PawSox remain in first place
By Eddie Pannone
May is complete, and the Pawtucket Red Sox remain the crème of the crop in the International League. They boast the best record in the I.L. at 34-21, and have done it through a combination of good pitching and one of the best offenses in the league. Pitching wise, they are top five in multiple categories, such as ERA (3.43), runs allowed (209), and saves (20). This speaks to the quality not only in the starting rotation, but the bullpen as well. As for the starters, pitchers Brandon Duckworth and Justin Germano have been the PawSox go to guys. Both of them have 5 wins, tied for second in the I.L. They also are one-two on the team for leaders in strikeouts and innings pitched. Germano has a better ERA amongst the two, posting his at 2.89 to Duckworth’s 4.22, and he has probably been the PawSox best pitcher since Aaron Cook left for Boston. In the bullpen, Mark Melancon has been close to perfect as the closer. He has 8 saves with an ERA of 0.96. Originally, he was thought to be a big part of Boston’s bullpen, perhaps even their closer. He struggled mightily, leading to his demotion. Boston hoped he would gain his confidence back during his time in Pawtucket, and it is looking like that is the case. In only 18.2 innings, he has struck out 26 batters while only walking three. The former Astros’ closer seems to be ready whenever Boston needs him, but until then he fits in nicely for Pawtucket. Setting him up in the bullpen has shown off Pawtucket’s other relievers. The PawSox have four other relievers that possess ERAs under 3.20. These are Garret Mock, Clayton Mortensen, Will Inman, and Junichi Tazawa
As good as the pitching has been, the PawSox offense has been the biggest reason the team is currently in first place. They are first in almost every important offensive category including runs (273), homeruns (57), RBI (254), TB (767), and AVG (.267). In a season where many players have been called up and removed from their lineup for extended periods of time, 1B Mauro Gomez, C Ryan Lavarnway, and INF Pedro Ciriaco have been the mainstays. Gomez leads the team in the run producing categories of homeruns (11) and RBI (37). Lavarnway hasn’t been putting up the all-star numbers he is capable of, but he continues to get on base. He has drawn 22 walks and his on base percentage is .369. Pitchers seem to be afraid to pitch to him because they know what a force he can be. He has seen many breaking pitches and few fastballs. Whenever he gets the call-up to Boston, the number of fastballs he will see is likely to increase. When this happens, expect him to make pitchers pay. Ciriaco has been Pawtucket’s leading hitter this year, batting .297. He has shown off his off range in field, playing both second base and shortstop, and his speed, swiping 7 bases. These of course aren’t the only players that have been performing well for the team. Lars Anderson has drawn a team high 30 walks while showing off some power with 6 homeruns. This includes a moon shot that hit and broke the McCoy Stadium scoreboard in right field and made the top 10 on ESPN. Alex Hassan also has made some nice contributions to the team. Batting towards the bottom of the order, he has shown good patience with 26 walks and has driven in 23 runs.
It appears that Will Middlebrooks has played his last game in a PawSox uniform. He is currently tearing it up in the majors, and Boston is looking for any way to keep him in their lineup. With Dustin Pedroia potentially missing a month of action, the Red Sox had Middlebrooks take ground balls at shortstop. This is a position he is familiar with, as he played there in college. He probably won’t have the range to play there everyday, however it could work for a little while. I doubt the Red Sox will turn to this route, but it is possible. Even if he doesn’t play short, the Red Sox still appear to be ready to move on with him as their everyday third baseman. They have told other teams they are willing to trade Kevin Youkilis if they get the right deal. With this being the last year of Youkilis’ contract, I would expect that they will actively shop him to see what his value is. Until then, expect to keep seeing Middlebrooks at third, Youkilis at first, and Adrian Gonzalez in right field.
In the rehab front, the PawSox currently have two Red Sox players rehabbing for them. Starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka continues his way back from Tommy John surgery and neck pain, as he made his fifth PawSox start Thursday night. He looked very good in his outing, going 5.1 innings giving up two hits, one run, and no walks while striking out four. He threw 76 pitches and the only run he allowed was a solo homerun to Lew Ford in the first inning. He seemed to look better as his outing went on, getting more movement on his pitches as the game went on. This was his second good outing in a row, as he was coming off 5 shutout innings his previous start. I try not to read too much into his numbers. As any Sox fan will tell you, one night he will look untouchable, the next he will look like he never pitched before. It is more important that he feels healthy during these starts than his numbers, because we all know when he gets called back up to Boston, he will be the heart attack Dice-K we all know and love. Also rehabbing with the PawSox is outfielder Darnell McDonald. McDonald is scheduled to play this weekend for Pawtucket as he makes his way back from an oblique injury. So far he has played in three games, going 0-8. He took a few days off recently as he went back to Boston to work with the training staff and take an exam. He will likely need only the weekend before he is ready to be called up.