By Maureen Mullen
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