As the big club continues to struggle, it's time to start making a case for Pawtucket reliever Tommy Layne to be the next guy on the taxi north to Boston should a left-handed reliever be desired.
The 6-foot-2 lefty who was signed by Boston in the offseason has been a highlight in the PawSox bullpen and while everyone is mainly focused on the team's starting rotation, Layne simply goes about his business.
"Starting in spring training I thought [the organization] did a real good job in getting [pitchers] going and getting ready for the season,” said Layne. “I just try to keep that going and be aggressive with hitters…put the pressure on them."
The 2014 season is Layne’s eighth in pro ball, with his prior work coming with the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres.
Since breaking camp with the PawSox, he has turned into one of manager Kevin Boles’ most reliable options out of the pen, going 4-1 with a 1.48 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 29 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings.
“He’s done well and especially against left-handers,” said Boles. “He’s definitely a lefty-lefty matchup guy. He’s also had some success against righties. [He has a] different arm slot, different look, and hitters just don’t seem to be very comfortable when he’s on the mound. They don’t really pick up the ball out of his hand.”
Layne’s smooth delivery ends with a snap of his arm from a three-quarters arm slot, pumping fastballs around 88 miles per hour with a mix of off-speed stuff that gets down in the lower-70s.
On the season, he has struck out nearly 40 percent of the left handed batters he has faced, holding them to a .189 batting average.
Those numbers mirror Layne’s big league efforts where he made 40 relief appearances, all for San Diego over two seasons, going 2-2 with two saves, a 2.84 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 31 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings, holding lefties to a .175 mark at the plate.
“Tommy is a definitely a guy who has had success at the big league level,” said Boles. “He’s definitely opened some eyes since he’s been here with us.”
While he’s certainly put together a solid resume to support a call up in the very near future, Layne isn’t taking anything for granted as he continues to humbly go about his business in Pawtucket.
"I don't ever feel deserving of a look, but if I get the opportunity, great,” said Layne. “Right now I'm here, and I've got to pitch here. If it happens, great. If it doesn't, there's always next year."
Carson Blair - The Salem Red Sox catcher has struck out in 13 consecutive games. On the year he has K'd more than once in 16 different games and his 47 whiffs are most in the organization.
Squeezing the system
Pawtucket (AAA) – Since being sent down by Boston to stretch back into a starter's role, Brandon Workman has gone 3-1 with a 5.12 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. The right-hander picked up wins in his last two starts, but they did not come easy as he gave up a combined seven earned runs, 16 hits, and three walks.
Portland (AA) – Top catching prospect Blake Swihart connected for his fourth home run of the season against Binghamton on Tuesday night, helping the Sea Dogs to a 2-1 victory. He came into the season with nine career long balls. Behind the plate Swihart is 10-for-23 in throwing out would-be base stealers.
Salem (A+) – Pat Light earned his first win at the High-A level last Saturday, walking none and allowing three earned runs in the 4-3 win at Carolina. His six innings in that outing matched a career high, with the prior two six-inning starts coming in his first two game this season while with Greenville.
Greenville (A) - Infielder Jantzen Witte has 51 hits in 40 games for the Drive. Last season, in 33 games between Rookie-level Gulf Goast and Short-season Lowell, he had only 18 hits. Witte leads the Drive in average (.352), runs (33), hits, doubles (18), home runs (tied-4), and RBI (34).