (about a 15-minute drive from the Os spring home Ed Smith Stadium).

outside of Buck O'Neill complex

The Buck O’Neill Complex is a bit of a drive away from the Orioles MLB spring training home in Sarasota

Ubaldo Jimenez pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings against a lineup that feature PawSox infielder Sean Coyle, among others. Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters, infidlers Chris Davis and Pedro Alvarez and outfielder Hyun Soo Kim all batted against a Pawtucket pitching staff that included William Cuevas and Edwin Escobar.

Will and I were fortunate enough to be at the contest in Sarasota, and here is a photo/video recap of the afternoon:

Jimenez pitches closeup

Ubaldo Jimenez and his familiar funky delivery started the game for the Norfolk team.

Ubaldo Jimenez pitches

Jimenez shut out the PawSox for 5 2/3 innings on Tuesday afternoon.

Sean Coyle on deck

Sean Coyle was in the lineup playing 2nd base for Pawtucket against the Tides.

Ron Johnson on back field

Former PawSox manager and current Norfolk Tides skipper Ron Johnson presided over the festivities for the Orioles side.

Pedro Alvarez and Kim

Several big-name Orioles played big roles in the contest on Tuesday, including Hyun Soo Kim and Pedro Alvarez.

Chris Davis batting

Chris Davis takes a cut in the middle innings against PawSox reliever Mike Augliera.

Edwin Escobar, a man who has spent a large portion of the past two seasons pitching for the PawSox, entered the game in the middle innings and got to face both Davis and Wieters.  Here is a video clip of Escobar retiring Davis on a fielder’s choice:

And here is Wieters lining a single to right against Edwin in the same inning:

-We have been very fortunate to get the opportunity to interview some great guests during our time in Fort Myers this spring.  On Monday, I sat down with new Red Sox pitching ace David Price and talked about, among other topics, his impressions of Henry Owens and Brian Johnson.

Tuesday morning Will caught up with PawSox Hall of Famer-to-be Jim Rice, and chatted with the Red Sox great about his impressions of the current Boston outfield situation.

Finally, here is a video interview with Red Sox reliever Noe Ramirez, who has had a strong spring and is in the mix for a big-league bullpen spot to start the season (especially after the injury to Carson Smith on Monday).

-Earlier on Tuesday back at the JetBlue Complex, Rick Porcello threw a bullpen session with Pawtucket pitching coach Bob Kipper standing in the batter’s box as a “dummy” hitter.

Porcello pitches to Kipper

Bob Kipper standing in the batter’s box as he worked with Rick Porcello during a bullpen session on Tuesday morning – good form!

Porcello is expected to pitch on Wednesday during the PawSox game on the backfields.  We will bring you a recap of his outing, as well as the rest of the game information, tomorrow afternoon here on “45 Miles From Fenway.”

Thanks so much for reading, we will talk to you again on Wednesday from The Fort!

Josh M

Ortiz Up Close on the Back Fields

Today was further proof of a little-known truth about Spring Training: the slowest days are often the best days.  Many of the big league regulars spent Monday in Jupiter in a game against the Cardinals – and the traveling pack that covers the Red Sox went with them. As a result, there was an unmistakably laid-back vibe around JetBlue Park this morning; everyone was in the mood to talk, so Josh and I did just that.  Josh landed interviews with David Price and Joe Kelly (look for those on our website and in an upcoming episode of PawSox Insider) before we had an on-camera chat with Noe Ramirez.

The big leaguers that stayed back in Ft. Myers had a workout on the big field at 9:30.  Here’s a brief montage of swings taken by Blake Swihart and Sam Travis:

Ater BP, I chatted with both Rich Gedman and Bob Kipper.  Then it was off to the outer fields, where Junichi Tazawa, Chris Young and Swihart were slated to play in the PawSox game.  On any day, that would draw a horde of fans to the exterior of JetBlue.  Today, however, those who came onto the grounds at Fenway South were greeted with an even bigger name in the AAA game:

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Big Papi could be forgiven for feeling at home in the Minnesota dugout

David Ortiz batted third in each of the first three innings; in between, he spent some time in his former club’s dugout.

Yesterday in Port St. Lucie, John Farrell told reporters that he wants to see as much of Travis Shaw at third base as he possibly can, and candidly admitted that nothing is settled at the hot corner.  Not surprisingly, this admission sent ripples less for what it says about Shaw (who had two more hits today and scored on a Jackie Bradley, Jr. double) than what it may mean for Pablo Sandoval.

Here is yet another double for Shaw:

Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez continues to look solid at first base:

Hanley was on the back end of this spectacular diving play by Brock Holt:

A few final notes for the day:

That’s all for now on a chilly day in Ft Myers (66 degrees at the time of this writing!).  We will talk to you tomorrow from Sarasota.

 

 

 

A Conversation With Sam Travis

by Josh Maurer

First-baseman Sam Travis has been the talk of the camp at JetBlue Park.  Not many paid attention when Travis was named a non-roster invitee to spring training, and those who did likely assumed he would have been re-assigned to minor league camp by this juncture.

The Red Sox’ Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2015 had other ideas, however.  He has hit for averageHe has hit for powerHe has hit in the clutch.  Through Friday’s action, Travis is batting a cool .600 (15-for-25) with two home runs and a remarkable 13 RBIs.

John Farrell said on Friday that the quiet-spoken Indiana Hoosier has made the big leage coaching staff take notice.

“He’s got lightning-quick hands and a compact swing. I marvel at a guy who sits for two hours, then comes up (late in the game) and hits line drives. He’s a gritty, hard-nosed type of player and for someone who’s come into major league camp for the first time, you hope they make an impression.”

“He’s made an impression on everyone who’s sat in the stands and watched games, let alone us who work with him day-in, day-out,” said Farrell.

Earlier on Saturday Will Flemming and I caught up with Travis before the Red Sox’ rain-shortened 3-1 victory over St. Louis.  Here is the interview, as heard on this week’s edition of PawSox Insider.

-If you have a few minutes, do check out this terrific look at PawSox Manager Kevin Boles’ winter working as the skipper for Perth of the Australian Baseball League by MassLive’s Jen McCaffery.  It paints an interesting picture of what the Aussies are doing to try and grow America’s National Pastime on their continent.

Boles bundled in dugout

-Also on PawSox Insider Saturday, Will and I had a fun sitdown with Gordon Edes, the longtime Red Sox beat reporter recently turned team historian.  Gordon has so many stories to tell, and in his new role he’ll have some new forums to relay them.

Gordon Edes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We hope you had a chance to check out the Open House at McCoy this afternoon.  Opening Night is less than three weeks away!

PawSox open house

We will have more updates from Fort Myers throughout the weekend and all of next week.  Have a great rest of your Saturday, and thanks for stopping by!

Josh M

Benintendi Debuts at JetBlue

About an hour before the first pitch of the Red Sox’ game with Minnesota on Friday afternoon, word came down that Jackie Bradley, Jr. had been scratched with right forearm soreness.  Once Jackie quickly dispelled any fears when he proclaimed he could stand at home plate and throw a ball out of the park, the day’s focus shifted to the man who took Bradley’s place on John Farrell’s lineup card, Andrew Benintendi.

Benintendi – the Sox’ first round pick out of Arkansas a year ago – erupted onto the scene in 2015 and came into camp as one of the more coveted prospects in the sport.  I saw Benintendi on the outer fields Wednesday afternoon and was struck by two things: his size (or lack thereof) and his bat speed.   Like Sam Travis (who is the headliner in the Sox spring thus far with his lightning swing that has produced one big hit after another), Benintendi has a straight path to the ball – and he put it on display right away on Friday.

In his first at-bat, Benintendi ripped the second pitch he saw from Tyler Duffey into left field.  In his third plate appearance, the diminutive left hander laced a line drive hit to right.  The Sox did hold their breath in the seventh, when Tzu-Wei Lin collided with the centerfielder chasing after a pop fly.  Both remained in the game and Benintendi spoke to the media after his Grapefruit League debut (and told us his parents were at the park today):

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The other piece of news from JetBlue: Marco Hernandez was optioned to Pawtucket the morning after he slipped on first base and separated his left shoulder after yet another hit in an impressive spring campaign.  John Farrell told reporters before the game that Marco’s option was planned before the injury, and commented on the breakout spring:

 

Before the ballgame, Josh and I logged a video preview:

A few other highlights from today’s game with the Twins:

Mookie Betts did it again.  He launched his third homer of the spring over the Monster in left:

Joe Mauer flashed his smooth swing on this RBI single:

Josh and I have had great fun on the MLB.com broadcasts; we will have the ballgame on the 24th from JetBlue. Between now and then we will bring you comprehensive coverage from Fort Myers.

We look forward to speaking with you on tomorrow’s PawSox Insider, which airs at 4 PM on WHJJ and on the PawSox Radio Network.  Guests include manager Kevin Boles and the red hot infielder Sam Travis.

 

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