Pat Light is succeeding in his new role as a reliever with Double-A Portland. (Photo courtesy of Portland Sea Dogs/

Red Sox Minor League Notebook: 'Born to close' starter turned reliever Pat Light thriving in new role

Ryan Hannable
May 14, 2015 - 6:07 am

With just a week left in spring training, it wasn't something Red Sox pitching prospect Pat Light expected to hear. After three years in the organization as a starter, the 2012 first-round pick was told he would be changing roles and throwing out of the bullpen when he reported to Double-A Portland to open the year. "They just said pretty much it was a good opportunity for me," Light said via phone, noting how strong the rotation in Triple-A Pawtucket is. Appearing in 11 games this season as a reliever with the Sea Dogs, Light has posted a 3.50 ERA over 18 innings of work, and has struck out 21 batters, while walking just five. "The role change was interesting," he said. "It happened the last week of spring training and it was a little nerve-racking at first because I had a maybe six days left before heading out to whatever affiliate they were going to send me to. So far the transition has gone pretty smoothly. A few bumps in the road, but I am pretty happy with how well things have gone so far." Light suffered a torn hamstring in 2013, which slowed his development and he wasn't completely the same pitcher as he was pre-injury. The move to bullpen should benefit the hard-throwing right-hander long-term, and fortunately for Light it isn't the first time during his career he's been a reliever. A product of Momnouth University, Light was a reliever for 2011 Chatham Anglers in the Cape Cod League. His Chatham coach, John Schiffner, had an inkling he would be better served in that role even then. "I have this term, I say born to close -- BTC -- and he was that guy," said Schniffner via phone. "There's no question everything about Pat was a closer. His body makeup, his arm slot, the whole thing. 'I'm going, yeah, that guy has a chance to be a big league closer.' Who the hell am I to say that, but I just thought there he is. He was a very good starter in college. We saw him start a few times for us and it was OK, there's no question it was OK. "Obviously he didn't get a chance to extend himself, but I personally really thought this guy has a chance to be a closer because of all the intangibles. He liked to take the ball. He had that right-handed arm slot, a little below 3/4, all the stuff with a power fastball, power breaking pitch. I always thought that is a guy that has a chance to be a really good closer at the next level." With Chatham in the summer of 2011, Light struck out 102 batters in 101 1/3 innings. Now coming out of the bullpen, the 6-foot-5, 195-pounder, pitches a little differently, as he can let his pitches go more, as he isn't looking to go deep into games. He's now just getting outs one inning at a time, not holding anything back. Light acknowledges his velocity, which tops out in the upper-90s, can be tough on hitters when he comes into games. "It's tough for a hitter for a guy coming in that throws hard and be able to have success against a guy that you haven't really seen much at all throughout the year and have the 3-5 pitches to do something with," Light said. "I think my stuff, with the fastball coming in hard and the splitter that I throw now just puts a lot of pressure on the hitters to kind of get on me early. With two strikes I can be tough to handle sometimes." With the Red Sox finishing last in baseball in terms of pitching velocity in 2014, and giving another hard-throwing prospect Matt Barnes a taste of the bullpen, it seems the team is now valuing velocity out of the bullpen more than it has before. Light is doing his best not to pay attention to what is happening above him both in Triple-A and the majors, but did say he's doing whatever he can do to make sure he's as prepared as possible for when he does get the call he's been waiting for. "I am looking at every appearance I have down here, or in the minor leagues anywhere, as a useful tool to keep learning and keep going so if my number is every called at Triple-A or the big league level I am as ready as I can be at that moment," said Light. While he may not be thinking of a potential big league career just yet, his former coach believes he has everything that is necessary to make it there. "I think he has a chance to be a professional reliever," Schniffner said. TRAVIS SHOWING SOME POWER It is no secret the Red Sox lack power in the minor leagues, particularly at the power positions, including first base. So a 21-year-old with 35 extra-base hits and 65 RBI in his first 100 professional games is sure to draw attention. High-A Salem's first baseman Sam Travis is getting some much deserved attention in his first full season in the Red Sox organization after he was drafted in the second-round of last year's draft. (Travis was drafted in the 40th round in 2011 by the Reds, but went back to the University of Indiana to finish his career, with the move paying off, as he jumped up 38 rounds). "I feel really good right now," said Travis via phone. "Got off to a slow start, was trying to do too much, wasn't letting the game come to me. Just was going out there trying to do everything -- just putting too much pressure on myself. I am just trusting myself, letting the game come to me and being more patient at the plate. The biggest thing is making the pitcher come to me and throw strikes. I am feeling really good right now, but it's learning how to bring it on a consistent daily basis." Through the first 33 games of the year, the right-handed hitter is batting .299 with five doubles, three triples and two home runs, while knocking in 21 runs. After starting off slow, he's picking things up, including recording seven hits in his last five games. Travis doesn't think about hitting home runs, or even extra-base hits when he steps to the plate, it's more about hitting the ball hard. "I am not one to go up there thinking I am going to hit a home run or something like that," said Travis. "I've always had some power, but I am more of a doubles guy. I focus on just trying to hit the ball hard. I was always one to believe that home runs are accidents. Home runs you just hit the ball hard and it happens to go over the wall. I am going to go up there and do whatever the situation calls for for the team." The University of Indiana product says his coaches haven't talked to him specifically about hitting home runs, and making that a focus, but he did joke, who doesn't like home runs? "Everyone likes home runs because you're putting runs on the board and helping the team out," he said. UPDATES FROM DOWN I-95 The Pawtucket Red Sox have $17 million invested in two players in the PawSox outfield now in Rusney Castillo and Allen Craig. Craig was sent down to the minors last weekend, after opening the season .135 in 52 at-bats with the Red Sox. The former All-Star in St. Louis has appeared in two games (Tuesday and Wednesday) and is 3-for-8, including a double and an RBI. Castillo, who suffered a shoulder injury diving for a ball the first weekend of the season, returned just over a week ago and suffered another scare Wednesday. The Cuban outfielder slid awkwardly into second base and left the game, although all accounts afterwards say he may have dodged a bullet. He hasn't played in three consecutive games since returning to action, so he will need to get back to full strength before even being considered as a potential call up. 3 STARS OF THE WEEK 1. Deven Marrero, INF, Pawtucket -- Known for his defense, Marrero has started to pick things up at the plate. The former first-round pick has hits in five straight games, including multi-hit games in three of them. During that span he is hitting .533. 2. William Cuevas, RHP, Portland -- The right-hander has pitched very well this year, posting a record of 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA in six starts. He's allowed two runs or less in four straight starts and has yet to allow a home run this season. 3. Ty Buttrey, RHP, Salem -- A fourth-round pick in 2012, Buttrey is off to a good start to 2015 going 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA in seven starts. He's allowed just one run over his last 12 innings and for the year has 36 strikeouts in 39 innings.