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Red Sox minor league affiliate roster analysis: Double-A Portland Sea Dogs

04.01.14 at 10:16 am ET
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The Sea Dogs roster:

Pitchers

Mike Augliera

Miguel Celestino

Keith Couch

Mike McCarthy

Michael Olmsted

Matty Ott

Henry Owens

Miguel Pena

Noe Ramirez

Nate Reed

Robby Scott

Sergio Valdez

Catchers

Mike Brenly

Matt Spring

Blake Swihart

Infielders

Mookie Betts

Sean Coyle

Derrik Gibson

Deven Marrero

Carlos Rivero

Travis Shaw

Stefan Welch

Outfielders Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox minor league affiliate roster analysis: High-A Salem Red Sox

04.01.14 at 9:51 am ET
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Red Sox right-hander Simon Mercedes hit 100 mph in a recent spring outing (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

Red Sox right-hander Simon Mercedes hit 100 mph in a recent spring outing. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

The roster for the High-A Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League:

Pitchers

William Cuevas

Dayan Diaz

Luis Diaz

Justin Haley

Brian Johnson

Kyle Kraus

Corey Littrell

Austin Maddox

Kyle Martin

Simon Mercedes

Kyle Stroup

Madison Younginer

Catchers Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox minor league affiliate roster analysis: Single-A Greenville Drive

04.01.14 at 9:15 am ET
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Right-hander Jamie Callahan (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

Right-hander Jamie Callahan impressed in spring training. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

The Greenville roster:

PITCHERS

Mike Adams

Mario Alcantara

Jonathan Aro

Jamie Callahan

Jake Dahlstrand

Jason Garcia

Sergio Gomez

Joe Gunkel

Cody Kukuk

Pat Light

Myles Smith

Teddy Stankiewicz

Raynel Velette

CATCHERS

Carlos Coste

Jake Romanski

Jordan Weems

INFIELDERS

Carlos Asuaje

Tzu-Wei Lin

Kevin Mager

Mike Miller

Jimmy Rider

Wendell Rijo

Tim Roberson

Jantzen Witte

OUTFIELDERS

Zach Kapstein

Aaron King

Jesus Loya

Manuel Margot

TOP PITCHING PROSPECTS

Greenville features a reminder that there’s an impressive next wave of pitching prospects behind the current group in the upper levels. Indeed, the crowd with the Drive is such that the Sox were trying to sort out spots and innings for all of their promising pitching prospects, something that may have played into the decision not to have left-hander Trey Ball — the team’s first-round selection (No. 7 overall) in last year’s draft — break camp on a roster.

The upside to a number of players in Greenville is nonetheless considerable, even with Ball, right-hander Ty Buttrey (a 2012 pick who received a $1.3 million bonus) and impressive left-hander Daniel McGrath — whose start of the year has been delayed by recovery from tonsillitis that required surgery — not on the roster. Notables:

– Left-hander Cody Kukuk returns to Greenville, where he was 4-13 with a 4.63 ERA, 9.5 strikeouts per nine and 6.8 walks per nine. Don’t be fooled by the numbers. The soon-to-be 21-year-old has electric stuff, having run his fastball up to 97 mph in extended spring training, and while he had severe command struggles last year, he showed improvement over the course of the year and possesses the type of athleticism and body control that creates at least the potential for a strike-throwing delivery. There may be no player in the Red Sox organization with as big a spread between his potential ceiling and floor. If he can dominate in his return to Greenville, the Sox may have a player who makes a considerable jump in prospect rankings.

– Right-hander Jamie Callahan, a second-round pick in 2012, was one of the head-turners in spring training. He showed a powerful fastball that regularly made it into the mid-90s, a good curveball that elicited swings and misses and a bulldog demeanor about which team officials rave. Now 19, Callahan is coming off a strong performance in Lowell last year when, as one of the youngest pitchers in the New York-Penn League, he went 5-1 with a 3.92 ERA, 8.1 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine.

– Right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz, a 2013 second-rounder, will likewise be in the Greenville rotation. He features a four-pitch mix of average pitches with power (he can throw 92-96 mph); if any of those offerings develops into plus, he could develop into a potential No. 4 or perhaps even No. 3 starter. In his pro debut last summer, the 20-year-old had a 2.29 ERA with 15 strikeouts and two walks in 19 2/3 innings.

– Right-hander Mario Alcantara has an electric arm, with the ability to work in the mid-90s. He has yet to find consistency on the mound in the minors, and had a 5-5 record and 4.17 ERA with 7.1 strikeouts and 4.5 walks per nine in Lowell last year, but there’s still upside if he can attack the strike zone.

– Right-hander Joe Gunkel was something of a revelation after the Red Sox drafted him in the 18th round last year, a strike-throwing machine whose low three-quarters arm slot gave opponents fits. He did nothing but get swings and misses or groundballs in Lowell, going 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA, 32 strikeouts and three walks in 20 innings. He’ll work out of the Greenville bullpen, but has a chance to move quickly in the Sox system if he can show anything like what he did in Lowell last year.

– Right-hander Pat Light, a supplemental first-rounder in 2012, returns to Greenville after suffering through repeated groin issues that effectively wiped out his 2013 season. At 23, he will need to show that he can dominate in Single-A to restore his prospect status.

POSITION PLAYERS

Not nearly as deep a group as the pitchers, though the Sox’ best prospect below Double-A will open the year in Greenville.

– Center fielder Manuel Margot represents the one position player with true impact potential in Greenville. Indeed, there had been some thought to having the 19-year-old skip short-season ball and open there last year. But Margot ended up in Lowell, where as one of the youngest position players in the league, he more than held his own, hitting .270/.346/.351 with a homer and 18 steals. Margot has five-tool potential, a great work ethic and approaches the game with energy and dynamism that command notice. He could well break into the Sox’ top 10 — potentially even top five — prospects with a strong year.

– Second baseman Wendell Rijo skipped the Dominican Summer League in his pro debut and was a strong performer in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League, hitting .277/.367/.375 and showing a solid offensive approach. He’ll continue to be pushed at a pace that is uncommon for his age. The 18-year-old’s ceiling appears somewhat limited, but he shows an ability to hit for average and get on base, making for a potential everyday second baseman in the big leagues down the road.

– Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin has intriguing athleticism, speed and defensive skills, though he seemed to wilt under the physical demands of his year in Lowell. He hit .226/.312/.296 for the Spinners. If he can demonstrate greater durability that permits some of his physical tools to translate to performance, he’ll solidify his prospect standing.

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Jon Lester: ‘The only thing that could have been better was we win’

03.31.14 at 9:20 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — Monday marked Jon Lester‘s fourth career Opening Day start. It was also his best, even if it concluded with him absorbing the defeat in the Red Sox‘ 2-1 loss to the Orioles.

His previous Opening Day starts had ranged from ugly (2011: 5 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 5 runs, 4 walks, no strikeouts) to solid if not dominant (2012: 7 innings, 6 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts) to powerful but inefficient (2013: 5 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts). Though he had never before been charged with a loss in the first game of the season, his 2014 effort exceeded all of those.

The left-hander dominated the Orioles lineup for much of the afternoon. Though he was touched for a run in the second when he issued a leadoff walk to Nelson Cruz, who advanced to third on a Matt Wieters single and scored on a double play grounder, that was the only Orioles baserunner who advanced as far as second base against Lester through the first six innings.

However, with the Red Sox unable to capitalize on any of their numerous opportunities with runners in scoring position, a solo homer by Cruz — a career-long nemesis of Lester — on a first-pitch 91 mph fastball on the inner half of the plate to lead off the seventh inning was enough to give the Orioles a victory. (Cruz, in 27 career plate appearances against Lester, now possesses a staggering .458/.519/1.000 line with three homers.)

Even so, for most of the afternoon, Lester looked very much like the hurler who anchored the Sox over the second half and through October last year. He largely dominated — especially through innings three through six — with a precisely located fastball (which mostly sat around 92-93 mph though it touched a tick or two higher on occasion) and cutter, mixing in just enough changeups and curveballs to keep the Orioles unbalanced. He sailed through seven efficient innings, requiring just 104 pitches (73 strikes) while giving up six hits (all but Cruz’s homer were singles), one walk and punching out eight.

“The only thing that could have been better was we win. Other than that I thought I threw the ball really well,” said Lester. “I felt good, felt pretty good from the start. Missing a little bit the first couple of innings. Really the only thing that hurt me was the leadoff walk in the second. Other than that, gave up a bunch of singles, a solo homer — I like my chances.”

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Looking at John Farrell’s decision to pinch-run for Mike Napoli, and not pinch-hit Jonny Gomes

03.31.14 at 7:38 pm ET
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Jonny Gomes

Jonny Gomes

BALTIMORE — The season officially began, and so did the dissection of every potential difference-making decision.

John Farrell‘s first in-game tests for the 2014 campaign presented themselves during what turned into a nip-and-tuck affair at Camden Yards Monday. And after his Red Sox came up on the short end of a 2-1 decision to the Orioles, the debate started gaining momentum.

The first decision in question came in the eighth inning with the Red Sox trailing by a run. After Mike Napoli reached second via a walk and subsequent ground out by Mike Carp, Farrell chose to lift the first baseman for pinch-runner Jackie Bradley Jr.

Even though Napoli is considered one of the team’€™s better baserunners, Bradley Jr. was deemed a better shot at scoring on a close play at home. It was a decision Napoli didn’t disagree with.

“€œJackie is going to beat me in a race every time,” he said. “Line drive to the outfield, he’€™s going to have a better chance at scoring.”

“Yeah, that’€™s going to be one that you open yourself up to,” Farrell said of taking out Napoli. “But knowing that [Tommy] Hunter was going to be closing things out, left-handers have had much more success against him, there was a willingness to do it a little bit more in that situation. We’€™re trying to scramble to scratch out a run and tie things up. Not second-guessing the move.”€

After a Grady Sizemore strikeout, Xander Bogaerts walk and A.J. Pierzynski threat-ending ground out to the pitcher, the focus then turned to Napoli’€™s spot in the batting order.

Normally, it would seem to be a lock for Jonny Gomes — he of the 1.405 OPS and four home runs as a pinch-hitter last season –“ to step in if the opportunity arose. Asked after the game if he also thought that would be the progression, Gomes said, “I’€™m always anticipating.”

But in this case the pitcher on the mound in the ninth was Hunter. The righty was absolutely lethal against righty hitters in ‘€™13, limiting them to a .145 batting average.

So when the Red Sox found themselves with runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth against Hunter — with Will Middlebrooks having been hit by a pitch and Dustin Pedroia claiming a single — Farrell chose to stick with the lefty-hitting Bradley Jr.

The decision, of course, left Gomes on the bench, having already been bypassed in the starting lineup in favor of the lefty-hitting Carp against Baltimore starter Chris Tillman.

“€œI don’€™t think I have a role. I’ve been pinch-hit for, I’ve pinch-hit. I’ve hit against left, against right, hit in the bottom of the order and the top of the order. I’ve got one job and that’€™s to be ready,” Gomes said.

“We’€™re the defending world champs and we’ve got a lot of good players. Whether you’re young, old or in between, the only way to succeed is opportunity. We’€™re deep. That’€™s fine.”

The move didn’t work out for the Red Sox, with Bradley Jr. stranding their 11th and 12th runners of the game by striking out looking.

“€œAfter he got down 0-2, he did lay off some borderline pitches off the plate away,” Farrell said. “Put himself back in a hitter’s count and borderline pitch up in the top of the strike zone that the home plate umpire rings him up on it. Again, everyone is going to focus on that final out made but there were a number of opportunities that we did create but just didn’t cash in.”

“It’s the first game of the season,” said Bradley Jr., who said he didn’t feel the first called strike, or the 2-2 elevated fastball he was rung up on, were strikes. “I felt like I was really battling up there, saw a lot of pitches and I felt like I worked hard that at-bat. I wish I had something to reward me for it. But that’s just the way it is. You’ve got to move on and get ready for tomorrow.”

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Closing Time: Red Sox bats come up short in opener against Orioles, spoiling Jon Lester’s solid outing

03.31.14 at 6:09 pm ET
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Jon Lester pitched seven solid innings in the Red Sox' season-opening loss to the Orioles, Monday. (AP)

Jon Lester pitched seven solid innings in the Red Sox‘ season-opening loss to the Orioles on Monday. (AP)

BALTIMORE — Jon Lester did his part. The Red Sox offense? That was another matter.

In their first opportunity to defend the 2013 world championship, the Sox stranded 12 men while going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. The end result was season-opening, 2-1 loss to the Orioles before a sellout crowd at Camden Yards on Monday afternoon.

The Red Sox ended their day stranding runners on first and second in the ninth against Baltimore closer Tommy Hunter thanks to a David Ortiz fly out and Jackie Bradley Jr. strikeout looking.

Unfortunately for Lester, the lefty’s solid Opening Day outing was defined by his 93rd pitch. That was a 91 mph fastball Orioles left fielder Nelson Cruz turned on for a solo homer to leadoff the seventh inning.

Up until the Cruz blast — which came on the Sox starter’s first pitch of the inning — Lester had been in complete command, allowing just five hits over seven innings, striking out seven and walking one. He finished throwing 104 pitches.

Up until Cruz’s homer, the biggest blast of the day came from Red Sox center fielder Grady Sizemore. Playing in his first major league game since Sept. 22, 2011, Sizemore lofted a 3-1, 91 mph fastball from Baltimore starter Chris Tillman over the right field wall to knot the game at 1 in the fourth. It was the 31-year-old’s first home run in 991 days.

Here is what went wrong (and right) in the opener.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– Lester ran into a bit of trouble in the second inning after walking Cruz to kick off the frame. The DH was immediate followed by a Matt Wieters single to left-center, giving the Orioles runners at first and third with nobody out. The Sox were able to limit the damage, with Dustin Pedroia starting a 4-3-6 double play on a Delmon Young run-scoring grounder.

– The Red Sox had trouble closing the deal in the first six innings, stranding eight (at least one in each of the frames). Will Middlebrooks had the toughest time of it, leaving four runners on base over that span.

– The Sox left two more runners on in the eighth, with Bradley Jr. (having pinch-run for Mike Napoli) at second base and Xander Bogaerts having drawn a walk to get to first. But Baltimore reliever Brian Matusz came on to face A.J. Pierzynski, who grounded weakly back to the pitcher on his third pitch.

– Hitting in the leadoff spot, Daniel Nava had a tough day, going 0-for-5, joining Middlebrooks as the only Red Sox starter not to claim at least one hit.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– The Red Sox hitters did what they typically do so well — drive up the starting pitcher’s pitch count. In this case the victim was Tillman, who needed 104 pitches to get through five innings. The righty allowed just the Sizemore home run, but he had to weave his way in and out of trouble all day, allowing seven hits and one walk.

– Lester punctuated the sixth inning by striking out Chris Davis with Adam Jones on first, marking the starter’s second punchout of the slugger on the day. Also of note: Of the 21 outs notched by the lefty, only one was hit in the air.

– With his first-inning single, Pedroia became the first Red Sox player in the last 100 years to hit safely in eight straight Opening Day games.

- Besides Sizemore (who also had a second-inning single), an offensive standout for the Sox was Napoli, who reached base three times (single, two walks).

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Grady Sizemore goes deep, ending 990-day stretch without a homer: ‘I’m just happy to be back’

03.31.14 at 4:33 pm ET
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Red Sox teammates greet Grady Sizemore in the dugout after his home run. (AP)

Red Sox teammates greet Grady Sizemore in the dugout after his home run. (AP)

BALTIMORE — Grady Sizemore punctuated his return to a major league lineup with a pair of landmarks, lining a single to right in his first at-bat, and then, with the Red Sox trailing the Orioles, 1-0, in the top of the fourth, lofting a solo homer to right, just barely clearing the Camden Yards scoreboard to tie the score, 1-1. Sizemore hardly realized what he’d done when the ball left the bat.

“I didn’t think I got it very good but it went,” he recalled. “I think I actually broke my bat so I wasn’€™t really thinking it was going to carry out, but it got up in that wind. … I just saw the ball drop and I thought it may [have] hit off the wall and I saw the umpire giving me the finger up with the round [gesture, signaling a home run] so I was just shocked more than anything.”

The achievement was undeniable, an exclamation mark on his reintroduction to a big league regular season game for the first time since Sept. 22, 2011. While Sizemore made clear that he was disappointed in the outcome of the game, which his team lost, 2-1, an outcome that transcended his day as experienced at the individual level, he also made no attempts to hide the fact that he was elated to be back performing at the level he’d been working for so hard to achieve.

He woke up at 5:45 a.m., anticipating the trip to the field for a 3:05 p.m. start. The day represented enough of a landmark that he had a number of close friends and family members at the game, including his parents, his godfather, a friend and his agent.

“Today was very exciting. I couldn’€™t wait to get to the ballpark. I was up first thing in the morning and definitely had a better appreciations for the game and all the little things that go into it,” said Sizemore. “I think every day I’€™ve been here since spring training has been gratifying. I’€™m just happy to be back, happy to be healthy, looking forward to getting the opportunity to play and help contribute.” Read the rest of this entry »

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