March 2009

I could tell today would be a big day…

Day 4

-As I drove towards the Red Sox Minor League Complex I noticed there were more cars in the parking lot than normal.  The reason was simple – Jon Lester.  The former Sea Dog hurler made the start for Triple-A Pawtucket with personal catcher Jason Varitek behind the plate.  Lester struggled through six innings, allowing 10 hits and 4 runs.  He threw 91 pitches, 61 for strikes and recorded three strikeouts.  Jason Varitek batted third and went 1-for-3 with a towering home run to right field off Jay Rainville.  Rainville started for Double-A New Britain last spring against Josh Beckett.

-After Lester and Varitek finished their day, they received a golf-cart escort back to the Major League complex.

-At the complex, both the Sea Dogs and PawSox played the Twins affiliates.  The Triple-A team featured 7 former Sea Dogs in the starting lineup.  Jorge Jimenez clocked a home run and Dustin Richardson fanned two during his inning of relief.  Richardson has been converted to the bullpen and featured an explosive fastball. 

-According to Boston.com, the 25th spot on the Red Sox roster will come down to Jeff Bailey, Chris Carter and Brad Wilkerson.

Ouch: Andrew Dobies, Matt Goodson, Tommy Hottovy, Jay Johnson and John Otness are listed on the rehab part of the Red Sox Minor League Spring Roster.  Johnson has been playing and looks strong running the bases.  He ruptered his achilies tendon last April at Hadlock Field.

Faces in the Crowd at the Minor League Complex: Theo Epstein, Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, Frank Malzone, Tommy Harper, Ben Cherington and Mike Hazen.

On Wednesday, Portland and Pawtucket will travel to Baltimore’s minor league facility to take on Bowie and Norfold.  As I do every year, I will head over to the Red Sox Minor League facility and watch Salem, Greenville and Lowell.

Former Sea Dogs’ trainer Brad Pearson is now the Head Minor League Trainer. I had a chance to chat with Brad before the games.  He is very excited in his new role and plans to visit Portland during the season.

Heading to the Fort

Day 3 in Ft. Myers

-The big news around Ft. Myers today is the big showdown tonight in Tampa as the Red Sox take on the Yankees.  It’s hard to believe how much publicity and media attention a pre-season game between these two teams receives.

-Yesterday the Red Sox hit four straight home runs against former Boston reliever Brandon Lyon..Mike James, T.J. Large and Jose Vaquedano made relief appearances for Boston.

-A Papelbon pitched for Portland in yesterday’s exhibition game against New Britain.  Up close, it’s very fun to watch a submarine style pitcher.  Papelbon has the opposite repituar of his older brother.

According to Boston.com, Jon Lester is scheduled to pitch at a minor league game this afternoon in Ft. Myers…I’ll keep you posted throughout the day.

Fun in the Sun

My first official day in Spring Training took me to Lee County, home of the Minnesota Twins and their minor league facility.  While the Twins were hosting a big league exhibition game against Baltimore, the minor league complex featured two spring training games.  On field 2, Pawtucket battled Rochester and field 3 featured Portland and New Britain.  Now, while the AA and AAA teams are playing at the Twins complex, the Red Sox camp will host games between the A affiliates.

It’s always nice to take a long stroll from the parking area to the Twins minor league field. and check out the sites. Minnesota has a beautiful complex and names each street on the complex road after famous Twins players.  In my passing, I saw these street names: Kaat, Killebrew, Oliva, Kelly (after Tom Kelly, the longest tenured manager in Twins’ history), Hrbek and Puckett.

Now to my surprise, it was a little windy today but I’m not complaining.  I was just so surprised to see how cold the players were.  Many back east are ready to kill me when they read that but don’t shoot the messenger.

The million dollar question during spring training – Who will make the Sea Dogs roster?  My two-cent answer, there’s still a lot that could happen.  It’s very tough to predict who will be where with so many great players in camp.  I was very confused on what team I was watching when the the lineup card behind Portland Manager Arnie Beyeler said Pawtucket.  PawSox manager Ron Johnson was not with the club, probably with Boston at their complex but don’t quote me on that.

In the Pawtucket game, Arnie, Mike Cather and Dave Joppie were coaching this squad: Aaron Bates, Mark Wagner, Ryan Khoury, Iggy Suarez, Zach Borowiak (he’s back), Jeff Corsaletti, Zach Daeges, Jeff Corsaletti, Bubba Bell, Jeff Natale, Jay Johnson, Hunter Jones, Chad Rhoades, Richie Lentz, Marcus McBeth, Billy Traber, Sandy Madera and I know I’m leaving out a few. 

I stood in between both fields, which area about 100 feet apart and took in both contests.  Josh Reddick and Lars Anderson played in the Portland game.  It was nice watching Anderson close up.  During an at-bat late in the game, Anderson quickly got behind but clobbered a solo-homer to left-field.  Many scouts have said he has tremendous opposite field power and they are right.  Josh Papelbon, who pitches submarine style, closed out the win with a scoreless ninth.  I didn’t get the score of the Portland game but Pawtucket lost 12-4.

Observations from the games
Gary Gaetti’s son Jon, played right field for Rochester and blasted a home run but made a tremendous catch off a deep fly bal hit by Mark Wagner.

Billy Traber and Marcus McBeth worked scoreless innings for Pawtucket.  McBeth is a converted pitcher and once played for Sea Dogs’ hitting coach Dave Joppie in the minor leagues.  I saw McBeth play center field in 2003 for the Kane County Cougars.  To this day, he has made the most impressive throw to the plate that I have ever witnessed.  Maybe he will remember that if I ask him.

Zach Daeges looked like his usual self at the plate, roping a single in the 6th inning.  Daeges played some 1B in both games.  Many players rotated from game to game.

It was really nice to see Bubba Bell and Jay Johnson.  Both guys missed a lot of time last year due to injury but they are very excited with the upcoming season.

Zach Borowiak told me he is so excited to be back playing minor league baseball.  Borowiak retired last year and did not play.  He finished up school and taught lessons at a Baseball Academy.

I did notice the umpiring was a bit rough.  Many players weren’t happy with the strike zone but it is Spring Training.

The best thing about Spring Training is reconnecting with the players from last season and catching up with guys who played in Portland.  I did feel out of place since I was the only one in the area without a tan – but what can you do? 

That’s a wrap from Fort Myers.  Tomorrow I will venture to the minor league complex in the morning and catch up Portland’s trainer from the past two seasons, Brad Pearson, who is the now holding a real cool position.  

C-Ya,
Mike

Touching Down in Florida

On Sunday night at exactly 10:00 PM, my connecting flight from New York
City landed in lovely Ft. Myers, Florida, where the game-time tempature
was 64 degrees  There was really no game but as a broadcaster I had to
throw that in.

Tomorrow, I will head over to the Twins complex
where the Sea Dogs will take on the New Britain Rock Cats in one of
their many meetings.  Since the 2 complexes are so close together, they
play 75 percent of their schedule against each other.  The Twins minor
league fields are adjacent to the big league stadium.

I’ll have
some reports on what’s going on with the team during the late
afternoon.  With the roster shaping up in Boston, it’s becoming easier
to project minor league rosters. 

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