PAWTUCKET — Focusing on depth, along with the current state of Boston’s maxed-out pitching staff, there are several intriguing options on the Pawtucket Red Sox that the parent club is undoubtedly keeping close tabs upon.
Some of these additional pieces are already included on the 40-man roster, like Zach Stewart and Pedro Beato. For those in the non-inclusive position, such as Alex Wilson and Nelson Figueroa, some manipulating of the roster would have to transpire before they could become eligible to pitch for Boston.
Presently, all the aforementioned names are with a Pawtucket ballclub that’s gearing up for the Governors’ Cup finals that begins Tuesday night at McCoy Stadium against Charlotte, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Becoming the last International League team left standing is the main objective, but what lays ahead once the PawSox’s run is through?
With Daisuke Matsuzaka’s days as a starter clearly numbered, and Alfredo Aceves a likely in-house candidate to take the righty’s spot when that turn comes up again next weekend in Toronto, Boston is running into a situation where it could need all the arms it can muster just to finish out the regular season – and fast. The situation has reached dire straits, particularly in the bullpen, where pitchers are coming into games much sooner than anticipated due to the starters’ inability to provide any semblance of length.
Had manager Arnie Beyeler’s troupe not captured the wild card and knocked off division foe Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the opening round, it’s conceivable to think that both Stewart and Beato would be in Red Sox uniforms right now, each stating their case as to why management should consider them as viable options moving forward. As Beato noted, playing for a chance at winning a championship is a pretty neat alternative – one that pushes pitching in the big leagues onto the backburner.
“I have a chance to get a ring with a team that’s playing for something,” said the 25-year-old Beato, who came over from the Kelly Shoppach deal with the Mets last month. “All I’m looking forward to is my next assignment and getting my job done.”
The remaining piece that Boston has to show from the trade that sent Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox, Stewart remains grounded that, until official word comes, he’s still a member of a PawSox outfit that seeks to capture its first I.L. title in 28 years.
“We’ve got a good team and we’re rolling right now,” notes Stewart, who started the first game of the Scranton series – his first mound appearance since making a spot start for Boston against the Angels. “All I can do is pitch where I’m at. All those other decisions will come and be made by somebody else.”
For Wilson, the goal of reaching Boston is something he mapped out prior to the season and before switching from the rotation to the bullpen. As the players departed the home clubhouse following Monday’s workout, Wilson was busy packing some of his belongings in a Red Sox bag. The 25-year-old’s rationale is to save time and hasten his departure to his offseason home in Texas once Pawtucket is done.
Told about the prospect of delaying his return to the Lone Star State in favor of a few weeks in Boston’s bullpen, Wilson smiled.
“Every year, I set out to move up a level, and if that’s able to happen, then I would have reached that goal,” said Wilson, who will become eligible for this December’s Rule 5 Draft is he’s not added to Boston’s 40-man by Nov. 20. “By the same token, this is my third time in four years that I’ve made the playoffs. When you think back about all the years, you end up thinking about playoffs. No matter where you are, the competitive nature takes over once you hit the field.”
Figueroa seemed to bolster his case after delivering a virtuoso performance in Saturday’s series closer, holding the Junior Yankees to one run over eight innings. Ironically, his outing came the same night that Matsuzaka got cuffed around by the Blue Jays at Fenway Park. The 38-year-old Figueroa has seen and been through enough to know that looking too far ahead is not in one’s best interest.
“For myself, I would love it if the opportunity to go to Boston came, but this has been so much fun. I don’t care how long you’ve been playing; the shot to play for a championship doesn’t come around too often,” Figueora said. “You can’t wonder why this guy was taken ahead of me. I learned a long time ago to control what you can, which is to have fun and leave everything out there when they give me the ball.
“If Boston sees something that can help out the team, then great. Otherwise, I’m not going to change,” Figeuroa added. “It’s not like they’re going to make the call, and all of a sudden, I’m going to throw 95 (miles per hour). To eliminate the distractions, push them to the side, and focus on the task at hand is more important. I don’t take anything for granted; I was released twice this year, but here I am, with a chance to win a championship.”
EXTRA BASES: The PawSox’s rotation for their series with the Knights will go as follows: Steven Wright in Game 1, with Stewart tabbed for Game 2. When the series shifts to Fort Mill, S.C. beginning Thursday, Figueroa will go in Game 3, followed by Chris Hernandez in Game 4 and Billy Buckner in Game 5. Hernandez and Buckner would become eligible to pitch only if the series is extended past three games. … All systems appear to be a go for Josh Fields after the reliever missed the entire Scranton series due to tightness in his groin. Beyeler noted that Fields was feeling pretty good after a pair of recent bullpen sessions. … Outfielder Alex Hassan (knee laceration) has been ruled out for the finals. … Tickets for Tuesday and Wednesday’s games at McCoy remain available and can be purchased at the box office, by calling (401) 724-7300, or visiting www.pawsox.com .