PAWTUCKET — Just because the Pawtucket Red Sox are three wins away from clinching yet another Governors’ Cup championship, it doesn’t mean the roster is untouchable.
Even amidst playoff competition, the Triple-A outfit remains at the beck and call of the parent club. The regular-season practice of providing reinforcements on a need basis does not get a reprieve just because of what teams like the PawSox have lined up over the next several days.
When Pawtucket kicks off the best-of-five International League finals Tuesday night in Durham, it will do so minus the services of two key players who were removed from the equation prior to the locals polishing off first-round foe Rochester. Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. wasn’t around for the final two games of the five-game set with the Red Wings, while starter-turned reliever Allen Webster was not at the PawSox’ disposal for decisive Game 5.
The PawSox understand that they have seen the last of Bradley and Webster this postseason. It remains to be seen if any more defections spring about, though manager Gary DiSarcina did his part by putting his players on alert late Sunday afternoon inside a champagne-soaked McCoy Stadium clubhouse.
With a jubilant and wet congregation of minor-league ballplayers forming a semicircle around their general, a business-esque DiSarcina alerted the troops of impending travel plans. After unveiling the time of the bus that would take the team from McCoy to T.F. Green Airport, the Pawtucket skipper stated, “Pack an extra bag in case you get called up.”
Translation: What Bradley and Webster experienced this weekend could also transpire for Alex Wilson, Jose De La Torre, Pedro Beato, Alex Hassan, Brock Holt or any other PawSox member who’s presently listed on Boston’s 40-man roster. All of them may start the Durham series with ‘Pawtucket’ emblazoned across the jersey top, but who’s not to say that come tomorrow or the next day, they are told to fly to Tampa Bay, where the Red Sox will begin a series Tuesday night.
“If something happens, they could get called up today,” DiSarcina recently noted. “You can lose a key piece, but that’s the way Triple A is. It’s what you have to deal with and do the best with what you have.”
Along that train of thought, Red Sox Director of Player Development Ben Crockett added, “The guys have to be resilient and focus on the things that they need to do.”
Watching the Red Sox-related news and results filter out of Yankee Stadium this past weekend provided a foreshadowing of what was to come. With Jacoby Ellsbury out for the foreseeable future with a fractured foot, the Red Sox were in the market for outfield depth. That explains why Bradley was plucked from Pawtucket.
In Webster’s case, Boston needed a fresh bullpen arm following three straight days of slugfests with the Yankees. It didn’t matter that the hard-throwing right-hander had just one relief appearance under his belt – one that came as recently as Game 1 of the Rochester series.
It’s a tale as old as time, but given that Pawtucket remains in the hunt for back-to-back I.L. crowns, it bears repeating. The needs of the big-league faction are always going to supersede what’s transpiring down on the farm.
“If you look at our major-league roster, a large chunk of it is made up of players who spent time in Pawtucket,” Crockett pointed out. “They’ve had a lot of attrition from this roster to the big leagues, which is a great thing for everybody and what they all want.”
In the interim, it behooves the PawSox players who remain on standby to enjoy a rarity in today’s close-to-the-vest world of minor-league baseball. The stakes and pressure surrounding this championship “hanging in the balance” series is similar to what major-league ballplayers experience routinely and gives credence to the minors.
The games are definitely managed differently, witnessed by DiSarcina deploying reliever Chris Martin into a tough situation on Sunday. Inheriting a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning, Martin promptly retired the only two Rochester hitters he faced in the frame.
“That’s why the playoffs are important,” DiSarcina said. “You can’t make up a situation like that during the regular season.”
Said Crockett, “The playoffs represent a different level of pressure and is something closer to what they’re going to feel once they get to the big leagues. You can’t ever simulate that 100 percent, but I think the playoff experience is great for these guys.”
Yes, there’s a different buzz surrounding the PawSox these days. Yet as the losses of Bradley and Webster demonstrate, the business of call-ups is still very much alive.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03