Brandon Magee, SoSH’s resident expert on the Red Sox minor league system, recaps the past week down on the farm in his weekly minor league report. This week he also takes a look at a longtime Red Sox farmhand who has yet to get a call to the majors.
For many fans of major league baseball, the minor leagues are simply a place for the next generation of major league players to progress and grow. However, with each team having over 200 prospects in the minor league system, the vast majority will never sniff a major league call-up. These players, however, play an integral role in providing stability to the constantly changing rosters of a minor league team:
Matt Spring, catcher/first baseman for the Pawtucket Red Sox, provides a perfect example. Spring, originally drafted by Tampa Bay in 2004, has spent a dozen seasons in the minor leagues without garnering a call to the majors. Now in his fifth season with the Red Sox, Spring has perfected a role as the backup’s backup catcher, spending time on the team’s DL until an injury or promotion gives him some time on the roster. Yet when he plays, he produces, garnering 39 HRs and 53 doubles in 211 games played with the Red Sox organization.
But his main benefit has been as a mentor. Chad Epperson, catching coordinator for the Red Sox, said:
[Spring] just gets it. He has a passion second to none. He understands the role that he is in. He loves coming to the field and putting on the uniform. You combine those things with the experience and watching his teammates, being able to watch the work ethic that he does, this guy is always working.” Spring explains his role: “If they have questions, I’m there to help them out any way that I can. When our catching coordinator is not there, I try to help them any way that I can and try to instill whatever knowledge I can in them. All of those guys are really good players and they have a lot of talent. It’s just a matter of helping them a little bit here and there with something that they maybe would not have gotten at that level.
As one goes further down the minor league ladder, it becomes increasingly difficult to figure out who the Matt Springs are. Tim Roberson is one answer, although he would likely dispute the comparison; after all, he is the youngest of three catchers on the Portland Sea Dogs. However, in his first three seasons, Roberson only played in 109 total games. While he exceeded that number last year alone with 111 games played between Salem and Greenville, he has returned to a backup role this season, having played in only seven of Portland’s first 33 games.
Jayson Hernandez (2010 – 2014) was the king of the phantom DL. In his five minor league seasons with the Red Sox, he appeared in only a total of 159 games (just about 32 per season). However, Jayson appeared in games for every stateside minor league baseball team in the Red Sox organization. Jayson was released in early January and has yet to sign with another organization. He batted .237/.301/.303 for his Red Sox career.
Why do these players go through all this? Besides the obvious – that they love playing the game – one never knows who will become the next Guilder Rodriguez, an infielder who played in nearly 1,100 minor league games prior to playing his first major league game. He is currently playing for the Round Rock Express in the Rangers organization. These players may know the odds are against them, but until they retire, the chance is still there.
Minor League Roundup
Overall team records are shown as of the end of play on Wednesday, May 13th. This week’s record is from Wednesday, May 6th through Wednesday, May 13th.
Pawtucket Red Sox (Overall: 20-14 Week: 4-4)
Pawtucket continued their up-and-down ways from the previous week. After completing a sweep of Toledo, the PawSox were swept by Columbus before taking 2 of 3 against the Indianapolis Indians.
The PawSox were shut out twice during the week, bringing the total number of shutouts against them this season to four:
Henry Owens retired the first eight batters he faced on Sunday in Columbus before allowing a walk. A fly out ended the third inning, and three more retired the Clippers in the fourth inning (sandwiched between two additional walks). However, Owens could not retire a batter in the fifth. Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases. A third walk caused the first run to score and Owens’s day to end. Noe Ramirez allowed two of the three inherited runners to score. Owens’s line: 4 IP, 0 H, 3 R/ER. 6 BB, 1 HBP, 3 K.
Dayan Diaz made his AAA debut on Tuesday, pitching 2 ⅓ scoreless innings against Indianapolis. In 18 innings in relief this season, Diaz has allowed two runs on nine hits and four walks while striking out 20.
Pawtucket continues their homestand over the weekend against the Columbus Clippers before heading out to Indiana for another three game series against the Indianapolis Indians.
Portland Sea Dogs (Overall: 12-21 Week: 2-6)
The Sea Dogs frustrating week included two games lost in the 9th: a walk-off loss against the Binghamton Mets, and a 9-8 loss against the Trenton Thunder when reliever Madison Younginer allowed four runs in the final two frames.
Former major leaguer Yohan Flande stymied Portland on Saturday, pitching a complete game shutout on 98 pitches, facing one batter over the minimum. Flande is 5-0 with a 1.36 ERA as he awaits a promotion. Flande, 29, had not pitched in AA since 2010:
Oscar Tejeda, back with the Red Sox organization after a couple of frustrating seasons in the Pittsburgh and Washington systems, has been racking up the hits for Portland. In his eighth multi-hit game in his last twelve appearances on Wednesday, Tejeda went 4-6 with three doubles. In his 21 games for Portland this season, Tejeda is batting .333/.352/.471.
The Sea Dogs head out on a short road trip to face the New Britain Rock Cats before returning to Hadlock Field for a three game set against the Altoona Curve.
Salem Red Sox (Overall: 17-17 Week: 4-6)
The Salem Red Sox’ extra long week included a pair of doubleheaders, both resulting in a split. Salem has now played four doubleheaders this season, sweeping one while splitting the other three.
Salem went eleven consecutive games without scoring more than five runs until they scored six in the bottom of the second against the Winston-Salem Dash on Wednesday:
Daniel McGrath continued his hot pitching on Tuesday, going six innings while allowing a run on two hits and two walks and striking out nine. Daniel was in line for the win before the bullpen allowed six runs in the final three innings. After a poor first start, McGrath has gone 26 ⅔ innings in his next five, allowing 5 runs (3 earned) on 10 hits while striking out 28. His ERA has been lowered from 8.10 to 1.80 while his WHIP has been reduced from 2.10 to 1.00 in the past month.
Ty Buttrey has enjoyed his brief stay in Salem. In his first three starts after his promotion from Greenville, Buttrey took home the win. He was dominant in his start last Friday, going seven innings while giving up only three hits and striking out six. In his other two starts, Buttrey has shown a wild side, allowing eleven walks in ten innings.
Salem continues a six game home-and home-series against the Dash, heading two hours down the road to Winston-Salem for three games this weekend. The Red Sox then return home to LewisGale Field for a three game set against the Lynchburg Hillcats.
Greenville Drive (Overall: 17-15 Week: 2-5)
The Drive skidded through a five game losing streak to begin the week before salvaging a pair of wins on Monday and Tuesday.
Jamie Callahan put up the worst start of the Red Sox organization’s season last Friday, registering only a single out against the Hagerstown Suns. Callahan allowed five singles, two doubles and a walk after getting the first batter to ground out. Carlos Pinales could not stem the bleeding immediately, allowing a pair of singles before before inducing a double play to end the inning. Ten consecutive Suns reached base, eight of them scoring (all charged to Callahan). Callahan is now 3-16 in 31 starts over his two seasons with the Drive:
In the same game, centerfield Joseph Monge had a pair of outfield assists, gunning down a runner at 3rd base and another at home plate. Leftfielder Mike Meyers also had an assist, getting a runner at 2nd base.
After pitching 5 ⅓ innings in relief last Thursday, Reed Reilly picked up his second start of the season on Tuesday. Reilly pitched six shutout innings, giving up 2 hits and a walk. On the season, Reilly is now 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP.
Ben Moore has had a nice start to his professional career. Moore went 3-4 with a double on Tuesday, his fourth three-hit game of the season. The Drive’s catcher has had hits in eight of his last nine appearances and has seven multi-hit games in seventeen games played. Moore is batting .304/.355/.435 with seven doubles.
The Drive head across the state this weekend to face the Charleston RiverDogs before heading back to Fluor Field to face the Lexington Legends for a three game set beginning on Monday.