PAWTUCKET – From a win-loss perspective, the Pawtucket Red Sox can’t ask for much more. Winners of six of seven games, it seems that Mother Nature, not the opposition, is the team’s toughest foe in the season’s early stages.
Friday’s postponement of Rochester-Pawtucket marks the second time in three days that the pitter-patter of raindrops has come into play for Gary DiSarcina’s ball club. This past Wednesday saw Pawtucket play two innings at Lehigh Valley before the game was halted in the second inning due to rain.
While having a rare Friday night off may seem like a just reward for a PawSox outfit that’s come out of the chute firing on all cylinders, DiSarcina voiced concern about his band getting out of rhythm. Except for David Ortiz and Jose Iglesias, none of the PawSox hitters took batting practice on the field before Thursday’s home opener – DiSarcina didn’t want to overwork his squad after a late-night arrival from Pennsylvania.
DiSarcina was eager to return to outdoor pregame work on Friday, but those hopes were dashed once the skies opened. With Saturday’s doubleheader at McCoy Stadium beginning at 12:05 p.m., DiSarcina feels that it’s imperative that Pawtucket takes some outdoor swings prior to Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. start.
“Normally we don’t hit on Sundays, but I talked to (Pawtucket hitting coach) Dave Joppie about it and he’s on the same wavelength about getting guys their swings on the field and in a good routine,” said DiSarcina. “We want to get them out there and try to keep things the same every day.”
Shortly after confirmation came down that there would be no baseball played at McCoy on Friday, a number of PawSox players followed Joppie to the indoor batting cages located just outside the clubhouse. Even though the conditions outside were unfavorable, there were still matters in need of tending.
“These guys come to the ballpark waiting to play,” DiSarcina said. “You can’t take groundballs outside because it’s so wet, but you can still play catch and swing a bat.”
David Ortiz is in line to return to McCoy on Saturday. With two seven-inning games against the Red Wings on the docket, it will be interesting to see just how many at-bats the Red Sox slugger has in mind before calling it a day. Ortiz collected two hits in three trips Thursday and said afterwards that he felt “sore, but a good sore.”
“He’s going to get whatever he wants. If he wants five at-bats, he’ll get five. If he wants two, he’ll get two,” said DiSarcina. “He knows himself and his body and has rehabbed before, knowing what it takes. He wants to get going and get out here and be with his teammates [in Boston]. Whatever he needs, we’ll supply for him.”
DiSarcina was asked how he felt Ortiz looked while on the base paths. The designated hitter put his injured heels through an adequate workout on a cool night, particularly when he went from first to third on a fifth-inning double by Pawtucket’s Mark Hamilton.
“He’s never been known for his speed, but he wasn’t limping,” observed DiSarcina. “I’m not going to say that he was tentative, but he was making sure that he was getting his work in.”
One benefit of having Ortiz allows DiSarcina to start the process of scheduling days off for players.
“The No. 1 priority is David so he can get back to his teammates, so everybody takes a back seat. When any major leaguer comes down, they take precedent,” said DiSarcina. “For us, (having Ortiz in Pawtucket’s fold) comes at a good time. These guys didn’t play every day during spring training and the mindset I had after seven, eight, nine games was start giving guys days off.
“Where (having a rehabber) affects you is rotating the outfielders,” the skipper added. “You’d like to get Hamilton in the DH slot and get the other guys kind of off their feet a little bit, but you can’t do that with David. You’ve got to be creative, but it’s so early in the season that you’ve got to have the mindset of looking down the road and understanding that it’s a long year.”
Terry Doyle figures to have a strong local contingent rooting for him at McCoy when the 27-year-old starts the first game of Saturday’s twin bill against Rochester. Doyle’s parents, who live in Warwick, made the trek to Moosic, Pa. last Sunday to see their son toss 6 1/3 shutout innings against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Drawing the Game 2 nod is prospect Rubby De La Rosa, who was cuffed around for five runs in 2 1/3 innings in his first start of the year.
“We just want to see Rubby compete on the mound. There was a couple of pitches last game where poor pitch selection came into play. He tried to throw fastballs by some guys and got hit hard,” said DiSarcina. “He’s not rehabbing anymore and you can’t have that mindset on the mound because you’re going to get beat up. He has real good stuff and it’s a matter of him repeating his delivery and having good pitch selection.”
Fans holding box seat tickets or general admission tickets for Friday’s rainout can trade them in for any remaining regular-season game at McCoy. The gates will open at 11:05 a.m. for Saturday’s doubleheader.