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Red Sox minor league roundup: Garin Cecchini getting hot; Manuel Margot sailing in Salem; Ryan Lavarnway, Keury De La Cruz streaking; Portland punches postseason ticket

08.20.14 at 12:13 pm ET
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Garin Cecchini

Garin Cecchini

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX:

Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2-for-5 with a pair of singles (one to the opposite field in left, one to center), a flyout to left, a groundout to second and a strikeout. He’s now 2-for-10 since joining the PawSox, though with some positive signs based on the willingness to hit the ball up the middle and to the opposite field.

– Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo rolled through six shutout innings, working around seven hits (all singles) while walking just one and punching out four. He threw 62 of 94 (66 percent) of his pitches for strikes while improving to 14-4 with a 2.46 ERA, looking like a reliable provider of solid innings in the process. Between Pawtucket and the big leagues, Ranaudo has logged at least six innings in each of his last six starts, something he’s done in 14 of 25 overall starts this year.

Scouts still suggest that the 24-year-old’s mix is solid rather than overpowering, with a 7.0 strikeouts per nine rate and somewhat stark fly ball tendencies (of the pitches put in play against him, just 38 percent have been on the ground), but Ranaudo has made considerable strides in the execution of his craft to the point that he looks at the least like a solid option for a No. 4 or No. 5 big league starter who has now proven over a two-year span that he can stay healthy. Ranaudo is up to 143 2/3 innings this year, and he’s shown no signs of diminished stuff into August.

Garin Cecchini, playing third base, went 2-for-4 with a double to extend his hitting streak to nine games, during which he’s hitting .405/.436/.703 with two homers and five doubles, a run that suggests that he’s reclaimed something akin to his typical swing and results at the plate. The timing is particularly noteworthy given that Will Middlebrooks had to leave Tuesday’s big league game with tightness in his right hamstring. Also of note: Manager Kevin Boles said that Cecchini, who has added left field to his third base duties this season, has also been taking fly balls in right, though for now, he’s not expected to play right field in games over the rest of this year.

Ryan Lavarnway has reached base in all eight of his plate appearances in his last two games. He went 2-for-2 with a pair of singles and a pair of walks on Tuesday, after going 1-for-1 with a single and three walks on Monday. In his last four games, he’s 7-for-10 with six walks, elevating his line for the year to .286/.393/.360 in Pawtucket.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-4 WIN AT HARRISBURG (NATIONALS) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, garin cecchini, keury de la cruz, ryan lavarnway

Sources: Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo nearing decision on Red Sox, others

08.20.14 at 10:13 am ET
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According to major league sources, Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo is expected to decide which major league offer he will be accepting in the next few days (by the end of the week).

The Red Sox are one of the teams to have made strong bids for Castillo, whom they held a private workout for Aug. 1.

One of the unique dynamics when it comes to guessing a landing spot for the 27-year-old — who has accepted blind bids from teams — is the lack of information from the baseball world. With most free agents, the players have relationships with a variety of people throughout baseball, leading to ideas regarding where he might be leaning toward. With the Cuban defectors, no such avenues are in play, resulting in quite a bit of guess-work.

Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes told WEEI.com that he has not recently spoken to his former Cuban teammate.

While some have suggested Castillo might be better served easing into his career as a minor-leaguer, that scenario isn’t likely. Considering his age, and his experience in Cuba, the thought among those committing to the outfielder is that he is ready to contribute to the majors right now.

Many of the teams involved are eyeing Castillo to be a contributor for a postseason run, hence the importance of adding him to rosters before the Sept. 1 cut-off for playoff eligibility.

“He’€™s a player we’€™ve seen and we’€™ve talked to, but we’€™re just one of several teams that have done that,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Tuesday at Fenway Park. “There’€™s nothing more I can say.”

Speaking to WEEI.com, Cespedes said of Castillo, “If he’€™€™s not a five-tool player, he’€™€™s a least a four-tool player. He’€™€™s very comparable to [Dodgers outfielder Yasiel] Puig. Obviously a different height and size, but very similar qualities.”

Curt Schilling to D&C on battle with cancer: ‘I’ve never said ‘Why me?’ and I never will’

08.20.14 at 8:52 am ET
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Curt Schilling is in remission from cancer and warning against the use of chewing tobacco. (WEEI.com)

Curt Schilling is in remission from cancer and warning against the use of chewing tobacco. (WEEI.com)

Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who is in remission after receiving treatment earlier this year for squamous cell carcinoma, joined the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon on Wednesday morning to tell his story publicly for the first time and warn against using chewing tobacco, which he blames for his situation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Schilling, who had weighed slightly over 200 pounds prior to his diagnosis, lost 75 pounds during his treatment, mainly because he could not swallow. He also has lost his ability to taste and smell.

“This all came about from a dog bite,” he explained on his visit to the Dennis & Callahan show. “I got bitten by a dog and I had some damage to my finger and I went to see a doctor. And the day I went to see the doctor, I was driving and I went to rub my neck and I felt a lump on the left side of my neck. I knew immediately it wasn’t normal. There happened to be an ENT [ear, nose and throat specialist] right next door to the hand doctor. I thought, ‘What the heck, let me just stop in and see.’ So I waited in the office, went in there and he did a biopsy. Two days later, he diagnosed me with squamous cell carcinoma.”

Schilling, who still is recovering from his business troubles following the well-publicized collapse of his video game company, recalled the immediate aftermath of his diagnosis as a moment of self-awareness.

“You know what the amazing thing was, and I was just dumfounded by it: You’ve just been told you have cancer, and you walk out into the public, and the world’s still going on. It was really a challenge to wrap my head around that,” said Schilling, who relies heavily on his religious faith. “My second thought was, ‘Wow, really? You think I can handle this, too, huh?’ ”

Schilling was in the hospital for about six months, in part because he developed additional problems, including a staph infection.

“I got chemo and radiation for [seven] weeks, and I came back to the room and my family was sitting there and I thought, ‘You know what, this could be so much worse. This could be one of my kids,” he said. “I’m the one guy in this family that can handle this. From that perspective, I’ve never said ‘Why me?’ and I never will.”

During his playing days, Schilling was known for his efforts to connect with young cancer patients. Now he’s seen it from the other side, and he has a greater appreciation for what they go through.

“When you walk around that facility you see these amazing doctors doing amazing things,” Schilling said. “And then you turn the corner and see a 5-, 6-, 7-year-old kid. I can’t fathom — if this happened again, I’m not sure if I would go through the treatment again, it was that painful. I can’t imagine a 5-, 6-year-old kid having that. It s just mind-boggling.”

Schilling used chewing tobacco for three decades, something he now greatly regrets.

“I’ll go to my grave believing that was why I got what I got,” he said. “Absolutely. No question in my mind about that. … I do believe without a doubt, unquestionably, that chewing is what gave me cancer.”

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Read More: ben cherington, Curt Schilling, Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, Robert Haddad

Mookie Betts unfazed in pursuit of learning Fenway outfield: ‘It’s a big adjustment, but I think I can handle it’

08.20.14 at 7:27 am ET
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Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts

The challenge of learning the ropes out in center field still looks to be a work-in-progress for Mookie Betts.

The Red Sox center fielder looked both capable and hesitant during Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Angels. In the second inning, Betts looked like the heir apparent to Jackie Bradley Jr., robbing David Freese of a potential home run out in the triangle in the second inning before doubling off an advancing Erick Aybar just a few seconds later with a throw to first base.

However, Betts also looked inexperienced at times, making an ill-advised dive on a Freese line drive in the fourth that resulted in a triple for the Angels third baseman. In the ninth inning, Angels designated hitter Brennan Boesch drove a Koji Uehara pitch out to the center-field triangle. While Betts gave pursuit, the ball bounced down and into the stands for a ground-rule double.

In the following at-bat, catcher Chris Iannetta would then drive in Boesch with an RBI double to give Los Angeles the lead for good.

While it was a mixed showing from a defensive standpoint, Betts took it all in stride after the game.

“It’s a learning experience, that’s how I look at it,” Betts said, adding, “You have your good and your bad. Some days are better than others.”

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Read More: Angels, John Farrell, mookie betts, Red Sox

Closing time: Red Sox falter in 9th en route to loss to Angels

08.19.14 at 10:40 pm ET
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Mookie Betts' center field defense appeared as a work-in-progress on Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

Mookie Betts’ center field defense appeared as a work in progress on Tuesday night. (Getty Images)

The Red Sox fought their way back from an early two-run deficit on Tuesday night, but they were unable to shut the door on the Angels. Closer Koji Uehara took his third loss of the season as the bottom of the Angels order pushed across a run in the top of the ninth and Los Angeles defeated the Red Sox by a 4-3 score.

It feels unusual for the Red Sox closer to give up a run in any game, but Uehara has been touched for runs in each of his last two outings, both times allowing two hits in an inning of work. The pair of hits the 39-year-old allowed Tuesday were no cheap shots, either.

The Red Sox may have missed Jackie Bradley Jr.’s spectacular defensive capabilities on Tuesday night. Brennan Boesch reached base with two out in the ninth on a long fly to the deepest part of the park, as center fielder Mookie Betts pulled up and the ball bounced in the triangle, hopping up into the stands for a ground rule double. The next batter, Chris Iannetta, drove him in with a double off the scoreboard in left that Daniel Nava made a solid bid on.

Uehara has appeared in 10 of the Red Sox’ last 17 games, racking up an even 10 innings of work. The strikeout numbers have dipped slightly for Uehara as of late; he’s averaging under one per inning since the beginning of August, while he’s averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings on the season as a whole. With the increased workload, Uehara’s decrease in strikeouts could be a result of fatigue.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

 Betts had an interesting night in center field. He certainly still looks like a player who is learning the intricacies of playing the outfield, and his inexperience showed a few times on Tuesday. Betts’ poor read and ill-timed dive on a fly ball off the bat of David Freese resulted in what should have been a catchable ball turning into a triple. He also made an off-line throw into the infield that missed the second baseman and shortstop entirely, as it was backed up by the pitcher. At the same time, he did move smoothly and directly to some balls that were hit behind him.

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Will Middlebrooks day-to-day after exiting with hamstring tightness

08.19.14 at 9:34 pm ET
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Will Middlebrooks

Will Middlebrooks

Will Middlebrooks exited Tuesday night’s game against the Angels with what the Red Sox described as right hamstring tightness, one batter after he’d appeared to pull up lame after beating out an infield single against Angels starter Jered Weaver. Though he stayed in the game for a batter (a Xander Bogaerts strikeout), he was then visited by a team trainer and manager John Farrell. He walked off the field under his own power.

“Don’€™t know the extent of it. Certainly he’s day-to-day at this point,” Farrell said after the game. “He strained it on that infield base hit, and then when he was leading off coming back to second base in that next at-bat, it looked like it grabbed him again. Got him out of there precautionary. It’s day-to-day right now.”

Middlebrooks has already been on the disabled list twice this year, once for a calf strain in April and again for a fractured finger suffered in May. The 25-year-old has been on the field for just 35 big league games this year, hitting .188 with a .275 OBP and .282 slugging mark.

Red Sox look for Jackie Bradley Jr. to ‘build some momentum’ down in Pawtucket

08.19.14 at 9:06 pm ET
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Jackie Bradley Jr.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Despite hitting at a productive .308 (4-for-13) clip over his last four games with Boston, the Red Sox had evidently seen enough of Jackie Bradley Jr. at the major-league level.

Boston optioned Bradley down to Triple-A Pawtucket prior to Monday’€™s game against the Angels –€“ the final stage in a long series of evaluations that general manager Ben Cherington and the rest of Red Sox management went through to determine Bradley’€™s standing as a big-league hitter.

“€œWith Jackie, I think we had gone through several phases through the year,” Cherington said. “Obviously it looked like, before the All-Star break, that there were some things that were starting to take hold and some momentum, so we certainly hoped and expected that might continue after the All-Star break, and he started to struggle again. I think as we got past the deadline and as the direction of the team changed, I think we started about how do we give him the best chance to build some momentum going into the offseason knowing that he’€™s a really important guy for us going forward.”

Bradley already emerged as a Gold Glove candidate in his rookie campaign, leading all major-league outfielders in assists (13) while seemingly tracking down every fly ball hit near him out in center field.

However, Bradley’€™s great defensive play could not carry over to when he stepped up to the plate. At the time of his demotion, Bradley was hitting just .216 with a .288 OBP and .290 slugging percentage this season. The 24-year-old was on pace to register the lowest batting average from an American League starting center fielder since Mike Cameron hit .210 in 1998.

“Certainly there’€™s no questions about the defense, so it was really more focused on the offense,”€ Cherington said. “We just got the point where we felt like …  it would be best for him to get a bunch of at-bats in Pawtucket and try to lock into a routine that works for him – that he can feel good about.”

Cherington made it a point to mention that this will likely not be the last that anyone sees of Bradley at Fenway this season, as the club will not need to use one of their two remaining options on him if he’€™s called up when rosters expand in September.

“We fully expect him to be back in September, but then to be able to go into the offseason feeling like he has a good, solid routine plan in place to build off of in 2015,” Cherington said.

Read More: ben cherington, jackie bradley jr., Red Sox,
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