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.

Ortiz Declines Ceremony in Tampa

As the regular season dwindles down, David Ortiz experiences his final stops in Major League cities. Each final go-around brings about a new ceremony for Big Papi; creative gifts and giant checks have come home with Ortiz seemingly every road trip. This Sunday, however, Ortiz chose to focus on a more serious matter in his final stop to Tropicana Field: his late friend Jose Fernández.

The baseball world was shaken Sunday morning with news of the death of one of its budding Ortiz declines ceremonyyoung stars, José Fernández of the Miami Marlins. Fernández was one of the best young pitchers in the game, winning the Rookie of the Year in 2013. His meteoric rise often drew comparisons to Pedro Martinez, Sandy Koufax, and Clayton Kershaw. The 24-year old Cuban defector had plenty of character outside of baseball, too. He was once imprisoned for trying to leave Cuba and, once he was able to leave, he saved his own mother from drowning on the voyage to America.

Fernández was killed in a boating accident around 3 AM along with two other friends. The news spread around the sports world, effecting not only the Marlins but Miami, as well as all of baseball. In the Red Sox clubhouse, no one was more likely effected than the retiring designated hitter.

Ortiz and Fernández were good friends; the young star idolized Big Papi growing up. Ortiz and Fernández’s friendship was on full display in this summer’s All-Star Game in San Diego. Fernández reportedly told him he’d “groove him” a pitch that he could hit, but instead walked him. The two exchanged laughs and Ortiz even tried to convince him to come to Boston in free agency.

Ortiz Defers The Day To Fernández

Of course Ortiz was stricken with grief as he prepared for his final game in Tampa Bay. Instead of an elaborate on-field ceremony, as has become customary, Ortiz said he’d rather accept his gifts privately, leaving the day to celebrate Fernández. To honor him, he put the initials “JF 16” on his hat. Every team held a moment of silence in memory and Ortiz got emotional in the Red Sox dugout.

As far as his gifts, Ortiz got an oil painting of his 500th home run which he hit in Tampa last September, and 34 handmade cigars. They were presented to him in the bowels of the Trop by Evan Longoria and Chris Archer of the Rays. So, say what you want about these retirement tours and David Ortiz, but he definitely let his class take over this time. For Big Papi, and so many around the MLB, Sunday was a shocking reminder of the fragility of life and he handled it in the classiest way he could have.

Kudos to you, Papi.

Matt Barnes Fighting for Opening Day Roster Spot

matt barnes

With Boston’s bullpen still a very big question mark less than two weeks from Opening Day, Matt Barnes is doing everything he can to prove his worth as a big league pitcher.

Barnes entered Saturday’s contest against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charolette Sports Park with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, replacing knuckle baller Steven Wright. He promptly got Asdrubal Cabrera to roll a ground ball to shortstop Xander Matt Barnes Bogaerts, who forced out Steven Souza Jr. at second base to retire the side.

The 24-year old Danbury, CT native returned to the mound for the bottom of the fifth, and promptly retired Evan Longoria, James Loney and Desmond Jennings in order.

After Brandon Guyer started the bottom of the sixth frame with a double to left field, Barnes was able to retire Logan Forsythe, Curt Casali and John Jaso on three consecutive strikes outs.

Barnes finished the day with 2 2/3 innings pitched, allowing a single hit and striking out four. In seven Spring Training games, he owns a 0-1 record to go with a 5.25 ERA, but has held opponents to just a .227 batting average, and has posted an impressive 1.08 WHIP.

Although there is a very real possibility Barnes ends up on the Opening Day roster, he is trying only to focus on the things he can control personally.

“I’m not trying to think about that at all,” stated Barnes in an interview with MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “If you start thinking about that, I’m getting ahead of myself.

“The only thing I can control is going out there and pitching. I’m focusing on that, getting my work in between outings, and letting the rest take care of itself. I feel happy with how I’ve thrown the ball. We’ll just let the management make the decision on that.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell was impressed with Barnes’ outing, especially coming in a true relief scenario.

“I thought he was very good. He gives up the 1-2 double and then records the three strikeouts following that [in the sixth inning],” Farrell told Browne. “Went to his curveball a little bit more to get some swing and miss against some quality major league hitters. He looks poised coming in for the middle of an inning. That’s the first time he’s come in with men on base. It’s a quick out to end the threat. He looked fine.”

With the clock ticking towards the start of the season, and the Red Sox still facing several questions regarding their bullpen, there is a good chance we will see Matt Barnes in the big leagues at some point this season, if not on Opening Day.