December 2009

Rays farmhand Winston Abreu finally gets noticed

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Winston Abreu of the Greenville Braves works out in Greenville Memorial Stadium in Greenville, S.C., taken June 14-17, 2001. Photo by Tom Priddy. 
It was a pleasant surprise to find that former Greenville Brave pitcher Winston Abreu has been named Minor League Baseball’s Triple-A reliever of the year. 
I get out to the ballpark early most days, and I see the players who take extra infield, or extra batting practice or extra running and weights. And I don’t think anyone I’ve seen worked harder or longer than Winston Abreu.
Signed by the Braves in 1993, Abreu has been all over the minors and has attracted the attention of baseball coaches, too.
“He’s a good pitcher and a great kid,” Durham manager Charlie Montoyo told Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. “He’s one of my favorites. I could talk about him all day. He’s the first guy at the clubhouse every day working out, one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. Sometimes I have to tell him to slow down, it’s a long season, but he says ‘This is just how I am.'”
I photographed him in Greenville in 2000 and 2001, and then lost track of him for several years. I wrote about him (link below) in 2006 when he made his his Major League debut. 
Writes Mayo: “The 32-year-old went 3-1 with a 1.94 ERA and 15 saves in 37 games for Durham. He gave up just 23 hits over 51 innings for a ridiculous .133 batting average against while walking only 16 and striking out 77. He played a big part in helping the Bulls reach the International League playoffs, then saved four games in six scoreless outings to get them to the Triple-A National Championship Game.”
So far he’s only had a cup of coffee with two Major League organizations. But maybe that will change in 2010. It’s about time.

Kevin Boles gets a promotion to Salem

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Sept. 3, 2009: Manager Kevin Boles of the Greenville Drive at Fluor Field at the West End in Greenville, S.C., Sept. 3, 2009. Boles was named 2010 manager of the Salem Red Sox on Dec. 22, 2009. Photo by: Tom Priddy.
With hitting coach Billy McMillon taking over as Greenville Drive manager for 2010, former manager Kevin Boles gets a logical promotion to High Class A Salem.
Almost without exception, Minor League managers are photographer-friendly, even though we get in their way sometimes. But Kevin was especially good to us, and went out of his way to make sure we got what we needed.
Kevin didn’t particularly like having his own photo taken, though, so I was happy to grab these shots when I could. I think he probably just wanted to make sure we were concentrating on the players.

Billy McMillon to manage Greenville Drive in 2010

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April 2, 2008: Coach Billy McMillon of the Greenville Drive, Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, during Media Day at Fluor Field at the West End in Greenville, S.C. McMillon was named 2010 manager of the Drive on Dec. 22, 2009. Photo by:  Tom Priddy/MiLB.com
Billy McMillon was named 2010 manager of the Greenville Drive today. Drive hitting coach for the past two years, he was also an All-American ballplayer at Clemson and a former Major Leaguer.
McMillon takes over for Kevin Boles, who was named 2010 manager for the Salen Red Sox, one step higher up the professional ladder.
Two great guys in two important positions for the Sox organization. Boles and McMillon led the Drive to the Championship Series this year.
The Greenville Drive press release adds: McMillon “will be joined by former major leaguers Luis Lopez and Kevin Walker, both of whom were with the Lowell Spinners last season, as hitting coach and pitching coach, respectively.  The trio of McMillon, Lopez, and Walker have combined for a total of 23 years of Major League service.”

Casey Kelly decides just to be a pitcher

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Sept. 3, 2009: Casey Kelly at Jim Rice Night at the Greenville Drive, honoring Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame player Jim Rice at Fluor Field at the West End in Greenville, S.C., Sept. 3, 2009. Photo by Tom Priddy/MiLB.com
According to the latest reports, the above photo is one you won’t see much in 2010. It’s former Greenville Drive player Casey Kelly holding a bat.
The Web site SoxProspects says Kelly, who insisted on playing half a year as pitcher and half as shortstop in 2009, has elected to concentrate on pitching in his effort to make it to the majors. Says the site: “While the Sox brass undoubtedly preferred Kelly choose to continue his career on the mound, they ultimately left the decision to Kelly himself.”
Kelly was a lights-out pitcher for the Drive in the first half of the season, and a good, but not great, shortstop the rest of the year.
Sounds like a wise move. But these photos are now outdated . . .

Soriano is either here or there or both

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14 March 2009: Rafael Soriano of the Atlanta Braves at Spring Training camp at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Photo by:  Tom Priddy/MiLB.com
By the time you read this, Rafael Soriano may be a Brave, or he may be an Oriole, or a Yankee, or a Red Sox . . .
Soriano accepted arbitration from the Atlanta Braves yesterday. Then, in order to make room on the 40-man roster they designated OF Ryan Church for assignment. Then, Soriano accepted the possibility of a trade with a specified list of teams . . .
I’m tried of the story already. Anyway, the winter meetings are going on right now, so he’ll probably be traded before the end of the week.
I guess this spring may have been the last time I photograph him in a Braves uniform.