Putting a Bow on the 2019 Pawsox

Photo Credit: Louriann Mardo-Zayat

For the Pawtucket Red Sox, time is definitely growing short. The local Triple-A ballclub will apply the finishing touches to the 2019 season this coming Monday, laying to rest a five-plus month stretch where there was no shortage of comings and goings – par for the course around these parts.

As of this writing, the PawSox are down to their final seven games. Seems like only yesterday that the curtain was set to be raised on a 140-game schedule accompanied by a slogan that’s often repeated within the walls of the McCoy Stadium press box: the actual games might seem long, but the season always tends to fly by.

The 47th season for the PawSox as the top minor-league affiliate of the Red Sox will not include a trip to the Governors’ Cup playoffs. As always, it’s best to take a big-picture view as it relates to your friendly neighborhood Triple-A operation and its mission to provide the parent club with reinforcements.

In a nutshell, the 2019 PawSox hit all the high notes when it came to moving players to the majors with such an exodus paving the way for reinforcements from the lower levels to join the Triple-A ranks. Everything that happens at the top level tends to create reverberations throughout the farm system, which was certainly the case here.

It truly does take a village to get through a minor-league season, meaning there are plenty of opportunities that are just waiting to be seized. Along those lines, the PawSox as of Wednesday have employed the services of 64 different players (35 pitchers & 29 position players). A total of 19 PawSox players have been promoted to Boston while 12 players came down from Boston to rehab with Pawtucket.

In short, that’s a lot of moving parts. Let’s take a look at what stood out over the course of 2019 season:

1). Putting Pawtucket in the rear-view mirror. The goal with every Triple-A player is to get to the major leagues and never look back. In April, Michael Chavis socked his way out of Pawtucket – three of the four home runs he blasted with the PawSox prior to his April 19 promotion, traveled a combined 1,371 feet.

When Chavis rejoined the PawSox recently, he did so on a rehab assignment after landing on the injured list with a left shoulder strain. Between his promotion to the majors and subsequent pit stop, Chavis emerged as one of the game’s top rookies and became a mainstay in Boston’s lineup. In his first 95 games with the Red Sox, Chavis belted 18 home runs while driving in 58 runs.The Red Sox were 6-13 when the 23-year-old Chavis was summoned. He went on to homer in six of his first 13 starts with Boston, a hot stretch that helped to greatly diminish the belief that he would be back at Pawtucket at some point.

In the Red Sox bullpen, Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor have emerged as two of the most dependable options at manager Alex Cora’s disposal. Hernandez has been in the majors since July 16 while Taylor hasn’t seen the inside of the PawSox clubhouse since June 14.

First baseman/outfielder Sam Travis is enjoying his longest stretch in the majors. He hasn’t been on Pawtucket’s roster since July 15.

2). Sea Dogs washing ashore … in Pawtucket If Boston’s reliance on the personnel stationed in Pawtucket revealed anything, it’s that the door was far from ajar when it came to replenishing the roster with talented options.

The PawSox became the late-summer home to the organization’s top prospect, per Baseball America. At the time of Bobby Dalbec’s promotion on August 3, the 24-year-old infielder was leading the Double-A Eastern League in home runs (20) and was tied for third in RBI (57).

1B/3B Bobby Dalbec, Photo Credit: Louriann Mardo-Zayat

“It’s nice to know the organization feels I’m ready for this. I feel like I’m ready for the challenge,” said Dalbec. “I think I’ve been ready for it. It’s nice to be here.” Dalbec has yet to experience any true turbulence in his brief time with the PawSox. He reached base safely in 17 of the first 21 games he appeared in. He went deep in three straight games. As of Wednesday, he’s slugging at an impressive .535 clip against Triple-A pitching. Dalbec walked into a PawSox clubhouse that already included former Portland teammates Kyle Hart and Tanner Houck two pitchers who have more than held their own in their first true taste of International League competition.

Not too long after Dalbec’s arrival, the PawSox welcomed infielder C.J. Chatham, who was leading the Eastern League in hitting (.297). After going hitless in his first game with the PawSox, Chatham managed to collect hits in each of his next 11 games. “We’ve had guys who had success in Portland and have come up and been able to continue that momentum here in Pawtucket,” noted Ben Crockett, Red Sox Vice President of Player Development. “It’s been exciting to see and a pretty big stepping-stone for a bunch of the guys.”

PawSox Manager Billy McMillon (right), Photo Credit: Louriann Mardo-Zayat

3). Landing on the radar. Trevor Kelley’s rise in becoming a dependable bullpen option for first-year PawSox manager Billy McMillon resulted in some ridiculous stats. By July, he had posted a 0.96 ERA in 28 games whole holding International League hitters to a .204 average.

The Barrington, R.I. native also walked 12 while striking out 34. Those are impressive numbers that few saw coming at the beginning of the season when Kelley was buried on the PawSox depth chart and attention was being paid to pitchers either on Boston’s 40-man roster or newcomers with past MLB closing experience. You won’t find the 25-year-old mentioned in any prospect lists, which made his addition to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster on July 1 even extra special.Kelley appeared in one game with Boston before returning to Pawtucket.

“I definitely have a different perspective on the game. Getting on the (40-man roster), that’s huge,” he said. “For my first time, it was definitely a learning experience.” When the International League announced their selections for Postseason All-Stars earlier this week, Kelley’s name was included. He carried a 1.90 earned-run average into Wednesday night’s game against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His 49 appearances were tied for most in the league and his 12 saves were tops in the I.L. Kelley allowed just 49 hits and struck out 57 through his first 61.2 innings this season. Given his success, it would seem Kelley is a strong bet to return to Boston when MLB rosters expand on September 1, which is this coming Sunday.

4). Keeping it all together. With the Triple-A environment at times featuring so many moving parts, the club’s coaching staff must feel like they are part of a one-of-a-kind circus juggling act. Much like his predecessors, McMillon earned high praise for his ability to walk the fine line between player movement and making sure the needs of the major league team are being met.

Credit should also be given to coach Bruce Crabbe, hitting coach Rich Gedman, and pitching Kevin Walker for the roles each of them played in getting the PawSox players prepared for each game, as well as what to expect after learning they had been called up.

“This is a challenging level for a lot of reasons, but Billy has done a great job,” said Crockett. “The entire staff was able to come together despite not having worked together before and was able to build relationships and gain the trust of the players.”