As nice as it is here in Fort Myers, as optimistic as Red Sox fans are and as excited as we all are about the upcoming season, it would be nice if the PawSox could score some runs. The club was shut out for the second straight game on Wednesday, this time falling to the Norfolk Tides, 3-0. It’s still early and many of those we expect to see at McCoy Stadium this summer are still playing with the Major League club. Nonetheless…
On hand at the minor league complex, a beautiful facility with green grass fields as far as the eye can see, was Director of Player Development for the Red Sox, Mike Hazen. Hazen, along with General Manager Theo Epstein and his assistant g.m., Ben Cherington, surveyed the players at the various fields, consulting with the coaches and instructors. Hazen, a native of Abington Massachusetts and an extremely cooperative fellow thinks that so far, things are going smoothly this spring. “It’s gone very well so far. Knock on wood, we’ve avoided injuries which is the main thing. We’re just trying to put teams together like the big league club. We’re trying to get guys in shape, ready to go. At this point, the Pawtucket team is shaping up nicely. We still don’t have a great feel for the complete makeup of the club because we’re waiting for the fallback when the Major League team makes its’ cuts.”
Hazen says that while Spring Training is extremely important, it’s not always “make or break” for every player. Guys don’t usually play themselves up or down a level by exceeding expectations or conversely, not living up to them, either. “We try not to evaluate everything on the basis of what they’ve done just at Spring Training, but also what they’ve done in the past. They’re getting their work in and doing really well.”
While prospects are the life-blood of the organization, free agent veterans are a necessity to fill minor league rosters and provide depth to the Major League team in the event of injury. In 2008, the PawSox rode free agents like Jonathan Van Every and Joe Thurston to a playoff berth. In 2009, guys like Paul MacAnulty could not recapture the magic of the previous season as the PawSox finished at 21 games under the .500 plateau. Hazen is hoping this season is more similar to ’08 than ’09. “Hopefully we did a better job of acquiring depth. last year, the guys didn’t get the job done. Hopefully, we’ve got a better crop of guys here, that’ll have a better impact, a bigger impact on the Pawtucket club.”
Hazen says that when you are in the Red Sox organization and the Big Club makes its’ cuts and assigns guys to minor league camp, it isn’t usually a surprise to Triple A veterans like Michael Bowden. “A lot of that is expected when you’re in this organization. They know it’s about going out and getting ready for the season and being prepared to be the first one called up when the situation arises”.