August 2009

Wake To The Rescue

With a little help from one of the best knuckleball pitchers in baseball history, Pawtucket’s 10-game losing streak is over.

 


Wake 2 resize.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

I’m no pitching coach – although I sometimes play one on the radio – but Tim Wakefield certainly looks ready to return to Boston to me.  Wakefield pitched to 22 batters on Friday night and only one hit the ball hard, as the 43-year-old knuckleballer led the PawSox to a 2-1 win over Rochester.

 

“I felt great physically,” Wakefield told me after the game.  “Compared to last week, I think my strength has increased a tremendous amount from last week to tonight.  I was able to obviously throw more pitches, I had to cover first base – there’s still a little limp there – but nothing’s really bothering me to pitch.”

 

Wakefield’s knuckler looked nasty – especially when he struck out Steven Tolleson in the first inning on a feeble hack that brought to mind Charles Barkley’s golf swing.

 

Wake’s ability to field his position is probably going to be somewhat compromised for the rest of the year.  On a ground ball to first base that Aaron Bates bobbled in the 5th inning, the Rochester runner reached safely when Wakefield was late in covering the bag.

 

“It’s the way my leg is feeling right now,” Wakefield said.  “I kind of slowed up a little bit because I didn’t think there was going to be a play and there ended up being one and he beat me to the bag, but I think I proved to myself that I can field my position pretty well and physically I feel great.”

 

I’d be surprised if Wake’s next start isn’t in a Boston uniform.

 

* * * * *

 

One of the greatest tennis players in history threw out the ceremonial first pitch a couple of nights ago at McCoy – Mats Wilander, who is competing in the Hall of Fame Champions Cup this weekend in Newport.

 


Spike and Wilander resize.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Louriann Mardo-Zayat)

 

It was great to see Sean Danielson on the receiving end of Wilander’s toss, because Sean is easily the biggest tennis fan to play for the PawSox in recent seasons.

 

Before making baseball his primary sport, Danielson was an outstanding junior tennis player who was once ranked 6th in his age group in the state of Texas.  Jim Courier was his favorite player growing up, and he’s currently a big fan of Rafael Nadal.

 

It’s too bad the PawSox don’t have a day off while the tennis event is going on in Newport.  Wilander gave Danielson a signed tennis ball and told him he could use it like a free pass at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

 

Now that’s a valuable autograph.

 

* * * * *

 

The winning run on Friday night was knocked in by Jeff Bailey who is likely to return to the Red Sox when major league rosters expand in September.

 


Bailey at Fenway resize.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

The 2008 International League MVP is in his 6th season with Pawtucket.  Prior to Saturday’s game, I asked Bailey is he could see himself returning for a 7th year.

 

“7th, 8th, 9th, 10th,” Bailey said with a laugh.  “Yea, I could see myself here and that’s fine.  The Red Sox know me well, and I know what they’re looking for.  It’s a comfortable situation all the way around with the front office, RJ, and Tito so I would have no problem with that.  It’s just a matter of whether they’ll want me back or not.”

 

Let’s hope they do.  If minor league teams had captains, Bailey would wear a “C” on his Pawtucket uniform.

 

* * * * *

 

Pawtucket opens a 4-game series against Lehigh Valley on Saturday night at 6:05.  It’s a TV game, so if you can’t make it out to McCoy, I hope you’ll tune in on Cox Sports throughout Rhode Island.  I’ll join Bob Montgomery for the call beginning at 6:00.

Not The End of the World . . . But Close

Once after giving up a game-winning pinch-hit in the 9th inning, former Kansas City Royals closer Dan Quisenberry was asked by a sportswriter if that was the worst possible way to lose a game.

 

Quisenberry came up with about 20 unusual things to top it including, “If outfielder Amos Otis was settling under the last out and an earthquake caused him to miss it, now that would’ve been worse.”

 

So yes, things could be worse for the Pawtucket Red Sox right now – but you have to be creative to imagine how.

 

On Thursday night, the PawSox 9-game losing streak was just about over.  After scoring two runs in the 7th inning and another in the 8th, Pawtucket sent Marcus McBeth to the mound in the 9th inning with a 3-1 lead.

 


 
Marcus resize.jpgNow here’s what you need to know about McBeth.  He’s been phenomenal this year, and had just pitched a perfect 8
th inning with a pair of strikeouts.  When Fernando “No B.S.” Cabrera (that stands for “No Blown Saves” . . .  20-for-20 in save opportunities) was promoted to Boston; there was no reason for panic because McBeth has been nearly as dominant.

 

Not this time.  Marcus walked the leadoff hitter in the 9th.  Then he walked the second guy.  Then he allowed a double that made it 3-2.  Then he allowed a single that tied the game.

 

By the time the inning was over, Rochester had a 5-3 win, extending the PawSox losing streak to 10 games.

 

It was the low point of the season, but not the worst part of my day.

 

On my ride home to Boston, I hit construction almost immediately that reduced Route 95-North to one lane.  The previous night, that stretched my 48-minute commute to about an hour and 20 minutes.

 

Not this time I decided, so I pulled out my trusty GPS and hit the button for “detour.”  I was instructed to pull off at the next exit and began taking a series of lefts and rights until I found myself directly in front of Gillette Stadium after a Patriots preseason game. 

 

It took me 2 hours to get home.

 

And I kind of wished I was Amos Otis when the earthquake hit.

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox have equaled the second-longest losing streak in team history at 10 games.  The club record is a 13-game losing streak in 1985.

 

They’ll have All-Star Tim Wakefield on the mound on Friday night to try to end the streak and he’ll be allowed to throw approximately 80 pitches.

 


Wake resize.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

After extensive tests, the Red Sox medical staff has determined that Wakefield is not endangering his injured calf if he waits until after the season to have a disc fragment removed that’s causing the pain.

 

It will mark the third day in a row that a knuckleballer will take the mound at McCoy Stadium (Charlie Zink on Wednesday, R.A. Dickey on Thursday).  That’s pretty incredible considering there are only 5 guys currently throwing the pitch in pro baseball.  The others are Charlie Haeger of the LA Dodgers and Josh Banks (who only throws it occasionally) of the San Diego Padres.

 

In 1945 when major league rosters were depleted due to World War II, the Washington Senators had a 4-man rotation made up entirely of knuckleball pitchers including the immortal Mickey “Itsy Bitsy” Haefner.  They finished 2nd in the American League.

 

* * * * *   

 

I was sorry to see to the Red Sox release Chris Duncan after Thursday’s game.  Unfortunately, he was never able to get on a roll after coming over from the Cardinals in a trade for Julio Lugo. 

 

Duncan batted .188 with 2 HR and 10 RBI in his time with the PawSox.

 

In case you’ve haven’t been following it, Lugo is hitting .319 in his first 22 games with the Cardinals.

 

And the Red Sox will pay most of his $9 million dollar salary next year.

 

* * * * *

 

I hope you’ll join us for the radio call on Friday as the PawSox try to end the losing streak.  Our coverage begins at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

The Woonsocket Rocket Stays Positive

Rocco Baldelli is blessed with incredible God-given athletic ability.

 

But he’s been cursed with rotten luck.

 


Rocco resize.jpg 

(photo by Kelly O’Connor)

 

When he was in the 9th grade, the Rhode Island native broke his leg playing basketball.  The damage was so severe that doctors thought he had been in a car accident.

 

In high school, he tested positive for mononucleosis and Lyme disease and missed the state baseball championship.

 

After playing nearly every game of his first two major league seasons, Rocco injured his knee playing baseball with his younger brother in the off-season in November of 2004 and needed surgery to fix the ACL.

 

In 2007, Baldelli injured his hamstring in May and went on the DL.  When he was on the verge of returning to the big leagues, he re-injured the hamstring and missed most of the season.

 

But all of that was nothing compared to what Rocco dealt with last season as he missed the first 4-plus months of the season due to a condition that causes fatigue and slows muscle recovery. 

 

So after all of that, does Rocco ever say, “Why me?”

 

“I’ve dealt with a lot of different injuries, but you don’t ask yourself ‘Why?’  That would be wasting time and I’m not really one to feel sorry for myself for any reason,” Baldelli told me.  “I think it’s best to move on, and if you’re hurt, you do whatever you can do to get back as soon as possible.”

 

That’s what he’s doing now in a rehab stint with Pawtucket.  Rocco was placed on the disabled list on August 6th with a bruised ankle, but it’s fine now and he is likely to return to Boston on Friday when he’s eligible to come off of the DL.

 

“I feel good,” Rocco said.  “Hopefully I can come out here and see some live pitching for a couple of days and then rejoin the Red Sox in a few days.  My body feels fine and I feel like I’m ready to go.  I’ve felt pretty good this year.  Early this year I had a slight hamstring strain, but I haven’t had anything major where I was really worried.” 

 

His luck is bound to change sooner or later, right?

 

* * * * *

 

Pawtucket’s longest homestand in more than 10 years got off to a disappointing start on Tuesday.  After scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th inning to tie the game and force extra innings, the PawSox allowed a run in the top of the 10th inning to lose 7-6.

 

The PawSox will try to snap a 7-game losing streak on Wednesday in a rare day/night doubleheader.

 

I hope you’ll join us for the radio calls.  We’ll be on the air at 11:50 in the morning for game one, and 6:50 at night for game two.

 

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

Stifler Joins The PawSox . . . And An Unnecessary Sign

The PawSox open a 10-day homestand on Tuesday and it will be the first opportunity for Pawtucket fans to see Josh Reddick in action at McCoy Stadium.

 


Reddick resize.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

The 22-year-old outfielder joined the PawSox on Sunday at Gwinnett, GA after batting .188 with 4 doubles and 1 home run in 9 games with the Red Sox.

 

On July 31st, Reddick got the stunning news that he was going directly from Double-A Portland to the major leagues.

 

“It was definitely a huge surprise,” Reddick told me.  “Especially when (Portland manager) Arnie Beyeler didn’t tell me where I was going at first.  He just told me to pack my stuff and be ready to leave.  When I learned the news, I was like, ‘Wow!’  It was just before the trade deadline so I figured I was on my way somewhere else.  Going to Boston was the last thing on my mind.”

 

Reddick’s first phone call went to his father Kenny. 

 

“I didn’t expect him to pick up because it was one o’clock in the afternoon and I figured he would be working,” Josh said.  “But he was somewhere eating lunch and I asked him if he was sitting down.  I gave him the news and he handled it pretty well.  Then he called me back and said that he stood up in the restaurant and announced that his son was going to the big leagues.  When I called my mom, she was in the middle of Walmart and said she fell down in the middle of the aisle and couldn’t stop crying.” 

 

It’s hard to imagine what a thrill that news must have been for his father.  Before Josh’s first birthday, Kenny Reddick was electrocuted and seriously injured while on the job for the power company.

 

“It’s an inspirational story,” Josh told me.  “He lost half of his left arm and a couple of fingers on his right hand but he loved the game so much that he was able to teach me how to hit and how to play the game right.  It’s unreal to me that to this day he’s the main person who taught me how to play the game.  He’s knows what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong and he can fix things over the phone just like that.”

 

I haven’t met his dad yet, so I can’t tell you if there’s a strong resemblance between father and son.  But Josh is a dead ringer for a well-known movie character.

 


stiffler resize.jpg 

“Stifler from American Pie – Seann William Scott,” Reddick said with a laugh.  “I don’t see it, but I get it all the time.  That’s my nickname up in Boston.  That’s what Pedroia and Tito started calling me, so it stuck”

 

* * * * *

 

If you listened to our broadcasts from Gwinnett Stadium, you probably heard me refer to it as the home of the world’s “least necessary sign.”

 

If you look closely at this photo of the restroom, there’s a small sign mounted on the wall above the toilet.

 


Gwinnett toilet resize.jpg 

Here’s a closer look at the sign.

 


Bathroom sign resize.jpg 

 

Uhh, thanks for the warning.

 

* * * * *

 

Josh Reddick will not be the only addition at McCoy Stadium on Tuesday night.  Rocco Baldelli is expected to be in the starting lineup for the opening game of a 5-game series against Rochester.

 

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.

A Signature Request

When the PawSox arrived at Gwinnett Stadium on Sunday morning, they were greeted by an unusual request.

 

“Will you sign my car?”

 

The question came from Sox fanatic Neil “Mr. Boston” Bonney, who was born in Maine but currently lives in Athens, GA.

 


Mr Boston resize.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Tripp Miller)

 

One look at his 1996 Volkswagen and it’s easy to understand where “Mr. Boston” got his nickname.

 

His Georgia license plate reads “Fenway 2,” and the car includes several Red Sox bumper stickers.

 

But what really makes his ride unique are the autographs – signed with a silver sharpie on a black VW Jetta.

 

The hood of the car was signed by all of the players and coaches from the Red Sox Single-A affiliate in Greenville, SC (including star prospect Casey Kelly).  After everybody signed, Bonney added a layer of Clear Coat to prevent the signatures from fading and scratching.

 


Jetta resize.jpg 

 

Neil has been asking the PawSox players and coaches to sign the back of the car, but is only having moderate success.  It would appear that by the time some players get to Triple-A, it’s not considered “cool” to sign a dude’s car.  Manager Ron Johnson, on the other hand, was happy to oblige.

 


rj signs resize.jpg 

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time that Neil has used his car as a canvas.  In 2000, he had the Georgia Bulldogs SEC championship football team sign his white Chrysler LeBaron.

 

He gave that car to a family member.  And promises that the Jetta will never wind up on eBay.

 

“Sign my car” is one of the most unusual autograph requests I’ve seen, but I know somebody who can top it.

 

Me.

 

This past December 31st, I was the master of ceremonies at a big University of Cincinnati pep rally before broadcasting the Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech matchup in the Orange Bowl the following night. 

 

After the pep rally, a Bearcat fan named Bud Westendorf asked me to sign the top of his bald head.

 

Think I’m joking?  Here’s photographic evidence. 

 

Autographed head.jpg

 

* * * * *

 

I was in the PawSox clubhouse on Sunday when actor Kelsey Grammer walked it.

 


Kelsey resize.jpg 

 

Whoops, it was actually pitcher Paul Byrd.

 


Byrd resize.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

The 38-year-old righty, who had not been pitching this year, signed a minor league contract with Boston in early August and hopes to join the Red Sox in September.  He was 4-2 with a 4.78 ERA with Boston last year after joining the team in mid-August.

 

After returning to the organization a few weeks ago, Byrd reported to the Single-A GCL Red Sox where he made two starts, going 0-1 with a 5.14 ERA (7 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K).  He’s expected to make his PawSox debut on Wednesday at 12:05 in the first game of a day/night doubleheader against Rochester.

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox will try to snap a 5-game losing streak on Monday afternoon as they conclude their 8-game road trip to Charlotte and Gwinnett.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 1:45 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

Wakefield Is Here . . . And So Are The Steaks

The Pawtucket Red Sox have a massive post-game feast to look forward to courtesy of a 2009 MLB All-Star.

 


Wake 2 resize.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Tim Wakefield is here in Georgia for what is expected to be a one game rehab stint with the PawSox and a Gwinnett Braves front office employee told us that Wake ordered 50 filet mignons from a local restaurant for his minor league teammates to enjoy after the game.

 

Wakefield is expected to throw about 60 to 65 pitches and will be using major league baseballs that pitching coach Rich Sauveur made sure to pack for the trip.  Tim will wear his usual #49 and the PawSox will wear red uniform tops because of him.  Gwinnett actually wanted to wear red tonight, but the PawSox do not have a #49 blue road jersey, so the Braves were kind enough to allow Wakefield to stay in his major league number (even though he made it clear he didn’t really care).

 


George at plate resize.jpg 

George Kottaras will catch the first 5 innings and will wear the #34 (it looked considerably tighter on Paul McAnulty this year).  George wears the #16 in Boston and since he has more big league time than Charlie Zink, he could have taken that number with the PawSox if he wanted to make it an issue.  Kottaras made it clear it didn’t matter to him and wasn’t about to ask his former teammate to switch.

 

Saturday’s game starts at 7:05 and we’ll be on the radio with pre-game coverage at 6:45.  Our pre-game guest will be Texas Rangers outfielder David Murphy who joined us on PawSox Insider this afternoon.

 

I hope you’ll join us . . . at least until the Boston/Texas game gets underway.

A Farewell To Rocky Cherry

I believe it was former major league manager Jeff Torborg who once tried to soften the blow while getting rid of a player by saying, “It’s nothing personal – it’s personnel.”

 

Tell that to Rocky Cherry.

 


Cherry resize.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

The 29-year-old pitcher was released by Boston yesterday, despite having an outstanding season with Pawtucket, posting a 3-1 record with a 2.57 ERA.  I have not discussed the move with anyone from the Red Sox, but it could only mean one thing – they had decided he was not a candidate for a September call-up and is not in their plans for next season (which explains why younger prospects with poorer statistics are retained).

 

As Hyder and I left for the ballpark on Friday, we saw Rocky in the hotel lobby getting ready to catch a cab to the airport and I was glad to have the opportunity to shake his hand and wish him good luck.  More often than not, we don’t get that opportunity when a player leaves the team.  In many cases, we never see him again.

 

I certainly hope we cross paths with Rocky again, but with his 30th birthday coming up on August 19th, I know he’s debating whether to keep pitching or to call it quits.  His dad, uncle, and brother run a third-generation commercial painting company in Dallas, and Rocky eventually plans to join the family business.  He was a 4-time academic All-Big 12 Conference selection at the University of Oklahoma and graduated with a degree in construction science so I’m certain he will be extremely successful in his post-baseball career.

 

But when said goodbye yesterday, I encouraged him to keep pitching.  The family business is always going to be there, but the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues only lasts for so long.

 

Rocky has been there before with the Cubs and Orioles and proved with the PawSox that’s he’s good enough to return.

 

Personally, I’d love to see it.

 

* * * * *

 

Chris Carter seems to have a knack for heating up at the right time.

 


Carter resize.jpg 

Carter was Boston’s best hitter in spring training and earned the final spot on the Red Sox opening day roster after batting .355 in the Grapefruit League with a team-high 6 home runs in 28 games.

 

Now with September call-ups just around the corner, Carter is swinging a white-hot bat again.

 

Carter was 3-for-3 with a walk and 2 RBI in Friday’s 7-6 loss at Gwinnett.  In his last 10 games, Chris is 15-for-32 (.469) with 3 HR, 8 RBI, 8 BB, and 1 HBP (.585 OBP).

 

I know it’s been a frustrating year for Chris as he’s only had 5 major league at-bats, but as Kevin Youkilis and others have told him, this is the way to get back to Boston.  When rosters expand in September, the Red Sox will promote players that can help them win one crucial game in the battle to get to the postseason. 

 

If Carter keeps this up, he’ll be hard to overlook.

 

* * * * *

 

Red Sox nation will be playing close attention to the PawSox game on Saturday as Tim Wakefield takes the mound at Gwinnett.  It will be Wake’s first minor league game since last pitching for the Pawtucket in May of 1995.

 

I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

The Toughest Time of the Year

It’s August 14th and you can’t blame PawSox manager Ron Johnson if he’s daydreaming about getting home to Tennessee to see his wife, kids, and trusty horse Peanut (the following photo hangs in RJ’s office at McCoy Stadium).

 


Peanut resize.jpg 

The PawSox have played 126 games (in 134 days) and are not in the thick of the playoff chase.  In recent weeks there have been non-stop roster changes that disrupt team chemistry.  In short, they’re called the “dog days of August” for a variety of reasons.

 

“When you get to this time, there’s a lot of stuff that starts going through guys’ minds,” RJ told me.  “Some guys are looking at possible September call-ups, while guys that have had tough years are thinking, ‘Man, I’ve got to do something to make my self marketable next year.’  So there are a lot of issues that come about.”

 

And none tougher than telling a guy he’s being released.

 

In the last month, RJ has had to deliver that news to Paul McAnulty, Freddy Guzman, Carlos Maldonado, and Rocky Cherry and he may have to release other players in the final 3 weeks of the season.   

 

“There’s no good way to do it,” Johnson said.  “You get right to the point and fortunately at this level they know it’s a business.  I can remember those days when I managed at the lower levels and you’d have to call a kid in who might be a year or two years out of school and you’d have to bring him in and tell him the dream is over – or at least it’s over with this organization.  At this level, as difficult as it is, most of the time you’re dealing with guys that have multiple years of experience and they know it’s a business and it doesn’t come out of the blue.  It’s always hard, but it’s part of the job.”

 

Fortunately, McAnulty and Guzman have had already joined other teams, and Maldonado should have no trouble finding an organization that could use a veteran catcher.  But a playing career goes by quickly for most pro athletes, and RJ will never forget being released for the third and final time.

 

“I remember all of them,” Johnson recalled.  “I was one of those veteran guys who had been kicking around and I was with Detroit.  Gordie McKenzie was the manager and I had a feeling it was going to happen anyway because I wasn’t getting any hits, and he called me up in a hotel in Nashville and said, ‘Listen, come up and see me.’  And I said, ‘Hey Gordie, am I done?’  And he said, ‘Yea, we’re going to make a move.’  When you’re older and a veteran you kind of anticipate that something might happen.”

 

On the flip side, with September approaching, the PawSox manager is also going to tell several players that they’re heading to Boston for the final month of the season.

 

In baseball, there’s nothing quite like getting the news that you’re going to the big leagues for the first time, although in RJ’s case, there wasn’t much of a conversation.

 

“When I made the team in 1983 and boarded the plane at the end of spring training with the Kansas City Royals – I was one of the 25 – Dick Howser never really said a thing,” RJ told me.  “I ended up loving him immensely, but he was an old school guy and he talked to George Brett, Amos Otis, Dennis Leonard . . . those guys.  If you were a young guy, you basically stayed in your place.  So Dick never said a thing to me all spring – he never told me I made the team.  It was the last day and I started counting the numbers and there were 25 left and I was one of them.  Just before the last game of spring training, I was in the bullpen and he comes walking down and he didn’t look but he said, ‘I bet you feel pretty good today,’ and he just kept walking.  That was the speech.  I said, ‘Very good sir,’ and that was it.

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox final long road trip of the year has reached the midway point.  After splitting a 4-game series at Charlotte, Pawtucket opens a 4-game set against the Gwinnett Braves on Friday night at 7:00.

 

I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:45 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

 

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

 

And if you’re part of the Twitter world, you can follow my tweets at @dan_hoard on Twitter.com.

Welcome Back Wakefield

On Saturday night, 43-year-old Tim Wakefield will try to resurrect his All-Star season as he tests his ailing left calf in a rehab start for the PawSox.

 


Wake resize.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Wake, who threw 51 pitches in a simulated game on Monday at Fenway Park, is expected to throw 3 to 4 innings for the PawSox on Saturday.  If things go well, he hopes to return to Boston for his following start.

 

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Wakefield told reporters on Tuesday.  “I’m excited – let’s test it out in a live game situation.  I think I’m ready to pitch now, but if I go out there and something happens, it (messes up) the whole team.  I just think this is the right thing to do as far as making sure I’m absolutely ready.”

 

In a sense, Wakefield has come full-circle because Pawtucket is where he resurrected his career in 1995.

 

After 14 mostly-successful seasons in Boston, we forget how close Wakefield was to being out of baseball at the age of 28.

 

In 1994, he was arguably the worst pitcher in the International League when he went 5-15 with a 5.84 ERA for Buffalo.  Wakefield finished with more walks (98) than strikeouts (83) and coughed up a league-high 27 home runs.

 

The following year, the Pirates gave up on Wake and released him on April 20th.

 

Six days later, the Red Sox signed Tim and sent him to Pawtucket where he quickly rediscovered the form that had made him a rookie sensation with Pittsburgh three years earlier.

 

Wakefield made 4 starts for Pawtucket in 2005, going 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA.  One of his catchers with the PawSox was current Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge.

 

His success with Pawtucket led to a promotion to Boston where Wakefield went 16-8 with a 2.95 ERA and helped the Red Sox win a division title.

 

After a weekend pit stop with Pawtucket, will see if Wake can help the Red Sox qualify for the postseason again.

 

* * * * *

 

Wakefield won’t be the only player joining the PawSox on rehab this Saturday – he’ll bring his personal catcher George Kottaras.

 


Kottaras gear resize.jpg 

Kottaras, who went on the disabled list due to back spasms on August 1st, will make his first appearance with the PawSox this year after spending most of the last two seasons with the team.

 

It will be interesting to see if he returns to Boston when Wakefield makes his next major league start, or if Jason Varitek or Victor Martinez will take on the added responsibility of catching the knuckleball.

 

* * * * *

 

In the first 45 games of the season, Pawtucket pitchers tossed 9 shutouts.

 

69 games later, PawSox hurlers finally tossed shutout #10 in Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the Charlotte Knights.

 

Michael Bowden got the win as he threw 5.1 scoreless innings to beat 2-time All-Star Freddy Garcia.  The 22-year-old righty improved to 4-5 with a 3.23 ERA.

 

A key to the victory was great defense as the PawSox turned a season-high 4 double plays and only one was on a groundout.

 

In the first inning, Brian Anderson caught a line drive in shallow center field and gunned down a runner who tried to tag up and score from third base.

 

In the third inning, Aaron Bates caught a screaming liner at first base and stepped on the bag to double up a runner who was leading off.

 

In the first eighth inning, Chris Duncan made a diving catch in left field and fired to second base to catch a runner who gambled that he wouldn’t be able to catch it.

 

It added up to Pawtucket’s second straight win over Charlotte.  If the PawSox can win one of the final two games of this series, they’ll end a streak of 14 series without a victory.

 

I hope you’ll join us for the radio call on Wednesday night beginning with the pre-game show at 7:00 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

The PawSox Win and Adam Mills Comes Home

It took awhile – 3 hours and 54 minutes to be exact – but at this point the Pawtucket Red Sox will gladly take it.

 

Pawtucket’s final long road trip of the year, an 8-game southern swing to Charlotte, NC and Gwinnett, GA (nothing like the deep south in mid-August!), began with a 6-5 win in 12 innings on Monday over the Charlotte Knights.

 

The game can be broken down into 4 acts.

 

Act 1:  Randor Bierd pitches brilliantly on 3-days rest, leaving in the 6th inning with a 4-0 lead.

 

Act 2:  Hunter Jones allows 5 runs in the bottom of the 8th and things look bleak as the PawSox fall behind 5-4.

 

Act 3:  Bubba Bell and Mark Wagner come through with back-to-back doubles in the 9th to force extra innings tied at 5.

 

Act 4:  Chris Duncan leads off the 12th inning with a double and eventually scores the winning run on a passed ball in Pawtucket’s 6-5 victory.

 

I can’t say that I was especially chipper in the 8th when the PawSox blew a 4-run lead, but coming away with a win has a way of improving everybody’s mood.

 

* * * * *

 

24-year-old pitcher Adam Mills earned a well-deserved promotion from Portland to Pawtucket just before the road trip and the timing couldn’t be better.  Mills makes his off-season home in Charlotte and was a college star at UNC-Charlotte.  He’ll have a big rooting section on Wednesday when he starts for the PawSox.

 

“I know a lot of my old coaches are coming and pretty much anybody that can make it is going to come, so it will be a nice little section up there hopefully,” Mills told me.

 


Mills resize.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

In his final college season with the 49ers, Mills went 14-2 and led the nation in ERA at 1.01.  He was one of 3 finalists for the Roger Clemens Award (best pitcher in NCAA Division 1) which went to Vanderbilt’s David Price (now with Tampa Bay).

 

“I’m still kind of wowed that that happened,” Mills said.  “We had an amazing team.  We had the number one pitching staff in the nation statistically, and we hit well and played great defense.  For me to have the season that I did is a memorable experience, and no matter what happens for the rest of my life, I’m always going to have that season.”

 

As for this season, it started pretty miserably as Adam was 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA in his first 10 starts for Double-A Portland.

 

Since then, he’s 9-1 with a 1.77 ERA and earned victories in his last 8 starts with the Sea Dogs.

 

Wednesday’s game will not be his Triple-A debut.  Mills started Game 3 of the playoffs last year and took the loss in a 6-4 defeat at Scranton/WB.  He expects to be more comfortable this time around.

 

“Last year I came up not knowing anybody on the team,” Mills told me.  “This time there’s a lot less pressure on me.  We all know each other and it’s a lot easier to get comfortable.”

 

You might even say he’ll feel right at home.

 

* * * * *

 

Charlotte plays its home games at rapidly-aging Knights Stadium, a facility that was called Knights Castle when it opened in 1990.

 

But in 1997 it had a different nickname – The Morman Tabernacle.

 

That was in honor of Pawtucket hitting coach Russ Morman, who had a monster season while playing for the Knights that year, batting .319 with 33 HR and 99 RBI.

 


Russ Morman resize.jpg 

Unfortunately, it does not appear that they’ve pumped much money into the place since then.

 

As I watched the PawSox take batting practice before Monday’s game, Dusty Brown pointed out that there was a large bird’s nest in the batting cage.

 

* * * * *

 

PawSox hitters will have their work cut out for them in this series.

 

On Tuesday night, they’ll face 2-time All-Star Freddy Garcia who has a 118-77 record in the big leagues.

 

On Thursday night, they’ll face another 2-time All-Star, 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, who’s 92-68 in the bigs.

 

I hope you’ll join us for the radio call on Tuesday, beginning with the pre-game show at 7:00 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.