WooSox notebook: Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs, Triston Casas and other Red Sox prospects gain valuable experience playing for their national teams

WORCESTER – Minor league rosters are constantly changing, with summons and demotions, injuries and reinstatements, signings and departures, all taking into account who is available for today’s lineup.

This year, there’s another factor: The Red Sox organization has seven players representing their national teams as they vie for a chance to go to the Tokyo 2021 Olympics.

The United States team hit their ticket to Tokyo earlier in June, winning the qualifier for Baseball Americas and joining host Mexico, South Korea, Israel and Japan in what will ultimately be a field of six. teams. The final slot will be decided on June 26, as the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and the Netherlands face off in a round robin tournament that will finalize the Olympic baseball field.

Two of the Red Sox’s top prospects, Jarren Duran of the WooSox and Triston Casas of the Sea Dogs Double-A, represented the United States in the qualifying tournament and both spent a lot of time playing. Red Sox minor-league outside coordinator Darren Fenster was also on the team’s coaching staff. Boston’s other top prospect, Jeter Downs, played for Team Colombia alongside his brother Jerry Downs, who was drafted by the Red Sox in 2015 but no longer appeared in an organization game. since 2019, and according to SoxProspects.com, was released in June 2021.

Duran went 7 for 19 (.356) with a double, triple, three runs scored and three runs RBI in five games for Team USA in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Florida, and Casas went 6 for 15 (.400) with two doubles and three RBIs. Jeter Downs went 1-1 in three games for Colombia, but that hit was a solo home run.

The Venezuelan team, which finished third in the tournament in early June and had the chance to play in an upcoming final tournament later this month, were two young left-handed pitchers from the Red Sox organization, Oddanier Mosqueda Hernandez , a 22-year-old player. -old with High-A Greenville and Enmanuel De Jesus, 24 with Double-A Portland.

De Jesus opened a game against Canada in the tournament and pitched four scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and three walks, striking out three strikes. He also faced two hitters and allowed two hits in Venezuela’s game against Team USA, including a single to his Portland teammate Casas.

Mosqueda Hernandez faced three hitters in the game against Team USA and took Venezuela out of a two-on-two jam, but he gave Casas a goal the next inning and was lifted after the next hitter. . He also pitched two scoreless innings from the bullpen against Canada, one walking goal and three strikeouts.

The WooSox have been without starter Raynel Espinal and outfielder Johan Mieses for a few games and won’t get them back for a week as the pair left last Thursday to join the Dominican Republic’s national baseball team as they fought back. contests for the final place for the Olympics.

The Dominican Republic team finished second in the previous qualifying tournament, and they and the Venezuela team secured places in what was originally the Chinese Taipei tournament, which was to take place in Taiwan.

However, a spike in COVID-19 cases in Taiwan has forced the Taiwanese national team to withdraw from the tournament. The World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC) then moved the venue for the final qualifier ahead of the Olympics to Puebla, Mexico.

Espinal, from Villa Gonzalez, DR, and Mieses, from Santo Domingo Este, did not compete in the Baseball Americas Qualifier which took Duran, Casas and Jeter Downs to Florida for a week of training and a week of tournament play.

The first match of the finals will be between the Dominican Republic and Venezuela on June 22 at the Hermanos Serdan Stadium in Puebla, Mexico.

The format is a three-team round robin with the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands and Venezuela competing. After each team has met once, the third place team will face the second place team, and then the winner of that match will face the first place team for the final ticket to Tokyo. The last match is June 26.

With so much at stake in these tournaments, the atmosphere is different from almost everything except maybe baseball playoffs or even the World Series, said Brian Abraham, director of player development for the Red Sox. This kind of intensity is almost impossible to replicate in everyday baseball with any minor league team.

“We’re very lucky … I think the environment, the intensity, every throw has a meaning, it’s a tough environment to replicate in the minor leagues no matter how hard you try,” Abraham said. . ” Talk with [the Red Sox players who competed] afterwards, the emotion, the excitement, the ups and downs are hard to compare to any other environment … for these guys, having this experience is great.

While the next steps are not yet set in stone for Duran, Casas or any other player who may have the opportunity to represent their home country at the Olympics, there is some idea of ​​what will come. If a player is on a list of 40 MLB players, they are not eligible to play in the Olympics. So there is a good chance that at the end of July, Duran will not be in Worcester, but remains to be seen if he is in Japan or Boston.

“It was amazing,” Duran said of the tournament experience. “I hope I can go to Tokyo and it will be another great experience. But it was second to none.

“Each round is a conversation team and [International Olympic Committee] will have discussions depending on whether it works for both the player and the organization to see if it works for them to play, ”Abraham said of the next steps. Each country must seek permission from the MLB to allow a player to walk away from their team and join a tournament, and with the MLB and Minors rost ever changing, the States team roster United, or any team’s roster, will likely have some changes before the Olympics start in late July.

Because of this 40-player roster restriction, the United States team, like most national teams, is a mix of promising prospects, minor or independent league players, and former MLB players or of players trying to come back. at the show. During the tournament, Duran regularly beat between Luke Williams, a Philadelphia prospect who would have been at Polar Park during this last homestand had he not had his contract selected by the Phillies on June 8, and Todd Frazier, a 11-year-old player. MLB veteran and double All-Star. The roster included MLB veterans like Jon Jay and Matt Kemp, as well as pitchers Homer Bailey and David Robertson, among other players who have a lot of MLB time under their belt.

“These guys are like us,” Duran said. “They love to laugh. We had Kemp and Fraizer screaming and screaming in the canoe and I’m like “Are these guys 20? [years old]? ‘ They’re like us, they just want to play baseball and win. So I think it was a good experience, realizing that these older guys are like us. It was like a nice and relaxing thing to see.

Duran said one of the things he took away from his time with Team USA had nothing to do with his strikes or his roster, but maybe something more important: how to keep his spirit level by playing a game that can be very ruthless.

“This game is literally a game of chess,” said Duran. “So staying positive about yourself, controlling the lows and not getting too high or too low, staying level, that’s kind of what I got out of it.”

Abraham also echoed the feeling that this exposure to guys who have been in the game for a while is a positive experience for prospects. Additionally, the team’s manager is Mike Scioscia, the lifelong baseball player who led the Angels for 19 years.

“[It’s beneficial] so these guys hang out with big guys who have spent a lot of time in the big leagues and professional baseball for a long time, ”Abraham said. “Through their experiences, their knowledge, the different things that they were a part of… they have a group of coaches with a wealth of knowledge.

“It’s an incredible experience for [Duran and Casas] and the other guys who may have been a part of it, ”Abraham added. This is something that we are delighted to be able to allow them to do.

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