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Red Sox: Why the Fanbase and Front Office Should Watch Pawtucket This Month

BOSTON - JULY 17:  David Ortiz #34 playing for the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox during a rehab assignment prepares to bat against the Toledo Mud Hens at the McCoy Stadium on July 17, 2008 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Al DanielCorrespondent IIAugust 3, 2012

Arnie Beyeler is facing arguably his most taxing stretch as a Red Sox minor league manager, yet he could make it a situation where he wins even if his Pawtucket team loses.

All it will take is a certifiably valiant playoff push with his presently allotted roster and a little recognition from the higher-ups in Boston.

This week, Beyeler has lost nearly the whole top portion of his batting order. Cleanup man Lars Anderson left Pawtucket after the parent club dealt the first baseman’s rights to Cleveland on the cusp of the trading deadline.

Ryan Lavarnway, the PawSox No. 3 hitter, was called up the day after the deadline, and some believe he will be a permanent staple at Fenway Park from here on out. Ditto leadoff batter Ryan Kalish, whose promotion on Tuesday was necessitated by Boston outfielder Ryan Sweeney’s potentially season-ending hand injury.

Add the fact that infielder Pedro Ciriaco has been in the majors for nearly a month, and Beyeler is suddenly minus three of his five best batters who have played more than half of the PawSox’ 2012 schedule. That doesn’t even include Kalish, who has retained a .307 batting average in 17 Triple-A games this year.

All of this is coming with only 31 games remaining in the International League playoff derby and the Sox in a deadlock with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees for first in the North Division.

Trailing both parties by only a half-game in both the divisional and wild-card leaderboard are the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who just took two decisions at their place and are shifting over to McCoy Stadium to commence a four-game set with the PawSox Friday night.

Nearing the end of his second year as the Triple-A skipper, Beyeler is a cumulative 143-112 to date with a divisional crown on his transcript. After a slow start to the 2011 season that had Pawtucket at .500 (32-32) as late as June 14, Beyeler was blessed, in part, by the June 13 arrival of Lavarnway, whom he had worked with the year prior in Double-A Portland.

Anderson was nearly dealt to Oakland prior to last year’s trading deadline, only to have that trade voided when would-be acquisition Rich Harden’s health proved unfavorable. In turn, keeping Anderson for the home stretch was doubtlessly a boon for the PawSox as they successfully finished their playoff push, though everyone fizzled in the first round en route to a three-game sweep at the hands of the IronPigs.

This year, Beyeler has been issued almost a polar opposite hand, losing his most leaned-on one-two punch of Lavarnway and Anderson of the last year-plus all barely within a day.

Such is the life of one who runs a minor league clubhouse, which features a revolving door at every entrance and exit. Beyeler has certainly dealt with adjustments of a similar nature in his tenure.

This year, that would include the implicitly permanent loss of Will Middlebrooks and Daniel Nava on May 2 and May 10, respectively. Last season saw Josh Reddick play his last Triple-A game in mid-June and both Kalish and Drew Sutton dealing with repeat injuries and/or promotions.

All of that, however, essentially opened the door to the likes of Lavarnway, Middlebrooks and Che-Hsuan Lin, who grew through baptismal fire and partially keyed Beyeler’s sound first impression in Pawtucket.

If he can get the group he is presently allotted to step up in a similar fashion and give the PawSox their first set of repeat playoff appearances in 15 years, Beyeler ought to have a promotion on the table. So much the better if he can prove that he and his holdovers have learned from the loss to Lehigh Valley.

Beyeler has been grinding out tangible, certifiable success with an inconsistent lineup while Bobby Valentine continues to supervise a team that is ostensibly fit to contend, yet hovering around a .500 record. Boston is 53-53 entering Friday night’s action with 56 games left and four teams ahead of them for the last American League playoff berth.

At this point, even if patience would be required, the Red Sox would most likely serve their best interest if they were to start turning to a comprehensive influx of young, homegrown talent.

The more prominent PawSox of the last year-plus have proven themselves worthy, and those remaining can continue to do so even if they fall a few inches behind the Yanks and Pigs at season’s end.

Over the last six years, Clay Buchholz, Ciriaco, Felix Doubront, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mauro Gomez, Jose Iglesias, Kalish, Lavarnway, Lin, Middlebrooks, Nava, Nate Spears and Junichi Tazawa have all seen substantial Double-A or Triple-A action on Beyeler’s watch.

Some of them have since established themselves in Boston, others are presently filling voids at Fenway, and others still have a reasonable chance to be phased in.

If they are going to be a part of a Red Sox’ rebuilding project, as many of them should be, then so, too, should be the manager who has helped them along in their development. They have learned how to go about a pennant race at baseball’s second-highest level together and look nearly ready to start translating that success to the MLB.

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