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Learning to win: Why PawSox playoff run matters for player development 09.07.13 at 8:52 am ET
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The Red Sox kept Jackie Bradley Jr. in Pawtucket for the playoffs rather than calling him up on Sept. 1. (AP)

The Red Sox kept Jackie Bradley Jr. in Pawtucket for the playoffs rather than calling him up on Sept. 1. (AP)

Even though Jacoby Ellsbury is dealing with a hand injury and the rosters have expanded to 40 players, Jackie Bradley Jr. remains in Pawtucket– as do Allen Webster, Brock Holt and pitchers like Brayan Villarreal and Pedro Beato, both of whom have contributed at the big league level this season.

For the third straight year, the Pawtucket Red Sox are in the playoffs, and it’s clear that the Red Sox feel that these players, each of whom could easily fill a spot on the club’s major league roster this month, would benefit from experiencing postseason play in Pawtucket. So it raises the question: why should we care about the Triple-A playoffs?

There’s not necessarily an obvious correlation between the success of high-level minor league teams and the success of the major league team, the players’ performance in that organization’s system, or even the depth of the organization. Sometimes clubs with strong farm systems will have poor records among their minor league teams because of the constant shuffling of rosters and movement of prospects throughout the levels or based on where players are in their maturation process.

But on an individual basis, getting a chance to play in the International or Pacific League playoffs is an important and positive experience. While there’s no way a minor league playoff appearance could compare to the atmosphere of a big-league postseason run, staying on the field into September has many benefits, included the added pressure of do-or-die situations, something that young players may not have experienced, and something that they would experience if they were called up to the majors.

“I think it mimics a regular season game in the majors more than anything, playing in that pressure,” former major league infielder Lou Merloni said. “Sometimes, in minor league games, when you play in front of crowds you’ll go out to win, but [in the postseason] you start to feel a little pressure. You start to get the nerves, and I think it’s the closest those guys will feel to playing in a big league game.”

Arnie Beyeler, who managed the PawSox last season and saw his team win the Governor’s Cup and advance all the way to the Triple-A National Championship, thinks that the playoff experience can really benefit young players.

“It’s great when guys get to win and go into the postseason and get playoff experience at any level,” Beyeler said. “Ultimately, when you get up here to the big leagues, it’s all about winning. So any of those experiences you can get, for guys to play extra or the pressure that you get going down the stretch trying to hold onto a lead, or playing and getting hot and getting to play in the playoffs, that do-or-die, day-to-day thing…you can’t get that experience anywhere else without being there.”

Will Middlebrooks, who was part of the PawSox club in 2011 when they finished first in the International League North division and clinched a playoff berth, thinks that while the postseason experience in the minors can’t duplicate what a playoff chase is like in the big leagues, it’s valuable nonetheless.

“Of course it’s a positive experience, it’s just a chance to play ball after the regular season is over, which is something not a lot of people get to do,” Middlebrooks said. “It doesn’t translate to anything up here [in the majors] as far as playoffs go, though. It’s another level.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Daniel Nava on his base-running blunder: ‘I just stopped thinking’ 07.20.13 at 10:13 pm ET
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Robinsoin Cano applies the tag on Daniel Nava to end the eighth inning. (AP)

Robinsoin Cano applies the tag on Daniel Nava to end the eighth inning. (AP)

Daniel Nava knows better. He knows it. John Farrell knows it and everyone who has watched him play over the course of the last three seasons knows it.

But Saturday was one of those rare moments where a highly unusual play caught him off guard mentally at the very worst time. With one out and the Red Sox down just 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Nava stood at first base when Dustin Pedroia popped a foul behind home plate. Yankee catcher Chris Stewart made a lunging play into the stands and caught the ball.

Nava, who had seconds earlier been reminded by first base coach Arnie Beyeler to stay put with David Ortiz on deck, decided to take off for second on the most unusual of tag plays. Stewart caught the ball then caught himself before firing a one-hop strike to second to nail Nava and end the inning and Boston’s hopes on the day.

“Hindsight, I wouldn’t have done, just based off the situation and based off we had Papi on deck,” Nava said, falling on the proverbial sword. “You see a guy go into the stands, you think you can take the base. That’s a time when even if you can take a base, I shouldn’t have taken the base because it just changes the dynamic of his [Oritz] at-bat and he would’ve still come up. Looking back, I wouldn’t have done it, and he made a good play, and obviously, that exposes it all the more.

“Right before the play happened, I was actually told, ‘don’t go anywhere.’ And then I just stopped thinking when the ball was hit in the air and that’s unfortunate because late in the games, you need to be on top of stuff. That was one of those times that I wasn’t on top of what I need to be on top of, which is just those little things. It happens but it’s unfortunate that it happened then.”

Nava made a point to say that Beyeler was doing his job by reminding him.

The pitch before, he said, ‘you’re not going anywhere, you’re not going anywhere, understand the situation.’ I said, ‘Yeah, totally.’ Then that was a play that doesn’t happen,” Nava said. “I should’ve applied it to that and I just didn’t, and that was my fault.

“Of course, it’s easier [in hindsight] but the coaches were doing their job and letting me know. As soon as the ball was hit and popped up, I turned things off and reacted. He made a good play, no doubt. Good play on the catch, good play on the throw but you have to have a little more awareness than that. It was something to learn from. I would go back and I would change it if I could.”

That was the second base-running boo-boo to end an inning on the day for Nava. He tripped around third base in the bottom of the first trying to score on a two-out Ortiz single to left.

“I don’t know,” Nava said. “I just came around third and didn’t have firm footing that I wanted to and it would’ve still been a closer play but who knows what would’ve happened if that didn’t happen.

“I knew that I was going based on two outs. The play happened right in front of me. I was surprised to see where Vernon was playing, it was right there but you have to send someone in that situation with two outs. He made a good play, a good throw. But unfortunately, it was a rough one for me on the bases but I’ll learn from it. It happens.”

Nava, always a stand-up guy, tried to be as philosophical as possible afterward.

“I think it’s the game of baseball. You play so many games, you have to let them go or else you’re not going to be able to get to the next one. I talked to some of the coaches because I wanted to know what they had to say. I knew pretty much what they would have to say but still you want them to echo thoughts and ideas. You move on because you know were going to get another situation like that and be in another spot like that.”

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A very Yankee look to the Red Sox coaching staff 11.29.12 at 10:24 am ET
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Greg Colbrunn (AP)

In retrospect, the fact that Greg Colbrunn emerged as what Red Sox manager John Farrell referred to as the clear choice for his hitting coach should have come as no surprise. After all, Colbrunn spent the last six years working for the Yankees.

Colbrunn spent 2007-12 on the staff of the Single-A Charleston RiverDogs, New York’s Single-A affiliate, spending all but one of those years (2010, when he was the manager) as a hitting coach. He represents the latest addition to a staff with deep roots in the Yankees’ minor league system.

Pitching coach Juan Nieves got his start in coaching with the Yankees in 1992; he spent five years as a pitching instructor in New York’s minor league system.

Third-base coach Brian Butterfield‘s late father, Jack Butterfield, was a Yankees director of player development. Butterfield got his start in coaching with the Yankees, working as a coach and manager in the minors with them from 1984-1993 before getting promoted to their big league coaching staff under Buck Showalter in 1994.

First-base coach Arnie Beyeler‘s first coaching jobs came with the Yankees from 1997-99 before he joined the Sox in 2000 as the manager of the Lowell Spinners.

Bullpen coach Gary Tuck spent time as both a big league and minor league instructor in three stints with New York between 1989-2004. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox at the All-Star Futures Game 07.08.12 at 6:48 pm ET
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Both PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler and Salem shortstop Xander Bogaerts are representing the Red Sox at the All-Star Futures Game. (WEEI.com)

KANSAS CITY — The Red Sox have a noteworthy contingent at this year’s All-Star Futures Game, a showcase for top talent that is typically close to making a significant impact at the major league level. Recent Red Sox participants in the Futures Game have included Will Middlebrooks (2011), Jacoby Ellsbury (2007), Clay Buchholz (2007) and Hanley Ramirez (2005).

This year, the Red Sox have three members of the organization taking part in the contest:

– Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who is tearing up the Carolina League. On the year, he’s hitting .286/.364/.478/.842 with 12 homers, and he was just named Player of the Month in June for the High-A Carolina League after hitting .337/.433/.624/1.057 with eight homers. Bogaerts is serving as the designated hitter for the World Team in the contest.

Bogaerts is viewed as the toolsiest Red Sox position prospect since Ramirez. For more on his prospect path, including the fascinating story of his signing, click here.

The 19-year-old said that being named to the Futures Game represented a goal of his entering 2012.

“I worked in my offseason really hard thinking on, if I would have been a part of this one this year,” said the native of Aruba. “I’m really happy I achieved my goal.

“It’s a really big accomplishment for me. All the hard work I put into this whole season, all season last year has been showing up for me this year.”

– Right-hander Matt Barnes, who had the best ERA in the minors for most of the year before a recent three-game skid; still, between Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem, the Red Sox’ top pick in the 2011 draft (No. 19 overall) has a 7-2 record and 2.44 ERA along with 101 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 81 innings. Barnes is available out of the bullpen.

– PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler is a coach for the World Team. He’s in his sixth year as a manager in the Red Sox organization, having spent 2007-10 with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs before his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket for the 2011 season. He also managed a remarkable squad in the Arizona Fall League this past offseason that included Will Middlebrooks, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.

We’ll have plenty from all three of them a bit later, but for now, an artfully (cough) rendered photo of Beyeler and Bogaerts by the cage during batting practice will have to suffice.

Also, here’s some video of Bogaerts taking batting practice:

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Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Ryan Lavarnway continues tear; Daniel Bard struggles; Kendrick Perkins likes being Kendrick Perkins 06.21.12 at 9:12 am ET
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Ryan Lavarnway has been among the top hitters in the International League since early May (AP)

A quick synopsis of Wednesday’s minor league action in the Red Sox system:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-5 LOSS (11 INNINGS) AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)

(BOX)

– The weather is warm, and Ryan Lavarnway is now scorching. The catcher went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a walk, and in his last four games, he’s 10-for-16 with three walks, a double and five homers. He’s boosted his line for the year to a .306 average, .397 OBP, .481 slugging mark and .877 OPS. While he hasn’t shown the same consistent power that he did en route to blasting 34 homers a year ago, his average and OBP both represent what would be career bests at any level. In his last 33 games dating to May 6, he’s hitting .349/.432/.577/1.009.

Daniel Bard was summoned to preserve a 4-3 lead with four outs to go for Triple-A Pawtucket against Syracuse. Instead, he suffered his first blown save since being sent to the minors.

Bard entered in the bottom of the eighth with runners on first and second and two outs. He retired the first batter he faced on a pop-out, but then gave up a double (to Chris Marrero, cousin of Red Sox 2012 first-round pick Deven Marrero) and single with a pair of wild pitches en route to a two-run yield over four outs. In addition to uncorking the pair of wild pitches, Bard threw just 11 of 22 pitches for strikes, threw a first-pitch ball to five of the six hitters he faced and got one swing and miss in the outing.

Though the PawSox had scored an insurance run for him after the eighth, Bard’s two-run yield tied the game and ultimately permitted Syracuse to claim a 6-5 walkoff win in 11 innings.

The outing represented something of a reversal, as Bard had delivered four shutout innings with six strikeouts and one walk in his previous two appearances, also out of the bullpen. Overall, he has a 7.36 ERA in five Triple-A games, none longer than two innings, and all but one of which has come from out of the bullpen. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jose Iglesias looking to rebound in second half 07.18.11 at 2:15 am ET
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Jose Iglesias looks to improve upon a weak offensive output in the first half of the season. (AP)

Jose Iglesias is regularly referred to as “the shortstop of the future” for the Red Sox. But the estimated date of his arrival may have shifted.

In only his second professional season since defecting from the Cuban junior national team, Iglesias has struggled at Triple-A Pawtucket. Before suffering a concussion on July 3, Iglesias was hitting .227 with a .275 OBP, .245 slugging mark, .519 OPS, four doubles and 27 RBIs in 248 plate appearances.

No one questions that Iglesias has a stellar glove that can change games. That being the case, it is his offense that will ultimately determine what kind of big league impact the 21-year-old might have in the majors, and when he might be ready to compete at the highest level.

Despite Iglesias’ poor numbers, PawSox hitting coach Chili Davis expects a stronger performance in the second half of the season based on what he saw in the weeks preceding the player’s injury.

Iglesias had just one extra-base hit and five walks in the first two months of the season. In June, Davis suggested, Iglesias showed signs of progress in a month in which he walked five more times while hitting three doubles.

“The difference I saw from the month of May to June and going into this month before he got hurt, was I saw a guy that started trusting his swing more,” Davis said before last Saturday’s game against Buffalo. “He became more confident at the plate. I think he was getting beat a lot in April and early May, getting tied up a lot. He was more of a defensive hitter. I see a kid now who’s ready to become more of an offensive hitter.

“One of the big signs is he’s taking pitches now that he used to swing at. And he’s getting pitches to hit and he’s hitting the ball hard. And he’s not just swinging at the ball, he’s swinging through the ball. He’s trying to hit the ball hard somewhere. So I guess the biggest change I see is just more confidence, more assurance that, you know, he can play here.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Jose Iglesias, Ryan Kalish still day-to-day 07.09.11 at 7:59 pm ET
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Pawtucket Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias suffered a concussion in the eighth inning of a July 3 win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 21-year-old took an Andrew Brackman fastball off the helmet and fell to the dirt immediately. Now, six days removed from his first-ever concussion, Iglesias is still feeling the effects.

“I feel better,” the 21-year-old prospect said before Saturday night’s game against the Buffalo Bisons. “The swelling is going down. I’m still a little dizzy, but I’m feeling better.”

Added Iglesias: “I’m taking it day-by-day. Whenever I feel better, [when] the headaches and dizziness disappear, I hope after the All-Star break I’ll be ready to get back and start practicing. We’ll see.”

Another player the Red Sox have in their plans, outfielder Ryan Kalish, is also day-to-day, according to manager Arnie Beyeler. Kalish suffered a partial tear in the labrum of his left shoulder in April, and although his recovery from that injury went as planned, he developed stiffness in his neck during rehab.

“He has the good days where he’ll do more the next day, do stuff again the next day,” Beyeler said. “Then he has the bad days. We just kind of wait until he has the good day. So we’re still just kind of kicking around day-to-day.”

In 14 games before being put on the shelf, Kalish was hitting .236 with no home runs and seven RBIs. He hopes to return to the major-league level. Last season, he appeared in 53 games for the Red Sox batting .252 with four home runs and 24 RBIs.

Barring another setback Kalish should return to action fairly soon. Iglesias, on the other hand, can’t even pick up a bat until he’s back to 100 percent.

“He’s getting better every day,” Beyeler said. “With these new rules and things that we have with the concussions, you can’t trust guys until they’re asymptomatic and his head still hurts a little bit and he’s got a little dizziness so we’ve just got to wait for that to go away before we can really progress.”

Added Beyeler: “We can’t even test him until he feels OK. We’re just waiting for him to come in one of these days where he doesn’t have any symptoms. Then we can do some things with him and then if he’s OK the next day, then we can test it and then go from there.”

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