PawSox slipping after hot start
After a tremendous first half for the Pawtucket Red Sox, it’s been a rough go of things recently. The team has lost 18 of its last 24 games, including a nine game losing streak from June 18th until June 26th. They have fallen out of first place and are 2.5 games behind Lehigh Valley. Their more recent struggles are likely due to the way the roster has been gutted over the last couple of weeks. July has seen many key members of the team move up to Boston. These moves started on July 3rd, when Boston recalled PawSox first baseman Mauro Gomez. Gomez was the PawSox biggest run producer, leading the team in homeruns (19) and RBIs (55). He also leads in hits and doubles, becoming an I.L. All-Star for the second time in his career. With Will Middlebrooks out, Gomez played everyday at third base and batted in the middle of the order for the Red Sox, having minimal success. Though he has batted .308 so far, he has left many runners in scoring position and has not capitalized on his opportunities. He is a good hitter, but Boston is asking too much from a player who has only had one other Major League call up.
The next day, Pawtucket lost its All-Star pitcher Justin Germano. The Red Sox called up Germano on July 4th, taking away the PawSox best and most consistent arm. Germano led the PawSox in wins (9), starters ERA (2.40), WHIP (0.90), and innings pitched (105). A big factor in the Red Sox promoting Germano was an opt out clause in his contract. If he was not on the major league roster, he could become a free agent. In one appearance for the Red Sox, he went 5.2 innings against the Yankees. He was brilliant, giving up no runs on 5 hits while striking out 7. Since this performance, Boston designated him for assignment. Seeing as he would have opted out of his minor league contract if he wasn’t promoted, it is unlikely he would accept a minor league assignment with the Red Sox. His time in Pawtucket is almost certainly over, and it will be hard for Pawtucket to replace what he gave the team.
On July 6th, Boston once again pulled from Pawtucket’s All-Stars, purchasing infielder Pedro Ciriaco’s contract. Ciriaco had been Pawtucket’s leadoff hitter. He led the team in hitting with his .301 average at the time of his promotion. As Red Sox fans saw in spring training, Ciriaco can play. He was one of the last people sent to the minors and Bobby Valentine wanted him as the utility infielder. So when Dustin Pedroia went on the disabled list, Ciriaco was the logical call up. Ciriaco is everything you want in a utility man. He plays excellent defense, can get on base, and has blazing speed. Fans have seen all of these traits in his first four games with the team. He has batted .625 with 6 RBI and 3 stolen bases. Once Dustin Pedroia comes back, I think he should stay on the roster. If it is a position battle between him and Nick Punto, then I think it’s clear that the Red Sox should go with Ciriaco. Punto is a long time veteran, but hasn’t done anything for Boston this year. He is only batting .212 and has not produced when he is in the game. Ciriaco is much faster than him, and can play the positions that Punto does. It is only a small sample size, but if Ciriaco keeps playing like he is, the Sox would be foolish to get rid of him.
Currently, Pawtucket has three players that Red Sox fans should be watching very closely. These players are OF Ryan Kalish, SS Jose Iglesias, and P Daniel Bard. Kalish, who has already made a brief stint in Boston this year, is coming off of shoulder surgery that sidelined him most of last year. Kalish has been ranked as high as the Red Sox number one prospect, but his injuries have lowered that ranking. He did not do well while in Boston, batting only .217, but has hit well for Pawtucket. In 11 games, he is batting .356 with 4 HR, 11 RBI, and 4 SB. This is what the Red Sox are looking for and are expecting from Kalish. Remember, it wasn’t long ago that they projected him to be the right fielder of the future. He has been compared to Trot Nixon, and if that is who he can play like on a consistent basis, the Red Sox will be very happy with that.
Jose Iglesias has been hitting the ball much better than he did last year. The Gold Glove caliber shortstop is only batting .258, but that is a little deceiving. His average shot down after coming off a back injury, but he has picked it up lately. In 9 July games, he is hitting at .281, though he only has 1 RBI and 1 walk. There is no doubt he is still a work in progress, but there is no need to rush the 22 year old to major league action yet. He is showing slow but sure progress. He needs to work on getting more extra base hits, as only 5 of 55 hits this year have gone for two or more bases. He could also learn to draw a few more walks, as plate discipline is something he will need once he makes it to the majors.
The disappointing year for Daniel Bard is continuing. His demotion from Boston has not helped him at all. His move to the bullpen has not helped him at all. Nothing is working for him at all; it’s as simple as that. The biggest problem for Bard has been his command. In 15.1 innings, he’s walked 12 batters. That won’t get the job done at any level. His other dismal Pawtucket numbers are an ERA of 8.22 with 14 hits and 14 earned runs allowed. The one positive for Bard is his strikeout rate is still high, as he has punched out 17 for the PawSox. I hope that Bard hasn’t developed “Joba Syndrome.” This is not a real term, but what it means is I hope Brad will not become like Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain. Joba was an excellent relief pitcher for the Yankees as many Red Sox fans remember. He was so good, the Yankees wanted to make him a starter. It didn’t really work out well, and he went back to the bullpen. Again they tried, and again they failed to make him a starter. Now, Joba has become just an average pitcher because the Yankees messed with him too many times. It is still too early to say that Bard can’t become what he once was, but it would be nice to see some signs of life soon.
Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford is continuing his rehab from a sprained UCL and groin injury with the PawSox. Crawford has played in two games for Pawtucket, going 2-7 with 2 singles, 1 RBI and a stolen base thus far. In his first game, Crawford looked a little tentative running the bases, but these feelings have seemed to pass after his second game where he stole a base. This could be the organization telling him to take it easy. He is scheduled to be activated on Monday, but I am still fearful of his health. In interviews, Crawford has admitted that his elbow is not fully healed and when “it goes it goes.” These are not encouraging words to hear, as if his UCL does tear, he will need Tommy John surgery to repair it. Crawford has also admitted that he feels the pressure of his big contract to get back onto the field. His desire to play and produce for the team is nice to hear, but there is difference between playing hurt and playing injured. We can hope for the best, but he could do more harm than good for the team by playing.