The trip from Portland, Maine to Boston is a solid two hours and even though it took Brandon Workman and Xander Bogaerts a few months to arrive, some would say that they found an express route, with a pit-stop in Pawtucket along the way.
Just six months after starting their 2013 seasons with the Sea Dogs, the duo stands as part of the Red Sox 25-man postseason roster, seemingly worlds away from the 100-plus miles where their season’s journey began.
Although many could have guessed that their paths would have led to Fenway Park after both stood on that very field to collect organizational honors in 2012, not too many would have expected it to have come so soon.
Bogaerts, the Red Sox top prospect heading into 2013, was named Boston’s Minor League Offensive Player of the Year last season after hitting .307 and belting 20 home runs between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland.
With shortstop Jose Iglesias still ahead of him in Pawtucket, Bogaerts broke camp with the Sea Dogs this past April following a stint with the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.
The less-than-Spring-like April temps in Portland hindered Bogaerts mighty stroke just a bit coming out of the gate, but it didn’t take long for the then 20-year-old to warm up, and after just 56 games with the Sea Dogs, where he had a .311 average and 24 extra-base hits, he was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Between Double and Triple-A, Bogaerts batted .297 and had 15 home runs in 116 games, drawing a career-high 63 walks as his he showed vast improvement in his plate patience, leading to a big-league call-up in August.
Workman’s jump up came sooner.
The Red Sox 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year was in top-form from the get-go, evident in his first start of the season on a frigid April 5th evening at Hadlock Field when he whiffed nine Trenton Thunder batters in just five innings of work.
He made 11 appearances with Portland, including his only relief stint of his career in a piggy-back role, and after compiling a 5-1 mark with 74 Ks in 65 2/3 innings, Workman packed his bags for to Pawtucket.
Workman made five June starts and one in July for the PawSox, before the big club came calling and on July 10th the 2010 second-rounder out of Texas made his big-league debut, pitching two innings of relief in Seattle.
He followed that outing with three straight starts as the Red Sox rotation battled injuries, and he did more than enough to help his cause, finding a role in the bullpen for the remainder of the regular season.
Bogaerts highly-anticipated debut came on August 20th when the powerful shortstop went 0-for-3 against the San Francisco Giants. Just four days later he picked up his first big-league hit and soon settled in, learning on the fly in a limited capacity.
Both players did enough in their time with Boston to earn their way onto John Farrell’s roster for the American League Division Series versus Tampa Bay and both made contributions in the four-game series.
Workman pitched 2/3 of the 8th inning of Game 3 versus the Rays, the only game the Sox would lose in the series, and although Rays took a 4-3 lead on his watch (two runners were already on base when he was summoned) and Farrell’s move to use him over closer Koji Uehara was questioned, the 24-year-old right hander was solid in his first postseason appearance, showing a poise far beyond his rookie status.
Bogaerts postseason debut came shortly after Workman got out of the 8th inning when he was inserted as a pinch runner for Will Middlebrooks who drew a leadoff walk in the top of the 9th inning.
Working his way around the bases, Bogaerts would score the tying-run on a Dustin Pedroia groundout before the Rays won it on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th inning.
In Game 4, Bogaerts pinch-hit for Stephen Drew in the top of the 7th inning, showing off his ever-growing plate discipline by drawing a walk in a high-pressure situation, eventually coming around to again score a tying run.
He led off the 9th with a walk and would score once more, giving the Red Sox a 3-1 cushion that would be sealed by Uehara as Boston punched their ticket to the Championship Series.
When Farrell announced his roster for the next round, kicking off Saturday night against the Detroit Tigers, both rookies were again on the list.
Now the duo stands as an integral part of the Red Sox playoff machine, chipping in in smaller roles, but making the most of it thus far.
As the intensity gets ratcheted up another notch, these two old (Sea) Dogs (and PawSox) will find their way into the thick of it once more, hopefully providing that youthful shot in the arm that all teams playing this late into the season seem to need at the most crucial of times.
You could say that Workman and Bogaerts symbolize the tip of an iceberg of talented young prospects that will hopefully take that same express route to Boston in the very near future and the sign for the exit could include the word ‘postseason’ for many years to come.
While the 'Big Club' continues their push towards the World Series, some of the brightest prospects in Boston's farm system ready for the start of the Arizona Fall League, set to kick off on Tuesday afternoon.
The Red Sox send six players to the Surprise Saguaros for a 32-game run, showcasing them alongside and against some of the best young talent in the game.
Here is a quick look at the Arizona six (with their 2013 stats), plus one coach you are all familiar with:
RHP Keith Couch – Unable to crack Portland’s prospect-laden rotation to start the season, Couch remained patient and was solid out of the pen, pitching admirably in 14 appearances before turning it up a notch once he returned to a starter’s role. On full display at the Futures at Fenway game in August, Couch was the story of the day, flashing poise and control that pushed him to the forefront of the AFL list for Sox pitchers.
LHP Miguel Pena – The slender left-hander has used his four-pitch repertoire to climb up four levels in just three seasons, finishing 2013 with Portland. In 218 2/3 innings as a pro he has struck out 183 batters and walked only 57.
RHP Noe Ramirez – After making 16 starts with Greenville in his debut as a pro in 2012, Ramirez was moved to the bullpen and it paid off in a big way. He made 36 appearances between Salem and Portland and stuck out 75 over 75 2/3 innings.
RHP Pete Ruiz – The 6-foot-3 righty has been steadily climbing the ranks since 2008 and has earned a return trip to Arizona after making 10 relief appearances with Surprise last fall. He averaged 11.6 K/9 IP in 30 relief appearances, but battled inconsistencies throughout the year.
2B Mookie Betts – The breakout prospect of the 2013 season for the Red Sox, Betts stepped into a realm that was unexpected on many fronts. Following a solid campaign with Lowell last season, Betts powered-up and launched 15 home runs in 2013 and planted himself on many Top 10 Red Sox prospect lists.
3B Garin Cecchini – Although some may consider Cecchini as the ‘breakout’ guy on the farm, most were already well aware of his potential and he didn’t skip a beat in jumping from High-A Salem to Double-A Portland mid-season. Now noted as one of the better hitters on the Minor League level, it will be a matter of if he can maintain it with a brighter spotlight on him. Based on his makeup, it shouldn’t be an issue.
2B Derrik Gibson – The 2008 second-rounder might not have proven his worth at the plate thus far in his career, but his versatility and defensive prowess has made up for that at times. He showed an improved patience at the plate in 2013, dropping his strikeouts from 98 the year before, to 61 over 308 plate appearances. As that aspect of his game continues to develop, the bat could follow.
1B Travis Shaw – Although Shaw may top the Sox minor league depth chart at the first base position, there is still work to be done. The slugger powered through High-A Salem in 2012 with 16 home runs, but when he jumped to Portland later that year, he was unable to keep up that pace. He did regain the power stroke in 2013, hitting 16 bombs, including a big one at Fenway in August, but his splits were down once again.
Rich Gedman, hitting coach – The former Red Sox backstop has, much like his pupils, worked his way up the ranks since rejoining the organization at the hitting coach in Lowell in 2011. After a season in Salem last year, Gedman returned to New England with the Portland Sea Dogs in 2013.
Joining the Red Sox in Surprise will be prospects from the Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers.; most notably Orioles 2B Jonathan Schoop and P Eduardo Rodriguez, Indians OF Tyler Naquin, Rangers C Jorge Alfaro and Brewers P Taylor Jungmann.
The Saguaros will play Peoria at 2:35 p.m. EST on Tuesday and we’ll be sure to keep you updated on the progress of these players, while hopefully getting an opportunity to track some of them down to get the inside word on how things are going in the Arizona Fall League.