I spent Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park and except for the smaller clubhouse; it wasn’t a heck of a lot different from walking into McCoy Stadium this year.
The Red Sox currently have a total of 37 active players and 18 of them played for Pawtucket at some point this season.
By the way, can you name the three players on the 40-man roster who are not currently active? The answer is below.
I was pleasantly surprised and extremely happy to see Fernando Cabrera when I walked into the Red Sox dugout.
(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
The PawSox Pitcher-of-the-Year (22-for-22 in save opportunities with a 1.71 ERA) was not among the players called up at the beginning of September and went back home to Puerto Rico. Fernando finally was added to the team Tuesday and had an ear-to-ear grin when we spoke. When Cabrera took the field for batting practice, I saw one member of the team point toward him and say, “There is justice in the world.”
In other words, Fernando should have been one of the first people promoted and not the last.
The two people I was looking forward to seeing the most were Kevin Youkilis and PawSox manager Ron Johnson.
In Youk’s case, I couldn’t wait to get his reaction to the rise of his beloved Cincinnati Bearcats in college football (he went to school there and I am their play-by-play announcer). The Bearcats are 4-0 and have risen to #10 in the latest A.P. poll. They are also the subject of a big feature story in Sports Illustrated this week – you can read it here.
In RJ’s case, I was eager to hear about his recent trip to Houston to see his son Chris in action for the first time in a major league uniform (Chris was a September call-up by the Astros and is 2-for-21 with 1 RBI so far).
“It was unbelievable,” RJ told me. “It really didn’t sink in until the Sunday game where he got to start. We flew in on Saturday and the first night in he didn’t play. The next day he sent me an early text that said, ‘I’m starting.’ So I got to the ballpark early and we’ve got great seats right behind home plate and I’ve got all of my stuff – popcorn, peanuts, soda pop – and then they took the field. And right then when I saw Miguel Tejada, Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, Kaz Matsui, and then Chris Johnson, it really hit me. And then I was like any other foolish dad the rest of the game screaming and hollering. I am that dad – every screaming guy that I hate in the stands – I was that guy.”
When a player makes his major league debut with the Red Sox, the team generously pays travel expenses to allow immediate family members to be in attendance. The Astros do not have the same policy, so the Red Sox made sure that RJ and his wife Daphne made it to Houston.
“I was home in Tennessee for a couple of days and I was trying to pick the right time to go see Chris, because I wanted to go when he had the best chance to play,” RJ told me. “(Director of Player Development) Mike Hazen called and asked, ‘When are you going to Houston?’ I told him I was trying to figure out the best time to go. The next day he called me back and goes, ‘When are you going to Houston?’ And this time as I started to explain he said, ‘We’re paying for it and we want your wife to go too. So when are you going to Houston?’ I checked on flights and it was expensive, but when I called (Director of Minor League Operations) Raquel Ferreira she said, ‘RJ, just get on the plane.’ After the fact, I found out that Tito (Francona) had massive involvement in the whole thing which didn’t surprise me a bit. I work for phenomenal people, I really do.”
* * * * *
The only three players on Boston’s 40-man roster who are not currently with the Red Sox are catcher Mark Wagner, pitcher Felix Doubront, and 19-year-old shortstop Jose Iglesias (a Cuban defector whom the Red Sox signed this year for $8.25 million).