Steven Wright Back On Track In Latest Start With PawSox

Steven Wright PawSox

After not pitching in an official game in eight days Steven Wright took the mound Thursday afternoon at McCoy Stadium against the Syracuse Chiefs and had his best outing of the year and was more of what the Red Sox expect out of the knuckleballer.

After being called up on Monday after the Red Sox bullpen was taxed this weekend in Steven WrightBaltimore, Wright never appeared in a game. He was, however, warming up in the bullpen on Monday in the early innings before Joe Kelly calmed down and got through six innings for the Sox. Wright was subsequently sent down to start Thursday afternoons game for the PawSox. Wright rejoined the PawSox rotation giving more rest for starters Matt Barnes and Eduardo Rodriguez who will pitch against Durham this weekend.

Wright was dominant in the early innings striking out three of the first five batters he faced, all looking at the dancing knuckler. On the day Wright finished with seven strikeouts, five looking and allowed no runs, on four hits in seven innings of work earning the win in a 4-0 game. The most encouraging sign in my opinion was Blake Swihart who seemed to struggle catching the knuckle ball in recent outings but Thursday Swihart had one passed ball but recovered nicely for the rest of the game.

Red Sox starters have struggled getting out of jams of late with innings starting with hits ending in runs and a lot of them. Wright battled out of a bases loaded one out jam in the 5th inning, caused by himself by walking two batters, but got a key ground ball to shortstop Deven Marrero, who stepped on second and threw to first for the double play. This encouraging start by Wright could push the Red Sox to make a decision on a starter soon if they continue to struggle. Ben Cherington has said he is not bringing up any starters from the minors at this time, but most would assume Wright is not part of that group Cherington is referring to.

Other highlights on the afternoon were solo home runs for Travis Shaw and Deven Marrero. Marrero continues to get better with the bat and his hitting .281 after the first month of the season. Blake Swihart got on base three times, twice walking and legging out an infield single. Swihart has been on base in seven straight games and is hitting a robust .338 good for ninth in the International League. He will continue to catch everyday for the PawSox but at some point this summer expect him to make his way up Interstate 95 to Fenway Park.

Red Sox Starters Among League Worst

Red Sox Starters

It is hard to find a silver lining after an 18-7 loss in Baltimore on Sunday, but if there was one it was the Red Sox were heading back to the friendly confines of home, in Fenway Park on Monday to start a series with the Blue Jays. The weekend series in Baltimore saw the Sox pitching staff hit new lows in terms of innings and the bullpen added to the misery.

The Sox seemingly have no starter on the staff right now who you could consider a “stopper” , or a pitcher who you know will stop a losing skid. Sox fans have to wonder—Red Sox Starterswho and when will a pitcher step up, or even be called up? Rick Porcello has been the best in my opinion as he has given the bullpen the most help, going deep into games, but also has a dub thrown in there as well. Joe Kelly has flashed that he could be lights out, but his meltdown in Tampa Bay where he walked in a run with the bases loaded showed he is still a work in progress.

Clay Buccholz everyone knows about, and has known about for the past seven years. He is capable of being great, but he needs everything to go right if he is going to be that guy. Justin Masterson is back for his second stint with the team and his role is the eat innings. He has yet to receive a loss on the year, but has left games where the offense has picked him up after giving up leads.

Wade Miley deserves his own category. In four starts, he has yet to finish six innings and in two starts he did not get out of the third. Very taxing on the bullpen and the offense when your starter can’t get out of his own way. Miley, acquired this off-season, will likely have a long leash before he is removed from the rotation. Fans soon may cringe when they see Miley listed as the starter that night.

Red Sox fans wanted an ace this off-season and as Spring Training ended without one, the question remained—who will step up in the rotation? So far you can say no starter has stepped up, yet John Farrell and Ben Cherington say it is too early to panic about the rotation. With your starters ERA being 30th in the league with 30 teams, one has to wonder how long before management starts to panic.

When and if panic sets in what happens? Brian Johnson was just named International League Pitcher of the Week for the PawSox in AAA, and he seems deserving of the first man to get the call if an injury or a starters turn is skipped. Matt Barnes pitched out of the bullpen this weekend and was sent down after going two innings on Saturday. The plan with Barnes on if he will remain a starter in the minor leagues or not is unknown.

Of course Cole Hamels does remain a Philadelphia Phillie and likely will until Ruben Amaro is satisfied with an offer for his ace. Betts and Swihart remain off the table, but the Red Sox may feel obliged to get creative with an offer if the rotation continues to struggle.

Red Sox starters have yet to string together a series of starts where you feel confident in them. How long will it be before John Farrell and Ben Cherington are forced to make a move?

Matt Barnes Recalled, Makes First Appearance in ’15 for Sox

Matt Barnes

The Boston Red Sox placed Shane Victorino on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring injury on Saturday, then recalled right-handed pitcher Matt Barnes from Triple-A Pawtucket to join the Major League club in Baltimore for their series against the Orioles at Camden Yards.

After being told on Saturday afternoon that he had been promoted, Barnes drove from Matt BarnesScranton, PA to Baltimore, MD and arrived approximately two hours before the start of the game.

He was called on to make his 2015 debut by replacing Justin Masterson in the bottom of the eighth, and responded by firing two scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out one.

Barnes was actually in line for his first big league win after Xander Bogaerts hit the first pitch he saw from Brad Brach for the go-ahead home run in the top of the 10th inning, making the score 4-3, but had his hopes quickly dashed as Boston’s closer Koji Uehara blew the save opportunity by  giving up a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the frame, his first blown save of the season.

“It was a crazy day,” Barnes told Ian Browne of MLB.com. “It’s not how I envisioned [the day] when I woke up this morning, but I’m happy to be here … trying to do what I can to help the ball club win.”

Many thought the 24-year old native New Englander would make the Opening Day roster as a reliever after throwing in the high-90s for most of Spring Training, but he was sent down to Triple-A during the last round of roster cuts and subsequently reverted back to a starting role.

Barnes made two starts for the PawSox before being recalled on Saturday, posting a 0-0 record with a 5.63 ERA. He made five appearances for the Major League ball club last season, allowing four runs on eleven hits, over nine complete innings.

Steven Wright Struggles in First Two Starts for PawSox

Steven Wright

After pitching 5 innings of relief and getting the win in the 19 inning game against the Yankees two weeks ago, Steven Wright got sent down to AAA Pawtucket to make room on the roster for starter Joe Kelly. Since his demotion, Wright has not looked great in two starts with the PawSox.

In the home opener for the PawSox against the Rochester Red Wings, Wright went 5 Steven Wrightinnings with a line of 8 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, and 2 K’s. Being a knuckleballer, Wright could easily throw until his arm fell off, but that line is somewhat discouraging considering the 4 walks. Some of the runs were unearned so, his defense did not bail him out in some situations. Still, if the Red Sox are looking for a depth starter, they will need a pitcher who can get out of jams in the AL East.

In his most recent start with the PawSox Wednesday, Wright went 6 innings with a line of 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB and 10 K’s. As Sox fans found out last week when Clay Buchholz gave up 11 hits, but kept the game close, it is only a matter of time until all those hits pile up and the other team capitalizes like Buffalo did. The encouraging thing to take from this start was his 10 strikeouts. The Buffalo hitters, who were not making contact, were swinging and missing—and quite frequently. With the PawSox, Wright will be given more time to get out of jams thaN if he were with the big league club, which could help him down the line. Red Sox fans know through the Tim Wakefield years that a knuckle ball can sometimes knuckle and other times stay flat.

Wright is hardly a prospect anymore at the age of 30, but the Red Sox have liked what they’ve gotten out of him since acquiring him in a minor league trade with the Indians in 2012. Wright seems to be the pitcher who is next in line, should an injury occur in the big league rotation, but with Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez looking great in their first few starts with the PawSox, Wright will have to start having better outcomes. Of course sometimes teams do not care about the statistics and it is more about the makeup of a player.

As of right now the PawSox are going with a six man rotation since Wright has been sent down. Henry Owens will start on Thursday, followed by Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Barnes, and Brian Johnson this weekend in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Keith Couch will likely follow Johnson in the next series against Syracuse.

Anthony Ranaudo Makes Texas Debut

Anthony Ranaudo

During the off season, in the wake of all the acquisitions to this years pitching staff, general manager Ben Cherington made the move to trade away 25-year-old Anthony Ranaudo to the Texas Rangers. Boston acquired left-handed specialist, Robbie Ross Jr. in return from Texas.

The Ranaudo trade to Texas caught a lot of Boston fans by surprise. Anthony Ranaudo ranked in Anthony Ranaudothe top-three of pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization and seemed to be on the rise. Ranaudo was outstanding in 2014 while pitching for the Pawtucket Red Sox, posting a 14-4 record to compliment a 2.61 ERA en route to International Pitcher of the Year honors. Ranaudo also had a nasty curveball—winning best curve ball in the Boston Red Sox organization for two straight years. Ranaudo got some brief time with the MLB club down the stretch, going 4-3 with a 4.81 ERA in seven starts.

Ranaudo’s brief struggles in the show weren’t necessarily the reason he was dealt, but more or so the reason of where does he fit in? Boston was able to bring in veteran starters, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley in the offseason leaving no room for Ranaudo in the rotation. Boston also has top-tier prospects named Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Matt Barnes knocking on the door so, in the big scheme of things, Ranaudo didn’t have a spot; Boston had a need for a left-handed reliever.

Ranaudo made his first start for a depleted Ranger rotation on Wednesday as he was opposed by Hector Santiago of the Los Angeles Angels. He would only go 1.2 innings in this one, allowing six hits, six runs to go with a 1-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

After a relatively smooth first inning, Ranaudo struggled heavily in the second. David Freese’s single to center lead to a Chris Iannetta walk, followed by a walk soon after- making it bases loaded with one-out. Angels second baseman, Johnny Giavotella, would deliver the big blower with a liner to left field scoring two and it would just get worse from there. Los Angeles was able to tack on four more runs off of Ranaudo en route to a 10-2 win.

Obviously Ranaudo wasn’t as prepared for this start as he would have liked to have been. It’s also obvious that he still needs some work down in the minor leagues before he can come up and make that impact the Rangers need him to make.

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.