Rutledge Homers in PawSox Series Opener

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On a star-studded night at BB&T Ballpark, the Pawtucket Red PawSox Series OpenerSox fell to the Charlotte Knights in the series opener, 3-1, on Tuesday.

In a game that featured a pair of big leaguers on rehab assignments (including a 2016 All-Star), a consensus top-5 prospect and a former first-round pick, the Knights (5-7) used a pair of first-inning home runs to coast by the PawSox (6-6) to kick off the three-game set. Pawtucket has now lost three in a row.

Before Tuesday’s series opener, the PawSox added a pair of players on MLB rehab assignments. Jackie Bradley Jr., who suffered a right knee sprain with the Red Sox in Detroit on April 8, batted second and played center field before leaving after his five scheduled innings. In the first inning, he grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Two innings later, Bradley struck out looking against Charlotte starter and 2015 first-round pick Carson Fulmer. Bradley tracked down two fly balls in center — one moving back and one jogging in during the third inning.

Rutledge, meanwhile, batted third as the designated hitter. The 27-year old, who suffered a left hamstring strain in late March during spring training, clocked a solo home run in the first inning. He later struck out swinging and grounded out to short.

Fulmer (W, 2-1) allowed just one run on five hits and a walk in six innings and outdueled PawSox starter Shawn Haviland (L, 2-1), who settled in after the first frame and logged seven innings. Haviland ceded just the three runs on nine hits and a walk to go along with eight punchouts.

Pawtucket, however, only mustered three singles after the second inning and hit into a pair of double plays. Flame-throwing Knights righty Zack Burdi (S, 2) secured the save in the ninth by striking out three consecutive PawSox hitters after allowing back-to-back singles to start the stanza.

PawSox center fielder Rusney Castillo (2-for-4) and left fielder Junior Lake (2-for-2, BB) each posted multi-hit nights.

In the top of the first inning, Rutledge lifted an opposite-field home run to right to crack open a 1-0 lead.

But, the Knights countered in the bottom of the first. Leadoff man and former Red Sox top prospect Yoan Moncada mashed a home run to right field. Two batters later, center fielder Willy Garcia pulled a two-run shot to left to vault Charlotte in front, 3-1.

The PawSox continue their three-game series in Charlotte against the Knights on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. Pawtucket right-hander Héctor Velázquez (0-0, 5.79) is scheduled to oppose Charlotte righty Lucas Giolito (0-1, 7.56). Radio coverage on WHJJ (920 AM) and throughout the PawSox Radio Network begins with the PawSox Pre-Game Show at 6:35 p.m.

The PawSox return home to McCoy Stadium April 25-30. 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.

Pat Light Spotless Early On For PawSox

Last week when Pat Light got the call-up the the PawSox from Portland, many expected, myself included him to take over the closer role for the PawSox. After all Light has been seen this season hitting 100 mph on his fast ball on the occasion and that is something that will miss bats in the late innings, especially in the minor leagues.

So far in two out of his three appearances with the PawSox he has collected saves, both Pat Lightcoming against Toledo during last weekends home stand at McCoy Stadium. His lone other appearance, coming Tuesday night in Charlotte wasn’t something to shy away from either as it only took him 8 pitches to get through the inning including a strike out.

Matt Barnes was recently optioned to the PawSox, after his free fall in last weekends series against the Blue Jays, and he can also bring the heat. Barnes, much like Light was a starter until this season and both could play huge dividends for future Red Sox teams out of the bullpen. Barnes and Light will likely split the closer duties for the PawSox with Heath Hembree and Robbie Ross now up with Boston.

There is no question about the talent of Light, as he was drafted in the first round, three years ago. It just took a little while for the Sox to find a good position for him. Trey Ball, 2013 first round pick is going through the same trouble. The goal for any pitcher starter or reliever is to miss bats and get outs. In his three appearances with the PawSox he has yet to allow a base runner in three innings of work while collecting 4 strikeouts.

Time will tell how long Pat Light can keep this streak going, but for a pitcher who had not appeared in a game above AA before this season, Light looks to be on the fast track to the big leagues.

Justin Masterson Sharp in Latest Rehab Start

As the Red Sox rotation begins to perform they could be faced with a decision soon, on sending a starter to the bullpen. Justin Masterson took the mound for the PawSox on Wednesday afternoon in his latest rehab outing. It was his second rehab start with the PawSox and third overall, after starting for Portland last Friday.

Masterson was sharp on Wednesday while keeping the ball down, something he struggledJustin Masterson with early on in the year up in Boston. Masterson, was among the problem in April and early May when the rotation could not keep the ball down, or get out of six innings. Now that the rotation is starting to look consistent, he may be moved to the bullpen, because Eduardo Rodriguez is not going anywhere. Joe Kelly could be moved to the bullpen if he doesn’t find consistency, and he does miss bats so the bullpen might not be a bad idea.

Masterson made the decision much harder on sending him to the bullpen Wednesday with a stellar performance at McCoy Stadium. Masterson went 6 innings with a line of 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, and 6 K. Among his 6 strikeouts, Masterson struck out a stretch of four out of five Charlotte Knights hitters, who looked over matched. Obviously Masterson has lost velocity and probably won’t return to the mid 90s but if he keeps the ball down he will be most successful.

When the Red Sox return home to Fenway on Friday they will be faced with the decision of activating Masterson. He does have 30 days to spend in the minors, so he could make another rehab start, but that might just delay the decision and cause some friction with him and the staff. Masterson is a veteran who can handle being moved to the bullpen, but he did not seem pleased with being placed on the disabled list in the first place.

They were faced with the decision between moving Steven Wright or Joe Kelly to the bullpen this week as they abandon the six man rotation with some off days coming up. Wright was moved to the bullpen, but Kelly might be so lucky this time when it comes to him and Masterson. Something the Red Sox could also do is option Kelly to Pawtucket to work on consistency as he does have an option remaining, however that is unlikely.

Justin Masterson will be activated from the disabled list soon, but his role is something we all are not aware of yet.