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PawSox vets were key to Boston’s A.L. East flag

September 23, 2013

Pawtucket Red Sox players including Jackie Bradley Jr. played key depth roles for Boston during the parent club’s chase for the A.L. East Division Championship. (Blackstone Valley Sports photo by Ernest A. Brown)

BOSTON – Gary DiSarcina and Rich Sauveur thought they were positioned well out of harm’s way. Perched in a far corner inside the champagne-soaked, music-blaring, jolly-good-time party scene that was the Red Sox’ clubhouse following last Friday’s division clincher, the two Pawtucket Red Sox coaches were more than content to be innocent bystanders.

But what soon followed was a moment that could very well summarize the impact that DiSarcina, Sauveur and the rest of the 2013 PawSox had on the newly minted American League East champs.

As the Red Sox players ran back out of the clubhouse toward the field in an effort to keep the frenetic festivities going with the fans who weren’t ready to leave Fenway Park just yet, former PawSox skipper Torey Lovullo made his way over to where DiSarcina and Sauveur stood.

A grinning Lovullo shouted to the minor-league workers, “You guys are a part of this!” (Boston’s bench coach was speaking over the bombastic sounds emanating from the clubhouse stereo system that continued to boom even though the celebration had relocated.)

“We’ve been fortunate to tap into a group that’s not just 25 guys,” echoed Red Sox manager John Farrell.

Another former Pawtucket bench boss and current member of Farrell’s coaching staff needs no reminders about the notion that it takes a village to safely navigate through a major-league season.

“It’s just not going to be 25 guys. There’s going to be times during the year when guys have to go up and help out,” said Arnie Beyeler, Boston’s first-base coach and the man who passed off the PawSox managerial baton to DiSarcina. “If you don’t help out, you don’t win and get to where we’re at right now. You’ve got to have that depth.”

You can’t tell the full story of the Red Sox’s successful quest for their seventh division title in team history without referencing the organization’s productive minor-league pipeline, or without crediting the job that the Triple-A staff did in readying the players for what awaited them upon reaching the parent club.

The Red Sox are postseason-bound for the first time in four seasons because they received worthwhile contributions from their farm system, both big and small. Over the course of 162 games, there are going to be times when the parent club needs help. These “reinforcements” might not always be asked to shoulder the same burden as established big-league stars, but rather to fit their talents and their personality into the surrounding team structure.

“All of the players that came up, they knew their roles,” said Farrell.

Added Mike Hazen, Boston’s assistant general manager and onetime farm director, “In small pieces, a lot of these guys contributed along the way. Some of them were integrated into the fabric of the team, which was good for us to see.”

Two perfect examples of Hazen’s “small pieces” statement are outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright. It seemed fitting that Bradley, a player who began the season in Boston, then spent most of the year in Pawtucket, was patrolling center field again at Fenway last Friday.

“It just goes to show that a lot of guys might be on different paths, but at the end, we all want to be in the major leagues,” Bradley expressed moments after tossing his goggles into the crowd standing behind the Red Sox’ dugout. “To experience this moment with the guys who are pretty much on track with you, it’s special. You have (Xander) Bogaerts, (Allen) Webster, (Brock) Holt, even (DiSarcina) was here. To be able to share this with all the guys you’ve been grinding with all year long and to be able to do it in two places, that’s pretty neat.”

Bradley was referencing the euphoric moment the PawSox experienced at McCoy Stadium after that ball club won their own Northern Division title on a Friday night in late August.

“We did it in Pawtucket and now we get to do it up here,” said Wright. He left his own indelible imprint on this Red Sox season with 5.2 innings of shutout relief he tossed one July afternoon at Seattle’s Safeco Field.

“Even if it wasn’t a lot, we’ve been able to help out just a little bit,” Wright said.

Homegrown Red Sox talent was everywhere you looked in the clubhouse as the team celebrated the historic night last Friday. Along with newly-minted big leaguers like Bogaerts and Bradley, there was Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz – all now established stars who themselves were just scratching the surface of their respective careers when Boston last won the division, in 2007.

Save for a few off-seasons when the front office turned to big-money free agent spending, Boston has sworn by a draft-and-development philosophy that has often paid big dividends. That proved to be the case this season as the Red Sox were buoyed by contributions from young pitchers and position players alike.

“I don’t think you can compare because it’s different guys in different time frames, but it’s very analogous when you look at the youth of the (’07 club) and those guys integrating onto the major-league team,” said Hazen. “That sustained us for three or four years after that and helped us win a World Series that year. Hopefully after three or four years this time around, we can say the same thing.”

Eventually, the music was lowered in the Red Sox clubhouse, which in turn allowed DiSarcina and Sauveur to collect their thoughts and put into words what being on hand for the Red Sox’ celebration meant to each of them.

“Richie and I were looking in the dugout and in the field and there were probably 12 guys that we had this year. To see them jumping around and acting like little kids, that makes that [9-19 record Pawtucket posted in July] worth it,” said DiSarcina. “We approach it as one big family.”

Said Sauveur, “The bigger thing is that this shows what kind of organization this is. For myself and Gary to be able to share in this, it’s fantastic.”

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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