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Red Sox minor league roundup: Brian Johnson’s big league future draws closer

09.11.14 at 12:30 am ET
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Left-hander Brian Johnson, in his Triple-A debut on Wednesday, gave up no more than two earned runs for the 23rd time in 24 starts. (365DigitalPhotography.com / Portland Sea Dogs)

Left-hander Brian Johnson, in his Triple-A debut on Wednesday, gave up no more than two earned runs for the 23rd time in 24 starts. (365DigitalPhotography.com/Portland Sea Dogs)

A brief look at the one game in the Red Sox minor league system on Wednesday:



It was a year-end nod to a season of startling, consistent excellence. With Double-A Portland eliminated from the postseason, the quality of execution that left-hander Brian Johnson had shown virtually every time he took the mound this year suggested there wasn’t a compelling reason *not* to promote him to Triple-A Pawtucket for one last start in the Governor’s Cup Finals.

Johnson showed the kind of sharp execution that suggested not only why he earned the opportunity in Triple-A, but why he has a chance to get to the big leagues quickly, and why he could leapfrog other Red Sox starting pitching prospects like Anthony Ranaudo and Brandon Workman and Matt Barnes and even Henry Owens to secure a place in the big league rotation.

Johnson pitches. He employs a wide array of pitches — fastball, curve (a putaway pitch that he executes to both sides of the plate in a fashion that elicits bad contact and swings and misses), slider, changeup — in a fashion that permits him to attack both sides of the plate, permitting him to compete against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. He shows an advanced ability to alter the shape and speed of his offerings in unpredictable sequences in a fashion that permits him to disrupt hitters’ timing.

Because his fastball mostly runs from 88-92 mph, when he misses his spot, he can be vulnerable to loud contact (as when he permitted a line-drive two-run homer to left-center on Wednesday); that pedestrian velocity also limits his potential ceiling. But the mistakes proved rare enough this year to paint a picture of a pitcher who understands his craft in a fashion that could permit him success in the near-term. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dustin Pedroia to undergo procedure Thursday

09.10.14 at 5:56 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Wednesday’€™s game that second baseman Dustin Pedroia will undergo a procedure Thursday by hand surgeon Dr. Matthew Leibman.

This news comes a day after Farrell had said that Pedroia “€œcould be” shut down for the season due to inflammation in his left hand/wrist.

“€œHe’€™s going to have a procedure done here tomorrow by Dr. Leibman in Boston that will address what he’€™s dealing with right now,”€ Farrell said Wednesday. “€œI don’€™t know any more specifics than that, but there will certainly be a follow-up after that’€™s completed tomorrow.”

Jemile Weeks remained at second base for the Sox on Wednesday. Farrell had previously said that Brock Holt was likely to be the team’€™s second baseman upon his recovery from a recent illness and stiff neck.

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

Why you should have cared about Wednesday’s Red Sox game: They kind of made it interesting (and lost)

09.10.14 at 4:59 pm ET
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The Red Sox lost. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Red Sox lost again on Wednesday, and it wasn’t pretty. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Red Sox were in danger of being no-hit in a blowout Wednesday. Thanks to a five-run ninth, it just looked like a plain old normal 10-6 loss by the end of the game.

Dan Butler ended Wei-Yin Chen’€™s perfect game bid at 16 batters by belting a one-out double in the sixth inning. Xander Bogaerts followed the next inning with a solo homer to make it 8-1, but it was the Sox’€™ busy ninth after giving up two more runs that made things interesting. Daniel Nava drove in two with a double and Carlos Rivero followed with a three-run homer.

Wednesday marked the second straight day in which Bogaerts homered, bringing his total on the season to 11 dingers.

“I’m just trying to end the season strong and end on a positive note,” Bogaerts said after the game.

Butler doubled again in the bottom of the eighth inning, but as was the case with his previous hit, he was left stranded as the Sox failed to score in the inning.

Now for the bad stuff. Brandon Workman was shelled for the second time in his last three starts as he surrendered six hits and six runs, five of which were earned, over just three innings. He walked three batters and struck out three in tossing 62 pitches in the outing.

Craig Breslow didn’€™t fare much better, as he allowed two earned runs over his two innings of relief work. Tommy Layne showed up both pitchers in the sixth inning by being the first Boston pitcher of the day to not allow a run, and Alex Wilson followed in the seventh by turning in the first 1-2-3 inning by a Sox pitcher.

Junichi Tazawa tossed a clean eighth inning, with Edward Mujica surrendering four hits and two runs in the ninth inning.

Chen ended up going seven innings, allowing three hits, one earned run, striking out four and walking none on 93 pitches.

Red Sox minor league roundup: Travis Shaw steamrolling through playoffs

09.10.14 at 2:29 pm ET
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Travis Shaw

Travis Shaw

The PawSox took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five Triple-A International League Governor’s Cup Championship Series on Tuesday, claiming a 3-2 victory (box). A brief look at the prospect performances from the game:

— For a stretch in April and May, Travis Shaw was the hottest hitter in the Red Sox organization. He is wrapping up his season in similar fashion. Shaw continued his dominant playoff stretch by going 1-for-3 with an RBI single up the middle and a walk. In four postseason games, he’s 6-for-11 with five walks, two doubles and a homer, good for a line of .462/.611/.846. While Shaw doesn’t have the enormous power that might characterize a top prospect — particularly at first base, where the power expectations are immense — he still shows in stretches an excellent approach that make him a meaningful part of the Sox’ first base depth conversation. He stays back on pitches, he’s walked at a high rate throughout his career (until, at least, he got to Pawtucket this year — but his season-ending run suggests that he may be adjusting to Triple-A arsenals), he has the ability to drive the ball with authority to left-center in a fashion that suggests an ability to thrive in an offensive environment like Fenway Park. His performance in the postseason underscores the view of him as a potentially important depth option who stands a good chance of landing on the Sox’ 40-man roster this winter.

— Left-hander Edwin Escobar allowed two runs over seven innings, limiting the damage from six hits by walking none and striking out five. In two playoff starts, the 22-year-old has a 1.72 ERA with 12 strikeouts and no walks in 15 2/3 innings. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox Pre-Game Notes: Dustin Pedroia ‘moving towards’ surgery, but ‘nothing definitive’

09.10.14 at 12:38 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell said while there were no firm plans to do so yet, surgery to address the ongoing inflammation he’s experienced throughout this season represents a likely outcome. For now, Farrell suggested, the surgery has yet to be scheduled, but that appears the likely conclusion of this process after Tuesday’s MRI revealed the worsening inflammation.

Dustin Pedroia is likely to undergo season-ending surgery. (Getty Images)

Dustin Pedroia is likely to undergo season-ending surgery. (Getty Images)

“Nothing definitive. He and we are still gathering information. It’s moving towards probably a procedure, but nothing definitive is scheduled right now,” said Farrell.

Of course, the idea of fixing what currently ails Pedroia is one thing. Going forward, the Sox face the question of whether there’s any way to diminish the frequency of injuries that have become an annual staple for Pedroia as a result of his perpetually dirt-covered style of play.

“We’ve asked him not to slide head-first anymore, which he’s doing. You go back to Opening Day in 2013 [when Pedroia tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb on a head-first slide], that’s where a lot of this originated,” said Farrell. “He’s aggravated the left hand again by being taken out at second base on double plays, earlier in the year and then mid-year. So, we’re really not going to ask him to change — with the exception of deciding to slide head-first. Dustin plays the game as he’s wired. That’s what makes him the great player that he is.

“If there’s thought to playing more under control, does that thought put a guy in position physically for potential injury? That’s debatable. But he’s going to play by his instincts,” Farrell added. “We would not ask Dustin to even think about changing those. Then I think you’re disrupting the natural abilities of a player. That might be more detrimental than just playing all out.”

Given that the team won’t ask Pedroia to alter his red-line style of play, there is an alternative that the team is considering: Having Pedroia play less. He played a career-high 160 games in 2013 and had played in 97 percent of the team’s games until he suffered a concussion in Tampa Bay at the end of last month. The team may seek to regulate the number of games he plays more actively going forward. Read the rest of this entry »

John Farrell on MFB: ‘Probably likely’ Dustin Pedroia inactive for remainder of season

09.10.14 at 11:01 am ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell, making his weekly WEEI appearance Wednesday, told Middays with MFB that Dustin Pedroia is “probably likely” to miss the rest of the season due to an injury to his left hand/wrist. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Pedroia, in the midst of a subpar offensive season (.278/.337/.376), had an MRI on Tuesday that revealed inflammation in the wrist. The 30-year-old was scheduled to meet with team representatives Wednesday to determine a course of action.

“Nothing has been arranged as far as surgery,” Farrell said. “Information is still being gathered. There’s not been a final, like I said, target date or decision in this way. It’s pointing towards him having the procedure done. So, whether or not he remains inactive — it’s probably likely he is inactive the rest of the way.

This injury is the latest in a series of issues with Pedroia’s hands. He had surgery on his left thumb last offseason.

“Let’s face it, he’s had a number of collisions, headfirst slides, a number of things that have affected the hands, and he’s dealing with it in the left hand right now,” Farrell said. “We look at it like, if this procedure is needed, which, the initial reports — and let’s face it, surgery is always something you have to be concerned with, but … the severity of it is not like a high-risk situation with him.

“So, we look at it like if there’s a chance to get an additional two weeks of recovery time so he can get into some strength training throughout the winter and go through a normal offseason workout program as he gets into later November and beyond, that’s probably the avenue chosen here.

“What Dustin means to us is obvious. This is the heartbeat of our team, and we’ve got to get him back to 100 percent as soon as we can.”

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Wednesday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Brandon Workman vs. Wei-Yin Chen

09.10.14 at 10:33 am ET
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Brandon Workman

Brandon Workman

The Red Sox will play the third and final game of their series against the Orioles on Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park. Brandon Workman will get the start for Boston and will oppose left-hander Wei-Yin Chen. The Red Sox will look for an improved performance from their offense, which has scored a combined two runs over the last three games.

Workman (1-8, 4.90 ERA) did not factor into the decision during his last start against the Yankees in the Bronx last Thursday. He did, however, strike out five and get charged with three runs over six innings. The Red Sox could not hang on late, as then-closer Koji Uehara surrendered two home runs in the ninth inning — including a walkoff homer to Chase Headley — and the Red Sox fell 5-4.

Despite not getting the win, Workman said he thought he pitched well at Yankee Stadium.

“I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand well today,” Workman said after the game. “It may not have been the biggest numbers I’ve ever put up. More important than the velocity, though, is I was keeping the ball down for the most part today. That’s a big part of it.”

The no-decision last week ended a streak in which Workman lost eight consecutive decisions from June to the end of August. Over his last 10 outings, Workman’s ERA is a 6.04, pushing his season total closer to five. During his start against the Mariners on Aug. 23, Workman was knocked around for 10 hits and seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. He kept the Mariners off the board through three innings, but a seven-run fourth, which included a Dustin Ackley three-run home run, ended Workman’s day.

One of Workman’s better starts with Boston this season came against the Orioles back on June 10. He pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings at a rain-soaked Camden Yards in Baltimore. He allowed just two baserunners — one single and one walk — in the start.

Three current Orioles have one hit against Workman, while the rest of the team is hitless.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Anthony Ranaudo: ‘Those kinds of pitches aren’t going to fly here’

09.10.14 at 12:29 am ET
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Anthony Ranaudo

Anthony Ranaudo

John Farrell has spoken highly of Anthony Ranaudo’s mound presence and poise. His stuff has been another matter.

On Tuesday, Ranaudo allowed three homers in just 3 1/3 innings to take the defeat in the Red Sox‘ 4-1 loss to the Orioles. The 25-year-old has now permitted eight homers in just 28 2/3 innings this year, with vulnerability on fastballs up in the strike zone representing a common thread in his starts.

“He didn’t get away with many mistakes, pitches that were elevated in the strike zone,” Farrell said after the game. “Where he’s gotten some swing and miss in some previous starts with some mislocated pitches, that wasn’t the case tonight.

“He’s a flyball pitcher and there’s, as we’ve seen, there’s a substantial difference between Triple-A and here. And possibly, with some of those same pitches, they’re not going to be driven as they are here, and it’s a matter of elevation within the strike zone.”

Ranaudo, who went 14-4 with a 2.61 ERA this year in Triple-A en route to International League Pitcher of the Year honors, is now 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA in the big leagues. Tuesday represented his worst outing of the bunch. Ranaudo said the responsibility to turn around his results falls on him. Read the rest of this entry »

Dustin Pedroia: Surgery possible for thumb/wrist inflammation he’s been managing all year

09.09.14 at 11:39 pm ET
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Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who underwent an MRI on Tuesday that revealed inflammation in his left wrist (near the same thumb on which he had surgery last offseason), acknowledged that season-ending surgery is a possibility for the issue. The 30-year-old said that he will meet with club officials and medical personnel on Wednesday to decide the proper course of action.

“There’s getting rest, continue to play, or surgery. There’s three things we could do,” Pedroia said after the Sox’ 4-1 loss. “We’ll come up with a plan the best we can that’s best for the team.”

Pedroia said that he’s been dealing with discomfort for much of the year. His surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb last offseason required ongoing rehab that stretched into the start of the season. But when he was wiped out at second base on a double play early in the year (though he didn’t identify a date, Pedroia was wrecked at second base by Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez in the first home series of the year), he experienced discomfort that has lingered throughout the season and that has gotten worse recently.

“Obviously I’ve been kind of dealing with it for most of the year, but I mean, that’s the part of the job. The training staff and everyone’s done a great job getting me out there. Obviously, dealing with little injuries and things like that, it’s a part of it. You try to find a way to play through it,” said Pedroia. “I fell early in the year, I got taken out at second, and you know, it’s pretty inflamed. We tried to manage it the best we can, and it just gets to a point where obviously it hurts. It’s tough going out there and trying to do what you’re accustomed to doing and you can’t. But I will soon.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Why you should have cared about Tuesday’s Red Sox game: Matt Barnes makes his mark

09.09.14 at 10:43 pm ET
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(For the final month of the regular season, “Closing Time” will be called “Why You Should Have Cared,” looking beyond the final score — at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) — for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)

Right-hander Matt Barnes made his major league debut with three shutout innings on Tuesday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox.)

Right-hander Matt Barnes made his major league debut with three shutout innings on Tuesday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox.)

By and large, the process of auditioning pitchers for spots in the 2015 Red Sox rotation has been something less than dazzling. Joe Kelly and Rubby De La Rosa have shown flashes of being effective, with De La Rosa offering glimpses (not yet sustained) of an ability to dominate. Brandon Workman has struggled. Anthony Ranaudo has shown little ability to elicit swings and misses, and on Tuesday, the Orioles smashed his fastballs up in the strike zone, launching three homers to hand the 25-year-old a loss (by an eventual 4-1 count) on his birthday.

Kelly profiles as a back-end starter. Workman and Ranaudo seem most likely to project either as No. 4 or 5 starters if they don’t end up in the bullpen.

But late in Tuesday’s outing, the Red Sox got a tantalizing first glimpse at a pitcher with considerable upside when Matt Barnes took the hill in his big league debut. Barnes has arguably the best fastball in the system, a pitch that can miss bats even when in the strike zone. He sits comfortably in the mid-90s, and on Tuesday, he worked primarily off of a 94-96 mph fastball that he complemented with both a changeup and a curveball (the latter of which, notably, got the first swing-and-miss of his career).

Pitchers like Ranaudo and Workman have considerable potential value to a rotation as pitchers who know how to compete and give their team a chance to win. But Barnes represents something different, his fastball giving him a chance to be either an impact starter or, in the eyes of some, a closer, with the view of his potential as a starter tied to a changeup that grades as solid average and a curveball that he’s used to increasing effect this year.

On Tuesday, he employed all three pitches in impressive fashion, throwing three shutout innings in which he permitted three hits, struck out two batters (Chris Davis on a fastball, Adam Jones on a changeup), worked out of a second-and-third, one-out jam by punching out Jones when needed and threw a whopping 30 of 38 pitches (79 percent) for strikes — the highest strike percentage of any major league rookie in his debut (min. 30 pitches) since Jamie Vermilyea threw 24 of 30 pitches for strikes in his Blue Jays debut on April 22, 2007.

In a run of relatively undistinguished performances by Red Sox call-ups, Barnes’ outing stood out, a first opportunity to stand out from the pack of Red Sox prospects making the transition to the big league level.


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