March 18, 2012

On Baseball: Despite success with Sea Dogs, Maxwell unable to find a job

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

There were times earlier in his career when pitcher Blake Maxwell thought he might be done with baseball. Like when he stunk up the start of the 2009 Portland Sea Dogs season, and anxiously awaited word he was being released.

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Blake Maxwell

click image to enlarge

Blake Maxwell used his sidearm delivery to go 10-4 with 15 saves and a 2.51 ERA the last two seasons with the Sea Dogs, but the Red Sox elected not to re-sign him.

2010 Telegram File

But that word never came, and Blake Maxwell fixed his delivery and shined for the past 2½ seasons.

Still, Maxwell will not be grabbing his glove and going out to stretch this morning, like he had every other March for the previous six spring trainings. Maxwell has no team to play for; unwanted after six minor league seasons in the Red Sox organization.

"It looks like baseball for me has come to an end," Maxwell said in a phone interview. "It is tough to deal with."

Maxwell had no bitterness in his voice, but the disappointment is difficult to hide.

Maxwell recorded a combined 2.44 ERA last year at Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. He finished the 2010 season with a 7-0 record and 2.61 ERA with Portland.

But when Maxwell's contract with the Red Sox expired after 2011, they did not offer to re-sign him. And when Maxwell's agent shopped him around in the offseason, there were no takers.

"A lot of teams said I had good stats, but I was not somebody they wanted to pursue," Maxwell said. "If I was left-handed or hit 95 (miles per hour) at some point ..."

Maxwell is a sidearm right-hander, and his fastball is closer to the mid- to high-80s on the radar gun.

And worse, Maxwell is 27. That's ancient in minor league years.

And then there is Maxwell's resume. He was a 40th-round draft pick out of little-known Methodist College (now Methodist University).

"If you were a higher round pick, or a guy with big-league time, you get more chances," Maxwell said.

Red Sox officials declined to comment on Maxwell, which is consistent with previous non-comments on players no longer in the organization.

But those officials have spoken before about what makes a prospect, besides putting up good numbers -- namely potential, along with timing and competition.

Look at how Boston is dealing with pitching prospect Stolmy Pimentel, who is on the 40-man roster. He was 0-9 with a 9.12 ERA in Portland last year and was demoted to Class A. Yet he is back this season.

Pimentel is also only 22 and has a fastball in the mid-90s. He's lanky, could get stronger, and if he masters his mechanics could be a major leaguer.

Boston obviously did not see that potential in Maxwell. Nor was he presented the same opportunities.

THE SPRINTER

Maxwell came to Portland in 2009, his fourth full pro season. Known for his size (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) and endurance, Maxwell was used both as a starter and reliever. Used infrequently at the start of 2009, Maxwell was 0-5 with an 8.45 ERA, and had awful mechanics.

"I went nine days without pitching, and then seven days. I completely lost my arm slot," Maxwell said. "I was expecting to be released any day.

"I came to the field completely miserable."

But Maxwell, a joker and relatively easy going, knew the misery had to end.

"I decided that if I was going to go out soon I might as well find a way to start having some fun," he said. "I was talking to my college pitching coach and good friend, Kevin Allingham, and he said I should start sprinting in (from the bullpen). I thought, why not?"

And tradition began. Any time Maxwell entered a game, either as a starter or in relief, he sprinted from the bullpen to the mound.

(Continued on page 2)

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