Boston Red Sox

PawSox notes: New manager has seen it all

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PawSox notes: New manager has seen it all

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

PAWTUCKET, RI The resume of new Pawtucket Red Sox manager Arnie Beyeler has been checked off at just about every level. He is entering his eighth season managing in the Red Sox organization, including the last four with Double-A Portland. He has also coached and managed in the Padres, Rangers, and Yankees organizations, in the winter leagues, including this year in the Venezuelan Winter League, and was a scout for the Tigers.

But, Beyeler, who turns 47 in February, is entering his first season managing at the Triple-A level. He knows the challenges at Double A are different than those for a Triple-A manager, where he will have both prospects and veterans on his roster.

I think probably handling the older players and allowing them to do what they do and then still keeping the younger players on track and keeping them on the way up, said Beyeler, after signing autographs and greeting several hundred fans at the PawSox annual Hot Stove Party at McCoy Stadium on Saturday.

Keeping the older players sharp and hungry, keeping the younger players on track, and keeping everybody happy.

Having managed the Portland SeaDogs for the past four seasons, Beyeler was responsible for the development of several players who recently impacted the big league team including outfielder Ryan Kalish, who made his big league debut last season, and pitcher Casey Kelly, who was the key in the Adrian Gonzalez trade with the Padres. His familiarity with the players and the organization should be an asset in his new role. Joining him on Saturday were several players would could be playing their home games at McCoy at some point this season catcher Ryan Lavarnway, and pitchers Robert Coello, Stephen Fife, and Jason Rice.

Beyeler had those four at Portland in 2010 as well as several others who could be joining him in Pawtucket this season.

Yeah, the familiarity helps me a lot, said Beyeler. Im comfortable with those guys. I know those guys. I feel like I know their strengths and what we need to work on with them, and hopefully can continue to improve and keep them rolling. But I think especially from the standpoint of relationships it kind of gives me a head start.

The new job will also have new challenges for Beyeler, including communicating with the big league staff more often.

Thrilled for him. Very excited for him, said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. Hes been a long-time guy thats put his time in and its a really good opportunity and Im excited to work with him. The Triple-A manager we probably work with a lot closer with than the Double-A just because thats the next step. So Im looking forward to it.

Red Sox farm director Mike Hazen said earlier this week Lavarnway, who is below catchers Luis Exposito and Mark Wagner on the organizational depth chart, is a long shot to start the season at Pawtucket.

Thats not necessarily his fault, Hazen said. He still needs some development time, he only had a half a year at Double A. He did go to the Fall League. I mean, I wouldnt put anything out of the realm of possibility but probably not likely at this point just because of the other guys that we have and on the roster that need their reps as well that we believe are going to be major league catchers as well.

Lavarnway, who turned 23 in August, was promoted from High-A Salem to Portland in midseason. He hit a combined .288 with 22 home runs and 102 RBI in 126 games in 2010. He also played in the Arizona Fall League, batting .268 with three home runs and 12 RBI in 21 games. His goals for 2011 are to continue to refine his defense.

I just want to finish polishing off my game, said Lavarnway, who was taken in the sixth round of the 2008 draft out of Yale, where he was a philosophy major. At this point I think I do a lot of things well but Im not perfect by any means. I want to continue to throw the ball well to second base and put myself in an athletic position to make that throw. I want to help receive. As we get to the big leagues these pitchers are going to have better and better stuff and the minor things that I might do wrong and get away with in the minor leagues are going to become more obvious.

Fife, who turned 24 in October, posted a record of 8-6, with a 4.75 ERA in 26 starts for Portland in 2010, his third professional season, and could be part of the PawSox rotation this season. A native of Boise, Idaho, the right-hander never drew a lot of scouts to his games in high school or at the University of Utah. And, were it not for a certain Thursday night game in 2008, he may have fallen much lower than the third round in which the Sox claimed him in that years draft.

Starting for Utah, he was opposed by San Diego States Stephen Strasburg, who despite not being eligible for the draft that year still drew scores of scouts.

That was a crazy night, Fife said with a laugh. It was a Thursday night in college baseball, which is not a night where anybody does anything. So, for San Diego State to sell out, and he punched out 23, hit like 103 mph in the eighth inning. I was told by many scouts I looked like a Little Leaguer versus him. But it was a crazy night. The response I got from them was well you might have looked that way but it was a really good performance, which is kind of why I stand here today. That was a special night, for sure. His performance, one, and then just for us to compete, as Utah, compete against San Diego State was a pretty good feat in itself.

Despite his teams 1-0 loss to Strasburg that night, Fife figures that game put him on the radar for many teams.

Absolutely, he said. I had heard for the majority of my career, youre looking at 10-20 roundwise in the draft. And being in Utah, not a lot of scouts travel to the Four Corners to see guys in the high mountains. So it definitely opened some eyes, pitching well in that game and having the stuff I had in that game against the guy that had much superior stuff and competing with him. It definitely put me on the map.

Despite the numerous injuries that ravaged the big league roster, necessitating several major league debuts, right-hander Coello may have been the unlikeliest of call-ups. Coello, who turned 26 in November, was drafted by the Reds in the 20th round of the 2004 draft out of Okaloosa-Walton Community College in Florida as a catcher. But, after an injury, the Reds released him at the end of spring training in 2006. He signed with the Angels in September that year and was converted to a pitcher for 2007.

I actually had played around with the forkball when I was in high school and college, Coello said. When the Angels had converted me to pitch, I said, Hey, I have this pitch. And they laughed for a second, and they were like, Whered you come up with this? And it was a split, my forkball I call it. But its just the only pitch that I can really say that I was practicing, not practicing but throwing.

But the Angels released him and he pitched in the independent Golden League in 2008. The Sox acquired him after that season.

In 2010, he pitched at three levels for the Red Sox Portland, Pawtucket, and Boston.

The biggest improvement I made last year was when I started in Double-A, he said. Just worked every day on my routinesMy biggest jump was learning from my mistakes and making sure they dont happen again, just staying with a positive look on things and getting that jump to the big leagues.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not actually be the No. 2 starter for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Still, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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Pomeranz, 28, was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My changeup’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about, too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

BOSTON — Red Sox chairman Tom Werner doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of the the Yankees, MLB disciplinarian Joe Torre, and players who can’t take criticism from broadcasters.

In a spot Thursday with WEEI, Werner made clear David Price’s handling of Dennis Eckersley was unprofessional.

“Boston is a tough place to play,” Werner said on WEEI’s Ordway, Merlonia and Fauria. “Some players thrive here, and some players don’t. Get a thicker skin. My feeling is, let the broadcasts be honest, be personable, informative, and get over it if you think a certain announcer took a shot at you.”

“I thought there was a way of handling that. It wasn’t handled appropriately. If I’ve got a problem with Lou [Merloni], and I hear something he says on the radio, I’ll say to Lou, ‘That wasn’t fair.’ ”

Werner also called the team’s relationship with the Yankees “frosty” following the public sign-stealing saga that resulted in fines for both clubs.

“The fact is, I do think this was a minor technical violation,” Werner said. “I start with the fact that this was unfortunately raised to a level it never should have been raised to.”

Werner also insinuated he did not approve of how MLB and Torre handled the disciplining of Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who receieved a four-game suspension for his part in a fight against the Tigers (reduced on appeal to three games).

“Do you think Gary Sanchez got an appropriate punishment?” Werner asked.