Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Playoff spot still in Limbo.

Barring a tragic meltdown on their part, the Sea Dogs will make the EL playoffs this season. The celebration has to wait another day, however, as Portland's magic number to eliminate the New Britain Rock Cats remains at one following a 3-2 loss to Altoona Tuesday night. New Britain's game last night was rained out. The Dogs did edge closer to the division title, however, as the Trenton Thunder were defeated by Norwich, reducing the magic number for the division to three games. Brandon Moss went 4-4 with a home run on the night, and David Pauley had another fine pitching performance wasted. Pauley allowed all three runs in 6+ innings pitched. Portland and Altoona go at it again tonight, weather permitting. Dr. Jekyll makes the start for the Sea Dogs.

In other news, a couple of roster moves were made over the last couple of days. Raul Nievez, who will be playing for Puerto Rico in the World Championship, was put on the inactive list and replaced by Barry Hertzler. Pitching mostly in relief, Hertzler had a 4.21 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 83.1 innings for Wilmington, recording 58 strikeouts vs. 24 walks. Herzler pitched two shutout innings in his Sea Dog debut on Saturday. Also, Charlie Zink was promoted to Pawtucket to make an emergency start (I believe in the place of Abe Alvarez, who went up to Boston for a couple of days). Taking his roster spot (but in reality replacing Nievez) was infielder Zach Borowiak. Borowiak was hitting 254/330/416-11-59 in 114 games for the Blue Rocks.

As for the most anticipated roster move, the callup of Craig Hansen - that hasn't happened as of this writing. According to, he's been shut down with a tired arm. So maybe he won't be promoted after all.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Monday Miscellany

According to the recap of yesterday's game, Anibal Sanchez was experiencing soreness in his forearm and elbow yesterday, and he was removed as a precaution. Manager Todd Claus says he'll be fine, but the Red Sox are likely to be very cautious with him, and it's possible that they will shut him down for the rest of the season. His 128 innings pitched this season are the most in his professional career, and I don't believe that his development would be stalled any if he takes the rest of the year off. This all remains speculation on my part, however.

Also, here's their discussion of the End of Year Awards. There's a useful notes section at the bottom of the article.

Finally, here's a nice article on Raul Nievez, who has now left the Sea Dogs to play for Puerto Rico in the world baseball championship in the Netherlands. Nievez is one of those guys who really grows on you the more that you see him. It doesn't look like he'll ever be much with the bat, in fact his stats have deteriorated somewhat each year that he's been in Portland (this is his third season with the Sea Dogs). However, he makes good contact and draws the occasional walk, he can lay down a bunt and he's a good base runner. His real value is in his versatility, as he can provide a capable glove at pretty much any position on the field, and a solid glove in the middle infield positions. Having an emergency fielder available for every position while using up only one roster spot certainly has its benefits in building a successful ballclub. The more I've seen, I can also tell that Nievez is very good with the public (and the opponents, and visiting mascots, etc.). He seems very personable and welcoming to all the fans. This attribute had him nominated for the Citizen of the Year award (ultimately won by Alberto Concepcion) along with the 10th Player Award that he was deservedly presented yesterday. Nievez is 26 years old and not really a prospect, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Sox let him go in the offseason. Then again, I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the same role again here in Portland, or even Pawtucket. It takes all types to build a minor league roster, and Nievez is a guy who can make fans appreciate that fact.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sea Dogs Annual Awards Announced

The Sea Dogs announced their annual award winners on Sunday. The winners, selected by fan ballot, are:

Citizen of the Year: Catcher Alberto Concepcion. Concepcion apparently made himself available to many community events all season long.

10th Player Award: Raul Nievez. Nievez is a super-utility player who (I believe) played every position but catcher during the season. While not a good hitter, Nievez is a fine glove man and his versatility is quite valuable on the 23-man minor league rosters.

Pitcher of the Year: Jon Lester. There have been lots of terrific pitchers wearing Sea Dogs uniforms this year, but Lester is the most obvious choice. He's been in the rotation all season long, and leads the team in wins and strikeouts, and ERA among those who will finish the year with enough innings to qualify. Lester will finish the season with the Eastern League lead in strikeouts and he's still in contention for the league ERA title.

MVP: David Murphy. There was no one player who stepped up and became the obvious choice for this award (other than Dustin Pedroia, but he's been in Pawtucket for two months now). Murphy is kind of a "by default" choice, but he's still had a very good season, leading the qualifying Sea Dogs in average, OBP, slugging and RBI. He's also shown great range and a terrific arm in defending center field in Hadlock. With his bat coming around in the second half of the season, Murphy is starting to look again like the player the Sox drafted in the first round of the 2003 draft.

I plan to give out my own end-of-season awards at the completion of the regular season next week. It'll be fun to see how they compare. My guess is that Lester will also be my selection for pitcher of the year.

Sea Dogs win Home Finale

The Portland Sea Dogs played their final home game of the regular season on Sunday afternoon and sent the crowd home happy with a 5-2 victory over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. This was the 14th consecutive victory by Portland over New Hampshire, which is a franchise record. The Sea Dogs magic number to win the division is now 5.

Neither starting pitcher lasted long in this one. Portland's Anibal Sanchez pitched effectively, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out five in 3 1/3 innings before leaving with an undisclosed injury. Randy Beam, Conor Brooks and Jim Mann allowed two runs over the final 5.2 IP to lock down the victory. On the other side of the diamond, David Purcey was ineffective for the Fishers. He pitched just two innings and never had command of his stuff, allowing three runs on four hits, four walks, one hit batsman and two wild pitches. Three New Hampshire relievers pitched effectively over the final six innings.

Scorer's Notes:
  • Apparently Slugger the Sea Dog rolled his ATV during his entrance on Saturday night, and we had a "backup" slugger for today. As a result, much of the schtick was missing - no ATV, no YMCA, no chicken dance, and very little cavorting with the children in the ball park. We hope that the primary slugger isn't badly injured.
  • Scott Youngbauer had two more hits for the Sea Dogs. He's posted a .909 OPS since being recalled from Wilmington on July 22, providing a huge spark at the top of the lineup. Hanley Ramirez appears to enjoy batting behind Youngbauer, as he also had another two hit game.
  • Chad Spann collected his first two AA hits, with a fly ball into no man's land down the left field line and an infield single deep to the shortstop hole. Chris Durbin was the fourth Portland batter with two hits in the game.
  • For their part, New Hampshire had three batters put up two-hit games: Ryan Roberts, Ron Davenport (two doubles) and Chip Cannon.
  • The Sea Dogs pulled a rare double steal in the bottom of the fifth, with catcher Alberto Concepcion being the unlikely lead on the play. Spann stole second behind him.
  • While there was little Slugger, a person who appeared to be the Portland High School Bulldogs mascot was seated back in section 303 or so.
  • I scored the game with Nick, but we were joined by Colin, who is my normal Sunday scoring partner. Colin took it easy and enjoyed the game, never feeling the need to ask if he could score an inning or two for old times sake.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Hall of Famers Announced

The Portland Sea Dogs announced their first inductees to their Hall of Fame. Both were members of the initial Sea Dogs team that took the field in 1994: catcher Charles Johnson and Manager Carlos Tosca.

Johnson is an appropriate choice for the initial class. He was the first top prospect to play for Portland, and the Sea Dogs first star. Florida's first-ever draft pick, he batted .268-28-80 for Portland, and was the starting catcher for the Marlins the following year. Johnson had a good defensive reputation, and a bat that showed promise but didn't really develop into a top hitter in the majors. Johnson hit 19 home runs for the World Series champion Marlins in 1997, then was traded away in the 1998 fire sale that decimated the team. Johnson's best season in the majors was 2000. He batted 304/379/582-31-91 while splitting time between the Orioles and White Sox. Johnson was briefly property of the Red Sox this past off season, and appears to be retired after being released by the Devil Rays in June. His career batting record is 245/330/433-167-570 in 1,188 games. He had good power and drew a fair amount of walks, but his defense was key. He won four gold gloves in the national leaue (1995-98), and was named to the 1997 and 2001 NL all star teams as a member of the Marlins.

Tosca is also probably the best-remembered of the Portland managers. He guided the team over its first three seasons, including playoff appearances in 1996 and 1996. He managed such future major leaguers as Johnson, Edgar Renteria, Felix Heredia, Luis Castillo and Mike Redmond. Tosca compiled a 229-195 record with the Sea Dogs. He went on to manage the Toronto Blue Jays, for whom he compiled a 191-191 record from 2002-2004. Tosca is currently the third base coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Though neither honoree was able to attend, there were nice features on both presented on the Ford Board. We saw highlights of Johnson's time in Portland and Florida, and a nice interview with Tosca. Banners are on display in the concourse at Hadlock Field.

Sea Dogs end slide

The Sea Dogs snapped one streak and continued another on Friday night in beating New Hampshire 4-3. Matt Van Der Bosch's ("VDB") bases loaded suicide squeeze bunt plated David Murphy with the winning run, snapping Portland's four game losing streak and extended their winning streak vs. the Fisher Cats to 12 games on the season. Portland now leads the season series vs. their rivals 16-4, and can eliminate the Cats (and clinch a playoff spot) by winning the final two games of the series.

The Sea Dogs spotted New Hampshire leads of 2-0 and 3-1 but chipped away at starting pitcher Josh Banks to tie the score in the bottom of the 6th inning. Murphy's walk and Jim Buckley's HBP off lefty Jesse Carlson set the stage for VDB's heroics following a sacrifice and an intentional walk. Chris Smith alternated between being unhittable and very hittable in allowing seven hits (most very solidly struck) and striking out seven over 5.2 innings pitched. Smith's knuckle curve proved difficult to solve, as he recorded five of his seven K's on low, slow pitches in the dirt.

Scorer's notes:
  • Craig Hansen remains unscored upon after another 1.1 inning outing last night, however he wasn't as impressive as we've seen him. Three of the five batters he faced got hits, however he was aided by a nice throw by VDB that cut down Chip Cannon attempting to score in the 6th, and a nifty scoop by the other newcomer, Chad Spann, who started a 5-4-3 DP to end the 7th. Hansen's now allowed nine hits and one walk vs. 10 K's in 9.2 innings in Portland. I believe that he's still on track for a callup to Boston prior to September 1st.
  • Spann had a terrific night in the field. In addition to the aforementioned double play, he made a barehanded play on a ball bunted by Brad Hassey starting the 7th, and a leaping stab of a line drive off the bat of Rob Cosby in the 8th. He was so good that the official scorekeeper decided to change an error initially charged to him on a hard hit grounder in the 6th, to a base hit. Spann also laid down two perfect sacrifice bunts that helped lead to Portland runs, including one in the 9th inning rally.
  • Smith did something that I've never seen before. Pitching to Cosby leading off the 4th, Smith went into his windup and whipped his arm around - without the ball in his hand. This is a non-event in the score book, but it flustered Cosby for a moment. He recovered to hit a solid line drive to Hanley Ramirez on the next pitch.
  • Ramirez had another good night at the plate, with two hits and a walk. His aggressive baserunning giveth and taketh away, however, as he took an extra base on a brief bobble by Miguel Negron in the 4th. He followed that up by running into an out in trying to advance to third on Jeremy West's foul pop fly, ending the inning.
  • The radar gun at Hadlock appears to have been re-calibrated. Either that or Portland's pitchers are throwing a lot harder than they did earlier in the season. Chris Smith topped out at 90 mph, after never throwing harder than 85 the last time that I saw him. (There may have been an injury involved that time, though.) Slow-tossing Randy Beam hit 89 with his 86-mph fastball. I've seen Jon Lester and Charlie Zink hit speeds that I've never seen from them before this week, too. It seems fishy to me.
  • I got a moment on the Ford Board last night. Slugger was doing his Chicken dance routine in section 108, which he then follows up by selecting a fan for the Home Run inning. Well, he was walking over the seats and the clumsy guy tripped and fell right into the lap of Nick, who was scoring the game with me. He then picked me to be the lucky fan with a chance to win $100 if any Sea Dog batter hit a home run in the bottom of the sixth. Alas, despite the strongest prompting by Nick and myself, nobody came close. It was fun to be part of the festivities, however.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Hansen Pitches Another Scoreless Inning

Or how about "Matt Van Der Bosch gets first AA extra base hit"? The Sea Dogs lost to the Thunder 15-0 in an I'm-glad-I-wasn't-there, cover-your-eyes-ugly game Thursday night. Sea Dogs pitchers gave up 18 hits and 10 walks on the night. (OK, technically that's not true. Utilityman Raul Nieves was responsible for two hits, five walks and five runs in taking the last 1 1/3 inning on the mound.) Sea Dogs batters, facing struggling prospect Steve White (he of the 8.36 ERA entering the game), managed just two hits while striking out 15 times (White allowed one hit with 12 K's in 6.2 IP). Portland's defense made 4 errors on the evening. The only positive was Hansen's scoreless 7th, which he managed despite two runners allowed by fielding errors. He remains unscored-upon in 8.1 innings for Portland.

The Sea Dogs entered the four game series against Trenton with a magic number of 8 to win the division. They head into the next series with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats with a magic number of 8 to win the division. The good news is that they are still the team to beat in the EL North, and the magic number to make the playoffs is 6, which they can cover if they manage to sweep the Cats. That appears to be a real possibility, as Portland has won 11 in a row and 15 of 19 from New Hampshire this season. Tonight it's Chris Smith taking the hill for the Sea Dogs vs. Josh Banks.

On a lighter note. Here's a
puff piece from about Boston's minor league system. At least it's true - the quality of Boston's minor league prospects has increased tremendously over the last few years, and I believe that Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington and company are among the best in baseball in acquiring minor league talent. The drafts have been tremendous, with Hansen just the latest example. They also deserve credit for finding guys like Chip Ambres, who was signed after he was cast off by the Marlins. All he did was make the AAA All Star game, get traded for Tony Graffanino and become a starting outfielder for the Kansas City Royals. (Insert your own joke about Ambres still being in AAA here.) Good work all around.

The series vs. New Hampshire is the last home series of the regular season for the Sea Dogs. I'll be attending the games tonight (Friday) and Sunday, providing the full reports as usual. Next week the team is off to Altoona and Akron. I'll make some relevant posts at that time. After the end of the regular season I'll do a team recap, including analysis of the top hitters and pitchers this season. Then I'll be playing it by ear, depending on what they do in the playoffs, and maybe concentrate on the Red Sox as they make their push to the playoffs and another World Series Championship.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Roster Moves

The Sea Dogs made a couple of roster moves yesterday. Infielder Chad Spann and outfielder Matt Van Der Bosch were promoted to AA, while outfielder Sheldon Fulse was put on the D/L and third baseman Bret LeVier was returned to Wilmington.

Van Der Bosch (or "VDB", as he is referred to in my notes) has raced through the system this year. He batted 290/427/427-1-13 in 35 games at low-A Greenville and 283/347/404-5-28 in 69 games at high-A Wilmington. He has 24 steals between the two stops. He's got decent discipline (56 walks, including one last night), but strikes out a lot for a table setter (101 K's in 105 games). He's another little guy (5'9", 190 lbs, though he doesn't look as big as Dustin Pedroia who is listed at the same height but 10 pounds lighter), scrappy and quick, and he should become a fan favorite quickly. As noted below, VDB made his Portland debut last night and reached base three times, including one walk and a bunt single.

Spann, who at 21 is a year younger than VDB, hasn't met with as much success. He's a bigger guy with more power, but his numbers (248/322/423-13-48 with 106 K's in 111 games with Wilmington) haven't developed quite the way the Sox might have expected when he batted .312 as a 19-year-old in the Sally League two years ago. His peripherals aren't too bad, but he's got to turn some of those whiffs into hits to be a real productive batter.

Dogs Collapse Late

The Sea Dogs looked to collect their first win of the series and reduce their magic number to six last night, carrying a 3-1 lead into the 9th inning. However two walks allowed by reliever Jim Mann, combined with a bloop single and a ground ball that the defense couldn't turn quickly enough for a double play surrendered by Edgar Martinez, allowed the Thunder to tie the game and eventually collect a 4-3 win in 12 innings last night. It was a disappointing loss for the Sea Dogs, who hit the ball hard and raced out to a 2-0 first inning lead off Trenton starter Eric Schmitt. After that it was a series of squandered opportunities, as the Dogs left 13 runners on base. The loss wasted an impressive effort by David Pauley, who started off with four perfect innings that consisted of one grounder to first, five grounders to second and six strikeouts. In all, Pauley pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed just four hits and one run, a solo home run by Michael Coleman, how has gone deep in each game of the series. Charlie Zink, pitching just two days after his 6-inning relief outing on Monday, was charged with the loss.

Scorer's Notes:
  • Some excitement/confusion in the 10th inning. Melky Cabrera was batting with runners on first and second and two men out. On an 0-1 count, Martinez threw a pitch that looked, from my perspective, to be well out of the strike zone. The umpire saw it differently and called strike two. Cabrera disagreed and argued with the ump. The ump instructed Cabrera to get back into the batters box twice, and Cabrera failed to do so. The ump then called strike three and the Sea Dogs ran off the field while Cabrera and Thunder manager Bill Masse argued with the umpires. Both were ejected, Cabrera returned to the dugout, where he decided that it would be appropriate to return his bat and helmet to the playing surface. Meanwhile, Masse was jumping up and down and throwing his cap. Highly entertaining, other than the fact that it was eating into sleep time at this point. Then, bizarrely, as the Thunder players took the field with their manager still arguing, Cabrera did an "act natural" bit and tried to casually take his position in center field. The first base ump kindly suggested that Cabrera should instead be moving toward the Portland Expo, where the clubhouses are.
  • One of the frustrations of the developmental mission of a minor league team came into play. Hotshot prospect and ace reliever Craig Hansen is pitching primarily on a defined schedule. Having worked Tuesday, he was not scheduled to pitch last night, therefore he did not come in to close the door in the 9th inning. Both Mann and Martinez have been terrific and they were perfectly capable of getting the job done, but it's kind of frustrating to give up a lead when your best pitcher is sitting on the bench.
  • Hanley Ramirez, whose star has dropped a bit in the buzz about Boston's prospects, is making a late-season push to remind us all how good he really is. Ramirez drove in Portland's first run with an RBI single, then stole second and third bases before scoring on Jeremy West's single. Ramirez also hit a two-out double to left in the bottom of the 11th, but David Murphy was unable to get him home.
  • Trenton's bullpen pitched effectively for 8 innings. Michael Brunet collected the win in blazing down the Portland lineup with his 94-mph fastball.
  • West, who entered August with just 28 RBI on the season, has a chance to double that total by the end of the month. West knocked in two runs last night and now has 51 for the season. According to the Sea Dogs web site, his 23 August RBI are five short of the franchise record for one month.
  • Matt Van Der Bosch made his Portland debut after being promoted from Wilmington. The diminutive outfielder was 2-4, including a bunt single, with a walk. He was the DH and batted ninth (one of my favorite minor league traditions).
  • It was good to see friends and former co-workers Brian and Rod at separate points during the game.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Here's Hoping

The Trenton Thunder took out one of Portland's best pitchers early again last night, this time knocking Anibal Sanchez out in the fourth on the way to an 11-6 victory over the Sea Dogs. I saw part of this game on TV (we don't get a televised game for months, then they are on two nights in a row? That's good planning!), and it didn't look pretty for Portland. Here's hoping that they can get out of this funk and take the last couple from the Thunder. Tonight David Pauley goes for Portland facing Trenton's Danny Borrell.

The silent auction for Sea Dogs home jerseys continues. They are
auctioning off jerseys from all the players and coaches, not just the top prospects. The Sea Dogs posted the latest bids - Jon Lester and Jon(athon) Papelbon are both going for $500, while there are a couple that nobody has found bidworthy just yet. Somebody named Scott S. has the top bid on these two guys and two others as well. Look for these jerseys on ebay come September.

Whoops! I just noticed that Craig Hansen's bid is at $2,000. We love this guy!

I'm thinking of putting a bid in tonight. Should I put a token bid that will easily be surpassed? Or should I take a chance at bidding $100 on one of those jerseys that aren't in such demand, and maybe actually win one of these things. Should I go for a guy like Dustin Pedroia, whose jersey might actually fit me? Or (if I win), should I only think of it as an investment (Pedroia would be a good one for that, too)? Questions, questions. . . .

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Night at the Ballpark

For a change of pace, I thought that I would do a running diary of the typical ballgame experience at Hadlock Field. I had originally conceived of this post when I was going to be part of a "Bloggers Day Out" at a Sea Dogs game. That fell through, but I still liked the idea so I did double duty last night, scoring the game and taking lots of notes about the goings on at a typical minor league game.

On tap: the Portland Sea Dogs host the rival Trenton Thunder in the first game of a four game series. With the Red Sox having a night off, NESN is on hand to broadcast a showcase of Boston's top prospects. It doesn't hurt, I'm sure, that Trenton is the AA affiliate the New York Yankees. The Sea Dogs can clinch a playoff spot if they sweep the series.

6:05 pm: I arrive at the ballpark an hour before the scheduled start time. I park in my usual "free" spot on the street. Most people don't realize that it's a legal parking spot, so it's usually available to me. Parking lots around the stadium generally charge $5 to park, but you can usually park for free if you don't mind walking for an extra minute or two. Which I don't

6:10: As I arrive at the field, I pass "Banjo Guy". He's a guy who sits out in front of the stadium, strumming his banjo and singing, near as I can tell, one of the two songs that he knows. He's there before and after almost every game, and one of my favorite parts of the experience. My wife and I went to see Sting at the Cumberland County Civic Center last May, and Banjo Guy was playing outside after the concert. Made my evening.

Also out front is a tent with a toilet set up on display. I don't stop to find out why.

6:15: The starting lineups are posted just inside the main entrance to the stadium. Tonight's matchup features top Sox prospect Jon Lester vs. Jeffrey Karstens, who leads Trenton in wins but has mediocre stats overall. I also notice that the Sea Dogs are auctioning off game-worn jerseys from most of the top prospects who have played in Portland this year. Minimum bid is $100, so I pass. Then I head off to get some sustenance (popcorn chicken which, while deep fried, is about the healthies menu option available). As I walk to the concession at the far end of the concourse (the least busy one), I walk by the AG Edwards Autograph Table. The Sea Dogs have a player signing before every game. Usually it's somebody not in the lineup. Tonight's line is really long, and I guess that means that relief pitcher (and uber-prospect) Craig Hansen is signing. This turns out to be a good guess. Given that Hansen is a reliever, I'm not sure if that means that the team doesn't plan to use him tonight.

6:30: I'm in my seat, with good buddy Dave (of
Total Recap fame) sitting to my left. We'll be scoring tonight's game together, which is always fun. The evening's first promotion (1/2 hour before the first pitch) is from Thirsty Turf, which sponsors a kid putting a fresh coat of white paint on home plate. Also on the dirt surrounding the plate for about six inches. The kid seems intent on emptying the spray can before the Sea Dogs staffer cuts him off. We speculate that the pitchers will have a generous strike zone tonight, but the staffer scuffs away the excess paint.

6:35: The second promotion. A guy gets three chances to hit the Citgo sign by batting a ball from left field. If he hits the sign he gets a $100 gas card. He gets off three good swings but misses the mark. At least he didn't embarrass himself.

6:40: For the first time tonight, Dave gives me shit about something for no particularly good reason.

6:45: It's Slugger's birthday greeting time. If a kid is having a birthday, they can meet Sea Dogs mascot Slugger and run around the outfield with him. Tonight we have a 12 year old girl and a 10 year old boy. Some nights you get 6-7 kids, but this is a Monday.

6:47: Starting lineups announced. Star Wars "Evil Empire" music accompanies the visitors. (This treatment is given to all opponents, not just the Yankee affiliate).

6:50: First pitch - some kid from a Frozen Ropes team. He has a half dozen teammates to give him moral support. I'm writing notes as he throws the pitch (with Craig Hansen catching), so I don't see if he throws a strike.

6:55: David's co-worker Jim and his wife Deb give themselves a free seat upgrade and join us in Section 108. There are usually empty seats in the box seat area because many season ticket holders don't go to every game. The ushers are pretty lenient about the upgrades, unless you look like you're going to be a bunch of obnoxious kids.

7:00: Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, your Portland Sea Dogs! The national anthem is sung by three sisters from Westbrook, two of whom are wearing Yankee tee shirts. What's up with that? I begrudgingly acknowledge that they did a terrific version of the song.

7:05: Play Ball! Lester's first offering is a 91 mph fastball for a strike. This is a good sign.

7:10: Maybe not such a good sign. After getting the leadoff batter, Lester has walked two in a row. Now batting, former top Red Sox prospect
Michael Coleman. For whatever reason, this one-time "can't miss" guy has only played in 22 major league games. Now he's 30 years old (he and I share a birthday!) and, shall we say, not the slender kid he once was.

7:11: He still has some pop in his bat. High fly down the left field line, over the fence, over the screen. 3-0 Trenton. Lester does manage to whiff Shelley Duncan, and help Strike Out Cancer in Kids.

Middle 1st: It's Slugger the Sea Dog. Portland's mascot races around the warning track on his Napa ATV, and it's time to get this party started. It's also the Wendy's "Get a Hit" inning. We notice that every Trenton fielder has his socks showing tonight.

End 1st: Not so many hits that inning, though Hanley Ramirez did draw a walk. Now the BBI Waste Trash Monsters are entering the stadium. Wearing a "Monster" costume with an integrated trash can, walking around and having people shove their garbage at you - sounds like a job for an intern!

Top 2: Yobal Duenas is thrown out attempting to steal. That base runner was cut down, courtesy of Echo Power Equipment.

Middle 2: It's not a typical night, because Christopher is on hand, thanks to Time Warner Cable. Christopher is one man, but he provides five times the entertainment because he's got one of those things where four life-size puppets are attached to him, following his every move through the magic of levers. Christopher and his friends are dressed in honor of the Village People, and they are Macho Men.

Bottom 2: Trenton's defense is unable to track down what looks to be an easy foul pop by Chris Durbin. He makes 'em pay, by lacing a single to right and taking second when the right fielder bobbles the ball. The official scorer sees this as a double.

Karstens is a junkballer. His fastball hits 90, but he's throwing a lot of curveballs. For the most part, Portland hitters are banging everything into the ground.

David is trying to sell a Total Recap scorebook to Deb. She's not biting.

After 2: Look to the Ford board for tonight's Great Moments in Red Sox History. Tonight we remember Yaz Day at Fenway - October 1, 1983. It turns out that Jim and Deb were at that game, and if they were about 100 rows closer (they were in the RF grandstand, I think), they would have been able to High Five Yaz as he took his victory lap around the warning track.

Top 3: Lester continues to struggle, allowing three consecutive hits to score a run, prompting the first visit from Portland pitching coach Fernando Arroyo. Lester then whiffs Coleman (another Strike Out Cancer in Kids!), and induces Duncan to pop one up to the infield. First baseman Jeremy West boots the play, but the Infield Fly Rule is called, and Duncan is out. Bronson Sardinha then helps out by heading to third base while Lester still technically was holding the ball, and he is thrown out heading back to second base.

Bottom 3: Scott Youngbauer becomes Karstens' first strikeout victim. Noting that this doesn't help Strike Out Cancer in Kids, David deems the promotion to be "team-ist".

After 3: It's time to Lob a Lobster, courtesy of Newick's Seafood Restaurants! Our contestants are supposed to use an old fashioned lobster trap to catch five rubber lobsters lobbed by lacrosse players while the B-52's sing "Rock Lobster" over the PA system. The lobbers often wear lacrosse helmets for no particular reason, but tonight we can see their faces. The girls who are tonight's contestants don't make any effort to chase down the lobsters sailing in their direction. Perhaps they would like the lobbers to just come over and drop a couple in the trap? They don't catch the five required to win.

Top 4: Lester's night is over. He was struggling, but seeing as how he has only thrown 67 pitches and the Sea Dogs played 15 innings on Sunday, I figured he'd stay in and eat a couple more innings. Instead, it's knuckleballer Charlie Zink on the hill. This fact is announced over the PA system, which isn't always the case. David is busy swapping recipes with Deb, so he's surprised when I tell him that there is a new pitcher on the mound.

Meanwhile it's the Coca Cola kids challenge, wherein a young child is challenged with racing Slugger around the bases. The inevitable victory brings a case of Coca Cola as its reward. Tonight we have a boy who is turning 7 tomorrow. Because he has long hair, 95% of the crowd believes he's a girl. He wins regardless, and the PA announcer embarrasses staffer Liz by announcing that it's her birthday. She gets a hug from Slugger.

Also, turn to the Ford Board for tonight's trivia question: who is Boston's all time leader in hits and runs scored, and who turns 66 years old today. This is an easy one (Carl Yastrzemski).

Bottom 4: Now batting is tonight's Servicemaster cleanup hitter, David Murphy. Durbin then hits a shot to third base that is not cleanly handled by Duenas, who then throws wide to first. This is scored a hit, eliciting David's first complaint about the official scorekeeping: "If you can bobble the ball an throw it wide and it's scored a hit, then what's an error?" He has a point, but it was a hard shot by Durbin.

After 4: Christopher is back with his buddies, singing "Stayin' Alive" and "In the Navy", thanks to Time Warner Cable.

Top 5: Zink's knuckler is dancing tonight. A walk, passed ball, single and passed ball results in the 5th Thunder run. Zink also K's two in the inning (one of which catcher Jim Buckley couldn't handle cleanly - tough night to be a catcher). Coleman swings at one in his eyes to end the inning (he tried to hold up!). One of the guys to my right says, "You look fairly knowledgeable, what's going on with this pitcher?" I explain that he's a knuckleballer, which is why the balls are bouncing all over the place. The conversation segues into the usual "who are you scouting for?" questions. Nobody, I'm just a "consultant".

Middle 5: Wave to the camera, and if you're a big enough fool you can win free passes to Funtown/Splashtown USA. The kids who sit down front and wave crack me up - where is the camera that you think you're waving to? It's not on the field.

After 5: Christopher is back, leading us in the nightly "YMCA" dance. He's edging in on Slugger's territory here. Did we remember to thank Time Warner Cable for his appearance?

We're giving away four toilets tonight, awarded at random points during the game. This explains the commode on the concourse before the game. "Can you imagine going to a ballgame and winning a toilet?" I wonder aloud.

Top 6: Zink hits 85 with a fastball. Impressive! Bret LeVier starts a nifty 5-4-3 DP. That's another Coca Cola Double Play.

Middle 6: Slugger gives away a prize pack from David's Creative Cuisine, then leads the crowd in the Wendy's Chicken Dance. If you've ever been to a French wedding, or any social event in Lewiston, you know the chicken dance. We also learn who tonight's Home Sellers Home Run contestant is.

Bottom 6: Hanley shows us what all the fuss is about: he hits a rocket double to deep center, driving in Youngbauer, goes to third on a grounder to third (breaking after the throw), then scores on a wild pitch. He has speed and power, can hit for average and plays solid defense at shortstop. He's an exciting player.

After 6: Slugger is back on top of the dugout for his dance recital. He moves pretty good for a seal! Apparently this means that Christopher's night is over. He had three routines, using the same props, and was on the field for about six minutes total. I wonder how much that set Time Warner back?

Top 7: A foul ball lands about 5 feet behind us, hitting on the walkway behind the row behind ours and bouncing well into the reserved seating section. We're not in good foul ball territory in section 108 - this is the closest one all year.

Sheldon Fulse makes a running catch on a fly to shallow right field. That's the Weathervane Seafood Restaurants "Catch of the Day". It wasn't much of a tester, but they have to award it at some point. I was at a game during the last homestand when they got stuck in the 9th inning and ended up awarding the "Catch of the Day" on a strikeout.

Middle 7: The seventh inning stretch, brought to you by Gorham Savings Bank. It's a real good crowd for a Monday night, and a lot of people are singing. It's 9:00, so about two hours for seven innings. This is a pretty good pace.

Top 8: Melkey Cabrera, who patrolled center field for the Yankees for a few games this year, reaches on a walk and is cut down stealing, thanks to Echo Power Equipment. Melkey . . . it's fun to say!

Middle 8: A favorite Fenway tradition, Neil Diamond and "Sweet Caroline". A not-so-favorite Hadlock tradition, a new pitcher trots in from the Trenton bullpen and is not announced. For those of us without a program, a radio, or an intimate knowledge of the Trenton roster, he will be referred to as "#22" for the time being.

Bottom 8: Duenas misplays a ball and this time is charged with an error. Hanley Ramirez hits a hard shot up the middle and second baseman Gabe Lopez makes an outstanding diving stop. SS Ramiro Pena averts a hard slide by Brandon Moss to turn the DP. Trenton's middle infielders, particularly Pena, have been terrific all night. They receive a well-deserved hand from the Hadlock crowd.

After 8: Official attendance 6,817. Less than 200 short of a sellout. It's a good-sized crowd for a Monday, not a lot of no-shows.

Top 9: The guys to my right are talking about women with tattoos. I'm not 100% certain of this, but it probably has to do with the two attractive young women who have been in the front of our section tonight, but who are now making their way to the exit.

Dave asks, out of the blue, "Does Gary know you're doing this?" Gary is our coordinator at BIS. Not seeing Gary in the immediate vicinity, I surmise that he does not. David then comments on how evenly distributed the balls in play are on tonight's score sheets. These things matter to us.

Meanwhile, Zink is still in and he's been outstanding. He finishes six innings pitched having allowed just one unearned run on one hit and three walks while striking out 8. He had the Trenton hitters and his own catcher off balance all night.

Someone gives Shelley Duncan crap about his name for about the 55 millionth time of his career. Not to his face, though. The guy is huge.

Middle 9: "It's the Final Countdown" blasts on the PA, and it is the final countdown for the Sea Dogs, who still trail 5-2. #22 is still pitching, which means he's probably their closer, whatsisname.

Bottom 9: Portland goes quietly and we hear "There's Always Tomorrow" rather than "Dirty Water", another Fenway tradition borrowed by the Sea Dogs. And there is always tomorrow. As I walk back to my car there is Banjo Guy, solid as a rock, you can't tell by the expression on his face whether the Sea Dogs won or lost.

Jon Lester struggled for his third consecutive start. He’s been outstanding this year, but might be running out of steam as his inning count piles up. He did show some flashes of brilliance, recording four K’s in just three innings pitched and tipping the radar at 94 mph at one point. His biggest problem was not being able to finish batters off - he'd get ahead of the count and allow a bunch of foul balls, thus building up his pitch count. Karstens, meanwhile, kept the Dogs off balance all through the game. He’s been quite mediocre this season with an 11-11 record and 4.03 ERA. He pitches like Pedro Martinez against the Sea Dogs, however – 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA. And it turns out that mystery pitcher #22 was indeed closer Justin Pope.

I hope that you enjoyed this ballpark diary. Minor league teams try to keep things lively with a variety of promotions, giveaways and between-inning activities. The presence of Christopher tonight means that some of the normal schtick was set aside for the evening, but I think you get the gist - anything and everything can be sponsored. Still, it was a good ball game and all the promotions aren't much of a distraction if you don't allow them to be.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Trenton Thunder Prospect Review

Here again we'll do a follow up on the guys on the Trenton roster who also appear on John Sickels' top 20 prospect list:

Eric Duncan (#1, 3B, B+): 237/331/415-19-60 in 121 games. Duncan is a well-known prospect, but that's primarily because he's #1 for the Yankees, which means he always comes up in trade conversations. His batting has regressed a bit since the last time I saw the Thunder, but he maintains good IsoD and IsoP numbers. His big problem is making contact: 126 K's on the season, which I think contributes to his low BA. He's still young, though, and I think he's still going to be pretty good.

Steven White (#4, RHP, B-): Missed much of the season with an injury. He's now made 9 starts, but he hasn't done well: 37.2 IP, 8.36 ERA, 1.96 WHIP, 32/19 K/BB. Allows too many baserunners, then lets someone knock them all in - he's given up 9 homers already. May need another run at AA next season.

Melky Cabrera (#6, OF, B-): Back in Trenton after a stint in Columbus and six games with the Yankees. At 277/321/418-10-54 in 91 AA games, he's one of Trenton's bigger offensive threats, which is a very thin complement indeed.

Bronson Sardinha (#8, OF-3B, C+): 256/329/404-10-59 in 119 games. SLG is bolstered a bit by 29 doubles. He can take a walk, which is a good thing, but these numbers aren't too good for a corner guy.

Rudy Guillen (#18, OF, C): Called up a couple of weeks ago, has gone 292/306/438-2-4 for Trenton following a 260/305/362-6-39 start in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. The fact that he doesn't walk much is evident.

There's not a lot to get excited about with these five guys. The wishful thinking of my Yankee fan friends notwithstanding, the New York system just isn't very strong. Their minor league teams get by with guys who are old compared to the competition supporting some "prospects" who really aren't very strong players. Trenton's other top hitters are 25 year-old second baseman Gabe Lopez, who spent some time in Columbus this season and by far leads the Thunder in OBP. In 67 games for Trenton he's hitting 283/374/397-5-33 and he's drawn 34 walks. The other batter worth watching is slugging first baseman Shelley Duncan, also age 26, who has posted a 234/313/482-30-77 line. He loves the LF wall in Hadlock field but has the same trouble with contact that his namesake does (129 K's this year).

Trenton's pitching is led by Matt DeSalvo (21 GS, 130.1 IP, 3.04 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 134/55 K/BB ratio), who has made up for a high walk rate with a very low hit rate and has been one of the best pitchers in the league this year. Charlie Isaacson (22 G, 13 GS, 91 IP, 3.26 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 87/36 K/BB ratio) has some decent numbers, but that WHIP is kind of scary. Justin Pope (68.2 IP, 3.10 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 47/19 K/BB) has been solid but not dominant as the closer.

Dogs sweep Cats (again)

The Sea Dogs completed a sweep of the NH Fisher Cats over the weekend, finishing with a 4-3, 15 inning win on Sunday afternoon. Portland's magic number to clinch a playoff spot is now 8 games. The Sea Dogs next host the thirt place Trenton Thunder for four games, meaning that they would clinch a playoff spot with a sweep this week.

Over the weekend, did another piece on hot prospect Craig Hansen. Hansen's now appeared in five games for Portland, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out nine in six innings pitched. He has yet to allow a run during his professional career.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


The Sea Dogs took four of five from the Binghamton Mets to finish the home stand. I didn't get to any of the games (I've been otherwise occupied), so I haven't written here for the last couple of days. Portland swept doubleheaders on Monday and Tuesday, then lost yesterday's noontime affair due to another brilliant performance by Yusmiero Petit. Apparently I was in attendance for the only poor performance of the season for Petit, who is the Mets #1 prospect.

Meanwhile, the Sea Dogs announce playoff ticket sales, and a Players Choice Club promotion where you could be able to meet former Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice.

The Sea Dogs are next off to Manchester for a series starting Friday night vs. the Fisher Cats.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Binghamton Mets Prospect Update

I'm not attending any of the games against Binghamton, so I almost forgot to do a prospect update for the Mets. A lot fo the Mets' top prospects are currently in Binghamton, though the team is in last place. Using John Sickels' rankings:

Yusmeiro Petit (#1, RHP, B+) 20 starts, 109.2 IP, 3.12 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 118/18 K/BB ratio. He's the real deal, apparently, though he wasn't all that impressive when I saw him earlier this season. The Mets have really limited his pitch counts, so he's only averaging 5 1/2 IP per start. The 6:1 K/BB ratio is sick!

Phil Humber (#2, RHP, B+) is listed on the roster, but his only appearance with Binhamton was July 11, where he gave up three runs in four innings pitched. Prior to that he posted a 4.99 ERA in Class A St. Lucie. I'm guessing injury.

Lastings Milledge (#3, OF, B) Along with Petit, Milledge was one of the top prospects rumored to be heading to Tampa Bay (along with Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez) in the big Manny Ramirez trade. The 20 year-old Milledge was promoted at the All Star break, and has hit very well in AA: 326/382/457-3-15 with 10 steals in 35 games. Discipline numbers have deteriorated a bit (9 BB, 34 K), but his BA and power numbers are improved from those he recorded at St. Lucie.

Aarom Baldiris (#7, 2B-3B, B-) 278/341/399-6-48 in 110 games for the Mets. 30 doubles, but otherwise middling numbers if he's not in the middle infield.

Evan MacLane (#17, LHP, C) 5 GS, 29.2 IP, 6.07, 1.41, 20/5 since his recall in mid-July. Numbers were much more impressive in St. Lucie (3.20, 1.00, 92/15 in 112.1 IP), and the sample size is pretty small. Not overpowering, but the nice K/BB ratio is promising.

Brett Harper (#18, 1B, C) Another mid season callup, he's hit very well for Binhamton: 305/371/584-12-30 in just 47 games. Including St. Lucie, he's hit 32 HR with 90 RBI this season. Strikes out a lot (51 K's vs. 15 walks), but when he hits the ball, look out!

Wayne Lydon (#19, OF, C) 235/305/326-1-32 with 33 steals in 108 games. I wasn't impressed with his slap-attack approach at the plate when I saw him in May. He's a speed guy who needs to get on base, and the 305 OBP is unacceptable. As 24 years old, I suspect he'll fall off the top 20 list for next season.

The #10 prospect, RHP Brian Bannister, was with Binghamton at the start of the season, but he was promoted to Norfolk after posting a 2.59 ERA in Binghamton.

In addition to Milledge and Harper, the offense is led by 1B Mike Jacobs, who has slugged his way to a 318/371/590-25-91 line, also with 36 doubles over 114 games. Outside of Petit and Bryan Edwards (31 G, 9 GS, 93.1 IP, 3.57, 1.44, 63/36), the current pitching staff has been pretty shoddy, with nobody (relievers included) posting an ERA below 4.00.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Read a Chapter Here

Now, the continuing saga of When Towns Had Teams, which is now racing toward its printing date (which might be Monday). Jim has recently posted Chapter 6, about the tournaments in Lamoine, as a teaser for the rest of the book. Check it out, then (if you like what you read) head over to RiverVision Press and place your order today.

I found Chapter 6 to be an enjoyable read. Baumer's casual narrative is carried by the reminiscenses of the former players (and one player's wife) that Baumer interviewed for the book. Rather than provide a strict historical rendering of the facts, the author has chosen to evoke a sense of time and place for the events portrayed. The events have been carefully researched, and in introducing the major characters Baumer provides significant background details so that the readers feel sufficiently informed as we go along. Baumer has a genuine affection for the subject matter, and it shows through in his narrative. I suspect that the rest of the book will provide more of the same, highlighting many of the significant players, teams and events from the heyday of town team baseball.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Dogs fall to Gators

On a Sunday afternoon that threatened rain, but failed to produce any significant precipitation, the Portland Sea Dogs lost to the Norwich Navigators 2-0. It looked to be a Mr. Hyde appearance for Kason Gabbard, as the first three batters reached and the Gators scored two unearned runs before Portland had a chance to bat. Gabbard settled down however, allowing just three more hits over the next five innings before giving way to the bullpen. It wasn't enough, however, as Portland bats couldn't master Norwich starter Brian Mazone, who allowed just three hits and a walk in eight innings. Portland next hosts the Bingamton Mets for five games over the next three days as they make up part of series that was rained out last May.

Scorer's Notes:
  • Mazone was far from overpowering with a fastball that topped out in the upper 90's. He changed locations and kept Portland batters off balance with a variety of offspeed stuff. He struck out six batters, induced two DP's, picked off a base runner, and otherwise got the Sea Dogs hitters to hit 'em where they were.
  • Brian Wilson recorded his second save of the series. He wasn't as overpowering as he was on Friday, when he struck out all three batters he faced. This afternoon he recorded one strikeout and consistently threw his heater at 93 as opposed to the 97 mph velocity that we saw on Friday.
  • Hanley Ramirez was the offense for the Sea Dogs as he registered a double and a walk in his three plate appearances. Ramirez was also the only runner left on base for Portland in the entire game.
  • Norwich has to be the small-ballingist team in the league. The Navigators never met a sacrifice opportunity or stolen base chance that they didn't like. They don't appear to have a ton of quality bats in the lineup, so they are doing what it takes. It's old school, but it is a fun style to watch.

Saturday at the Fens

In between attending practically the whole Portland/Norwich series this weekend, we found time to make our second trip of the season to Fenway Park to watch an epic battle between the first place Sox and the first place Sox. My wife and I were accompanied by our friends Steve and Shelly as part of a University of New England alumni group outing.

This was Steve's first trip to Fenway and we weren't going to let anything, be it 94 degree heat, an hourlong backup at the New Hampshire tollboot, or a 40-minute rain delay (complete with lightning and thunder), get in the way of a good time. The festivities began with a private party at Jillian's on Ipswitch Street, just beyond Fenway's right field stands. Jillian's is an impressive facility, with multiple bars, a bowling alley and several pool rooms, one of which served as the UNE party room. Alas, the food was not all that inspiring considering the cost - burgers, dogs and wings, and not much else. Nonetheless, it was a good starting point for the evening.

After satisfying our hunger and shooting a little pool, it was back into the sweltering heat and off to Fenway. Our seats were in Section 3 - way in back of the right field corner. Fenway's grandstand seats are notoriously for being cramped, pointing away from the action, and having obstructed views. With this in mind, we were pleasantly surprised by the views offered in Sec. 3. The only obstruction was a post that blocked a view of the centerfielder and leftfield corner, which thankfully didn't come into play all that often. Other than that everything was wonderful, as we were pointing directly toward the mound. As an added bonus, the Red Sox have hung televisions from the roof, enabling us to see all of the instant replays from the NESN telecast.

The game itself was satisfying for the (Red) Sox fan. Tim Wakefield was masterful, allowing just four hits in the first six innings pitched. Only after the rain delay in the bottom of the sixth did Wakefield stumble, allowing back-to-back home runs to Paul Konerko and Aaron Rowand before giving way to the bullpen. The offense exposed Jon Garland as the overachiever that he has been this year. Boston roughed up the 16-game winner for five runs in 5.1 innings, highlighted by the first major league home run for Roberto Petagine since 1998. (This shot also doubled as the closest any ball came to our seats, though it was at least 100 feet in front of us). There were a couple of bumps in the latter innings, but the Red Sox cruised to a 7-4 victory.

Scorer's Notes:
  • Yes indeed, I did score the game from deep in right field. I'd hate to not be able to look back and see what happened in the game. I'll take a break when the Sea Dogs are finished for the year.
  • For some reason, Kevin Millar is considered to be a better defensive first baseman than Petagine. In the 7th inning, Millar was moved to first base from right field, and Petagine was replaced by Adam Stern. The conclusion that Millar is a better fielder is dubious at best, but Millar this year is nowhere near the hitter that Petagine is. I look for Millar to see more time on the bench and Petagine (333/400/556-1-8 in 7 games this year) more time in the lineup.
  • Another guy whose job should be in trouble is Mark Bellhorn. Tony Graffanino is batting 358/394/493-1-10 in 17 games since being acquired by the Red Sox. While this is obviously above his true ability, Graffanino is a fundamentally solid player who has good on base skills and a little bit of pop. He doesn't have the offensive upside of Bellhorn, but he's been much better this season and Bellhorn's rehab in Pawtucket (5 hits, 15 K's in 45 AB) doesn't inspire any renewed confidence in him.
  • Curious pitching move in the 8th inning by manager Terry Francona. Jeremi Gonzalez quickly retired the first two batters (in addition to the final batter of the 7th), then was lifted after only 11 pitches for recent acquisition Mike Remlinger. Remlinger was ineffective, walking a batter and a giving up a double to Carl Everett, necessitating a call for Curt Schilling to enter the game. In two appearances for Boston, Remlinger has faced six batters, all of whom have reached base (one on an error), and five of whom have scored. Not what Theo was looking for, I'm sure.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

More Craig Hansen

Baseball America has a brief interview with the new Portland closer, following his Thursday debut.

Gators top Dogs

The Norwich Navigators upended the Sea Dogs 9-4 on Friday night at Hadlock Field. I'm 0-2 now in games pitched by Anibal Sanchez. He pitched well enough last night, allowing four runs in six innings and getting burned mostly by a three-run home run by Tyler Von Schell in the second inning. Sanchez' has pitched much worse in the games attended by JSB than in his other five AA starts:

9.2IP 9H 7R 7ER 3BB 9K 3HR 5.59 ERA 1.30 WHIP
30.2IP 16H 3R 3R 4BB 36K 1HR 0.88 ERA 0.65 WHIP

Brian Burres walked a tightrope for the Navigators, allowing six hits and five walks over 5.1 innings, but got himself out of trouble with seven strikeouts. Burres mixed a variety of offspeed stuff to keep Portland batters off balance, and the Sea Dogs had trouble coming up with timely hits.

Scorer's Notes:
  • Merkin Valdez appeared in relief and was a much different pitcher than when I saw him in April. He started that game and was throwing his fastball in the upper 90's, topping out at 99 mph. Last night the velocity on his fastball was nearly 10 mph slower. He threw a lot of offspeed pitches and topped out at 91 mph on the radar. Combined with his move to the bullpen, this has me wondering about an injury, though I have been unable to find any news of one. Perhaps the Giants are simply having him keep the pressure off his arm for the rest of the season.
  • The rest of the Giants bullpen was stellar. Billy Sadler pitched two innings in relief, allowing just one walk. Brian Wilson pitched the 9th and simply blew the Sea Dogs away, striking out the side with his 97 mph fastball and 87 mph slider in collecting his 7th save. Wilson lowered his AA ERA to 0.61 in the process. Wilson was a 24th round pick out of LSU in 2003 and hasn't really registered on the Giants prospect lists, but he looks pretty good to me.
  • Von Schell, Norwich's first baseman who has struggled with the bat this season, had three hits and scored two runs, including the home run in the second. On the season he's hitting 232/278/365-12-59. His power numbers are decent, but his overall performance has been lacking.
  • Hanley Ramirez had a very unimpressive 2-4 game, with two strikeouts and two infield singles and a walk. He did not swing the bat well, but sometimes it's all in how the ball bounces. On the other hand, Scott Youngbauer's torrid pace continued as he hit two doubles and reached on a HBP. Youngbauer, a switch hitter, is swinging the bat well from both sides of the plate.
  • I watched the game with David's family, who were celebrating David's father's birthday. We watched the game from the general admission seats in section 212. This proved to be more difficult in following each pitch (especially when the rains came and the umbrellas came out in front of us), but the view made it easier to follow the location of batted balls. There are far more distractions when you are further from the field, not the least of which were the others in our party. David, who is the proprietor of Total, which sells the best baseball score books available, of course had much of his family decked out. Including the two official BIS consultants, there were five of keeping score. It was David's objective that every single scorebook contain a complete and accurate record of the game, no matter how young or inexperienced the scorekeeper in question was, which meant that sometimes we weren't 100% focused on the field. I think we us all ended up with the same results in the end, which is good. It was a challenge, but a lot of fun nonetheless.

Friday, August 12, 2005

More on Hansen (and Bronson)

A brief profile of Craig Hansen, from, in which we also learn that Bronson Arroyo sold all 1,200 of the CD's he brought for his concert/signing sessions yesterday.

Big Night at Hadlock

There was electricity in the Hadlock air from the beginning of last night’s game, due to the presence of Red Sox hero Bronson Arroyo who was on hand to sign copies of his new CD following a noontime concert in Portland. The excitement was heightened as the capacity crowd noted the presence of Red Sox GM Theo Epstein in the box seats behind home plate. But it was the terrific pitching, highlighted by the AA debut of top draft pick Craig Hansen, that stole the show in Portland’s 3-2 victory over Norwich. Jon Lester got the start for the Sea Dogs and pitched well, though there were a couple of bumpy innings that built up his pitch count. He left after striking out all three batters in the sixth inning, finishing with 8K’s while allowing just three hits and two walks. One of the hits was a home run, while the other run allowed was unearned.

Edgar Martinez made it six K’s in a row in the seventh inning and allowed just one walk in two innings pitched. That set the stage for Hansen, the first round pick out of St. John’s who fell to Boston as other teams were concerned about his signability. Hansen, who is considered to be nearly major league-ready, was as advertised in featuring a 95/96 mph fastball. He struck out the first batter he faced and allowed a bloop single before retiring the side, throwing just 9 pitches (all strikes) in the process. Hansen only threw one offspeed pitch, a slider in the upper 80’s, and appeared entirely not flustered by the occasion. While it’s not enough of a sample to base any conclusions on, it was certainly an impressive debut, and it’s nice to see yet another live arm in the Red Sox system.

Scorer's Notes:
  • Martinez (El Guapo Jr.) continues to impress. He gets his fastball into the mid 90’s and is developing an effective changeup. He throws everything for strikes, which is impressive for a guy who just started pitching a year ago. Three of his four K’s last night came on changeups.
  • Scott Youngbauer continues to enjoy playing for Portland. He was 3-4 last night with a two run triple, and he scored the third run on a throwing error on David Murphy's ground ball. Youngbauer has now appeared in 21 games for the Sea Dogs and is hitting 324/359/635-3-12 with five triples as well. A solid defender, Youngbauer has been an unexpected sparkplug for Portland since his recall.
  • Alfredo Simon did not at all resemble the struggling prospect that I wrote about yesterday. Simon pitched two innings in relief, allowing two hits and striking out three. He was throwing 95-97 mph fastballs and getting outs on his slider. Everything was down in the zone, as he allowed only groundballs to be put into play. Sea Dogs batters didn’t get a lot of comfortable swings off him.
  • Theo chose a more incognito look last night than in his previous appearance in Portland, though he was still easily recognizable despite the ball cap pulled down low. When he was here a couple of months ago, Jon Papelbon had perhaps his worst outing of the year. Lester, fortunately, did not suffer the same fate.

My Exclusive Interview with Bronson Arroyo

We never rest here at Joe's Sea Blog. Last night we took advantage of Bronson Arroyo's appearance at Hadlock Field to arrange a brief interview. Arroyo, who was signing copies of his new CD, was kind enough to take a moment to speak with us during his autograph session. The interview, in it's entirety:

BA: How's it goin', man?

JSB: Good, thanks. Great job this year.

BA: Thanks, man.

JSB: Thank you!

There you go, from the front lines direct to your computer screen, we do it all for you. We'll also review Arroyo's CD, Covering the Bases, in the coming days.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Busy weekend

I've got the Sea Dogs tonight, tomorrow and Sunday. Saturday I'm going to Fenway to see the Sox win. Unfortunately I was unable to make it to Portland to see Bronson Arroyo rock downtown, but there is a good chance that I will buy a CD and get it signed at Hadlock Field tonight.

With any luck, I'll have the time and energy to keep current on the Blog over the weekend.

Dogs are Back Home

The Sea Dogs are back home after completing a four game sweep of New Britain. Portland now leads the EL North by 4.5 games over Trenton with 26 games remaining. Jeremy West apparently likes the hot weather. After taking about four months to collect his first 30 RBI, it took him only a week to get the next 10. He's now got his slugging percentage back up to .431 and his OPS back up to .771, both much more respectable numbers than he had even two weeks ago.

Navigators Prospect Review: (per John Sickels' rankings)

Merkin Valdez (RHP, #2, B+ rating): 104.2 IP, 3.62 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 94/42 K/BB. Fairly middlin' numbers for a top prospect, IMO. He of the 99-mph fastball appears to be pitching out of the bullpen to limit his innings the rest of the way. Solid potential. If he gets the walk rate down, look out.

Fred Lewis (OF, #7, B-): 427 AB, 277/361/397-5-33, 64 runs, 26 steals. I wrote about Lewis the other day. I'm not real impressed with his game. OK leadoff hitter, but probably not as good as cleanup hitter Dan Ortmeier would be. Ortmeier has an almost identical OBP (.363), but with more runs (74) and steals (30) than Lewis has. More on Ortmeier below.

Alfredo Simon (RHP, #8, B-): 77.1 IP, 5.47 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 46/22 K/BB ratio. 13 saves, but given the other numbers, that should tell you how great the save stat is. Has made nine starts also this year. Not a good season for Simon.

Patrick Misch (LHP, #9, B-): 5 starts for Norwich after earning a demotion with a 6.35 ERA at AAA Fresno. Appears to have righted the ship: 33.1 IP, 2.97 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 28/5 K/BB. Doesn't appear to be scheduled to pitch in this series.

Billy Sadler (RHP, #12, C+): 68.2 IP, 4.06 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 59/28 K/BB, 5 saves. At times dominant out of the bullpen. Relatively high ERA belies otherwise decent stats.

Brian Burres (LHP, #18, C): 103 IP, 3.76 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 80/42 K/BB ratio. Leads Norwich with 9 wins. Kind of a poor man's David Pauley, I'd say. These numbers are respectable - comparable to the much-more-highly-touted Merkin Valdez. Scheduled to face Anibal Sanchez Friday night.

This is an interesting contrast to the New Britain and New Hampshire prospect reviews, where both of those rosters have changed significantly this season as players are aggressively promoted. San Francisco's prospects have, for the most part, stayed put this year. Other than Valdez, there is nobody on this list to get all that excited about. I would imagine that if Sickels were to generate this list today, Ortmeier would figure prominantly on it - at least he should be ahead of Lewis, I would say. As noted above, Ortmeier's "speed" numbers are the best on the team, but he also leads in all "power" categories. Overall he's batting 275/363/481-19-71 on the season. Carlos Valderamma is another offensive threat, batting 303/355/433-7-50 with 25 steals on the season. Catcher Eliezer Alfonzo has put up big numbers since being promoted from single A: 314/368/533-6-17 in 31 games.

In addition to Valdez and Burres, the rotation has been anchored by Chris Begg (3.44, 1.28 WHIP, impressive 71/18 K/BB ratio in 107.1 IP) and Brian Mazone (3.80, 1.39, 64/28 in 94.2 IP). They are scheduled to pitch over the weekend. Brian Wilson was promoted from Augusta in July, and has an 0.66 ERA and 18/5 K/BB ratio in 13.2 innings while recording 6 saves.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Minor League Ball Snippets

Two snippets of interest from John Sickels'

A prospect retrospective on current Red Sox backup 1B Roberto Petagine. It's a real head scratcher as to why Petagine never received a real chance in the majors. He's absolutely mashed pitching at every level except the majors (including in the Japanese leagues). And it's hard to conclude that he couldn't hit big league pitching, because he was never more than a part time / pinch hitter role.

Secondly, a AA Transition Monitor featuring two outfielders who have played against the Sea Dogs this year: Norwich (Giants) OF Fred Lewis and New Britain (Twins) OF Alex Romero. Romero is a youngish (21) guy who has put up good stats: .300 batting average with decent power (especially doubles) and OK discipline - not a lot of walks, but not a lot of K's either. He could turn into a Mark Kotsay-type hitter in the big leagues. I have been less impressed with Lewis. He's a speed guy who does a decent job of drawing walks, but he has very little power and doesn't do much with the bat. He's a fairly free swinger who also has 101 strikeouts in 111 games this year. He's not an ideal leadoff guy, and at his age (24) I don't see him becoming a regular at the major league level.

And the Sea Dogs beat Romero's Rock Cats 6-4 last night. Another fine outing for David Pauley, who gave up just two runs (one unearned) in seven innings for the W. New Britain;s Levale Speigner suffered the loss, though not quite the pounding that he took in Hadlock last week.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Arroyo in concert / Sea Dogs Bullpen profile

Local radio station WBLM has arranged for Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo to perform live and free of charge from their balcony at One City Center in Portland on Thursday afternoon. It's an off day for the Red Sox, and Arroyo is promoting his recently-released album, "Covering the Bases". Arroyo will be signing autographs at Monument Square following the concert, and he is also working out the details to sign prior to the Sea Dogs game Thursday night. Hopefully the anticipation won't distract him from his Wednesday night pitching duties.

Also of note, has an article about the
ever-changing Sea Dogs bullpen, centered around Conor Brooks. Brooks has been neither real good nor real bad this season, just kind of middl-of-the-road. As a result, he's the only bullpen pitcher remaining from the opening day roster. (Note that Charlie Zink also remains from the opening day roster, but he was a starter at the time and he also spent some time in Pawtucket as well as on the DL.)

D-Rays Nightmare

Sunday's game between the Sea Dogs and the Binghamton Mets featured a matchup of the two pitchers who were rumored to be heading to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the Manny Ramirez trade last weekend. Bingamton's Yusmiero Petit was just a bit better than Portland's Anibal Sanchez, resulting in a 4-1 Mets victory. The two pitchers posted a combined line of 13.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 1 BB and 16 K's in the game, which is quite dominating. Sanchez tired during a 15-pitch at bat by Binghamton 3B Jay Caligiuri in the 7th, eventually allowing the winning home run. The Sea Dogs lost 4 of 5 games to the last-place Mets over the weekend. The series featured two double headers as the teams were forced to make up two games of the four-game series that was rained out in its entirety in Portland in May. The schedule didn't allow the teams to make up all the games in Portland.

Binghamton was aided by two rehabbing major leaguers over the weekend. Pitcher
Steve Trachsel outdueled Jon Lester in Saturday's opener, allowing just one run in a seven-inning complete game. Second baseman Kaz Matsui played in three games and was 4-9 in the series. Saturday's second game also featured the Sea Dogs debut of pitcher Scott Shoemaker, who has spent most of the season in Wilmington, with a couple starts at Pawtucket thrown in. Shoemaker didn't pitch well allowed five runs in just 3.2 innings. He had good numbers in Wilmington, pitching 79.2 innings with a 3.50 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 69/36 K/BB ratio.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Jon Lester and David Murphy were presented Red Sox Minor League monthly awards for their performances in July.

Lester won Minor League Pitcher of the Month for the second consecutive month. He wa 2-2 in four starts with a 1.54 ERA and back-to-back seven inning shutouts in his first two starts of the month. Lester has developed into a premier pitching prospect this season. He is 8-4 on the year with a 2.47 ERA. In 116.2 innings pitched, Lester has struck out 131 batters versus only 43 walks and has a solid 1.17 WHIP.

Murphy was presented the Offensive Player of the Month and the Quality Plate Appearances award for July. In 28 games Murphy batted 379/439/602-3-19 with 10 doubles, two triples and 20 runs scored. Murhy also walked 11 times vs. 15 strikeouts. After struggling for most of the first three months of the season, Murph has become one of Portland's top hitters on the year, leading the team in batting average. Murphy's season stats are 284/337/437-9-62 with 20 doubles and four triples.

Other award winners are Greenville SS Christian Lara (defensive player of the month), GCL Red Sox infielder Luis Segovia (baserunner of the month), Lowell OF Jacob Ellsbury (base stealer of the month), and Venezuelan Summer League 1B/OF Carlos Fernandez and LHP Felix Doubront (Latin player and pitcher of the month).

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Seven in a Row

I have taken a great interest in Jeremy West's 30th RBI this season. As I have written in the past, West is a "power hitting" first baseman who has been a regular for the Sea Dogs but managed to make it to August with only 27 RBI. Knowing I was scheduled to go to a couple of games this week, I was hoping to be there when he finally got to #30. His RBI have been so few and far between, however, that it seemed like a longshot. West managed to knock in two runs on Monday night (and zero on Tuesday), so he came in to Wednesday's game on the precipice of his (my?) goal, needing just one more run batted in.

Things were looking good early. David Murphy hit a triple in the first inning that would have left him in scoring position, but second baseman Gil Velazquez threw the relay into the third base dugout, allowing Murphy to score and denying West an easy opportunity when he followed with a single. Brandon Moss later led off the third inning with a triple, but cleanup hitter Murphy knocked him in with a single. West gave it the old college try with a double to left field, but it's not very deep out there and Murphy was held at third. Denied again.

West finally took matters into his own hands with one out in the fifth, hitting a solo shot into the screen over the Sea Wall in left field for his sixth homer of the year and RBI #30. West failed to come up with the triple needed to complete the cycle, but his 3-4 performance edged his slugging percentage back over .400. You want that from your first baseman (take note Kevin Millar).

The game was sloppy, featuring five errors (and two more by Portland that would have been errors, if Dave ruled the world). The Sea Dogs built up a big lead, gave it back, then went on to
win the slugfest, 8-6.

Scorer's Notes:

  • New Britain starter Levale Speigner had nothing last night. He threw only 65 pitches over 4.1 innings, but managed to allow 12 hits and six runs in the process. Sea Dogs hitters batted .500 off him. He threw more than three pitches to just five of 22 batters. The Sea Dogs were swinging at everything and hitting it very hard.
  • New Portland 2B Scott Youngbauer hit a towering home run over the Ford Board in right center field to put the Sea Dogs ahead for good in the game. It was a tremendous shot, especially for a middle infielder.
  • Weirdness abounded last night. The second batter of the game, JR Taylor, lined into a double play on a hit-and-run, however the call was overturned due to catcher's interference. Instead of being erased on the play, Denard "I don't like" Span later scored the first run of the game. The inning then ended when Danny Matienzo was hit by a batted ball. It was then that we knew we were in for a wild night.
  • More weirdness: Sea Dog catcher Alberto Concepcion was out on a fly ball to deep left in the bottome of the 8th. Unfazed by this development, Concepcion completed a slow circuit of the bases (a "fly out trot?") before returning to the dugout to the well-deserved razzes of his teammates. Later that inning, Raul Nievez scored from second base on an infield single (shortstop Taylor dove, knocked down the ball, couldn't get a clean handle. Nievez kept on running).
  • Portland goes for the sweep this afternoon.