Sox Minor Leaguers to get taste of bigs

Minor Leaguers to get taste of bigs

BOSTON -- Ever wonder just how much a day in a big league park can help the development of a Minor League player? Ask Justin Masterson, and he'll tell you.

Masterson, the 23-year-old, side-winding hurler who is currently a member of the Red Sox bullpen, took part in the "Futures at Fenway" festivities in 2006 with Class A Lowell and in 2007 with Double-A Portland.

In April, Masterson made the jump directly from Portland to the Red Sox in an emergency start against the Los Angeles Angels -- looking more than comfortable on the mound. In the end, he's more than happy he took part of this rare occasion in the Minors.

"I think when you have the opportunity to be at the park, I think that does make a difference," Masterson said earlier this season. "When you're able to be around it and see its surroundings, seeing how it's not as big or it's bigger than I thought."

So when Masterson got his callup to the Red Sox in April, the Green Monster's size likely wasn't quite so imposing. The dugout, not so overpowering with history. And, of course, he knew what it was like to play in front of capacity crowds in one of baseball's most cherished ballparks.

That's what "Futures at Fenway" has done for Minor League affiliates in the Sox's organization for the past two years, and the tradition will continue on Saturday at Fenway Park.

"We certainly love the event," said Red Sox director of player development Mike Hazen. "It's a tremendous benefit for our players to be able to come up and play on this field, in front of these fans and get a taste of what it's like."

Beginning at 12:05 p.m. ET, Lowell will take on Hudson Valley from the Tampa Bay organization in a battle between two New York-Penn League squads. Triple-A Pawtucket, after a year absence in 2007, will make its return and face the Charlotte Knights of the White Sox organization in the second game of the twin bill.

Game 1: Lowell vs. Hudson Valley
Despite a couple of setbacks nearing the weekend, this is the type of baseball the Spinners have worked toward playing all season, and it's coming just at the right time as summer is reaching a close.

Lowell was in the midst of a six-game winning streak before suffering a 7-0 loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday. At the time of the defeat, the Spinners rallied off eight wins in their previous 10 games.

They still owned a 3 1/2 game lead in the New York-Penn League Stedler Division over Oneonta heading into the weekend, and they'll look to expand on that lead in this matchup with Hudson Valley at Fenway Park.

Slated to take the ball for Lowell is Stolmy Pimentel. The 18-year-old hurler from the Dominican Republic is 3-2 this season with a 3.00 ERA in nine appearances.

His last start against Vermont was an impressive outing -- the young right-hander pitched five innings of shutout ball, compiling eight strikeouts in the 6-4 win.

Meanwhile, outfielder Mitch Dening hit safely in six straight games prior to going 0-for-3 in Thursday's meeting with the Cyclones, boasting a .360 average in that span. Dening ranks seventh in the New York-Penn League in hits and is third in triples.

Game 2: Pawtucket vs. Charlotte
The PawSox took a year off from "Futures at Fenway" in 2007, but that doesn't mean their roster isn't chock full of players familiar with the ballpark.

In fact, five members of Pawtucket's team played for Portland last season when the Sea Dogs came to Fenway. Another, Jeff Bailey, played for the PawSox in 2006 when they came to Boston for the first Futures at Fenway event. Chris Carter and Chris Smith make up two other members of the PawSox squad that have seen time at Fenway this year as members of the Red Sox.

Speaking of Carter, he's been on a tear lately at the plate. Carter smacked four home runs in his last 14 games leading up to this weekend's series with Charlotte, tying him for the team lead with Jonathan Van Every and Jeff Bailey at 24.

The PawSox will rely on starter David Pauley on Saturday against the Knights. Pauley has shown good stuff on the hill throughout the season, compiling a 12-4 record with a 3.36 ERA.

He's 4-2 in his last 10 outings -- his last appearance coming in a no-decision against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in which Pauley pitched seven innings and allowed just two runs on four hits.

Pawtucket trails the Yankees in the International League North, but patience at the plate is what puts the PawSox in prime position to regain first place down the stretch. Pawtucket leads the league in runs scored and walks, along with being second in home runs.

Mark Remme is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.