ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Starting Wednesday night the Pawtucket Red Sox — what’s left of the club, that is — will dead aim at the Governors’ Cup trophy, which is presented to the top International League team following the conclusion of two best-of-five series.
Game 1 of the opening round brings the division champion PawSox to Allentown, Pa., home of fellow I.N. North foe and wild-card entry Lehigh Valley. The first two games are at Coca-Cola Park with the final three to be played at McCoy Stadium over the weekend.
The Pawtucket outfit that takes the field tonight will hardly resemble the one that finished the regular season 20 games over .500 (81-61) en route to capturing the franchise’s first division banner since 2003. In fact it’s debatable which side has suffered more roster attrition – the pitchers or the position players.
Some of the call-ups made by Boston were to be expected, most notably pitchers Michael Bowden, Felix Doubront and catcher/DH Ryan Lavarnway, whose potent bat and middle-of-the-order presence will undoubtedly be missed.
Another prominent contributor recently lost was reliever Jason Rice, who was included in the Connor Jackson deal with Oakland. Tuesday saw Rice claimed off of waivers by Cleveland.
If outfielder Ryan Kalish had demonstrated he was healthy and over the shoulder/neck maladies that short-circuited his season, he too would have been a prime candidate to get summoned by the parent club instead of participating in the I.L. playoffs. Instead Kalish was shut down for the season, the hope that he will be all-systems go by the start of spring training.
Sunday night saw Pawtucket’s playoff chances absorb even a greater hit when Nate Spears and Kyle Weiland joined the September call-up brigade and Drew Sutton was designated for assignment. Weiland was in line to start the opener while Spears and Sutton provided manager Arnie Beyeler with some cover in terms of their ability to play both the infield and outfield.
The makeup Pawtucket’s 24-man roster is a reflection of what’s going on with Boston. If the team’s overall health is good and the bullpen isn’t maxed out, chances are that the Triple-A roster won’t get purged.
Given the current status of the Red Sox, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the PawSox are losing bodies left and right. Boston is trying to win the American League East and gain admittance to the playoffs. The fact Pawtucket is making a playoff push of its own does not change a thing in terms of supplying the big-league team with able players.
Want some good news? For the moment veteran relief pitcher Scott Atchison is still with Pawtucket as Tuesday marked the first day Boston could have brought him back up. He was optioned to Pawtucket on Aug. 30, meaning he had to wait several days upon being eligible to return to the Red Sox.
Atchison was present and accounted for when the PawSox departed Pawtucket shortly after noontime on Tuesday. He was also one of 21, which equals the number of active players Pawtucket had when Beyeler & Co. left town.
One of the three remaining spots will go to Game 2 starter Tony Pena Jr., who placed on the temporary inactive list Sunday. Spots could also be awarded to pitchers Brandon Duckworth and Charlie Yaeger or infielder Tony Thomas, depending on how many arms Beyeler and pitching coach Rich Sauveur think the PawSox will need.
Duckworth has been shut down since mid-August with a right elbow strain. The 35-year-old, who pitched for Lehigh Valley last season, was scheduled to throw a round of batting practice prior to Monday afternoon’s regular-season finale. If Duckworth is added to the playoff roster, it will be as a relief pitcher.
A butterfly specialist, Haeger joined the PawSox on Monday but was not added to the active roster. He compiled a 3.24 ERA in eight starts for Portland after signing with the Red Sox in July after getting released by Seattle. The 27-year-old Haeger has pitched in the majors, having compiled a 6.40 ERA in 34 appearances (10 starts) since breaking in with the White Sox in 2006. He’s also logged service time with the Padres (2008) and Dodgers (2009-10).
Here are the pitching matchups:
Game 1, Thursday at Lehigh Valley, 7:05 p.m.
Matt Fox (Pawtucket) vs. Dave Bush (Lehigh Valley)
Game 2, Thursday at Lehigh Valley, 7:05 p.m.
Tony Pena Jr. (Pawtucket) vs. Ryan Edell (Lehigh Valley)
Game 3, Friday at Pawtucket, 7:05 p.m.
Brian Bass (Lehigh Valley) vs. Alex Wilson (Pawtucket)
Game 4*, Saturday at Pawtucket, 6:05 p.m.
Scott Mathieson (Lehigh Valley) vs. TBA (Pawtucket)
Game 5*, Sunday at Pawtucket, 1:05 p.m.
Nate Bump (Lehigh Valley) vs. TBA (Pawtucket)
Pawtucket took the season series from Lehigh Valley, 10-6. The other I.L. playoff series pits Durham and Columbus with the Clippers enjoying home field advantage.
Tickets for all PawSox home playoff games can be purchased by visiting www.pawsox.com  or calling (401) 724-7300.