Hadlock Field was crowded this weekend, and we’re not talking about the sold-out crowd Sunday.
Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen was in town, along with various coordinators, roving coaches and scouts.
Former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez even stopped by Sunday.
All were assessing Boston’s talent at the Double-A level.
“Just making the rounds,” Hazen said of his annual trip to Hadlock.
But the timing of the trip comes before the Red Sox brass will get together to discuss their minor leaguers.
“We’re at the midway point of the season, and this is usually the time we start to evaluate those things,” Hazen said.
Part of that evaluation is to decide who moves up to Triple-A. When Mookie Betts was tearing up Eastern League pitching, the Red Sox promoted him to Pawtucket on June 3. Boston General Manager Ben Cherington said at the time that the Red Sox had an obligation to find a new challenge for Betts.
Others have followed Betts. And it appears more Sea Dogs could use a new challenge.
“There are guys here that we probably should start talking about at some point,” said Hazen, declining to mention any names.
“There are some guys that are having exceptional seasons here. Are they being challenged enough at this level and working on the things we want them to work on? Or do they need to go to the next level? That’s always the fine balance.”
Henry Owens obviously comes to mind as a player who needs a new challenge. He is 9-3 with a 1.99 ERA. Double-A batters have been overmatched by his fastball command and change-up.
Hazen watched Owens pitch a seven-inning shutout Friday.
“Same as I’ve always seen him. His stuff is outstanding,” Hazen said. “I think he is still growing into his body and his delivery, starting to figure out things with his curveball. Those are probably the biggest things that still need to continue to come.”
It’s one thing to consider a promotion for Owens, it’s another to find a place for him.
At the major league and Triple-A levels, the Red Sox already have too many starters – 11 (Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront, Clay Buchholz, Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Steven Wright, Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes). And that’s not counting Chris Hernandez, who has shined recently for Pawtucket after moving into the rotation.
It gets complicated with Doubront coming off the disabled list and Buchholz due to rejoin the Red Sox this week. De La Rosa and possibly Workman may return to Triple-A.
So how could Owens move up?
“We’re not putting anyone in the bullpen to find a long-term rotation spot (for someone else),” Hazen said. “Obviously Workman and De La Rosa have moved up from Pawtucket to the major leagues. We have to figure out what their long-term spots are, and what are the long-term spots in Pawtucket.”
By “long-term,” Hazen is differentiating from pitchers and players called up to Pawtucket to temporarily fill a vacancy.
“We’re not going to push a guy up from here if they’re not going to have a long-term spot in the (Pawtucket) rotation,” Hazen said. “Nor are we going to push the guys out of Pawtucket.
“We’re trying to put all those pieces together.”
Other players who are still impressing in Portland include shortstop Deven Marrero and catcher Blake Swihart, both hitting .292 while playing their positions with poise. Marrero has already been called a defender whose glove is major-league ready. Swihart has evolved, too, but Pawtucket already has Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler at catcher.
“To go out there and perform at the age (22) and level he’s doing it at is really impressive,” Hazen said of Swihart.
Impressive enough to move up? Maybe, if there is room in Pawtucket, and if the Red Sox deem Swihart – or others – ready.
The Red Sox have names in mind, players they think will make it. Red Sox evaluators were watching some of those players this weekend.
Playing in Hadlock on Sunday, maybe in Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium soon.
And then … Fenway?