June 2009

The Best Is Yet To Come

Seven years, 11 months, and 25 days.

 

That’s how long it had been from the time Dusty Brown signed his first pro contract with Boston to the night he got pulled out of the shower in Durham to get the news that he was joining the Red Sox at Fenway Park the next morning.

 

But the 27-year-old catcher had been dreaming of that moment for most of his life.

 

“It’s awesome.  I’ve been playing baseball since I was 5 years old with really nothing else in mind except to be a major league player,” Dusty told me.  “If all else fails, at least I’ll have that one game where I was actually in the big leagues.”

 


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(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Brown was with the Red Sox for four days and made his major league debut on June 23rd at Washington as he caught the final inning of Boston’s 11-3 win.  He is eager to return to the show.

 

“Only getting three or four days really is just a taste,” Brown said.  “Now I know what I’m playing for, I know where I want to be, and I know what it’s like to be there.  So it’s definitely always in the back of my mind to get back up there.”

 

While his call-up was brief, the timing was perfect.  Dusty got the news one day after his own birthday, and in all likelihood, close to the birthday of his first child.

 

Dusty and his wife Jordan are expecting a son that they plan to name Jude (they’re both big Beatles fans) in July.

 

“It’s actually any day now,” Dusty said.  “She had an appointment on Friday and the doctor told her to be ready because it’s probably going to happen any day.  Once I heard that I started to get nervous – I hadn’t been since she’s been pregnant, but now I’m starting to get a little nervous about it.”

 

Jordan is going to have the baby in Boston, so if she goes into labor on this homestand, Dusty should have no trouble being there for the delivery.  It gets a little trickier beginning on Saturday as the PawSox head to Pennsylvania (Scranton/WB and Lehigh Valley) for five days before returning home on Thursday, July 9.

 

If Dusty is worried about missing the big moment, he’ll be happy to know that I was out of the country when my wife went into labor and I still made it to the hospital in time for the delivery.

 

OK, I was in Canada, but technically that is out of the country.

 

The PawSox were playing in Ottawa when my wife called my cell phone to say that she had gone into labor and was on her way to the hospital.  I hopped into a cab, raced to the airport, and tried to hop on the first flight that could get me to Boston.

 

Legally, I arrived at the airport too late to board the first available flight but when I explained that I was about to be a father, they waived FAA rules and moved me right through security (remember that guys the next time you’re late for a flight).

 

I was in Boston by midnight and Sam arrived at 9:55 the next morning.

 

If Dusty thinks his first stint in the big leagues was awesome, I can’t wait to hear his description of becoming a dad.

 

* * * * *

 

I suspect that catcher Mark Wagner will never forget his Triple-A debut.  The newest member of the PawSox scored the winning run in Monday’s 14-inning, 4 hour and 54 minute marathon win over the Syracuse Chiefs.

 


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Wagner arrived with the reputation of being exceptional at throwing out opposing base stealers and gunned down 18 of 29 (62%) while he was with Double-A Portland this year.

 

But the Syracuse Chiefs decided to see for themselves and tested Wagner by attempting seven stolen bases in his PawSox debut (he threw two runners out).

 

Wagner was 0-for-5 at the plate, but did draw a one-out walk in the 14th inning before scoring the winning run on a double by Travis Denker.

 

* * * * *

 

Congrats to Jeff Bailey on getting his second call to Boston this year.  Bailey replaces Mike Lowell who was placed on the disabled list due to a hip strain and will not return until immediately after the All-Star break at the earliest. 

 

Bailey will bring a hot bat to the Red Sox, and he has a 9-game hitting streak, going 12-for-34 (.353) with 2 2B, a HR, and 8 walks.

 

* * * * *

 

On Tuesday night the PawSox conclude their 4-game series against Syracuse with Enrique Gonzalez taking the mound.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

 

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

How To Throw A Changeup (Not Recommended)

Here’s a quick lesson on how to throw a wicked changeup.

 

Have someone step on your pitching hand and break the index finger.

 

Use the mangled digit to put unusual spin on the ball.

 

Voila!  It’s that simple.

 

Or at least it is for PawSox reliever Marcus McBeth.

 


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(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Marcus began his pro baseball career as an outfielder in the Oakland Athletics organization.  He was playing centerfield in 2003 when an opponent hit a pop-up that caused McBeth and two teammates to converge.  Marcus tried to make a diving catch and a teammate stepped on the index finger of his right hand and shattered it. 

 

McBeth missed the last six weeks of the ’03 season and was unable to play for eight months.  One doctor told him he might never be able to throw a baseball again and to this day he cannot straighten that finger.

 

And it might have saved his career.

 

Marcus converted from outfielder to pitcher in 2005 and believe it or not, the broken finger is the key to his devastating changeup.  When Marcus grips the ball for that pitch, the permanently bent knuckle on his right index finger presses tightly on the side of the ball.  McBeth doesn’t have to do anything else – he just throws the ball as hard as he can and it floats to the plate 10-15 mph slower than his fastball with movement.

 

His “Bugs Bunny” changeup is helping Marcus post sensational numbers in 2009 – he’s 2-0 with 3 saves and a 2.00 ERA.  International League hitters are only hitting .160 against him.

 

And now you know why.

 

* * * * *

 

I had the opportunity to golf with pitcher Charlie Zink recently and witnessed a very amusing moment.  About midway through our round, a groundskeeper pulled up in a golf cart holding a baseball and asked Charlie to show him how to throw a knuckleball.

 

Charlie kindly obliged and the young man happily went back to work.

 


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Zink, by the way, is an exceptional golfer who shot a 74 from the back tees the day we played.

 

He’s also had two holes-in-one – the first one when he was 11-years-old and the second one when he was 12-years-old.

 

Charlie hasn’t had another ace in the last 17 years, but there is a nice thing about having them at such an early age – you’re not expected to buy a drink for everyone at the 19th hole.

 

* * * * *

 

After calling the first two games of the Syracuse series on Cox Sports TV, I’ll be back on the radio with Steve Hyder on Monday night for a 7:05 game against the Chiefs.  We have a good pitching matchup to look forward to as Michael Bowden (3-4, 3.11) faces Syracuse’s ace J.D. Martin (8-2, 2.31).  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50.

 

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

Aaron Bates picks Michael Jackson

A couple of months ago, Aaron Bates and Bubba Bell were hanging out with Bubba’s host family in Portland when somebody tossed out the following question:  If you could trade places with anyone in history, who would it be?

 

Bates came up with his answer immediately – Michael Jackson in the mid-80′s.

 

Needless to say, Bates and Bell were recalling that discussion on Friday after learning about Jackson’s death.

 

Bates says he picked Jackson in the mid-80′s because at that point, the King of Pop was at the peak of his career and his personal life seemed eccentric but not creepy.  Aaron figured it must have been incredible to sing and dance in front of 100,000 adoring fans and have young ladies faint at the mere sight of you.  

 

As a personal tribute to Jackson, Bates plans to wear one glove while playing first base.

 

I never made it to a Michael Jackson concert, but I did see him perform live at halftime of Super Bowl XXVII between the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

 

I was covering the Bills at the time for WTVH-TV in Syracuse, NY and I must admit it was pretty cool.  The game was a clunker as the Cowboys beat the Bills 52-17, but Jackson’s performance was amazing.  You can see it here.

 

* * * * *

 

Speaking of concerts, a day game on Thursday in Norfolk gave Paul McAnulty, Clay Buchholz, John Otness, and trainer Greg Barajas the opportunity to attend a Kenny Chesney concert that night at the Virginia Beach Amphitheater.  Paul has a connection in the concert promotion business and was able to score prime tickets in the third row in front of the stage.  Knowing that manager Ron Johnson is a huge fan of country music in general and Chesney in particular, the guys couldn’t resist a little taunting – they took photos of Chesney in action and their proximity to the stage and e-mailed them to RJ immediately.

 

* * * * *

 

Norfolk is one of several minor league teams that has kids run on to the field as the player’s take their positions before the national anthem.  While the anthem is played, a kid stands next to each of the nine players on the field.

 

The Albuquerque Isotopes do the same thing, but the tradition got an unexpected twist during Manny Ramirez’s recent rehab stint.  Before Manny’s 2nd game with the Isotopes, the kids who were supposed to stand next to the second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, and right fielder blew off their guys to stand next to Manny in left field.

 

It sure doesn’t seem like kids are bothered by Manny’s use of steroids does it?

 

* * * * *

 

I hope you had the opportunity to listen to “PawSox Insider” on Saturday afternoon when we spoke with former PawSox standout Bobby Scales.

 

Bobby made his major league debut with the Chicago Cubs this year after 11 years and 3,303 at-bats in the minor leagues.  Scales recently returned to Triple-A Iowa, but did well enough with the Cubs that he is likely to return to Chicago in September if not sooner.

 

Hyder and I were thrilled when Bobby got promoted to the big leagues and both reached out to congratulate him at the time.  We were not the only ones to do so.

 

“I had to get a new cell phone,” Scales told us.  “There were so many text messages and phone calls that it literally fried my phone.  You try to be a nice guy and treat people the right way, but I had no idea so many people liked me and respected me.  No words can describe how much that meant to me.”

 

I look forward to sending a text to his new phone when he returns to the Cubbies.

 

* * * * *

 

ESPN The Magazine recently listed the top selling jerseys in minor league baseball and four International League teams made the Top 10:  the Durham Bulls, Toledo Mud Hens, Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, and . . . Pawtucket Red Sox.

 

Congrats to the PawSox Director of Merchandising Eric Petterson on a job well done.

 

* * * * *

 

It’s a Clay Buchholz night at McCoy Stadium as the PawSox open a 6-game homestand against Syracuse and Scranton/WB.  If you can’t make it out to the games on Saturday or Sunday, we’ll have TV coverage throughout Rhode Island on Cox Cable.  I’ll join Bob Montgomery for the call beginning at 6:00 on Saturday and 1:00 on Sunday.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

The Return of the Jed

We got our first look at Jed Lowrie in July of 2007 and my first impression was that this kid just up from Double-A seemed like a 10-year major league veteran.  He was 23 years old but acted like he was 33 (at least when he was on the job).

 


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(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

His parents – Dan and Miriam – did a great job of raising him.  He’s smart, respectful, and strikes me as intellectually curious.

 

That was apparent as Jed dealt with the broken bone in his left wrist that has sidelined him for most of this season. 

 

The injury actually occurred in May of last year while he was still with the PawSox.  Despite pain that affected his grip strength, Jed gutted it out and started 54 of Boston’s final 63 games last year. 

 

His wrist appeared to be fine in spring training when Jed batted .343 with 8 doubles, 2 triples, and 3 home runs.  But it was obvious when he opened the regular season 1-for-18 that the pain had returned.

 

“I had the opportunity to allow it to heal over the offseason,” Lowrie told me.  “From what I’ve understood, the scar tissue in there started to wrap around that bone and hold it in place but once I started playing every day in spring training, it broke right back down.  I felt it specifically one game when we went up to Tampa to play the Yankees, and it wasn’t the same feeling as I had last year so I didn’t really say anything – I wanted to see if it would get better.  But it never really got better and just steadily got worse as it did last year.  Then I woke up one morning and I had the exact same symptoms as I had last year and that’s when I brought it up.”

 

Jed had his wrist examined by 5 doctors in 3 states before electing to have surgery on April 21st – specifically an arthroscopic ligament repair and the removal of the ulnar styloid bone.

 

“I was getting some mixed signals and I just wanted to get as many opinions as I could,” Lowrie said.  “I found one that I liked and someone who made sense and so I went with that route.”

 

Two months later, he’s back in action.  Jed joined the PawSox on a rehab assignment on Sunday that is expected to last for a couple of weeks.  He’s 0-for-4 with 2 walks so far, but has hit the ball extremely hard in two of his four at-bats.

 

“The wrist is doing better,” Jed told me.  “I went through a lot with surgery and I haven’t played in two and a half months, so I want to be up in Boston as quickly as I can, but at the same time, I want to take my time and make sure it’s right.  I just need to keep in mind that I haven’t played and not worry about what I do on the field as opposed to getting myself ready.”

 

Nick Green has done a nice job filling-in at shortstop in Boston, but the Red Sox will get a significant boost when Lowrie is ready to return.

 

* * * * *

 

Whenever the PawSox play in Durham, one of the highlights is a batting practice contest to hit the big wooden bull (from the movie “Bull Durham”) that is perched high above the 32-foot “Blue Monster” wall in left field.

 


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The players usually throw a few bucks in the kitty and have some laughs competing for the loot. 

 

It gets hysterical.  Every time somebody lofts a fly ball to left that has a chance to hit the target, the English-speaking players start yelling “bull, bull, bull,” while the Spanish-speaking players yell “toro, toro, toro.”

 

I saw Jeff Natale and John Otness hit the bull yesterday, but wasn’t able to stick around long enough to see who the big winner was.

 

By the way, as you can see in the photo, it says “Hit Bull Win Steak.”

 


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Unfortunately, that only applies to players from the home team.  Former PawSox infielder Ed Rogers homered off of the bull a couple of years ago, but did not win the prize.

 

In my opinion, that’s bull. . .

 

* * * * *

 

A few nights ago on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, analyst Joe Morgan was passing along “Happy Father’s Day” wishes to some new dads and one of the athletes he congratulated was Joe Thornton.

 

It made me wonder how he knew the former Boston Bruin now starring for the San Jose Sharks.

 

Well, as it turns out, Joe Morgan meant to congratulate Joe Thurston, the former PawSox now playing for the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

He and his wife Raquel had a baby girl named Jaylee a couple of weeks ago.  Congrats!

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox open a 4-game series on Tuesday against Norfolk – the first place team in the IL South.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 7:00 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

 

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

 

 

The Poison Pen

With 3 straight come-from-behind wins here in Durham, the PawSox have climbed 6-games over .500 at 37-31.  Their high-water mark this season is 7-games over .500 at 17-10 and 19-12.

 

They can thank the bullpen – a group I am about to start calling “The Poison Pen,” since the opposing team is usually dead in no time.

 

Pawtucket’s bullpen has been brilliant in the Durham series tossing 15.1 scoreless innings.  The pen is working on an overall streak of 18.2 consecutive scoreless innings.  Ironically, the last Pawtucket relief pitcher to surrender a run is Clay Buchholz, who allowed 2 ER in 4 IP in relief of John Smoltz in his last outing.  For the season, Pawtucket’s bullpen has a 2.34 ERA (61 ER in 235 IP) and has converted 25 of 29 save opportunities. 

 

Nearly every pitcher in the pen is working on a lengthy streak of scoreless innings.

 

Jose Vaquedano – 0 ER in his last 8 outings (14.1 IP).

Billy Traber – 0 ER in his last 6 outings (10.1 IP).

Randor Bierd – 0 ER in his last 5 outings (10 IP).

Marcus McBeth – 0 ER in his last 6 outings (9 IP).

Fernando Cabrera – 0 ER in his last 6 outings (6.2 IP).

Javier Lopez – 0 ER in his last 4 outings (3.2 IP).

Hunter Jones – 0 ER in his last outing (2.2 IP).

 

Rocky Cherry allowed a couple of runs as a spot starter recently, but if you only consider bullpen work, he has not allowed an earned run in his last 16 outings covering 24.1 IP.

 

No pen is mightier in the International League.

 

* * * * *

 

One of my favorite people in the world joined us on “PawSox Insider” this week – former Reds, Pirates, Tigers, and Red Sox first baseman Sean Casey, who retired this year to become an analyst for the MLB Network.

 


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(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Casey certainly didn’t have to call it quits after hitting .322 for Boston last season, but he decided that 12 years in the big leagues was enough.

 

“Playing for the Red Sox was one of my coolest experiences and I really feel like I contributed by hitting over .300,” Casey told us on the show.  “I felt like I went out on my terms.  I had some offers to come back and come off the bench again, but I really felt like it was time.  I really enjoyed my career and every second that I put on the uniform, but it was time to move into a new venture.”

 

We discussed a wide variety of subjects with “The Mayor,” including the early-season struggles of his former teammate David Ortiz.

 

“Sometimes you just have a couple of months where you stink – that’s the bottom line,” Casey said.  “That’s why you play for 6 months and 162 games.  It’s a long season and sometimes you can’t get out of a rut.  You don’t know what it is and you’ve got 17 people’s opinions in your head and you’re at the box and you just can’t focus.  I think that’s what happened with Papi.  I think he’s got a lot of baseball left in him – I don’t think he’s over the hill.  I think when he starts hitting some rockets and has some big hits for the Red Sox he’s going to be OK.  I think the big thing about the Red Sox is that they have so many great players on that team that even though Papi has struggled so badly, they’re still in first place and still beating people up.  I think that’s a real credit to Tito and Theo and the team they’ve put together.”

 

The day after Casey’s comments, Big Papi belted his 5th HR in the last 2 weeks.  In his last 14 games, Ortiz is hitting .333 with 5 HR and 9 RBI.

 

* * * * *

 

I hope all of you had a wonderful Father’s Day.  I certainly did as my wife Peg and 3-year-old son Sam gave me the greatest present possible by making a whirlwind trip to Durham to spend the holiday with me.

 


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Sam gave me a card that included his answers (written down by someone else) to several questions including, “What is your favorite thing that Daddy makes you to eat?”

 

He answered “A Ham and Cheese Sandwich.”

 

That’s nice, except that I’ve never made him one.

 

I guess it was a hint.

 

* * * * *

 

What a pitching matchup we have to look forward to on Monday night as Clay Buchholz (5-0, 1.90 ERA) squares off against 2-time American League All-Star Scott Kazmir (on rehab with Durham).  Boston has the night off, so I hope you’ll join us to get your baseball fix, beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

 

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

 

 

 

     

Perfectly Strange

I saw a perfect game on Thursday night.

 

At least I think I did.

 

There was no drama, no celebration, and I’m guessing that many of the 4.510 fans in attendance have no idea that they witnessed International League history.

 

But they did.

 

Charlotte’s Carlos Torres retired the first 15 Pawtucket batters through 5 innings when a light rain that had been falling for a few innings turned heavy.  The ground crew rolled out the tarp, and after a 45 minute delay, the umps gave the signal that the game was over with Charlotte winning 5-0.

 

I had to be the most anticlimactic perfect game in baseball history.

 

I wonder if they popped champagne in the Knights’ clubhouse?

 

It was the 15th perfect game in International League history, and the first 5-inning perfect game (Mariano Rivera threw a 5-inning no-hitter in 1995).

 

It was also the first perfect game ever thrown against the Pawtucket Red Sox.  The PawSox have been no-hit on three previous occasions – most recently by Toledo’s Jose Lima in 1994.

 

The only good thing was that the pain was brief – the game only lasted 1:10.  The PawSox will be back in the clubhouse at 6:45 am to catch a bus to the airport for a morning flight to Durham, NC.

 

I hope you’ll tune in on Friday for the start of the 4-game series against the Durham Bulls.  Michael Bowden will be on the mound and our pre-game coverage will start at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PawSox Pitcher And His Hero

10,000 people packed McCoy Stadium on Wednesday night to see John Smoltz face the Charlotte Knights, but Smoltz’s biggest fan might not have been sitting in the stands. 

 

He just might have been watching from the PawSox bullpen.

 


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(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Relief pitcher Marcus McBeth says that Smoltz was his childhood hero and he can hardly believe that for the past two weeks, the future Hall-of-Famer has been his teammate.

 

McBeth grew up 3 ½ hours from Atlanta in South Carolina and vividly remembers watching the Atlanta Braves on WTBS with his father and grandmother.  For more than a decade, Smoltz has been his favorite athlete in any sport.

 

Marcus told me a great story that shows the extent of his admiration for Smoltz.  In 1988 when Smoltz was coming back from an elbow injury and made a rehab appearance for the Class-A Greenville Braves, McBeth and his best friend made the 30-minute trip to watch him pitch.  They found a spot in the first row down the right field line, and as Smoltz was jogging off the field after his outing, he stopped to shake both of their hands.

 

Marcus went home that night and told his dad that he was “never going to wash that hand again.”

 

It’s been 11 years.  That’s one filthy hand.

 

The soft-spoken McBeth is too embarrassed to share that story with Smoltz (that’s what I’m here for), but he did muster up the gumption to ask Smoltz if he would sign a couple of baseballs – one for his dad and one for himself.

 

*  * * * *   

 

Smoltz is a frequent guest on Dan Patrick’s radio show and the two of them had some hilarious exchanges when Smoltz appeared on Monday.

 

You can listen to the interview here.  Just scroll down the page until you see Smoltz and click “listen to this segment.”

 

Among other things, Patrick told Smoltz that he was “baseball’s version of Brett Favre – the guy who wouldn’t go away.”

 

Smoltz chuckled but reminded Patrick of a key difference – unlike the quarterback, he has never announced plans to retire.

 

They also discussed Smoltz’s recent wedding.  After expressing his disappointment over not being invited to the ceremony, Patrick asked the newlywed to “rate his stuff on his wedding night.”

 

Smoltz said, “I was locked in and went long enough to get the win.”

 

I think it’s safe to assume that there was no need for a reliever.

 

Smoltz will make his Boston debut in one week in a start against the Washington Nationals.  According to Patrick, the Nats are so bad that the win shouldn’t count toward Smoltzie’s career total.

 

* * * * *

 

It didn’t take long for the hustling Billy Wayne “Bubba” Bell to become a fan-favorite at McCoy Stadium as he received loud cheers before each of his at-bats on Wednesday.

 


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Bell is an outstanding all-around athlete who played a little quarterback in high school, but he wasn’t able to crack the starting lineup.

 

There was a good reason – he was stuck behind J.P. Losman who went on to star at Tulane before being a first-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills.

 

* * * * * 

 

It looks like the PawSox are going to be without outfielder Jonathan Van Every for awhile.  Manager Ron Johnson says that JV will have arthroscopic knee surgery in the next week.  The hope is that it’s a meniscus tear which would not be a season-ending injury.

 

* * * * *

 

We’ll be keeping an eye on the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs on Thursday after reading that old buddy Kason Gabbard will be their starting pitcher. 

 

Gabby pitched for Pawtucket in 2006 and 2007 before being traded to Texas in the Eric “The Human Forfeit” Gagne trade in July of ’07.  He was traded back to Boston two months ago for cash considerations.

 

The 27-year-old lefty battled elbow trouble last year and has been rehabbing in Florida since returning to the Red Sox organization.  Here’s hoping for a triumphant return tonight.

 

* * * * *   

 

Charlie Zink will take the mound tonight as the PawSox conclude their 4-game homestand against Charlotte before heading to Durham.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 5:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

 

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

Buchholz States The Obvious

Are you ready for some shocking news?

 

I’m talking mind-blowing, oh-my-goodness-gracious, wish-you-were-wearing-Depends news.

 

Here it comes:

 

Minor league players would rather be in the major leagues.

 

Duh.

 

That’s my reaction to an interview that Clay Buchholz did a few days ago with NECN that appears to be growing into a minor controversy.

 

You can see the interview here.

 


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(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

In the interview, Buchholz admits that he’s growing frustrated with the abundance of starting pitchers in Boston.

 

“There’s nowhere to go, and it’s sort of a logjam up there (in Boston),” Buchholz told NECN. “Whenever they come to a problem, they seem like they find a way to fix it without me being in the picture. It is what it is — it’s frustrating at times.”

 

Buchholz added that while he would like to help the Red Sox return to the World Series, he wouldn’t mind being traded if that meant an opportunity to be in the major leagues.

 

“I feel like I’m more equipped with everything that I have right now — as far the pitches, and the mental aspect and I’m physically healthy — to be up there and helping that team,” Buchholz said.  “And if not that team, I want to be in the big leagues and I do want to go somewhere where I’ll be able to play and pitch every fifth day.”

As I drove to the ballpark yesterday, I listened to one of the hosts on WEEI cite this interview as proof of Buchholz’s mounting frustration as if it were a crisis.  When manager Ron Johnson sat down with reporters before Monday’s rainout, one of the first questions he received was, “What is your reaction to Clay Buchholz’s comments to NECN.”  (RJ had no idea what the person was talking about).

 

Today in the Boston Globe, Tony Massarotti made mention of how Buchholz “expressed his frustration with his situation over the weekend.”

 

Here’s the deal.  Of course Clay is frustrated – who wouldn’t be?  He’s too good for the International League and he’s eager to show what he can do at the major league level.

 

The Red Sox are conscious of that and RJ has had several conversations with Buchholz about being “stuck” in Triple-A.

 

What’s important to stress is that Buchholz is not walking around complaining and isn’t demanding a trade – he simply stated the obvious in response to a reporter’s question – that he wants to pitch in the big leagues as soon as possible.  I’m sure his preference would be to pitch for Boston, but if there’s no room with the Red Sox, he wouldn’t mind going elsewhere.

 

That may disappoint some Boston fans, but in 20-plus years of being around pro baseball players, I’ve only met one player in Triple-A who said he wouldn’t want to be traded if it meant an immediate opportunity to go to the big leagues – it was Dustin Pedroia in 2006.

 

Being in Pawtucket this year has been a good thing for Clay Buchholz.  He’s re-established his dominance in a low-pressure situation, got his old confidence back, and has been pulled from games with low pitch counts allowing him to “save bullets” for later in the season with Boston.

 

The Red Sox have two starting pitchers in their 40′s (Tim Wakefield and John Smoltz) and another starter on a one-year contract (Brad Penny).  Baring an injury or trade, Buchholz might be in Pawtucket for another month or two, but he’s eventually going to be in Boston’s rotation.

 

And he’s going to be great.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Bubba Bell Joins PawSox

The legendary Billy Wayne “Bubba” Bell has arrived in Pawtucket.

 


Bubba.jpg 

He was promoted from Double-A Portland on Monday and would have been in the starting lineup if Pawtucket’s game against Charlotte hadn’t been rained out. 

 

I first started talking about Bubba Bell on our broadcasts in 2007 when he got off to the greatest start in baseball history with Single-A Lancaster.

 

Think I’m exaggerating?

 

In the 2nd game of the season, Bell was 4-for-5 with 2 HR and 6 RBI.

In the 3rd game, Bubba was 3-for-5 with 2 HR and 4 RBI.

In the 4th game, he was 4-for-6 with 1 HR and 5 RBI.

In the 5th game, Bubba only managed 1 hit . . . but still drove in 3 runs

 

In case you didn’t do the math, that’s 5 HR and 18 RBI after the first 5 games of the season.

 

Bell stayed with Lancaster for roughly half the season and was named the California League’s MVP, batting .370 with 22 HR and 83 RBI in 76 games.  Bubba was promoted to Double-A Portland on July 5th, and finished the year with a combined .337 average, 26 HR, and 105 RBI.

 

From all accounts, he is the classic “dirt dog” . . . a fan favorite who busts his tail on every play.  That should be no surprise considering how he got his nickname.

 

It was given to him before he was born.  When his parents learned they were going to have a son, his dad started calling him “Bubba” because he thought it sounded like a good baseball name.

 

I think his father’s name is Nostradamus Bell.

 

I look forward to calling Bubba Bell’s Triple-A debut on Tuesday night.

 

* * * * *

 

Clay Buchholz was scheduled to pitch on Monday, but will not start either game of Tuesday’s doubleheader.  Clay had nearly completed his warm-up tosses before the field had to be covered, so the Red Sox will not have him go through the process again one night later.  Kris Johnson will pitch Game 1 and Charlie Zink will take the mound in Game 2.

 

* * * * *   

 

Jonathan Van Every is back on the disabled list due to a recurrence of his left knee sprain.  He was scheduled to be examined by a Red Sox team doctor on Monday.  It’s been a tough year for JV.  He missed most of spring training with an ankle injury and this will be the 2nd time his knee injury has forced him to go on the DL. 

 

* * * * *

 

Tuesday’s twin bill will start at 5:30.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 5:15 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

A Hall of a Day in Cooperstown

From a broadcaster’s perspective, the Cooperstown Classic gets a big thumb’s up (and that’s not a reference to Hyder’s freakishly large thumbs).

 

Sure, the bandbox dimensions of Doubleday Field make it look like Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, PA where they hold the Little League World Series, and the infield grass was so thick yesterday it looked like it hadn’t been mowed since Abner and the boys supposedly played near that spot in 1839.

 

But I had a blast, and I hope the PawSox fans who made the trip felt the same way.

 

The highlight was a morning visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and I was happy to see that a number of Pawtucket players and staff members took advantage of the opportunity.  An early bus left the team hotel at 8:30 am to give the guys who wanted to go a chance to spend a couple of hours at the Hall of Fame.  Rocky Cherry, Chris George, Sean Danielson, Javier Lopez, Billy Traber, Jeff Natale, Charlie Zink, Michael Bowden, Enrique Gonzalez, Carlos Maldonado, hitting coach Russ Morman, trainer Greg Barajas, and strength coach Mike Jones were the guys I ran into, and others may have caught the early bus as well.

 

With Jim Rice getting inducted next month, it’s a great time to visit Cooperstown if you’re a Red Sox fan.  There’s a big exhibit paying tribute to Rice that includes an old program from the 1974 “Pawtucket-Rhode Island Red Sox” that commemorates Rice’s Triple Crown season in the International League when he was only 21 years old.

 

There are also several photographs and artifacts involving players who have been members of the Pawtucket Red Sox this year!  There’s a wall devoted to no-hitters and perfect games in major league history that includes a baseball and picture of the pitcher who threw it from every no-no since 1940.  Clay Buchholz is obviously on that wall – right next to Jon Lester.  Just think, a pitcher who is currently on display in Cooperstown will be on the mound tonight at McCoy Stadium.  I also saw a Buchholz autographed ball at a souvenir shop that was going for $70.00.

 

There’s also a photo of a very young John Smoltz in a section that pays tribute to the Atlanta Braves dominance in the 1990′s.  I happened to see it at the same time as Rocky Cherry and we both got of kick out of Smoltzie’s youthful appearance.  John will likely have a plaque in Cooperstown some day.

 

There’s a ball signed by Kevin Youkilis (who played in 2 games with Pawtucket this year) from the game in which he broke the all-time record for consecutive errorless games at first base.

 

Of course, there’s all sorts of stuff from former PawSox including:

 

The bat that Dustin Pedroia used to hit a HR in his first World Series at-bat in 2007.

 

Jon Lester’s spikes from his no-hitter last year.

 

Jonathan Papelbon’s glove that he wore while saving 3 games in the ’07 World Series.

 

For several minutes, I walked through the Hall of Fame next to a father-and-son and listened to the dad answer his son’s questions about the legends of the game.  My new goal in life is to have that experience with my 3-year-old son Sam when he’s old enough to be excited about it.  Hearing that kid yesterday say things like, “Dad, it’s Lou Gehrig’s locker!. . .or Willie Mays uniform!” gave me goosebumps.  I can only imagine what that will be like with my own son.

 

Yesterday on the broadcast, I mentioned that I got a kick out of seeing the Florida Marlins 2003 World Series ring that is so big it looks more like the belt buckle on a heavyweight boxing championship belt.

 

Leave it to my friend Kelly O’Connor (the official photographer of “Heard it from Hoard”) to have a picture of what that ring looked like on Josh Beckett’s finger.

 


Marlins ring resize.jpg 

 

* * * * *

 

Tonight the PawSox open a 4-game homestand against the Charlotte Knights and will have Clay Buchholz on the mound.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com. 

 

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

 

 

 

 

    

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