PawSox in First at Half Way Point
By Eddie Pannone
We have reached the halfway point of the triple A season, and the PawSox continue to boast the best record in the International League at 45-27. Their offensive attack has carried them all season, and is a huge reason why they are in first place. They currently have the highest average (.275), the most homeruns (83), most hits (663), and, the category that matters more than any other, most runs (377). They have led in these categories most of if not all of the season, showing their consistent and powerful offense. As a team, they get on base more than any other team in the league. Hitters show great patience at the plate and are not afraid to take a walk. When they get the pitch they want, they are hitting the ball hard from the leadoff man down to the number nine batter. This is probably the best offensive team that Pawtucket has had since 2008, when players like Jeff Bailey, Joe Thurston, and Chris Carter took the field at McCoy.
The offense has come from up and down the order, but a few players have been doing a great job all season long, starting with leadoff man Pedro Ciriaco. He leads the team in average at .301 and is the leader in stolen bases at 10. He can fly around the bases and is an excellent fielder. He is not your prototypical leadoff hitter however, because he does not draw a tremendous amount of walks and is on base percentage is not that much higher than his average. But for this team, he makes things happen from the leadoff spot and it is a role that suits him well. In the middle of the order, Ryan Lavarnway has started putting up the numbers that many fans expected to see. After having his average hover around .270 for most of the season, he has picked it up to .292 with a red hot June. He is batting .358 this month with 4 homeruns and 14 RBIs. All of this comes while still showing a great eye at the plate, as he has drawn 29 walks on the season. Teams know he is a good hitter, and from the beginning of the season to now they have pitched to him carefully. The numbers he has put up are usually enough to be promoted to the big leagues, however Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach have produced nicely at the catcher position. His time is coming; he just has to remain patient. Behind Lavarnway in the order is Mauro Gomez, who leads the team in homeruns (10) and RBIs (46). He has been Pawtucket’s best player for the duration of the season in my opinion. Not only is he tops in those two categories, he also has a .296 average. He has had big hits, long homeruns, and should be a lock for the All-Star team. However, I don’t see him getting a second recall to Boston any time soon. With Will Middlebrooks, Kevin Youkilis, and Adrian Gonzalez all fighting for time in Boston’s lineup, there is no need for a power hitting first baseman with minimal fielding skills. Even if Youkilis gets traded, I just don’t see room on the big league roster for Gomez. He will likely keep tearing up triple A pitching until September rolls around.
Undoubtedly, these three players deserve to go to the All-Star game this year, but there are three other players that deserve to go with them. These players include Lars Anderson, Justin Germano, and Brandon Duckworth. Anderson has played first base and outfield for the team this year. His numbers are not overwhelming, especially from a former top prospect, but he has had good run production and power numbers. His 9 homeruns and 39 RBIs have contributed to the best offense in the I.L., and for that he should get a chance to go to Lehigh Valley for the All-Star game. As for Germano and Duckworth, both have been pitching lights out for Pawtucket in 2012. They are 1-2 on the team in innings, wins, strikeouts, and ERA amongst starters. They have led a very good pitching staff in Pawtucket, and definitely should be on the All-Star team this year.
Daniel Bard surprisingly returned to Pawtucket on June 8th after his terrible performances starting for Boston. He has been making appearances only 1-2 innings at a time for Pawtucket; however Boston still maintains that he will stay a starting pitcher. After two shaky outings to start in Pawtucket, he settled down nicely in his next two. Over his last four innings pitched, he has given up no runs, 2 hits, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts. Overall, his numbers for Pawtucket in four games are 6 IP, 4 runs, 5 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts, and am ERA of 6.00. His velocity is still around 93 MPH, not the Bard that many people know. This will likely continue should he remain a starter. Everyone has an opinion as to whether Bard is better in the bullpen or in the rotation. I am with the many who favor Bard in the bullpen. If you look over the course of Bard’s career, you will see why. In his first year in the organization, he was a starter. His totals in two levels of single A were 3-7 with an ERA over 7.00. More alarming was his 78 walks to his 47 strikeouts in only 75 innings. Those numbers sound very similar to what he is doing at the major league level while starting. When they moved him to the bullpen, his walks went down, his strikeouts went up, and his ERA went into the twos. Daniel Bard is an above average major league pitcher, but he just does not have what it takes to be a starter. It is clear he feels more comfortable in the bullpen and has the potential to be a dominant closer. If the stating rotation figures itself out without Bard, then hopefully Boston will put Bard where he belongs.
A signing that has gone pretty unheralded is the Red Sox signing of Mark Prior. As most people know, Prior was a former All-Star for the Cubs and suffered many injuries that derailed what have been a dominant career. He has not pitched in the big leagues since 2006, and is looking to revive his career as a reliever. So far in Pawtucket, he has shown he can be an effective pitcher. In 8 innings, he has an ERA of 2.25 with 19 strikeouts and only 5 walks. His fastball velocity is only around 89 MPH, but he has shown a great curveball. He is not high on the totem pole in terms of relievers that will get called up, but he will rise up it soon as long as he keeps pitching like this.
On the injury front, shortstop Jose Iglesias is scheduled to return from the disabled list within the next few days. Iglesias last played May 25th due to lower back pain. This injury came at a terrible time for the young shortstop, as he was finally starting to come around with his bat. His average currently at .269, which is worlds ahead of where it was last year and even earlier this year. He was having a great month of May before his injury, as he batted .341 in 20 games for the PawSox. The bat has been the only question thus far in Iglesias’ career, and if he can keep hitting once he comes off the DL, the 22 year old will be in the big leagues soon.
The upcoming weeks will prove to be very exciting in Pawtucket. Not only will the PawSox continue their push for the Governor’s Cup, but many rehab players will be coming down. Aaron Cook will continue his push to get back to Boston’s starting rotation. More notably, Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury will be making their way back to McCoy Stadium for likely an extended period of time. Both stars have not played much or at all in 2012. No dates have been set for when they may play in Pawtucket.