AKRON, Ohio -- Of all places to finish the Minor League season, the irony of ending up at Canal Park was not lost on Mike Hazen, the former Cleveland Indians assistant farm director who now serves as farm director for the Boston Red Sox.
"It is kind of strange to sit on this side of the field and watch the game," said the 30-year-old Hazen, in town to watch the first two games of the Eastern League Finals. "I spent five years in Cleveland. I don't know if there's a better place to grow up in the game."
Hazen admits he still keeps in close contact with Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro, farm director John Farrell and the rest of the Indians' front office.
"I call over here all the time," Hazen said. "This is the first year of me doing this on my own, so it's nice to have people to bounce some thoughts off."
Don't take that the wrong way. Hazen swears he's not trading any secrets. "We don't talk players," he said. "We just talk situations."
Even if it would help Portland win its first franchise championship?
"I've been gone almost a year now, and a lot has changed with the guys in the Aeros dugout," he said. "Besides, there's not much advantage I can give [Portland] that they don't already know from playing Akron during the season."
One major change for Hazen has been working for an organization that owns one of the top payrolls in all of baseball.
"It's not easy to do what Cleveland's done in drafting top players like [pitchers] Jeremy Sowers and Adam Miller and [outfielder] Brad Snyder," he said. "Not just drafting them, but then getting them ready for the Major Leagues. The Indians do a phenomenal job of blending scouting and development.
"That being said, [Boston] definitely has the kind of payroll that affords us a few more opportunities to miss on players than they do in Cleveland."
Portland missing closer
Sea Dogs closer Edgar Martinez went from the highest of the highs to the lowest of lows in a matter of hours Tuesday night. The right-hander notched his second save of the playoffs by setting down the side in order in the ninth inning in the Sea Dogs' 4-3 Game 1 victory. A few hours later, in the early morning, Martinez learned his father had died of a heart attack back home in Venezuela.
Martinez, who owned a team-high 12 saves, left the Sea Dogs before Wednesday night's Game 2 in Akron to head home to be with his family. He will miss the remainder of the playoffs. With the loss of Martinez, Portland will likely rely heavily on right-hander Barry Hertzler, who spent half the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, but was 0-0 with five saves and a miniscule 0.73 ERA in 25 games with the Sea Dogs.
Twice as nice
Many of the Aeros' current players have collected multiple championship rings over the last few years, between Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron. But if the Aeros win the title again this season for their third championship in four years, only pitcher J.D. Martin can say he helped both teams win this season in a matter of days.
"It's been kind of crazy the last few days," admitted the right-hander, who helped Kinston to the Carolina League Championship on Monday night before arriving in Akron to pitch in Tuesday's Game 1 of the Eastern League Championship Series. "I got word I was coming to Akron the night (Kinston) won the championship -- during the celebration," Martin said.
Although Portland is in the EL Championship Series for the fourth time in its 13-year franchise history, the Sea Dogs are still looking for their first title. In fact, the Boston Red Sox have not had a Double-A league champion since 1983, when New Britain won the EL title. That team featured Al Nipper, Steve Lyons and, most notably, Roger Clemens, who was 4-1 with a 1.38 ERA in seven starts after making his pro debut four games earlier with Winter Haven.