August 2011

HYDE’S ROAD REVIEW PART 2

     Today I complete my road review for the I.L. North.  Again, it has nothing to do with baseball.  After 11 years in the league, the last 8 with the PawSox, I am qualified.  And again, sorry if there are any hurt feelings.

 

Rochester-  I feel like we come here more often than anywhere else.  Of course, that’s not true.  Rochester is a mixed bag.  The hotel used to be pretty nice.  It changed hands about 5 years ago and they have not made one single improvement since.  Formerly known as the Crown Plaza, now it’s the Plaza.  Their van drivers used to take us here and there for a gratuity.  No more.  There are good eats close by, though.  Byblos, a middle eastern cafe serves a great hummus and tabbouleh.  The Galleria, serves a great sandwich.  In fact, before the Broad Street Grill in Lehigh came into the league, this was my favorite.  Up the road, still within walking distance, is the Dinosaur Barbecue.  Tremendous ribs and side dishes.  Frontier Field still looks to be in impeccable condition.  Great vantage point from the visitors’ radio booth.  The staff there is beyond compare.  Organist Fred Costello is a throw back to better days.  Fred recently won the Spirit of the I.L. award for his contributions to the League.  His son Thurm, runs the visitors’ clubhouse and I always look forward to seeing him.  Chuck Hinkel is a great PR man.

what I like-  Visiting with the great Joe Altobelli.  Alto is Mr. Baseball in Rochester.  He played and managed here, was the G.M. and broadcaster  here, too.  His number is retired and a statue has been erected in his honor at the park.  Alto retired from the radio last year and he isn’t always there.  I could sit and listen to him talk baseball forever.  He is a treasure.  I do like spending time in the friendly coffee shop at hotel.

what I could do without-  As is the case in Buffalo, nothing distasteful about the trip to Rochester, other than the hotel.  There is one waiter in the restaurant, a real wiseguy.  Don’t know how he keeps his job.  Besides being a lousy server, he’s very sarcastic.

favorite person to see-  Over the last 8 years, I have become good friends with Red Wings broadcaster Josh Whetzel.  He is an excellent radio man and a great guy.  Always fun to have a beer and shoot the breeze with this guy.

 

Syracuse-This one is special for me.  I lived in Syracuse for 12 years.  started my career there.  Had my daughters Eva and Carly there.  Still have many friends there.  In fact, at one point, (1997-1999) I was the voice of the Chiefs.  As the years have passed, I see fewer of the colleagues I had, but it is always a treat to go back.  Our hotel is familiar, but not the best.  The Ramada Inn has seen its’ better days.  Food options are OK, but to get to the good spots, you need wheels.  Usually, we find them.  I like Alliance Bank Stadium.  I called the first game ever played there in April of 1997.  Press box food is bad.  The fountain soda they serve tastes like poison.  I try to remember to bring a jug of water or something with me.  The ‘Cuse is always a blast from the past.

what I like-  catching up with old friends and co-workers is great.  Going to the Change of Pace for chicken wings is the best.  They are the best wings I have ever had.  Owner Steve Grilli rolls out the red carpet.  It may sound like blasphemy, but the hot wings have slipped into second place on the Hyde’s All Time list, ever so slightly behind the Garlic Parmesan.  Grilli, incidentally, one of the nicest men in history, was the losing pitcher in the famous 33 inning game played at McCoy Stadium in 1981.  His son Jason is currenty a pitcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  I also enjoy time spent with Jason Benneti, a recent graduate of Law School at Wake Forest University, an intelligent young man, who also happens to be the play by play voice of the Chiefs.

what I could do without-  A pet peeve of mine is the constant mispronounciation of the name of our team.  It should be pronounced “P’tucket”, not PAW-tucket.  Their P.A. guy is a prime culprit.  Nice enough guy, but get it right, please Brent.

favorite person to see-  this is a tough one.  I can’t even begin to pick one person without hurting someones feelings.  Friends and co-workers are always a welcome sight.  Life on the road is sometimes tough and mundane, so when you see a familiar face, it’s great.  I guess I have to say (with no disrespect intended to anyone else)  that I get the biggest kick out of the visits to the radio booth made by the retired Sports Information Director from Syracuse University, Larry Kimball.  We travelled the roads for many years together and it meant the world to me wjhen I felt I had earned his respect and friendship.   

 

up next- the I.L. West

HYDE’S ROAD REVIEW

     One of the questions I am most frequently asked is about life on the road with the Pawtucket Red Sox.  As I wrap up my eighth year with the PawSox and eleventh season in the International League, I am completely qualified at Expert Level to offer my opinions.  This review will have absolutely nothuing to do with baseball.  It involves my personal experience, visiting the thirteen other cities in the I.L.  Today we start in the North Division.  I will be honest, so no hurt feelings, people!

Lehigh Valley-  Huge upgrade this season to a new hotel.  Previously we stayed in a antiquated old place called the Hotel Bethlehem.  I believe the name of the current place is Staybridge Suites. It offers a full kitchen in each room as well as a breakfast in the lobby.  On certain days there is a “happy hour”.  You can get a couple of drinks on the house.  Nice touch.

     There are several eating places within walking distance of the hotel, including “Waffle House”, “Sonic” and “Red Robin”.  If you ever get a chance, Red Robin is a pretty good option.  Great burgers, chicken sandwiches and endless fries.  The waitress will always give you an extra iced tea “to go”. 

     what I like -  I love the Broad Street Deli and Grill.  Owned by a Yankees fan, Eli, you know the sandwich has to be good for me to make an effort to get there every time we’re in Allentown.  Ribeye Steak, with a spicy jack cheese, mushrooms, onions and a touch of mayo.  Easily the I.L,’s best sandwich.  One of the best I’ve ever had.

     what I could do without- Whining.  The Iron Pigs have been the league doormat since they joined the I.L.  Now, because they’ve had a decent year, they expect to win every night and they think we empathize when they’re losing.  We’ve all been through bad seasons and losing streaks.  Act like you’ve been there before.  Press box “spread” is minimal and often inedible.  Also, an official scorer who once boasted, “I never change a call.”  

     Favorite person in Lehigh- in 2011, no contest.  Former PawSox All Star, outfielder Brandon Moss. 

 

Buffalo-  We flip flop back and forth between the Hyatt and Adams’ Mark hotels.  I have changed over to a Hyatt guy.  The other place seems like it’s falling apart.  It’s within walking distance to the park and there’s a train that takes you there free of charge.  Buffalo is a great food town.  Lots of choices.  Friendly staff at ballpark.

     Always look forwrd to “Chefs”.  A great Italian joint that rivals Federal Hills’ best.  I have two words for you- “Spaghetti Parmesan”.  The Anchor Bar is inconsistent, but the lure of the chicken wing is too great to resist.  Also, Jimmy at “Daddio’s” is the consumate host and friend.  Terrific food!!

     what I like- Always love talking with Duke McGuire, the Bisons color analyst.  He appeared in the movie “The Natural” as an extra.  Clubhouse and ballpark staff treats us like we’re at home.  Great people.  Chippewa is one crazy street.  I’m too old for it now.  But back in the day…

     what I could do without- nothing really distatseful about Buffalo to me.  It used to be too far away, now we fly.  The weather can be tough, but that’s ok.

     favorite person in Buffalo- former Niagara University Mens’ Head Basketball Coach and dear friend, Pete Lonergan (He upset then #1 St. Johns in 1985)

 

Scranton/Wilkes Barre- Never been a big fan of this trip.  We stay in a converted train station that also served as a morgue during World War II.  Rumors of the  place being haunted are always amusing to me.  There aren’t many inexpensive eating options within walking distance.  Park is too far to walk.  They are reportedly set to renovate PNC Field.  I can live withour fancy amenities, but how about cleaning the radio booth once a year, or so.  Worst press box food in the league, bar none.  

     It is not as funny a city as the “Office” would like you to think.  I’ve been fooled by “Coopers” for the last time.  I live in Newport RI, and I expect good seafood in Scranton?  Maybe I am a idiot!

     what I like-  the staff at the park.  The guys have taken good care of us over the years.  Also, it’s fun to beat the Yankees.  Up the hill at Montage Mountain, there are a few restaurants and a movie theater.

     what I could do without- looking forward to the renovation.  Most uncomfortable press box in I.L.  If I could ask President Randy Mobley for anything, it would be a standard, comfortable chair in each park for us.  Some places we’re sitting on a folding chair, craning our neck to see the action.  Respect the broadcaster!!

     favorite person in Scranton-  Don’t even have to think about it.   The visiting clubbie.  Red is a most generous and gracious man.  He always offers food and drink and never fails to deliver the giant bag of popcorn.  Easy to get along with.  Great to talk to.  Fun.  A tremendous guy.

up next time- Syracuse and Rochester 

 

POWER OUTAGE

     It may be symbolic and somehow fitting that the power in the team hotel went out on Wednesday night/Thursday morning in Syracuse.  The power for the PawSox seems to have petered out as well.  The lowly Chiefs have manhandled Pawtucket in 4 of the first 5 games of their three city series.  Perhaps it is a coincidence that the PawSox have dropped 5 of 7 games since Ryan Lavarnway was promoted to Boston.  I don’t know for sure.

     After holding or sharing first place for the last 18 days, the PawSox have picked the worst time possible for a swoon.  The club has dropped six of its’ last nine games and is a game behind Lehigh Valley in the North Division and just 2 ahead of Gwinnett for the wild card.  One more in Syracuse, 4 in Scranton and a pair in Rochester before the final 4 at McCoy.  No secret formula, the boys have to start winning again.

     Kyle Weiland gets the ball tonight.  The righty hasn’t been the same since his return from Boston.  If the PawSox are to entertain any hopes of a post season berth, it rests on Weilands’ shoulders, starting today.

IT MIGHT BE SPRING TIME

     Ryan Lavarnway is long gone, now.  Others may disagree, but I do not expect to see him back at McCoy this year.  I may be wrong and I hope I am, selfishly.  When Lavarnway is on the PawSox, we are a much better team.  Someone needed to replace the “Whammer” on the Pawtucket roster and that someone is Matt Spring.

     Spring was promoted from AA Portland.  He’s only appeared in one game, but I was impressed with his defense.  Spring was flopping all around home plate on Sunday afternoon, blocking every pitch thrown his way.  Spring seems happy to be in Pawtucket in the thick of a playoff race.  “It’s great to be on a winning team.  I think it’s a great group of guys and they’ve been good to me so far.  I’m just glad to be here.”  Spring has swung a good bat in 2011 but realizes his defense is his “bread and butter”.  “Defense is something I really pride myself on.  It’s gotten me to this point in my career.  This year, I’ve been hitting well, but my defense is something I take great pride in.”

     Spring was in the Tampa Bay organization before he came to the Sox.  He was asked to analyze the difference between the two organizations.  “I can’t say a bad word about the Rays, but I really like the way they treat the players over here.  They do a lot of little things for us, which makes life easier, but I really do like it here.”

     Spring spent a couple of months in Portland before making the jump to Triple A.  He enjoyed that, as well.  “The coaching staff was great.  So were my teammates.  Getting to know different guys throughout the organization has been nice.” 

     Spring grew up in Arizona, but most of his childhood was spent rooting for a team a little further west, and north.  “We didn’t have the DiamondBacks until I was about 10 or 11.  I watched other teams at Spring Training, but I was a Mariners fan a little bit.  I was an Alex Rodriguez fan, but that’s changed of late.”  Spring admits he had the stance of Ken Griffey Jr. down pat as a wiffle ball playing lad in Arizona.  He also didn’t have a “catching idol” growing up because he was not a backstop until relatively late in life.  “It’s funny.  I was a conversion guy in college.  Never caught much as a boy or in high school.  I pretty much learned on my own.  I try to emulate guys like Molina or McCann who excel at offense and defense.”

     Spring laughs about his evolution as a catcher.   “It took me a few years.  At first, I was more of a ‘Golden Retriever’ than a ‘Golden Receiver’.  I’ve worked really hard.  The catching guy at Tampa was really great.  I’ve learned a lot too this year from ‘Eppy’ (Minor League Catching Coordinator, Chad Epperson).  You just keep your ears open.  The biggest help is the pitchers.  learn what they want, what makes them comfortable.  Essentially, we have to make them happy.”

TALKING WITH TOMMY

     There are few people in baseball that I respect more than Tommy Harper.  The former outfielder spent three seasons with the Red Sox in the early ’70s.  He is now a player development consultant with the Sox, bringing his vast knowledge to young Sox prospects.  Tommy was at McCoy a couple of days ago, checking n on the troops.  He was pleassed with what he saw.  “I like this team in Pawtucket.  They’ve battled back.  They’ve got good pitching and the hitting has been timely.  I congratulate them because they got off to a shaky start.  Everything has come together for them and they’re in first place and they’re playing well.”

     Tommy is always ready to talk about his prize pupil, having an All Star year for Boston.  Jacoby Ellsbury.  Harper himself was a 30/30 guy  early in his career.  He doesn’t necessarily think Ellsbury has traded speed for power in 2011.  “He keeps telling people that he’s still playing the way he always has.  He’s got a better approach at the plate and he’s putting himself in a better position to hit.  The home runs are just a by-product of his work.  That entails cage work and practice and so forth.  It’s not that he consciously tried to increase his home run power.  He’s just playing his regular game.”

     After missing most of last season, Ellsbury has come back with a vengeance.  As teamamte John Lester said the other day, that was probably a good thing for anyone with the Red Sox.  Harper agrees.  “He did have a tough season last year.  He’s overcome a lot.  He said he’d go home and work hard and he did.  It’s paying off for him.”

     Harper says, no matter the era, base stealers steal bases.  “Jacoby and Carl Crawford are base stealers.  There’s no doubt they can do that.  They know the right time to run.  If you dpon’t have the proper opportunity, don’t do it.  It’s when you steal the base that counts the most.  70 steals, 80 stolen bases.  That doesn’t matter to me.  If you are hitting home runs or doubles, you don’t have the chance to steal bases.  Let’s put it this way.  Everyone talks about Adrian Gonzalez.  The fact that he hawsn’t had a home run in so many at bats.  SO WHAT!  The guy’s hitting .350, he’s got RBI’s.  He’ll hit homers at some point.  I’m not concerned.  It just doesn’t mean that much in the realm of winning a baseball game.”

     Harper held the single season record for the Sox with 54 stolen bases until it was eclipsed by Ellsbury, who stole 70 in 2009.  He intimates that stealing bases may be tougher than “going yard”.  “I’ll put it this way.  I once stole 73 bases in a season for the Seattle Pilots.  I stole 54 in a year in a Red Sox uniform.  I also once hit 31 home runs in a season.  David Ortiz once hit 54 homers in a year.  Which is tougher?  Could he steal 31 bases??  I don’t think so.”

     Tommy Harper has ties to the two men not enshrined in Cooperstown who probably deserve it most.  As a former Cincinnati Red and Red Sox player, he knows first hand about the all-time hits leader, Pete Rose and former Boston great, El Tiante, Luis Tiant.  “I don’t know if Tiant is ever going to get in,  I think Pete has a chance because of his record.  I don’t know if the veterans’ committee is going to ever include Luis.  It’s a shame, because he does have the credentials to be in the Hall.   Every year, there’s someone left out.  Every year!  Look at (Bert) Blyleven.  Look how long it took him to get in.  Maybe I’m wrong about Luis Tiant.  He has the pitching record to be included in the Hall of Fame.”

TAZAWA’S ON TRACK

     Last week was a good week for high-level Boston Red Sox prospects.  Ryan Kalish returned to action, Felix Doubront came off the disabled list and right hander Junichi Tazawa made his first appearance in a PawSox uniform since 2009, after enduring “Tommy John” surgery.

     Tazawa has made a couple of appearances in  relief, and has gotten off to off to a good start.  In 4 and a third innings, the 25 year old has scattered 8 hits, allowing no runs and striking out 8 hitters.  I spoke to him, through his interpreter, Kaz Saito.  Tazawa is happy with his progress but knows he has a way to go.  “My health is good.  It’s not perfect yet, but it’s getting better.”  Tazawa has worked hard after the procedure of April 2010.  “After surgery, my range of motion in my elbow wasn’t good, but it has progressed and is getting better.”  Tazawa had no trouble when asked about the toughest part of his layoff.  “I doubted that I would be able to get back on the mound.  I didn’t think my arm would be the same.  I trust my trainer, now it is ok.”

     I often think about how tough it must be for foreign players, even with translators, to adapt to the American culture and way of life.  On top of that, dealing with a severe injury.  “It is not easy, but I like it.  When I was hurt, I was able to go back to Japan a couple of times, for about a month and a half at a time.”

     In an organization like the Red Sox that has veteran Japanese players like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, Tazawa has been able to get pointers from men he admired as a boy, growing up in Yokohama.  “When I was young, I looked up to Daisuke and Okajima in Japan.  I am happy to play with them.  They have given me advice since I have gotten here.”

     While Tazawa was recovering from his surgery, he took the opportunity to increase his size and strength through the rigorous workouts the Red Sox set up for him.  Tazawa is noticably bigger.  “Yes, I took advantage of my personal trainer and the conditioning program they set up for me.  I feel bigger and stronger.”

     As Tazawa looks beyond the 2011 season, he seems encouraged by his prospects.  “Yes, I am excited.  The conditioning and training has helped me and I will continue to do what is necessary.  Step by step, I will analyze what I have done this year and figure a way to continue my progress.”

A 21ST CENTURY FOX

     There are tough decisions in life and there are easy ones.  Those who choose the International League Player and Pitcher of the week must have had no problem  selecting Matt Fox of the Pawtucket Red Sox.  Fox was dominant, throwing a pair of masterpieces, going 2-0, leading the first place PawSox to a pair of wins.  On Sunday, he threw the first complete game for Pawtucket since Clay Buchholz in 2009.  A 2 hit shutout, complete with 7 strikeouts as the Sox hung on to the top spot in the North with a 5-0 victory in Gwinnett.  That effort was on the heels of his 6 inning outing Tuesday in Charlotte.  Fox surrendered one run on two hits with 8 strikeouts.  A pretty great week.  15 innings, 4 hits, 1 run and 15 strikeouts.    Understandably, the 28 year old is enjoying his run.  “It’s fun.  Whe you’re on the same page with your catcher, like I was with (Ryan) Lavarnway, it makes it easier.  They (Gwinnett) are a good hitting team.  I was able to get ahead of them early and when I was ahead of them, I was able to put them away with a curve ball or a cutter.  When I got behind a hitter, I just tried to challenge them.  We have a good offense and they gave me a lead to work with, so I wasn’t afraid to challenge them.  It was fun.” 

     Fox has had stretches where he has been absolutely unhittable.  He retired 14 straight to begin his outing on Tuesday and set down 15 of the last 16 he faced Sunday.  Fox downplays his success.  “It’s a long season.  You’re going to have stretches when you pitch well and you’ll also go through stretches where you can’t get anybody out, which I’ve had this year.”  Fox is also quick to credit others for his good fortune.  “Ive been working with Rich (Sauveur, PawSox pitching coach) on my curveball more, and Randy Williams has helped me redefine my cutter.  That’s working well for me.  It’s a fun team to play on.  You go out there and pitch in a great evironment.”

     Fox threw the complete game on Sunday, his first as a professional.  Besides giving the bullpen a day off, it was fun to watch.  “I haven’t thrown a complete game since college.  It was fun to do that.”  It’s been a good year for Fox.  He was named to the International League All Star team in July.  He’s the hottest pitcher in the I.L. with about three weeks left in the regular season and he could be poised to be a post season hero as the PawSox continue their quest for their first Governors’ Cup since 1984.  When Fox learned about his honor, he smiled.  “Cool, pretty cool.”  It is.

JUST ANOTHER REALLY GOOD PITCHER AND GUY

     The PawSox continue their quest for a post season berth in the I.L.  One of the constants for Pawtucket this season has been their bullpen.  Night in and night out, this group of guys has gotten the job done.  One unsung hero is lefty Randy Williams.  After a couple of stints on the disabled list early in the year, the hard throwing southpaw has been terrific.  So good, in fact, that he was added to the 40 man roster and earned a promotion to the Boston Red Sox.

     On the last day off the PawSox had on August 3, my daughter Carly and I went to the Red Sox game against Cleveland at Fenway.  Jacoby Ellsbury hit the game winning walkoff homer.  That was great, but for me, as a PawSox broadcaster, another highlight was the job Williams did as the bridge between starter Tim Wakefield and closer Jonathan Papelbon.  Williams is now adjusting to life back in the minors.  “It’s just a matter of settling back into a routine.  It’s not hard.  This is what I know best.”  Williams, 35, is philosophical as he explains the adjustment.  “I guess you could be disappointed.  I choose to look at it like I had the opportunity to go up.  You never know what you’re going to get.  I had a great opportunity.  I really don’t feel like I’m let down.  I feel blessed that I had the chance to go up there.”

     Williams relishes the chance to contribute to the Red Sox as they try to nail down the American League East.  “That was the most fun thing about my time up there.  The chance to contribute in those type of games.  As a person who gets called up from Triple A, a lot of times you have to make the adjustment, sitting in the pen waiting until there’s a big score differential, one way or the other.  To get the opportunity to be in that kind of game, that’s why I play, to help the team and get some quality outs.  I thought it was great.  To get that opportunity that quickly was way more than I could have ever asked for.”

     As a veteran player, one who’s endured the ups and downs over his career, Randy Williams just rolls with the flow.  He knows he could get a September 1 callup, or maybe even be added to the postseason roster, but he doesn’t let it bog him down. “When my season got off to a rough start, I didn’t really dwell on it.  A few years ago, it finally dawned on me that I can’t control these types of things.  For me, the most important thing is to approach each outing, each hitter to the best of my ability.  I usually don’t think ahead that far.  I do think about the possibility, but I won’t dwell on it.  I’ll just try to control what I can control here and let everything else work itself out.”   

     Williams is part of a core group of veteran pitchers that have helped Pawtucket move to the top of the I.L. North.  Along with Scott Atchison, Brandon Duckworth, Hideki Okajima and Kevin Millwood when he was here, they’ve provided good pitching along with veteran presence.  “It makes a big difference.  When you are the only old guy, it is tougher.  There’s weight on your shoulders to be the guy who shows the younger guys the way.  That weight has been disbursed this year and instead of having to tell guys something, a lot of times we show guys what to do.  How to act and the way things should be done.  It makes guys want to go out and emulate the older players.  I love pitching with guys like Atch.  At least you’ve got someone there who understands what the game was like, even ten years ago.  

     As recently as Thursday night in Charlotte, Williams continued to get it done, working two and a third innings of relief in the 3-2 win over the Knights.

 

THE FACTS FROM FOX

     The PawSox are playing good baseball.  They are at the top of the I.L. North Division, in a dogfight with Lehigh Valley.  On Tuesday, the PawSox won a pair of games against Charlotte.  Game one was the resumption of the rain out of the night before.  Game 2 was started by I.L. All Star, Matt Fox.  Fox, 28 was acquired about a year ago from the Twins.  He has spent the entire 2011 season with the PawSox.\

     Fox worked 6 innings and dominated the Knights, striking out 8 hitters while allowing a single run on two hits.  Matt retired the first 14 batters he faced.  “It was a good outing, a good team win. Expo (catcher Luis Exposito) and I were on the same page all game.”  Fox says he felt the same Tuesday as he always does.  Nothing special.  “No. you just take it an at bat at a time, the same as any other outing.  Like I said, me and Expo were on the same page.  I was just throwing what he was calling.  It was a lot of fun.”  Fox says it is essential to be on the same page as your catcher if you want success.  “Very important.  It’s a large aspect, the pitcher, catcher relationship.  I’ve felt comfortable with Expo all year.  Same thing with (Ryan) Lavarnway.  He’s a good catcher.  Expo and I have been on the same page for the last several outings.  I feel real confident with what he puts down.  I just have to try to execute the pitch.”  Fox elaborated.  “It’s not only the pitches he calls,  but also the way he interacts with you.  We have a good relationship.  For instance, in the sixth inning I walked the #9 hole  hitter.  I was pretty upset about it.  I slammed down the rosin bag.  He saw that and came out to me and said ‘get over it, get a ground ball or a double play’. There are little things like that where he comes out and knows the right thing to say.  Pitch selection is important too.” 

     Fox admits to thinking about a no-hitter or perfect game as he set down the first 14 Charlotte hitters.  “You think about it, but I know how rare those things are.  I really tried not to think about it, because I still had a few innings to go.  I just tried to keep the lead.  I didn’t try to worry about it.  As a pitcher, you try to execute each pitch and not think too far ahead.”

     Fox was the lone Pawtucket representative at the Triple A All Star game in Utah last month.  He didn’t get into the game, but he wasn’t disappointed.  “I had pitched the day before the All Star break.  I told Arnie (Beyeler) that my priority is to pitch for the PawSox.  It was an honor to go.  It’d be cool to pitch in that game but if it meant me not being ready to make my next start for the PawSox, it wouldn’t have been worth it.”  Fox made the most of his trip west.  “I just enjoyed the scenery and the time off.”

     Fox seems to be enjoying the pennant race and taking it one day at a time.  “This is one of the funnest teams I’ve ever been on.  We’ve got a lot of good guys on and off the field.  We’ve got a lot of talent and we know we’ve got a really good team.  Nobody’s stressed out about it.  We know if we play up to our abilities, we’ll probnably make the playoffs.”

     Fox was born in Columbus, Ohio, home of The Ohio State University.  He is an avid Buckeyes fan. Despite the turmoil of the offseson, Fox is cautiously optimistic.  “I’d like to say they’ll be very good.  They have all the talent in the world, it’s just inexperienced.  There will be a new quarterback, either (Joe) Bauserman or (Braxton) Miller.  They have a couple of cupcakes at the beginning of the season, so maybe they can get a little experience before their game with Miami.  I’m hoping for the best.”

QUICK HITS FROM CAROLINA

     First off, it is HOT here in Fort Mill, South Carolina.  Fry an egg on the sidewalk, hot.  The Weather Channel says 96 degrees, but feels like 101.  A lot has happened today, so I thought I’d fill you in.

     First, Kevin Millwood.  Millwood was granted his release by the Red Sox a couple of days ago.  He was driving to Vriginia to meet up with a few of his buddies and got a call from the Colorado Rockies.  The Rockies want the veteran right hander to join them immediately.  Happy for Kevin.  He is a real gentleman.  He is slated to tentatively pitch and go for career win #160 on Wednesday.

     Ryan Lavarnway, who put up “fantasy league” numbers in July has been named the Red Sox organizational offensive player of that month.  Earlier, he’d been named the Topps I.L. player of the month.  That honor comes from the managers in this league.

     Got onto the elevator in my hotel this afternoon and ran into Junichi Tazawa.  Taz has been promoted from Portland and will come out of the bullpen.  He has battled Tommy John surgery.  His first appearance is scheduled for Tuesday.

     Randy Williams has been optioned to Pawtucket by the Red Sox.  The lefty returns so the Sox could make room on their roster for Jed Lowrie.  Unfortunately, to make room for Williams, Boston released right hander Clevelan Santeliz.  The Sox are also encouraged and optimistic that Felix Doubront will return to action a little later this week, in a starting role.

     Maybe the most exciting news involves Ryan Kalish.  The outfielder returns to action on Monday night in Charlotte.  Kalish, who has been out since April with neck and shoulder injuries recently completed a rehab assignment in Lowell and is raring to go.  “It just feels great to be back in the lineup.  I’m just so excited to play with my teammates again.  Keep the train rolling and be able to add to these wins and keep going.”  Kalish admitted that there were times this season when he thought he might not play again this year.  “Oh yeah.  I just kept battling and tried to beat it.  We took things day by day.  I’m just so excited.”  Kalish told me that April seems like a lifetime ago.  “It’s almost been four months total.  At least being around these guys has made it easier for me.  It’s been tough but my teammates have been awesome and supportive.  I’ve tried to be a part of the team every day.”

     Kalish says all systyems are “go” and he feels fine.  “I feel good. No limitations.”  He is scheduled to DH against the Knights.  His confidence is high after his brief stint in A ball with the Spinners.  “I was a little nervous at first that I’d feel something in my neck.  I had 7 plate appearances and with each one, I got a little more comfortable and confident and trusted my swing.  In the beginning, I was a little timid.  That will help me here.  I am happy to be healthy and hopefully it will continue.”  Hopefully!

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