Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Starting 9: Nine Facts To Take Into The PawSox-IronPigs Series

The Pawtucket Red Sox and North Division rival Lehigh Valley IronPigs will bookend April with a four-game visit to each other’s parks. The Sox will play host to the first set to commence the 2014 season Thursday through Sunday and later drop in on Coca-Cola Park April 26-29.

All April contests will stay within the division for first-year manager Kevin Boles’ pupils. The two Lehigh Valley series will sandwich a three-game bout with Syracuse and eight engagements apiece with Buffalo and Rochester.

Dating back to Sept. 1 and 2 of last season, Lehigh Valley is nursing a carry-over scoring drought due to stingy Pawtucket defense. The PawSox blanked the Pigs 5-0 and 4-0 to sweep a two-game mini-series at the conclusion of the 2013 regular season, although rain confined the first game to six innings.

IronPigs third baseman Maikel Franco, who is the parent Philadelphia Phillies’ top prospect in the eyes of Baseball America, figures to make his Triple-A debut this weekend. He posted a .339 batting average in 69 Double-A appearances for Reading last summer. Baseball America also specifies Franco as the Philadelphia farm system’s “best power hitter” and “best infield arm.”

Presumptive PawSox starting pitcher Allen Webster (8-4) and Lehigh Valley counterpart David Buchanan (4-2) carry identical career Triple-A winning percentages of .667 into the season. Webster has no prior decisions against the Pigs while Buchanan brooked a loss in the aforementioned 5-0 decision Sept. 1.

Seven of the currently rostered IronPigs, including five members of the pitching staff, saw MLB action with Philadelphia in 2013. Six others suited up for The Show with other organizations.

Lehigh Valley’s outfield is arguably its most seasoned sector. Leandro Castro and Steve Susdorf are the team’s only returnees who made 100 or more appearances last season while Clete Thomas played 92 games for the Minnesota Twins and 36 for Rochester.

This is the first time the Lehigh Valley franchise (established in 2008) will have entertained Pawtucket’s home opener.
The PawSox will seek their ninth consecutive opening-day victory, home or away.