Understand that veteran minor-league ballplayers have provisions written into their contracts that grant them the freedom to explore and seek opportunities elsewhere. These clauses – no doubt put in at the suggestion of one’s agent – are designed with the player’s protection in mind and can be triggered at different points throughout the season.
With the countdown at just over five weeks remaining in the 2012 campaign for the Pawtucket Red Sox, pitchers Brandon Duckworth and Doug Mathis decided to set in motion a specific stipulation that allows them to seek employment on the other side of the world in Japan.
The transaction was officially processed late Wednesday and closed the books on a several-day stretch that saw Duckworth, Mathis and their respective representatives negotiate a path that ultimately led them away from the PawSox and McCoy Stadium.
“They had it in their contracts to be able to leave for that opportunity and they chose to do it,” said Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett when reached Thursday.
Asked if there was a confluence of factors that led to Duckworth and Mathis packing their bags and heading for Japan, Crockett answered, “I don’t exactly know what the motivation was, but it’s something they wanted to do and were certainly within their rights to do that.”
It’s believed that Duckworth and Mathis asked for their releases independent of one another. Japan’s regular season concludes on Friday, October 5, meaning the two will be afforded an additional month to pitch and collect a paycheck. The International League season concludes on Labor Day with playoffs lasting almost two weeks.
The seeds for the departure of two pitchers who were mainstays in Pawtucket’s rotation were first planted last Friday when the 29-year-old Mathis was placed on the temporary inactive list retroactive to July 18. Duckworth, 36, followed a similar course of action two days after Mathis’ removal from the active roster, his move retroactive to July 21.
“It was more about waiting for some logistical stuff to happen,” explained Crockett about the time that Duckworth and Mathis spent on Pawtucket’s inactive list.
The loss of Mathis and Duckworth – both bypassed on enacting their June opt-out dates – comes at a time when Pawtucket is fighting with Lehigh Valley and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for top honors in the I.L. North. To further illustrate the fluid nature of the minors, the PawSox began the season with a six-man rotation. Those same six names are presently pitching for other teams or in different capacities.
See PAWSOX, page C3
The list in order of when they first drew a starting nod for Pawtucket includes Justin Germano (traded to the Chicago Cubs), Duckworth, Aaron Cook (with Boston), Alex Wilson (still with the PawSox, though relocated to the bullpen), Mathis and Ross Ohlendorf (signed with San Diego).
For Duckworth, his departure to the Pacific Rim ends a two-year run with Pawtucket. His nine wins this season were tied for first among the team, sharing honors with the also departed Germano. His 3.17 ERA was eighth best among International League pitchers and came in 21 games (18 starts). Last season saw Duckworth go 8-6 with a 3.97 ERA on a PawSox club that captured the division title.
Mathis will pitch on foreign soil for the second consecutive year, having finished out 2011 in Korea after bouncing around Triple-A in the San Francisco and Oakland systems. With the PawSox, Mathis compiled a 7-6 record with a 4.07 ERA in 19 appearances (18 starts).
“Both guys were doing a great job this year and were obviously important parts of our rotation in Pawtucket,” Crockett said, “but both have pretty good opportunities (ahead of them).”