Red Sox Minor League Roundup: PawSox triumph punctuated by a prospect’s re-emergence
|09.14.12 at 10:05 am ET|
It was a landmark moment for the PawSox.
For the first time in 28 years, the Red Sox‘ Triple-A affiliate claimed a Governor’s Cup title. The team’s 4-1 victory in Charlotte over the Knights (the Triple-A affiliate of the White Sox) brought an International League title to Pawtucket.
The roster that accomplished that wasn’t a glamorous, star-studded one. The top Red Sox prospects who had spent most of this year in Triple-A — players like Ryan Lavarnway, Jose Iglesias, Mauro Gomez, Pedro Ciriaco and Chris Carpenter — had already been summoned to reinforce a short-on-bodies Red Sox big league team. And so, it was an unheralded roster that reshaped on the fly that claimed the title, with a pitcher like Nelson Figueroa — a 38-year-old who was released by the Yankees this summer — serving as an apt embodiment of the makeshift titlists. Figueroa was the starter in three clinching games this year, having won when the PawSox clinched their postseason berth, allowing one run in eight innings in the first-round playoff series clincher against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and then permitting one run in six innings in Thursday’s championship clincher.
But that doesn’t mean that the team was without prospects, both homegrown and reclaimed from obscurity.
In that vein, one of the most interesting members of the PawSox was the one on the mound for the final out of the championship. Right-hander Josh Fields was on the mound in the bottom of the ninth, working around a two-out hit batter to work a scoreless ninth that included a strikeout. The save punctuated a dominant run by the 27-year-old right-hander.
Fields did not allow a hit while striking out three in two innings in the Governor’s Cup Finals. In 15 2/3 innings (spanning 12 appearances) since his August promotion from Double-A Portland to Pawtucket, Fields did not allow a single run. Opponents hit .154 against him in Triple-A; he struck out 22 and walked just three in 15 2/3 innings with the PawSox.
This season has been a fascinating one for a pitcher who was a 2008 Mariners first-rounder out of the University of Georgia. Fields’ development was rushed. Though it took him almost a full year to sign, Seattle sent him straight to Double-A to start his pro career in 2009. He showed swing-and-miss stuff but his lack of command prevented him from taking the fast track to the major leagues that the Mariners anticipated when they drafted him. From 2009-11, he struck out 128 batters in 118 1/3 innings, but he also walked 82.
That made him expendable when Seattle included him as almost an afterthought in the trade that sent Erik Bedard to the Red Sox in 2011 in a three-team deal that saw that Sox deal away four minor leaguers (Stephen Fife, Tim Federowicz, Chih-Hsieh Chiang and Juan Rodriguez). But this year, first in Portland and then Pawtucket, Fields broke through. Overall, in 60 1/3 innings in Double-A and Triple-A (both the regular season and postseason), he had 81 punchouts and 19 walks with a 1.94 ERA.
Though he did not enter the year as a prospect, he became one over the course of the year. And now, Fields is likely to be added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster this winter in order to ensure that he is not plucked by another team in the Rule 5 draft.
“This guy’s a legit prospect now. He’s back to where he was,” said one major league talent evaluator. “It’s a pretty unusual development path. He signed almost a year after the draft. They sent him to Double-A. They wanted him to be in the big leagues but he couldn’t ever get there because he couldn’t command his fastball. They never really said we messed up by sending you to Double-A. They never sent him back and started over. They just kept him in Double-A and let him get beat up.
“He’s traded, and maybe a change of scenery gave him some confidence, and all of a sudden, this guy is throwing 95, his curveball is close to where it was when he was at Georgia. He’s pretty legitimate. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t taken in the Rule 5 draft if he’s not protected.”
A few other performances of note from the championship triumph of manager Arnie Beyeler‘s PawSox, who will play the Pacific Coast League champion in the Triple-A championship game on Tuesday in Durham, NC:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 WIN AT CHARLOTTE (WHITE SOX), CLINCH BEST-OF-FIVE GOVERNOR’S CUP FINALS, 3-0
– Outfielder Juan Carlos Linares went 1-for-4 with an RBI single and also kept Charlotte off the board in the first by gunning down a runner at the plate (trying to score from second on a single) to end the inning. Linares ranked as perhaps the most consistently productive member of the PawSox in the International League playoffs, going 8-for-24 with a .333/.429/.667/1.095 line that included a team-high six runs batted in. The outfield assist was the 12th of the year for Linares, who led the organization in that stat.
– Mike Rivera had a pair of hits and drove in a run. The catcher made the most of his two playoff games, going 4-for-7 with a homer while driving in two.
– Jeremy Hazelbaker had an RBI triple, his first extra-base hit of the postseason. It was a reprieve for the toolsy outfielder, who has largely struggled in his transition to Triple-A, having punched out 16 times without a walk in 53 plate appearances at that level.
– Bryce Brentz‘s dominant run through the International League playoffs had an anticlimactic conclusion, as he went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts on Thursday. Still, in seven postseason games, he has a .333/.385/.792/1.176 line that included six extra-base hits (three doubles, a triple and two homers). He also offered a considerable feat of strength in being able to hoist the bulky Governor’s Cup trophy.
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