Jhonny Peralta, Sandoval Homer in Pair of Wins

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Backed by a Jhonny Peralta home run, the Pawtucket Red Sox earned a pair of 5-2 victories over the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on Saturday night at McCoy Stadium in front of a sellout crowd of 10,032.

Pawtucket smacked three home runs and outhit the RailRiders (49-32), 13-3, in the first game and followed that up with a second win just hours later thanks to a pair of blasts.

Jhonny Peralta

In the first game, Jhonny Peralta debuted at third base and went 2-for-5 with a double and a solo home run to left.

Red Sox utility man Brock Holt (vertigo) began another rehab assignment in the second game, batted leadoff and served as the designated hitter. Holt went 1-for-3 with a soft line drive single over short.

Rehabbing Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval (inner ear infection) went 1-for-8 in the two games with a no-doubt, solo homer yanked to left in the second game.

PawSox outfielder Bryce Brentz continued his recent surge by combining to go 4-for-7 with a home run, two doubles and a walk. Brentz now has 18 home runs this season, including five this week.

First Game

PawSox starting pitcher Jalen Beeks threw the first three innings Friday and stacked up five strikeouts over the three frames of one-hit ball. Right-handed reliever Jamie Callahan (W, 1-1) retired all six batters he faced with a trio of strikeouts, and righty Austin Maddox (S, 2) stranded two in a scoreless ninth.

RailRiders reliever J.R. Graham (L, 0-1) allowed two runs on four hits over two stanzas.

Before the game was suspended Friday, Peralta pulled a one-out double to left in the first inning, and, two batters later, Brentz clobbered a two-run shot to left-center — his 18th homer of the season and his fifth of the week.

After the game’s resumption Saturday, the RailRiders tied the game in the fifth when designated hitter Jake Cave blasted a two-run shot to right-center.

PawSox left fielder Ryan Court, however, pushed Pawtucket back ahead with an opposite-field, two-run long ball in the bottom of the sixth, making it 4-2.

Peralta hit a solo homer to left in the eighth to add an insurance run.

Second Game

Following, Héctor Velázquez (W, 5-1) worked six-plus innings of two-run ball with six strikeouts. Right-hander Brandon Workman (S, 2) entered, fanned two and buttoned up the victory.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre starter Dietrich Enns (L, 0-1) retired the first 10 batters he faced but ceded three runs on four hits and a walk in five frames.

The PawSox broke a scoreless tie in the fourth when Sandoval crushed a solo homer over the left-field bullpen and became the first Pawtucket batter to reach against Enns.

Aneury Tavarez bounced a two-run single up the middle in the fifth to stretch the lead to 3-0.

In the sixth, Pawtucket first baseman Matt Dominguez hammered a two-run blast to center to make it 5-0.

The RailRiders climbed on the board in the seventh on a two-run long ball from left fielder Devyn Bolasky.

The PawSox continue their four-game series Sunday at 6:05 p.m. at McCoy Stadium. PawSox right-hander Shawn Haviland (4-5, 3.86) is scheduled to oppose RailRiders righty Chance Adams (5-2, 2.27). Radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the PawSox Pre-Game Show at 5:35 p.m.

The four-game home series runs through Monday at McCoy Stadium. Box seats are sold out for Monday’s game, and other seats are going fast. Fans can visit the McCoy Stadium box office, which is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m., and during all home games. Fans can also call (401) 724-7300 or log on to PawSox.com for tickets.

Pawtucket Pitchers Don’t Offer Much Relief

It’s no secret that the Red Sox pitching staff is struggling. David Price isn’t 100% yet. Drew Pomeranz can’t quite maintain consistency. Rick Porcello can’t win a game. Chris Sale is the only one who’s dominating opposing pitchers. Unfortunately, AAA Pawtucket pitchers don’t offer the Boston Red Sox much in terms of relief.

Henry Owens Continues To Struggle

Henry Owens signed with the Red Sox as a 1st round draft pick (36th overall) in 2011.pawtucket pitchers Many touted him as an eventual addition to the Red Sox rotation but his performance in Boston has been anything but promising. In 16 MLB game starts between 2015 and 2016 Owens is 4-6 with a 5.19 ERA. For now Owens is a mainstay in Pawtucket where he has a  4-4 record with a 3.72 ERA as of June 17th. Owens’ main problem continues to be his control. Unfortunately, unless we see some dramatic improvement, Owens likely won’t make it to the majors anytime soon.

Noe Ramirez Is Questionable

Noe Ramirez signed with the Red Sox in 2011 in the fourth round (142nd overall). While he’s currently 3-2 in Pawtucket as of June 18th, his MLB debut keeps many doubtful about his future. He made his debut with the Red Sox in July of 2015 and pitched an inning of relief. His debut proved disastrous. Ramirez allowed four runs (one unearned) on three hits, hit a batter, and struck out one while picking up the loss. Not exactly a debut that strikes confidence.

Brandon Workman’s 2014 Record Still Haunts Him

Brandon Workman has a 3-1 record with Pawtucket so far this season. Workman pitched well in 2013 finished with a 6-3 record including a perfect 8th inning in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series. 2014 was another story. Not only did he finish with a 1-10 record for a .091 winning percentage, but he received a six game suspension for throwing behind the Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria. A 7-13 MLB record with a suspension under his belt doesn’t make it likely he’ll move up to Boston anytime soon.

Pawtucket Hitters Don’t Offer Much Either

While Pawtucket pitchers aren’t a beacon of hope right now, their hitters aren’t faring much better. Blake Swihart, once a promising player, now lingers in Pawtucket with a .210 batting average as of June 17th. Boston once thought they’d make Swihart a staple behind the plate, or even in left field. But Christian Vazquez is playing better. Andrew Benintendi is doing well in left field. This leaves Swihart’s role with the Red Sox in question. Then there’s Rusney Castillo who, after signing a $72.5 million contact, was supposed to be the next big thing in Boston. While he played okay in 2015 with a .253 batting average, he continues to linger in Pawtucket and goes up to Boston for a cup of coffee here and there. Then there’s Allen Craig…

It’s hard to assign 100% of the blame to these players, especially the hitters. Except for 3rd base, Boston has an everyday man with plenty of utility players to plug the holes. But these players will find it difficult to advance if they’re not traded or start playing better, especially the Pawtucket pitchers.

Brandon Workman Placed On DL

Brandon Workman

The plan for Brandon Workman this off-season was to focus on just relieving for the first time in his career. After being a starter for much of his time in the minor leagues, the Red Sox with many young starters coming up through the system felt relieving is the best fit for Workman, this time around. After struggling last season with velocity, early this spring his velocity was up a tick with shorter outings.

Before even throwing an official pitch this season Workman was diagnosed with a right elbow strain and was placed on the disabled list Saturday. Not exactly how Workman and the Red Sox pictured his season starting. Brandon WorkmanThe minor leagues have a disabled list of seven days, but it has not been announced how long Workman is expected to be out. Workman was one of the last cuts in a battle for the last two bullpen spots that eventually went to Robbie Ross Jr. and Tommy Layne, one of which will likely be sent to Pawtucket on Monday, with Koji Uehara likely being activated from the disabled list, in time for the home opener.

Workman’s experience in the 2013 playoffs had many thinking, myself included he could have been groomed as a potential closer. Heath Hembree and Zeke Spruill picked up saves in the PawSox first two games of the season in Lehigh Valley. With Workman on the disabled list look for those two to get their opportunities in the closer role for the PawSox.

Early injuries happen to many teams, as the Red Sox opened the season with Joe Kelly and Koji Uehara on the disabled list. You could say it had an effect on the bullpen already, as Edward Mujica blew his first save opportunity Friday night. Ironically, Steven Wright, who took Kelly’s initial roster spot got the win in the 19 inning marathon pitching 5 innings in relief. As the Red Sox get their closer back for the home opener, a key component to the PawSox bullpen will be spending time on the shelf.

A Switch to Relief is a Relief for Brandon Workman

Brandon Workman

Unable to capitalize on the opportunity at hand this spring, PawSox pitcher Brandon Workman hopes to get back to the Majors in a timely fashion.
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This year, for the first time in his career, he will serve as a full-time reliever after making 15 starts for the big league club last season.

“Yeah, you know, that’s my role for the season—being used out of the pen—and I’m excited to get brandon workmanto work,” he said. “(I’m) excited to get this thing started up and see where we go from there.”

Some saw the move coming from a mile away and many were surprised that the move did not come a year earlier— after he tossed 8.1 scoreless frames for the Red Sox in the 2013 post season. With high hopes the team tried Workman out as a starter last year, but the results were not great.
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He went 1-10 with a 5.17 ERA in 19 appearances (15 starts) and although he was not a standout, he was not a 1-10 pitcher. He had some outings where the team should have won or where they could have won, but it just did not happen for him. As a result, his WAR suffered— finishing the year at -1.1.

“Last year was a frustrating year for me on a lot of different fronts,” said Workman. “I came out of the beginning part of the year, throwing real well, but things really tailed off for me in the summer. Like you said, there were times when I threw the ball well later in the summer. Things didn’t work out all the time, but that’s part of baseball. I took my share of losses when I didn’t throw the ball well. I got a lot of the tough luck out of the way, but I’m set up for a strong year this year.”

In his big league career, Workman owns a 6.07 ERA in 21 regular season games as a reliever. Knowing that he pitches well at times and poorly at others, Workman’s goal for this year reflects that.
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“Working on bringing some consistency to the table,” he added. “Like you said, there were some times when I threw the ball well, but there were times I didn’t and I’m trying to get myself in a position where I can consistently perform on a day-in day-out basis over the course of this season.”

A starter not too long ago, it is fair to say that Workman might have a little bit more stamina than many other relievers. With that in mind PawSox manager Kevin Boles makes it clear that Workman will not be a one inning guy in AAA this year.
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“We really don’t have too many one inning guys,” Boles said. “I mean as far as development goes, we usually have guys who will go one and then parts of an inning.”

Koji Uehara Is a Question Mark This Season

koji uehara

One of the first moves the Red Sox made this off-season was resigning closer Koji Uehara before he hit the free agent market. He likely could have gotten more money if he hit the open market—after seeing the contracts that Andrew Miller, Luke Gregerson, and David Robertson received. Although all three of those pitchers are not entering their age 40 season.

Uehara will turn 40 on April 5th and whether he is on the roster the next day for OpeningKoji Uehara Day in Philadelphia remains to be seen. It was labeled as a “close call” just Wednesday after it was reported Uehara has suffered a hamstring strain. Hamstring strains for pitchers are not easy to recover from, as their legs are important—especially for Uehara who doesn’t hit the upper 90’s on the gun anymore. This is also not the first time he has suffered a strain of his hamstring, as he missed two months in 2010 while with the Orioles.

To replicate his great 2013 second half run many thought Uehara would have to drink from the fountain of youth. The first half of last season it seemed Uehara made a trip to that fountain, as he continued his great run earning a trip to the All-Star Game for the first time. As the Red Sox fell out of contention, Uehara became victim to the home run and was even shut down for a time. He arrived at spring training talking about how he suffered through an injury last season that may have effected his play, but did not disclose the injury. Now with a hamstring strain many Sox fans have to wonder: will he be on the roster in Philadelphia and, if he is on the roster, will he be effective?

In 3 games of Grapefruit League action, Uehara has given up 2 runs on 7 hits in just 3 innings of work. Some may say spring statistics do not matter, but it is always nice to see a pitcher give up less hits than innings pitched. The growing concern could be that Uehara is not recovered, thus resulting in poor performance on the mound. If the Sox want him to be an important piece across the season, he cannot be rushed back.

Closing option one with Uehara out is Edward Mujica, who had a tough first half last season in his first in the American League, but had a solid second half of the season. John Farrell has said he will be closer “B.” A pitcher to keep an eye on is Alexei Ogando, who the Red Sox brought in after being non-tendered by Texas. Ogando has been injured for much of the past two seasons, but has been better out of the bullpen in his career. He is a two pitch pitcher, featuring a live fastball and an above average slider. Junichi Tazawa seems to be best in a set-up role, so he might not get many save opportunities. The trickle down affect of this Uehara injury could open up a bullpen spot for either Brandon Workman or Matt Barnes to start the year. One thing is for certain, the starting rotation is not the only question mark going into the season as Koji Uehara has now been added to the list.

Matt Barnes Likely Next Man Up If Starter Goes Down

matt  barnes

This winter the Red Sox made some moves to their pitching staff that signaled they were moving onto the next wave of pitching prospects. Besides not being able to retain Jon Lester, gone are Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and Anthony Ranaudo. De La Rosa and Webster were sent to Arizona in the Wade Milley trade, while Ranaudo was sent to Texas for Robbie Ross.

Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and Eduardo Rodriguez are the next wave of pitching Matt Barnesprospects the Red Sox have, and are all left handed, highly valued in today’s game. We are not going to argue about who has the most potential as the Red Sox hope all three lefties pan out. The one holdover from the Pawtucket Red Sox rotation from last season is Matt Barnes.

Barnes, 6’4 210 pounds out of the University of Connecticut throws hard and has been a starter since the Red Sox drafted him in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft. There has been talk of Barnes converting to a reliever this season and even cracking the opening day roster out of the ‘pen. However with Alexei Ogando and Robbie Ross Jr. likely ahead of Barnes of the depth chart, he may start the season in AAA Pawtucket and be ready for the call if a starter should go down.

Not many teams have all five starters make 30 starts in a season. The Rangers are already experiencing problems with Yu Darvish likely missing the year because of the Tommy John Surgery. The Blue Jays will be without Marcus Stroman for the season after he torn his MCL during fielding drills. And just yesterday the against the Red Sox, Yankees starter Chris Capuano strained his quad running to cover first base. Rotation depth is something you need in baseball to make it to October.

Barnes made his major league debut last season after the minor league season ended. He appeared in 5 games for the Sox tossing 9 innings, while giving up 4 runs. So far this spring Barnes has appeared in 2 games, striking out 6 in 4 innings of work with only 2 hits allowed. The Sox could have used Barnes as a trade chip like they used Webster, De La Rosa, and Ranaudo, but they kept him– signaling he is still a part of the future.

A lot can happen in the three weeks left of spring training, but don’t be surprised if Matt Barnes does not make the team out of spring training. The value he has as a depth starter is huge and flip flopping him from starter to reliever might have an impact on him, like it did on Brandon Workman last season.