PAWTUCKET — Teams that harbor deep playoff aspirations prefer to have all their bases covered.
In acquiring Quintin Berry, the Red Sox have sent out the following signal: They have a late-game, pinch-running weapon that figures to make manager John Farrell’s job a bit easier when David Ortiz, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia reach base.
The name of the game is scoring runs, and Berry’s fleet-of-foot tendencies could prove quite valuable as Boston casts an eye toward October baseball.
“Just think of Dave Roberts. How important was he in 2004? Pretty darn important,” said Pawtucket skipper Gary DiSarcina about the stolen base that single-handily saved the Red Sox from ALCS elimination. “I think it’s great the organization is trying to fill holes and plan ahead.”
Comparing the slice of New England immortality that Roberts was able to carve out to a player in Berry who played in his first PawSox game Thursday night may seem a bit of stretch. Still, there’s no denying the kind of impact that players of this particular ilk can register when the manager gives the signal to grab a helmet.
“Ask any manager their mindset when a base stealer gets on base. You start to get tense,” DiSarcina explained. “Their presence puts pressure on the defense by forcing your pitcher to quicken up his times to the plate and making the catcher be perfect on his throws.”
Berry took it a step further when he said, “They’re looking for you to gain that extra edge. If I can give the hitters more fastballs to hit, it’ll help. I just go in there looking to steal on every pitch and if they give me a window, I’ll take it. Guys can’t necessarily worry about me too much because if you try to save one run, you mess around and give up two.”
Why was the 28-year-old Berry available in the first place after stealing 21 bases without being caught for the Detroit Tigers in 2012, and averaging 44.6 stolen bases between five minor-league seasons? Berry didn’t make the Tigers out of spring training and was removed from the 40-man roster after batting .168 in 49 games with Triple-A Toledo.
The San Diego native was able to latch on with Kansas City, yet a change of scenery didn’t end up proving the cure-all. Berry batted .222 with a .343 on-base percentage and stole 13 bases while being caught twice for Omaha, the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate.
“It’s been a year to forget. It’s been rough,” was Berry’s honest assessment of how his 2103 campaign has played out to date. “It’s been all mental going back to the big disappointment I had at the beginning of the season. I’ve tried to battle back, but I’ve been battling my own self. I haven’t been too happy pretty much all season.”
Joining his third franchise since Opening Day has helped to invigorate Berry, who figures to be added to Boston’s roster on or shortly after this Sunday, when MLB rosters are allowed to expand.
“A lot of guys don’t get another opportunity like this or have an organization that wants you after having the kind of struggles that I’ve had this,” said Berry. “It gives a different outlook on things and appreciate that a team still wants you.”
Come Friday night, Anthony Ranaudo will see his string of 59 consecutive minor-league starts come to an end, as the right-handed pitcher will follow Clay Buchholz to the hill. The streak stretches back to when Ranaudo was drafted by the Red Sox in 2010.
“I’m excited and looking forward to the challenge,” said Ranaudo. “I’m coming after Buchholz, who’s a pretty special pitcher. It’s going to be a cool experience.”
Said DiSarcina, “He’ll have some time to warm up and go at his own pace and simulate a game in the bullpen before coming out.”
Thursday saw Ranaudo named to the Eastern League’s Year-End All-Star Team. When he was called up to Pawtucket earlier this month, he was leading the Double-A league in WHIP (1.19) and batting average against (.242).
The laurel further illustrates that Ranaudo was successful in turning the page following an injury-plagued 2012 season.
“To have those struggles and see people label you, it’s nice to be able to come back and pitch successfully while kind of proving to everyone that I’m still the pitcher that I believe I am and hopefully the Red Sox believe I am,” said Ranaudo. “It’s great to be healthy and hopefully I get up to the major leagues soon and help that team.”
Alex Wilson is scheduled to throw an inning for the PawSox on Friday night. It will be his first appearance on the mound since Aug. 5. The righty was taken off his 30-day rehab clock earlier this month after suffering a setback with his injured right thumb, which resulted in the reliever landing on Boston’s disabled list on July 9.
DiSarcina said that Wilson will take Saturday off before returning to the mound Sunday in Lehigh Valley.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03