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PAWTUCKET â Rich Sauveur firmly believes that all five current members of the PawSoxâ starting rotation possess the ability to hold down jobs at pro baseballâs highest level.
âWhether itâs with Boston or with somebody else, theyâre going to start in the big leagues. I really feel that,â said Pawtucketâs pitching coach with a straight face. âI couldnât tell you when or with who, but they will.â
The conversation inside Sauveurâs McCoy Stadium office began with a simple declaration. For the first time in his seven years with the Triple-A ballclub, Sauveur has enjoyed a significant stretch of continuity, working with the same five starters.
How long has it been, exactly? You would have to go back to April 25 when Matt Barnes was reinstated from the disabled list. The Connecticut native joined a unit that featured three starting pitchers from Pawtucketâs Opening Day roster in Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa and Anthony Ranaudo, along with Brandon Workman, who came onto the scene after opening the season in the Boston bullpen.
A sense of assuredness has washed over Pawtucketâs staff in the weeks since the addition of Barnes. There have been no interruptions of players going up and down, of trying to fit them back into the equation upon their return to minor-league life. Itâs almost been akin to givens such as death, taxes and Allen Websterâs turn to pitch.
Or to expand on the above point, death, taxes and Rubby De La Rosaâs turn to throw. Or âŠ you get the picture.
âI want them all to get promoted, but itâs good because youâre able to establish a very good relationship,â said Sauveur, hinting at the pitcher-pitching coach dynamic. âI think these guys have a competition with each other. Theyâre all good friends and when one guy has a bad outing, it bothers them a little bit, maybe too much.â
While Pawtucketâs rotation earns high marks for its reliability, thereâs also another element to consider. The greater the sample size â Webster and Ranaudo have each made 10 starts, De La Rosa nine, Workman seven and Barnes five â the more information at oneâs disposal to nit pick. While the upside for all five 20-something pitchers is undoubtedly high, all of them have dealt with varying bouts of inconsistency.
Webster, Ranaudo and De La Rosa have all issued 20 or more walks on the season, totals that help to explain why the PawSox entered Tuesday tops in the International League in free passes issued (190). Workman has been touched for eight home runs in 38.2 innings, though four of those round trippers came in one start.
The ups and downs and ebbs and flows that each pitcher has experienced raises the following question: Who would get the call in the event a member of Bostonâs staff goes on the disabled list? Granted a promotion could largely hinge on whose day it is to throw, but letâs throw caution to the wind and speculate anyway.
The one player who would automatically be ruled out is Barnes, because heâs not on the 40-man roster. You can eliminate Ranaudo because heâs still considered a Triple-A newbie. De La Rosa has cooled off after allowing three runs in his first four starts, spanning 22.2 innings. Webster has been fighting command issues for much the season. So the choice would appear to be Workman, who in the last calendar year has gone from starting to relieving back to starting.
There are strengths and weaknesses with every pitcher. Sauveur, the overseer of Pawtucketâs pitching corps, was asked to talk about what each PawSox starter is doing well right now and what areas need shoring up.
Sauveur: âHis fastball command is improving. It has its hiccups every once in a while, but of course everybody does. Heâs got an over-the-top delivery and with that angle when heâs throwing the fastball, it takes its toll on these hitters.
âHe mixes in two secondary pitches. Do I think they could work at the major-league level right now? Yeah, I think they could, but the command of them is not up to par yet.â
Sauveur: âHe didnât have his best stuff (Monday night against Scranton), but thatâs the sign of a good pitcher when you donât have your best and battle for five innings and give up one run. If you do that every time out, youâre a Hall of Famer because your ERA is under two.
âHeâs battling out there. His fastball velocity has been good and his command has been decent, not great. With his changeup, that is a plus pitch for him. The arm slot changes at times, but all pitchers do that. I would like to see him go more than five innings, but heâs throwing the ball right now and having some solid outings.â
Rubby De La Rosa
Sauveur: âHe gave up some hits (Sunday vs. the RailRiders) and then it seemed he tightened the belt a little bit and made quality pitches down in the zone. Like anybody who pitches with runners on base, your concentration becomes better. You donât want these runs to score.
âHeâs a pitcher this year. We had to take it easy on him last year, but he has no restrictions and heâs feeling that. You could see that earlier in the year and the way heâs responded after a couple of hiccups here and there lately.â
Sauveur: âHeâs had some challenges. Once we had a nice talk and said to just out and pitch, heâs pitched his (butt) off. (Last Thursday against Indianapolis), two of his pitches were major-league average and the third was a tick below. It was a very good sign to see.â
Sauveur: âFor a guy who pitched in the World Series out of the âpen last year, itâs a tough pill to swallow when you get sent down to Triple A. It took him about two weeks to move on, but heâs taken the challenge and worked very hard.
â(Boston) is thinking about starting him up there. Thatâs why they want him to start here. Everyone leaves pitches up in the zone, but he needs to get back to where he throws 100-plus pitches. From last July until a week and a half ago, he didnât throw that many pitches in a single outing. Let him build up stamina, but heâs feeling good about himself. Heâs going to be fine.â
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