PAWTUCKET – Nobody wants to play extra innings on a day at McCoy Stadium that began with the stands filled with elementary and middle school students hailing from this city and concluded with a small group of diehard supporters.
Tuesday was also getaway day for the Columbus Clippers, a club that certainly wanted to hop on a plane and fly back home to Ohio after partaking in an eight-game, two-city road trip. The PawSox players wanted to finish the game, too, and enjoy a rare night off that would be followed by an even rarer day away from the ballpark.
Instead, the two teams hooked up for a 15-inning encounter that consumed four hours and 38 minutes of their lives. Columbus went home happy, earning a 6-5 win thanks to Cord Phelps’ sacrifice fly in the final frame of the longest game at McCoy since May 12, 2011.
Pawtucket infielder Drew Sutton took the loss in what was his first pitching appearance since high school. The player with the “good soldier” sticker on his backside actually acquitted himself quite nicely, working two innings that featured two strikeouts, no walks and 28 pitches, 17 of which were strikes.
“It’s not a good feeling. Your No. 1 thought is that you hope he’s healthy. You don’t want someone to go out there in a position where they could get hurt,” cautioned PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina when the postgame media session veered away from more pertinent topics such as Jose Iglesias exiting the game with a bruised right forearm and pitching prospect Rubby De La Rosa tossing three sterling innings.
“Usually you let (position players) go two innings and see how they feel,” DiSarcina continued. “Drew’s going to be sore (Wednesday). It’s a different motion and they’re on the hill.”
What would have DiSarcina done had the game moved into the 16th inning?
“No clue,” he responded. “You just kind of go down the line and see who’s up. I’m sure (Brandon) Snyder or (Jonathan) Diaz would love to have done it … we would have gotten someone out there.”
The long contest did not diminish DiSarcina’s recollection of De La Rosa, who turned in his second consecutive scoreless appearance. The 24-year-old struck out the side in the first inning, two coming on mid 90s fastballs. De La Rosa wound up with five strikeouts as part of his 44-pitch stint.
De La Rosa has been under a stringent pitch count in the season’s first month, one that’s been capped at or around 50 pitches. DiSarcina seemed receptive to the idea that perhaps the time has come to increase the right-hander’s workload.
“That was his best outing,” said DiSarcina. “Sitting next to (pitching coach) Rich (Sauveur) and (minor-league pitching coordinator) Ralph (Treuel), his demeanor on the mound was much different. He was aggressive and really looked ready to pitch.
“That was a glimpse of what we can see in the future once we get him going,” he added. “Big step for him, I think.”
Iglesias’ injury status came as the result of getting hit by a pitch in the first inning. He stole a base and scored Pawtucket’s first run before adding a nice defensive play to end the sixth inning. When the seventh came around, Diaz was patrolling shortstop.
“I assume he’s hurting,” said DiSarcina about Iglesias, who was seen sporting a red sleeve on his forearm while moving about the clubhouse.
The win enabled the Clippers to earn a split of the four-game series. The visitors tied the game in the top of the ninth against Chris Carpenter, who began the inning with back-to-back walks.
Bryce Brentz homered for the third straight day, a two-run shot that at the time gave the home team a 4-0 lead. Playing in his first game in three days, Jackie Bradley Jr. went 3-for-5 with one run and one RBI. Serving as Pawtucket’s DH, Bradley doubled with one down in the 14th but ended up stranded.
Alfredo Aceves came across as a caring and team-first guy Tuesday when asked about his expectations leading up to his first pitching assignment with the PawSox on Thursday night.
“I want to contribute where I am right now. Obviously I want to have a good outing; that’s all I want,” Aceves expressed. “It’s very important for us to shut them down, score some runs and win the ball game.”
It’s hard to believe that such a response is from the same guy who just last week was throwing his ex-big league teammates under the proverbial bus. To go from combustible to accepting in a week’s time is a turn of events the Red Sox undoubtedly had in mind while trying to figure out where to slot Aceves in Pawtucket’s rotation.
Thursday will mark Aceves’ first appearance in nine days.
“(The built-in break) gives you a little rest on your arm,” said Aceves, who started two games with the PawSox during the 2011 season. “Pawtucket is a good city and I like it. Here is where I want to be.”
Aceves views his current PawSox status as a “good thing” in the sense that he has a chance to restore the Red Sox’ faith and trust in him. He then paused for a second before remarking, “I’m looking to get back to the big leagues. Why not?”
DiSarcina was asked if the retirement of infielder Jon Hee brought back any memories. In 2002, DiSarcina went into then-Pawtucket manager Buddy Bailey’s office to announce that he was calling it a career.
“We started talking about it when we were in Rochester [April 19-22]. He came in and was emotional and we ended up talking for an hour,” shared the manager. “When we got back here, I saw him wandering around the clubhouse and I was like ‘Come on, let’s talk.’
“It brought back memories, though for two entirely different reasons why,” he added. “He lost his passion to play probably just because he kind of reached his peak. I was struggling with my health and that’s why I retired.”
Hee boarded a plane for his native Hawaii on Tuesday morning. He took a picture with the lineup card from Monday night’s game before packing his belongings in a duffle bag. The 27-year-old appeared in 64 games for the 2012 PawSox, batting .253 with two homers and 21 RBI. His 2013 output consisted of two games – none coming after the season-opening series in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre – and four at-bats.
“He took the last few days to say goodbye to his teammates and to thank them,” said DiSarcina.
The nature of the injury sustained by New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli is one that’s “avoidable” in the eyes of Pawtucket backstop Ryan Lavarnway. Cervelli paid a steep price for exposing his right hand last Friday when Toronto’s Rajai Davis fouled a pitch that resulted in the former undergoing surgery the following day.
On a related note, Lavarnway mentioned that he had two catcher’s interference calls last season, both with Pawtucket and both coming with former big leaguer Hideki Matsui in the box.
“In the majors, they have reports on who those guys are, so you know to stay back,” said Lavarnway. “Beyond that, you shouldn’t be getting close enough to get hit.”
EXTRA BASES: Mitch Maier (left wrist sprain) is making strides according to DiSarcina, though the outfielder remains unlikely to come off the disabled list any time soon. … Outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing the previous three games with a sprained wrist. He went 1-for-6 with four strikeouts. … The comeback attempt of Alex Hassan (calf) has taken the outfielder to Fort Myers, which to DiSarcina is a positive development. Hassan has yet to play a game this season. … Pawtucket will enjoy its first day off the season Wednesday before getting back to work at McCoy with the first of four games against Durham.