Red Sox Pawtucket pre-season preview


The Pawtucket Red Sox are coming off a Governor’s Cup as International League champions, but it is not about a trophy. The PawSox primary role is support for the parent club in Boston and that falls into two categories. The first is to stockpile veteran talent that has MLB experience. The second is the last step of development of prized prospects for further reinforcement of the Boston team or as potential trade chips.

I have attended games since the Pawtucket team was in the Eastern League and try to attend as many as possible. McCoy Stadium was renovated several years ago, but by current Triple-A standards it is somewhat antiquated. The ticket prices remain reasonable, the food is decent, the players are generally accessible and accommodating and parking is free. The park is about one mile off picturesque I-95 – one of the truly frustrating roadways in America.

The Pawtucket team is also under new ownership as the family of the late Ben Mondor, longtime owner of the team, has sold the Pawtucket PawSox to a consortium of buyers fronted by Red Sox shareholder Larry Lucchino. The team executives are also in the process of discussing a move to Providence and constructing a waterfront park that would border the world-famous Providence River and afford a skyline view similar to what one sees in Family Guy. That, however, is all in the future. For now it is baseball in Pawtucket.

As usual the 25 man roster can change in a moment based on the needs of Boston, trades, injuries or players with available options who can be stored until needed. In 2014 Pawtucket’s roster had a total of 62 players who had service time with the team. In 2013 the PawSox had 67 players who had service time.

Returning to the bench for a second year is manager Kevin Boles and joining his staff is hitting coach, and former Boston catcher, Rich Gedman. Rounding out the staff is pitching coach Bob Kipper and bench coach Bruce Crabbe. All PawSox staff has extensive minor league experience within the Boston organization and especially Kipper will have significant responsibility, mentoring his young staff – it is no coincidence that Kipper coached at Portland last season and moved along with the highly valued pitching prospects.

The PawSox team is simply loaded. Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley and Sean Coyle are three that could be starters for many MLB teams. For Castillo this is just a place to get some playing time while roster adjustments take place. Bradley, a bitter, offensive disappointment in 2014, will attempt to refine his batting skills. Bradley hit only .212 in his short Pawtucket stay in 2014 and was under the Mendoza Line in Boston.

Garin Cecchini (.263/7/57) is back at third for another season after taking a step back in 2014. Still only 23- years-old Cecchini will be watched closely by evaluators of other teams and may also see duty at other positions now that Pablo Sandoval has been signed to lock down third in Boston.

Coyle, who slashed .295/.371/.512 in Portland with 16 home runs and 61 RBI in 97 games, will team with Deven Marrero, who will play short. Marrero slashed .210/.260/.285 in 50 games with Pawtucket in 2014. The slick fielding Marrero needs to improve dramatically on his offensive numbers and 2015 will be a critical season for the 24-year-old former number one draft pick.

The power potential is there with left-handed hitting Travis Shaw (.262/10/41) at first and right-handed hitting Bryce Brentz (.243/12/53) available for outfield duty. Shaw posted his numbers in 81 games and is coming off and impressive spring training where the 24-year-old hit .304. Brentz is in a cusp year for advancement as the 26-year-old hit .200 in spring training, but did hit two home runs.

The player that will be of key focus is Blake Swihart who slashed .261/.282.377 in a handful of games at Pawtucket in 2014. With Christian Vazquez lost for 2015 and the Red Sox catching duo of Ryan Hanigan and Sandy Leon, not noted for their offensive abilities, any stick prowess shown by Swihart could mean rapid advancement.

Jemile Weeks, who hit .308 in 14 games for Boston in 2014, will lead the bench players for Pawtucket along with catcher Humberto Quintero, infielder Jeff Bianchi and veteran Luke Montz. Weeks could be of value to Boston during the season as he has extensive MLB experience and has played the infield and outfield and will provide insurance for Brock Holt.

The pitching staff gets substantial attention with the focus primarily on three highly touted left-handers. Henry Owens and Brian Johnson, both first round picks, saw limited duty in Pawtucket in 2014 and will be joined by Eduardo Rodriguez, who was acquired in the Andrew Miller swap with Baltimore. Rounding out the starting staff will be 30-year-old Steven Wright (5-5, 3.41 at Pawtucket) and Keith Couch, who was with the PawSox for playoff duty in 2014. Wright will work out of the Boston bullpen until a roster spot is needed. Look for Chris Hernandez (5-7, 4.08) to fill in for Wright.

The Pawtucket bullpen certainly got a lift with Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman being sent down as the parent club finalized their roster. Barnes was, at times, impressive in the spring session with 18 K’s in 13 innings and often registering in the high nineties with his fastball. Workman, however, continued to show the inconsistency this spring that was demonstrated with a 1-10 record in Boston last season.

Players of note who have been assigned to the Pawtucket bullpen are Noe Ramirez, Dalier Hinojosa, Heath Hembree, Zeke Spruill and Edwin Escobar.

Look for periodic updates on the PawSox and their players on this site.

*** Statistics from baseball-reference

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