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TON -- The Red Sox signed Nelson Figueroa as a free agent in July when the Yankees let him go. The 38-year-old righty already won three clinching games for Triple-A Pawtucket coming into Tuesday, when he started again for the PawSox in the Triple-A championship game.
Figueroa didn't quite have it, as he gave up three runs in both the first and second innings in the Reno Aces' 10-3 victory in Durham, N.C.
An overall Triple-A championship would have been nice, but the PawSox already did last week what they had not done in 28 years -- win an International League title and its trophy, the Governors' Cup. Tuesday's game was just one game, and both clubs had already won their respective league titles. Reno was the Pacific Coast League champion.
"It's a big moment for the PawSox franchise and those guys there," said Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett, who attended Tuesday's game. "I won't be there doing a whole lot other than helping kind of appreciate what they've done and hopefully watching them bring a Triple-A championship home."
There was a viewing party for Tuesday's game at McCoy Stadium. When the PawSox return home, a celebration is set for noon Thursday in front of Pawtucket City Hall, hosted by Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee and city mayor Donald Grebien.
The PawSox weren't able to repeat as IL North Division champions this season, but one division title and one Governors' Cup in two years under manager Arnie Beyeler is a strong showing. Before last year, the PawSox had missed the playoffs two straight years.
Pawtucket went 79-65 in the regular season -- five games behind the Yankees' Triple-A club, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre -- and made the playoffs as the Wild Card. It swept the White Sox Triple-A team, Charlotte, in the second and final best-of-five round, after downing Scranton in the first round.
The four other Minor League affiliates the Sox have at Class A or higher finished with a losing record.
"It's been quite a fun ride, I think, for the PawSox," Crockett said. "The pitching's been really consistent, and offensively, it's been a different guy every night. They put together a really nice run here. It's a credit to those guys in the clubhouse now, and certainly the guys that have been in the clubhouse throughout the course of the year that may not be there now."
Minor League teams are always about player development first, and players are often on the shuttle between Triple-A and the Majors. Still, the level of turmoil at the Major League level this season made for a pronounced evolution of the PawSox's roster.
Pawtucket used 69 players in the regular season, one short of its record, and 23 were called up from Pawtucket to the Majors -- excluding rehab assignments. Seven players from the Pawtucket Opening Day roster were with the team in the postseason.
But through it all, the PawSox still maintained a high level of play.
Take Figueroa, who was the winning pitcher when Pawtucket clinched the Wild Card, the first round of the playoffs and the IL championship. He came into Tuesday 4-0 with a 0.92 ERA in his last four starts.
Outfielder Bryce Brentz, one of the Red Sox's best prospects, spent almost all season at Double-A Portland before a late promotion. Shortstop Jose Iglesias spent a lot of time with Pawtucket, but when the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers went down, he was needed in the Majors.
"There's certainly been a lot of turnover," Crockett said. "There's quite a few guys that started the year in Portland that are on the roster now, and there were some guys that were outside of the organization, some older guys who have come in and really helped solidify things. It's kind of a poignant note on how well they have played down the stretch, with such a different group of guys from maybe what they started with."
The PawSox had the IL's fourth-best regular-season ERA (3.43), second-best fielding percentage (.982), the third-highest average (.266) and third-highest on-base percentage (.366).
"The bullpen in particular has some pretty interesting arms," Crockett said.
Right-hander Josh Fields, who came over in the Erik Bedard deal in 2011, got the save in the Governors' Cup clinching game and was lights-out after being called up from Portland.
Another righty, 26-year-old Jose De La Torre, put up a 2.45 ERA in 18 1/3 innings during the regular season and saved Game 2 of the finals against Charlotte. He came over from the Indians for Brent Lillibridge.
"I think we had solid reports on him," Crockett said of De La Torre. "He had performed a little bit in Double-A, and our scouts had really liked what they'd seen before. Certainly very happy with the way he's performed, and doing it in Triple-A, we moved him up there right away."
The International League's three-year win streak in the Triple-A title game was snapped. The title game was founded in 2006.
Only nine of the 25 players on the final PawSox playoff roster were born when the PawSox last won the Cup in 1984.
The date of Thursday's International League championship clincher, a 4-1 win over Charlotte, was Sept. 13. That's exactly 28 years after the PawSox defeated the Maine Guides, 3-0, on Sept. 13, 1984, in the decisive fifth game of their last title run.
PawSox pitchers led the IL with 76 hit batsmen in the regular season. That was the only club record set by the 2012 PawSox.