The All Star break comes just at the right time for the PawSox. I used to think that making the All Star team was the right way to spend the break, but now I’m not so sure. I guess as I get older, I appreciate the time off. It’s a chance for the players to recharge their physical, mental and emotional batteries and gird themselves for the “dog days” of summer. This has been a strange first “half” of the season. The bullpen has been primarily responsible for whatever success the PawSox have enjoyed. Fernando Cabrera and Jose Vaquedano have been rewarded for their effort with berths on the International League All Star team. Clay Buchholz was also named to the team, but his turn in the Pawtucket rotation came around on Sunday, precluding him from participating in Portland, Oregon. Manager Ron Johnson heads a list of willing and ready “R & R” guys as the break arrives. On Sunday he talked about some of the seasons’ highlights, so far. “As much as you hate to see rehabs, you get excited because it means the guys are almost ready to help Boston again. We’ve had some gems. It’s been a fun first half. We’ve had some offensive struggles, we all know that. We have had some very positive things done with some pitchers and some guys that have been moved up from Portland.” RJ singled out Daniel Bard, who was promoted to the Red Sox in early May, after dominating in the I.L. and is now a vital cog in the Boston bullpen. Johnson joked that he was Bards’ personal coach and every time the righthander touches his cap, it’s a secret signal to RJ. Johnson was pleased and proud of his trio of All Stars- “It was a well-deserved honor for those guys. I think “Buch” was even going to be the starter, but his spot in the rotation came up. Cabby (Cabrera) was excited, but Vaquedano was really the most thrilled. It really stands out for me because it’s his first All Star team. He’s burst on the scene. He’s always been an organizational guy, but this year he’s made great strides. When I told him he was on the team, I also told him that it excited me a whole bunch because last year I didn’t even want to bring him into the game. Now he’s at the point where he is as reliable or more reliable than anyone out there in the bullpen. You can use him in any situation, rightys or leftys, to get a double play, back to back days…he has become the foundation for our bullpen. He doesn’t have the saves or the big numbers or 100 mile per hour stuff, but he is as good as it gets out there.” The topic of Buchholz came up and not only did RJ praise his mound work, but also took note of his off-field persona. “He’s maturing. It’s not only about wins and losses, strikeouts and ERA. The bottom line is the maturity is coming in and he’s starting to figure some things out. You can see it every time he takes the mound. You don’t see him getting too ramped up. If he continues to keep his composure, he’ll end up where he wants to be.” Johnson is a big proponent of the “healing effect” that a 3 day break brings- “Oh, it’s huge. Most of these guys have been at it since January or at the very least, February. I think when you get to this time of the year, it’s a well-timed situation. You battle through these days. You don’t have a lot of days off in the minors. It’s a rejuvenation period. We’ll come back and try to finish the season strong.” Johnson will spend the break at his home, outside of Nashville. When asked about who he was most excited to see, there was a long pause. “I better say my wife, but man, I’m really excited to see my man, “Peanut”. “Peanut” is RJ’s favorite horse. He’s certain to get a good workout. “He’s gonna be paying the fiddler. We’re gonna get busy!!”
While RJ was ready to play “cowboy”, the rest of the guys were also looking forward to some time off. Strength and conditioning coach Mike Jones was heading to Martha’s Vineyard to relax with his family. Catcher Carlos Maldonado was going to the Six Flags amusement park in western Massachusetts. Maldo was going with his “kids”- teammates Gil Velazquez, Angel Chavez and Ivan Ochoa. Carlos quickly added that he was looking forward to his wifes’ arrival on Tuesday. Pitcher Marcus McBeth will be hitting hot spots like “Chuck E. Cheese”. “My family has the whole break planned out for me.” Red Sox field coordiantor Rob Leary is heading to the Dominican Republic, not for vacation, but to check out Bostons’ Dominican League team. “I always look forward to going.” said Leary “But I really look forward to getting home.” Former PawSox second baseman and reigning A.L. MVP Dustin Pedroia has withdrawn from the M.L. All Star game to be with his wife Kelli. The Pedroias are expecting their first child and Kelli was recently released from the hospital after going through a “false labor”. Kelli is said to be doing well. Personally, I’m heading to Cooperstown to tour the Hall of Fame with my two favorite Red Sox fans, my daughters Eva and Carly.
Great piece on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Sunday. Reporter John Berman threw out the first pitch at McCoy this week and was highlighting the “art” of the ceremonial first pitch. Featured prominently in the report were Pawtucket catcher Mark Wagner and mascot “Paws”. President Obama is scheduled to do the honors at the M.L. All Star game in St. Louis. President Taft was the first chief executive to do so. President George W. Bush was credited with throwing a perfect strike at Yankee Stadium immediately after the 9/11 tragedy in 2001. Not everyone enjoys success when given the chance. Some notable flops- Mariah Carey, Carl Lewis, Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory and Howard Stern show producer Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’abate. You can see the “GMA” video on pawsox.com
This blog will return on Thursday, after the All Star break. Take care. SH