January 2011

A Family Affair For Sox Prospect Robert Coello

When Robert Coello took the mound at McCoy Stadium last summer, his mother Lazara, brother Vincent, and nephew Vincent Jr. were often in attendance even though they live in Florida.

 

As a result, I wasn’t shocked when Robert told me that his family traveled to watch him pitch in winter ball this year.

 

“My family came to the Dominican Republic and we ended up baptizing my little nephew Xavier Coello,” Robert told me.  “It was really fun to have everybody over there and have a little family get-together in another country.  They did it around my schedule.  We’re a very close family.”

 


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(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

That family support helps explain how Coello endured an unusual baseball odyssey to make it to the big leagues.  After being drafted by Cincinnati as a catcher, Robert became ill at his first spring training camp in 2005 and had a coughing fit that was so severe that he broke a rib.  He was out of baseball for two full seasons before the Angels invited him to camp as a catcher in 2007.  That’s where minor league pitching coach Pedro Borbon suggested that he become a pitcher.

 

After a stint in independent ball, the Red Sox signed him as a free agent before the 2009 season, and after throwing a mere 242 minor league innings – with 286 strikeouts – Robert took the mound at Fenway Park last September.

 

“When we first got him in spring training we really didn’t know what we had,” said Red Sox Director of Player Development Mike Hazen.  “The scouts said that they thought he had a big league fastball, but any time you have a conversion candidate you really don’t know what you have.  He really didn’t have many innings under his belt, but he went to (Single A) Salem two years ago and really dominated at that level.  So we decided to push him last year, and when he started to do it again at (Double A) Portland, I think that’s what really opened our eyes.  He still really needs to get the reps in because he missed some of that developmental time being a position player, but we think he has a bright future.”

 

The Red Sox high regard for Coello was obvious this off-season when they placed him on their 40-man roster and invited him to last week’s Rookie Development Program.  The two-week program deals with issues on and off the field, and is reserved for Boston’s minor league prospects that are considered the most likely candidates to advance to the big leagues over the next two seasons.

 

“I was in winter ball when they invited me and I wasn’t too sure what it was about,” Coello said.  “They told me how much I could learn even though I already got to the big leagues last year.  The program is phenomenal and a great jump-start toward spring training.  I feel really special that they invited me.  It shows me that they think highly of me.”

 

The 26-year-old righty made 13 starts out of his 32 appearances between Portland and Pawtucket last year, but expects to spend this season in the bullpen.  After going a combined 7-6 with a 3.86 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 107.1 IP, Coello is looking to strengthen his complimentary pitches to go with a swing-and-miss fastball.

 

“My main thing in winter ball was to develop my off-speed pitches – my curveball, change-up, and forkball,” Coello said.  “I worked on my change-up with Ramon Martinez – Pedro’s brother.  He was our pitching coach over there and we had a pretty good relationship.  I’ve noticed a difference.  I’m working really hard on it so that when I’m on the mound I can throw all of my pitches on any count to keep hitters off balance.”

 


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Robert made six appearances for Boston last September and after a rough debut where he allowed two walks and three singles while only retiring one batter, Coello bounced back with five scoreless outings covering 5.1 IP.

 

“I got away from my strengths in that first outing, but after that, I came back and had some good outings,” Coello said.

 

“Where he got into trouble in the big leagues was when he didn’t throw the ball over the plate,” Hazen said.  “That happens to most young guys.  But once he settled in, he was really good.  When he’s pounding the strike zone, the hitters really don’t square him up very well.”

 

It’s a quality that makes Coello a good bet to contribute in Boston at some point in 2011.

 

With his family in attendance, of course.

 

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

 

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

 

And I have finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

PawSox Pitching Possibilities

In my last post, I took a look at the PawSox projected lineup for 2011.  Now (with a huge assist from soxprospects.com), let’s view Pawtucket’s projected pitching staff.

 

Possible Starters:

 


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(all photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Felix Doubront will go to spring training as a legitimate candidate to be one of the lefties in Boston’s bullpen, but if he doesn’t open the season in the big leagues, he’s likely to be a starter in Pawtucket.  The 23-year-old southpaw had a breakout season in 2010, going 8-3 with a 2.81 ERA between Portland and Pawtucket.  That earned Felix his first major league promotion and he went 2-2 with 2 saves and a 4.32 ERA in 12 games for Boston.  Following the trade of Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes to San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez, Doubront is rated as the Red Sox fifth-best prospect according to Baseball America.

 

Recently-acquired Andrew Miller was the 6th pick in the draft in 2006 and the Red Sox hope to help him unlock his enormous potential.  Like Doubront, he’ll get a shot to make Boston’s staff as a left-handed reliever in spring training, but seems likely to open the year as a starter in Pawtucket where he can throw all of his pitches and work on his mechanics between starts.

 


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Junichi Tazawa underwent Tommy John surgery last April and missed the entire 2010 season, but the 24-year-old righty recently told reporters in Japan that he hopes to be ready to pitch by opening day this year.  That might be overly optimistic, but Sox fans should not forget about the highly-touted prospect that rocketed to the big leagues in his first professional season in the US in 2009.

 

Lenny DiNardo returns to the Red Sox organization for the first time since 2006.  The 31-year-old lefty had bone chips removed from his elbow last year and only pitched in 12 games.  He’s certainly a familiar name to PawSox fans having pitched for Pawtucket from 2004 to 2006.

 

Brandon Duckworth, who turns 35 on January 23rd, signed with the Red Sox as a minor league free agent in December.  It’s a classic case of, “If you can’t beat ‘em, get him to join you.”  Duckworth made two starts for Lehigh Valley against Pawtucket last year and went 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA (12 IP, 7 H, 15 K).

 


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Adam Mills will look to bounce back from an injury-plagued season after going 4-10 with a 5.47 ERA for Pawtucket.  The 26-year-old righty led Red Sox minor leaguers in wins the previous season with 12.

 


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24-year old Kyle Weiland could be ready for a promotion to Triple-A after striking out 120 batters in 128.1 IP for Portland last year.  The righty was a third round draft pick out of Notre Dame in 2008.

 

Possible Relievers:

 


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Michael Bowden got his first taste of relief pitching in 2010 and appears more likely to advance to Boston as a reliever than as a starter.  Bowden has two full seasons of Triple-A experience but is still only 24 years old.  He posted a respectable 4.70 ERA in 14 relief outings for the Red Sox last season.

 


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Robert Coello was one of the best stories in the organization last year as the converted catcher made his major league debut in September.  After a rough major league debut, Coello did not allow a run in his last five outings (5.1 IP).  In the minors last year, Robert had a ******** 130 strikeouts in 107.1 IP.

 


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Jason Rice was one of Portland’s closers last year, posting a 2.85 ERA while leading the staff with 13 saves.  The 24-year-old righty appears ready to advance to Triple-A after being picked for the Eastern League All-Star Game last year.

 

Jason Bergmann spent parts of six years with the Washington Nationals and was in their starting rotation in 2007 and 2008.  He pitched well as a reliever for Triple-A Syracuse last year, posting a 2.84 ERA with 56 K in 50.2 IP.  Jason had a 2.16 ERA in 7 outings against Pawtucket.

 


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Rich Hill is another candidate to begin the season in Boston’s bullpen as a situational lefty.  The curveball specialist did not allow a run in six relief outings for the Red Sox last year after going 3-1 with a 3.74 ERA in 19 outings (6 starts) for Pawtucket.

 

35-year-old Randy Williams has pitched in 90 major league games for the Mariners, Padres, Rockies, and White Sox.  He’ll also go to spring training with the goal of sticking with Boston as a left-handed relief specialist.

 


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Perhaps a move to the bullpen is in the cards for 26-year-old lefty Kris Johnson.  KJ has gone 9-26 for Pawtucket over the last two years, but has a live arm if he can improve his command.

 


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Santo Luis struggled in his first stint with Pawtucket, but the massive righty was dominant for Portland being promoted to Triple-A. 

 


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T.J. Large had a strange 2010 season for Pawtucket as three terrible outings caused his ERA to balloon from 4.41 to 7.64.  The 27-year-old righty was chosen for the Eastern League All-Star Game in 2009.

 

Tony Pena Jr. is an interesting candidate to pitch for Pawtucket at some point in 2011 after signing a minor league deal with Boston in early January.  The former Kansas City Royals shortstop switched to pitching in 2009 and advanced to the Triple-A level last year. 

 

Other possible candidates for Pawtucket’s pen include Bryce Cox, Ryne Reynoso, Ryne Lawson, Blake Maxwell, Stephen Fife, and Clevelan Santeliz.

 

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

 

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

 

And I have finally joined Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

Im Liking The Lineup

With the additions of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Bobby Jenks, and Dan Wheeler, the Red Sox appear to be loaded this year.

By that, I mean the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Those four acquisitions, plus the anticipated healthy returns of Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, and Mike Cameron, mean that a good mix of talented young players and seasoned major league veterans are likely to spend much of the 2011 season at McCoy Stadium.

My friends at soxprospects.com update the projected rosters for the Red Sox and all of their minor league affiliates approximately every 10 days during the off-season (you can see the latest projections here).  Injuries, last-minute deals, and spring training performances will lead to some changes, but for the most part, we already have a pretty good idea of what the PawSox opening day roster should look like.

Catchers: Luis Exposito and Mark Wagner

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(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

Exposito certainly appears ready to make the jump to Triple-A after finishing with 39 doubles, 11 HR, and 94 RBI for Double-A Portland last year. Wagner is looking to rebound from an injury-plagued season. Highly-touted prospect Ryan Lavarnway batted .288 with 22 HR and 102 RBI between Salem and Portland last year, and could earn a quick promotion to Pawtucket.

First Base: Lars Anderson.


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With the arrival of Gonzalez in Boston and the trade of power-hitting prospect Anthony Rizzo to San Diego, Lars figures to spend most of the season with the PawSox where he’ll look to build on a solid 2009 season between Portland and Pawtucket (37 doubles, 3 triples, 15 HR).

Shortstop: Yamaico Navarro.


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The 23-year-old infielder seemingly came out of nowhere to bat .275 (.356 OBP, .437 SLG) between Portland and Pawtucket and eventually played in 20 games with Boston. Top-rated prospect Jose Iglesias missed much of last season with a broken hand, but the flashy 21-year-old is widely considered to be the Red Sox “shortstop of the future” and could make his Triple-A debut in 2011.

Second Base/Third Base: Nate Spears, Drew Sutton, Hector Luna, Brent Dlugach.

 

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Spears is coming off of an outstanding season for Portland with 30 doubles and 20 HR, and has earned an opportunity to compete for a starting spot in Pawtucket. Sutton is a switch-hitting jack-of-all-trades who can play anywhere in the infield as well as the corner positions in the outfield. Drew is a career .279 hitter in the minors with a .378 OBP. Luna has appeared in more than 300 major league games and played for the Cardinals in their 2004 World Series loss to Boston. Hector batted .294 with 16 HR in the PCL last year. Dlugach did not have a great year for Toledo last season, but in 2009, Brent was a Triple-A All-Star when he batted .294 with 36 doubles and 9 HR.

Outfielders: Ryan Kalish, Josh Reddick, Daniel Nava

With the addition of Crawford and the return of Ellsbury and Cameron, there does not appear to be room on the major league roster (at least to begin the season) for this talented trio.

 

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Kalish appears to be a star in making after batting .294 (.382 OBP/.502 SLG) in the minors with 25 SB in 28 attempts. He wasn’t overmatched as a 22-year-old major league rookie, as Ryan batted .252 (.405 SLG) in 53 games.

After a phenomenal spring training camp with the Red Sox, Reddick had a lousy first half, but rebounded to post decent overall numbers with the PawSox as he batted .266 (.466 SLG) with 28 doubles, 4 triples, and 18 HR. At the age of 24, Josh could have a breakout season for Pawtucket in 2011.

Nava has proven he can hit at any level. The switch-hitter batted .289 (.372 OBP/.458 SLG) in 77 games with Pawtucket and .242 (.351 OBP/.360) in 60 games with Boston, including a grand slam on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues.

DH and extra outfielders: Bubba Bell and Aaron Bates

 

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Bell started last season on the PawSox bench and wound up being named the team MVP. Bubba batted .293 with a .366 OBP and represented the PawSox at the Triple-A All-Star game. Bates batted .240 with 12 HR while adjusting to playing the outfield after Lars Anderson was promoted from Portland to play 1B.

That’s a pretty formidable Triple-A lineup.  I’ll take a look at the projected pitching staff in my next blog entry.

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

Ringing In The New Year With the PawSox New Manager

The new manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox has something in common with Johnny Damon:  They both own World Series rings from the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

 


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(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

 

Arnie Beyeler was a coach in the Yankees organization when they won the title in 1998 and a minor league manager for Boston when the Red Sox won the series in 2007.  While he’s honored to have both rings, he actually should have a third.

 

“I am by no means a ‘Yankee hater’ and I worked with some great people in that organization, but the one negative thing I can say about my time over there is that in 1999, I was probably the only development guy that didn’t get a World Series ring,” Beyeler told me with a chuckle.  “I had already gone to work for the Red Sox in 2000 when they started handing them out.  But there probably aren’t more than a handful of people that have a ring from both teams so it’s pretty unique – that’s for sure.”

 

The 46-year-old Utah native will manage the PawSox in 2011 after guiding the Red Sox Double-A team in Portland for the last four years.  His promotion was a nice Christmas gift as he got the news on December 22nd.

   

“I was in an airport in Miami coming back from Venezuela where I had been coaching,” Beyeler said.  “My phone didn’t work down there, so when I got off the plane my messages were all backed up and there was a message from (Red Sox farm director) Mike Hazen to call him.  I sent him a text to find out if that message was old or new and he said that he had left it that morning and needed to talk to me.

 

“When Mike told me that I had the job it was a pleasant surprise.  To be honest, I had interviewed with them in early November and I kind of figured since it took that long that maybe they were going in another direction.  I was extremely surprised and extremely excited.  It’s a great opportunity and I’m very thankful that they’ve put the trust in me to give me that opportunity.”

 


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In 10 years as a minor league manager in the Red Sox and Rangers’ organizations, Beyeler has a 642-630 record and has earned the reputation as a tireless worker.

 

“I take that as a real compliment when people say that,” Arnie said.  “I’ve always had to be that way.  As a player, I was never a gifted guy with all sorts of ability – I always had to work hard to keep my job.  I learned a long time ago that I had my opportunity to play and now it’s all about the players.  I think the guys that I’ve worked with realize that.  It’s never been about me, and I just try to do whatever I can to help those guys get to the next level.  That’s what I get paid for and I’ve been very fortunate in this business that I’ve never really had to work a day in my life.  I get to work with a lot of great young people and some of the most talented young baseball players in the world.  That’s a fun gig to have.”  

 

And in Arnie’s case, it’s a gig with some good perks.  He can wear them on either hand.

 

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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