Results tagged ‘ Bryce Brentz ’

Homestand Recap (8/22-8/25): The Stretch Run, the Young Gun and Some Summer Fun

by Ryan Young

Incredibly, we reached the penultimate homestand of the season last week at McCoy. The PawSox had a busy four days on and off the field. Fortunately, with our “Summer Spree When Kids Are Free” promotion (which continues this week), plenty of fans got to take part in the fun as well.

Heating Up Down the Stretch

This is the first time I have witnessed the stretch-run of  Triple-A season up close and there are many intriguing facets to it. First there’s the race for the postseason. Unfortunately, the imbalance in the International League divisions this year forced the PawSox back to the fringe of the Wild Card race for most of August. (Even though Pawtucket has one of the top-10 records in Triple-A!)

Just look at the divisional standings at the end of August (you’re attention will probably be draw to four teams in the middle, part of a division that will live in infamy):

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There also is the fact that September 1st is when major league rosters expand. Of course, everyone on the Triple-A club hopes to get the call either on the 1st or once the minor league season ends.

Several PawSox have played especially well during this stretch drive. Joe Kelly is heading back to Fenway for good reason. He allowed one run in his 13 relief appearances for Pawtucket. In those 16.0 innings pitched, he totaled 25 strikeouts and two walks.

Meanwhile Robby Scott has been terrific all year (for much of the season as the lone Sox lefty in the bullpen). He has not allowed a run in 12 of his last 14 appearances.

Chandler Shepherd has also been terrific in the bullpen. In fact, he was even entrusted with the Robby Scott-specialty (a spot start) a couple of weeks ago. I spoke with Shepherd about pitching longer outings, veterans in the bullpen, his traded teammates, ping pong in the clubhouse and his recent adventures in Providence.

 

As for starting pitchers, Brian Johnson had a fantastic five-start span before a hiccup in his last outing and Sean O’Sullivan has gotten back on track with his last two starts.

Offensively, Ryan LaMarre, who has maintained his .300 batting average all season, sparked the team over the last week. LaMarre had never homered twice in a professional game before last Wednesday…when he homered twice in two innings!


Much like LaMarre, Bryce Brentz is hoping to patrol the Fenway Park outfield once again this month. Brentz, whose stint in Boston lasted nearly two months, returned to McCoy with four hits and two doubles in three games last week.

I caught up with Bryce to talk about his experiences in the big leagues, including playing at Fenway, playing alongside his good buddy JBJ and what he enjoyed the most. If nothing else, make sure to tune in around the 4-minute mark, where we discussed his first #WinDanceRepeat, which I asked Brock Holt about back in June. (Let’s just say he had to learn it at the last minute.)

 

Even as LaMarre, Brentz, Rusney Castillo have played terrific recently, nobody has gone on quite a power surge like Chris Dominguez did last week. He homered five times in five games. In fact, only two PawSox hitters recorded multi-homer games all season before last Wednesday (including Dominguez the previous week)…then LaMarre and Dominguez both did it in the span of three innings. That’s why baseball is the greatest.

Here’s a brief clip of Dominguez discussing his recent hot streak:

 

Pit Stop to DC

We’ve seen several PawSox players get the call to Boston this season and now that September has arrived, even more guys are heading back up there.

But we’ve also seen many top prospects from the opposition head from McCoy to the big leagues within weeks or in the case of Lucas Giolito, within days. (See Turner, Judge, Sanchez, Berrios, Taillon, Glasnow,

Giolito pitched only one inning against the PawSox last Tuesday to keep him available to pitch over the weekend in Washington. And indeed, he made the start for the Nationals on Sunday.

Not only did he stand out on the mound, but Giolito was probably my most interesting interview subject of the season. Here is the full interview, where we talked about everything from his call to the majors to his admiration of Bob Gibson to his very talented family.

Lucas was optioned back to Syracuse after his start in DC last weekend, so if you come to McCoy for this series, there is a good chance you might get to see baseball’s top pitching prospect in action.

One Busy Afternoon

The final Thursday in August may have been the busiest afternoon of the season for PawSox players.

First, we were nominated by the Rochester Red Wings in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. So, after securing enough buckets to fill with ice and water, the team of front office staff and interns assembled over the railing.

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And then, well…here is a different angle of the festivities for you to enjoy:

 

 

Hardly an hour later, it was time for one of the bigger events of the season. The whole team went out to the field to sign autographs…and lots of fans lined up along the warning track to take advantage of the opportunity. It was a fun scene. Here were all the parings:

Thanks to all the PawSox players for giving so much both on and off the field during the stretch run of the season.

Sadly, we only have five more games to watch them play. But the good news is that they’re all at McCoy! Hope to see you there as we close things out.

Rusney, Marco On Fire For The PawSox

by Josh Maurer

Over the past two and 1/2 weeks, the PawSox have won 12 of 16 games to move a season-high eight games above .500 (63-55).  The squad just completed a 5-1 homestand on Thursday afternoon, culminating with a 6-5 comeback victory over Durham that gave Pawtucket a three-game sweep of the Bulls.

It was the third three-game sweep of the season for Kevin Boles’ club, which has now won all five of its series at McCoy Stadium after the All-Star break.  The PawSox have won a remarkable 14 of their last 16 affairs at home dating back to July 15th.  Unfortunately, they have only 9 home games remaining (of their final 25 scheduled contests).

Two of the biggest reasons for the team’s recent success rest right at the top of the order, with leadoff hitter Rusney Castillo and third-hole man Marco Hernandez.  Each has played in all 16 games during the current hot stretch, and each has been on fire at the plate.

Rusney Castillo swinging in Red

Starting on July 27th, Castillo is batting .407 (24-for-59) in 14 games with nine multi-hit efforts.  Rusney has three doubles and three triples during those 14 affairs, and while he has not walked once during that stretch he has scored 11 runs.  The native of Cuba recorded a triple in each of the last two games in the Durham series.

During that same time frame, Hernandez is hitting .358 (19-for-53) in 14 games with seven multi-hit games.  Marco has homered twice (including an inside-the-parker last Friday and a game-tying shot in the eighth inning on Thursday against Durham) and collected three triples and a double in those 14. He has 13 RBI in the past two weeks.

Pawsox/Scanton 4-11-16

With those two providing some series thump at the top of the lineup card, Pawtucket’s offense has flourished during this recent stretch.  The PawSox are batting .257 as a team this year, good for fourth-best out of any I.L. club.

Chris Marrero has gotten hot again, having homered in back-to-back games to finish the series against the Bulls.  Marrero’s go-ahead blast with two outs in the eighth inning on Thursday gave the team an eventual victory and tied him for the top spot in the I.L. home run race with 22 on the year.

When Marrero has hit long balls this season, they have tended to come in bunches.  That would lead you to believe that the Buffalo Bisons pitching staff might be in for a long weekend with Castillo, Hernandez and Marrero all currently mashing the ball at the plate.

Here are a few other roster notes to keep an eye on as Pawtucket prepares for a long road trip:

-The Red Sox outfield situation became muddled this week when Mookie Betts left Wednesday’s game against the Yankees with right calf tightness and was listed as day-to-day.  Bryce Brentz was optioned back to the PawSox on Thursday afternoon to make room for Roenis Elias, who may be needed as a long man over the next few days with Clay Buchholz entering the starting rotation.

Chris Young, who began a rehab assignment with the PawSox on Thursday afternoon and went 0-for-2 in five innings as the DH, should resume action on Saturday night in Buffalo.  When deemed ready, Young could essentially take Brentz’s spot as a platoon left-fielder with Andrew Benintendi.

Chris Young swinging

Sean O’Sullivan, who had struggled in three rehab starts with the PawSox since returning from a knee injury, was outrighted off the Boston 40-man roster for the second time this season on Thursday.  He returns as a regular member of the Pawtucket roster and should remain in the PawSox starting rotation.

Sean O'Sullivan pitches

Allen Craig has been rehabbing his knee injury with Short-A Lowell for the past two weeks.  Craig, who has missed 77 consecutive PawSox games since injuring the knee in Buffalo on May 19th, has played in five games for the Spinners since July 28th and gone 4-for-16 with three walks and two RBI.

It would be nice to see Craig play in some games for Pawtucket over the final few weeks of the season.  Because of two separate injuries, he has only been able to appear in six contests total for the squad this year.

Allen Craig on swing follow through

As mentioned earlier, the PawSox are getting ready for a lot of bus rides around the I.L. North for the next three weeks.  They will play 16 of their next 20 contests on the road, beginning with a season-long 10-game trip that will take them to Buffalo, Lehigh Valley and Scranton.

The trip represents an opportunity for Pawtucket to make up some ground on both teams currently sitting in a playoff position from the division – Lehigh (wildcard leaders) and Scranton (North leaders).  As of Thursday afternoon, the PawSox had climbed to within 7.5 games of the IronPigs in the wildcard standings.

The RailRiders have played remarkable baseball for three months, and at 74-43 still lead Pawtucket by 11.5 games in the standings after having won their last seven straight games.  The PawSox will play each of their final 25 games inside of the North Division.

Will and I are looking forward to our first trip to Buffalo since the weekend before Memorial Day.  It will be three days full of baseball, hospitality and wings!  We hope you will join us on the radio for the action this Friday as Justin Haley takes the mound for the PawSox at 7:05.

Josh M

Homestand Recap (6/20-6/26): All Rise as Judge Enters and Court is in Session

by Ryan Young

The longest homestand of the season at McCoy (eight games due to Tuesday’s doubleheader) featured beautiful weather as we officially entered summer. The week featured a slew of PawSox rising to and delivering in Boston, several former Portland SeaDogs (including Ryan Court) delivering for Pawtucket and a couple of top prospects surging at McCoy (including Aaron Judge). Alright, now that I’ve tried to rationalize my convoluted headline, let’s get started:

Portland to Pawtucket ✈️

For much of the week, two-thirds of Pawtucket’s starting lineup was composed of players that began the year with the Double-A SeaDogs. (Even with the rehabbing Brock Holt and Ryan Hanigan in the lineup for most of the week.)

Both infielder Ryan Court and relief pitcher Chandler Shepherd came straight from Portland on the first day of the homestand.

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In Court’s Triple-A debut, he went 3-for-4 with RBI singles in each of his first two at-bats and a triple in his final at-bat. I’m sure he’ll cherish the night he got to spend as a .750 hitter in Triple-A.

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Not only did Court deliver offensively, but he started at a different infield position in each of his first four games and made some terrific defensive plays.

Court was ready to play his second straight year of independent ball before getting the call that the Red Sox had signed him in early May. He was literally going to drive all his belongings to Sioux City the next day, but instead had them shipped up to Maine.

I spoke with Ryan about his remarkable journey over the last two months:

 

Meanwhile, Shepherd has not allowed a run in his first three appearances. In fact, he’s retired the last 19 batters he’s faced! The righthander shined in Double-A, sporting a 1.80 ERA in 22 games with Portland.

Here is some of my interview with Shepherd from last week where I chatted with him about his success, moving up to Triple-A and his favorite player growing up:

 

Last week can also be known as the week that Henry Ramos emerged. Ramos, who was promoted from Portland on June 6, started all eight games of the homestand and went 10-for-29 with a double, triple, two home runs and eight RBI.

And then in his first game of the road trip, he smacked another triple and tallied his second four-RBI performance in three games. Ramos, a switch-hitter who has shown power from the left side but done damage from both sides of the plate, is someone to look out for over the next month.

Pawtucket to Boston ✈️

(BTW, I know that these guys don’t generally need to fly from Portland to Pawtucket or from McCoy to Fenway thanks to their #blessed New England locations, but why don’t any of the vehicular emojis drive from left to right?!?)

Of the PawSox who have spent time in Boston over the last few weeks, nobody has made more of an impact than catcher Sandy Leon. Leon, who was recalled to replace the injured Hanigan on June 5, has made as significant an impact as possible with the Red Sox.

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He went 9-for-13 (.692) in his first five games with Boston and his currently batting .483 through 11 games. He has also caught five of eight attempted base stealers.

Leon’s biggest big league at-bat came last Friday with the Red Sox. On the 11th pitch of the AB, he doubled helping Boston’s rally along and leading to a big comeback win.

That also happened to be Bryce Brentz‘s first major league game of the season. He recorded a hit and got to partake in the famed Red Sox outfield celebration after the victory.

I asked the rehabbing Holt for his assessment of Bryce’s performance in the celebration. Holt had no criticism whatsoever, but admitted that of the recent left fielders, Chris Young is the best at doing it. Holt didn’t establish any criteria for critquing the performances but he admitted that Chris Young was easily the best of the recent left field crew that has featured both Brock and Blake Swihart.

While Brentz has taken advantage of some Red Sox injuries by hitting .467 over his first four games, Ryan LaMarre has also seen some time in the Boston outfield.

His entire team huddled around the clubhouse TV to watch his first major league at-bat of the season.

Congratulations also go out to Mike Miller for making his major league debut this week.

While many PawSox starters have seen time with the Red Sox this season, Pat Light really deserved his recent call up. He has tossed 13 straight scoreless inning and hasn’t allowed a run in the ninth inning (in Triple-A) all season long!

On the Cusp of the Bigs

We saw two of the top prospects in baseball at McCoy last week: the Nationals’ Trea Turner and the Yankees’ Aaron Judge. Both were named to the International League All-Star Team and  can’t be too far away from spending some time in the big leagues.

Turner has already had a couple of quick stints with Washington. He had a game-winning hit and a two-run home run in the final two games of the Syracuse-Pawtucket series. Before he did that damage, I asked him about what he’s been focusing on in Triple-A, how he deals with the hype around him and his favorite players growing up:

Meanwhile, Judge came to Rhode Island as the hottest hitter in the league. He then hit two home runs in the series, including one of the longest blasts at McCoy in a long time.

The fans were in hot pursuit of obtaining an Aaron Judge autograph. Fortunately for them, he was more than willing to partake in a McCoy tradition.

I obtained a few quick thoughts from Judge regarding his teammate Nick Swisher, the longest ball he’s ever hit and playing at Yankee Stadium and Fenway.

 

Other Notes and Thoughts

All-Stars

The PawSox also have a couple All-Stars of their own: Chris Marrero and Sean O’Sullivan.

Marrero has been among the league leaders in home runs and total bases all season.

O’Sullivan had his best week of the season, going 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA (1 ER/15.0 IP), 10 strikeouts and no walks in 15 innings of work.

Light might have also had a chance to make the squad had he not been called up. There was a significant push for Light (#FightForLight) and Robby Scott (#WhyNotScott) among PawSox players and fans.

Robby Scott

Scott earned the #WhyNotScott movement thanks to his success on the mound this season. He has 32 strikeouts and no walks in his last 13 appearances. (He issued his last walk on May 7!)

But he has been even more valuable off the field. Here are three very diverse topics I spoke with Robby about: thinking about the big leagues while pitching well in Triple-A, being so passionate about his community work and watching LeBron bring a title to Cleveland as a Miami Heat fan.

 

Boys of McCoy

Finally, I must give a shoutout to our intern boy band that performed during 90’s Night on Friday. Here is a look at their final rehearsal before their big performance:

Full disclosure: my favorite Backstreet Boys song was As Long As You Love Me. Though, I don’t recall any dabbing in that music video.

There will be more fun to be had at McCoy this weekend, highlight by post-game fireworks on Friday…and Saturday….and Sunday! There will be no better place to spend the holiday weekend.

Homestand Recap (May 13-18): Strikeouts, Wind and Yaz

by Ryan Young

Hello PawSox fans and loyal readers. I’m the Broadcasting/Media Assistant this season and I look forward to contributing to the blog along with Josh and Will. My plan is to update you after every homestand at McCoy with interesting notes, sound bites and more from the week.

This week, the PawSox earned their first winning homestand of the season with series victories over the Gwinnett Braves and Norfolk Tides. Even though we suffered our fourth rainout already this season on Friday, a very eventful five days ensued. Let’s start by looking at some notable player performances.

Top Player Performances

Josh already touched on the monster performances over the weekend from Sam Travis and Bryce Brentz. Travis hit three home runs in two games. He can battle Chris Marrero for who has been more locked in for a series this year.

Bryce Brentz swings

Brentz, meanwhile, has had a long road back since fracturing his thumb last June. Following his big doubleheader on Saturday (he went 4-for-6), I spoke with him about his successful return.

Possibly of more interest, following his recovery, Brentz also had quite the offseason. I spoke with him about his wedding (which featured familiar names as groomsmen) and one of the biggest days in his alma mater’s history this March.

In case you were living under a rock two months ago (or don’t follow March Madness), this is what we were referring to:

Also this March, a guy with a pretty familiar last name received a standing ovation in a game at the Red Sox’ spring training home, JetBlue Park. He just happened to make his Triple-A debut at McCoy this week. He goes by Mike Yastrzemski. Carl’s grandson made his debut for the Tides on Monday and he showed why he was a top prospect in the Orioles organization.

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He hit a game-tying triple in his debut and a game-tying home run the next day, recording four hits in his first two games. Yaz, a New England-native, had plenty of family and friends in attendance at McCoy.

Following his Triple-A debut, I spoke with Yastrzemski about his Triple-A debut, his grandfather’s advice and growing up a Red Sox fan.

Fortunately for the PawSox, they were able to find an answer for Yaz in the final game of the homestand. His name was Roenis Elias and he made history on Wednesday morning/afternoon at McCoy.

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Elias fanned 13 Norfolk batters, the most by a Pawtucket pitcher in the 21st century! It was last done in 1999 when Jim Ho Cho struck out 15 in 1999. Elias became only the seventh pitcher in PawSox history to record at least 13 strikeouts in a game.

After Pawtucket’s 3-2 win in the series finale, Elias said (through his teammate William Cuevas) that he had been working with pitching coach Bob Kipper on throwing more strikes and it showed in Wednesday’s results. Manager Kevin Boles was especially impressed with his fastball command and efficiency on the mound.

Not to be out done, the rehabbing Joe Kelly fanned 10 Tides in the series opener on Monday. In fact, PawSox pitchers struck out an astounding 41 batters in the three-game series (12 on Monday, 13 in Tuesday’s 14-inning game and 16 on Wednesday)! At least 40 strikeouts in a three-game stretch (with at least 12 strikeouts in each game) hasn’t even been done by a major league team this season.

New Face

While there has been a handful of players this season called up for various periods of time from Portland, having right-handed pitcher Mike McCarthy at McCoy this week was a special treat. McCarthy had a couple of quick stints in Pawtucket in 2014 and 2015 before he was transferred to the PawSox again on May 9.

He certainly keeps himself busy off the field, making the most of each minor league location:

He was working on his MBA while with the Sea Dogs. And during Pawtucket’s homestand, he spent his free time studying for a final.

However, the time McCarthy spends making a difference in the community is most impressive of all. Most notably, he is a large part of an organization called Baseball Miracles. Its mission is to help reach children with economic and environmental disadvantages throughout the world and teach them baseball and softball through instruction and donating supplies. McCarthy has already made stops around the globe, including Honduras this past offseason.

Here is a portion of my interview with McCarthy from this week, where we discussed spending time in the PawSox bullpen, his favorite destinations and Baseball Miracles:

Be sure to visit the Baseball Miracles website for more information.

Other Notes and Thoughts

This is the fun part. Here are some of my random takeaways from the last week.

The Weather🌧🌬

Fortunately, I don’t have any hot takes on the unseasonably cool weather in the first third of the season. 😞

But there’s no doubt it has played a factor. We’ve already had three Saturday doubleheaders this season with another twin-bill on the way in June. Playing three games in 24 hours is already challenging, but it’s even more difficult when strong winds decide to show up, as has been the case for the majority of games at McCoy this month.

There was a jet stream blowing out to right field this week thanks to high wind gusts. It burned the PawSox more than it helped, which included blowing out Norfolk’s game-winning home run on Monday. But thankfully, there is an example where Ryan LaMarre was able to take advantage of the jetstream:

The wind also made it difficult to catch fly balls. In game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, Blake Swihart had to reverse his track of running towards the left field line after the wind pushed a flyball back towards center field. Brentz took note of Swihart’s nice catch and on a flyball down the left field line in game two, he expected to make a sliding grab. But instead, the wind calmed and this happened:

Brentz GifFortunately Brentz said he emerged without any scrapes and bruises from the play…and a very fine catch that helped the PawSox pull out a victory.

Foul Ground at McCoy

It’s already difficult enough to go after foul balls at McCoy because there is so much foul territory. Jantzen Witte has learned this. He sprinted after a foul ball earlier this month, took a full-out dive and came away just short of the catch.

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When I asked Witte about his great effort this week, he relayed an amusing anecdote:

Swihart’s Defense

Soon after Swihart was sent to Pawtucket, he began working on playing left field for the first time in his professional career. He did patrol the outfield in high school, but he said the most difficult part of readjusting to the outfield was reading fly balls. Here is more of what Swihart said a couple days before playing left field for the first time as a professional:

Since making his first appearance in left field on May 3, Swihart has made 11 starts in left field and eight starts at catcher for the PawSox. It has been difficult to tell that he had not played the outfield in six years. Swihart has been very smooth tracking down fly balls. He even had a game in Scranton when he recorded a pair of outfield assists.

Swihart also showed off his arm behind the plate on the last homestand, throwing out two base-stealers in one inning.

After gunning down Schoop, he also threw out Yastrzemski for the final out of the frame.

14 Innings

That game also happened to be the longest contest (by innings) that Pawtucket had played in the last calendar year. In a wild, back-and-forth affair, Kyle Martin escaped a ninth-inning, bases-loaded, nobody-out jam to keep the game tied. The teams traded runs in the 10th inning before Rusney Castillo finally won the game in the 14th.

Before the team took the field for an 11:00 a.m. start the next morning (of course the first morning game in McCoy history would have to follow a 14-inning contest the previous night), Martin, Justin Maxwell and Boles reacted to the win and quick turnaround:

Offensive Outburst

And now for the most important note of the week…

My first two innings of play-by-play on the PawSox Radio Network happened to coincide with eight Pawtucket runs. It was capped off by this swing of the bat:

Is the fact the PawSox average nearly three runs per inning with me doing the play-by-play this season a coincidence?

Fine, I’ll admit it is. And I’ll also admit that the 4-2 homestand along with everything else I’ve mentioned were much more important.

So thankfully, you can keep listening to Josh and Will. Make sure to tune in this weekend to see if the PawSox continue to play well in Buffalo. And then come out to McCoy next week. Maybe I’ll regret saying this, but it actually looks like the summer weather will roll in by Memorial Day Weekend!

 

Travis’ Powerful Weekend at McCoy

by Josh Maurer

What a 19-hour stretch for PawSox first-baseman Sam Travis, huh? Between 8pm on Saturday night and 3pm on Sunday afternoon, Travis ripped three home runs, all pulled out to left field against the Gwinnett Braves.

Sam Travis swing with tounge out

This after Travis had not homered since April 14th, and had done so only twice all season prior to the series against the G-Braves.  All three of the blasts went against a very stiff wind.  Here they all are in chronological order:


All those swings look pretty similar, wouldn’t you say?  It’s fun to watch when a player like Travis gets locked in at the plate.

It was also a terrific weekend for Bryce Brentz, who is starting to look back in regular form after missing nearly the first month of the season.

Bryce Brentz swings

Brentz started all three games and collected five hits in the Gwinnett series, including these three you can watch below:


Bryce also had the defensive gem of the weekend, a tumbling grab in left field foul territory on Saturday night in game two of the doubleheader.  Couple the with a diving catch in Scranton last week and Brentz has been laying his body all over the field recently:


I have always said that Bryce, who is known for being a power right-handed bat, is extremely underrated with his glove.  He helps you quite a bit defensively in either corner outfield position.

The PawSox won two of three from Gwinnett, using back-to-back offensive outbursts to collect the final two games of the series on Saturday and Sunday.  They will try to keep the bats rolling when Norfolk comes into town Monday night to begin a three-game series.

Joe Kelly continues his rehab assignment for Boston at McCoy on Monday night at 7:05pm.  He looked strong on Wednesday in Scranton, allowing just one run and hitting 98 miles-per-hour on the radar gun with his final pitch in Moosic.

Joe Kelly pitching better

Hope to see you at the park this week, thanks so much for reading!

Josh M

Be The Ball: Masterson Looks Strong, Danny Noonan Comes to Charlotte

by Will Flemming

danny noonan

This isn’t Russia. Is this Russia? No, it’s Charlotte.

Caddyshack was the comedy soundtrack of my childhood.  I watched it more than any other film, memorized most of the script, and quoted it constantly to friends and family.  ‘Big hitter, the Lama… long.’ ‘A flute with no holes is not a flute; a donut with no hole is a danish.’ ‘Hey baby you must’ve been something before electricity.’

So when I learned that Wednesday was Caddyshack night at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, a lot of memories came back to me.  All the times I watched it on family vacations, the countless laughs I shared with my brother, my father and my uncles re-living the hilarity at Bushwood Country Club.

Michael O’Keefe, the actor who played Danny Noonan, would be at the ballpark.  I took a flier and reached out to Tommy Viola, the fabulous director of media relations with the Knights to see if I could have a few minutes with Noonan. Tommy almost immediately replied: “Not a problem at all. I’ll be happy to set you up with him.”

This was an interview for which I would not need much preparation.  Even though I had never met O’Keefe, it felt like I was going to sit down with an old friend.

Sure enough, around 3:30 on Wednesday, Michael walked into the press box at BB&T.  Tommy made an introduction, and we settled into the auxiliary broadcast booth.  I was tempted to open with “This isn’t Russia. Is this Russia?” We launched into an effortless, fascinating conversation.  We spoke for 15 minutes before recording the official interview.  Michael told me about his stint on Homeland, how he was in awe of the preparation and professionalism of Claire Danes from the moment he set foot on the set.  He spoke of his commitment to meditation, and the ways in which it has impacted his life and his perspective as a new father.  He even shared some great behind-the-scenes stories about Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase.

You can hear our full interview here; I am so grateful to Michael for being friendly, gracious and generous with his time.  Later in the evening, I introduced my uncle Luther – who lives in Charlotte and had initially introduced me to Caddyshack – to O’Keefe, which was a wonderful, full-circle moment.

On Tuesday, Justin Masterson – one of the few players currently with the PawSox old enough to remember Caddyshack as I do – put forth another strong outing.  He went six innings and allowed just two runs in the band-box that is BB&T Ballpark.  His second consecutive steady start begged an obvious question: what is next for Masterson?

NESN’s Zach Cox explored the decision facing the Red Sox as Masterson’s time on the DL draws to a close.

The Globe’s Pete Abraham indicated in his piece that the Sox are likely to make a decision soon, and that John Farrell thinks Masterson has done enough to warrant a spot on the Boston roster.

Tonight in Charlotte, the PawSox give the ball to Keith Couch and hope to salvage the finale of this three-game series.  The status of Bryce Brentz is unknown; he left the game with a left thumb injury last night after singling in the go-ahed run in the seventh.  You can watch the play here:

In the last three games (all losses after a four-game winning streak) the PawSox have left 31 runners on base.  The bright side, of course, is that the Sox are giving themselves myriad opportunities to score.

A few other notes from Charlotte: in the 106th home game at their new home, the Knights welcomed their millionth fan.  We will have an in-depth look at one of the IL’s crown jewels later in the week – and explore the many ways it offers a glimpse into what PawSox fans could have in downtown Providence.

It is easy to imagine a scene like this in Providence

It is easy to imagine a scene like this in Providence

A night after his older brother won the NBA championship with the Warriors, Trayce Thompson had a big night.  He’s now hit four of his nine homers against the PawSox.

And Kevin Boles has been named the manager for the International League in the All Star Game in Omaha.  A well deserved honor for the skipper.  We’ll get Bolesy’s thoughts on the honor and share them on the broadcast tonight.

Josh and I will talk to you at 6:50 tonight on WHJJ and throughout the PawSox radio network.

Until then, be the ball.

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