Witte, PawSox Comeback To Win 2-1

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Jantzen Witte smashed a walk-off home run to power the Pawtucket Red Sox to a 2-1 victory over the Rochester Red Wings in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader at McCoy Stadium.

Held without a hit by Rochester (29-33) through the first six innings of the scheduled seven-inning game, the PawSox (34-29) broke through in the seventh to tie the game and won it in the bottom of the eighth. Pawtucket has now won 18 of its last 23 games, including 10 of its last 12.

PawSox Comeback

Rochester starter Yohan Pino (L, 0-4) faced the minimum through six hitless innings and ended up yielding the two runs on four hits and two walks over 7.2 innings.

PawSox starter Kyle Kendrick scattered seven hits over five innings of one-run ball with a pair of strikeouts. Reliever Noe Ramirez (W, 3-2) then took over and dealt three shutout stanzas with three strikeouts, no walks and just two hits.

Shortstop Engelb Vielma and center fielder Zack Granite led off the fifth with consecutive singles. Right fielder J.B. Shuck then plated Vielma with an RBI groundout to second.

Late Inning PawSox Comeback

Pawtucket finally mounted an offensive threat in the seventh. Center fielder Rusney Castillo led off with a single to short to break up the no-hit bid, but he was promptly erased on a 6-4-3 double play. With the PawSox down to their final out, left fielder Steve Selsky stroked a single to center. Selsky then scored all the way from first when designated hitter and cleanup man Bryce Brentz short-hopped an RBI double off the wall in left-center to tie the game. Pino then stranded a pair of runners to force extra innings.

With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the eighth, Witte drilled Pino’s 1-0 offering to the left-center berm to send Pawtucket to another victory to begin the doubleheader.

Pawtucket concludes its four-game series against Rochester with another doubleheader Sunday, beginning at 12:35 p.m., at McCoy Stadium. Pawtucket left-handers Henry Owens (4-4, 3.72) and Edgar Olmos (3-1, 2.48) are the scheduled starters. Radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the PawSox Pre-Game Show at 12:05 p.m.

The seven-game homestand runs through Wednesday. Good seats are available, and 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.

Manuel Margot Promoted to Portland

With a day off Monday the Red Sox made news by promoting young outfield prospect Manuel Margot to AA Portland. Margot still just 20 years old was with High-A Salem for the first two and a half months of the minor league season.

Signed as an international free agent, out of the Dominican Republic, nearly four summers ago, Margot has impressed the Red Sox brass this year with his ability to hit to all fields and make noise on the base paths. Manuel MargotWith Salem in 46 games Margot had a line of .282/3/17. A shoulder injury in late May sidelined him for nearly three weeks, but he came back strong. In his last ten games Margot is hitting .325 with 9 runs scored, and 6 steals. The eye grabber of his last ten games is that he has only struck out three times.

Margot nearly went the whole month of April without striking out, which is something the Red Sox really must like. The philosophy of the organization has lately been to work counts and get the starter out of the game with a high pitch count but not making outs is a part of that as well. Margot has also shown the ability to hit left handed pitching with an average of .391 against southpaws. The big league club has struggled against lefties all year but Margot could be part of the answer down the road.

Much has been asked of the Red Sox, in last place, will they begin to sell off spare parts or try and acquired an ace type pitcher looking for next year? My guess is it will be much like last year, the wait to sell off pieces will end after the All-Star break. This upcoming stretch of 13 straight games against division opponents will be make of break in determining if the Red Sox are buyers or sellers at the deadline.

Obviously Margot has not control over where he is playing except with his play, but do no be surprised if his name come up in a rumored deal for an ace pitcher if the Phillies price for Cole Hamels comes down. Margot I believe is the next tier of Red Sox prospects to make noise and with him dominating the lower levels, his value may not be any higher. The Red Sox have seen players struggle once they reached AAA like Bryce Brentz and Deven Marrero who could be packaged with Margot to acquire a front of the rotation starter.

For now Manuel Margot will be patrolling the outfield of Hadlock Field, but I would not be surprised if his name comes up in trade rumors come July.

Manuel Margot Impressing Early On This Season

Manuel Margot

The Red Sox have had a problem developing outfielders, as of late, who will make an impact on their teams for years to come. In the last year we have seen the Sox move Mookie Betts, a lifelong infielder, to the outfield. Thankfully he looks to be sticking there and making a big impact on this team. Brock Holt, who is now playing right field in the interim, was also an infielder who the Sox moved to the outfield. Hanley Ramirez, a ten year big league veteran of shortstop and third base, was signed to play left field. Ramirez has been the best Sox Manuel Margotplayer so far this season, but could be out for a while after a shoulder injury during Monday’s game while running into the left field wall.

The Red Sox could have a hot outfield prospect on the cusp of the major leagues in a year or two. Manuel Margot, a 20 year old who started this season in High-A Salem, was signed as an international free agent in the summer of 2011.

Margot spent a majority of last season in Low-A Greenville, but did get a last season call-up to Salem. With Salem he impressed in 16 games with a stat line of .340/2/14. As players move up the ladder in the minor leagues, it is always good to see a player start off strong once they reach a new level.

This season Margot has been a player who has been on notice. Last week it was rumored the Phillies sent Charlie Manuel to scout Margot. The Phillies remain very interested in trading Cole Hamels, and may have gotten the picture that Mookie Betts and Blake Swihart are really off the table. Margot is the Red Sox 6th best prospect according to MLB.com, so the Phillies have gone down the line and are looking at what the Red Sox have in their arsenal.

The attention Margot has gotten has been well deserved. Margot did not strike out in a game until April 29th and throws in an element of speed with 11 steals in 13 tries as well as 3 triples. The power has not come for Margot as of yet, but sometimes power comes in the upper minors for most players—Bryce Brentz is an example of that. Don’t be surprised if Margot is in AA-Portland sooner rather than later.

Margot has grabbed the attention of the Red Sox and could continue to grab the attention of other major league teams in the match-up for a trade if the Red Sox continue to look towards improving their rotation. Obviously the Red Sox like what they have in Margot and developing an outfielder has been somewhat of a problem in years past. With a full outfield right now—and for years to come with Ramirez, Betts and Castillo likely penciled in—don’t be surprised if he is tossed around in trade rumors come July.

PawSox Set Opening Day Roster

PawSox

While the Red Sox opened their season on Monday afternoon with a win in Philadelphia their full season minor league affiliates all open with night games on Thursday.  The PawSox will open the season in Lehigh Valley, against the interestingly named Iron Pigs, the Phillies AAA affiliate.

On Tuesday it was PawSox media day, which was moved inside due to inclement weather—something to always be expected during April in New England. The PawSox players, staff, and new owner James Skeffington, were all on hand to answer questions regarding the upcoming season. PawSoxThe PawSox, coming off a Governor’s Cup Championship, have another loaded roster. Eight out of the top ten Red Sox prospects according to MLB.com are on the PawSox opening day roster, with many who made appearances in the big club last September.

The expected starting rotation for the PawSox early on this season will be lefties Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, and Eddie Rodriguez, and righties Matt Barnes and Keith Couch. All five made starts with the PawSox last season while Barnes was with the team for most of the season. Barnes, who was working in spring training as a reliever, was one of the final roster cuts and will be stretched out as a starter. Brian Johnson will have the privilege of the Opening Day start after an eye opening spring, where he quite possibly declared himself next in line, should an injury occur in the big clubs rotation.

In the bullpen the PawSox will feature a good chunk of players with major league experience, some with the Red Sox. Right handers Miguel Celestino, Heath Hembree, Dalier Hinojosa, Noe Ramirez, Zeke Spruill, and Brandon Workman are joined by the lone lefty Dana Eveland. Workman was moved to the bullpen by the Sox this off-season and was quoted saying, “I’ll pitch when they tell me to warm up.” The uptick in his velocity is seen to be a reason for the move, and the 2013 postseason was an example of his success out of the pen.

It is rare a roster features three catchers—never mind four—but the PawSox start off the season with four on their roster. Humberto Quintero accepted his assignment to AAA and will likely be the backup for  #1 Red Sox prospect Blake Swihart who will start the season in Pawtucket after making a good impression this spring. Matt Spring and Luke Montz join Swihart and Quintero as the backstops to start the year.

The infield has its own set of veterans with Travis Shaw, Garin Cecchini, and Deven Marrero returning from last season, joined by major league veterans Jeff Bianchi and Jemile Weeks. Newcomer Sean Coyle spent all of last season in AA Portland and was added to the 40 man roster this winter.

The outfield is what Bryce Brentz referred to as the “no fly zone.” Brentz returns to the PawSox and will be joined by Jackie Bradley Jr., Quintin Berry, and the highest paid player in the minors Rusney Castillo. All outfielders have major league experience and one has to believe Castillo will not be with the PawSox for long. Brentz introduced a new leg kick to his swing this off-season, which took much of spring training to get comfortable with. The Red Sox have depth in the outfield in the major leagues, but these outfielders are all serviceable should an injury occur.

Many Red Sox fans recognize a lot of the names on this PawSox roster and, I predict, will see a lot of these players appearing in Boston at some point this season. The PawSox home opener is Thursday April 16th against the Rochester Red Wings.

What About Bryce Brentz?

BRYCE BRENTZ

Going 9-for-25 in Spring Training and 8-for-26 in the big leagues last year as a September call-up, Bryce Brentz showed plenty of promise while he was up with the Boston Red Sox in 2014, but will be given little opportunity this season.
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Slated to start off 2015 in AAA Pawtucket, Brentz likely will not be given much of a shot to crack a spot on the Red Sox Opening Day Roster because the outfield is so crowded as it is. As of now, the team already needs to trade an outfielder before Opening Day (most likely Allen Craig) and send their starting center fielder for the bulk of last season down tobryce brentz the Minors (Jackie Bradley Jr.).

Away from all of the competition, Brentz will be able to prove why he deserves to play in the big leagues— if he is able to stay healthy this season. These past two years, he has been limited to just 145 Minor League games, including rehab, but he has shown off excellent power.
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Power is the reason why the Red Sox drafted Brentz in the first place and, given that he has smacked 29 home runs in his last 145 MiLB contests, his power is still a serious threat and could help the Red Sox out down the road this season.

Against lefties is where Bryce Brentz thrives. The former high school football linebacker dominates lefties and blasted eight home runs in 73 at-bats against southpaws for the Paw Sox last season. Historically speaking, he has always hit significantly better off of lefties, making him a viable option as a platoon player. After all, he did collect four hits in seven at-bats off of lefties in the big leagues last season.
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If Brentz is able to show off his power and stay healthy in a full season not only should he be able to blast 30 home runs for the Paw Sox next season, but he should find himself in consideration for a job as a platoon player. Since Boston is filled with talented outfielders, if he is not given a shot in Boston, there would be other teams interested in his services.

Had the Red Sox not signed Hanley Ramirez, his chances of cracking the roster would be better since Daniel Nava, who would have been the starting outfielder, struggles greatly against southpaws— he has hit just .159 off them last year.

Don’t Forget About Quintin Berry

quintin berry

As Spring Training approaches, the Boston Red Sox already appear to have a major problem—way too many outfielders and a suspect, at best, starting rotation. Questions lurk around the five guys who will be starting on a regular basis in Boston. Where is the ace? How long before they tank? Why did they pay Justin Masterson $9.5 million? What about the outfield?
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The Red Sox have a plethora of outfielders—too many in fact. It is clear that one outfielder in particular (likely Allen Craig) will have to be dealt as the team condenses down to 25 men in April for Opening Day, but it is unclear what Boston will receive in return as they seem to have their heart set on going into the year with a hand-picked rotation.

Even when an outfielder is dealt, the team will still have plenty of depth at the position. Not only will they have three guys on the bench who can play all three positions (including Brock Holt), but they will also have talent down in Pawtucket.
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quintin berryThe three starting outfielders projected for the Paw Sox this season are Jackie Bradley Jr., Bryce Brentz and Quintin Berry. While Bradley is an excellent defender, Brentz is a powerful hitter who clobbers lefties and Berry is a serious stolen base threat; the team’s three viable call-up options and Boston will have choices depending on the scenario.

Back in 2013, Berry, who is a perfect 25-for-25 in MLB stolen base attempts from 2012-2014, helped the Boston Red Sox win a World Series as a pinch runner on the post-season roster. Despite only being used once the rosters expanded, he found his way onto the playoff roster as the team no longer needed to carry five starting pitchers.

Currently, Berry is not on the 40-man roster and has no options remaining. If the team does in fact turn to his services—they will need to do so wisely. If they need to call him up and send him back down, they are out of luck and he will be exposed to the waiver wire where someone will surely bite.
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September will roll around eventually and if Boston finds themselves in a similar situation as they were in back in 2013, do not be surprised to see his number called once again—whatever it may be.