Sunday has traditionally been the day of rest. Not in baseball, however, and especially not this week. The PawSox were rained out on Saturday, trailing 5-0, after one inning, plus. The skies opened up here in Durham, complete with thunder and lightning. A bolt of thunder, followed by a flash of lightning, forced home plate umpire Damian Beal to jump out of his skin and motion the teams to their respective clubhouses.
Sat down with manager Torey Lovullo for our Sunday conversation and he admitted, his club has a steep hill to climb. “It is a little bit frustrating. These guys will have a little bit of a mental challenge. They have to show a little bit of toughness, play hard and close the gap. If you look at it, we average 4 or 5 runs a game. They just happened to get theirs’ quickly and we’re going to catch up.” Despite the line, Torey says he isn’t worried about Boof Bonmser, yesterdays’ starter. “Boof was throwing the ball well. there were a couple of cases where they got “seeing-eye” base hits. You can’t feel sorry for yourself, and I know Boof doesn’t. His stuff was OK, his command was OK. Once Durham gets men on, they get the running game moving. That’s what happened in the first, when they got those 4 runs.”
Lefthander Felix Doubront is scheduled to make his Triple A debut in the nightcap. Lovullo is excited about the prospect. “He’s got a great presence. Just him walking around. He’s a likeable guy and now we get to watch him perform. Anyone that saw him at throw at Spring Training liked what they saw.”
The threat of rain is real again on Sunday and Lovullo realizes that he has to keep his men sharp and ready, no matter what. “That’s one of my challenges, becaue it’s so hard on baseball players with “down-time” because of rain or whatever. I run through the clubhouse, keeping the guys up, reminding them that we may play in as little as 20 minutes. I try to shift it so the thought of cancellation isn’t in their mind. I tell them not to let it get away from them.”
One thing that made Lovullo smile, was talking about the addition of veteran shortstop Gil Velazquez to the roster. Gil had been at Fort Myers since breaking his left thumb in Grapefruit League play, with Boston. “Gil’s invaluable. You saw a couple of things happen with him the last couple of years. He had decent minor league seasons, but found himself on Major League rosters. There is so much versatility with him, I know from a managers’ standpoint, and I know that Tito feels it as well. You can use him in so many places and situations. He plays good defense. He’s going to put the bat on the ball. On top of that, the leadership he shows, the ability to command respect from teammates is there. Those are the things that fans don’t see, that I really really value from him.”
As I’ve so often said, the relationships in baseball last forever. Lovullo once managed an A ball team in Kinston, North Carolina. At the start of this trip to Durham, he had a poignant moment, returning to the town. ” I had a very dear friend of mine pass away. “Mama” Kornegay was a house mom to a lot of the Latin players who I managed when I was in Kinston. I managed there for two years and developed a very special bond with “Mama”. She had developed pancreatic cancer and death was imminent. Still, you’re never ready for something like that. It was coincidental that we were here. I think fate intervened and gave me a chance to go and pay my respects. I got myself down there, saw a lot of my old friends and I was able to say my special goodbye to her. I’ll remember that forever.”