Monday, May 21, 2007

Dogs to face Rocket

The Rocket, Roger Clemens, is scheduled to continue his preparation for his 24th (!) major league season by making a start for the Trenton Thunder against the Sea Dogs this Wednesday. Clemens' return is already a bit of a circus, and I'm sure that the Red Sox/Yankees dynamic of this game will just add to the excitement of the evening. Clemens, of course, signed on with the Yankees a couple of weeks ago when the team, desperate for pitching, outbid the Red Sox for his services by $10 million.

Portland will counter with Clay Buchholz, another top prospect at the other end of his career. Buchholz has been stellar thus far through his first seven AA starts: 39.2 IP, 1.87 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 53 strikeouts vs. just 7 walks. Clemens had a good outing for single A Tampa, allowing one run in 4 IP, and he's on his way to the Hall of Fame, but there's a chance he won't be the best pitcher on the mound on Wednesday.

In other prospect news, Michael Bowden was promoted to Portland last week. Bowden is the #3 prospect in the Boston organization, right behind Buchholz and Pawtucket outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. A powerful righthander, the 20-year-old dominated the competition in the very hitter-friendly California League. He made 8 starts for Lancaster, throwing 46 innings with a 1.37 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 46 K's vs. just 8 walks. He allowed just one run in his Sea Dogs debut last Friday, and gives the team a strong 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation for the time being.

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Four Games in a Week

I've had a busy schedule this week, so I've been unable to provide my usual immediate commentary following the Sea Dogs games that I've gone to. So, in a nutshell, four games in six days:

Tuesday night:
The Sea Dogs sweep a double header from Trenton. Game one is an ugly affair, with Portland prevailing 11-7. Eric Crozier hits a grand slam in the second inning to give Portland the lead. The bullpen makes things interesting, as Barry Hertzler takes over with the bases loaded in the 5th, and allows all inherited runners to score. The seven inning affair featured 24 hits, 11 walks, a HBP and an error, and lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Game two was much more crisp, with the Dogs winning by a 5-0 score. John Barnes is the newest knuckleballer in the Boston system, and he baffles a Trenton squad that, quite frankly, doesn't seem all that interested in trying to hit his offerings. Barnes is a former outfielder who spent some time in the majors with Minnesota, and he's still quite raw as a pitcher. He only allowed two hits but walked five. Trenton's Kevin Whelan throws three consecutive wild pitches to allow Jed Lowrie to score Portland's third run in the sixth inning.

The Thunder arrived in Portland with a 21-4 record and would leave Wednesday with a 21-8 record.

Friday Night:
This one started out pretty, but ended very ugly. Clay Buchholtz, who is Boston's top pitching prospect, set a Portland franchise record by striking out eight consecutive Binghamton Mets from the second inning through the fourth. Buchholtz displayed an awesome combination of a low-mid 90's fastball and a sharp-breaking curve, with the occasional slider thrown in to mix things up. Buchholtz gave up two runs, one unearned, in 6.2 innings while walking one and striking out 11. It was all for naught, as poor bullpen work and poor defense allowed the Mets to score 6 runs in the final two innings. Bryce Cox relieved Buchholtz in the seventh, but was ineffective in the 8th. After two hits and an error led to a run, Hertzler came on to allow two more inherited runners to score, partly as a result of his own throwing error on a would-be double play. In the ninth, Hertzler seemed to have recovered from an error by Andrew Pinckney, however inexplicably allowed two two-out walks before allowing Miguel Negron to hit a bases-clearing double. Binghamton finished with a 8-5 victory.

The lesson from the game is that four errors will undo the good done by a bunch of strikeouts. Despite the continued failure for the offense and bullpen to support him, Buchholtz has proven to be equal as a pitching prospect to the triumvirate of Papelbon, Lester and Sanchez back in 2005. Through 34 innings of work, Buchholtz has allowed just 22 hits and four walks, while striking out an incredible 34 batters. Despite a 1-1 record, it says here that he'll be in Pawtucket by July.

Sunday Afternoon.
Mother's Day brought Slugger's mom to the park, and some pink jersey's for the home nine, to raise awareness of and raise money to combat breast cancer. Then pink itself was kind of pleasing, but didn't really work with the bright red trim:

Zach Borowiack calls out to the fashion police.

The finale of the series with Binghamton featured more poor fielding and ineffective bullpen work, as the Mets completed the sweep with a 12-6 victory. Starter Andrew Dobies pitched OK, leaving after five innings with a 6-3 lead. Kyle Jackson pitched the 6th and retired the first two batters before a hit batsman, error, and double led to two runs. In the 7th, Jackson worked three walks around a sacrifice and a strikout, before Beau Vaughan came to allow rockets to various parts of the outfield. When the dust settled, all of Jackson's runners had scored, along with three of Vaughan's.

Portland's offense scored what should have been plenty of runs in the games against the Mets, but it's hard to focus on any sort of offensive production when the pitching and defense are so bad. The bullpen is a real problem for this team - they allowed 21 runs in the last three games against the Mets, though 10 of those runs were unearned. Cox and Jackson are supposed to be two of Boston's better relief pitching prospects, but they have been awful thus far. Cox sports a 4.91 ERA, but that belies the fact that he's also allowed 6 unearned runs (to go with 8 earned) and has a 1.77 WHIP. Jackson has a 7.56 ERA, a WHIP around 2.00, and he's allowed 20 walks in 16.2 innings. Barry Hertzler was a star in the Sea Dogs pen last season, and numbers are a little better (3.27 ERA, 1.45 WHIP), but he's allowed five inherited runners to score in just the last two games that I've seen him pitch. These are the supposed best arms in the bullpen. It's hard to envision the Sea Dogs having any kind of success at all without these three turning things around in a hurry.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Ellsbury Recalled, Dogs Lose Thursday

Ellsbury photo cribbed from

The Portland Sea Dogs lost Thursday night to the Bowie Baysox, in what would prove to be the final AA game for top prospect Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury went out in typical style, going 2-4 at the plate with a walk and a stolen base, moving his final stats to 452/518/644-0-13 with 8 steals and 13 runs scored. Ellsbury also showed his ranginess in center field, tracking down any ball that came close by, however it was not enough to avoid a 7-3 Portland loss at the hands of the Bowie Baysox.

In his AAA debut on Friday night, it was more of the same for Ellsbury. 1-4 with two walks and two runs scored. David Murphy, moved to left field and apparently feeling the heat from below with regard to his spot on the organizational depth chart, had four hits in Pawtucket's 11-inning loss.

Back to Thursday night's game, it was a bit of a tough-luck loss for Matt Goodson. Goodson had the Baysox off balance for much of his five innings, striking out 10 with his off speed offerings, particularly a very good changeup. Unfortunately, Goodson's control left him in the fifth inning, as he walked two to load the based for Luis Hernandez. Hernanez delivered his second consecutive RBI single, a liner to left that skipped under Corey Keylor's glove and resulted in four runs and a Bowie lead. Portland was unable to get any rallies going after that point.

Now that Ellsbury is gone, this is a very ordinary Portland team. Jeff Corsaletti is the natural guy to move into the leadoff spot, as he has good speed and draws a lot of walks, resulting in a very good .400 OBP to this point of the season. However, this team needs Jeff Natale (703 OPS) and Jed Lowrie (508 OPS) to start making things happen, because Keylor can't be the only guy hitting in the middle of the lineup, and there aren't a lot of quality bats at bottom of the order. Also, beyond Clay Buchholtz and Charlie Zink, the rotation has been a disappointment. Andrew Dobies and Tommy Hottovey showed some promise after they were called up late last season, but both have ERA's over 6.00 so far this year. Goodson is probably the least touted member of the rotation, but he has outpitched Dobies and Hottovey thus far. The bullpen has also been inconsistent at best so far.

I think there will be a lot of entertaining games to watch this season, but unless a few guys turn it around fairly soon or Michael Bowden get called up to team with Buchholtz for awhile, I don't think this team will put in a strong challenge for the playoffs.

Labels: , ,