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Red Sox minor league roundup: Breaking down Matt Barnes’ turnaround; Deven Marrero snaps slide; Sean Coyle’s opportunity; Speier streaking

08.21.14 at 12:02 pm ET
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Right-hander Matt Barnes continued his second-half dominance on Wednesday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox.)

Right-hander Matt Barnes continued his second-half dominance on Wednesday. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox.)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-0 WIN VS. LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Matt Barnes continued his outstanding second half with 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball in which he allowed two hits, walked three and punched out seven. The 24-year-old has allowed two or fewer runs in all six of his second-half starts, pitching at least six innings in all but one of them and pitching into the seventh in four of the six outings. In other words, in his last six outings, he has as many outings of more than six innings (four) as he had in the first 65 games of his professional career, from 2012 through the first half of 2014.

Reports of Barnes’ stuff were positive on Wednesday, consistent with a number of recent evaluations from his second half. He pitched primarily off his fastball — a plus offering that he featured at 92-95 mph and commanded well within the strike zone — while sprinkling in a solid changeup (a major league average offering) and a roughly 80 mph curveball that featured short bite and 12-to-6 shape. One evaluator on hand estimated that he threw about five of 10 curveballs well on the night, suggesting that his first one of the game was usable to steal a strike, and his second one bounced on the grass in front of the dirt at home plate, underscoring the idea that inconsistency remains with the pitch. Still, the curveball showed improvement from previous looks by that evaluator, with a spin and shape that suggested the potential to be a useful third pitch.

Barnes’ fastball remains a standout pitch, still perhaps the best of all of the Sox’ upper levels pitchers. If he complements that with a changeup that grades as average (where it is now) to slightly above, and can get the curveball to the point of being somewhere near average — perhaps even a 45 on the 20-80 scouting scale — there is reason to believe that he has a chance to be a solid starting pitcher in the big leagues, perhaps one with a ceiling above the likes of Anthony Ranaudo and Brandon Workman and, arguably, someone like Allen Webster or even Rubby De La Rosa.

But, the fact that his curveball is still a work in progress, and that he posted a 5.06 ERA with 6.9 strikeouts per nine and 3.7 walks per nine in the first half before his recent six-start run with a 1.63 ERA, 7.4 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine underscores the notion that he’s not as polished as those other four, which explains (along with the fact that all of them are on the 40-man roster this year and Barnes is not) why they’ve seen time in the big leagues this year and Barnes has not. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: gabe speier, matt barnes, sam travis, sean coyle

Thursday’s Red Sox-Angels matchups: Rubby De La Rosa vs. Matt Shoemaker

08.21.14 at 8:00 am ET
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The Red Sox finish their four-game series against the Angels at Fenway Park on Thursday night when they send Rubby De La Rosa to the mound against Matt Shoemaker.

Rubby De La Rosa

Rubby De La Rosa

De La Rosa (4-4, 3.79 ERA) showed signs of consistency in recent outings, tossing three straight quality starts, two of which came on the road. But Saturday was a setback. The right-hander was tagged for six runs on nine hits over four innings, and took a no-decision in a Red Sox win over the Astros. He walked four and struck out two on 89 pitches. It was De La Rosa’s worst outing since a seven-run meltdown in Toronto on July 24 and his most walks allowed since June 19.

“It was a struggle for him tonight,” Farrell said after the game. “He struggled with his command, struggled with any type of put-away pitch.”

One of De La Rosa’s best starts this season came in his Aug. 10 outing against the Angels. He pitched into the eighth inning for his first road win of the year, giving up one run on five hits and three walks with eight strikeouts. De La Rosa is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in two career starts against the Angels.

Shoemaker (11-4, 3.84 ERA) has been a surprising success for the Angels this season. An undrafted pitcher out of Eastern Michigan University, the righty maintained a professional career by pitching well in Triple-A the last two years.

The 27-year-old got his big league chance this year after a combination of injuries and struggles from normally reliable starters left a hole in the rotation. And he’s taken advantage of that opportunity. He’s third on the team in wins and ERA over 96 innings this season.

“I definitely thought it was a possibility,” Shoemaker said of attaining this kind of success in 2014. “Did I think it was going to happen? Not necessarily. But my competitiveness tells me, ‘Hey, it’s possible. Anything is possible.’ “

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Closing Time: Clay Buchholz implodes in fifth inning as Red Sox drop third straight to Angels

08.20.14 at 10:55 pm ET
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In one inning, Clay Buchholz‘s night went from stellar to forgettable.

The right-hander was handed a 3-0 lead by the Red Sox‘ offense and took a 3-1 advantage into the fifth inning, but imploded for five runs in the frame as the Sox fell 8-3 to the Angels Wednesday night.

Buchholz looked nearly unhittable early on, allowing just one hit and striking out three through the first three innings. He gave up a run on an RBI single by Howie Kendrick in the fourth, but was seemingly still in command thanks to some early run support.

It all unraveled in the fifth.

Buchholz gave up five runs in the inning on four hits and two walks as the Angels quickly took over the game in a one-inning assault. Buchholz loaded the bases by allowing the first three hitters to reach on two singles and a walk, then walked Kole Calhoun to score the Halos’ first run of the inning. Mike Trout followed with a fielder’s choice to score the tying run and Albert Pujols ripped a single to right to put the Angels ahead.

Josh Hamilton scored Trout on a sacrifice fly and Kendrick singled in Pujols for another.

“Combination of walks and base hits,” manager John Farrell said of the fifth inning. “Through the first four innings I thought [Buchholz] was sharp, he had good late action to his stuff. In the fifth, when he got ahead of a couple of hitters, didn’t have the same finishing pitch he had shown in the previous four and they were able to put some people on. … They found some holes and bunched some hits and walks for the five runs.”

Said Buchholz: “I just missed location with a couple of pitches. They were able to put a big inning together. It’s been a long time since I walked a run in so that didn’t help. A couple balls they hit found some holes and they scored five.”

The Angels went through the entire order in the frame. It was Buchholz’s worst inning since giving up nine in the sixth inning of a disastrous outing against the Blue Jays July 28.

Buchholz finished the game with six runs on seven hits over six innings for his eighth loss of the season. He walked two, struck out five and threw 64 of his 97 pitches for strikes.

It was his worst outing since giving up seven over five innings against the Yankees Aug. 3. But Wednesday’s outcome was surprising given how effectively Buchholz pitched in his prior two starts and the way he was rolling through the first three innings Wednesday.

“I thought Clay threw the ball pretty well,” catcher David Ross said. “I think out of the stretch he got a little rushed and couldn’t find the strike zone and then they got some hits. Other than that one inning, I think he threw the ball pretty well. I think he was just not quite as sharp out of the stretch tonight.”

The loss was the Red Sox‘ fourth straight, dropping them to 56-70 for the season and 2-5 through the first seven games of the 11-game homestand.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– As poorly as Buchholz pitched in the fifth inning, he didn’t get much help from his defense either. Daniel Nava failed to chase down Trout’s shallow fly ball with the bases loaded and no outs. Instead of an easy out and no advancement from any of the runners, the ball landed right in front of Nava and a run scored.

Kendrick’s RBI single with two outs also could’ve been prevented had Dustin Pedroia gotten a glove down on the hard grounder, which forced him to move to his left off the bat. The ball instead went just by him for a hit.

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Angels starter Garrett Richards exits game with apparent leg injury

08.20.14 at 8:03 pm ET
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Angels starter Garrett Richards‘ night came to a gruesome end in the second inning Wednesday when he suffered an apparent lower injury while trying to cover first base.

Update: The Angels announced that Richards suffered a left knee patellar injury.

Richards was running to first to cover for Albert Pujols in attempt to complete a double play on a grounder to first by Brock Holt. Richards appeared to be slowing down as he reached the bag and his knee landed in awkward position, bringing him to the ground in pain.

Richards stayed down for a lengthy period of time, surrounded by his teammates, while the Angels’ medical staff came to check on him. He had to be carted off the field. Cory Rasmus came in to pitch in his place.

“That stunk. I was actually walking off and listening to him scream in pain,” Red Sox catcher David Ross said after the game. “I actually got pretty sick to my stomach as you could tell. It was a grown man out there screaming. It was not a good feeling.”

The loss of Richards could be crushing to an Angels team that has been the hottest in the game. Though he allowed two runs on five hits in 1 2/3 innings on Wednesday, he has been the best pitcher on the Halos’ staff this year, entering the night 13-4 with a 2.53 ERA.

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Red Sox pregame notes: Tony Gwynn, Curt Schilling underscore ‘price to be paid’ for tobacco; Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks out

08.20.14 at 6:20 pm ET
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Smokeless tobacco use been a widely discussed topic throughout Major League Baseball this summer.

It started with Tony Gwynn, who died in June of cancer of a salivary gland, which the Hall of Famer blamed on his regular use of smokeless tobacco. On Wednesday, former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling told Dennis & Callahan that smokeless tobacco use is to blame for his cancer diagnosis as well.

Red Sox manager John Farrell talked about Schilling’s comments before Wednesday’s game against the Angels, and said that MLB has been advocating for players to stop using smokeless tobacco.

“It’s banned throughout the minor leagues and it has been for a number of years,” Farrell said. “MLB is taking steps to dissuade players from using it through educational programs that are administered to every team. It’s even gotten to the point now where players can be fined if smokeless tobacco is in view of the general public and there have been some of those warnings or penalties levied on some of our guys.”

Farrell didn’t have an exact count of Red Sox players who chew, but said he knows of a number of players who “gradually use it.”

Farrell said the only way to dissuade players from using smokeless tobacco is to educate people about its dangers. However, he said it’s completely up to the players on whether or not they choose to use it.

“They can’t mandate that players don’t use it at the major league level,” he said. “That’s something that’s bargained between the Player’s Association and teams. I think we all recognize that it’s addictive, it causes cancer. That’s proven. And at some point, at this time, it’s upon the player to make the conscious decision for himself if he is to use it or not. Read the rest of this entry »

Tom Werner: Baseball can keep tradition while speeding up game

08.20.14 at 6:15 pm ET
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Red Sox chairman Tom Werner joined Dale & Holley Wednesday as part of the Jimmy Fund radio telethon. In addition to making a donation, Werner discussed his recent candidacy for the next MLB commissioner.

Werner lost out to Rob Manfred, who will take over for Bud Selig, but he said he intended to take the job.

‘€œI was ready to take it on,’€ Werner said. ‘€œI love the Red Sox and I love baseball. I think the game is a great game, but I was talking about the future and a need to go out and capture a new generation of fans. I used it as an opportunity to talk about some things I care deeply about.’€

Werner said that he pushed heavily to make changes that can speed up the rate of play and revealed some of the changes he’€™d like to see.

“€œI watch these games and I feel often that there’€™s just long periods of just inaction in a game it’€™s like a player, he takes a ball and goes out of the batter’€™s box and fixes his batting glove,” Werner said.

Werner said that he is in favor of a pitch clock, noting his understanding that the idea might be “€œsomewhat radical,”€ but pointing to a recent Red Sox/Angels game in which he felt the pitching coach went to the mound for a lengthy visit solely so he could discuss a previous call when the umpire tried to break up the conference.

“You could see on the camera, he wasn’€™t even talking to the pitcher,”€ Werner said. “They were just waiting for the umpire to come up, and that was an opportunity for the pitcher to say something.”

Werner said that it’€™s crucial to make sure that the next generation loves baseball, saying that attention spans are getting shorter as games are getting longer, so “somebody has to address it in some way.”

Changes to the game may upset traditionalists, but Werner pointed to the NFL, a league that is thriving and has adapted over the years. In fact, Werner made a quip that head coaches don’€™t have lengthy discussions with their kickers before field goal attempts.

“I said this when I was speaking to the owners: I respect tradition and I respect the values of baseball, but every year it seems the NFL has some rule changes that make it feel contemporary and modern. ‘€ … I’€™m for making some moderate adjustments, and let’€™s try it,” he said.

“I just feel like we shouldn’€™t simply say, ‘€˜This game has been the way it is for more than a hundred years and let’€™s leave it that way.’€™ Let’€™s try some things and do it in a way that I think can keep the values of the game but make it more exciting.”

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

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
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