April 2011

This April Is Cruelest Month For Nava

With one game left in April, Daniel Nava is batting .156 with 0 home runs.

Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor

Considering his .337 career minor league batting average after four seasons, I had to ask the 28-year-old outfielder if he has ever scuffled this badly at the minor league level.

“My first month in the Red Sox organization was like this, but it was a little different because I wasn’t playing every day,” Nava said.  “Everyone goes through these times and I’m trying not to focus on the hits.  I’m trying to feel good in the box, take good swings, and then put the ball in play hard.”

Daniel’s memory of his rookie year in Boston’s farm system is accurate.  In 2008 with Single-A Lancaster, Nava batted .233 in April.  But by the end of that season, Nava was the California League batting champion with a .341 average. 

“I’ve been in this situation before, but it doesn’t make it any more fun or any easier,” Nava told me.  “But I know that I just have to keep trying to take steps in the right direction – as corny as that sounds.”

Daniel is tied for 2nd in the International League with 17 walks, so his slow start isn’t necessarily a matter of chasing bad pitches.

“I feel like I’m seeing the ball but I’m just not executing,” Nava said.  “When you’re not doing as well as you want to, you start to think too much.  I’m just trying to turn my brain off and see the ball and react.”

While Daniel has not performed well in the batters box, you would never know it in the clubhouse where he is as friendly and upbeat as ever.

“Of course there are times where you are more frustrated than others, but I try to stay on an even keel – I’ve tried to pick that up from a lot of the guys in Boston,” Nava said.  “It’s a long season and obviously everybody wants to start out well, but sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t finish strong.”

After his bad first month at Lancaster in ’08, Nava batted .418 in May.

I suspect a similar turnaround  is right around the corner.

* * * * *

The PawSox dropped the final game of their 4-game series at Lehigh Valley on Friday, losing 3-0 to the IronPigs.  It marked the first time that Pawtucket has been shutout this season.

Still, it was a winning road trip (4-3) and it will be great to be back at McCoy Stadium on Saturday night.

And even better to see the handsome lad when I get home on Saturday morning.

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.

Playing The Feud With Josh Reddick and Letters From Sam Part Two

Are you ready Family Feud contestants?  We’ve got the top four answers on the board.  The category is:  Name something that is incredibly hot.

“The surface of the sun”

Excellent answer.

“A vindaloo dish at an Indian restaurant.”

A bit obscure, but yes, that’s correct.

“Actress Diane Lane”

Absolutely.

“PawSox outfielder Josh Reddick at the plate.”

The number one answer.

(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

OK, forgive me for the lame stab at comedy, but I’m having a hard time describing just how well Josh Reddick is swinging the stick.

I guess some stats would be a good place to start.

On Thursday night at Lehigh Valley, Reddick went 3-for-5 with 2 home runs in Pawtucket’s 11-8 win over the IronPigs.  Josh has homered in four straight games and has crushed 8 HR in his last 11 games to move into a tie for the league lead.  Thru 20 games, the 24-year-old outfielder is batting .296/.376/.691 with 6 2B, 1 3B, and 8 HR. 

“I just feel like nothing can go wrong and everything is going my way,” Reddick told me after the game.  “When I’m up there, I’m just trying to swing at good pitches and it’s working out for me right now.”

“He’s a confident hitter,” said PawSox hitting coach Chili Davis.  “He knows he can hit and he’s figured out that he can drive the ball all over the field.  He’s not chasing pitches.  It’s a long year and you go through ups and downs, but I like where he is right now.” 

Some hitters say that when they’re on a hot streak, the baseball looks like a beach ball coming out of the pitcher’s hand.  Not Reddick.    

“The beach ball comment is kind of overrated to me,” Reddick said.  “The main thing for me is just trying to keep my head down and take a nice easy swing and not get overanxious up there.  That’s what I’m doing.  I’m seeing the ball all the way to the bat instead of pulling off.”

“He had three good at-bats tonight, but in his last at-bat I think he went out of his zone,” Davis said.  “He swung at a 2-0 changeup and I’m trying to get him to not waste at-bats.  Keep working the pitchers, get good pitches to hit, and then hit them hard.”

This is the second time in Reddick’s minor league career that he has gone deep in four straight games.  In 2009 at Portland, Josh went hitless in the season opener before belting home runs in the Sea Dogs next four games.

“When I did it in Portland, all of the reporters came up to me and said that I tied a team record,” Reddick said.  “The next game I went 0-for-4, so I’m going to keep that off of my mind as much as possible.  I’m not going up there trying to hit home runs – things are working in my favor right now and the ball is going out for me.”

He doesn’t necessarily look like a typical home run hitter at a slender 180 pounds, but since August 2nd of last year, Reddick has 18 HR in his last 225 Triple-A at-bats (HR every 12.5 at-bats). 

“He’s got pop because he’s got good bat speed,” Davis said.  “He doesn’t take half-swings.  When he sees something that he wants to hit, he’s trying to hit it hard.  You can’t teach bat speed.  You can teach a lot of things, but you can’t teach bat speed.  He was blessed with that.”

* * * * *

For the second straight road trip, my 4-year-old son Sam sent me a note and had my wife Peg mail it to the team hotel in Pennsylvania (you can see the first note here).

Here is letter #2:

Once again, the words were not really separated and it took me a few minutes to translate, but I think I’ve got it.

How are you Daddy?  Do you know what I just got?  A travel easel.  Love, Sam.

Short and to the point this time.

* * * * *

 The PawSox (13-8) conclude their 7-game road trip on Friday night at 7:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.

And a 4-game homestand begins on Saturday night at 6:05 against Toledo with a big fireworks show after the game.  Hope to see you at McCoy! 

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.

Walk-Up Tunes and is Josh Redd-hot or Redd-iculous?

When the PawSox played in Rochester a few days ago, legendary Frontier Field organist Fred Costello played “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” every time that Jose Iglesias stepped to the plate.

In other words, a Julio Iglesias tune for a Jose Iglesias at-bat.  Pretty clever.

(Although I did point out to Fred that the PawSox shortstop is actually friends with Enrique Iglesias and was backstage at his concert in Miami.  I guess Fred hasn’t learned how to play “Bailamos” on his organ yet.)

Have you ever wondered how the PawSox choose what music to play at McCoy Stadium when hitters step to the plate or pitchers take the mound?  They let the players choose as long as the song is appropriate for a family environment.

Here are the walk-up tunes (and/or artists) that the players have requested so far this season at McCoy — organized alphabetically by the player’s last name.  Keep in mind that the songs change frequently (usually because of how the player is performing more than how he feels about the song).   

Lars Anderson — A song by Kid Cudi

Scott Atchison — Blue Clear Sky by George Strait

Michael Bowden — Audio from the movie The Warriors

Luis Exposito — Hustle Hard by Ace Hood

Jose Iglesias — In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins (beginning where Mike Tyson plays “air drums” in The Hangover)

Ryan Kalish — Songs by Busta Rhymes and Q-Tip 

J.C. Linares — Yomo by Bella Calla

Michael McKenry — I’m a Believer by Tedashii

Andrew Miller — Better Than I Ought To Be — Randy Rogers Band

Daniel Nava — Dream by Lecrae

Yamaico Navarro — Various songs by Piddy Pablo

Josh Reddick — A song by Bullet For My Valentine

Jason Rice — Teach Me How To Dougie– Cali Swag District

Clevelan Santeliz — Ella Tiene el Pelo Largo by Gente de Zona

Drew Sutton — Wherever I May Roam by Metallica

Tony Thomas — A song by T-Pain

If you were a pro baseball player, what would your walk-up song be? 

I think I would go with “Tick Tick Boom” by The Hives (starting at the 1:08 mark).

Then again, as the self-proclaimed “World’s Best Whistler” and the clear-cut cut favorite when they come out with the TV show Whistling Idol (the whistling version of American Idol), I probably should go with “Young Folks” by Peter, Bjorn & John.

* * * * *

Lehigh Valley beat the PawSox 8-2 on Wednesday, despite Josh Reddick’s 6th home run of the year.

 

(Photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

Reddick has homered in three straight games (and 4 of his last 5), but his power surge dates back to August 2nd of last year.

Josh hit 10 HR in the PawSox last 33 games last season (144 at-bats) and now has 16 HR in his last 52 Triple-A games (220 at-bats).  That’s a home run every 13.75 at-bats.

To put that into perspective, here are baseball’s all-time career leaders in HR frequency:

1.  Mark McGwire:  HR every 10.61 at-bats

2.  Babe Ruth:  HR every 11.76 at-bats

3.  Barry Bonds:  HR every 12.92 at-bats

4.  Ryan Howard:  HR every 12.95 at-bats

5.  Jim Thome:  HR every 13.60 at-bats

6.  Albert Pujols:  HR every 14.04 at-bats

In other words, Reddick’s HR rate over his last 52 games with Pawtucket would rank 6th in major league history.

The last Pawtucket player to hit home runs in four straight games was Chris “The Animal” Carter in 2008.  We’ll see if Reddick can match that streak tonight when the PawSox face Lehigh Valley at 7:05.

I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage 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

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.

Sandberg Considered PawSox Opening

When Torey Lovullo left the PawSox to become the first base coach for the Toronto Blue Jays, one of the people that Boston interviewed to replace him as Pawtucket’s manager was Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

“It was very tempting – no doubt about it,” Sandberg told me.  “I’m good friends with Terry Francona.  I played with him for a year with the Cubs and played against him when he was with the Expos.  He talked to me and told me that this was an organization that would welcome me so I flew into Boston and had my interview.  I thought it went very well and it was an option that I took very seriously because it’s a top-notch organization that’s winning at the major league level.”

 

Prior to that job interview, Sandberg met with the Chicago Cubs about their managerial opening and was clearly the fans’ choice to get it.  When the Cubs elected to stick with interim manager Mike Quade instead, Sandberg decided it was time to work for another organization and was hired as the manager of the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate – the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew that I wanted to continue down the career path that I was going,” Sandberg said.  “24 hours later I started getting calls.  The first call was from the Philadelphia Phillies, and I also interviewed with the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers.  The Phillies uniform was the first one that I wore professionally – they drafted me out of high school in 1978.  All of my minor league years were with the Phillies, and to go back to this organization considering where they stand right now in baseball and with the familiar voices that I heard on the telephone, I knew this was a spot where I thought I was a good fit.”

 

Sandberg was a 10-time All-Star and a 9-time Gold Glove Award winner and it’s highly unusual for a player of his caliber to manage in the minor leagues.  In fact, he is the first person to manage in the International League after reaching the Hall of Fame as a player.

But Sandberg is clearly willing to pay his dues as he began managing at the Single-A level in 2007.

“It was difficult because I didn’t know what I was doing,” Ryne told me.  “I was a fish out of water going to the ballpark.  Being in change of 24 guys…knowing the drills that I had to do…believe it or not, I’ve really the learned the game of baseball as a whole the last five years.  I think there is a difference between coaching and being a player and maybe it’s not for everybody, but so far it’s for me.

“I think the thing that got me back into the game full-time was going into the Hall of Fame in 2005.  I reflected back on the coaches and managers that helped me along the way and what professional baseball has meant to myself and my family.  Once we got our five kids out of the house – which just happened about 6 years ago – I was wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.  So this is what I want to do.  I enjoy it – it’s my fifth year doing it – and I like where I am.”

* * * * *

Spending a few minutes with Sandberg gave me the opportunity to ask him something that I’ve wondered about for years.

His unusual first name.

I remember reading that he was named for Ryne Duren – a pitcher in the 50’s and 60’s who was famous for his lousy vision and his blazing fastball.

Of the more than 17,000 players in major league history, why did his parents choose Ryne Duren as the inspiration for their son’s first name?

“My parents were in Minneapolis when the Yankees came to town and Ryne came in and I think he threw four scoreless innings,” Sandberg said.  “The headlines the next day read, ‘Ryne Shuts Down Twins.’  It was an unusual name that stuck.  For a lot of years I knew that I was named after him, but every year on the first day of school it was always spelled R-Y-A-N.  It was mispronounced and misspelled for about 18 years, and then I went to the Cubs and kind of made a name for myself.  Harry Carey helped out a lot and now there are probably a lot of Ryne’s out there and it’s a pretty special name for me.”

* * * * * 

The PawSox (12-7) climbed 5 games over .500 for the first time this year with a 7-2 win at Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. 

Andrew Miller earned the win, allowing 2 runs (1 ER) on just 1 hit in 5.2 IP.  His fastball sat at 93 mph and topped out at 97 mph.  After 4 starts, Miller’s ERA is 1.40 and the league is batting a meager .138 against him.

Pawtucket’s offense was led by Josh Reddick who homered for the third time in his last four games, and J.C. Linares who had 3 hits and 2 RBI.

Brandon Duckworth (2-0, 0.48) will take the mound against his former team on Wednesday night at 7:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage 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

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.

Ryan Kalish Hopes To Be Back In One Month

If Ryan Kalish had gone to the University of Virginia instead of signing out of high school with the Red Sox, he planned to play football and baseball.  He still has the look of a strong safety that would throw his body around with little regard for how much it might hurt.

So when the 23-year-old outfielder did not immediately get up after making a diving catch last Thursday at McCoy Stadium, it was obvious that he was in serious pain. 

“I don’t know if it has anything to do with football, but when I go down it means that I’m hurt,” Kalish told me.  “I knew right away that something wasn’t right.  That’s what happens when you dive for balls in the outfield – awkward things happen and it was just unfortunate.”

Photos courtesy of Kelly O'Connor

As Kalish extended his right arm to make the catch, he landed on his left shoulder.  An X-ray performed last Thursday and an MRI on Friday showed no dislocation, but there is a tear 

“They’ve described it as a partially torn labrum and a SLAP tear,” Kalish said.  “They say that it’s very possible that I’ll be fine with rehab, so that’s a good thing.  But it also could go the other way where we might not be as lucky.  We’ll see.  I’m going to push the rehab and I’m optimistic that I’m going to be back shorter than everyone says or thinks.

“I don’t really have a timetable and I really don’t know what the rehab is.  Right now I’m just doing whatever our trainer Jon (Jochim) tells me to do.  I had an injury last year and we rehabbed that together so we have a good history and I trust him.  Whatever he tells me to do on a given day is what I’m going to do.  I don’t want this to be a long thing and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that it’s not a long thing.”

It’s no secret that J.D. Drew’s contract expires at the end of the season and that Kalish hopes to be in Boston’s starting outfield next year.  But he says that will have no impact on how he deals with the injury.

“If I’m ready, I’m going to play – if I’m not, I’m not going to,” Kalish said.  “That’s the way it has to be.  I can’t help the Red Sox or Pawtucket if I’m not feeling right.  In about a month or so, we’ll have a good idea of how I’m feeling and that’s the goal.  I would love to be back in a month – that would be perfect, but you never know.”

One thing that Ryan does know is that the injury will not change the way that he plays.

“It’s not frustrating to me to get hurt the way I got hurt,” Kalish said.  “It would be frustrating if I had pulled my hamstring because I wasn’t taking care of my body the right way or not doing the right things.  This was an injury that happened playing the game the way I know how.  When I have a chance to dive for something, that’s what I do.  When I get back on the field, I’m going to do it the first day I get back out there if I have to.”

* * * * * 

The PawSox were rained out on Monday at Rochester.  The game will be made up in a doubleheader on July 5th.

I usually loathe rainouts, but the timing was excellent this time.  The PawSox were scheduled to make a 4 ½ hour bus ride to Lehigh Valley after the game, so the rainout means that the ride started about 6 hours earlier than anticipated.

The rotation gets pushed back a day, so Andrew Miller, Brandon Duckworth, Felix Doubront, and Alfredo Aceves will start the four games at Lehigh Valley.  Game one is on Tuesday night at 7:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage 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

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.

Monday Is Andrew Miller Time In Rochester

At the age of 21, in his 6th major league game, Andrew Miller got the final out in a win that clinched the Detroit Tigers’ first playoff berth in 19 years.  It was three months to the day after Miller made his final start for the University of North Carolina.

“That was pretty cool – to be on the mound and then walk into the clubhouse in Kansas City for the champagne celebration and all,” Miller told me.  “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Photos courtesy of Kelly O'Connor

 

After selecting Miller with the 6th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Detroit promoted him to the big leagues at the end of August so that he would be eligible for their post-season roster – even thought he had only made three minor league appearances at the Single-A level.  As it turned out, Andrew was not on the active roster in October, but he was in the Tigers’ dugout during the playoffs and World Series. 

“I was on that team for the last month of the season,” Miller said.  “Unfortunately for me, they ended up playing the Cardinals in the World Series who had only one lefty on their roster and that was Jim Edmonds.  It was such a great experience at the time and I had a blast.  Unfortunately, the series didn’t go our way, but how many people get to sit in the dugout in a World Series and take part in all the festivities?  It’s something that I’ll never forget.”

At that point, it appeared that the hard-throwing lefty was on the fast track to major league stardom, but Miller is still looking to reach his outstanding potential.

After two years in the Tigers’ organization, Miller was traded to the Marlins in the deal that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit.  After three years with Florida, Andrew was traded to the Red Sox last November for relief pitcher Dustin Richardson.

“I was excited,” Miller said.  “I didn’t know too much about the Red Sox organization, but I knew that they had a good reputation and the more that I found out, it just got me really excited.  It was a new opportunity for me and seemed like such a great fit coming in.  So far it has been great.  It’s met my expectations if not exceeded them.”

But Miller almost didn’t wind up with the Red Sox. 

As WEEI’s Alex Speier described in this story about Miller, Boston allowed Andrew to become a free agent with the goal of signing him to a minor league contract.  

“Because Miller has now exhausted his options, a team cannot send him from the majors to the minors without exposing him to waivers,” writes Speier.  “The Sox didn’t feel that keeping Miller on the big league roster just for fear of losing him was productive, either for the team (those 25 roster spots are, after all, precious) or for the pitcher’s development.

And so, the Sox allowed him to become a free agent, with the idea that they wanted to sign the left-hander to a minor league deal that was based primarily on his long-term development.”

Miller could have taken a major league deal with other organizations, but elected to sign a minor league contract with Boston.

“I understood where they were coming from,” Miller told me.  “I liked it because they were being honest with me and they had a plan for me.  I had options to go other places that aren’t as deep as Boston– there probably aren’t any organizations as deep as Boston– but it just seemed like such a good fit for me.  I was willing to come here on a minor league deal and work my way up and I don’t regret it so far.”

 Miller is off to an excellent start with Pawtucket with a 1.32 ERA after three starts and an opponent batting average of .167.   He’s scheduled to make his fourth start on Monday night at Rochester.

“I think right now that things are going my way and you certainly want to feed off that and keep it going as long as possible,” Miller said.  “I feel good and I’m just trying to keep it going right now.”

Miller has walked 10 batters in 13.2 IP, but 4 of those walks came in a in a game at Syracuse where the umpire’s strike zone was the size of a postage stamp (Pawtucket batters walked 11 times in the same game).  In Andrew’s last start, he only walked 2 batters in 6 innings while allowing 1 run on 4 hits.  His fastball velocity sat in the 91-93 range and topped out at 95 mph. 

The Red Sox have worked with the 6’7” southpaw on maintaining a compact delivery, but they also don’t want his mind cluttered with thoughts about his mechanics.

“I think it’s a fine line,” Miller said.  “There’s certainly a place for mechanical work, but it’s hard to pitch in a game situation when that’s your focus.  I feel like that’s what I’ve done the last couple of years and I think that it’s held me back a little bit.  At this point, I’m just trying to go out there and be athletic and do what comes naturally.  So far the results have been pretty good.  The organization has just done a great job of handling me and working with me and letting me go out there and compete the way that I want to.”

Miller is in Pawtucket’s starting rotation, but could eventually be moved to the bullpen like his former college teammate Daniel Bard.

“I would prefer to start in the long run – it’s what I know and it’s what I’ve done,” Miller said.  “But if there’s an opportunity to be in the big leagues and do anything, I’ll do it.  I’ll play second base, I’ll be the bullpen catcher – I just want to be in the big leagues.” 

But Andrew says he has no problem being in Triple-A for now.

“I’m definitely patient,” Miller said.  “Coming here, I could look at the roster and tell what the odds were of being up there.  It’s a big picture thing for me.  My goal is to pitch well here.  Being around this game, if things are going well, things will happen and you will get opportunities.  Ideally, I’ll keep pitching my butt off here and things will happen.”

* * * * *

Since the Red Sox have Monday off, you can get your baseball fix and listen to Miller in action as the PawSox conclude their series in Rochester at  7:05.  I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage 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

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.

The Most Incredible Performance In Baseball’s Longest Game

The PawSox and Rochester Red Wings will meet this afternoon on Easter Sunday.
 
30 years ago, the same two teams played on Easter until 4:07 in the morning.
 

The longest game in baseball history started at 8:25 pm on Holy Saturday at McCoy Stadium in 1981 and was finally stopped after 32 innings with the score tied 2-2.  The game was eventually resumed on June 23rd, with Pawtucket winning 3-2 on an RBI single by Dave Koza in the bottom of the 33rd inning.

Koza had the most hits of any player with five, and Rochester’s Jim Umbarger had the most impressive pitching line as he tossed 10 scoreless innings. But do you know who had the most remarkable performance of all?  Home plate umpire Denny Cregg.

“33 innings and I never went to the bathroom,” Cregg said.

Photo courtesy of Pat McShane

Denny was back at McCoy Stadium this week for a 30th anniversary celebration and also for the release of Dan Barry’s new book, “Bottom of the 33rd.”

Ironically, Cregg was not originally scheduled to call balls and strikes that fateful night.

“Like Paul Harvey used to say, ‘Now you’re going to hear the rest of the story,’ Cregg told me. “My wife and I moved into a new house that day. I expected to work first base because we had a 4-man crew – a gentleman named Lanny Harris was with us from the National League – so I called to try to get the night off because I was tired. My crew chief said, ‘Denny, you have to come down here because you have the plate.  Lanny went back to the big leagues today.’  So I went down there and sucked it up.”

There’s a curfew in the International League that stipulates that no inning should begin after 12:50 am. But rather than suspend the game at that time, the umpires determined that the two teams had to keep playing.

“The International League umpires manual that year left out the curfew,” Cregg said. “Jack Lietz was our crew chief and he said, ‘That’s not in our manual, so we’re going to continue playing the game.’  The year before there was a 12:50 curfew and it came to mind, but Jack said, ‘They must have taken it out for some reason.’ You look back and maybe common sense should have prevailed, but that’s what they gave us to go by. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so who are you going to call?”

When they finally reached league president Harold Cooper on the phone at his home in Columbus, OH, he ordered that play be stopped at the end of the current inning.  At that point there were 19 people left in the stands including Cregg’s nephew David.

“My nephew stayed and my brother got worried about us,” Cregg said. “He called the local police department and they said, ‘No sir, that haven’t been any accidents.’  Then he called the Mass State Police and they told him the same thing.  Then he called the Rhode Island State Police and the desk sergeant said, ‘Relax, they’re in the 28th inning as we speak.’ So my brother calmed down.”

When the game resumed in June, the I.L. umpires were able to swap assignments in order to have Cregg and his crew back in their original positions to finish the game.

Let the record show that Denny Cregg was behind the plate for 882 pitches over 8 hours and 25 minutes.

In this case, that’s a record that was not made to be broken.

“I was the unfortunate individual who was behind the plate in the longest game in history,” Cregg said with a laugh. “Everybody knows about it, but no umpire wants to go through it.  They don’t want to be the poor soul that finally breaks my record.”

* * * * *

It’s hard to be away from my wife Peg and son Sam on Easter Sunday (that photo was taken last Monday after Peg ran the Boston Marathon for the 7th time), but I will enjoy a great Easter dinner here in Rochester.

 

 PawSox President Mike Tamburro is treating the entire team to an Easter feast from the legendary Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. We’re talking ribs, chicken, shrimp, salmon, cornbread, and much more.

During my years as a Pawtucket broadcaster, the players and coaches have always been treated to a team dinner when they’ve been on the road on Easter Sunday. It’s one of many reasons why it’s a special place to work.

Thanks Mike – from the bottom of my heart.

And stomach.

* * * * *

The PawSox and Red Wings will play game three of their 4-game series 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

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.

Just What The PawSox Needed — More Pitching

Heading into Friday afternoon’s game with Rochester, the PawSox were the hottest team in the International League with six wins in their last seven games.

That was before adding Felix Doubront and Alfredo Aceves to the starting rotation.

The collective groan you just heard was from the rest of the I.L. 

Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor

Doubront looked sharp in his first start for Pawtucket after being sent down by Boston, allowing just one hit in three scoreless innings on Friday afternoon as the PawSox beat Rochester 3-1.

After missing much of spring training with elbow tightness, Doubront is still building up his pitch count, so Kris Johnson entered in the 4th inning and picked up the win (3 IP, 1 ER), while Scott Atchison (2 IP) and Michael Bowden (1 IP) shut down the Red Wings the rest of the way.

Through 16 games, Pawtucket’s pitching has been exceptional. The team ERA is 2.58 and opposing batters are only hitting .224 (116-for-518). The following PawSox pitchers have ERAs under 2.00:

Scott Atchison             0.73
Michael Bowden          1.74
Felix Doubront            0.00
Brandon Duckworth   0.48
Rich Hill                       1.69
Andrew Miller              1.32
Clevelan Santeliz         0.00

And now Alfredo Aceves gets plugged back into the rotation.  He was scheduled to be Pawtucket’s opening night starter before being told about 45 minutes before the game that he was being called-up by Boston to replace the injured Matt Albers. Aceves posted a 2.25 ERA in 6 relief outings for the Red Sox before returning to Pawtucket.

While the pitching staff is loaded at the moment, it appears the PawSox will have to do with outfielder Ryan Kalish in the lineup for a few weeks.

Kalish injured his left shoulder while making a diving catch on Thursday.  His shoulder is not dislocated, but Red Sox manager Terry Francona told reporters that Kalish has a “significant shoulder sprain” and will be evaluated again in two weeks.

Matt Sheely is the logical candidate to replace Kalish on the PawSox roster.  He is currently on Pawtucket’s disabled list and is already with the team in Rochester.

* * * * *

The bus ride to Rochester was approximately seven hours long, and I was pleasantly surprised that we made a food stop along the way. Unlike former PawSox manager Ron Johnson who favored frequent food (and bathroom) stops on a trip of that length, Arnie Beyeler prefers to get to the next city ASAP.

“I don’t like to stop, but the guys have to eat so I’m OK with that,” Arnie said. “I don’t like to stop for very long. I’m all about getting the stuff to go and getting back on the road. The sooner we get to the next destination the better.”

That’s one of two key decisions that the manager makes on the long bus rides. The other is what kinds of movies are shown on the video screens. Ron Johnson, for example, did not like comedies so we were forced to watch action flicks and/or westerns during his tenure.

“I let the players pick those. I usually sleep,” Beyeler said. “We got fortunate last year in Portland. We had Direct TV on the bus and we could watch the Red Sox and MLB Network. As long as they keep it fairly clean, they can watch whatever they want.”

The PawSox actually take two buses on their long trips and I was not on Arnie’s bus on the way to Rochester. Pitching coach Rich Sauveur was in charge on bus two, and the movie selections were Secretariat and Jackass.

* * * * *

The PawSox will look for their third straight win as they face Rochester on Saturday 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

He Looks Like Schilling…And He’s Pitching Like Him Too

Can you identify this Red Sox pitcher?
 

Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor

 
 If you guessed Curt Schilling you are…wrong.

 

Brandon Duckworth wears Schilling’s #38, bears a physical resemblance to the former Sox ace, and even has some of the same mannerisms on the mound.  If Duckworth wore a bloody sock, they would be virtually identical. 

Are the similarities a coincidence or by design?

“I think it’s coincidental,” Duckworth told me with a laugh.  “Coming up in the Phillies organization, everybody made that comparison back then, but it was kind of weird to show up here and have number 38 sitting in my locker.  Now everybody is giving me a hard time saying, ‘Schilling, Schilling.’  It’s kind of funny, but at the same time, if you’re being compared to a guy like that, hopefully you can pitch somewhat to the same standard as him.”

“Schilling-like” would be a good way to describe Duckworth’s first three starts for the PawSox.  After tossing 7 scoreless innings in Thursday’s 14-0 win over Syracuse, the 35-year-old righty is 2-0 with a 0.48 ERA (18.2 IP, 13 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 14 K).

“He’s been outstanding,” said Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur.  “If he continues to do what he’s done in his first three starts, I feel that he could help the Boston Red Sox at some point this year.”

Duckworth signed with the Red Sox as a minor league free agent in November.  It was no surprise that Boston was interested in him after seeing Brandon pitch for Lehigh Valley last season.  In two starts against Pawtucket, Duckworth was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA (12 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 15 K).

“The Red Sox came in pretty quick,” Duckworth said.  “There were a handful of teams that were interested, but after speaking to the front office from Boston, I just felt that it was a good fit.  Besides, I think everyone can honestly say that they would love to play for the Red Sox someday.  I feel very comfortable here so far, and hopefully I can eventually get up to Boston.”

Duckworth has pitched in parts of eight big league seasons for Philadelphia, Houston, and Kansas City, going 23-34 with a 5.28 ERA in 134 games.  His last two seasons have been spent back in the minor leagues, but the Utah native is not complaining about being in Triple-A.

“You have to have fun in this game,” Duckworth said.  “If you don’t, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.  Minor league seasons can be tough.  You see a lot of movement up and down and you can fall into that bitterness stage where guys are getting called up and you feel like you should.  Or maybe you’re not having a good year and your job is on the line.  I just think you have to live in the moment and have fun with it every day.”

If he keeps pitching like Curt Schilling, he’ll have a blast.

* * * * *

Duckworth was obviously not the only star in Thursday’s 14-0 rout overSyracuse.  Drew Sutton went 5-for-6, and Nate Spears crushed a grand slam to help the PawSox finish 5-1 on their 6-game homestand.

Unfortunately, there was some bad news as Ryan Kalish suffered a left shoulder injury while making a diving catch in the second inning.  Ryan was taken to the hospital for X-rays.  There’s no word yet from the Red Sox on the severity of his injury.

* * * * *

The PawSox open an 8-game road trip on Friday as they face the Rochester Red Wings at Frontier Field beginning at 1:05.  It will be Felix Doubront’s first start since being sent down by Boston.  Felix was the Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, going 8-3 with a 2.81 ERA between Pawtucket and Double-A Portland.

Alfredo Aceves is also expected to join the PawSox in Rochester.  A corresponding roster move will have to be made when Aceves is added to Pawtucket’s roster.

I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage on Friday, 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

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.

Did Sox Strike It Rich With Navarro?

It cost the Boston Red Sox $51,111,111.11 to acquire the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka from the Seibu Lions (and another $52 million to sign him).

It cost the Red Sox $1 – yes, that’s one dollar – to acquire the rights to Daniel Nava from the independent Chico Outlaws (and another $1,499 when he made one of their minor league teams).

In between those two extremes you have Yamaico Navarro.

Photo courtesy of Kelly O'Connor

As described in this remarkable story by Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe, Navarro grew up in brutally tough neighborhood in the Dominican Republic in a house with no running water or electricity.  When Boston signed Yamaico for $20,000 in September of 2005, it represented roughly three years’ salary for his policeman father.

It looks like money well spent.

The 23-year-old infielder is off to a great start for Pawtucket.  Through 12 games, Navarro is batting .341/.463/.500 with 5 doubles and 1 triple. 

“I’m going to tell you right now – he’s a big league player,” said PawSox hitting coach Chili Davis.  “How soon he wants to get there is up to him.  The kid has so much talent that it’s scary.  He’s not afraid, he’s a very aggressive hitter, he hits the ball all over the field, he’s got power, he can run a little, and he can play anywhere.  What more can you ask for?”

A key to Navarro’s hot start has been uncharacteristic plate discipline.  In his first five professional seasons, Yamaico never drew more than 49 walks.  But this year, he’s already drawn 10 walks in 54 plate appearances – the only International League hitters with more walks are his teammates Daniel Nava (12) and Lars Anderson (11).

“We all chase pitches at some point,”Davis said.  “This game presents highs and lows.  I’d like to see how he handles a ‘low’ and how quickly he gets out of a slump.  That’s what I’m here for – to help him learn how to bounce out of those slumps.”   

Navarro started last season at Double-A Portland, before earning a promotion to Pawtucket in early August.  After spending less than three weeks with the PawSox, injuries in Boston led to a quick major league promotion and Yamaico predictably struggled, batting .143 in 20 games with the Red Sox.

But the big league stint was clearly beneficial as Navarro carries himself with a look of confidence that wasn’t present in his time with Pawtucket last season.

“The looser he stays and the more fun he has, I think the better player he is going to be, because he’s all business when he walks into that batter’s box,” Davis said. 

So far this season, business is booming.

* * * * *

The PawSox won their 5th straight game on Tuesday night at McCoy, beating Syracuse 3-1.  A 2-run single by Lars Anderson in the first inning gave Pawtucket all of the runs it needed, and Kyle Weiland pitched 5 strong innings to earn his first Triple-A win.

Pawtucket (8-5) has climbed into sole possession of first place in the I.L. North and will look to run the winning streak to six as it hosts Syracuse on Wednesday night at 6:15.  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.

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

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

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