Red Sox FSL Update…Yes, they used to have a team

The Boston Red Sox don’t have a Florida State League affiliate.  They did.  But now they don’t.  In fact, the Marauders used to be the Red Sox.  Before the Marauders were purchased by the Pirates and moved to Bradenton for 2010, the franchise operated as the Sarasota Reds.  Before that it was the Sarasota Red Sox.  The affiliation ended following the 2004 season.

Since being in the FSL the Red Sox have bounced out to the Lancaster Jethawks of the California League and now the Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League.  Fortunately for Andrew Miller that means there is no possible way (barring him switching teams) that he could pitch in the Florida State League this summer.

See Miller owns a fairly dubious piece of trivia.  In five professional seasons, Miller has pitched in both the Major Leagues and the FSL every year.  This isn’t a fact but I’m just going to say he’s the only player in Major League history to hold that statistic (I’m sure he’s not). 

A first round pick of the Tigers out of UNC in 2006, Miller has also spent time with the Marlins and threw the Florida State League’s only no-hitter last season with Jupiter.  It wasn’t exactly a pretty affair – six walks in six innings, combining with the bullpen for history.

“It was exciting for the team I guess,” Miller said, “but it’s not nearly as exciting as doing it at a higher level.  It was a little bit of fun.  It’s one of those things you can smile when you look back on.”

Overall pros and cons on playing in the FSL for Miller?  Well he’s pretty similar to other things we’ve heard.  It’s almost like ‘for answer A press this button’ by this point.  As a pro Miller pointed out travel and as a con he mentioned overall smaller crowds than at other levels.

“One of the side effects is that you don’t have too many fans so it’s not like there’s a huge crowd rooting the team on,” Miller said.  “It’s just something you deal with.  It doesn’t matter one way or the other.  In the Florida State League everybody’s working to get better. It’s a very personalized level you’re just kind of concerned with getting yourself better and moving onto the next level.”

The lanky southpaw has battled injury and sometimes ineffectiveness throughout his career, leading to his back and forth journey.  Those issues have caused some to maybe write Miller off.  The pitcher will quickly remind you he’s only 25.

“If I could do it all over again I certainly wouldn’t choose anything different,” Miller said.  “I had incredible experiences and I got to pitch in a pennant race right out of college.  I don’t think you’ll hear too many guys complain about time they’ve spent in the Major Leagues.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Would I say I would have rather thrown 500 innings or 700 innings in the minor leagues before I got called up?  I would say absolutely not.  I’m still 25 years old and I’ve got some time to work out kinks and hopefully I’m doing that right now.”

I’m not pointing this out to ridicule Miller.  Actually, I’m doing it for quite the opposite.  Miller’s had a fine spring and is hoping to make the Red Sox roster.  My point was to try and relate some of what Miller’s had to go through to the Pirates.

The Marauders had two pitchers on their roster last season that got me thinking and were the reason I spoke to Miller in the first place.  Both Tim Alderson and Craig Hansen are trying to regain the magic they once had – Hansen as a 1st round pick by the Sox in 2006 and Alderson a 1st round pick by the Giants.  The former made it to the bigs right out of the BIG EAST and St. Johns.  The latter had great success at A-Advanced ball in his first full season.  Both were in Bradenton last year trying to get that back.

Hansen is returning from injury.  Sidelined all of 2009 and a large chunk of 2010 with Parsonage Turner Syndrome, Hansen sticks out like a sore thumb at minor league camp these days.  There amongst all the hopefuls stands the one-time top prospect trying to retrain his body to throw.  Hansen is the first baseball player to ever come back from the injury that can take anywhere from seven months to five years recovery.

“It feels like I’ve never thrown a baseball in life before,” Hansen said last year when he began his comeback with Bradenton.

Alderson is just trying to regain his spark.  A dominant amateur pitcher and early pro, the lanky righty fell off course the last year and a half or so.  His velocity dipped and his effectiveness dwindled.  ESPN the Magazine even featured him in an article.  In that piece Alderson drops this fairly poignant quote after his high school coach gave him an honest assessment of his current ‘stuff.’

“Everything we’d worked for, everything he developed is gone,” Alderson is quoted as saying.  “It’s hard to look at myself and think, I was a better pitcher when I was 15.”

So with those two guys in mind – indeed very different cases, and for that matter very different from Miller – I was curious as to what the Red Sox arm thought about trying to make a comeback – trying to bounce back and solidify himself.

“I think that’s huge,” Miller said of needing to have confidence.  “Anybody that’s playing professional baseball has the talent to pitch in the Major Leagues but the ones that are most successful are probably the most confident ones – the ones that trust their stuff and believe in their abilities and limit their doubts.  It’s huge.  It’s one of the most important things if not the most important thing.  Otherwise you’re going to go out there and dig yourself a hole.

To be honest with you it’s something that everybody deals with,” Miller continued.  “The ones that succeed are the ones that handle it the best or the ones that fight through it.  We’re not saving lives or anything but it is a hard game and it’s tough.  You’ve gotta block out those negative thoughts and move on and stay positive and attack the hitter.”


While I was in the Red Sox clubhouse I figured I wouldn’t waste the opportunity to pick at least on other brain.  Thought it might be neat to see what one of Boston’s stars remembered about his minor league career.  Enter Jason Varitek.

“As bad as some of the bus rides are it’s also fun,” the veteran backstop said.  “Guys having a ball watching a movie to playing cards to playing games to whatever.  You bond over a long period of time.”

Varitek never played A-Advanced ball.  He jumped right to the Double-A Southern League out of Georgia Tech.  He’s played just two games in the minors since his big league debut in 1997.

“I was overmatched, outtalented and humiliated,” Varitek said quite frankly about his early minor league career.  The catcher hit .224 in his maiden voyage for Port City.

“I learned to face adversity right away,” Varitek continued.  “The level of competition day in and day out was different than I had ever seen.  Part of development sometimes is you’re starring down a black hole and you don’t see any light and then all of a sudden some light appears and then some more and some more and some more.  That’s the encouraging thing for anybody is that there’s going to be some light at the end of that tunnel.  You just have to find where it is.”


I had a small curiosity with the Red Sox in town.  Would Erin Andrews be on Boston’s pass list?  Essentially would there be a ticket left for her at will call?  She is a Florida native after all.

If you’re now scratching your head in confusion, allow me to start from the top.

Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava has a small crush on Andrews.  It’s nothing new – been chronicled in USA Today, the Boston Herald etc.  The story first ‘broke’ when Pawtucket Red Sox broadcaster Dan Hoard (one of the best in the biz by the way) posted this picture (scroll down the link) of the PawSox pass list last year.  Turns out Nava’s always left a ticket for the ESPN star just in case she was in town.

Anyways, not that I was expecting Andrews to show up at McKechnie Field, I was kind of excited to see if there was a ticket left for her at will call.  Long story short…there was not.

Till next time,





Writing a Blog When You’re Missing Half the Story

It seems the story of two brothers playing against each other does in fact lose some of its luster when one of the brothers is absent.  So too does that of the father-son duo without the son.  So what better than to just go ahead and write the stories anyway.

We begin with the brothers d’Arnaud (pronounced darn-OH).  A brief story to start.  My first broadcasting job was with the Orleans Cardinals of the Cape Cod Baseball League (summer collegiate).  The third baseman on that team was now Pirates prospect Chase d’Arnaud.  While meeting with manager Kelly Nicholson before the season he was running down his lineup and said ‘at third base we’ll have darn-OH.’  I looked at him confused and politely replied that my roster had no player with that name.  When we both got on the same page I said ‘Oh!  You mean dee-are-nod?’  One of my favorite mispronunciations of all time.

Anyway, the brothers’ teams faced each other yesterday at McKechnie field.  Travis is a catching prospect for the Blue Jays and played in the Florida State League last season while Chase played at Double-A Altoona for Pittsburgh in 2010.  This was a much cooler blog until I remembered that Chase was reassigned to minor league camp a few days ago and the brothers would not be playing against each other.  They did the last time the Jays were in town so I guess it counts.    (Photo Credit: WOWK TV)

Funny thing is that stories like this are usually unique.  You know it’s always the brothers who went to different colleges and their teams meet in a critical NCAA Tournament game requiring their parents to wear awkwardly mismatched clothing as to not favor one child over the other.  Turns out that the d’Arnaud brothers play each other all the time though.

“It’s something obviously both of us were talking about when we were 10 and 12,” Travis said, “and when you’re growing up it kind of fades away and when it happens you can’t really absorb what’s going on.”

Growing up in California, Travis and Chase went different high schools and played against each other when Travis was sophomore and Chase a senior.  The first time Chase stepped up to hit with Travis catching, he got hit in the shoulder.

“I called for a fastball away and it went high and tight,” Travis said, shaking any responsibility.

The d’Arnaud duo has gone on to play against each other in the New York-Penn League, South Atlantic League and could see each other in the Eastern League this year (depending on where both players end up).

As for a friendly rivalry between the two, there isn’t much trash talk.  The brothers just let their play do the talking.

 “It’s more, I guess you could say competitive rivalry,” Travis said.  “It’s pretty much who steals off.  If he steals of me then we keep talking back and forth and if I throw him out than I just keep getting at it.”

To the best of his memory Travis thinks he and Chase are about even in steals and caught stealing against each other.


Also not present yesterday was Jeremy Farrell, a Pirates prospect and the first third baseman in Marauders history.  Present was his father John…who might also happen to be the Blue Jays manager.  Jeremy has not played in either game between the teams at McKechnie Field this year but did twice travel to Dunedin.

“The one thing that has really been appreciated is what the Pirates have done given our situation,” John Farrell said.  “That’s always been appreciated.  In this game you get some rare opportunities to see your son but it’s really a unique opportunity to be in the same ballpark.”

Farrell did play in front of his father at McKechnie last year.  While John was the Red Sox pitching coach Jeremy stepped to the plate and promptly homered in the ninth inning of a one run game.

While baseball was never something forced upon Jeremy or his brothers, the family took to the game and it’s given John a nice way to be around his family working through the rigors of a season.

“Anytime you can have your family or your kids in your work setting it can be a good diversion but it’s also forged a bond that’s unique in its own right,” Farrell said.  “I’m thankful for the opportunity to spend that time with them.”


Anthony Gose earned a reputation when he stole 76 bases in 2009.  The kid can flat out fly.  The problem was that some knocked him for only being able to flat out fly.  See, base stealing is an art to many and Gose was forced back to finger painting in 2010.

“I’ve taken a lot more studying to it these last few weeks,” Gose said of his time in his first Major League Spring Training.  “One, so I don’t come out here and embarrass myself and two so that I…the first year I did it just running and last year I just thought it was going to happen again and it didn’t.  So this year I’m really going to dedicate myself and focus on things in that area.”

Gose was gunned down 32 times in 77 tries between Dunedin and Clearwater last season in the Florida State League.  So this year Gose has dedicated himself to learning and studying and really understanding his art.  To do so he’s latched on to big leaguers Cory Patterson and Rajai Davis.

“Anything from on the bases to out in the outfield,” Gose said of their discussions.  “We talk about the plate, what they’re thinking, what they think pitchers are doing to them, especially Cory being a left handed hitter and batting at the top of the lineup.  I find myself similar to them so I talk with them a lot and see what they went through and what they do now.”

Gose wouldn’t put a number on his stolen bases for 2011.  He has no goal really.  He just wants to run and be successful as often as possible.  Oh, and he’d also like to steal home at some point.

“When I’m on there I want to get the next base,” Gose said.  “The coaches let me know the situation and I’ve been learning over the last few weeks what situations are better.  [I want to steal] every base I can.  If I could steal home I would.  I want to steal al bases equally.”

Gose will be only 21 in August, so a return to the Florida State League isn’t out of the question for the outfielder.  Wherever he goes he’ll have less travel than he did in 2010.  Gose was part of two deadline deals that sent him from the Phillies to the Astros and then to the Blue Jays.  He was a member of the Astros for all of about 45 minutes.  It might have been 30 or maybe an hour.  Either way he’s with the Jays now and likes the feeling of being wanted.

“As long as I do what I need to do and take care of my business it’ll all take care of itself in the end,” Gose said.

We’ll keep up with our FSL check-ins throughout Spring Training.

Till next time…


Stumpo’s Surprise and Howard’s Look Back

The look in his eyes and the breathlessness in his voice kind of gave it away.  Bob Stumpo was the new kid in town.

Among the likes of Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Ross Gload and even Cory Sullivan, there was the 23 year old kid named Stumpo.  McKechnie Field was his candy store Saturday.

A 33rd round pick by the Phillies out of Division-III West Chester last June, Stumpo’s born and raised a Philadelphia fan.  His family lives just a half hour outside the city in Delaware.

Stumpo made his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2010, playing four games before being promoted to A-Advanced Clearwater after an injury to Joel Naughton.  He started his second game with the Threshers and played against the Marauders July 15th, his first of now two trips to McKechnie.

The second one came Saturday when the Phillies put Stumpo on the big league taxi squad, shuttling him from minor league camp to play against the Pirates.

“It’s unbelievable actually,” Stumpo said of spending the day with the big club.  “It’s a dream come true.  It’s what a lot of young guys look forward to their entire life.”

Stumpo was one of three catchers on a split-squad Phillies team with Erik Kratz (a former Pirate) and Tuffy Gosewisch.  He was one of seven minor leaguers Philadelphia brought to Bradenton though he didn’t get into the game.  Kratz took the start and Gosewisch came off the bench, but just being there for batting practice was enough of a treat.

“I was standing in right field and Ryan Howard was hitting,” Stumpo said.  “I’ve been watching Ryan Howard on TV as a fan for a long time now.”

Stumpo knows the call-up is only a temporary move and that tomorrow he’ll likely be back in minor league camp.  His placement in the minors for 2011 is still unknown, but Stumpo’s grateful not only for Saturday’s brush with bigs but also his time with the Threshers last season.  In 18 games the rookie picked up six hits and an RBI.

“Not too many guys get to go up that quickly,” Stumpo said.  “There was an injury and they needed and extra spot and it just happened that I got to stay.  It’s a humbling sport that’s for sure.  You just have to keep learning.  Going up to Clearwater and High-A right away I learned a lot from the pitching coaches.  I learned a lot from the manager.  I learned a lot from other guys on the team.”


Jordan Ellis is famous in McKechnie Field lore for the hits he didn’t give up.  Just promoted from Low-A Lakewood last summer Ellis took the loss in the sixth of seven wins the Marauders had over the Threshers.  It also just so happened that Bradenton beat Ellis in the ninth inning without a hit.  The Marauders scored on a strikeout in the dirt, walk, sac bunt, sac fly and wild pitch.  The final was 8-7.

“Yeah, it was [nuts], but that’s part of the game,” Ellis said.  “You never can expect to win a game even when you’re up because things change quickly.”

Just out of his second full pro season Ellis, also a Philadelphia native and Villanova product, got a kick out of the big league experience.

“It’s a good experience anytime somebody in minor league camp can get involved with big league camp and pick their brains and see how it really is up here,” Ellis said.  “I’m just trying to take it all in and talk to everyone and see how everything goes.  I guess it will help me relax someday.”


It was a long while back that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard played in the Florida State League in 2003.  Howard won league MVP and torched opponents to the tune of a .304 average, 23 homeruns and 82 RBI.  The season, his third, marked his best as a pro.

“For me I was just being me,” Howard said.  “I guess everybody else will look at it in a different light but I was just out there playing ball, doing me.”

And that’s the advice Howard has for other Florida State Leaguers and minor leaguers in general.  Just don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

“Sometimes you’ll catch yourself kind of thinking too much,” Howard said, “and then sometimes you just have to let it go and go out there and swing just kind of let what happens happen.”

As for the biggest perk of playing in the FSL?

“You got to sleep in your own bed every night,” Howard said.  “All the towns were very close.  We played Dunedin and Tampa.  Fort Myers was one of the only teams we had to stay overnight within our division.”

The less than good?

“It was hot,” Howard said.  “You get a lot of rain and you have to be very patient.”

In something of a light moment I asked Howard about the show he put on at the ’03 home run derby in Fort Myers.  Kris Koch, a former Assistant General Manager for the Miracle and now a Pirates employee, informed me he was pretty sure Howard had won the derby.  The slugger was less sure (with a laugh).

Howard: I did alright.

Me: I thought you won?

Howard: I don’t think so. 

Me: Oh.  Then I guess I got bad information.

Howard: Then I guess I won.  I don’t know it was a while back.


I scoured the internet looking for the actual answer and failed.  So if you know the correct answer please let the both of us know.


Till next time…



Crabs, Keith and Manny (Oh My!)

Crabs Logo.jpgWe’re almost midway through the Pirates home slate for Spring Training – eight down and nine to go.  I figured now is as good a time as any to dive into our ‘Florida State Leaguers in Big League Camp’ series.  With the Rays in town today it gave us a chance to catch up with a couple former Charlotte Stone Crabs.  We’ll round out our coverage when the Phillies come to McKechnie Saturday, the Blue Jays next Wednesday and the Twins on the 21st.  We’ll make some stops at minor league camps over the next couple of weeks as well.  And in case you have a thirst for info on Marauders with the big club – feel free to check out or previous coverage on M’s TV.

Our first edition takes a look at the Stone Crabs (Rays), represented in Major League camp by catcher Stephen Vogt and shortstop Tim Beckham.  Former Daytona Cub Chris Archer (acquired in the Matt Garza trade) is also in camp but did not make the trip.  Matt Bush is there as well, but never appeared against Bradenton in 2010.

This season marks the first time Vogt has been sent a spring invite.  After missing almost all of 2009 because of an injury, Vogt had to play his way into the everyday lineup last season.  After batting over .300 in April, hitting a .404 May average goes a long way to help in that department.  By midseason Vogt had found a home in the order, playing catcher, DH, first and outfield along the way.

“It was very exciting and very honoring and I’m just excited for the opportunity to experience something new,” Vogt said of the Big League experience.  “You get treated a lot differently up here. It’s been a lot of fun so far.  It’s been really nice.”

That answer of course begs the next question of ‘What’s so different?’  The answer was surprisingly simple.

“The clubhouse guys take care of you and the food and the travel is much better,” Vogt said.  “The clean shoes…exactly!  You don’t have to clean your own shoes.”

As silly as not having to clean your own shoes sounds, it’s actually a nice bonus.  You see baseball dirt is no ordinary dirt.  It’s more like Hawaiian red dirt.  If you’ve ever bought a “Red Dirt” shirt you know they make them by using the dirt as dye, you know, because it stains.  I have many a pair of khaki pants with ‘dirt’ stains from when I used to drag the infield as a gameday employee for the Somerset Patriots growing up.  Long story short is some guys use Scrubbing Bubbles to clean cleats and catcher’s equipment.  It’s less than fun.  Having it done for you kind of rocks.

On a different note, if you saw Vogt last season you probably noticed his awesome moustache.  A lot of the Charlotte players grew them in (especially for the playoffs), with most being inspired by Rocco Baldelli’s facial faux pas from his brief stint with the team.  Vogt no longer has the moustache so I felt compelled to ask where it went.

“I like to start every year fresh,” Vogt said.  “Every guy has their style and mine’s pretty plain.”

I did go one step further and ask about the hairstylings of Vogt’s new teammates Manny Ramirez and Jonny Damon.  The duo sports dreadlocks and a mohawk respectively. 

“Oh it’s awesome,” Vogt saidof Manny’s hair.  “I asked him how long it took him to grow it.  He said he hasn’t cut it in five years.  But you know things like that – getting to watch arguably the greatest right handed hitter of all time, it’s awesome.”

As for Beckham, the shortstop was in the starting lineup Monday, playing alongside Evan Longoria on the left side of the infield.

“I’m playing alongside of Evan Longoria – it’s a great learning experience,” Beckham said.  “I know Jonny Damon, Manny Ramirez and Evan Longoria but when I’m on the field I try not to think about that.  If I think about that I’m just bringing pressure top myself.”

After striking out in his first at-bat, Beckham singled in a run in the fifth.  The 21-year old also played a decent shortstop, kicking a double play ball to himself before flipping it to Joe Inglett at second for the throw to first.

Beckham mentioned the key thing that he’s taken from being in Big League camp is learning about routine and consistency.  Basically he’s trying to figure out how the stars go about their business and then emulate that.  It’s not an uncommon quote from younger players.  My next goal is to find out what the heck it means.  How does one routine differ from another and how can eating a banana before batting practice serve you better than eating a peach?  I’m sure it’s stuff more important than that, but you get the idea.  It’s about mental preparation.  It was actually stumbling upon that last sentence when my interview subject turned magically into Yogi Berra.

“I think the game is 85 to 90 percent mental and the other half is physical,” Beckham said with a laugh and a smile.  I think he had realized his math just added up to about 140%.  “I think everybody in the minors has the physical ability to play in the majors.”


As the 2010 season went along the Marauders began to more and more cement their first rival.  The obvious choice turned out to be the most geographically logical choice.  The Marauders and Stone Crabs became rivals. 

The fans were the ones most responsible I think, and really that’s what it’s all about after all, is it not?  Both teams got excellent support from their fans when travelling to each other’s parks.  The chants from Stone Crab fans of ‘Reid – Fronk’ were answered by ‘Strike – Out’ from the Marauder faithful.  The teams also just happen to compete with each other all season for a South Division title and just so happened to meet each other the Division Series.  It was a nice twist that Bradenton clinched the second half title in Charlotte.

“I did start to feel a rivalry,” Beckham said.  “But in the playoffs if you go about it like every team being a rivalry then it just gets you pumped up and motivated to play.  It gives you the extra boost to really look at that pitcher on the mound and think that’s the enemy.  Let’s go.  Let’s play.”

“It was pretty heated and we got into it pretty good,” Vogt said.  “We had some battles.  It seemed like every game we played against Bradenton last year was a one run, two run game – back and forth, back and forth an all the way into the playoffs.  Even that final game, we were sitting on our toes that’s for sure.”

The final game was a 2-1 win for Charlotte and the deciding game of the Division Series.  A rain delay was almost as long as the game itself – 2:16 to 2:24.  The rain also gave birth to one of the season’s funnier moments when the entire Marauders bullpen shuffled to the dugout from the ‘pen under one tiki umbrella.  Unfortunately the rain also cut short Nathan Adcock’s day.

His last couple of starts ravaged by rainouts, including one against Charlotte August 27th, Adcock watched from the dugout after throwing just one perfect inning before the rain.

“Yeah, it actually I think worked into our favor getting Adcock out of there,” Vogt said.  “We had hit him well one time earlier in the year but he was pretty lights out down the stretch.  At the same time it was amazing to me how lights out the pitching was.  [Matt] McSwain came in and pitched great and [Frank] De Los Santos pitched the game of his life, which none of us saw coming – he’s a great pitcher, but you know…”

Adcock indeed allowed only five runs in his last 11.1 innings against the Crabs – good for an ERA below four.  As for De Los Santos, he fired 6.2 scoreless innings with four hits sprinkled between for Charlotte.  He was just a few starts removed from allowing nine runs on 12 hits to St. Lucie and had coughed up seven runs to Bradenton back in May. 

“I was happy Adcock got bumped,” Beckham said, only after learning Vogt had already voiced that opinion.  “He’s a great pitcher and I think he’ll be a great player in the future.  Me personally, I was happy.”

“It kind of summed up the Florid State League – you know rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, fly by the seat of your pants.  It was a fun game and to celebrate at midnight on your home field and it always feels good to be celebrating, especially since we watched Bradenton celebrate on our field about 5 days earlier.”

The Marauders open 2011 against the Stone Crabs.  The two play a one game set at Charlotte Sports Park April 7th and move to McKechnie Field on the 8th.


On a completely separate note, former MSNBC and Sportscenter anchor Keith Olbermann was at McKechnie field Monday.  He writes an MLBlog that you can find here.  Anybody’s politics aside he was a genuinely nice guy and we may or may not have more from Keith later this month.  We’ll keep you posted.  We can tell you, however, that Keith is now the proud owner of a Bradenton Marauders hat.  If you’re interested he’s a size 8. 

This was also a cool moment for me because Ketih happens to be this blog’s namesake.  “It’s deep and I don’t think it’s playable” was an Olbermann saying from his Sportscenter days.  I learned today it was actually a Dan Patrick line – Keith always heard him using it in the newsroom and put it to goo use.

‘Till next time,