The Winter Meetings in good ol’ Nashville, Tenn. wrap up today with the Rule V draft, which starts in about seven minutes as I begin today’s blog on Thursday so maybe by the time I finish it, we’ll have some Rule 5 chatter in here as well. The Curve contingent are on their way back to Curve, Pa. as we speak but that didn’t stop GM Rob Egan from filing his report from the last three days at the Opryland Hotel.
Winter Meetings Final Wrap: Farrell Family Takes Biz-cation in Nashville
Nashville, Tenn. – While walking through the labyrinth that is the Opryland Resort, I ran into Altoona Curve infielder Jeremy Farrell. While at first I was surprised to see him, of course I shouldn’t have been. The Farrell family not only has members that play and manage in the game, but also one who now markets products to Major and Minor League teams. The family roster has also recently expanded. All of them have convened here in the Music City for the Baseball Winter Meetings.
First, and most familiar to Curve fans, is Jeremy. The Pirates’ eighth round pick in 2008 has played third and first base for Altoona for the past two seasons. I’ve always admired Jeremy for his positive demeanor and love of the game even as he’s faced some adversity during his time in a Curve uniform. After having a really good first half in 2011, he was selected to play in the Eastern League All-Star Game. However, a wrist injury prior to the game kept him from playing. Thankfully, the Eastern League offered him an opportunity to still attend the festivities in New Hampshire. Unlike some who would take the opportunity to have a couple of days off, Jeremy readily accepted the chance to be in Manchester so he could interact with his fellow All-Stars and spend time with family and friends who had planned to be there.
In 2012, Jeremy didn’t have the season he had hoped, but he remained professional on the field and positive off the field. The main reason he had to be upbeat away from the game was the anticipation of his first child being born. Shortly after the season ended, his wife Bridget gave birth to their son. Fast forward eleven weeks and Jeremy was walking through Opryland with a stroller holding young Kason, when we saw each other.
During our conversation, Jeremy relayed that he, Bridget, the baby, and Jeremy’s mother and father are all in Nashville. His father, John, is the new manager of the Boston Red Sox and, yesterday, he made the circuit of television and radio interviews with the national media covering the Winter Meetings. The elder Farrell spent the last two seasons managing the Toronto Blue Jays, was pitching coach for the Red Sox from 2007-10, and, before that, was the Indians’ Director of Player Development (2001-06). A former Major League pitcher, John tossed the stitches for the Indians, Angels, and Tigers from 1987-96.
New mother, Bridget, meanwhile, may be working the hardest of all the Farrells at Opryland. She launched a new business earlier this year called Bani Bands. Her flagship product is an athletic-style headband that has recently been licensed to be sold to both Major and Minor League teams. Licensing allows Bani Bands to use the logos and names of the teams that purchase the head bands to sell in their stores and online. By all accounts and judging from the foot traffic at her trade show booth, business is good. Oh, by the way, she’s also been caring for the baby on breaks and during the evenings after the trade show shuts down. Talk about impressive.
All the while, Jeremy’s mother, John’s wife, Bridget’s mother-in-law, and Kason’s grandmother, Sue, has been on hand supporting the family however she’s been needed, while no doubt being proud of all they have accomplished on and off the field. Enjoy the biz-cation, Farrell family. You’ve earned it.
CURVE CONTINGENT WRAPS UP AGENDA
The Altoona Curve delegation finalized its four-day visit to the Winter Meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday with visits to the Baseball Trade Show, the Eastern League meeting, and the annual Gala which was held at Dave & Busters. During our visit, some of the baseball celebrities we witnessed up close: former Pirates’ General Manager and current Reds’ Special Assistant to the General Manager Cam Bonifay, Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly, Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds, former San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman, MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons, and former Curve manager and current Cubs’ skipper Dale Sveum.
See you back in Altoona, Curve fans
Other tidbits from Nashville…
One of the coolest things about the Meetings is the Trade Show, which affords MiLB and MLB execs alike to take a look at some of the newest items that hopefully catch fire across the grid. One thing I personally didn’t expect to see was this photo, sent from Dir. of Merchandise Claire Hoover. Apparently they had some tattoo stands there. And well, C.O.O. David Lozinak got inked up….
Pirates Moves in Nashville (Trades, Rule 5, etc.)
The Bucs did make one trade while they were in Nashville and it involved 2012 Curve catcher Ramon Cabrera, who was dealt straight up to Detroit for LHP Andy Oliver. Cabrera batted .276 in 112 games for the Curve this season while hitting 22 doubles, two triples and three homers. The backstop from Caracas, Venezuela really turned it up from July on, batting .301 in 22 games in July, .340 in 27 games in August and a 2-for-5 day in his only game played in AA in September. He was called up to AAA at the end of the season and saw a bit of action in the Triple-A playoffs. This offseason he was playing winter ball for Caracas in the Venezuelan League (.234 through 20 games at the time of this post).
Oliver, who just turned 25 on Monday, spent this entire season with Toledo of the International League where he was both a starter and a reliever. In 28 games (19 starts), Oliver was 5-9 with a 4.88 ERA. He amassed 112 strikeouts in 118.0 innings pitched but also walked 88. His numbers as a reliever were far better than as a starter (3.78 ERA in nine games) but opponents actually had a tougher time hitting him as a starter (.227 BAA).
Curve fans might remember Oliver from when he pitched with Erie in 2010 (making his pro debut after being drafted in ’09). He made four starts against the Curve that season, going 2-1 with a 3.24 ERA while holding Curve batters to a .198 batting average. He made his MLB debut that season with the Tigers, making five starts before being sent to Triple-A. He also had a brief stint in Motown in 2011, making a pair of starts.
On the Rule-5 front, the Pirates acquired RHP Ethan Hollingsworth in the Triple-A Phase of the draft. Hollingsworth was 5-11 with a 4.82 ERA in 34 games (eight starts) between Double-A (NW Arkansas) and Triple-A (Omaha) in 2012. Since he was selected in the AAA phase, he does not need to satisfy the requirement of being on the 25-man active roster for Pittsburgh. Only players that are selected in the MLB phase must fulfill that requirement.
Flipping the coin to the other side, the Pirates lost IF Elevys Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the AAA phase of the Rule 5. Gonzalez, who tore up the FSL in 2011, began this year in a Curve uniform and had a tough time adjusting to Double-A. He batted .196 in 50 games while hitting two homers but never seemed to be fully acclimated. After a mid-season assignment to Bradenton he hit .216 in 45 games for the Marauders.
Popping back up on to the radar as well in the Rule 5 was 2010-11 Curve RHP Tom Boleska, who was claimed off Minnesota’s roster by the Baltimore Orioles. Boleska did not play in affiliated ball in 2012 but rather for the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks of the American Association. Boleska dominated the circuit, posting a 1.76 ERA in 46 games while amassing 29 saves. His strong season earned him a signing by the Twins before he was nabbed by the O’s earlier today.
That’ll about wrap up today’s blog. I watched Nashville last night but didn’t see any of the Curve members make it into any of the shots. Oh well…
Don’t forget the Pirate Caravan rolls through Peoples Natural Gas Field next Wednesday from 6:30-8 p.m. with former Curve OF Jose Tabata, C Michael McKenry, former Curve Pitching Coach Ray Searage and broadcaster Bob Walk. Fans are asked to bring a toy for the Toys for Tots drive to the free event.