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June 25, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Kavadas homers in Greenville debut; Fitzgerald leads WooSox rout


6/25 Cup of Coffee:
It was promotion day down on the farm, with a chain of players moving up that included some of the best performers of the season's first half. Niko Kavadas (pictured) began his stint in Greenville like he ended in Salem, taking part in back-to-back homers. This time, he joined Joe Davis and Brandon Howlett going three in a row. Alex Binelas wasn't quite as successful in his Double-A welcome, as the Sea Dogs picked up just two hits. Christin Stewart and Ryan Fitzgerald had huge nights in the Worcester win, Blaze Jordan went deep in a Salem loss, and Jedixson Paez dominated in the FCL Sox doubleheader sweep.


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It was an eventful night at Polar Park with SoxProspects.com Director of Scouting Ian Cundall in attendance. Connor Seabold got the start but threw just one inning, lining him up to pitch in the majors on Sunday or Monday. He surrendered a leadoff homer to Mark Payton but rebounded to strike out two in the inning without allowing any additional damage. The bullpen was stellar upon taking over, as a quintet of relievers allowed just one run in eight innings. Taylor Cole and Silvino Bracho had identical lines, allowing two hits in two scoreless innings, striking out three. The Knights reached Frank German for a run in the seventh, then Michael Feliz and Zack Kelly finished the victory with a scoreless inning apiece.

The offense provided more than enough support. Christin Stewart blasted two home runs, driving in three and scoring three. Ryan Fitzgerald entered hitting just .157/.244/.271 in June but homered as part of a 3-for-5 evening. Connor Wong also went deep with a first-inning solo shot.

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Portland was held to just two hits on a night where a pair of promoted players made their Double-A debuts. Alex Binelas and Stephen Scott both got starts at third base and catcher, respectively. Neither player recorded a hit but Binelas did work a walk. A Kole Cottam double was the only extra-base hit of the evening. Starter Brett Kennedy took the loss, allowing four runs on five hits in four innings.

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The Drive snapped a three-game skid after getting the system's hottest player earlier in the day. In the midst of a dominant month with Salem, Niko Kavadas got the start at first base and the sixth spot in the lineup for his South Atlantic League debut. Sandwiched by Joe Davis and Brandon Howlett, Kavadas joined a stretch of three straight solo homers in the fourth. Howlett also doubled as part of a 3-for-3 effort, while Davis added another base hit. Shane Drohan got the win, allowing just one unearned run on two hits in five innings. He struck out six, walked two, and now has a 2.28 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 23 2/3 June innings. 

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Despite the loss, Blaze Jordan continues to roll for Salem. Jordan blasted a fourth-inning homer to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. He finished 2 for 4 with two runs scored and a walk, the seventh marking his seventh straight multi-hit game. He is 14 for 29 with 28 total bases during that stretch. Karson Simas had Salem's other two-hit night, adding a double and three RBI. Reidis Sena fired three no-hit innings in his start, striking out three and walking a pair, but the bullpen struggled after his departure. Tyler Uberstine allowed five runs (four earned) on three hits in 1 2/3 innings to get tagged with the loss. 

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It was a pitchers' duel in the opener, with Jedixson Paez continuing his impressive run. Paez scattered three hits across five scoreless innings, striking out seven without issuing a walk. Paez leads the FCL squad with 20 innings pitched and boasts a stellar 21 strikeouts against just three walks in that time. Luis Peralas and Bryan Lucas pitched a hitless inning apiece to secure the win. The offense notched just three hits. Miguel Bleis was 1 for 3, while Ahbram Liendo ripped a double. Albert Feliz scored the lone run, racing home on a wild pitch in the fifth inning. 

After the Twins led off the bottom of the first with a home run, the Sox pitching staff went straight back to its dominating ways. Yordanny Monegro surrendered the homer, one of two hits he allowed in two innings. He struck out four and walked one. Francis Hernandez allowed just two hits across four scoreless inning, followed by Jhonny Felix pitching a scoreless seventh to earn the save. Jhostynxon Garcia led the way at the plate, going 2 for 3 with a home run, double, three RBI and two runs scored. Bleis picked up two more hits, giving him a 3-for-6 line  on the day. Alexis Hernandez scored twice as part of a 2-for-3 afternoon.

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Claudio Simon picked up two of the red squad's six hits in Friday's loss. Simon went 2 for 4 with an RBI. Yohander Linarez added a double, the team's only extra-base hit. Eybersson Polanco took the loss, allowing three runs over 3 2/3 innings.

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Team Blue won its fifth straight to move to 13-3 on the year with a 22-hit outburst. Armando Sierra continues to rake, going 3 for 5 with a double and three runs scored. He is 30 for 63 on the season and has three or more hits in seven of his 16 starts. Third baseman Helison Mota blasted his first homer of the season as he went 3 for 4 with three RBI and three runs scored. Albertson Asigen drove in four runs as part of his 4-for-6 afternoon. Willian Colmenares got the start, allowing one run on three hits in four innings. The victory went to Cesar Soto, who surrendered two runs (one earned) in three frames.

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Player of the Day: It was a big day at the plate for slumping third baseman Brandon Howlett. The 2018 21st-round pick had been just 5 for 39 with Greenville after moving back down to reset himself after struggling with Double-A Portland. Howlett reached base in all three of his plate appearances, including going deep to join teammates Joe Davis and Niko Kavadas going back-to-back-to-back. His seven total bases equaled his total in his 13 previous games since rejoining the Drive.

Photo Credit: Niko Kavadas in Greenville debut by Kelly O'Connor