PawSox third baseman Garin Cecchini makes contact during a recent game. Although bunting is no longer a big part of the game plan at the minor league level, itâs still seen as a key element of being a complete player. Photo by Louriann Mardo-Zayat/lmzartworks.com
PAWTUCKET â The PawSox devoted a portion of Monday afternoonâs pregame experience to bunting â a come one, come all session where attendance is not mandated but rather encouraged.
No, this often forgotten discipline at the minor-league level was done not in direct response to recent events involving the parent club.
A pivotal moment during Sundayâs 3-2 10-inning loss by the Red Sox occurred in the seventh inning when Jackie Bradley Jr. bunted the ball directly back to Oakland reliever Francisco Abad. The game was tied at two with Xander Bogaerts representing the go-ahead run at third base.
Boston manager John Farrell called for Bradley to put down what he deemed âa safety squeeze.â For some- one who has just two successful sacrifice bunts on his rĂ©sumĂ© â both came with Pawtucket last season â it seems fair to question whether the art of laying down a bunt was something that Bradley encountered during his rise through the Red Soxâ system.
âWe get reps all the time. Itâs some- thing that is stressed because theyâre going to have to execute it when they get to the big leagues,â said PawSox manager Kevin Boles, noting that when he skippered Double-A Portland, the players received bunting reps prior to every Sea Dogsâ home game.
Three PawSox players were present for Mondayâs practice session that was overseen by Boles. Of the group featuring Garin Cecchini, Dan Butler and Alex Hassan, only Hassan has a recorded a sacrifice bunt â his came during his first professional season in 2009 with Single-A Lowell.
Hassan would have added to his total last August, but he fractured a finger on a bunt attempt during a PawSox game.
âThereâs only so many situations in the game where it comes up, but thatâs why you come out early and work on the mechanics of it,â said Hassan. âEarly bunting is something weâve done during all three of my years here. Itâs definitely an important skill and what theyâre trying to emphasize is that itâs something youâre going to need if you get to the next level.
âEven if you practice it, bunting is not easy. The times you do bunt, itâs real- ly a magnified thing,â Hassan continued. âItâs one of those things where you prepare as much as you can, but at the same time, itâs a hard skill.â
Added Cecchini, âBunting is one of those little things than can win or lose games.â
The third baseman did shed some light on how the Red Sox convey the importance of bunting at the minor-league level.
âThey want me to learn to drive in runs, but weâll work on bunting on the side,â Cecchini said. âI would like to work on bunting during the games. If weâre called upon to do it, weâre expected to execute. Itâs definitely a pride thing.â
Entering Mondayâs game against Toledo, the PawSox have successfully executed six sacrifice bunts in 31 games. Of the current group at Bolesâ disposal, Christian Vazquez and Mike McCoy each have two sacrifices.
âItâs the first month of the season. We want guys to get acclimated and get their swings in. Theyâre getting their timing down from spring training â some of them went back and forth between major and minor- league camp,â said Boles. âWeâve kind of played the short game, but for the most part weâve let them play and swing the bats. Itâs definite- ly something weâll incorpo- rate as we move forward.â
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
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