Brandon Magee, SoSH’s resident expert on the Red Sox minor league system, is back with an exhaustive summary of the action down on the farm for the last week. In this article, Brandon will walk you through the ups and downs of all of the Sox minor league affiliates, paying special attention to a challenging tilt for the Class High-A Salem Red Sox.
April 30: LewisGale Field, Salem, Virginia
Baseball is unpredictable. It can move one’s emotions from joyous to pensive in mere moments. From elation to frustration with one swing of the bat. The fans on this day were subjected to the full range of emotion that baseball can give.
The Class High-A Salem Red Sox were facing the Frederick Keys in Carolina League action, and the offense started out quickly in the bottom of the first against Keys starter Matt Taylor. Manuel Margot led off with an infield single to third and Cole Sturgeon followed with a walk. After a fly out, Margot and Sturgeon executed a double steal. Keys catcher Steel Russell threw the ball into the outfield, allowing Margot to score and Sturgeon to advance to third. Sturgeon would ultimately score on a Jake Romanski sacrifice fly. Aneury Tavarez followed with an infield single, then quickly stole second, Salem’s third stolen base of the inning. Wendell Rijo and Jordan Betts followed with walks, but a Franklin Guzman fly out left the bases loaded.
Frederick got one run back in the top of the second against Red Sox starter Teddy Stankiewicz, but the offense started back up quickly in the bottom of the inning. Jose Vinicio doubled to start the inning. He then continued the assault on the Frederick battery by stealing third base. A walk by Margot, a single by Sturgeon and a sacrifice fly by Sam Travis plated two more for Salem. Sturgeon stole his second base of the evening and then advanced to third on a balk. A line out and a ground out ended the half inning, leaving Sturgeon on third.
Wendell Rijo started the bottom of the third inning with a double and immediately stole third base – the sixth stolen base of the day and the third swipe of third for the Red Sox. Jordan Betts followed and changed the tone of the game in one swing, a liner right back at pitcher Matt Taylor which could not be avoided, hitting him in the head. Rijo scored, Betts went to first and the game was stopped.
Injuries are a part of baseball. Hamstrings get tweaked, backs get stiff, on occasion bones get broken. Head injuries are different. Ligaments and bones can be repaired, but the brain is more delicate. Luckily, Taylor never lost consciousness, but a twenty minute delay followed as an ambulance crew came on to the field to attend to him. He was treated and released from the LewisGale Medical Center with a concussion. Before the night was over, Taylor tweeted that his CT Scan came back clean and that he was okay.
Despite the injury, the game had to continue. Dylan Rheault came in to pitch for the Keys and got a strikeout and a force out. Like Taylor, he also had trouble with the running attack of the Salem Red Sox. An attempted pick off of Jose Vinicio went awry and Vinicio went to third. A lineout ended the inning, the third consecutive inning that the Sox left a runner at third base.
In the bottom of the fourth, Romanski continued the on-base hijinks, stealing second base with two outs. But, on a walk to Tavarez, the Keys finally succeeded in subduing the running attack, as Romanski was caught attempting to steal third base.
In the top of the sixth inning, fortunes changed for the Red Sox. Through 5 ⅔ innings, Teddy Stankiewicz had allowed a single run on four singles and a double. With a runner on first base, Stankiewicz hit Tucker Nathan with a pitch. He followed that up with two consecutive walks. With the score now 5-2, the abused Keys catcher came up to bat. One swing of the bat by Steel Russell tied the game up with a ground ball double down the left field line.
Salem continued to taunt the Keys with their running ways in the bottom of the sixth. Margot walked and was sacrificed to second by Sturgeon. Rheault attempted another pick off and committed another error. Margot went to third and an error by centerfielder Gregory Lorenzo plated the go-ahead run. A double by Sam Travis and a Romanski single put the Red Sox back up by two runs. A home run by Franklin Guzman in the bottom of the seventh put Salem up 8-5, but the Keys responded by scoring a run of their own in the top of the eighth.
Cole Sturgeon flashed his speed once more in the bottom of the eighth, reaching first on an error by second baseman Jeff Kemp and then stealing his third – and the team’s eighth – base of the day. He would be stranded at second as the inning ended on a fly out.
Taylor Grover, who had replaced Stankiewicz in the sixth inning, started off the ninth inning by allowing a walk and a single. He was replaced by Austin Maddox who induced a grounder to second which was muffed by Wendell Rijo. Back-to-back sacrifice flies tied the game and a double put the Keys ahead for the first time. The Salem Red Sox would have one more chance to win.
Frederick made one key move before the bottom of the ninth began – a defensive change. Austin Wynns replaced Steel Russell as the backstop. The move may have been kismet. For the only time in the game, the Salem Red Sox were retired in order. Despite eleven hits, seven walks, eight steals and five opposition errors, the Red Sox lost 9-8.
Minor League Roundup
Overall team records are shown as of the end of play on Tuesday, May 5th. This week’s record is from Wednesday, April 29th through Tuesday, May 5th
Pawtucket Red Sox (Overall: 16-10 Week: 3-3)
The Pawsox had an up and down week – alternating wins and losses to end up even for the week. The offense struggled, scoring more than four runs only once.
Rusney Castillo returned to the Red Sox lineup on the 29th, going hitless in his first three games back. He picked up two hits on Tuesday to get off the schneid.
Heath Hembree continued his scoreless streak in AAA, pitching two perfect innings this week. For the season, Hembree is unscored upon in ten innings for Pawtucket, allowing only three hits and a pair of walks.
Brian Johnson had allowed only three total runs in his first five games of the season. On Sunday, Johnson allowed seven runs in 2 ⅔ innings. His ERA ballooned from 0.86 to 3.42.
The Red Sox continue their trip through Ohio with a visit to the Columbus Clippers for three games before coming back home to McCoy Stadium for a three-game series with the Indianapolis Indians.
Portland Sea Dogs (Overall: 10-15 Week: 3-3)
The pitching was excellent this week, allowing three runs or fewer in four of the six games. The offense, on the other hand, wasn’t as brilliant, scoring four runs or fewer in five of the six games played. Oddly, the only game in which they scored more runs was a 6-5 loss to the Reading Phillies.
On May 2nd, Justin Haley left after only one out due to an undisclosed injury which landed him on the disabled list. Simon Mercedes picked him up with 4 ⅔ innings of 3-hit relief and was followed by Jonathan Aro who pitched 4 perfect innings to end the game.
Dayan Diaz has been nearly unhittable in his eight relief appearances. In 13 ⅔ innings, Diaz has allowed six hits, one walk and a single earned run. He has struck out 13. He leads the team with a 0.66 ERA and a 0.51 WHIP.
Portland returns home to Hadlock Field to face the New Britain Rock Cats and the Trenton Thunder, both for three game series.
Salem Red Sox (Overall: 13-11 Week: 4-3)
Sam Travis was named the Carolina League Player of the week ending on May 3rd. During his eight game hitting streak from April 26th through May 4th, Travis batted .516/.529/.710 with four doubles and a triple. The streak ended with an 0/4 on Tuesday.
Kevin McAvoy had his fourth start on Friday, and he allowed exactly one run for the fourth time. Kevin has allowed only thirteen hits over 21 ⅔ innings… but has been a wee bit wild, walking fifteen.
Manual Margot stole four bases this week, putting him at eleven for the season, fourth most in the Carolina League. As a team, Salem is second in the league with 34 stolen bases.
Salem produced their first sweep of the season, defeating Potomac four times over the weekend.
Salem returns home to LewisGale Field for a five game series against the Carolina Mudcats followed by three games against the Winston-Salem Dash.
Greenville Drive (Overall: 15-10 Week: 4-2)
The offense heated up during the week, scoring five or more runs in five of the six games.
Rafael Devers filled up the stat line on Sunday, going 5/6 with a pair of doubles and a pair of home runs. For the week, the 18-year old batted .480/.480/.800 with four multi-hit games. Overall, the third baseman has had 9 multi-hit games.
Javier Guerra has had a hit in ten of the past eleven games. The 19-year old has batted .366/.409/.585 over that time period. On the same day Devers went 5/6, Guerra went 3 for 4 with a pair of walks.
Kuehl McEachern has been fantastic out of the bullpen. In his eight appearances this year, he has allowed a single run. After his three innings of scoreless work this week, McEachern’s ERA is a cool 0.59.
The Drive will finish up a three game home series against the Savannah Sand Gnats before beginning a four game series against the Hagerstown Suns on Saturday.