Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Tag: pawtucket red sox

Beginning of the Sam Travis Experiment

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For the past few years, one interesting minor league name kept getting thrown around in conversation: 1B Sam Travis. He started off last season at AAA Pawtucket looking like an absolute beast, hitting .272 with 6 HRs, 10 doubles, and 29 RBIs in just 47 games. The spotlight was turning to him and his MLB debut was getting closer with each passing game. Then, almost exactly a year ago, Travis was chasing down a runner at first base and came up in pain. It was the worst case scenario for the young prospect: a torn ACL.

“Obviously, it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, but you know, that’s life. Things happen. You can’t sit back and feel sorry for yourself. You’ve just gotta keep grinding day by day, and I’m ready to go.” Sam Travis on his ACL injury

That injury obviously ended his 2016 season and began a long road to recovery. Rebounding from a torn ACL is not a sure thing and losing a year of development in the minor leagues is difficult to overcome, but Travis was committed. He worked his tail off during the offseason, rehabbing away from the team, and he came into spring training looking strong. He was committed to regaining his spot at the top of the Red Sox prospect list and it didn’t take long to get there.

After an early slow start to the AAA season in the batters box, which is not uncommon after 10-months away from baseball, Travis returned to form. In 33 games, Travis hit .286 with 4 HRs, 14 RBIs, 13 BBs, and 2 stolen bases. The last number tells me a lot about his recovery. He has some speed to pick up steals, but after knee surgery, that’s often a place where players are either afraid to test the knee, or lose some quickness. So far, Travis looks like he is fully recovered and ready to make an impact on the big leagues.

“Hard-nosed player. A grinder type, a blue-collar player. The way he went through drill work the first couple of days, there’s no evidence of the ACL surgery that he had. He feels great. The work he put in on the rehab is certainly paying off.” Red Sox manager John Farrell during Spring Training

Finally, a year later than many expected, Sam Travis made his MLB debut for the Red Sox on May 24th and he did not disappoint. In 4 at-bats, Travis collected 2 hits, including an infield single for his first career hit, and scored his first run. His defense at first was fine, not great, but that’s Travis in a nutshell. Offensively he has the potential to be a very potent bat, but defensively he’s a work in progress and the Red Sox are comfortable with that.

I’ve been a big fan of Travis since hearing about him in 2014. He’s a tough, hard-working player who will give you 100% effort each and every play (remind you of anyone?). His mental make-up is perfect for this team, not to mention he has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order power bat from the right side of the plate. If his defense can improve and he keeps swinging the bat, he’s your first baseman full-time in 2018 (maybe even later in 2017). Travis is just another key prospect that has the potential to become a core member of the MLB roster going forward. The future is bright.

New D’Backs Manager Torey Lovullo

Jim Davis/Boston Globe

The news at the end of last week that Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo was headed to the Diamondbacks to be their manager was not surprising. When Mike Hazen left to become the GM of the D’Backs a few weeks back, much of the speculation was around Lovullo joining him. It’s a great opportunity for Lovullo to get a sniff at managing for a franchise that is rebuilding and get a chance to prove that the short sample at the helm of the Red Sox was not a fluke. Despite being happy for Lovullo, his departure leaves a hole in the Red Sox dugout.

Lovullo has long ties with the Red Sox organization. He was the Pawtucket Red Sox manager in 2010 and took them to a 68-78 record. Despite the record, he was considered to be a candidate for some type of MLB coaching job. When John Farrell left the Red Sox for the Toronto Blue Jays managerial job, he took Lovullo with him to be his 1st base coach. After 2 seasons in that position, Farrell was released from his contract in Toronto at the push of the Red Sox and he became the Red Sox manager. Farrell brought Lovullo over as his bench coach and he has been in that position since 2013.

The most talked about story is in 2015 was when Lovullo took over for Farrell when he underwent treatments for lymphoma. He took a bad team and finished the season on a 28-20 stretch, creating a buzz around his future as a manager. He decided to stay on as bench coach for another year when Farrell returned and frankly was a back-up plan in case things when south. Since things did not go south (at least not aggressively enough), Farrell kept his job and it was only a matter of time until Lovullo either got the Red Sox managerial job, or would leave for one. Now is that time. If it wasn’t the D’Backs, it’s likely another team would have come calling.

Lovullo is a calm and intelligent presence in the clubhouse and according to many reports has a great relationship with the players. Turn on almost any Red Sox broadcast in 2016 and you will see Mookie Betts in Lovullo’s ear asking him about anything and everything. Lovullo was always in the ears of younger players and I credit him, at least partially, for some of the success that the young core had in 2016. Although Lovullo leaving isn’t going to have a significant impact on the field, it will have at least some impact in the dugout. How much? We’ll find out next year.

Benintendi Fever Reaches the Big Leagues

Joel Page/Portland Press Herald

Joel Page/Portland Press Herald

Less than a day after being the subject of many trade talks, Red Sox top prospect Andrew Benintendi is making the big jump from AA Portland to the majors, skipping AAA Pawtucket. The Red Sox hope he will provide some stability in left field once he gets comfortable, which if his short history is any indicator, should take about 2-3 weeks. Is Benintendi ready for the big time? It certainly feels that way.

He began the season as a 21-year old in advanced A Salem and in 34 games, hit .341 and drove in 32 runs while playing a strong outfield defense. After such success in A, Benintendi made the toughest jump in the minor leagues from A to AA. In his 63 games at AA Portland he hit .295 with 8 HRs and drove in 44 runs. He had 70 hits over that span and has continued to be an above average defender, spending time in left field in anticipation of this move. It did take him a few weeks to adjust to AA pitching, but after the adjustment, he has been crushing it.

Benintendi likely won’t play until Wednesday against the Seattle Mariners, but the lefty will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself, because honestly, why else would you call him up? He’s not going to play once a week, he should get at least a split of the left field playing time, if not majority, and perhaps get a start in center or right to spell Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts as well. He still has plenty of developing to do, but now he can do it alongside 2 other young superstars in the making. I know it’s jumping ahead, but how unbelievable could the Red Sox outfield be if Benintendi lives up to expectations? Maybe the best ever.

An interesting point of trivia: The last player to make the jump to the major leagues by skipping AAA…Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bryce Brentz Gets His Shot

Photo by Louriann Mardo-Zayat

Photo by Louriann Mardo-Zayat

When Chris Young grabbed for his leg when rounding 1st base on Thursday, everyone’s heart sank. It is the quintessential sign of a pulled hamstring and leaves the Red Sox very thin on big-league ready outfielders. Young went on the DL immediately following the game and the Red Sox called-up Pawtucket Red Sox outfielder Bryce Brentz to take his place.

Brentz has seen some limited time in the majors, appearing in 9 games in 2014. This year, he began the season with the AA Portland Sea Dogs and then moved up to Pawtucket. He has a .278 average with 3 HRs and 17 RBI in 38 games with the Paw Sox, including 14 doubles. He has struck out 33 times and certainly hasn’t looked amazing, but he now has a chance to prove himself at the major league level.

Brentz is starting in left for the Red Sox on Friday night in Texas against RHP Nick Martinez and will likely have many opportunities to play over the next few weeks depending on the recovery of Brock Holt and Blake Swihart. For his sake, and the Red Sox organization’s sake, I hope he has a nice stint on the major league roster.

Brockstar Still Struggling

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

Things have been slowly progressing in the right direction for Brock Holt as he attempts to move past a concussion he suffered on May 9th. He began a rehab stint at Pawtucket this week and went 3-6 with 2 extra base hits and a walk while playing in back-to-back games. While there is improvement, Holt admitted before Wednesday’s game that he is still feeling symptoms from the concussion.

It is a good sign that Brockstar can play through these symptoms (and contribute), but the fact the symptoms are still there is concerning. By this point in his recovery, 6 weeks after the concussion occurred, one would hope for very few or no symptoms and a return to all activity. Here in lies the scary truth of concussions: every person and every case is different.

For Boston sports fans, we have seen some major concussions; none worse than Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins which ended his career and severely impacted his life forever. While Holt’s concussion recovery has appeared to be much better than Savard’s, I hope for his own sake the symptoms fully go away and he is feeling back to normal very soon.

What Went Wrong? The Rusney Castillo Story

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

On August 23rd, 2014 the Red Sox signed Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo to a 7 year and $72.5 million contract. It was the largest contract ever given to a Cuban player at that time. The Sox were trying to capitalize on the handful of other Cuban sluggers who had been signed to big-league contracts and have made a major-league impact (Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, and Jose Abreu). Even at the time however, the circumstances around the signing seemed a bit odd and risky.

When the signing happened, Castillo hadn’t played a game of professional baseball in Cuba since 2012. He attempted to escape from Cuba in 2012 and was then consequently suspended for the entire 2013 season. He was always touted as a speedy center-fielder with potential, but teams really only had a workout in Florida in July of 2014 to see his current ability. Other tape was from 2 years prior or earlier, which makes it difficult to scout a player. Maybe it is just me looking back in hindsight, but investing $72.5 million in a prospect who has not played organized baseball in years was an extreme risk.

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Hey Hey Hey, Gooodddbyyyyeeeee

This is the face of a guy about to board a bus back to Pawtucket. A stat line of 4IP, 7 hits, 7 earned runs and 3 BB is not exactly what the Red Sox were looking for tonight from Roenis Elias. Let’s all say it together… Clay Buchholz is the best available option left…

Wanted: Starting Pitcher for Friday

The Red Sox are coming off a rare stretch during the long MLB season of just 5 games in 8 days. This light span allowed John Farrell to continue his 4-man rotation and not think about who should be their 5th starter going forward. With 16 straight games beginning today and no off-day until June 30, the Red Sox are forced into determining who should join the rotation going forward. Based on John Farrell’s comments on Sunday, I think he is approaching this situation all wrong.

“One of the things that we’ll factor in is we would look to match up as best as possible,” Farrell said. “On one series, is it a left-hander? The other series is it a right-hander? And we’ve got the flexibility to do that.”

It is a mistake to treat the 5th starter role with flexibility and base decisions on certain match-ups and here’s why…

Two of the names likely being considered for the call-up are Roenis Elias and Henry Owens. Elias has looked strong as of late, allowing 2 or fewer earned runs in 4 of his last 5 starts. In those 4 starts, he pitched at least 7 innings, including a complete game effort on June 5. He deserves a serious look. Owens has struggled a bit this year, but seems to be improving despite only completing more than 6 innings once in 10 starts with Pawtucket this year. 

By bringing up Elias or Owens for one start and then sending him back down, you aren’t allowing him to settle in to the routine and get comfortable with the team. There is immense pressure on that 1 outing, with the knowledge that they are likely done in the majors when they walk off the mound regardless of performance. The revolving door is a mistake. Bring up one of these guys and give them 3 or 4 consecutive starts to prove their worth. Let them settle into the team, the routine, the travel and give them a chance to spend time between starts with Carl Willis and the MLB staff. If you really want to develop these young players, give them a fair chance at proving their worth.  

The other option for the 5th starter role is Clay Buchholz. All I will say is no. He is terrible and should be back down in the minors, not in the bullpen. If Farrell choose Buchholz to start, he deserves to lose his job immediately.

My hope is that we see Roenis Elias for an extended period of time. He has proven his worth in AAA, has big league experience and has earned the right to prove himself with the Red Sox. In reality, I think Farrell is going to use guys as spot starters and miss a great opportunity.