Posts Tagged ‘Pawtucket Red Sox’

It Never Hurts To Have Too Much Pitching

Sunday was a very good day for Red Sox minor league pitchers. Five of the organization’s six minor league teams saw an impressive performance from either rotation or the bullpen:

Pawtucket (AAA): Michael Bowden – 5 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 4 BB, 5 SO (73 pitches)
Portland (AA): Ryne Lawson – 6 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 3 BB, 4 SO
Greenville (A): Nick Hagadone – 3 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 4 SO
Lowell (A-): Anatanaer Batista – 4 IP, 1 H, 4 SO
GCL Red Sox (R): Manuel Rivera – 5 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 4 SO

The staff in Salem (A+) must have forgotten to eat its Wheaties.

Two of those pitchers, Bowden and Hagadone, were preseason Top Tens for the Red Sox. Bowden saw some major league action this season, appearing in one game for Boston. Seventy-three pitches doesn’t seem like a lot, especially for a guy working on a no-hitter, but he recently spent some rest time on the disabled list and is a prized prospect. As a Sox fan, it’s reassuring that the team seems to know how to handle it’s top young players (Augie Garrido, take notes).

I’m honestly not sure what they’re doing with Hagadone – he’s started eight times but only pitched nineteen innings. If I had to guess, I’d say they were building his arm strength up slowly while still getting him live game action, but that’s just a guess.

Lawson’s performance was, after looking at his numbers, the nicest one to see. The Eastern League has knocked him around this year to the tune of 1-8, 6.65 ERA. He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys, walks more than he strikes out, and has a WHIP of 1.62. New Hampshire beat him up in his previous outing, turning five walks and eight hits into eight runs. The six inning, one-hit performance at Trenton on Sunday was completely out of line with the rest of his recent starts, but maybe it’s something he can build on.

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Now Pitching For The Boston Red Sox…

A few weeks ago, my wife’s uncle and I were talking about the Red Sox when he mentioned that Jonathan Papelbon might not stay with the team when he hits free agency.  As a fan, the thought of Paps leaving is a little scary – say all you want about closers being a dime a dozen, the fact of the matter is that ninth inning worries have been few and far between for the last several seasons.

Upon hearing the news, however, I was strangely unconcerned, because I had recently heard news of the big flamethrowing righthander romping through the minor league system.  Drafted in the first round in 2006 as a starter, moved to the bullpen in 2007, and then

Forty-three strikeouts in 28 innings for Single A Greenville in 2008.  A 1.99 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 49.2 innings following a promotion to Double A Portland later that year.  Triple digits on the radar gun in 2009 spring training.  A 1.13 ERA, six saves in eleven games, and 29 strikeouts in 16 innings for Triple A Pawtucket this season.

Yes, when Papelbon is gone, I will feel completely comfortable watching Daniel Bard step into the closer role.  For right now, he’s hanging in the bullpen and waiting to make his major league debut, which ought to come any day now.  And suddenly, I find myself longing for the days when Josh Bard was also in a Red Sox uniform, and lamenting that we may never see a Bard-Bard battery.

Oh, and he needs a nickname.  I don’t know why.  He just does.

“Pawtucket, You Win”

“I’ve been to probably 14 or 15 professional ballparks,” my friend Chris said nearly two weeks ago as we were driving home from a trip to Pawtucket, Rhode Island’s McCoy Stadium, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, “and the crowd at this place was, by far, the strangest group of people I have ever seen.  Pawtucket, you win.”

The other three people in the car – Chris’ friend Billy, my brother Tim, and me – laughed and quickly nodded in agreement.  I made a mental note to remember the quote because really, nothing I wrote on my own could possibly convey the weirdness with which we were confronted at McCoy Stadium.

Doesn’t mean I’m not gonna try.

In descending order, here are five things that happened at this game that made me lose a little faith in humanity:

5) We decided soon after our arrival that the centerfield bleachers were the place to be.  Problem was, the bleachers are connected to the areas in which pregame picnics and birthday parties are held, which means that they don’t actually open the gates until immediately before the start of the game.  (One of the ushers told Chris that we could find our seats as soon as we heard the word “brave”, which led to over an hour of Chris randomly shouting, “BRAVE!” and hoping for the best.)

We got some food and got into line about twenty minutes early.  Our timing was good – way more people were behind us than in front. A couple of minutes before the game started, it began to rain (again – we’d had about an hour of moderately heavy rain just as we arrived at the ballpark).  People huddled together under umbrellas and tried to find some sort of cover without leaving the line.  Somewhere in the middle of this, I think, two things happened: the Star Spangled Banner began and they opened the gates to the bleachers.

It didn’t really sink in until we had gone about fifty feet: we were walking to our seats during the National Anthem.  Now, I’m not the most openly patriotic person in the world – I love being American, but I don’t feel the need to be all up in your face with that love – and I can’t really pass judgement because I was a part of it, but this just felt WRONG.  I mean, someone like Toni Smith or Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refuses to stand at attention for the Anthem because of deep, important, valid personal beliefs, and we as a society crap all over them for it.  We say that they’re wrong for acting that way.  But two hundred people walk over Francis Scott Key’s sweet tunes for no better reason than securing a couple of metal bleacher seats in prime homerun territory?  That’s cool, man.  Don’t worry about it.  No big deal.

4) The National Anthem is a cool, meaningful song that should be respected; God Bless America is a little different.  Not that it doesn’t deserve much love, but it always feels a little out of place, like we’re trying too hard to showcase our patriotism.  I don’t know if that’s the best explanation.  Bottom line, for whatever reason, I’ve never felt it was nearly on the same level as the Anthem.  You can walk around the ballpark, get a hot dog, talk to a friend during God Bless America and it doesn’t feel strange.

Anyway, they played God Bless America in the seventh inning, we all stood up, Billy and Chris took off their hats – business as usual (I would’ve taken off my hat if I’d been wearing one.  Why?  Because I’m a follower).  As I listened, it seemed like this particular version had a little extra flair thrown in – like they stretched out some of the notes to add some pizzazz.  It was like the instrumental of the Ronan Tynan version.  Eventually it came to what we thought was the end, Billy started to put his hat back on…and the song kept going.  Not for long, but the flair had thrown him off, there was more song to be played, and he had jumped the gun.  He let his displeasure be known by loudly saying, “OH COME ON!”   

This, of course, cracked me up.  He wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, not at all, but the combination of a never-ending song and his failure to secure one of the Dustin Pedroia bobbleheads being given away prior to the game (more on that in a minute) had led him to his breaking point.  Billy wasn’t lashing out at God Bless America, he was lashing out at the inequities and inconsistencies of life, and I thought it was hilarious.

3) The Pedroia Situation has to be number three.  When I bought the tickets, I picked August 2 for two reasons: one, it was the closest date that worked for all four of us and two, they were giving away Dustin Pedroia bobbleheads to the first 4,000 fans.  Unfortunately, I have a problem with not reading things closely, so it took awhile before I learned that the giveaway was planned for the first 4,000 KIDS ONLY.

This took a toll on Billy, who apparently is a big Pedroia fan.  Before the night was through, he had gone to every usher in the place, trying his best to talk someone into giving up the bobblehead.  No dice, even after they started giving them out to random adults.  The best moment, however, was soon after we entered the ballpark.  We were out in left field, checking things out, when a group of three kids wandered by.  One of us, I forget who, suggested that Billy offer them a couple of bucks to get him a Pedroia.  So he did.

It was hilarious, seeing a grown man chatting up three adolescents in the farthest reaches of the stadium.  I expected Chris Hansen to appear at any time.  The kicker, though, the thing that made me lose faith in the children of Rhode Island, was when I asked Billy how much he paid the kid to get the merchandise.  I figured it was at least five, maybe ten.  If the kid was smart, he recognized the desperation and held out for the Hamilton.

No, he gave him two dollars.  A couple of Georges.  That’s it.  I was shocked when I heard that.  Not so much because Billy lowballed him off the bat – that’s just good business – but because the kid didn’t try to drive up the price at all.  Clearly, Rhode Island schools need to add Economics to the curriculum.

2) For the latter part of the game, there was a drunk fan standing at the top of the bleachers.  At some point, he made it his goal to taunt the centerfielder for the opposing Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.  Only problem was, he didn’t know the name of the centerfielder for the opposing Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.  So for who knows how many innings, we were subjected to witty remarks directed at “Number 36”.  If you’re gonna heckle, at least buy a program.  Make an effort.  And show me something early, or stop shouting.  If you’re giving a guy a hard time for backing up a play – in other words, making a good baseball play – you’re too stupid and/or drunk to heckle. 

The guy disappeared in the eighth, I think, which was sad because I was very close to starting a “How drunk are you?” chant (I think it would’ve caught on).  When he returned, maybe a half inning later, I nudged Chris, who in turn nudged my brother and suggested he trip him on his way up the stairs.  He didn’t realize right away who it was, or he might actually have done it.

Oh, and for the record: Matt Carson, number 36…sorry about the douchebag in the bleachers on August 2.  I’m sure you get taunted a lot by opposing fans, but I was impressed by how well you handled it.

1) As luck would have it, we found ourselves four seats that were almost completely surrounded by families.  Behind us, six or seven kids from a birthday party were sitting with what appeared to be two adults.  The kids kept accidentally kicking Billy in the back; by the fifth inning, he was about ready to give somebody, anybody, a piece of his mind.  (This was the same group that, amazingly, allowed three kids to leave the area without adult supervision and walk down to the bullpen for autographs.  These kids were maybe ten years old – maybe.  Not a parenting move I would have made.)  They did provide me with a moment of levity, however, when the one Yankees fan in the group started a “Let’s go Yankees!” cheer.  His friends responded with, “Let’s go Red Sox!”  Within about ten seconds, I had no clue who was saying what.  I think if you recorded it and played it backwards, it said “Paul is dead.”

Now, to the front was an older guy with a couple of older ladies, one of whom I’m assuming was his wife.  There were a couple of kids down there who were really well behaved.  Barely heard anything out of them the whole night.  Nothing worth complaining about there.

Our left flank carried the greatest threat to our sanity.  The actual composition was fuzzy, but as near as I could figure we were looking at a mother, two young kids, a grandmother, and a father.  Though everyone in the group had their weird little quirks, it was the father that really caught the eye of all four people in our group.  Three incidents in particular stand out:

–He and the mother were bringing the kids somewhere and made it down onto the walkway at the front of the bleachers.  The father was carrying one of the boys.  All of a sudden, my brother noticed him yelling at the woman, “Take him, take him, I’m dropping him!”  Fortunately, she was there to grab the child so he didn’t have to worry about, I don’t know, putting down the beer he was holding.  I like a man who has his priorities in order.

–As the game wore on and this wonderful fellow continued to down as much beer as possible, we noticed that the threat of nudity became greater and greater.  He was completely dressed at the beginning; by the time they left, his Red Sox jersey was completely unbuttoned, and the young lady with him was informing the children that it was time to go, before Daddy took his pants off. 

–On their way out of our section, the ball park, and our lives, the mother tried to give the father a couple of those ice cream-filled batting helmets to hold.  They were empty, of course, save for some sticky ice cream residue.  She was struggling with both kids and the assorted crap that all mothers carry whenever they go out in public with their children; he was holding – surprise – a beer.  His response: “I don’t wanna touch that!”  This happened immediately in front of my brother, who noted on the way home that we were lucky he hadn’t had anything to drink, because if he had, he probably would have said something.  And that, friends, would have been bad.

This guy had one redeeming quality, at least: he showed me that even though I think I’m a bad father sometimes, I really could be doing a lot worse.

Now, I know I’ve made it sound as though this was the worst game and the worst ballpark in the history of the world.  There were some good points, however.  We got to see a six-run Paw Sox rally in the bottom of eighth, turning a 3-1 deficit into a 7-3 victory.  Ben Broussard, waived by the Rangers and picked up by the Yankees, hit a long homerun off the centerfield scoreboard, just above and to the left of us.  The food was terrific – I had never had an italian sausage and peppers with the peppers underneath the sausage; much easier to eat and enjoy that way.  And McCoy Stadium is a nice ballpark, with very good sightlines and a sort of quaint vibe – the luxury boxes, for example, are at field level, which is a nice bit of individuality.

Bottom line: Pawtucket will definitely get another chance, if only because I need to see if this game was the rule or the exception.

From the Bus Leagues to Center Field

Legendary sports blogger Texas Gal celebrated the first birthday of her Red-Sox centric blog Center Field a few days ago, and OMDQ and I decided we wanted to get her something special. Or, at least, something unique. So here it is:

OMDQ’s walk down memory lane, remembering Sox prospects past

Extra P’s dissection of the potential of the current top 10 Sox prospects

Happy, happy, Texy!

Baseball and Pancakes – What More Could a Fan Want?

Any time I read about some intrepid soul venturing out to see as many baseball games as possible, I get a little bit jealous. But when I read about an RV that will be hitting 60+ minor-league ballparks across the United States, and also chowing on pancakes, I just have to write about it.

It seems that the International House of Pancakes will be celebrating a 50th anniversary soon. To share the wealth, they’ve loaded up that beautiful machine you see above, and they’ll be driving cross-country bringing breakfast joy to the bus leagues. They’ll be driving over 8,000 miles before it’s all said and done, and in this time of spiraling gas prices, that’s true dedication.

The Pancake Express (my choice of name) will hand out T-shirts, sponsor games, and enter fans in a sweepstakes as part of the celebration of their half-century of “breakfast any time”. As a guy who has a five-year-old with a pancake jones, I’m most excited about the 2-for-1 coupons they’ll be offering, as well as the nine new pancake flavors. In addition, the “Most Valuable Pancake” mascot will be along for the ride, so I’m really, really hoping they make it to Montgomery, AL so the Pancake can meet the Biscuit.

We do know the first few stops of the tour. Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers) fans will get the first taste:

May 31/June 1 – Mobile BayBears @ Jacksonville Suns (7:05/3:05pm). The Suns are giving away emergency lamps on Saturday and having wooden bat day for the first 1,500 kids through the gates on Sunday.

June 2 – Rome Braves @ Charleston RiverDogs 7:05pm.

June 5/6 – Pawtucket Red Sox @ Charlotte Knights (both 7:15 starts). Might Justin Masterson pitch? Sweeter than syrup!

June 7/8 – Charlotte Knights @ Durham Bulls (7:05/5:05). The Knights are going to be eating a LOT of pancakes, if I’m any judge.

June 12-14 – Charlotte Knights @ Norfolk Tides (Thursday and Friday 7:15 starts) and Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees (Saturday 7:15). See what I mean about the Knights? It’s like they’re following the Pancake Express on purpose.

June 16/17 – Charlotte Knights @ Richmond Braves (7pm on Monday, double-header starting at 1pm on Tuesday). Getting mighty greedy, Knights. That’s all I can say.

Starting Monday, IHOP will be running a sweepstakes on their website, and putting up photos and tracking the progress of the Pancake Express. Check back to see when they’ll be in your neighborhood.

Oh, and please pass the syrup?

AAA Spotlight: Rehab Start Edition 4/25/2008

We started this blog right at the end of the season last year, so we didn’t have a lot of posts before we went into hibernation. But one that did attract attention was a post about the new Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies), who opened play this season. The nickname alone is noteworthy, but as I perused the roster, I found something even better – it turns out Kris Benson is an Iron Pig. My favorite part of his official bio is this offhand remark: “Married, wife’s name is Anna”. I wonder if the offer to sleep with all of his teammates if/when Kris cheats still applies in triple-A? [Iron Pigs Baseball]

And, speaking of washed up, Mike Hampton will be coming to Richmond (Braves) soon, trying to make his way back to the parent club. [MiLb.com]

And, the Red Sox hope Bartolo Colon will be ready to play for the Pawtucket club on Cinco de Mayo. I can’t decide if that’s racist or not. [MiLB.com]

Tony Gwynn, Jr. just got back from Nashville, and he’s not havin’ it. “You get a taste of this, and then you go back down there and realize why you don’t want to go back down there,” Gwynn said. “It’s the big leagues! It’s kind of self explanatory.” Hey! Some of us like it down here. [MiLB.com]

And, you’ve already read OMDQ’s ode to Curtis Granderson, and his advice for Scott Kazmir, who both spent some time slumming it with the rest of us this past week.

That’s it! See you next week!

Now Batting, For The Boston Red Sox…

He wasn’t quite amazing enough to earn a spot on Eric’s weekly prospect watch, but it might be worth noting that the Red Sox purchased the contract of shortstop Jed Lowrie from Pawtucket today.  Lowrie, rated by Baseball America as Boston’s fifth best prospect (Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Lars Anderson, and Justin Masterson are the names in front of him), takes the place of Mike Lowell, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left thumb.

The fourth of Boston’s five 2005 first round draft picks to reach the majors (Ellsbury, Craig Hansen, and Buchholz came up ahead of him), Lowrie was hitting a robust .160 with an impressive .344 OBP in eight games with the PawSox.  He is reasonably lucky to still be a member of the Red Sox organization – his was one of several names included in a possible deal for Johan Santana in the offseason – but he’s still around and will likely make his major league debut in the next few days.

Better enjoy it – while Lowrie is projected as Boston’s shortstop of the future, only a huge performance in the next two weeks will keep him in the majors when Lowell returns.