NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – Matt Maloney doesn’t know if he’ll be back in the major leagues this season, but he took another step forward Wednesday in his long road back from Tommy John surgery.
The 29-year-old left-hander tossed 11/3 hitless innings in relief to earn his first win in more than 15 months as the Portland Sea Dogs defeated the New Britain Rock Cats 3-1 before 6,948 at New Britain Stadium.
The streaky Sea Dogs (52-52) completed a sweep of the four-game series and have won six in a row after an eight-game slide.
“A win’s great for the team but I’m just focusing on being healthy,” said Maloney, who recorded his first victory since April 20 of last season while with the Minnesota Twins. “When I’ve been healthy throughout my career I’ve put up good numbers and I’ve been effective, so for me it’s getting my arm back in shape and getting healthy. I’m a year out of Tommy John and feeling good.”
New Britain (48-56) was shut out after Josmil Pinto’s RBI double gave the Rock Cats a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Portland starter Anthony Ranaudo allowed one run and four hits over 52/3 innings. Maloney followed with four outs and Noe Ramirez tossed two perfect innings to record his first save of the season.
The Sea Dogs snapped a 1-1 tie with two runs in the eighth. Ryan Dent led off with a double and scored on Heiker Meneses’ single. Garin Cecchini sent Meneses to third with a single to right and Michael Almanzar provided insurance with a sacrifice fly.
“We hit a rough patch but the clubhouse never let it get to them,” Portland Manager Kevin Boles said. “They stayed upbeat, they stayed positive.”
Shut out through five innings by Virgil Vasquez, who went the distance, the Sea Dogs pulled even in the sixth as Shannon Wilkerson led off with a single, moved up on a walk and scored on Almanzar’s groundout.
Wednesday’s win was the 1,400th in franchise history for the Sea Dogs. Meanwhile the Rock Cats suffered their sixth straight loss.
Before Wednesday’s game, Maloney was called up from short-season Class A Lowell of the New York-Penn League, where he had a 0.00 ERA and a save, allowing one unearned run and four hits over 61/3 innings in five appearances.
“We got good reports out of Lowell,” Boles said. “Their staff raved about him and it’s definitely good to see him back on track.”
Maloney, who has a career mark of 5-9 in the major leagues with the Reds and Twins, began as a starter but was converted to a reliever.
He has had a history of injuries, undergoing Tommy John surgery last July 17 and didn’t begin this year until two weeks into the New York-Penn League season.
At least that’s a conventional injury. In 2011 he fractured ribs while sneezing, and suffered blister problems in 2009 and 2010.
Still the Red Sox were willing to take a chance on Maloney, signing him to a minor league deal in February.
“It’s a long process and definitely frustrating,” Maloney said, “especially making the big league team two years in a row out of camp.”
Boles doesn’t know what Boston’s plans are for Maloney but liked what he saw Wednesday.
“He had some life to his fastball but he also threw a pretty good change-up,” Boles said. “It looks like it’s a pretty interesting weapon. He felt good after his outing and I think that’s what’s important.”