PawSox Catchers Have Diverse Roles

PawSox catchers

Before Ryan Hanigan fractured a knuckle and went on the disabled list, the Pawtucket Red Sox had four catchers, all of whom served the team in different manners.
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Now that Blake Swihart is out of the picture and up with the big league club it is a little different, but no two PawSox catchers are alike.pawsox catchers

Of course Swihart was the big-time prospect and the one fans knew most by name, but he was not the only one getting his work in for the PawSox.
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“All four of us do our catching stuff on a daily basis,” veteran catcher Matt Spring said before Swihart’s call-up. “You know, catching bullpen sessions and all that. Whenever my role changes back to that, I’ll be ready.”

The three catchers down in AAA right now are Matt Spring, Humberto Quintero and Luke Montz. Of the three, Quintero has the most big league experience and is the only one of the three that has caught a game this season.

On paper, Quintero is the first guy Boston would call up because he has so much big league experience. Montz on the other hand has a little bit of big league time and an injury prematurely ended his fight for a roster spot with the Oakland A’s last spring training. Now Montz is in a reserve role which consists of playing first base and left field.
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People might see 30-year-old Matt Spring as a career Minor League catcher, but as of late he has taken over the PawSox starting first base role. He has a hit in all but one of his ten games this year.

For the first time in his career, Spring has a chance to really make a name for himself as a regular contributor to the PawSox lineup.
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“I think that’s what all of us want to do,” Spring said. “Go out there and do whatever we can do to help and if it’s going out there and playing first base right now, I’ll fill that role whenever I can— whatever opportunity I have to get my name in the lineup.”

Matt Spring has Big League Ambitions

Matt Spring

Minor Leaguers come and go, but it will take a lot more than age for PawSox catcher Matt Spring to give up on the game he loves.

At 30 years old, he enters his his 12th pro season at the highest level to date—AAA.

Spring has just 17 career games in AAA to his credit at this point in his career, but he looks tomatt spring be in the mix of PawSox catchers this year that includes big league veteran Humberto Quintero and top prospect Blake Swihart.
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As a result, he starts the year on the seven-day Disabled List and while he may not be concussed, it is a way for the PawSox to keep extra depth behind the plate.

It may be tough for him to find playing time at times given the depth the team has behind the backstop, but if anything happens at the big league level, he is sure to see more reps behind the plate in Pawtucket.
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“Whenever you can get your bat in the lineup, that’s what you want to do,” Spring told Yawkey Way Report at PawSox media day. “So whether it be first base, left field or whatever, I’ll take at-bats when they come.”

“That’s the biggest thing, taking advantage of those opportunities when you do get to play. Just lead by example for some of these younger guys who are obviously trying to do the same thing as me—trying to make it to the big leagues,” he added.

In addition to being a catcher with some pop (eight home runs in 43 games last year), Spring is a guy who the organization values as a mentor, someone who can help up-and-coming players.
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Headed into the year, Spring received an invite to big league Spring Training and capitalized on the opportunity by going six-for-14 with three doubles and a homer in 13 games.

“It’s a good opportunity to go to Major League camp and I just had to take advantage of it,” he said. “My mentality may have been a little bit different, making sure I came in ready to go and everything like that.”

Each and every year, Spring looks to get better and he took a little bit different of an approach this off season.

“I ate a lot healthier,” he said. “I tried to change my approach—instead of just getting strong I leaned out.”

Power has always been a huge part of his game, but he is not really concerned about hitting home runs, although they do come with being a strong catcher.

As a catcher, Spring plays one of the few positions where defense has more worth than offense and although this is not his first time around the rodeo, he still works to improve defensively.

“That’s the biggest thing—especially coming into Spring Training,” said Spring. “Showing the team what to do defensively—you know it’s a defensive first position so being ready to go on the defensive side is important.”
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Many guys in the high minors get a cup of coffee in the majors, not contributing much of anything at the top level before they are sent down to never make it back up again. Spring has yet to have the opportunity to play Major League Baseball yet, but surely even one game would mean a lot to him.

“Obviously you want to be doing whatever you can to make it to the big leagues and you know if playing left field or first base is what will get me there, then that’s great.”

Professionally, Spring has over 500 games catching and 33 games at first base—he occasionally takes reps at DH but would play anywhere if it came down it.

A player and mentor, perhaps there is the chance fans will see Coach Spring at some point, although he still has plenty of years ahead of him playing the game.
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“You never know, I mean obviously that’s something I have to talk about with my family,” he said. “It’s something I’ve thought about and something that’s definitely my reputation as a clubhouse guy and my success off the field would definitely help me get a job.”

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.

Boston Red Sox Farmhand Matt Spring Keeping The Dream Alive

matt springThis year, Portland Sea Dogs catcher/first baseman Matt Spring entered his 11th season of professional baseball. The 29-year-old was drafted in the fourth round of the 2004 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and since then has played Minor League Baseball. At this point, many people would have already given up, but not Matt Spring. Spring is working hard to achieve his goal of playing in the big leagues.
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So far this season in 20 games Spring is hitting .250 with a pair of home runs and a .321 OBP. As of late, Spring has fared better hitting .323 with a .421 OBP in his last ten games which is always a good sign. On defense, Spring is not great at throwing runners out, but a solid choice behind the plate for a number of other reasons.

As far as a formal scouting report goes, Spring is a good power hitter. In Portland, he has been known to put some shots over the Maine Monster which is a wooden replica of the Green Monster at Fenway Park. He shows flashes of making good contact and is an aggressive hitter for the most part. On defense, Spring does not have the strongest arm, but he does not drop balls, calls a good game, is a leader, and can catch a knuckle ball.
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Arguably the best trait Matt Spring brings to the table as a player is that he is a leader and a good mentor for younger players, especially for a catching prospect like Blake Swihart. Perhaps he would make a good coach someday, but right now Spring is focusing on his own career.

No matter what happens to Matt Spring he will end up successful. Hopefully he can get a shot in the big leagues one day; not unrealistic to think given the fact Chris Coste was a 33-year-old rookie in Major League Baseball. Whatever he does, the future is bright for Spring. He is the type of guy that could become a successful manager someday, but he has to take it one step at a time.