By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- One of the quirks of a Triple-A roster -- in addition to the range of talent and experience is the range of ages. Triple-A Pawtucket is no different.
Right-hander Kevin Millwood is 36 and has 14 years of major league experience. Shortstop Jose Iglesias is 21 and has six games of big league experience. The other players fall somewhere in the middle, by age and experience, including those who have yet to put on a big league uniform.
Working with all those players, their various expectations and pressures, are all part of a Triple-A managers job priorities. For Arnie Beyeler, its no different. He is in his 11th season as a manager, his eighth season with the Red Sox, and his first in Pawtucket.
Its kind of split, I think, between the older group of guys here that are trying to perform, show what they can do, put themselves in a position to be available, and then weve got the younger guys that are still developing and also trying to put themselves in a favorable position, Beyeler said. They all want to perform but there are different perspectives.
The challenge can be to keep them all focused. For veteran guys who have been called up to the big leagues and are then sent back down, their pressures can be different than for a young player who just got the call from Double-A to Triple-A.
I havent found that here because theyre such good guys and also because Red Sox manager Terry Francona and his staff do such good jobs of bringing them back, Beyeler said. If somebody gets hurt, they get somebody up there. They keep these guys in the mix.
You can be frustrated about shuttling up and down or you can not be that guy. Would you rather be that guy getting the call or not?
Four times and counting already this season, right-hander Scott Atchison has been that guy. Hes been called up to help out the big league club, only to be returned. Atchison knows its just the situation hes in. He still has options remaining, making him a valuable cog that adds flexibility to the big league roster. He has appeared in nine games, spanning 15 13 innings for the Red Sox this season.
Because hes made the trips back and forth so many times, settling in at each destination is easy.
It hasnt been too tough, he said last month after his third call-up. Usually its harder when you come up to the big leagues, especially if you dont necessarily know everybody. But I played with pretty much everybody last year, and played pretty much the whole year, and then through spring and the multiple times I came up this year. Each time I come up here its pretty easy to kind of just fit back in. Everybody knows me and I know them, too. So Im very comfortable coming in, which makes it much easier to go out and perform the more comfortable you are. But obviously you always want to be in one place, and it would be the big leagues. But if thats not the case, this is an easy situation to come into.
Its also about learning how to keep the players motivated, learning what drives each one.
It differs from one guy to the next, said Rich Sauveur, who is in his fourth season as Pawtuckets pitching coach and has coached at every minor league level. You have to find who those guys are. I pretty much try to be as straightforward with everybody as I can. I have to instill in them that they have to be consistent, day in and day out. They have to perform at their highest level.
They all should want to go up or think they deserve to go up. I want these guys to feel like they deserve to be in the big leagues.
But its never that easy. There are other factors involved. Most are out of a players control. Outfielder Daniel Nava made his big league debut last season in storybook fashion, hitting a grand slam on the first pitch of his first big league plate appearance. In May, though, hitting just .189, he was designated for assignment by the Sox. Since clearing waivers and rejoining the PawSox on May 26 he has hit .327 (48-for-147) in 38 games.
Of course you want to get back up, he said. But Im not bitter or frustrated because I know that theres a ton of different reasons that a guy gets called up and another guy doesnt get called up. It might not always make sense to you. Im not saying I disagree with the decision, but at the same time there are a lot of things outside of my control. Once you start pondering those you start going down a rabbit trail, and its just not the best way to put yourself in the best position. So I try not to worry about that and just control the things I can control, which is usually on that field and getting prepared for the game.
Ryan Lavarnway, one of the organizations top catching prospects, is one of the young guys who has yet to make his big league debut. Since being called up on June 13from Portland he is hitting .355 with eight home runs and 24 RBI in 28 games.
Lavarnway's been pretty impressive just because hes come up here and hasnt missed a beat, said Beyeler. who also managed Lavarnway in Portland last season. Everybody always asks about his catching and his defense but all he does is catch the ball and throw guys out. Thats all Ive seen in a year and half. Hes been solid since Ive seen him. His at-bats have been really good. His work ethic, hes an impressive kid and he just continues to get better.
For Lavarnway, the Sox sixth-round (eighth overall) pick in the 2008 draft out of Yale, who turns 24 on Aug. 7, this is the oldest pitching staff hes had to handle.
The biggest thing is just working with a new pitching staff, he said. A bunch of older guys that pretty much know what they want to do with pitch sequences. Theyve really guided me through calling games for them. Its been great working with these guys. Im really learning a lot.
Hes not intimidated by the difference in age or experience.
No, theyve all been really great, he said. They know that Im going to work hard for them. And I go out there and I put forth the effort every day, and they respect that. It might be different if I was a different kind of guy. But I think that my work ethic kind of shows them that Im not in this just for me, that Im going to go out there and work my hardest for them as well.
And if he continues to progress he, too, could be getting the call in a matter of time.
Thats the best thing about this organization that Ive found out, Sauveur said. I love it that they will give anybody an opportunity if they are performing well. And I tell these guys the first day here: Perform and you will get to the big leagues in this organization.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen