The quest for October baseball glory begins Tuesday night when the Milwaukee Brewers (sans reigning MVP Christian Yelich) travel to the nation’s capital to face ace pitcher Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals in the National League Wild-Card Game. The contest will serve as the official kickoff to a postseason tournament that includes 10 teams hailing from east to west and everywhere in-between.
In an effort to fluff up local interest in the Major League Baseball playoffs at a time when the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox are straddling the line between making plans for the 2020 campaign and booking tee times, let’s take something that’s pretty ambiguous and make it clear.
In other words, let’s scan the rosters and front office hierarchies of the 2019 playoff participants to see if any ties exist, be they former PawSox personnel or local products. What we came up with is a Blackstone Valley Rooting Guide that naturally begins with a certain first-year manager out in the Twin Cities.
Woonsocket’s own Rocco Baldelli guided the Minnesota Twins to remarkable success. What jumps out is the 23-game improvement in the standings that culminated with a Central Division title and a shot at the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. The 2019 Twins are known for the long ball, hitting an MLB-record 307 homers that proved to be one better than the Yankees, who will have home-field advantage in the best-of-five series that begins Friday night.
In some ways, it’s fitting that Baldelli’s first playoff taste as a manager is coming with the Yankees in the opposite dugout. When Baldelli was an up-and-coming prospect with Tampa Bay, pro baseball scouts likened him to Hall of Fame outfielder Joe DiMaggio.
We’ll get back to the Yankees and Twins in a bit. For now, let’s adhere to the playoff schedule in our quest to localize the MLB postseason. All information is based on players listed on each team’s 40-man roster as of Monday. The years the player spent with the PawSox are in parentheses.
The Brewers feature three former PawSox players in pitchers Matt Albers (2011) and Drew Pomeranz (2018) and infielder Travis Shaw (2014-15). Shaw has scuffled this season (.157 batting average in 230 at-bats). Pomeranz was added to Boston’s 2018 World Series roster and has thrived as a reliever since joining the Brewers via trade from the Giants. In 25 games with Milwaukee, Pomeranz posted a 2.39 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 26.1 innings.
In the Milwaukee radio broadcast booth is where you’ll find Jeff Levering, who had a similar role with the PawSox for two seasons (2013-14).
Former Pawtucket pitcher Roenis Elias (2016-18) has logged innings for two MLB clubs since getting traded by the Red Sox in 2018. With the Nationals, the lefty hasn’t pitched since early September since suffering a hamstring injury.
There’s another PawSox broadcast connection as Nationals radio play-by-play radio announcer Dave Jageler was the voice of Pawtucket baseball during the 2005 season.
The NL East champs acquired former PawSox reliever Mark Melancon (2012) at the July trade deadline with the hope he could lock down the closer spot. Melancon is 11-for-11 in save opportunities since coming over from the Giants.
St. Louis Cardinals
No MLB reliever in the just-about-complete decade has made his mark in the playoffs more than former PawSox pitcher Andrew Miller (2011-12). In 22 career playoff appearances, Miller has posted a stingy 1.09 ERA with 48 strikeouts. The lefty appeared in 73 games for the Cardinals this year, striking out 70. For the second straight year, his ERA was a tad on the high side (4.45, up from 4.24 in 2018).
There’s a strong Pawtucket presence on the St. Louis coaching staff. Pitching coach Mike Maddux pitched for the PawSox in 1996, while assistant hitting coach Willie McGee was a PawSox outfielder in 1995.
Los Angeles Dodgers
At age 39, former PawSox pitcher Rich Hill (2010-12, 2014-15) is still putting up effective numbers amidst one knee injury concern after another. He totaled three scoreless innings in Sunday’s regular-season finale, one of 13 starts he made in 2019. When Hill was out there, he proved quite effective (2.45 ERA).
Former PawSox pitcher Joe Kelly (2015-17) has been hot and cold in his first season with the Dodgers, hence his 4.56 ERA in 55 games. Los Angeles paid good money for Kelly (three years, $27 million) and hopes the 2018 postseason version of the right-hander – 0.79 ERA in nine games with the Red Sox – is about to take flight.
Tampa Bay Rays
Former PawSox pitcher Jalen Beeks (2017-18) has been front-and-center in the “opener” concept that’s been part of the Rays’ pitching plans over the past two seasons. Beeks started three of the 33 games he appeared in this season. He compiled a 6-3 record with a 4.31 ERA in 104.1 innings, which represents the fifth highest total on the Tampa Bay staff.
The Rays are managed by former PawSox catcher Kevin Cash (2007, 2010).
In Tampa Bay radio booth, you have former PawSox broadcaster Andy Freed (2001-04).
Only one PawSox connection to the A’s and it’s Mark Kotsay, a Pawtucket contributor during the 2009 season and now in his fourth season on the Oakland coaching staff, his second as the major league quality control coach.
Former PawSox outfielder Ryan LaMarre (2016) joined the Twins earlier this month after toiling in Triple-A Gwinnett where he put up solid numbers (.311 batting average with 41 extra base hits and 53 RBI). Minnesota was looking for outfield depth but added LaMarre too late for him to be available for inclusion on any postseason roster this fall.
In limited time, LaMarre with the Twins slugged two homers in 23 at-bats but batted .217.
New York Yankees
If you’re a Red Sox fan, you have been spared. The closest connection is former Bishop Hendricken pitcher Michael King, who made his MLB debut last week and tossed two scoreless innings in the same game. It’s highly doubtful the Yankees will add King to the playoff roster.
Former PawSox outfielder Josh Reddick (2009-11) enjoyed a solid season for a Houston club that compiled the game’s best record (107-55, one game better than the Dodgers) and is the odds-on favorite to win this year’s World Series. Reddick in 2019 raised his batting average 33 points from 2018 while cutting his strikeouts by 11. Ten years have passed since his MLB debut with Boston.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03