Jeff Sellers 1987 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for July 13, 2017


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I hope the Red Sox Triple A team always remains in Pawtucket. It seems insane that they would have a top farm club anywhere else. It has become part of the language for Red Sox fans. “Send him to Pawtucket” almost sounds like an insult.

Plus for the good folks of Rhode Island, it is nice to have a city OTHER than Providence that people have heard of.

Now the Paw Sox will exist through 2020 and we will see what will happen after that. The Red Sox have had their AAA affiliate in Pawtucket since 1973, the year after I was born. Save for one year (1976) when they were called the Rhode Island Red Sox, the PawSox have been the last stop before Boston or the demotion FROM Boston for my entire life.

An interesting thing happened when I began to follow the Red Sox in the late 1970’s. I realized there were the Red Sox on the major league team and there were players on the minor league team. And there were a slew of players who seemed to be in Pawtucket in perpetuity.

Joel Finch, Allen Ripley, Win Remmerswaal and Roger LaFrancois always seemed to be in the “Coming up from the Farm” section of the Yearbook. It was almost startling when a player like Bruce Hurst or Gary Allanson actually moved to Boston and stayed there.

Future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs played all of the 1980 and 1981 season at Pawtucket, putting up great numbers and did not get even a September call up before the 1982 season. He was a PawSox player, not a Red Sox player.

In the mid 1980’s a new crop of Perpetually Pawtucket Players emerged, usually to serve as stop gaps in the rotation.

Rob Woodward and Mike Brown would go back and forth into the starting staff. Reserves like Pat Dodson, Kevin Romine and La Schelle Tarver would so up. Mike Greenwell did too, although he was being groomed to actually play.

Jeff Sellers, an 8th round pick out of Long Beach California, looked like a potential real deal pitching prospect. He went 14-7 with a 2.78 ERA over 184 2/3 innings in Double A and earned a call up to the parent club. With young pitchers like Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst, Oil Can Boyd and Al Nipper on the squad, the Red Sox hoped he would be a big league starter.

Instead he was a perpetual PawSox regular. He pitched well for the 1986 Paw Sox. But when injuries to Hurst, Nipper and reliever Sammy Stewart opened up some spots, Sellers got his chance to insert himself into the rotation.

He lost his first 1986 start getting clobbered by the Brewers 5-7. After a no decision against Toronto, Milwaukee beat him badly again. Then he took a hard luck loss against Baltimore.

On June 29, he pitched a complete game victory against Baltimore and the Red Sox thought maybe Sellers was ready to be a regular in Boston. He backed up that hope with two more victories where he pitched into the 8th, one over Seattle and the other over Oakland.

He was on a 3 game winning streak and now matched with Roger Clemens and newly acquired Tom Seaver, he was poised to give the Red Sox much needed depth.

It didn’t happen.

The Angels clobbered him in the next start and he pitched worse after that against Seattle. On July 29th, he failed to get out of the third inning in a loss against the White Sox. Bruce Hurst and Al Nipper returned to Boston and Sellers was back to Pawtucket.

He was recalled for a few spot starts in September but was not part of the post season roster. Even when an injury to Tom Seaver opened up a spot, the Red Sox opted for Steve Crawford instead of Sellers to fill the void.

In 1987, the Red Sox had a let down season but one where many Pawtucket regulars transitioned to the major league squad. Greenwell was joined by Todd Benzinger, Ellis Burks, Sam Horn, Jody Reed, Tom Bolton and John Marzano. Sellers was on the big league roster for most of the year as well, making 22 starts over 139 2/3 innings pitched. But the 23 year old was overmatched and had a 5.28 ERA for the season.

The 1988 season had expectations sky high for the mix of veterans and youth in Boston. Sellers began the season in Boston and over his first 6 starts pitched very well. Three times he gave the Red Sox 8 innings, one other time striking out 8 over 6. In all metrics, Sellers looked like he took the turn and became a big league pitcher.

Well, there was one metric where it wasn’t going his way. They were 0-4 over his first 5 starts. The vaunted Boston lineup couldn’t hit with Sellers on the mound. He pitched well but had nothing to show for it.

At the end of May, he no longer was pitching well but at least the team had the decency to make sure he got a no decision. By the time he was sent back to Pawtucket, he had an 0-6 record and a 5.14 ERA.

He was recalled later and picked up a win in relief but did not pitch well enough to be on the post season roster. He started the second to last game of the season after Boston clinched the AL East. He allowed 1 hit, 1 run and struck out 10 Cleveland batters over 7 1/3 innings. Naturally he lost the game 1-0.

It would be his last game in the majors.

Before the 1989 season he was traded to the Reds with Todd Benzinger for the deal involving Nick Esasky and Rob Murphy. Injuries kept him from playing in the majors.

Meanwhile the Pawtucket train continued, with the Josias Manzanillos, Mike Rochfords and Steve Currys of the world went back and forth from Rhode Island to Fenway.

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