April 2009

Start the Bus!

Here is the definition of a perfect getaway day to conclude a baseball road trip:

1.  It’s a day game so you can get home that night.

2.  Your team wins so everyone is happy on the plane or bus.

3.  The game goes quickly to speed up the process.

Check.  Check.  Check.

The PawSox 1-0 win on Thursday afternoon in Rochester took just 2:16 thanks to a magnificent pitching performance by the trio of Kris Johnson, Chris George, and Fernando Cabrera.

It was Johnson’s 2nd start of the year and both have been 1-0 wins as he’s pitched a total of 10 scoreless innings.

Carlos Maldonado caught both games (his only starts behind the plate), and he’s driven in the only run both times.

The PawSox already have 3 shutout wins in their first 8 games and their team ERA stands at 2.16.

Pawtucket concludes the road trip with a 5-3 record.

Steve Hyder was a winner again in  “Stump Steve” to improve to 6-2.

We played “2 Out of 3 Ain’t Bad” in honor of Jackie Robinson who won the International League batting title with a .349 average as a rookie in 1946.

Here are 3 questions about former International League Rookies of the Year:

1.  I was the IL rookie of the year in 1977 when I hit 22 HR as a catcher for the Richmond Braves.  When I got to Atlanta, I kept hitting home runs but stopped catching.

2.  I was the IL rookie of the year in 1988 when I hit .314 for Rochester.  I spent the next 19 years in the big leagues and won 5 Gold Gloves — including one at the age of 39.

3.  I was the IL rookie of the year in 1995 when I went 7-1 in 12 starts for Norfolk.  But at the big league level I’ve been a closer, ranking 22nd all-time in save.

The answers are Dale Murphy, Steve Finley, and Jason Isringhausen.

Hyder got 1 & 3 to get credit for the win.

I hope to see you at McCoy on Friday night for the home opener.  If you can’t make it, I’ll join Bob Montgomery and Steve McDonald for TV coverage on Cox Sports throughout Rhode Island.

Mike Logan will take my place on the radio and join Steve on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

Great tickets are still available.  First pitch is set for 7:05.

I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

 

7 Down, 1 To Go

The PawSox season-opening 8-game road trip is almost over and we know the team will come home with at least a .500 record after Wednesday night’s 4-2 win at Rochester.

Two newcomers made impressive debuts.

Second baseman Travis Denker went 2-for-4 with a double, and pitcher Rocky Cherry earned the win with 3 outstanding innings in relief.

Rocky, by the way, is Cherry’s given first name and that was the subject of last night’s Fantastic Fun Fact on the broadcast.

As the story goes, his dad was named Pat and his uncle was named Jan.  Since both names could also be girl’s names, they apparently got teased as kids.  So his uncle suggested giving the baby boy a tough-sounding name and thus, he became Rocky.

Kudos to pitcher Hunter Jones on his first promotion to the big leagues.  In 3 outings with the PawSox, the lefty retired all 11 batters he faced.  He’s got to be exhausted though, after flying from Rochester to Oakland to join the team on Wednesday morning, before flying right back across the country with the Red Sox after the game.

I can guarantee this — Hunter is not complaining!

The PawSox are expected to make another roster move on Thursday before their 1:35 game against Rochester.  Jeff Corsaletti injured his arm trying to make a diving catch a couple of nights ago and will probably be placed on the DL.  Sean “Spike” Danielson is expected to be activated off of the DL to take his place.

Also, Clay Buchholz has a strained hamstring and will have his next start pushed back a few days.  As a result, 2008 International League Pitcher of the Year Charlie Zink will start the home opener on 3-days rest.

Steve Hyder came away with another win in “Stump Steve” last night to improve to 5-2.  We played “PawSox Who Am I” and here were the clues:

1.  I played for the PawSox in 1995 and spent time in the major leagues with the Red Sox, Cubs, and Astros.

2.  My given name is Karl, but I am known by my nickname.

3.  What Frank Robinson did a record 8 times in his career, I did 3 times in 1994.

4.  After failing to make the Cincinnati Reds in spring training in 2006, I retired.  But I made a comeback in 2007 in Japan.

5.  I am the all-time foreign-born HR leader in Japan.

The answer is Tuffy Rhodes (who hit 3 opening day homers off of Doc Gooden in ’94), and Hydes got it on the 4th clue.

Don’t forget, some great tickets are still available for opening night at McCoy Stadium on Friday.  The PawSox do opening night festivities as well as any team in minor league baseball, and the first 3,000 kids (14 & under) will get photo baseballs.  If you can’t make it, we’ll have TV coverage throughout Rhode Island on Cox Sports.  I look forward to working with my good pal Bob Montgomery for the first time this season.

But first, one more game in Rochester and Kris Johnson gets the ball this afternoon.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning at 1:20 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

We’ll bus home right after the game and should arrive at McCoy before midnight.

I can’t wait to see this handsome lad:

One Happy Kid (re-sized).JPG

 

Flavor of the Day

The PawSox have added right-handed pitcher Rocky Cherry from extended spring training.

Yes, that’s his real name and he’s aware that it sounds like an ice cream flavor.

Cherry is expected to replace Devern Hansack on the roster as Hansack suffered a shoulder injury last night in Rochester.  Devern will go to Boston for further tests on Friday, but he expressed optimism today that it’s not a season-ending injury.

Cherry has pitched in the big leagues for the Cubs (2007) and Orioles (2007-08) and has a career MLB record of 1-4 with a 5.77 ERA in 40 games.

He faced the PawSox last year as a member of the Norfolk Tiders.

The story behind his first name is pretty funny and could be the subject of tonight’s Fantastic Fun Fact.

I hope you’ll tune in.  Pregame coverage starts at 6:20 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

 

 

RIP To The Voice and The Bird

What a sad day as baseball lost a pair of legends in Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas and former American League Rookie of the Year Mark “The Bird” Fidrych.

Kalas is arguably the most imitated announcer in baseball history thanks to that incredible voice.  People that never heard him call a Phillies game would instantly recognize Harry’s resonant pipes from his work with NFL Films or on commericals for Campbell Soup and GMC Trucks.

I went to college with Harry’s son Todd who is now an outstanding broadcaster with the Tampa Bay Rays and I spoke to him recently about the incredible thrill of having his Rays face his dad’s Phillies in last year’s World Series.

My thoughts are with Todd and his family.

I was a baseball-obsessed 12-year-old when Mark Fidrych broke in with the Tigers in 1976 and soon found myself talking to the baseball like he did when I pitched in Little League games.  There have been better pitchers than Fidrych, but I don’t know if anyone was more fun to watch.

That helps explain why more than 9,300 fans turned out at McCoy Stadium (back when there were only 6,000 seats) on July 1, 1982 to see Fidrych face another former Rookie of the Year in Dave Righetti  It was the biggest crowd in McCoy history before it was renovated in 1999.

Righetti whiffed 12 batters in 6 innings, but Joe Morgan let Fidrych go the distance in a 7-5 Pawtucket win.

If you would like to see a great old TV news report about that game, check out this link.

Monday was a busy day for the PawSox as Gil Velazquez was called-up by Boston to replace the injured Jed Lowrie.

Gil’s spot on the Pawtucket roster was filled by LHP Chris George who promptly pitched 2.2 scoreless inning in a 5-3 loss to Rochester.

More moves could be coming as Devern Hansack had to leave Monday’s game with a shoulder injury.  No word on the severity yet.

Monday (April 13) was the 25th anniversary of Pete Rose’s 4000th hit, which led to an interesting story on the broadcast about PawSox Manager Ron Johnson.

He and Rose were teammates in 1984 with the Montreal Expos and in RJ’s first game after being called-up from Triple-A, he was used a defensive replacement in right field.

There was one problem.  He had been used exclusively at first base in the minors that year, and didn’t even have an outfielders mitt, so he borrowed a glove from one of the pitchers.

When Rose got word of it, he called RJ over to his locker which was filled with mitts of various shapes and sizes and told him to pick one out.

After RJ made his selection, Rose said, “you choose a good one.  I used that mitt in the World Series with the Phillies.”

Several weeks later when RJ was sent back to Triple-A he wanted to keep Rose’s glove, but knew the right thing to do was to return it.

But when RJ tried to give it back, Rose said, “Go ahead and keep it — but if I find out that you sold it, I’m going to kick your butt.”

RJ had Pete autograph it, and the World Series-used Pete Rose mitt remains in the Johnson family.

Kudos to my partner Steve Hyder who improved to 4-1 in “Stump Steve” with a win in “2 out of 3 Ain’t Bad.”

Since we’re in Rochester, home of Eastman-Kodak (#238 on the Fortune 500), I came up with 3 baseball questions in which the correct answer shared the name of a Fortune 500 company.

Ready?

1.  I was a 10-time All-Star pitcher who finished my career with 236 wins and only 106 losses.  My .690 winning percentage is #1 in baseball history for pitchers with at least 300 decisions.

2.  After leading the US to Olympic Gold in 1988, I was the #1 overall pick in the 1989 draft.  I threw a shutout in my first major league start, but shoulder trouble eventually resulted in a mediocre career.  Add an “S” to my name, and you’ll have a Fortune 500 company.

3.  As a catcher, I won 4 straight Gold Glove Awards, and my name makes up one-half of a Fortune 500 company.

Here are the answers:

1.  Whitey Ford (Ford Motor)

2.  Ben McDonald (McDonald’s)

3.  Charles Johnson (Johnson & Johnson)

Steve correctly answered questions 1 and 2 which is good enough for a win.

I hope you’ll join us on Tuesday night as the PawSox face Rochester in Game 2 of their 4-game series.  The pregame starts at 6:20 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

 

 

 

By George — Help Arrives

After using every available arm in the bullpen in a 15-inning loss to Buffalo on Sunday, the PawSox will add a pitcher in time for tonight’s game in Rochester.

LHP Chris George has arrived from Florida where he had been working out at extended spring training camp.  He signed with Boston as a minor league free agent on February 27th.

George is a former major league pitcher with the Kansas City Royals (2001-04) and has a career record of 14-20 in the big leagues.

He’ll work out the bullpen for Pawtucket and there’s a good chance he’ll see action tonight.

A corresponding roster move will be announced before the game.

Missing the Masters

Being a baseball broadcaster is one of the greatest jobs in the world and I’m extremely fortunate to work for the best organization in minor league baseball.

I love what I do.

But there are two drawbacks to the job:  The amount of time I spend away from my wife and son and missing the final round of the Masters.

This year, missing the Masters was especially painful for two reasons.

1.  If not for a 15-inning game in Buffalo and a subsequent bus ride to Rochester, I would have caught the finish.

2.  From watching the highlights on ESPN and reading about it in various newspapers, it had to be unbelievably exciting to watch.

I attended the Masters in 2005 and saw Tiger Woods win his 4th green jacket in a sudden death playoff over Chris DiMarco.

Remember the famous chip-in for birdie on the 16th hole where the ball lingered on the edge of the cup (with the Nike logo perfectly framed for TV) before tumbling into the hole? 

I was standing a few feet away!  Here’s the proof:

Tiger's chip (with box) new size.JPG 

If you look directly above Tiger you’ll see where I was standing (circled in white).  Pretty cool huh?

I hope you’ll tune to tonight’s game against Rochester.

I’ve got a great FFF (fantastic fun fact) about Manager Ron Johnson’s connection to Pete Rose.

And “Stump Steve” is loosely connected to Rochester’s most famous company — Eastman Kodak.

Pregame coverage starts at 6:20.  First pitch at 6:35.

 

 

On To Rochester

It took 15 innings and a catcher on the mound, but the Buffalo Bisons were finally able to beat the PawSox in the finale of their season-opening 4-game series.

The game would have ended much earlier if not for a phenominal performance by the Pawtucket bullpen as Jose Vaquedano, Billy Traber, Daniel Bard, Hunter Jones, Marcus McBeth, and Fernando Cabrera combined to pitch 10.1 scoreless innings while only allowing 4 hits.

Unfortunately, the final member of the pen — Devern Hansack — is nursing a sore back and Manager Ron Johnson had to turn to reserve catcher Carlos Maldonado to pitch the 15th inning.

Taking the mound for just the 2nd time in a 14-year pro career, Maldonado promptly walked Fernando Martinez before allowing a HR to Nick Evans, as Buffalo won 4-2.

The game brought to mind a memorable gaffe in my first week on the job as a PawSox announcer.  On April 12, 2006, the PawSox seventh game of the season lasted 16 innings against Rochester.  After playing a doubleheader three days earlier, the bullpen was spent so RJ had to send third baseman Rodney Nye to the mound in the 12th inning.

Over the next two innings he proceeded to dazzle the Red Wings with pitches that floated in so slowly that we figured he had to be throwing a knuckleball — especially when he struck out two Rochester batters!  People listening to the broadcast that night must have thought the second coming of Phil Niekro was on the mound for Pawtucket as we described Nye’s unhittable knuckler.

Imagine my surprise when I approached Rodney after the game and he began laughing hysterically when I asked him about his knuckleball.  As it turned out, he was just lobbing the ball over the plate hoping the Red Wings would hit it at someone.   

Don’t you hate when the facts get in the way of a good story?

After Nye’s 2-inning stint, left fielder Trent Durrington took the mound and also pitched a pair of scoreless innings.  Fortunately, he was throwing the ball hard enough that we couldn’t possibly mistake his pitches for a knuckler.

Finally, in the top of the 16th, Durrington allowed a 2-out RBI single to Jason Tyner and Rochester won the game 4-3.

By the way, that 16-inning game isn’t the longest one I’ve ever called.  In 1985, my first season as a baseball broadcaster, I called 21-inning and 27-inning games nine days apart.

I’ve appreciated the availability of coffee in the press box every since.

On Monday night the PawSox open a 4-game series in Rochester as Charlie Zink, the International League’s Pitcher of the Year in 2008, takes the mound for the first time this season.  I hope you’ll join Steve Hyder and me for the call beginning at 6:20 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

Speaking of Hyder, he finally fell short in our 7th-inning “Stump Steve” contest.

We played a game called “The List” where Steve has to name all (or most) of the names on a list depending on its length.

Since Clay Buchholz started the game for Pawtucket, here was the question:  Name the five MLB pitchers who have thrown no-hitters in the last two years?

In this case, Steve had to get all five to be a winner, with no more than one incorrect guess.

The correct answers are Buchholz, Jon Lester, Justin Verlander, Carlos Zambrano, and Mark Buehrle.

Steve got the first three, but missed the last two.  His record is 3-1 this season — just like the PawSox. 

A trip to Rochester means a stop at the Dinosaur BBQ for lunch.  I know gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, but every now and then it’s unavoidable.

I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

 

 

Blackjack for PawSox Pitchers

In case you haven’t been counting, PawSox pitchers have gone 21 consecutive innings without allowing a run.

 

We figured Pawtucket would start the season with an outstanding pitching staff, but the numbers have been ridiculous so far.  Are you ready?

 

The team has a 1.00 ERA (3 ER in 27 IP).

 

The starters (Enrique Gonzalez, Michael Bowden, and Kris Johnson) have a combined ERA of 0.61 (1 ER in 14.2 IP).

 

PawSox pitchers have put a zero on the scoreboard in 25 of 27 innings this season.

 

And for the first time since 2006, Pawtucket has thrown back-to-back shutouts.

 

Oh yea, and the next two starters in the rotation are Clay Buchholz and the 2008 International League Pitcher of the Year Charlie Zink.

 

Has a team ever gone 144-0?

 

On Saturday, the trio of Kris Johnson, Marcus McBeth, and Fernando Cabrera combined a 4-hitter as the PawSox improved to 3-0 with a 1-0 win in Buffalo.  The game’s only run came on a leadoff HR in the 7th inning by catcher Carlos Maldonado in his PawSox debut.

 

The PawSox go for the 4-game sweep in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 as Buchholz faces for PawSox/Red Sox pitcher Casey Fossum.  I hope you’ll join Steve Hyder and me for the radio call beginning at 12:50 on the PawSox radio network or PawSox.com.

 

One of the things I enjoy about the daily routine of a baseball announcer is hanging around the batting cage looking for interesting tidbits to include in that night’s broadcast.  Today I learned that several players on this year’s team are avid American Idol fans.

 

Jeff Natale agrees with me that Adam Lambert is the class of this year’s contestants.  In Jeff’s words, “he’s a thoroughbred in a field of ponies.”

 

Dusty Brown picks Matt Giraud to win.

 

Sean Danielson is a fan of Allison Iraheta.

 

If you’re not watching the show, feel free to judge for youself.

 

On Saturday in “Stump Steve” we played “2 Out of 3 Ain’t Bad” with a Buffalo-related connection.  The correct answer of all 3 questions shared the last name of a famous Buffalo Bills player.

 

Ready?

 

1.  I was the #1 pick in the draft out of USC and was an All-Star with the Detroit Tigers in 1979 when I hit 26 HR and drove in 105 runs.

 

2.  I was a MLB catcher for 17 years and was behind the plate for Tom Browning’s perfect game.

 

3.  I never led the league in HR or RBI, yet I’m ranked 18th all-time in one category and 21st in the other.

 

The answers are:

 

1.  Steve Kemp (Jack Kemp)

2.  Jeff Reed (Andre Reed)

3.  Frank Thomas (Thurman Thomas)

 

Steve correctly answered questions 1 & 3 so he gets credit for a win to improve to 3-0 this season.

 

Happy Easter!

 

I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilkerson Leaves The PawSox

OF Brad Wilkerson has left the team for personal reasons.  We’re told it’s not health-related or anything serious, but he has gone home to Florida after meeting with Manager Ron Johnson.

The 31-year-old veteran started the PawSox first two games, going 1-for-9.

Wilkerson signed with the Red Sox as a minor league free agent and was in the mix for the final spot on Boston’s roster in spring training.  However, Brad batted .119 (5-for-42) and the spot went to Chris Carter.

Wilkerson has spent most of the last 8 years in the major leagues, batting .247 with 122 HR.

Two for Two in Buffalo

Wow!

After a 9-0 win in Buffalo on Friday night, the mighty Pawtucket Red Sox are off to a 2-0 start and it’s hard to say what’s been more impressive — their hitting or pitching.

PawSox batters are hitting .289 with a .407 OBP (22 walks and 15 hits in 2 games). 

PawSox pitchers have a 1.50 ERA with 20 strikeouts and only 11 hits allowed in 18 innings.

22-year-old Michael Bowden was outstanding in his 2009 debut as he combined with 3 relievers on a 2-hit shutout, but Bowden still doesn’t have a win in 7 career starts for Pawtucket.  He had a 3-0 lead in the 5th inning on Friday night, but had to leave the game one out shy of being eligible for the victory when he reached his limit of 75 pitches (he was actually allowed to throw 80 in hopes of getting the win).  It’s a shame because the PawSox rarely scored runs for him last year.  In Bowden’s 3 losses in ’08, his teammates scored a grand total of 1 run.

Still, it was a great way for Michael to start the season and he did it with him mom in the stands, as she traveled from Illinois to be there.

The hitting stars included Jeff Bailey and Paul McAnulty who had 3 RBI apiece, and Gil Velazquez who went 3-for-5.

I can’t wait to get home and receive this month’s edition of Esquire Magazine after reading that Dustin Pedroia made their list of “66 Guys to Emulate”.  According to the mag, “Pedroia, the Red Sox second baseman, is a man. He’s five-foot-nothing and he plays with more heart than A-Rod will ever know.’

Hard to argue with that.

When Pedroia played for the PawSox in 2006, he shocked me late in the season when my broadcast partner Steve Hyder asked him if he would rather be traded to a lousy team in order to get to the big leagues quickly or stick it out in Triple-A to eventually play for the Red Sox.

Pedroia said he would rather wait because he wanted to play for a winning team.

He’s the only minor league player I’ve ever heard say that.

Speaking of Hyder, in “Stump Steve” on Friday night we played “PawSox Who Am I?” for the first time this season.  That’s the game where I give him 5 clues about a former Pawtucket player who made it to the majors.  Steve’s allowed to make a guess after each clue.  If he gets it right he’s a winner — if he gets it wrong he’s a buffoon.

Here were the clues:

1.  I was 5-0 for a major league team last season.

2.  I played for Pawtucket in 1995, ’97, and ’98

3.  I’ve been an extra on the soap opera “All My Children”

4.  I was drafted by the Sox as an outfielder and made my MLB debut at that position, but two years later I pitched for the Boston.

5.  I am not in the MLB players union because I was a replacement player during the 1994 strike.

Steve got it right on the first clue — Kansas City Royals pitcher Ron Mahay.

He’s 2-0 this season.  Time to make the questions tougher.

The PawSox will look to improve to 3-0 on Saturday afternoon in Buffalo and will send LHP Kris Johnson to the mound in his Triple-A debut.  Pregame coverage on the PawSox radio network starts at 12:50 with the first pitch set for 1:05.  I hope you’ll tune in on the radio or PawSox.com.

I’d love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

  

  

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