PAWTUCKET - He gets to the ball park every day, never knowing if he is going to start or even where he's going to be playing. It's just a fact of baseball life for Nate Spears, the utility infielder and sometimes outfielder for the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Spears smacked a two-strike pitch over the wall Sunday at McCoy Stadium, a walk-off home run, his seventh round-tripper of the season, in a one-run victory over Buffalo.
Since the International League All-Star break, the 26-year-old Spears has five hits and three walks over the past five games, one of those base hits occurring in an 8-5 win for the PawSox over the Syracuse Chiefs Monday night.
Mauro Gomez (No. 20) and J.C. Linares (No. 2) launched solo homers over the left field wall in the fifth and sixth innings respectively, Mike Rivera (No. 3) slugged a two-run shot in the seventh inning, while a three-run first inning supported five shutout innings of pitching from starter Tony Pena in the PawSox 53rd win of the season.
Spears was stationed at third base (for the 52nd game) Monday as the PawSox began a series with Syracuse, but he has also played 19 games at shortstop and two in the outfield - having committed just six errors in 75 games.
Usually stationed at the bottom of the batting order, in the No. 8 or 9 spot, Spears is hitting just .221 on the season. But, he has drawn 29 walks over 74 games (a .313 on-base percentage) and has driven in 25 runs (having a .371 slugging percentage).
That is coming off of a less than successful month of June, during which he batted just .184 with 16 hits - no coincidence that the PawSox fell from being 20 games over the .500 level to now being in the chase for a wild card playoff spot.
Spears has a modest four-game hitting streak, but the important part is not just getting on base, but playing. His versatility does not go unnoticed by PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler, who played him in six different positions last season, 54 games as an infielder, 36 as an outfielder.
Which made coming through in the clutch very pleasurable. "I had a two-strike count, I just tried to put the bat on the ball," said Spears, who was also the last PawSox player to hit a walk-off homer, that last August, his second homer within a week. "I put a good swing on it.
"To be a hero, is a good situation, doing what I do (as a utility man)," said Spears. In his third season with the Red Sox organization, he ranked second among all Red Sox minor leaguers in hits (140) and total bases (238), socking the most HR's (20) by a second baseman in Portland SeaDog history.
"I just try to get my routine done every day, taking a couple of ground balls here, a couple there, shag some fly balls in the outfield," added Spears.
"It's not difficult mentally, it's fun, it keeps you in the game."
- PawSox SS initiated two of the three double-plays, in the third and sixth innings, and teamed with 2B on another in the first frame, totaling seven assists OF R underwent an MRI Monday to check on a bruised knee Reliever came on in the seventh inning, walking the first batter he faced, yielding a two-run homer to No. 7 batter , allowing another single and throwing a wild pitch LH reliever coughed up two solo homers in the eighth innings and another in the ninth inning RHP , sidelined for four months while recovering from a bone spur in his right elbow, finally got a chance to pitch, facing just three batters (with a walk and a double-play ball) in the sixth inning. The compensation package sent to Boston as terms for the Chicago Cubs taking GM , Carpenter began his 30-day rehab on July 2, pitching two innings with the Gulf Coast Rookie Red Sox and Class-A Greenville, following that up with two innings as a starter for Portland PawSox starting pitcher is now 1-7 overall, 1-4 as a starter (with an 8.10 ERA) The PawSox have lost 19 of their last 26 games, losing six of their last seven series Syracuse, the Washington Nationals' AAA-affiliate, had scored just three runs through 47 innings before Bard coughed up his second homer in 16 games. One of the Chiefs' stars is former Oakland A's first round pick , who not only had a 31-game on-base streak, but an 18-game hitting streak Gomez socked three hits, giving him a team-best 90 on the season, his 29th multi-hit game; now has 17 hits over the last 11 games; has 11 hits over the last eight games; has 22 hits and 18 walks over the last 24 games.