|08.29.14 at 10:45 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Mookie Betts is the one guy who is remaining true to the script.
With the player many perceive as the starting center fielder for the 2015 Red Sox — Rusney Castillo — ready to make his professional debut a couple of hours away in Fort Myers, Sunday, the guy who is making a pretty powerful impression at the position continued pushing his stock upward Friday night.
Betts is one of the few highly touted Sox youngsters to actually offer the kind of standout performances once expected of Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Will Middlebrooks and a cavalcade of young pitchers. The 21-year-old’s latest separator? A second-inning grand slam, making the outfielder the youngest Red Sox player to go deep with the bases loaded since a 20-year-old Tony Congliaro on Aug. 24, 1965.
(It was Betts’ first grand slam as a professional. “I can’t tell you the last time I hit a grand slam, going back to high school,” he said. “I honestly don’t remember hitting one in high school, either. Just to hit one is pretty enjoyable.”)
Just for good measure, Betts continued his ascension as a legitimate big league outfield by robbing Kevin Kiermaier of extra bases in the fifth inning with a leaping catch just before the center field wall.
The grand slam was the signature blow for the Red Sox in their 8-4 win over the Rays. It also played a key role in a pair of innings in which the visitors batted around the order in the first two frames of a game for the first time since Aug. 14, 1962.
Coming into the series opener, Betts’ numbers since his most recent call-up weren’t electric, totaling a .242 batting average, .390 on-base percentage and .784 OPS. But what offered encouragement even before the grand slam was how his approach had remained consistent from when he tore through the minors.
|08.29.14 at 8:25 pm ET|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Xander Bogaerts is ready to return.
The Red Sox shortstop – who had been placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list after being hit in the head with a Felix Hernandez change-up Aug. 22 — is scheduled to return to the team’s starting lineup, Saturday.
“I really didn’t have too many symptoms,” Bogaerts said prior to Friday night’s game at Tropicana Field. “The only symptom I pretty much had was tiredness ‘ like sleepy. Everything I did, I would just get sleepy. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t doing any baseball activities. Maybe it could have been the symptoms, too. The sleepiness is all I kind of got. No headaches, no anything like that.
“I took all my tests, I did pretty good. I didn’t have any problems with memory or focus, just a little bit of tiredness.”
Bogaerts said he adhered to doctor’s orders and refrained from much activity, letting the symptoms subside.
“Yeah, I just stayed at home and rested like the doctors said,” said Bogaerts, who wasn’t with the team during its series in Toronto. “I watched the games. That’s all I did. Obviously I couldn’t play or do any baseball activities, so I just tried to relax.”
Prior to his hiatus, Bogaerts was in the midst of a significant slump, having one hit in his last 23 at-bats. In 118 games this season, the shortstop is hitting .227 with a .627 OPS.
“Hopefully it benefits me,” he said of the time off. “I got some rest — rest that I needed. Ill try to finish the season strong.”
|08.29.14 at 10:42 am ET|
With the Red Sox and Rays holding firm in the bottom two spots in the American League East, Friday’s game in St. Petersburg, Florida, holds little importance in terms of postseason implications. However, with Chris Archer on the mound for Tampa — opposite young Sox hurler Anthony Ranaudo — there could be some intensity to the series opener.
When Archer (8-6, 3.09 ERA) last faced the Sox on July 27, he surrendered a three-run home run to David Ortiz and lost the game 3-2. Afterward, Archer echoed then-teammate David Price‘s assertion that Ortiz “feels like he’s bigger than the game” because the slugger “pimped a home run off me.”
Ortiz, who is 5-for-12 against Archer, said the 25-year-old is “not the right guy to be saying that. I don’t think, you know, you’ve got two days in the league, you can’t be just [whining] and complaining about [expletive] like that.”
Archer has struggled again the Sox, going 1-3 with a 4.75 ERA in six career starts, but he’s pitched well of late. When he held the Blue Jays to one run over seven innings in his last outing Sunday, it was his eighth quality start in 10 appearances. He has a 1.40 ERA and 30 strikeouts over his last four appearances, encompassing 25 2/3 innings.
Ranaudo (2-0, 4.50) will be called up from Triple-A to pitch in Friday’s game. The 24-year-old last pitched in the majors Aug. 13, allowing four runs in six innings to the Reds.
On Tuesday Ranaudo was named the International League‘s Most Valuable Player. He is 14-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 24 starts for Pawtucket.
|08.29.14 at 9:46 am ET|
Left-hander Brian Johnson, in a five-inning tuneup outing for Double-A Portland before the start of the playoffs, was once again dominant, tossing five shutout innings in which he allowed two hits (both singles), didn’t walk anyone, struck out a batter and elicited 10 groundball outs. He retired 13 straight at one point.
The outing represented a continuation of a completely dominant five weeks. In his last six starts, Johnson has four outings of two or fewer hits allowed (three in which he’s given up just one hit) with a 0.67 ERA, 37 strikeouts, 10 walks and a staggering .093 batting average against.
Of course, those totals didn’t even represent that drastic a departure from the season for a pitcher whose 1.75 ERA is far and away the best in the Eastern League (the second-best mark is 2.55, with Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Henry Owens ranking third with a 2.60 mark).
Between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, Johnson went 13-3 with a 2.13 ERA, 8.3 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings. Perhaps more significantly, he’s logged 143 2/3 innings, up 69 percent from the 85 frames he was able to pitch in 2013 when he missed roughly two months with shoulder tendinitis, following an offseason where he couldn’t have a normal offseason conditioning program while rehabbing from a line drive off the face that prevented him from eating solids for months and from being able to work out for much of the winter.
But with a healthy winter this past offseason, the 23-year-old looked like the pitcher whom the Red Sox hoped to see when they drafted him in the first round in 2012. With health, he showed a consistent delivery that permitted him to thrive based on his feel for pitching and precise execution that was second to none in the organization. His changeup made considerable strides, to the point where he had a fairly complete mix (fastball, curve, change, sometimes a cutter/slider) that permitted him to attack every part of the strike zone, with dazzling results.
In his last 22 starts of the year between Salem and Portland, he permitted more than two earned runs just once. While Owens was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year and Anthony Ranaudo was named the International League Pitcher of the Year, Johnson had the best season of any pitcher in the Red Sox organization. He is WEEI.com’s 2014 Red Sox Pitching Prospect of the Year.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Johnson will join Down on the Farm on Sunday morning from 8:30-9 a.m. to take stock of his 2014 season. The program will also feature an interview with the Red Sox Prospect Player of the Year.
A brief look at rest of the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday: Read the rest of this entry »
|08.28.14 at 11:45 am ET|
Jeff Luhnow is leaning against the padded railing at the top of the visiting team’s dugout at Fenway Park, looking on as the Red Sox take batting practice on the field. It’s a Saturday evening in mid-August, and the Astros general manager is in town to watch his team play the third game of a four-game series in Boston.
Within shouting distance is Allen Craig, who is sporting a red jacket with “Red Sox” emblazoned across the chest. Craig quietly works out alone, unnoticed and unbothered. He is testing out the left ankle he tweaked while running over first base in his Red Sox debut Aug. 1. He rounds third base and heads toward home. He begins shuffling down the third base line and back. He’s preparing himself for a short rehab stint in Pawtucket that will begin two days later.
It’s a simple exercise that doesn’t garner attention. But Craig’s obscurity is prominent as Luhnow reflects on arguably one of his greatest discoveries as the Cardinals’ scouting director.
Luhnow recalls a conversation with Mark DeJohn in the summer of 2006. DeJohn then was the manager of the State College Spikes, St Louis’ Class-A short-season affiliate in the New York-Penn League, and had just coached Craig’s first summer as a professional baseball player.
Back then, Craig was a skinny shortstop who had just graduated from the University of California. He was an eighth-round pick who, at 6-foot-2 and still growing, Luhnow said would need to rely on his bat and versatility in the field to make the big leagues.
In the top 10 rounds of the amateur draft, Luhnow said, teams are looking for players who will impact the major league team. But by the eighth round that probability is slim.
Coming off an impressive senior season at Cal, Craig’s first summer in the pros was expectedly unspectacular. He hit .257 for the Spikes with four home runs in 48 games. But DeJohn saw something special in him that at the time took Luhnow by surprise.
“He came into our system without a lot of fanfare as a senior out of college,” Luhnow said. “I remember Mark DeJohn said, ‘This guy is a prospect.’ I said, ‘What makes you think that? He hit [four] home runs.’ He said, ‘This is a hard league and he was tired after a long college season. But this guy is a prospect. Wait until you see what he looks like in the spring.’ ”
|08.28.14 at 11:24 am ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-1 LOSS AT LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)
– With a 2-for-3 night, Garin Cecchini has put togther multi-hit performances in three of his last four games. Cecchini had a couple of singles, a walk and drove in the PawSox’ only run on Wednesday night. He’s now 9-for-20 over a mini-five-game hit streak, and driven in five runs over his last four contests. The third baseman has been hot all month long after struggling at the plate for the better part of the season, hitting .341/.419/.537 in August with 10 doubles after collecting just 11 two-baggers in the previous four months combined.
– Jackie Bradley Jr. followed up his three-hit showing on Tuesday with an 0-for-4 night. Since being demoted to Triple-A, the outfielder is hitting .204 with a .220 OBP and a couple of extra-base hits. He’s drawn just a single walk, but his strikeout problems followed him to Pawtucket, where he’s fanned in 12 of 50 at-bats.
– Steven Wright was hit hard, lasting six innings but allowing five runs on 12 hits (which represents a season-high, and the first time he’s permitted double-digit hits in an outing) and two walks while fanning four. It’s the second outing in a row and third time in his last five starts in which Wright has allowed five earned runs. He owns a 5.56 ERA over his last five starts compared to a 2.37 mark through his first 10 outings of the season. Read the rest of this entry »
|08.28.14 at 12:53 am ET|
Juan Perez, the president and CEO of Roc Nation Sports, told ESPNBoston.com Wednesday that Rusney Castillo has secured a work visa from the United States government and is immediately eligible to start playing in games. Perez’s agency represents Castillo, who signed a seven-year, $72 million deal with the Red Sox last week.
Castillo began working out in Fort Myers, Fla. Wednesday, and was scheduled to continue is workouts at JetBlue Park Thursday. There would be an opportunity for the outfielder to see game action with the Red Sox‘ Gulf Coast League team, which is scheduled to participate in a one-game playoff Friday with the chance to move on to a best-of-three final round with a win.
A team source suggests that Castillo will still need 2-3 days of team-monitored workouts before a decision is made regarding where he might start game participation.
According to the report, the P-1A visa extends for five years, with the opportunity to extend another five years. Castillo will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship while holding the visa.
Prior to Wednesday, Castillo’s only other visit to the Red Sox‘ minor league facility came Aug. 1 when the team put the 27-year-old through a private workout.
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