Opening day was a smash hit at McCoy Stadium. 11,306 fans jammed the ballpark to watch the PawSox dismantle Rochester, 11-3. All things are possible on Opening Day. You’re undefeated. You’ve got the best players in the world on your team. Nothing can go wrong. It’s great to feel that for at least one day. Before we get too giddy, we should remember the PawSox have won five straight Opening Day contests. Last year, we finished 21 games under .500, at 62-81. New Pawtucket skipper Torey Lovullo is as excited about the rite of Spring as anyone. “Great hopes, great expectations. Nobody’s won or lost any games. You know, they’re having the same talks in the other dugout, in every dugout in the International League. Everybody has a chance. There’s always great hopes that you’re going to go out and win a championship, you’re going to send a number of players to the Big Leagues, you’re going to do your job in every way, shape and form, and those are the expectations we have right now.”
Unbeaten, at 1-0, the manager that came over from the Indians organization cautions that like his predecessor, Ron Johnson, he knows that development takes priority over winning at this level. “There’s a fine line there. I will never put a player in harms’ way to risk their development. I’m a firm believer that winning is a part of development. It’s a part of sending the player up there to Boston to Tito (Francona) and his gang, with the expectation that they’re going to contribute and they’re ready to help that team win some ballgames. It starts here. We talk about winning, but it’s not the most important thing. Development certainly is.”
Fresh from his first Spring Training in the Red Sox organization, Lovullo sounds like a kid on Christmas morning, excited to try out all his new toys. “There’s a great number of players that are ready to play in the Big Leagues. It’s endless. They talk about winning a World Series in Boston and they really mean it. On top of that, they have great personnel that are making great baseball decisions. I couldn’t be more impressed with the level of talent, whether it’s from a player standpoint, front office standpoint or a staff standpoint that the Boston Red Sox have assembled.”
While this is Toreys’ first go-round with the PawSox, he does have a veteran staff. Former National League All Star Gerald Perry returns to the PawSox, where he served as hitting coach in 1998. Perry spent parts of the last three seasons at Wrigley Field with the Chicago Cubs. Pitching coach Rich Sauveur is back for his third season in a PawSox uniform and that is a comfort to Lovullo. “There’s some newness to us. Rich and I had a chance to bond a little bit at Spring Training, although he was on another ‘planet’, working with pitchers, while I was working with infielders. We united a little bit at the end of Spring Training. I didn’t see Gerald much at all, but we’ve come together from a whole bunch of different areas. One thing we all have in common, is we care about these kids and we want to put them in a good situation to learn.”
Torey got his first real taste of PawSox fans on Wednesday at Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln, RI, as the Northern RI Chamber of Comerce hosted the Annual Welcome Home Luncheon for the team. Roughly, 400 fans turned out to show their love and get a first glimpse at the PawSox. “Nothing surprises me about this Red Sox Nation anymore. I learned that at Spring Training, when they are about four or five deep as the players are coming out to stretch. There’s such a great core group of fans that comes out to root for these guys. We were pleasantly surprised at the turnout. I know the guys were excited to get there and get that introduction under their belt, and get the season started.”
The season is undeway. Thursday the offense exploded and the pitching and defense were terrific. Friday, Adam Mills gets his first start of 2010 at 7:05 p.m. and Saturday, Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch for the PawSox at McCoy at 1:05 p.m. Plenty of great seats are available.