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May 19, 2023 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Drohan debuts with WooSox; Gambrell shines in Portland premiere

5/19 Cup of Coffee:
It was an exciting night down on the farm, as Shane Drohan, one of the breakout stars of the first six weeks of the minor league season, made his Triple-A debut. All four contests were decided by one run, with Drohan's WooSox prevailing in a slugfest and Marcelo Mayer powering Greenville to an extra-inning walk-off. Grant Gambrell (pictured) was outstanding in his Double-A debut as he took Drohan's old slot in the Portland rotation, but some good Yard Goats pitching and some modern extra-innings weirdness conspired to knock Portland off at Dunkin' Park. Salem also fell in a walk-off despite another strong Jose Ramirez effort.


The much-anticipated Triple-A debut for Shane Drohan got off to an exciting start, as he retired the side in order in the top of the first inning, finishing the frame with a strikeout. He made it through three scoreless before running into trouble. Drohan surrendered a pair of two-run homers in the fourth inning and a solo shot in the fifth after allowing just one round-tripper in 34 Double-A innings. He surrendered five runs on four hits in five innings, striking out six and walking three. Brennan Bernardino allowed a run in an inning of work but got credit for the win in his first appearance since getting optioned from the big league club. AJ Politi struck out a pair in a perfect ninth inning to notch the save. 

David Hamilton blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to knot the score at 9-9, and back-to-back doubles by Jorge Alfaro and Bobby Dalbec gave the Red Sox what proved to be the game-winning run. Alfaro paced the offense, going 3 for 5 with a homer and a pair of doubles. Hamilton added a double as well, and Dalbec drove in three runs.


Portland fell in extra innings despite a sterling outing from Drohan's replacement in the rotation. Grant Gambrell was perfect through four innings in his Double-A debut and kept a shutout into the sixth before surrendering a solo home run. He needed just 64 pitches to get through six frames, allowing the one run on two hits, striking out eight without walking a batter. Ryan Zeferjahn threw a hitless seventh and Luis Guerrero fired two scoreless frames, allowing a Niko Kavadas home run to send the game into extra innings. Unfortunately, Hartford plated the automatic runner in each of the three extended frames, winning the game when the leadoff batter in the 12th inning bunted the ball to the pitcher, just as Abner Doubleday envisioned.


The Drive won their contest in a walk-off in extra innings, though they had the temerity to do so with multiple hits in the inning. Marcelo Mayer delivered the game-winner, an RBI single with two outs. The 2021 first-round pick was 2 for 5 on the night and 19 for 46 (.413) in May. Blaze Jordan and Brainer Bonaci had two hits apiece, with a Bonaci double marking the only extra-base hit for the Drive.

Juan Daniel Encarnacion had a strong start, allowing one run on four hits in five innings, striking out four without walking a batter. Joe Jones was a highlight in relief, striking out a pair in 2 1/3 hitless innings. Joey Stock allowed the automatic runner to score on a wild pitch in the 10th but did not surrender any baserunners on his own, and got credited with the winning decision after the Drive walk-off.


Jose Ramirez has been one of the top performers on the mound across the organization thus far in 2023, and he continues his solid campaign on Thursday night. The 22-year-old righty cruised through five shutout innings before Lynchburg reached him for a pair of runs in the sixth. Overall, Ramirez surrendered two runs on four hits in 5 2/3, striking out four and walking two. The effort raised his ERA on the season to 1.21. Allen Castro ripped a pair of doubles and seems to be back on track after a rough stretch. Following a 1-for-25 skid, Castro has now hit safely in five straight games, going 7 for 20 with four doubles and a home run. Albert Feliz also had a pair of hits for Salem.


Player of the Day: Portland saw its top starter promoted to Worcester, but his replacement did not miss a beat. Grant Gambrell turned in a Drohan-esque performance, going four perfect frames and allowing just one run in six innings. Gambrell, part of the return in the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals before the 2021 season, missed all of 2022 due to a severe ankle sprain. He was assigned to Greenville out of spring training this year, posting a 4.88 ERA and striking out 36 batters in 31 1/3 innings. Thursday's outing was Gambrell's third in a row without issuing a walk--he's struck out 23 without giving up a free pass in 19 May innings.

Photo Credit: Grant Gambrell by Kelly O'Connor