The Spinners got solid starting pitching from Ryan Pressly, and a big night by Dan Butler to help them defeat the Auburn Doubledays 8-6, and snap their three game losing streak. The Spinners remain in a tie atop the Stedler Division for first place.
Pressly got off to a rough start, allowing two runs in the first, but settled down and struck out 8 and did not allow any further runs in his six innings of work.
The Spinners took the lead in the third as Dan Butler lead off with a triple, followed by an RBI single by Wilfred Pichardo, an RBI double by Ryan Westmoreland, a walk to Chris McGuiness, a single to Willie Holmes and an RBI on a fielder’s choice by Alex Hassan.
In the fifth, the Spinners added two more runs on RBI singles by Holmes and Christian Vazquez. Auburn mounted a comeback against Spinners reliever Cesar Cabral. Hassan made a game saving play by throwing out Karim Turkamani at the plate to preserve a one run lead in the 7th.
Butler would grab two more RBI’s in the bottom half of the inning and Hassan added an extra insurance run in the 8th. Auburn charged back and had the tying run at the plate, but Cesar Cabral was able to wiggle out of trouble to pick up the save.
Every Spinners starter reached base as the team had thirteen hits. The Spinners look to take 2 out of 3 from Auburn as their ace Yeiper Castillo (4-1, 1.98) takes the mound at 7:05.
Welcome to our most recent Road to the Show interview with Spinners DH/OF Ryan Westmoreland. Westmoreland is one of the Red Sox top prospects, ranking sixth in the system, and putting together a solid offensive season in his first professional campaign. Westmoreland is tied for the team lead in home runs, leads the team with a .846 OPS and is second on the team with 28 RBI’s.
Westmoreland was drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of Portsmouth (RI) High School. He missed all of last season with a shoulder injury and just played his first game in the outfield last night after serving as the Spinners DH for the entire season. Westmoreland started his professional career by reaching base in his first 25 games and will be appearing in the NY-Penn League All Star game tomorrow in State College, PA. Ryan, growing up locally, has always had a life long dream of playing for the Red Sox. Westmoreland took some time to talk with the Spinners Blog.
How has your experience in Lowell been so far? What would you say are the best things about Lowell, the most memorable?
Everything’s been great, the fans are great here, I mean growing up in Red Sox nation is one thing, but seeing how the fans treat the players is amazing. No moment really sticks out but the most memorable experiences are the walk off wins we have, because it really brings our team together, and its obviously exciting baseball. Hopefully we can make the playoffs and get to experience all that brings along with it.
You came out of High School as a highly regarded player, you had scouts following you, what was it like to play under that spotlight? Did you ever feel the pressure?
I felt a little pressure the first few times the scouts came because it was a new experience, but after the third or fourth game, I just blocked it out. You just have to let your ability speak for itself on the field, and believing in yourself is ultimately what will help get you through any nervousness you ever experience on the field.
A lot of people have compared you to Rocco Baldelli, do you know Rocco and what do you think of the comparison to Rocco?
I’ve known Rocco since I was about twelve, I was the Rays bat boy in 2002 and I’ve known him ever since. He’s a great player and just an overall wonderful person. The comparisons to him are amazing, us both being from Rhode Island and him being where I want to eventually be, I am honored to even be talked about in the same breath as Rocco.
You also pitched in high school; did any teams show interest in drafting you as a pitcher? Do you enjoy pitching or playing the field more?
I don’t remember any professional teams looking at me as a pitcher, a lot of college teams did though. I like playing everyday, I got bored pitching every five days and not being able to get out there and play every single day.
You played in the Dominican Instructional League, what was that experience like?
It was a great experience; I got to see a whole new world, met a bunch of great guys, and picked up some Spanish. Being able to learn some Spanish, and be around a different culture was really useful now that I find myself in such a multicultural clubhouse such as ours.
You had shoulder surgery this past year, do you feel the surgery has set you back, do the Red Sox have you on their shoulder program?
I don’t really know if it set me back, I would have loved to play last year. I don’t feel like it really pushed me back from where I wanted to be though. As far as my shoulder, I am on a bunch of different strengthening programs and the Red Sox throwing program. I’m feeling good right now and look forward to being able to get time playing in the field.
Can you tell us a bit about what it was like to play in your first game here in Lowell and what it was like to collect your first homerun?
First game here in Lowell was amazing, I never played in front of more than like 50-100 people. I came out of the dugout and there was like 5,000 people. It was overwhelming at first; I had some butterflies my first at bat, but then I settled down. The home run was one of those pitches that come at you in slow motion. Before the pitch, I was hoping it would be inside, when he released it I saw it was inside and the ball looked big and I drove it out to right.
You grew up in Rhode Island, who was your favorite player growing up?
My favorite players were definitely Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez. I idolized Nomar, it was tough seeing him leave for Chicago, but great to see him get that ovation when he came back to Fenway with the A’s.
What is something about you that most people wouldn’t know?
I do a lot of things opposite from the way you would think. I play ping pong lefty but tennis lefty. In golf, I drive righty but putt lefty. I’m a big video game guy as well. I was into Call of Duty and Halo for a while and now I am into Tiger Woods and Madden, so I will definitely challenge you to a game.
You were going to play for Vanderbilt before signing with the Red Sox, how did you feel about playing for Vanderbilt, why did you decide to sign with the Red Sox instead of playing at Vanderbilt? Do you have any plans to get a college degree in the future?
I really respected the whole program, and it wasn’t easy to turn down playing for such a great program. At the same time, after getting drafted, I realized if I signed out of High School that it gave me my best chance to make it to the pros quickly. I knew once I was picked by the Red Sox that I wanted to sign and get started. Of course, being the Red Sox who drafted me helped make my decision a lot easier.
What was the process like when you were drafted and signed with the Red Sox?
I think it was a two day draft, the first few rounds the first day, the rest the second day. I had been hearing a bunch of different things from different teams, some said first round, some third, etc. It was a long day, and I was following the draft online, then a few minutes before their pick in the fifth round, the Red Sox called me to tell me they were taking me with the pick. I was super excited that it was them calling, it was my hometown team. After I got drafted, they wanted to see me play some more in the summer. The negotiations went up right to the wire. The day before the deadline we got it done after some lengthy negotiations.
You are a local player, did you ever dream of playing for the Red Sox and in Fenway Park, and what do you think of that possibility in the future?
I’ve always been a Red Sox fan, growing up in Rhode Island I always had a dream of playing in Fenway. I can’t wait until the day comes, but for now I am focused on staying grounded and doing my best wherever I find myself playing.
What Goals do you have for this season and for the future?
The main goal is to help this team win; we will see where that takes me as well as the team. I really just want to get my feet wet professionally and show what I can do on and off the field.
If you could give young players one tip what would it be?
The biggest thing is it’s what you do during practice that makes you the player you are. If you go out and dog it during practice, you might get away with it for awhile, but down the line when everyone starts getting better, your going to be exposed for not putting in the work during practice. What you do in practice is just as, if not more important than what you do during the game.
Ryan, you’ve had a lot of success at the plate this season, you lead the team with six homeruns, OPS, and OBP, what do you attribute your success to at the plate?
I think it’s really about going out everyday and sticking to the same routine. Working with (hitting coach) Luis Lopez, and staying consistent. Luis stresses going up to the plate with the same plan, instead of changing your plan every at bat, remembering what you’re trying to accomplish and sticking with that plan.
A lot of people are interested in seeing you play the field, what is the timetable for you playing the outfield and how would you describe your play in the field?
Mid to late August I should be out in the field full time. I would characterize my play in the field as consistent. I don’t do anything too flashy; I just go out and try to make all the plays in a consistent manner.
I have to ask you about the trade rumors that circled around you near the trade deadline, how did you feel about the rumors? Did you have any contact with the Red Sox regarding the trade rumors? How would you have reacted had you actually been traded?
I didn’t really hear anything directly. I hear it initially on ESPN, and then the next day I had a ton of text messages from people asking what was going on. It’s not like I wouldn’t go to another organization, I love the Red Sox, I wouldn’t necessarily want to leave, but that’s the business of baseball. If I did get traded, it just means I’m playing for another organization; I’d go out and work hard just like I did here.
What teammate here has impressed you the most?
Derrik Gibson, he goes out every night and gives 100 percent no matter what. He’s fun to watch, unbelievably fast, a great player, a great hitter, just an all around five tool guy. He’s going to be something special. He’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
A number of players have told us that you are a leading force in the clubhouse, do you find yourself as a leader amongst the team and how do you go about being a leader?
I wouldn’t call myself a vocal leader. I’m not a rah-rah guy, I lead by example. I won’t get in someone’s face for something they did. I just go out and play the game right, and hope everyone follows my lead.
You appeared in a Futures at Fenway commercial, talk a bit about that whole experience.
I haven’t seen the commercial yet. I’ve gotten a lot of messages, people laughing, and making fun of me. I went to Framingham, and there was a birthday party going on, they had the whole scene set up where I had to go bash a piñata, with a bunch of young kids. It was fun for sure. It was weird wearing a Sea Dogs jersey, but very interesting seeing how long it took to shoot what eventually turns out to be a 15 second commercial. I loved doing it for sure.
Check back later this week for our Road to the Show feature with Alex Wilson
Welcome to the latest edition of Road to the Show, with one of the top prospects thus far from the Red Sox 2009 draft, Alex Hassan.
Alex Hassan originally hails from the Boston area, and is now the everyday right fielder for your Lowell Spinners. He joined the team later than most, making his professional debut August 1 after signing a contract to forego his senior season at Duke. Scouted as both a position player and relief pitcher in college, he has seen action only in the outfield thus far in Lowell.
Hassan has waisted no time in establishing himself as one of the more potent bats in the Spinners’ lineup. Through twelve games, Alex has batted .383 to go along with an impressive .408 OBP and .855 OPS. All three of these stats would place him near the league lead in the NYPL if he had enough at-bats to qualify. Recently, Hassan took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer a few questions for the blog.
Playing high school baseball at B.C. High makes you the prototypical ‘native son’ considering your place in professional baseball now. Growing up so close to Boston, you must have been exposed to the Red Sox from quite a young age. How does it feel now to now be playing for the Red Sox franchise?
Between living in Milton and going to school in Dorchester, I definitely was always around the city. It’s really neat now getting to play for the Red Sox organization, especially after growing up as big of a Sox fan as I was. It’s just something that I’m really fortunate to be able to do. I honestly couldn’t be happier with the place I’m at right now.
Speaking of B.C. High, you must have had some incredible times there. Not only did you win Massachusetts Louisville Slugger Player of the Year honors in 2006, but you also won team state championships in both AAU and Legion play while excelling as a pitcher. If you had to pick one memory from those years, what would it be and why?
My favorite moments really came with the Legion Team Post 114, just because it was kids that I grew up with. Most of the kids were from Milton, so I knew a lot of them really well outside of the game, some were even my best friends. Being able to win a state title with those guys was something that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Those were definitely some of the best times I’ve ever had in baseball, even to this day.
The individual award was a nice pat on the back for all the hard work, but it didn’t mean as much to me. The team accomplishments will always hold a bigger place for me.
Your college recruitment process must have been interesting considering how much you had to offer. How did you navigate through all this and eventually find your way to Duke?
The decision about where I’d play on the field was a big thing for me in my college search. I wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to give both pitching and the outfield a try before figuring it out. At first I was recruited more as a pitcher. Then once the scouts came, they’d see me hit a few times in practice and eventually I got interest for both positions.
A lot of programs told me that they wanted me for both, including my eventual choice Duke. Once I got there it was pretty much the same story. It went back and forth throughout my college career as to what I’ve been better at. But like I said, I think the right decision has ultimately been made here (focusing on outfield).
It came down to Duke, BC, and Notre Dame. I had those three schools finalized for a while. Once I actually visited Duke’s campus though, I knew immediately that was where I’d end up. It was clear to me at that point, and there was very little doubt.
Obviously then, Boston College was one of your final cuts when arriving at a choice for school. Did you ever feel any pressure, either internally or externally, to head down the street and play ball in Chestnut Hill for the hometown Eagles?
They recruited me just like any other school. One thing I wanted to avoid going into it was shutting out my other options just because I went to B.C. High. There’s definitely a connection there, but I really wanted to look around and evaluate each school for what it offered as a whole. Once I did that, it was clear to me that Duke was going to be it.
Your freshman season at Duke was quite a roller coaster. Playing in 54 games total, you saw action as an outfielder and a pitcher. Your statistics were not overwhelmingly impressive in either category, but you remained more than respectable in both roles. Did this workload hurt your performance at all down the stretch that season, or was it more of an adjustment to the college game overall?
Yeah, I think it took a toll on me physically more than anything. Being a starting pitcher and playing the outfield as a true freshman, it was tough. Looking back on the time, it was definitely something where I didn’t want to admit how much of a challenge it was for me.
Especially being a guy that young, I wasn’t as physically developed as most guys on the team.
I’m really fortunate that I was given that opportunity, even though I had my fair share of struggles that season. Everything I went through that year helped me become the player that I am now. Doing both allowed me to sort a lot of things out.
At this point in your college career, was there any indication as to which position you would choose as your long term best fit?
There actually was some talk in that off-season that I wouldn’t pitch as much the following year. I was probably heading for a reserve bullpen role, but then our closer got injured and everything changed. I stepped in for him, and it ended up being a lot easier on my body than starting. Even though I got used more often, the fewer innings helped keep me fresh to play in the field.
Can you expand at all on how closing helped you develop your entire game?
Closing was a pretty unique opportunity for me. I had the chance to really contribute to the team every game, even ones where I had gone 0 for 4 at the plate. When my offensive game wasn’t there, I would lean on closing as a way to stay positive. Normally, I’d play the field for the first 6 innings, then head out to the bullpen in some sort of double switch. Getting tired was never a problem. It served me in so many ways, I can only be grateful.
With the hardware to prove it (08 Rawlings Gold Glove Team), you are known amongst scouts as a very strong defensive outfielder. Even in your short time in Lowell, you already have multiple run-saving assists. Has your time spent on the mound helped you at all develop this dimension of your game?
I think, more than anything, it has helped me with my accuracy. For some reason, I feel like arm accuracy is always overlooked from a defensive standpoint. It doesn’t matter how hard you throw or how big your arm is if you can’t hit a target. Pitching has absolutely helped me develop those skills that I otherwise wouldn’t have developed.
On top of your duties at Duke, you also played for Orleans of the Cape Cod Baseball League in each of the last two summers. This past season, you were named to the League’s All Star Team after success in (no surprise) a multi-position role. How did your time in the Cape help you as a player, and how did it feel to be recognized in one of the nation’s truly elite settings?
That’s where I first started getting looked at as a pitcher, for the most part at least. I can honestly say that I probably learned more that first summer than I ever have playing any full season of baseball elsewhere. I had a number of failures, but I think that it made me a lot stronger mentally both as a person and a baseball player.
I made [the all-star team] as an outfielder. I expected the same thing going in this season that I had last summer there, so it was a little more comfortable with the playing time. Most of the staff was the same as it was from 2008, so I have to credit them with helping me along.
I knew the Red Sox were going out there to originally watch me as a pitcher, so I just went in with the expectations to close out every game I could and still get some at-bats in the outfield.
At some point along the way, you must have felt like picking one position would be best for your long term development. How were you able to put this aside and take on such demanding roles from nearly every team you’ve played on?
I always knew that id be better if I could just concentrate on one. At Duke though, they needed me to play both ways. It was something out of team need more than anything. Ideally I would have been able to focus on one and try and get better throughout my time there, but that’s just not the way it turned out. I’m really happy with how my career ended up, and it feels special to have played both spots for so long.
You have been extremely successful since arriving here in Lowell. Your numbers do more than speak for themselves, but tell us how you’ve stepped in to be so efficient in your first action as a professional?
I just think that the coaching staff and players here have really done a really god job of making me feel welcome. I can honestly say that the transition has been really easy for me just because of how comfortable I’ve felt from day one. There aren’t many places that would be so open, but I can’t say enough about this group of guys. I’ve felt like a part of the team ever since I walked through the door.
So, just to clarify, are there any plans to return as a pitcher at some point?
No, to my knowledge there really aren’t. Now I’ve just accepted the decision and I’m really excited to finally specialize. One of the final times they scouted me in the Cape, they came up and told me how I would be used. It was a little surprising that day, but I think their track record speaks for itself so I will not argue.
Check back early next week for our next installment featuring Ryan Westmoreland!
The NY-Penn League All Star teams have been announced and the Spinners will be well represented with five players heading to State College.
Once again congratulations to all of our all stars, we can’t wait to see you represent the Spinners down in State College!
The Red Sox have announced their performance awards for July 2009. Amongst the winners are current Spinner Derrik Gibson, who is fast approaching the Spinners record for stolen bases which was set by Matt Van Der Bosch with 28 in 2004. Gibson currently has 20 steals. Former Spinners Kris Negron (2006), Adam Mills (2007) and Will Middlebrooks (2008) are also amongst this month’s winners. Congratulations to all!
Red Sox Performance Award Winners July 2009
Base Runner of the Month- Kris Negron (Salem Red Sox) (7 Steals, 0 CS)
Defender of the Month- Anthony Rizzo (Salem Red Sox) (.997 Fielding Percentage)
Base Stealer of the Month- Derrik Gibson (Lowell Spinners) (13 Steals, 1 CS)
Player of the Month- Will Middlebrooks (Greenville Drive) (.337, 5 HR’s, 26 RBI’s, .949 OPS)
Pitcher of the Month- Adam Mills (Portland Sea Dogs) (6-0, 2.31 ERA, 2:1 K:BB)
Derrik Gibson was the Red Sox fourth pick (2nd round, 77th overall) in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. Gibson started last season with the GCL Red Sox before making a cameo in Lowell. He was twice named the Delaware High School Player of the Year and three times the All-State performer at Seaford Senior High School. Gibson was also named a 2008 Baseball America First-Team High School All-American after hitting .636 with five homers and 29 RBIs.
In addition to being a star at the plate, Gibson also won fifteen games as a pitcher over his last two high school seasons. Gibson is known for his speed, being deemed the fastest base runner in the Red Sox organization by Baseball America. In Lowell this season, Gibson got off to a hot start, hitting .471 in June; he slumped in July, but has hit .381 so far in August and leads the Spinners with 20 stolen bases. Derrik took some time to talk with the Spinners Blog.
You got off to a great start, hitting .471 in June, what would you attribute your early success to?
I would have to say my success came from just working with some coaches to refine my swing and just my approach. I told myself to stay middle of the field, go gap to gap. If you stay in the middle of the field it’s the biggest part of the field, you’ll have success with balls over the plate, you won’t pull off of the ball. That’s what I try to tell my self, stay middle of the field, go gap to gap, and I’ll be alright.
After your hot start, you’ve had some struggles, is there anything you can attribute this to?
Going off of what I said before, I got away from my approach that I used in the beginning of the season. I was trying to pull balls over the plate, its one of those things being younger you get away from things that have made you successful and you feel invincible. You start thinking to yourself, I’ve been doing great, and I’ll be able to do this. That’s how it happened with me, I thought I could just rip the ball and I found out real quick I couldn’t do that. Once I figured it out, I’ve gotten back to the approach that made me successful and I can see a difference. The results may not be there all the time, but I can be happy with my at bats and the counts that I am able to work. I think I am getting back to where I was in June with my at bats recently.
This is your second go around here in Lowell, what are your goals for this season? What part of your game are you working on the most?
Compared to last year, things have slowed down for me. Last year everything seemed like it was a thousand miles an hour, I didn’t focus and slow it down. Now I feel comfortable with the setting and playing in front of people. The thing that Coach Disarcina preaches the most is slowing things down and I think I’ve done a good job of that so far. In terms of goals we all just want to win this division and play consistent baseball and success will take care of itself.
Which teammate has impressed you the most this season?
Ryan Westmoreland has definitely impressed me a ton. He’s just been unbelievable; he’s super consistent I haven’t seen him throw too many at bats away. He drives the ball gap to gap with as much power as I’ve seen or played with. You name it he’s doing it right now. The best part is he’s a good clubhouse guy too he keeps it loose and fun and everybody loves him.
You currently are leading the team in steals, is speed a big part of your game? Do you see yourself as a top of the order table setter?
Getting on base is always my goal, just being able to disrupt what the pitcher is doing and set the tone of the game. Speed is definitely a big part of my game; if I don’t take bases then I’m just limiting myself. The one or two spot in the order is where I am comfortable. I think leading off the game you set the tone. In that first inning if you get on and score it takes a lot of pressure off your pitcher and your defense. I like being that guy that just tries to disrupt things for the opposing pitcher. I take it as a challenge.
You were a pitcher in High School and put up some impressive numbers, did you ever see yourself playing professionally as a pitcher?
I don’t know if I would call myself a pitcher or a thrower, I didn’t really see myself continuing with pitching in the pros. I wanted to play everyday and teams saw that as well. There were pros and cons to pitching. You set the tone for the game; you have the ball in your hand every pitch. You basically are the director of the game out on the mound. It’s great if you have a good game, not so great if you have a bad game. I really just had that itch to play everyday. I liked it, I enjoyed it, but I enjoy playing short or second more, even though I think there are more pros than cons to pitching.
You were drafted by the Red Sox in the second round in 2008, were you expecting to go to the Red Sox? What are your impressions of the organization so far?
It was honestly one of those things where you go into it just hoping for the best. I had no idea what team was going to take me. I just woke up draft day with an open mind and watched the draft with my family. When I did get that call it was an unbelievable experience it took me awhile to get off of cloud nine. I think one of the biggest things for me on draft day was seeing some of the guys that I played with get taken like Casey Kelly, who got taken before me in the first round.
Playing with Casey was special, we actually played together at USA baseball tryouts, he played short and I played second. It’s ironic that we ended up in the same organization and played together down here in Lowell.
Do the Red Sox have any specific goals for you this season and this offseason?
They didn’t give me anything specific, but their big thing was having a full season under my belt. Fielding wise my goals are to learn both second and short to the point where I am comfortable. Hitting wise I would have to say just staying with my approach and not getting away from what I do best. Overall, I think the Red Sox just want me to be athletic and do what I’ve been doing so far this year. I try to go at the game 110 percent and give it my all.
You’ve mainly played short during your time here in Lowell, do you see yourself as a shortstop or can you see yourself moving to a different position?
Right now I would say short is where I am most comfortable. Everything feels natural to me there. You throw to first base and you’re moving that way, on double plays you’re throwing that way, it’s just all natural movement. Second base feels a little awkward to me right now because it’s not like short, you don’t have that natural movement toward first. Short is not the easiest position to play, but its where I see myself eventually settling down.
Growing up who were your favorite team and player?
Being from Delaware, it would have to be the Orioles. I was probably the biggest Cal Ripken fan. Ever since I was little my parents would tell me Cal Ripken does this, Cal does that, and if he did it I did it. I loved watching him on a daily basis, the consecutive game streak was awesome, but just the way he played the game, he gave it his all. I definitely have a new found appreciation for Cal now that I play every day. When we’re about 40 games in, during a long road stretch, and your body aches or you are just fatigued, it takes a lot to give it your all. Cal went out there and did that for his entire career. It’s amazing how he played that many games in a row and played as hard as he did.
You had a commitment to UNC before signing with the Red Sox, was it a hard decision to make to pass up UNC?
Coach Fox and the whole program were very good to me. It’s hard when you build that relationship for about six months and then you have to tell them your going to sign and that you have to walk away from everything that you’ve built up over time. It’s such a great program and with them making the college world series, having a great staff, a new stadium, all that tradition, it was really hard. I really am happy with the decision I made though, I couldn’t envision a better organization to play for than Boston.
What is your most memorable moment in baseball and why?
Playing in front of these fans here is the best thing I can think of. The appreciation they have for us, it’s amazing that the Spinners have such a long sell out streak. They don’t call this Red Sox Nation for nothing; these fans love baseball and root for you no matter what. The players really appreciate it when you can play in front of fans that are so passionate and really pull hard for you.
Check back Thursday for our next installment with rookie sensation Alex Hassan
Will Latimer has been promoted to Greenville. Latimer had a 2.78 ERA in 13 games in Lowell with 26 K’s in 22.2 innings. Congratulations Will, and best of success in Greenville!
Ronald Bermudez belted a three run homer off the Hookslide Kelly’s sign in left in the fifth inning of last nights game to help the Spinners win 5-2 against the Batavia Muckdogs.
Spinners starter Kason Gabbard, in his fifth rehab start, pitched six scoreless innings and struck out five Muckdogs on the way to the win. Cesar Cabral followed with three innings of relief to pick up the save.
Alex Hassan continued to be white hot, going 4-4 to raise his average to .448 to begin his professional career.
The Spinners look to move into first tonight, as Pedro Perez takes the mound for his first start this season in place of the injured Ryan Pressly. Game time is 5:05.
Michael Bugary is a left-handed relief pitcher who made his professional debut earlier this year in Lowell. Coming from the University of California, the Red Sox drafted Bugary in the 15th round of June’s Player Draft. His delivery allows him to deceive hitters, evidenced by his impressive strikeout numbers (12 K’s in 8.2 innings). Bugary is one of the lesser known products of the recent draft, and the Spinners Blog took some time to correct this with our recent interview.
After reading your bio, I understand that you were born very local in Boston, MA. You currently live in Salinas, CA and played your high school ball in Monterrey. At what age did your family leave New England, and were you here long enough to establish yourself as a Red Sox fan?
I was actually born in Leominster, not Boston. But a lot of people on the West Coast didn’t know where that was, so over time it kind of just turned into Boston because that was an easier answer. My parents and I were only there for a year or two because they were moving around in the military.
I can’t remember much of a connection [to the Sox] at all because I was so young. We moved out to California after that, and I spent basically my entire childhood out there. Not to disappoint, but I was naturally raised as a fan of West Coast teams such as the Angels and the A’s.
You had a very successful high school career in California, excelling as a two-way player. In your junior season you batted .659 with 15 homeruns, prompting scouts to rank you the #8 1B prospect in the entire country entering your senior year. Your offensive numbers regressed a little bit that season (.518 BA, 6 HRs), but you ended up throwing three no-hitters on the mound. Was this a conscious switch on your part to focus more on pitching, or was it based on team necessity and what your coaches wanted?
Coming into my junior year, no one really knew who I was. Teams weren’t preparing their game plans around me, so I was really able to shine as a hitter. My senior year was a different story, though. A lot of pitchers refused to throw me strikes, so that’s where you see the dip in power.
I drew a lot of walks, but the national attention definitely caused teams to work around me rather than through me like they did the year before. I guess it was just a coincidence that my pitching became so much more refined that season. It’s not like I focused on the mound any more than I had in the past.
What moment during your High School career would you say sticks out as the most memorable?
The no-hitter I had in the playoffs was really big for me. We won the state title that year, and it was especially rewarding after the up-and-down season that we had. It was really cool to enjoy a moment like that with all my buddies on the team.
With an impressive track record at both positions, you must have had a number of different options during the recruiting process. Was Cal one of the programs that offered you a chance to play both ways, or were you satisfied to be used as a pitcher only?
Yeah, that was a big thing for me during the whole process. A lot of schools wanted me to come in and specialize, giving up one or the other. Arizona State wanted me as strictly a hitter, and a lot of other schools had offers on the table to only pitch. I was a bigger hitting recruit coming out of high school I’d say, but I wanted to pitch as well so Cal was a natural choice once they gave me that option. Pac-10 baseball is always great, and the quality education just put it over the top.
Once you arrived in Berkeley, things didn’t necessarily take off right away. You appeared in eleven games as a freshman, taking home a loss in your only decision. After posting a 6.55 ERA in limited action, did you have to refocus your game at all and change your approach before coming back as a sophomore?
It was more of an adjustment to college life overall. In college, you’re all by yourself for the first time and there’s really no one there to help you. I battled a lot of injuries that season, missing the first twenty games of the year with arm problems. I actually came back and pitched well briefly, but it was a battle to stay healthy.
My knee started acting up towards the end of the season, and at that point I was still getting random at-bats as a 1B. There were some days when I didn’t know how I’d be used, so I think the toughest part was flipping that switch between pitching and hitting.
Speaking of your knee injury, it forced you to sit out the entire 2007 season after getting it scoped. At what point did this occur, and how did you initially react to being sidelined for an extended period of time?
It was more of a ground and pound injury than one certain moment, so I can’t really point to any particular game as the cause of it. I felt it even going back to high school, meaning it had to have been some form of overwork. I decided to get it taken care of during that summer because I couldn’t deal with having doubts about it anymore.
The recovery was actually a lot longer than we had intended, and I was having problems doing simple things like shuffling and sliding. That’s when I decided, after two years of limited action, to give up hitting altogether.
2007 ended up being a redshirt year for you, as time was necessary to recover from both right knee surgery, and left shoulder tendonitis. Although you surely had to be at the team facilities for rehab, was this time away from the game good for your long term development in any way? More specifically, did it change how you approached pitching mentally?
The time off absolutely helped me in more ways than one. It was hard, and I faced a lot of adversity along the way. And although it was definitely tough, I was humbled in a way that I never thought possible. I’m glad everything went down the way it did, because I realized what I missed about the game. Even just being around the guys, you take that for granted when you’re healthy. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change the way anything went down.
Coming back as a sophomore in 2008, you were limited to only four appearances with only one start. Although you had an impressive ERA of 1.59, the injuries must have played a role in the team employing you so little. At this point in time, were the procedures taking away form your effectiveness in terms of velocity and control on the mound? Or was it simply a matter of having to wait until the end of the year to get completely healthy?
My problems were just as much mental as they were physical that year. Nearly all of them stemmed from the injuries, but it was mostly my mind at this point. I wasn’t mentally prepared to go out there and pitch after missing so much time. The injuries set me back so far, so I just needed some time to get comfortable on the mound.
That’s where summer ball came into play. I went out to Indiana to play in the C.I.C.L. (Central Illinois Collegiate League), and it ended up being a huge confidence boost. They let me start ten games, so I finished pitching just over 50 innings. That summer really helped me get back in my groove, especially after nearly two years off.
Finally, in 2009, you became a true workhorse by leading the team with 28 appearances. You even started one game, and took home a save in another. Although your ERA was a tad lofty at 4.74, you exhibited tremendous potential by striking out 69 batters in just 49.1 IP. Do you think these impressive strikeout totals were the driving force in generating your buzz as a professional prospect?
There was actually a lot going on for me that season. The first half of the year I was doing really well, putting all my pitches together and dominating. But then there were a few injuries in our bullpen. Our closer went down, and then our main middle reliever got injured too. We were even down a starter at one point.
I ended up taking all three roles on at some point, and it was really hard to adjust. I’ll admit that fatigue started to wear on me. It’s especially hard to prepare when you’re not sure how you’ll be used on any given day. The team started struggling towards the end of the year, making it even tougher to pitch with the negative atmosphere in the locker room. My walks began to rise, which was my main problem. I’m confident, though, that my struggles were more a reflection of the situation than my ability.
In June, the Red Sox selected you in the 15th round (#468 overall) of the Amateur Player Draft. With one year of eligibility remaining at Cal, you chose instead to sign a professional contract and leave school to pursue your dream. Did you know right from the get-go that you’d forego your senior year, or were there some scenarios where you would have returned to Berkeley?
Coming off my sophomore season, I wasn’t really expecting to get drafted because I had only pitched six or seven innings. Then I had that good summer in Indiana, and my potential carried over into the fall. That’s when all the buzz started with scouts.
I took a step back to look at it, and realized that I didn’t have much schooling left. My redshirt year basically made me a senior with junior eligibility, so only a few more credits were needed to graduate. I saw that I had a narrow window, and since I was already at school for four years I took it. Once I heard it was the Sox who drafted me, it was a sure thing.
Really, the only thing keeping me from graduating now is my thesis paper. Once I get that done, I’ll be ready to walk. Writing 35 to 40 pages won’t be easy though, so I hope my travels here in baseball inspire me at some point. I’m not going to write it until I find something that I’m passionate about.
Now that you’ve been here in Lowell for over a month, you must be adjusting to the professional game in your own ways. With good results on the mound thus far (2.08 ERA, 13.4 K/9), can you tell us how you’ve been able to come in and be so effective whenever called upon?
A lot of my success here can be attributed to the preparation I went through in college. I’m finally used to being a reliever, after struggling as a starter at Cal. Some things didn’t work out, but I’m not worried about that anymore.
This is a great environment out here [in Lowell]. We’re treated well, and I know exactly when I’m going to pitch. That’s the biggest thing for me, just being prepared to take the ball. There are a lot of externalities that come with that, so it’s a constant adjustment. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the staff.
Finally, we have to ask what your plans are for the off-season. You’ll finish up in Lowell at some point in September, and you must have something in mind for the winter months. Do you plan on returning home to California for more sunny weather, or will you head down to Florida for more professional instruction?
I’m honestly not sure yet. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to go to the Instructional Leagues, but that’s not up to me. If not, I’ll head back to California and train just as hard as I always have. By the time spring training rolls around, I want to be a better pitcher.
Check back Monday for our next installment with Derrik Gibson!
The Lowell Spinners offense continued its coming out party Tuesday night against the Hudson Valley Renegades in a 10-1 drubbing. The Spinners scoring commenced in the first inning as Wilfred Pichardo legged out a bunt single, then promptly stole second, moved to third on a Derrik Gibson hit and then pulled off a rare steal of home.
Joantoni Garcia and Chris McGuiness both added three run homers in the second and third innings respectivley. McGuiness, now with 29 RBI’s, is third in the NY Penn League, 2 behind Sebastian Valle of Williamsport. The Spinners were also the beneficiaries of poor defense by the Renegades, who committed an astounding six errors in the game. Every Spinner starter had a hit and Derrik Gibson continued his recent hot streak with another three hit performance, he is hitting .388 in his last 10 games.
Spinner pitching only allowed four hits, as Alex Wilson continued his dominance in his three innings of work, not allowing a hit and lowering his ERA to .42. Tom Ebert picked up the win striking out four in his two innings of work.
The Spinners look to continue to make a charge towards the top of the Stedler Division tommorow night as Yeiper Castillo takes the mound at 7:05