As the only member of the PawSox coaching staff returning this season, Rich Sauveur , entering his fourth season as pitching coach, will be responsible for showing the ropes to new manager Arnie Beyeler and hitting coach Chili Davis.
"I've known Arnie for the three previous years, since I've been here," Sauveur said. "Great guy. I think we're going to have a lot of fun. He told me he wants things to be just as they were. He doesn't want to change anything. He doesn't want to bring the Double-A atmosphere here. He wants it to be a Triple- A atmosphere. And technically, it's a big-league atmosphere. The way I've seen [previous managers Ron Johnson] run it and Torey [Lovullo] run it, it's a big-league atmosphere. And that's the way it should be. In the same breath, we're not going to let guys get by with things. We want to stick to our rules - and we don't have many rules because you need to be professional. So we've talked about that. I know he's real happy and I'm very happy to have him there. I'm happy for Torey to go to the big leagues [as manager John Farrell's first base coach with the Blue Jays]. I really enjoyed last year with him and his friendship that I gained, and we keep in touch.
Sauveur will be renewing acquaintances, of sorts, with Davis.
"Chili, it's funny, my perspective on this guy when I pitched against him was: It's Chili Davis and he seemed like a tough guy," Sauveur said. "And I meet this guy and he's like a teddy bear, real nice, very friendly, asked me questions, just a great guy. It's funny how you perceive somebody if you don't know them. It's really funny because I'd never met him. But the name 'Chili Davis' and the size of him. He was huge. But I've really enjoyed getting to know him. He's a great guy, and I think we're going to have a lot of fun."
And Sauveur has a slight edge over Davis - in their meetings on the field. In three at-bats against Sauveur, Davis got just one hit, a single, for a .333 average. But, with one walk, his on-base percentage is .500.
Nice to meet you -- again
With 30 pitchers in big league camp, several of whom will likely be on Pawtucket's roster this season and 11 of whom were not in the Red Sox organization last season, Sauveur will be busy getting to know everyone.
"You look at the names, we're going to have a really, really nice staff in Pawtucket," he said. "Obviously, it's real early here in camp and we don't know who's going to be there yet but again, just look at the names and the roster, it's going to be nice."
Sauveur spent his winter coaching Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League. His staff posted a combined 3.53 ERA, second best in the league.
It was with Aguilas where he became familiar with one of the Sox' new pitchers, right-hander Tony Pena, Jr., who was on his staff. Pena, the son of the Sox' former catcher, is a converted shortstop who began pitching in 2009. It was on Sauveur's recommendation that the Sox signed him.
"He was very aggressive. He wanted the ball the whole time, no matter what it was, two, three days in a row, he wanted to pitch," Sauveur said. "He's got very good action on the ball, good sink. Anybody's who's followed baseball they know he was a starting shortstop with the Kansas City Royals in 2009 and now he's a pitcher, but let me tell you this kid has some talent. I know he's starting to pitch. He has real good movement on his fastball. He's got a strong arm, and it just opened my eyes. I thought he could help us in Pawtucket and be a very, very good emergency guy in the big leagues."
In 63 minor league games over the past two seasons in the Royals and Giants organizations, Pena has posted a record of 4-4 with a 3.76 ERA. Pena, who turns 30 in March, is in camp as a non-roster invitee.
He has a deceptive delivery with varying arm slots, from three-quarters down to submarine.
"His uncle, Ramon, was a reliever in the Tigers organization. Sauveur said. "I played against him, and I remember watching him throw and he was a submariner. Obviously, Tony's talked to his uncle because I've seen him every once in a while he'll do that. This kid is funky enough he just seems to get people out. And he's sneaky fast with his arm. And it's very, very easy. He doesn't have to put much effort into it. He looks effortless.
"Obviously, the Boston Red Sox have a fantastic rotation and a good bullpen up there. They've added some things to it. So there might not be a spot for him. But let's just hope that he can make the PawSox roster and show them what I think he can do."
Sauveur doesn't change his approach when working with pitchers who have converted from other positions.
"No, not at all," he said. "I might have to go back to a little bit more basics with some of them. But what I've put in the back of my head with Tony is I've got to teach him when to throw a certain pitch. There's time when he would do his little Luis Tiant [delivery] sometimes. But he'd do it in 3-2 counts. That's not when you want to do it, because if you throw a ball, it's ball four. Let's do that maybe when you're ahead in the count. So I'll work on a few things with him. But he's got some very good pitches and a very good head on his shoulders."
Luna landing in Pawtucket?
Another player who caught Sauveur's eye in the DWL is Hector Luna, who is also in camp as a non-roster invitee. Luna, who has played every position except pitcher and catcher, was originally signed by the Indians in 1999. He has also been with the Cardinals, with whom he made his major league debut in 2004, Blue Jays, and Marlins and in the Dodgers minor leagues.
Luna, who turned 31 this month, appeared in 27 games for the Marlins in 2010, primarily as a pinch-hitter. He played four games at third base and one at second. In 97 games for Triple-A New Orleans, playing third base (83 games) and first (eight games), he hit .294 with 16 home runs and 71 RBI.
Playing third base for Aguilas, the right-handed batting Luna hit .349 - on a team with a combined batting average of a league-worst .240 -- with a .447 on-base percentage, 32 runs scored and 28 RBI.
"I'm glad they got him," Sauveur said. "He was on our team in the Dominican that offensively was very short, and we did not have much of anything. This guy was our three-hole hitter and in the long run, after watching this kid hit doubles and home runs and singles the other way with two strikes, he ended up getting MVP of the league on a team that did not make the playoffs. That's pretty impressive, especially when you look at our team's offensive putout. We had nothing around him. So there was nobody hitting second or fourth or fifth doing anything. He did it all on his own and it was very impressive. I'm real happy he's here. He was a nice guy down there, real quiet. If he ends up coming to Pawtucket, we're going to have a very strong team there."
Busy off-season for Bowden
Right-hander Michael Bowden had a busy off-season. He was married in November and pitched in Venezuela, as he continues his transition from starter to reliever.
"It was a great experience," he said. "I enjoyed my time there. Besides my honeymoon in Cozumel, it was the first time I left the country. It was just a great exp. It makes you appreciate everything much more. I got to see a lot of things. I got to understand their culture a lot more. It gives you more respect for the game and how different cultures play it."
"I threw a few games in the eighth inning, a few one-batter outings, a lot of different roles. I experienced a lot of different roles while I was down there as far as learning and getting ready. They play different down there. They use four pitchers in an inning if they have to, so you're going to have to be ready. You need to pace yourself in the bullpen. You need to be ready at any time if they call down there. But it was definitely a good learning experience.
Bowden didn't close any games, but he did pitch the ninth inning of a game his team won by one run. The challenge of pitching in different roles was beneficial, he said.
"I think it definitely helped. I think it made me a lot more well-rounded and ready for different scenarios. So I enjoyed it. I would have rather done that than just cookie-cutter, get ready for the same inning, type of thing.
Although Bowden speaks little Spanish, his wife is fluent. But she was only in Venezuela for a week at the end of the season. Being in a foreign country for the first time gave him a new appreciation for what some of his teammates experience when they come to the U.S., he said.
"Definitely," he said. "I knew it was hard for them, but you take stuff like that for granted just because you grew up speaking the language and knowing how to order food, communication, and everything. So yeah, I give them a lot of credit for just coming over here and living here for nine months out of the year and leaving their families a lot of time."
Looking at the big league bullpen situation, there are few, if any, spots available, barring anything unexpected. Bowden is not letting that worry him.
"[I'm approaching it] the only way I can," he said. "Try not to worry about it, understand it's out of my control and do whatever I can and hopefully make an opportunity for myself."