Ever read A Tale of Two Cities? I'm not much of a literary guy myself, but I was forced to read it (or at least the Cliff's notes...) in high school. When the original line "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" was written, I think Charles Dickens might have been thinking into the future and talking about baseball. In baseball a guy can go 0 for 30 over the span of a week right before ratting off a 20 game hit streak. In baseball Frank Thomas can be the most feared hitter in the game, a lock for the Hall of Fame, and then his career hits a wall. In baseball the Portland Sea Dogs can beat Harrisburg 18 to 4 one day before losing to Erie 9 to 0. Not to mention the Sea Dogs can start the season 10-0 and then have a week like they did last week. The Sea Dogs did have the best of times when they started the week by finishing off the Harrisburg Senators. They managed to smack around the Senators 18-4 in the most lopsided game that the team has been in this year. Jeff Bailey led the way in that game smacking 2 HR's and knocked in 7. Kenny Perez wasn't far behind with a homer and 5 RBI's of his own. The rest of the week didn't go as well for Portland as they proceeded to drop their next 5 games due, in large part, to some pretty bad pitching.
Jon Papelbon had the best of times when he went 7 strong innings giving up just 2 runs on 6 hits while striking out 4 and not walking anyone. Thanks to his solid performance and 18 runs put on the board, he got the win. He didn't do so well in the second game of the week when he lasted only 4.1 IP. In that game he let up 5 runs thanks to 7 hits, 2 of them homers, and 4 walks. He did strike out 4. Despite his rough start, Papelbon is still mowing down opposing batters. He's striking out 8.1 batters per 9 while walking only 2.4 per 9. His 2.67 ERA over 81 IP is good enough for 5th in the Eastern League. Papelbon is in line for a promotion pretty soon. There's even talk about him helping out Boston at some point this year, but that's entirely internet rumor. If we do see Papelbon in Boston this year I think it will just be a game, maybe two, sometime in September.
Jon Lester also put together a good start last week going 6 IP, allowing only 1 unearned run, while striking out 10. He walked 3 and allowed 3 hits. He's been a second ace on the Portland staff so far this year with a 2.75 ERA, striking out 8.8, while walking 3.2 per 9. He's walked a few more than Papelbon, but lets up fewer home runs. Lester has let up 5 while Papelbon has let up 9. Lester would've earned the win for his latest performance, but the bullpen exploded, allowing 10 runs. Manny Delcarmen, Marc Deschenes, and Phil Devey, who started the season off pretty solid for Portland, all struggled last week, especially in the game started by Lester. Devey has been the guy the Sea Dogs have turned to when they needed 2 solid innings from a reliever. He's allowed all his runs in some pretty bad times as his 0-6 record suggests, but his 4.04 ERA over 35.2 IP is at least average. He strikes out a lot of batters with 9.1 per 9, but he also walks more than he should with 4.0 per 9. The 28 year old has never reached the majors and has struggled in the three brief tastes of AAA that he got, mostly as a starter. As a reliever he seems to be a little more solid. Deschenes has a career that is similar to Devey's, although he's been used exclusively as a reliever in his 8 years in the minors. He's put together quite a few good performances at the lower levels over the years, but has struggled when he hit AAA. This year he's mowing down batters, striking out 12.4 per 9, but he's also been all over the place walking 6.5 per 9. The walks haven't hurt him too much yet as his 3.10 ERA over 29 IP shows, but they will if he keeps it up. He leads the team in saves with 7 now that Cla Meredith is up in Pawtucket. Delcarmen is the only one of the trio who is considered a prospect. The 23 year old has a long way to go before he helps out the big league team, but he is striking out 12.1 per 9. His walk total is high though at 4.8 per 9. Delcarmen, used mostly as a setup man is 4-4 with 2 saves on the year and has a 3.94 ERA in 32 IP. With the Red Sox looking for bullpen help those are three names that are sometimes brought up. If I had to pick one of the trio, I'd probably go with Devey. The other two have been too wild this year and major leaguers would be able to take advantage of that even more than the guys in AA. But even Devey should be a last resort.
As far as the hitting, there have been some really great performances in an otherwise weak line up. Top prospects Dustin Pedroia and Brandon Moss stand out. Pedroia's .324/.405/.498 line is looking pretty good. He had one of his usual hot weeks going 10-25 and walked 6 times. He struck out 4 times to go along with 4 doubles and a triple. The second base bag in Pawtucket is pretty much betting to have Pedroia standing on the side of it. I'm looking forward to that day because I'd like to see how he handles it. I'm campaigning for this guy to take over the second base in 2006. It seems that Moss has adapted to AA pitching and after spending most of the season with his average hovering around .220, he has been on a tear lately raising his line to .290/.356/.506. He's still striking out far too much, however. He has 62 K's in 241 AB's so far this year and on two separate occasions last week he had a game where he went 0-4 with 4 K's. Over the course of the week he was 9-32 with 14 k's. While he has been very hot lately, he still has a lot of work to do. At least his power is there. He leads the team with 20 doubles and is second on the team with 10 homers. I'm still not convinced that Moss is as good as many people hope that he is and if he continues to strike out that much in AA, he'll never make it in the bigs.
One name who is absent from my list of hot prospects is Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez started the season off on fire before falling back to earth and currently has a less than stellar .274/.330/.409 line. Now he's on the DL with a bad back. The injury is said to be a minor one where he tweaked it the wrong way when swinging a bat. As far as I know it is not something that has been bothering him all year and it sounds like something he can make a quick recovery from. Kenny Perez has been playing short in Ramirez's absence and he is taking advantage of the situation. The light hitting utility man went 15-27 last week with 4 walks, 2 K's, 2 doubles, and a HR to bring his line up to .308/.344/.410 in 117 AB's.