April 2010

The Arrival Of Lars Anderson


 The PawSox have lost three straight games and will finish April with a losing record.

 

But there’s reason for optimism with Thursday’s promotion of Lars Anderson from Double-A Portland.

 


Lars bat re.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

The 22-year-old first baseman was destroying Eastern League pitching.  In 17 games, Anderson was batting .355/.408/.677 with 5 HR and 16 RBI.  Lars belted 4 HR in his last 10 games and was working on a 6-game hitting streak (10-for-21, .476) at the time of his promotion. 

 

Lars entered the season as the #4 prospect in the Red Sox organization according to Baseball America.  He was listed as the organization’s best power hitting prospect for the 4th consecutive year.

 

Mike Hazen, Boston’s Director of Player Development, discussed Anderson’s promotion to Triple-A with PawSox beat writer Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times.

 

“He’s done a good job this year of really being focused in his approach – from going hitless in big league camp all the way through leading the Eastern League in OPS at this point today, we’ve never seen that waiver since he stepped into camp,” Hazen told McGair.  “So, it’s time for him to be challenged at the next level. 

 

Regardless of the results in a game – good or bad – we’ve seen the exact same player the next day . . . pitch-to-pitch, at-bat to at-bat, and day to day.  That’s all anyone ever expects out of a player from a consistency standpoint and he’s done a great job of that.  He worked really hard.  He put in a lot of work this off-season, he put in a lot of work in spring training and the results are showing up on the field.  Good for him.  He’s done a lot in the first couple of weeks and the last couple of months to earn this promotion.”

 

Anderson arrived in the PawSox clubhouse during Thursday’s 4-1 loss to Indianapolis and grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the 6th inning.  He’s expected to make his first start for the PawSox on Friday night.

 

Let’s hope that it’s Fireworks Night in more ways than one.

 

* * * * *

 

Thursday was the 24th anniversary of one of the most exciting nights in Red Sox history.

 

On April 29, 1986, Roger Clemens became the first pitcher in major league history to strike out 20 batters in a 9-inning game while tossing a 3-hitter vs. Seattle at Fenway Park.

 

My pal Joe Harty, who has assisted the PawSox as a batting practice pitcher for many years, had tickets to the game.

 

And didn’t go.

 

“It was biggest mistake you could ever make,” Harty told me.  “My wife’s boss had great tickets right behind home plate and we used to go all of the time.  That night she came home with the tickets, but we decided that we would watch the Celtics in their playoff game instead.  It was a little misty out and it wasn’t a great night to go watch a game.  So we turned on the TV to watch the Celtics and it was blacked out – we couldn’t believe it.  We were sitting at home with four tickets to the game where Clemens struck out 20.  The next day, she goes into work and her boss said, ‘Who had the tickets last night?’  And everybody pointed out that my wife did.  And her boss said, ‘So Joe saw the great game,’ and she had to tell him what happened.”

 

Joe didn’t get to witness history, but did come away with a valuable souvenir.

 


Tickets re.jpg 

“I still have the tickets untouched that I kind of keep in my safe,” he said.

 

Would he consider selling them?

 

“Absolutely,” Harty said with a laugh.  “When you’re unemployed you do stuff like that.  I don’t know, I always thought that maybe I could get them signed if Roger ever showed up somewhere around here.  It would be kind of cool to put them in a frame.  I don’t know – I guess I would regret it if I sold them”

 

* * * * *

 

There was a no-hitter in the International League on Wednesday night as Norfolk’s Chris Tillman tossed a 9-inning masterpiece vs. the Gwinnett Braves.

 

Congrats are not only in order for Tillman, but also for his pitching coach – former Pawtucket pitching coach Mike Griffin.

 

Griffin was the PawSox pitching coach in 2003 when Bronson Arroyo pitched a 9-inning perfect game against Buffalo.  

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox conclude their 8-game homestand on Friday night as they face Indianapolis at 6:15.  The game will be followed by a gigantic Fireworks Show.

 

I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:00 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.

 

Also, don’t forget to join us for “PawSox Insider” on Saturday afternoon from 2:00 to 3:00.  We’ll be joined live by Darnell McDonald.

 

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

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

Brandon Moss Misses Boston

This year, former PawSox outfielders Jonathan Van Every and Brandon Moss were reunited as teammates with the Indianapolis Indians.  At least until last Saturday when Van Every was traded back to the Red Sox organization.

 

“We had been talking about it for like two or three days prior,” Moss told me.  “We were like, ‘Dude, how nice would it be to get traded back to Boston.’  Sure enough it happened.  If I had his phone number I swear I would call him and do nothing but cuss at him for about an hour.  But that’s how it goes and I was very happy for him because he went to a great situation and he’s playing for a great team and manager.”

 


Moss re.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

On Tuesday, Moss returned to McCoy Stadium for the first time since July 31, 2008 when he was traded to Pittsburgh in the 3-team blockbuster deal that sent Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles and Jason Bay to Boston.

 

“I knew I was going to get a good opportunity and I was excited,” Moss said.  “But at the same time, it was kind of bittersweet because I was leaving the organization that I had come up with.  Boston is a first-class organization from rookie ball all the way to the big leagues.  They do everything the right way.  They teach everything the right way.  I was sad to leave and I miss it.  Truth be told – you won’t find a better-run organization.”

 

The trade to Pittsburgh gave Brandon the opportunity to spend all of last year in the big leagues and he was the Pirates starting right fielder on opening day.  But when his batting average dropped to .174 on May 10th, Moss was removed from the every day lineup and finished the season batting .236/.304/.364 7 HR in 385 at-bats. 

 

“I’ve always played every day and I kind of let that get to me mentally,” Moss said.  “I also had a hard time with it physically because I wasn’t used to it.  It’s just one of those things you have to learn as a young player.  Last year it seemed that when I got off to a rough start – and this is nothing against them up there – but they kind of hit the panic button.  I tried to tell people that I’m a slow starter – you can look at any year I’ve ever had in the minor leagues, I’ve always started slow.  But they kind of hit the panic button a little bit and every day I would come in to the cage and it would be something new that we were working on.  So I got really frustrated and lost confidence.  My whole goal this year was to find my swing and just be myself.  I’ve got a great hitting coach and coaching staff here at Indianapolis and they realize what the goal is and throughout the past couple of weeks it’s really been coming together.  I’ve been feeling like me again and it’s a lot of fun.  Just playing every day is how you get that and it’s enjoyable.  Whether you’re in A-ball or the big leagues you want to play – you don’t want to sit there.  And that’s one thing I had a hard time with.  But if I get back up there with Pittsburgh or anybody else and I’m a role player that will be fine.  I’ll be able to accept it a little better next time because I will have done it before.  Right now I’m enjoying where I’m at and I’m playing really hard trying to reestablish myself.”   

 

So far this season, Moss is batting .250/.311/.393 with 2 HR and 7 RBI in 14 games with Indianapolis.  He was 1-for-4 and scored a pair of run in the Indians 7-2 win over the PawSox on Monday night.

 

* * * * *

 

When Josh Reddick and Mark Wagner got off to slow starts this season, they attempted to change their luck by shaving each other’s heads.

 

In their first games with buzz cuts, Reddick went 3-for-5 and Wagner belted a 2-run home run.

 

But since that game, Josh is 5-for-34 (.147) with Pawtucket and the 23-year-old outfielder went 1-for-6 in his brief promotion to Boston.

 

As a result, the electric trimmer has surfaced again.

 

On Wednesday morning, Reddick had teammate Matt Sheely give him a Mohawk.

 


Reddick with Mohawk re.jpg(photo courtesy of Louriann Mardo-Zayat) 

 

“He did the same thing for me last year in Portland and I got called-up by Boston that week,” Reddick told me.

 

“If he gets called-up that quickly again, you’ll see me sporting a Mohawk too,” Wagner quipped.

 

* * * * *

 

Chuck the Knuck is back . . . at least in the International League.

 


Zink re.jpg 

The Rochester Red Wings signed former PawSox All-Star Charlie Zink on Tuesday and the 30-year-old knuckleballer will take the mound on Wednesday at 11:35 am against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.

 

Zink signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in the off-season (I talked to him about it here), but was released near the end of spring training.  Rochester is in dire need of starting pitchers due to a broken foot suffered by Anthony Swarzak and elbow inflammation for Mike Maroth, so they’re giving Charlie a shot.

 

Zink was the International League’s Pitcher of the Year in 2008 for Pawtucket when he went 14-6 with a 2.84 ERA.  He struggled last year, going 6-15 for the PawSox with a 5.59 ERA.

 

Let’s hope he sticks with the Red Wings.  It would be great to see him back at McCoy Stadium when the Rochester returns on July 8th.

 

* * * * *

 

All signs point toward stud prospect Stephen Strasburg pitching at McCoy Stadium on the PawSox next homestand.

 

The Washington Nationals’ prospect pitched five hitless and scoreless innings last night for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, hitting 97 mph on the radar gun.  He’s 3-0 with a 0.52 ERA.  Published reports indicate that he’s likely to be promoted to Triple-A Syracuse soon.

 

Strasburg is scheduled to make his next start on Sunday.  If he moves to Triple-A and continues to pitch every fifth day, he would take the mound at McCoy Stadium on Monday, May 17th.  Syracuse comes to Pawtucket for a 4-game series May 14-17.

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox host Indianapolis on Wednesday at 12:05.  I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 11:50 am on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.

 

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

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

Shopping At The Dollar Store

When the Red Sox entered the bidding war for Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006, they paid the Seibu Lions $51.1 million just for the right to negotiate a contract with the Japanese legend.  They eventually signed Daisuke to a six-year, $52 million deal.

 

When the Red Sox purchased Daniel Nava’s contract in 2007, the price was considerably cheaper.

 

They paid the Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden Baseball League $1 dollar.

 


Nava runner re.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

“I don’t know the particulars of Daniel’s deal, but typically in those cases, we pay the independent team $1 for the player’s rights and $3000 if they make one of our minor league clubs,” said Boston’s Director of Player Development Mike Hazen.  “So I don’t know it for a fact, but I would assume that was the case with Daniel.”

 

Nava, on the other hand, received nothing but an opportunity.

 

“Obviously I had the choice to say ‘yes or no’ but why would I say no?” Nava told me.  “Once my contract was purchased I was the property of the Red Sox so I didn’t really have any pull, but I am not complaining.”

 

Neither is Boston.  After going to the Red Sox minor league spring training camp in 2008, Nava was assigned to Single-A Lancaster where he won the California League batting title with a .341 average.  Last year, he led Red Sox farmhands with a .352 average and .458 OBP between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland.  So far this season, the switch-hitting outfielder is hitting .328/.391/.448 in 17 games with Pawtucket, and he belted his first Triple-A home run on Monday in a 5-1 win over Buffalo.

 

“I’m pleased with how things have been going recently, but I have a lot of stuff to work on,” Nava said. 

 

While most hitters would be thrilled with Nava’s early-season statistics, the 27-year-old from Northern California has reason not to be satisfied.  Despite batting .395 in his final year of college baseball at Santa Clara University, Nava was not drafted by a major league team.

 

“When I didn’t get drafted, disappointment turned into frustration and that turned into motivation for me to go out and prove that I did deserve to play and that I could play,” Nava said.  “You can only dwell on certain situations for so long until they take control of you so I said, ‘I can’t let this negativity ruin me.’  So I tried to turn it into motivation.”

 

After college, Nava tried out for the independent Golden Baseball League and got cut.  After being out of baseball for a year, Daniel tried out again and made the Chico Outlaws.

 

The Golden Baseball League is best-known for publicity stunts.  In 2005, Rickey Henderson ended his career with the GBL’s San Diego Surf Dogs at the age of 46, and this year, the Outlaws signed 18-year old female Japanese knuckleball pitcher Eri Yoshida.  She will be the first female pro baseball player in the United States in ten years.

 

But playing in the Golden League was serious business for Nava.

 

“The league has a lot of older guys, but our team was young – I don’t think we had anybody over 25,” Nava said.  “That was awesome for us because we got to bond as a team and did everything together.  It was a great experience.  Our manager was ex-big leaguer Mark Parent so he did a great job of preparing us for the next step which for me was getting picked-up by Boston.”

 

Now Nava is one step from Fenway.  Considering that he was 4’8″ and weighed 70 pounds as a high school freshman (read more here), Daniel’s odds of making the majors were probably longer than any horse that will compete in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

 

“It’s a ridiculous long shot,” Hazen said.  “It’s amazing that a guy with that kind of talent has been passed-over every step of the way including the amateur draft.  But Allard Baird, Jared Porter, and our scouting staff did an outstanding job of finding him and he continues to produce at every level.  And if he continues to do it, he’s going to get an opportunity to play in the big leagues.”

 

* * * * *

 

I hope Boston Bruins fans were kind to the attractive woman in the Buffalo Sabres #55 Jochen Hecht jersey on Monday night at TD Garden.

 

It was Torey Lovullo’s wife Kristen.

 

Since the PawSox played a noon game, the Lovullo’s were able to attend Game 6 of the Bruins/Sabres playoff series.  Unfortunately for Kristen, her beloved Sabres lost the game 4-3 and the series 4 games to 2.

 

When Torey met his future wife he decided to test her Sabres knowledge and asked her to name the three members of Buffalo’s famed 1970’s line known as “The French Connection.”

 

She immediately reeled off the names Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert, and Rick Martin.

 

Torey has not tested her hockey knowledge since.

 

* * * * *

 

It was great to see Kris Johnson earn on win on Monday vs. Buffalo . . . and easy to see why the Red Sox haven’t given up on him despite his 3-16 record between Pawtucket and Portland last season.

 


Kris Johnson re.jpg 

The 25-year-old lefty his 92 mph on the stadium radar on a first inning strikeout, and did not allow an earned run in 5 innings to pick up his first win in 309 days.

 

That ended a personal streak of 14 consecutive losses for KJ dating back to June 21, 2009.  And he did it against one of the better offensive teams in the International League.

 

Former PawSox standout Jeff Bailey is off to a great start with the Reno Aces of the Pacific Coast League.  On Sunday, he hit a walk-off HR in the bottom of the 10th inning to cap off a 6-run rally (more details here).  In his first 19 games, Bailey is batting .353/.438./.632 with 3 HR and 9 RBI. 

 

Thanks to PawSox fan Don Werner for the heads-up.

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox open a 4-game series against Indianapolis on Tuesday night at 6:15.  I’m looking forward to seeing Brandon Moss return to McCoy Stadium as a member of the Indians.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:00 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.

 

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

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

The Farm Report From Mike Hazen

I caught up with Boston Red Sox Director of Player Development Mike Hazen on Saturday, and got his thoughts on the following subjects:

 

The fast start of 22-year-old Lars Anderson who is batting .321/.387/.642 with 4 HR through 15 games for Portland.

 


Lars re.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

“Very encouraging signs.  Lars had a very good spring training – nobody really sees that because we don’t keep statistics (in minor league exhibition games) and there’s nothing publicized.  But he had a really good spring and a really good off-season in which he was able to process what happened last year and some of the struggles that he went through.  It’s really good to see guys get off to hot starts because then they don’t have to dig themselves out of a hole.  It’s been really encouraging.  He’s shown some power, he’s shown some discipline, and he’s really starting to swing the bat well and hopefully he continues to do that and takes that next step at some point.”

 

#1-rated prospect Casey Kelly who has a 1.08 ERA after 3 starts at Portland but is on a tight pitch count having thrown a total of 8.1 innings.

 


Casey re.jpg

“Very restricted based on the fact that he only threw 100 innings last year and we’re anticipating this to obviously be a full 5 month season when you count spring training.  We didn’t want the volume of innings to jump up on him all that quickly, and we want to still be very careful with his pitch count since he’s 20-years-old.  We’re trying to bring him along slowly . . . build up his stamina, build up his strength in April – especially when it’s really cold out there.  The gloves will start to come off a little bit in the next month when his pitch count starts to climb and then he’ll be treated like every other pitcher.  We just felt that we needed to be conservative early just to make sure that we weren’t putting him into any fatigue issues early in the season.”

 

22-year-old catcher/DH Ryan Lavarnway who is batting .375/.426/.732 with 5 HR and 21 RBI through 14 games with Salem.

 

“Very interesting guy with right-handed raw power.  You don’t see that a lot within the game of baseball and we don’t have a ton of it within the minor leagues as well – we’re more left-handed dominant.  He’s got a very good swing and a great idea at the plate.  He’s a catcher that’s developing into a pretty good catching prospect as well from a defensive standpoint, but his bat has always been his carrying tool so far and probably will continue to be so.  He’s off to a torrid start and he’s worked really hard and we’re really encouraged by what we’ve seen so far.”

 

The progress of Jed Lowrie who remains in Ft. Myers after being diagnosed by mononucleosis in spring training.

 

“He’s coming back.  He’s at the 5-to-6 week point of mono and it takes 6-to-8 weeks – we’ve done some research with regard to getting that out of his system.  Once that’s out of his system he’ll be full-go.  He’s doing some workouts now.  He’s starting to hit, he’s starting to throw in Ft. Myers, so we don’t anticipate that it’s going to be all that much longer for him to get into game activity and then we’ll see where we go from there.”

 

The progress of Boof Bonser who was shut down after feeling pain in his shoulder during his second start for Pawtucket.

 

“He’s throwing in Boston right now.  He’s feeling good.  I think we kind of hit a little blip with his second start where he felt a little soreness in the second inning.  He feels good now.  He’s starting to throw and hopefully we’ll see him in the next week or so getting ready to pitch in a game.  I don’t think a determination has been made about where that will be, but hopefully it won’t be any longer than that and we’ll get to see him pitching and getting back to his progression toward the major league club.”

 

The progress of OF Zach Daeges who missed most of last season with a foot injury before injuring his shoulder this year in spring training.

 

“He needed surgery on his shoulder.  He’s coming back from that and he’s going to get ready to start doing some strengthening exercises to build it back up.  What he gets out of this season we don’t know.  It probably won’t be until the second half or the later part of the season if not winter ball is where we’re going to see him this year.”

 

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

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

The One Man Who Can Stop The Yankees or Rays

In the movie The Cooler, William H. Macy plays a character who is so unlucky that a casino hires him to hang around its gaming tables to jinx the customers.

 


The Cooler re.jpg 

My pal Jon Schaeffer is the sportscasting equivalent.

 


Schaeffer.jpg 

Jon is one of the radio voices of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.  In his first year on the job, the IronPigs got off to the worst start in International League history by losing their first 11 games and finished the season 34 games under .500.  Now in their third year of operation, the IronPigs have never had a winning record.  Not even for a day.

 

“What do they always say, ‘Show me a good team and I’ll show you a good broadcaster.’  I’m not real big on that theory,” Schaeffer said with a laugh.

 

My man Jon also does basketball.  In 2004-05, he was the voice of Longwood University.  The Lancers went 1-30.

 

Four years later, he was the play-by-play man for the New Jersey Institute of Technology.  NJIT also went 1-30.

 

They are the only two teams in Division 1 men’s history to lose 30 games in a season.

 

“When someone says, ‘Despite the team’s lousy record, you did a very professional job,’ I really appreciate that,” Jon said.  “When your team is 23-3 – it’s easy.”

 

This past year, Jon tried his luck – or lack thereof – in women’s basketball as he went to work for Seton Hall.  The Pirates went 1-16 in the Big East.

 

Schaeffer also broadcasts football games.  In his two years at Lincoln University, the Lions are 4-16.

 

I know what you’re thinking Red Sox fans . . . is there any way we can get the Yankees or Rays to hire this dude?

 

All kidding aside, Jon is an outstanding broadcaster and his luck is bound to eventually change.  Imagine how excited he’ll sound if his team finally wins a championship.

 

“I won’t be able to handle it,” Schaeffer joked.  “I’ll have to take some type of pill that will make me more reserved.” 

 

* * * * *

 

After Darnell McDonald and Josh Reddick were promoted by Boston this week, the PawSox called-up outfielder Matt Sheely from Portland.

 

It’s the second time he’s advanced to Triple-A.

 


Sheely 2 re.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

In July of 2007, the Red Sox picked up relief pitcher Eric Gagne at the trade deadline and sent OF David Murphy to Texas in the deal.  Jacoby Ellsbury was with Pawtucket at the time and was out of the lineup with a minor injury, so the PawSox desperately needed an outfielder for a few days.

 

The Red Sox sent them Sheely   He was 20-years-old at the time and playing for Gabe Kapler at Single-A Greenville.

 

Matt remembers Kapler calling him into his office and saying, “Kid.  Triple-A needs a player and you’re the guy.”

 

Sheely says he was speechless.  Then he showed up at the airport with no I.D. and had to have his mother fax a birth certificate to the airport.

 

This time around, Matt remembered his I.D., but a taxi ride from the airport to the team hotel that was supposed to take 45 minutes wound up lasting 3 hours as the driver got lost and needed Sheely to come up with directions.

 

When Matt finally got to his room he decided to take a quick nap . . . only to oversleep and miss both team buses to the ballpark.

 

At least his travel snafus haven’t affected his play.

 

In 2007, Sheely played in two games for Pawtucket and went 3-for-7.

 

In his first two games this year for the PawSox, Matt is 3-for-8.

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox open an 8-game homestand on Friday night as Michael Bowden takes the mound against the Buffalo Bisons at 7:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.

 

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

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

An Overnight Sensation

Darnell McDonald likes to joke that if he had accepted a scholarship offer to play running back at the University of Texas, football fans would have never heard of Cedric Benson.

 

After rushing for 6,121 yards and 83 touchdowns at Cherry Creek High School in Colorado, McDonald was recruited to be the heir apparent to Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams at Texas.  If Darnell had suited up for the Longhorns, Benson probably would have gone to Texas Tech and McDonald might be in the NFL.

 

But after being a first round draft pick by the Baltimore Orioles in 1997, Darnell chose to play baseball instead of football.

 

Red Sox nation is grateful.

 


McDonald celebration re.jpg 

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

After McDonald’s dramatic pinch-hit home run and game-winning single for Boston on Tuesday night, the overwhelming sentiment in the PawSox clubhouse was that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer or more-deserving guy.  I was among a handful of players and coaches who watched the video of Darnell’s game-winning hit streaming live on Torey Lovullo’s laptop, and the celebration in the drab visiting manager’s office in Rochester was nearly as raucous as the pandemonium at Fenway Park.

 

Darnell’s coaches and teammates appreciate his arduous journey to the big leagues.  This is the 10th straight year that McDonald has spent at least part of the season in the International League and Pawtucket is his 7th I.L. team.

 

“I tell people that I’m tired of that league,” Darnell said with a laugh when I profiled him in January (here’s a link to the story).  “I know all of the clubhouse guys, a lot of the fans that you see every year, and that’s a good thing that baseball has done for me – it’s allowed me to establish a lot of friendships all over the world.  It doesn’t hurt to see familiar faces in different places that you go, but hopefully I won’t spend too much time in the International League this year.” 

 

One night after going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts at a mostly-empty minor league ballpark, McDonald etched his name into Boston’s sports history with one of the greatest debuts in Red Sox history.  Imagine how it will be remembered if Tuesday’s win helps to reverse the Red Sox sinking fortunes.

 

His wife Cynara was there to see it, and Darnell now has a great story to share with his two daughters – 4-year-old Jiana and 10-week-old Zuri.

 

It’s the story of how it took their dad 12 years to become an overnight sensation.

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox wasted a great pitching performance by Adam Mills in a 4-3 loss at Rochester on Tuesday.

 


Adam Mills re.jpg 

After Mills walked the first batter he faced, he proceeded to retire 14 batters in a row and left the game with a 3-0 lead after five innings.

 

Unfortunately for Pawtucket, Kris Johnson promptly allowed 3 runs in the 6th, and Ramon Ramirez gave up the game-winning run in the 8th.  Johnson’s ERA swelled to 10.57.

 

The PawSox 9-day road trip moves to Lehigh Valley for the final two games.  Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to make his third and final rehab start for Pawtucket on Wednesday night at 7:05.  In his first two outings, Daisuke has pitched 11 scoreless innings while only walking one batter.

 

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.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

Can You Keep A Secret? Josh Reddick Can

Pawtucket outfielder Josh Reddick is the third-rated prospect in the Red Sox organization, and according to Baseball America, “all five of Reddick’s tools are average or better.”

 

But they left something out of the scouting report:  Reddick can keep a secret.

 


Reddick swing re.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

For the past two days, Josh has essentially been hiding in a Boston hotel room in case either Mike Cameron or Jacoby Ellsbury had to go on the disabled list.  After the Red Sox determined that neither outfielder would be placed on the D.L., Reddick rejoined the PawSox in Rochester on Saturday night and is back in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game against the Red Wings.

 

“I was told not to tell anybody that I was leaving these guys, so it was pretty hush-hush,” Reddick told me.  “I did tell my parents.  I said, ‘Look – I’m going up there but there’s no guarantee that I’ll be activated.’  They keep a pretty good track of what’s going on in Pawtucket and I knew that if they saw I wasn’t in the lineup they would say, ‘Hey, what’s wrong?  Are you hurt?’  So I had to tell them just in case.”

 

So how did the 23-year-old spent his time?

 

“A lot of sitting around and waiting,” Reddick said.  “The first night I didn’t do a whole lot.  I basically went and grabbed some food and headed right back and enjoyed the hotel hot tub.  I think I fell asleep at about 8:30 that night.  They told me three different times the first night that I got there that, ‘We’ll let you know something tonight.’  Then it was, ‘We’ll let you know something tomorrow because we don’t know if we’re going to play because of the weather.’  Then they called me in the morning and said, ‘We’ll let you know around 4 o’clock.  Just have your mind set to come to Fenway or go back to the other guys.’  It just didn’t work out in my favor.”

 

Although Reddick was not activated, he was happy to be the player chosen to be ready just-in-case.

 

“Definitely,” Josh said.  “It’s always good to be that guy that gets called no matter how it works out for you because it means that they see you as one of their guys that they want up there.  So that’s always a good feeling.”

 

Sunday’s game in Rochester will be the first time that Josh has played since going 0-for-4 on Wednesday in Buffalo.  After hitting .390 in spring training for Boston, Reddick is off to a slow start with the PawSox batting .138 (4-for-29) in his first seven games.

 

“I feel like I haven’t played in a week, so hopefully the days off will give me a nice little boost here and get me in the groove,” Reddick said.

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox will look to snap a 4-game losing streak on Sunday at 1:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 12:50 on the PawSox radio network and PawSox.com.

 

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

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

Embree Extends Deadline To April 30th

It is April 17th and Alan Embree is still with the Pawtucket Red Sox.

 


Alan Embree action re.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Last week, the 40-year-old lefty told me (link here) that he wasn’t likely to extend his April 15th opt-out deadline in hopes of pitching for Boston, but after discussing his options with his agent and spending yesterday with his wife, Embree is back in uniform with the PawSox as they open a 4-game series in Rochester, NY.

 

I spoke with Alan in the Rochester clubhouse on Saturday afternoon.

 

What made you change your mind?

 

“More than anything, I realized that I needed some more touches,” Embree said.  “That being said, I came here wanting to be a part of the Red Sox and it’s one of those things where . . . do I go home, or do I stay and get myself ready.  If there was proper fit out there (with another team) there wasn’t a chance to win.  If I go out, I want to go out guns blazing.  I don’t want to go out and just pitch in the big leagues – I want to go out with a good team.”

 

Are you close to being ready?

 

“I think that I’m close.  It’s just one of those things where the touches will tell and then they’ll evaluate it from there.  The more touches I get – the more opportunities will open up for me.  I’m looking forward to just getting the ball and doing what I’m told and once that time comes up, if they evaluate it and it’s not there, and the other options are not good options, I’ll just go home.  Either that or I’m in Boston so it’s a good thing.”

 

Is there a new deadline?

 

“I don’t even know if we should call it a deadline, but yea, the 30th actually.  I figured that they wanted to see me more to where they could evaluate it better and I could use it so it worked out.”

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox open a 4-game series at Rochester on Saturday at 4:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 3:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.

Dice-K, Playoff Hockey, And Wings

I’ve wanted to be a sportscaster for as long as I can remember.

 

As legend has it, when I emerged from the womb (with the same amount of hair that I have now) and the doctor slapped me on the butt, the infant Dan Hoard immediately said, “Oh what a blatant cheap shot!  That’s going to be a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.”

 

I am truly blessed to do this for a living and can honestly say that after roughly 25 years in broadcasting, I feel like I’ve never worked a day in my life.

 

But some days are better than others.

 

Like Thursday.

 

On a 70 degree day on April 15th in Buffalo (15 degrees above normal), I did the following:

 

  1. Watched Daisuke Matsuzaka pitch 6 scoreless innings.
  2. Sat in the 8th row and watched Game 1 of the Sabres/Bruins playoff series.
  3. Ate chicken wings with friends at Buffalo’s famed Anchor Bar (where the delicacy was supposedly invented on October 3, 1964).


Anchor bar re.jpg 

Now that is a great day.

 

It would have been even better if the PawSox had won, but after Daisuke left with a 2-0 lead after six innings, Dustin Richardson surrendered a 2-run HR in the 7th inning, and Buffalo rallied to beat Pawtucket 3-2 in 10 innings.

 

Broadcast partner Steve Hyder, media relations director Bill Wanless, PawSox security director Rick Medeiros, and yours truly were part of a large PawSox contingent that attended the hockey game.

 

Manager Torey Lovullo got 3 tickets through friends in Buffalo and brought pitching coach Rich Sauveur and hitting coach Gerald Perry.  First baseman Aaron Bates also scored a pair of tickets and attended the game with Bubba Bell.

 

I wasn’t surprised that Bates landed tickets.  After all, he’s dating the daughter of San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson.  But Bates actually has his agent to thank for getting him tickets.

 

I grew up 62 miles south of Buffalo in Lakewood, NY so I was thrilled with the Sabres 2-1 victory in Game 1.  Torey Lovullo was too, after picking Buffalo to win the series.

 

“I’m going to say ‘Sabres in five.’ Lovullo told reporters in the dugout on Thursday.  “I know that there are a lot of differing opinions that the Bruins could come in here and whitewash the Sabres but I know that there are going to be many low-scoring games.  I know that both teams are very defensive-minded and both have great goaltending.  As far as I know, it’s going to be a great series but I have to stick with the Sabres.”

 

Torey was not lying when he said he HAS to stick with the Sabres.  His wife Kristen is from Buffalo and is such a huge Sabres fan that she made him promise to order the NHL Center Ice package on TV (which allows viewers to watch out-of-market games) before she would relocate to Torey’s home in California.  If Torey had picked the Bruins, it might have been grounds for divorce.

 

* * * * *

 

April 15th has passed and it appears that Alan Embree is going to be staying with the PawSox after all.  Embree pitched a perfect inning yesterday and told me he would discuss his options with his agent after the game.

 

Although he did not want to get into specifics, the veteran reliever hinted that he has softened his stance on extending his stay in Pawtucket in hopes of eventually pitching for Boston.

 

* * * * *

 

Boof Bonser told me that he would be heading to Boston on Friday to have his surgically repaired shoulder examined by Red Sox doctors.

 

Boof said he felt some pain in his shoulder and a “dead arm” in his last outing at McCoy Stadium on Tuesday.  In that game, Bonser pitched two innings, allowing 9 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks but didn’t admit to experiencing any pain until he was taken out of the game.

 

“He didn’t say anything,” Lovullo told me.  “I think he’s such a competitor that he was going to work through anything that he was feeling and anything that was bothering him.  He didn’t say a word until we took him out of the game after that second inning.  We went down to see how he was doing after he drove up his pitch count in the second inning – we wanted to get a good look at his face and just see what he was all about – and he said that he had a little discomfort in his right shoulder.  I don’t think it’s a major setback.  I just know that he’s in good spirits and feels OK.”

 

Randor Bierd will replace Bonser in the PawSox rotation and will make his first start on Sunday at Rochester.

 

* * * * *

 

With Jacoby Ellsbury suffering from bruised ribs and Mike Cameron dealing with the pain caused by a kidney stone, there is abundant speculation that Josh Reddick could be promoted by Boston.

 


Reddick re.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Reddick is off to a slow start this year, batting just .138 (4-for-29) with one walk.  He was not in Pawtucket’s starting lineup for the first time all year yesterday.

 

“Red has been grinding away pretty good,” Lovullo said. “I thought about doing it a couple of days ago but he responded and got a couple of hits.  The best thing about Red is that you wouldn’t know by looking at his pace of play that he’s not hitting the way he wants to.  He’s as good as anybody we have at getting down the line, he’s laying out for balls in the outfield, he’s just doing a great job all the way around outside of getting his base hits.  That’s going to happen – we know that’s going to come.  I just wanted to give him a mental break and let him catch his breath.”

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox conclude their 3-game series in Buffalo on Friday night at 6:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage 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.

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

 

Early Season Feasts and Buzz Cuts

The first time that I saw Michael Bowden at spring training this year, we were talking about the players who were likely to begin the season in Pawtucket when he made the following observation:

 

“If nothing else, we should eat really well,” Bowden said with a grin.

 

That was a reference to the time-honored tradition of rehabbing major league players buying their minor league teammates a post-game meal – better known as the “clubhouse spread.”  It’s their way of saying, “Yea, I’m making big bucks but we’re all in this together.”

 

The PawSox roster currently includes two players on rehab assignments – pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Boof Bonser.  Additionally, 16-year MLB veteran Alan Embree isn’t technically on rehab, but his situation is similar since he has an opt-out clause in his contract on April 15th.

 

Well, Michael Bowden was right.  The PawSox have had three home dates and have enjoyed big league feasts after all three.  Here’s the rundown:

 

April 8th:  Cowboy Ribeye steaks from Ruth’s Chris Steak House courtesy of Alan Embree.

 


Cowboy Ribeye re.jpg
(photo courtesy of Ruth’s Chris Steak House)

 

I can honestly say that I have never seen larger steaks than these 22-ounce bone-in ribeyes.  In the words Carl “Goody” Goodreau, the man in charge of the PawSox clubhouse, “Some of them were still mooing.”  It goes without saying that these babies weren’t cheap.  Embree sprung for 40 of them.

 

April 10th:  A pre-game made-to-order omelet station and a post-game feast from Mei King Chinese restaurant courtesy of Daisuke Matsuzaka.   

 

The pre-game omelet station was a bit of a change for Matsuzaka but was appropriate for the 1:05 start time.  In the past, Daisuke has treated the gang to a huge tray of sushi before night games.  His next scheduled start is at 4:05 pm on Thursday in Buffalo so the players will arrive in the clubhouse between normal breakfast and lunch hours.  I wonder what will Matsuzaka provide for a pre-game brunch? 

 

By the way, according to its website, Mei King – located directly across the street from McCoy Stadium – has been serving Rhode Island’s best Chinese food since 1978.  Who knew?

 

April 11th:  Mounds of ribs and assorted barbecue from LJ’s BBQ courtesy of Boof Bonser.

 


LJ's BBQ.jpg 

LJ’s was once named by noted food writer John Mariani as one of seven great barbecue joints around the country.  When my broadcast partner Steve Hyder walked through the clubhouse before doing a post-game interview yesterday, he caught a glimpse of the trays of barbecue waiting to be devoured by a bunch of hungry dudes other than himself.

 

I thought Hydes was going to cry when he got back to the press box.

 

* * * * *

 

In the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, Samson lost his tremendous strength when Delilah shaved his head.

 

In the story of Reddick and Wagner, it works the other way around.

 

After great springs with Boston, Josh Reddick and Mark Wagner got off to slow starts with Pawtucket.  In the PawSox first three games, Reddick was 0-for-11 and Wagner was 0-for-6.

 

So they shaved each other’s heads.

 

“We were both kind of struggling up there a little bit and we kinda went home last night and said, ‘We’re going to get this stuff out of the way and go ahead and see if it works,’ and to our benefit it did,” Reddick told us after the game.  “Being in the baseball career you learn how to do it coming up through the minor leagues so it’s not that hard of a task.”    

 

Reddick doubled in his first at-bat and finished 3-for-5 and Wagner belted a 2-run home run.

 

I’m expecting to see a barber’s pole inside the PawSox clubhouse this afternoon.

 

* * * * *

 

Kevin Frandsen is new to the Red Sox organization and the International League this year, so he is getting his first look at the McCoy Stadium tradition of “fishing” for autographs.  Since the first row of the seats is eight feet above field level, autograph seekers put their items-to-be-signed in empty milk jugs or two-liter soda bottles and dangle them in front of the dugouts below.

 


Autograph fishing re.jpg

(photo courtesy of Tom Perreira)

 

Frandsen spent several minutes signing yesterday and says he tries to be as accommodating to fans as possible.  But here are a couple of friendly hints if you’re looking for his autograph.

 

  1. He prefers “Kevin” to “Mr. Frandsen.”  As he put it, “I’m in my 20’s . . . not my 40’s.”  Having said that, I’m sure he’ll sign for anyone who is polite. 
  2. Don’t throw a ball for him to sign unless he’s looking at you.  He got drilled in the face last year while looking in a different direction.

 


Frandsen re.jpg 

(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

A day or two after being traded from San Francisco to Boston, Kevin was with the Red Sox at a spring training road game and was the only player who didn’t have a name on the back of his uniform.  As a result, a 10-year-old autograph seeker took one look at him and said, “Who the heck are you?”

 

Frandsen wasn’t offended and told the youngster that he had just joined the team.

 

The kid immediately responded with, “Oh, are you that shortstop we got from San Francisco?”

 

Kevin promptly provided a signature.

 

* * * * *

 

The PawSox season-opening 6-game homestand continues on Monday night as the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs come to town for a 2-game series.  It’s a Kids Eat Free night at McCoy Stadium.  All kids (12-and-under) who enter the stadium with a box seat ticket will receive a hot dog, bag of chips, and soda for no additional charge.  The offer is good at all Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday home games through June 15th.

 

If you can’t make it out to the ballpark I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning at 6:00 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.

 

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

 

And if you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

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