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Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Left is more as Drake Britton, Mickey Pena show more promise

05.26.12 at 2:05 pm ET
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A quick look at Friday’s foggy action in the Red Sox farm system…

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-4 LOSS VS. TOLEDO (TIGERS)

(BOX)

— Outfielder Darnell McDonald, in the first game of his rehab assignment while coming back from a strained oblique, had a sac fly and groundout in his two plate appearances.

Jose Iglesias committed a throwing error in the top of the ninth that set in motion a three-run, game-winning, ninth-inning rally by the Mud Hens. It was Iglesias’ seventh error of the season, a total that ranks second in the International League. He also went 1-for-3 with an RBI single and a walk, as well as his eighth steal of the year in nine chances. The walk was his first in 16 games.

Pedro Ciriaco had his third multi-hit game in the last four contests, going 3-for-5 with a double. In his last four games, he is 8-for-18.

Alex Wilson was on the mound in the ninth inning for the start of Toledo’s rally. It was the first time in his conversion to relief that Wilson has been on the mound in the ninth in a save situation. While he recovered from the Iglesias error to strike out the next batter, he then gave up a pair of singles before being lifted. He was charged with three runs, all unearned, over 1 1/3 innings while striking out two and walking none. It was his seventh straight appearance in which he struck out at least two batters. In 10 relief appearances spanning 15 innings, Wilson has 18 punchouts and six walks; opponents are hitting .316 against him.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: TRAILING 1-0 VS. NEW BRITAIN (TWINS); SUSPENDED AFTER 4 INNINGS

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Saturday’s Red Sox-Rays matchups: Josh Beckett vs. David Price

05.26.12 at 8:40 am ET
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Josh Beckett doesn’t seem like the same pitcher who was recently booed by the Fenway faithful on his way to the dugout, as the 32-year-old has won his last two starts, giving up a total of one earned run. In his last trip to the mound Beckett pitched 7 2/3 innings of one-run, seven-hit baseball, helping the Red Sox to a 5-1 victory over the Phillies.

Beckett (4-4) will try to start another winning streak for the Red Sox when he takes the mound against the Rays on Saturday night.

The Texas native, who has an ERA of 4.38 through eight starts, last faced the Rays and pitcher David Price on April 13. In Boston’s 12-2 victory over the Rays, Beckett pitched eight innings of one-run baseball.

Beckett has faced four Tampa Bay batters over 20 times, and he has been pretty effective, limiting all those players except Luke Scott to a batting average of under .200. Through 29 plate appearances, Scott has a .417 batting average vs. Beckett.

The last time Beckett lost a start was on May 10 when the Red Sox lost 8-3 to the Indians. Beckett pitched 2 1/3 innings and allowed seven earned runs, including two home runs.

Beckett’s counterpart for the second time this season is Price (6-3, 2.88). The last time Price lost a decision was his last start, when he gave up one earned run through seven innings of baseball as the Rays lost 2-0 to the Braves.

Price won his previous start on May 15, allowing three earned runs through seven innings as the Rays beat the Blue Jays. One of Price’s worst starts of the season came when he last faced the Red Sox on April 13, as the 26-year-old allowed three earned runs in three innings.

Kevin Youkilis has the best batting average of any Sox player against Price, hitting .364 over 25 plate appearances. Against the Red Sox all-time, Price holds a 4-6 record and a 3.43 ERA.

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Read More: David Price, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, Luke Scott

Jon Lester calls performance ‘unacceptable’ after serving up three homers

05.26.12 at 1:57 am ET
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The only ones who were satisfied with Jon Lester‘s performance Friday night were the guys who belted three homers off him, as the Rays used the long ball to rack up seven runs — all of which were earned — against the lefty in a 7-4 Tampa victory over the Sox.

Lester lasted just four innings for the Sox, with half of the six hits he allowed coming in the form of long balls to Matt Joyce (a third-inning grand slam), Elliot Johnson and Carlos Pena. The loss dropped the Red Sox to 22-23, marking the fourth time in as many tries this season that the Sox have failed to get above .500.

“It’€™s just one of those nights. Frustrating,” Lester said after the loss. “We worked so hard to get back to .500, playing good baseball, and I come out and have a performance like this. It’€™s unacceptable. I’€™ve got to be better. Plain and simple.’€

The start was Lester’s second-shortest outing of the season and he tied his season-worst in earned runs from April 17’s 18-3 loss to the Rangers in which he allowed seven earned over two innings. Lester said he struggled to locate his pitches the entire night Friday, noting that the only at-bat in which he felt comfortable with his command came in the first inning when he struck out Luke Scott looking to end an eight-pitch first-inning.

‘€œIt wasn’€™t good,” he said of his performance. “I didn’€™t locate. I felt like I had to throw a ball in a keyhole. It was one of those nights. When I was missing, I was missing. When I was on the plate, I was in the middle. I didn’€™t make an adjustment. They did a good job of working counts, getting into hitters’€™ counts, and making me pay for my mistakes.’€

The last time Lester allowed multiple homers in a game came last July 30when the White Sox got to him for two dingers, and the only other grand slam Lester had allowed in his career came in 2010. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia felt Lester wasn’t as bad as he looked, but credited the Rays for getting to the left.

“Obviously the numbers show it wasn’t great, but I thought he made some good pitches,” Saltalamacchia said. “Got squeezed on some big counts that we needed, but he made some good pitches. Not too many guys can hit a curve ball down and in like that out of the ball park. Pena’s curve ball was up and in. It was more of a defense swing, and he’s got pop. They did a good job of hitting the pitches whenever we missed.”

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Joe Maddon: A ‘weak, cowardly effort’ on the Sox’s part

05.26.12 at 12:12 am ET
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Rays manager Joe Maddon said after Friday night’s bench-clearing altercation that the whole situation was brought about by the Red Sox.

Tempers flared in the top half of the ninth inning at Fenway Park on Friday night with the Rays leading a 7-4 ballgame. The benches cleared after designated hitter Luke Scott was hit by a Franklin Morales pitch in the leg, after what seemed like multiple attempts by Morales to run one in on Scott.

‘€œBy the way their players reacted to the entire situation, I knew it did not come from them,’€ Maddon said. ‘€œIt’€™s kind of incompetent behavior; it’€™s the kind of behavior that gets people hurt, and gets hurt on your own side by choosing to do something so ridiculous.’€

Last week, Sox first baseman/right fielder Adrian Gonzalez was hit by a pitch in Tampa, and earlier in tonight’€™s game Dustin Pedroia took a shot to the back from Burke Badenhop. Maddon said that Pedroia getting hit was not intentional whatsoever, because his team did not want David Ortiz coming up to bat with two men on base.

‘€œThat’€™s truly somebody flexing their muscles on the other side that really needs to put them in their back pocket, and understand that they can hurt their own team by doing something like that,’€ he said.

Morales’€™ first pitch to Scott with two out in the top of the ninth inning was thrown behind Scott’€™s back. The next few pitches were up and in, but didn’€™t garner any attention as intentional. The fourth pitch caught Scott in the leg, and he strode out in Morales’€™ direction but was met by Jarrod Saltalamacchia first. The benches and bullpens proceeded to clear out onto the field.

The first pitch thrown to Scott by Morales ‘€œreeked of intent,’€ as Maddon put it.

‘€œI think [intentionally hitting batters] is ridiculous, and I think it’€™s absurd, it’€™s idiotic; I’€™ll use all those different words,’€ Maddon said.

Rays first baseman Carlos Pena was in the thick of the incident, and appeared to get into a yelling match with Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure. Pena said that when you’€™re in the heat of the entire situation, things just happen.

‘€œWe stand by each other and support each other, and I thought the play was dirty, so we were all there for him,’€ Pena said. ‘€œThey’€™re standing for what they believe in and we stand for what we believe in, and that’€™s fine. It’€™s just baseball, that’€™s the way it goes. Sometimes things get a little bit out of control just because all of us are so competitive out there.’€

After things quieted down and both teams retreated respectively to their dugouts, Rays outfielder B.J. Upton was spotted outside of his dugout yelling with a handful of fans behind the camera ditch. Upton said that someone said something that ‘€œdefinitely was not suitable for TV,’€ and he took offense to it.

‘€œSometimes [fans] can cross the line. I felt like he did, so I kind of lost my cool,’€ Upton said about the incident. ‘€œ’€¦It’€™s tough for me to get there, but he sent me there tonight.’€

In terms of the motive behind hitting Scott, Upton said that he didn’€™t know what the thinking was behind it, but everyone had each other’€™s backs and they’€™ll try to put it in the past.

Earlier in the season, Scott made comments about Fenway Park and the team that upset Red Sox nation, but Maddon didn’€™t think that those factors played into the decision to hit the Rays DH. But Maddon was adamant to pronounce that the intent did not initiate from the Rays side of the field.

‘€œTrust me, it’€™s not us,’€ Maddon said. ‘€œI have no idea on their side, ‘€¦ obviously they’€™re the ones that were probably behind the effort. The really weak, cowardly effort on their part.’€

Looking ahead to the next few games, neither Maddon nor the players expect to see any physical outbursts, and especially no retaliation from the Tampa Bay side.

Read More: franklin morales, Joe Maddon, Luke Scott,

Bobby Valentine: ‘Ghost of Fenway Past’ hit Luke Scott

05.26.12 at 12:02 am ET
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Bobby Valentine said that “boys will be boys” when asked to describe what happened in the ninth inning of the Red Sox‘ 7-4 loss to the Rays at Fenway Park Friday night. Franklin Morales drilled Tampa designated hitter Luke Scott with a pitch in the top of the ninth after nearly missing him earlier in the at-bat, causing both benches to clear.

Valentine also mentioned Luke’s past words about Fenway and the Red Sox fans. Scott referred to Fenway as a “dump” in April and earlier blasted Red Sox fans for their “arrogance.”

“Maybe it was the Ghost of Fenway Past remembering he bad-mouthed all our fans and our stadium, directing the ball at his leg,” Valentine said.

Morales said following the game that he did not intend to hit Scott.

“I tried to make my pitch inside and I missed it and I’m sorry,” Morales said. “I don’t try to hit any players.”

Scott wasn’t the only player fired up after the play. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia got involved by getting tangled up with Scott. Saltalamacchia could understand Scott’s frustration given that it was the second inside pitch of the count, but was quick to note that Burke Badenhop hit Dustin Pedroia in the bottom of the sixth and that Nava was also nearly hit.

“He just wanted to know if it was on purpose,” Saltalamacchia said of Scott walking out toward the mound. “Rightfully so, but we could also say the same thing. We could ask him about Pedey’s or we could ask him about the one over Nava’s head, Pedey’s head. It’s part of the game. We’re out there playing it. We’re playing hard, they’re playing hard. Both trying to win, and it’s unfortunate that it had to happen that way.”

The Rays racked up seven runs — all off Jon Lester — on three homers in the first four innings of the game. Saltalamacchia noted that part of that was because the Sox weren’t going inside enough on Rays hitters. It’s for that reason that he felt Morales had to pitch inside.

“It’s Frankie. Frankie’s a guy that you have to pitch in. It was unfortunate that the last time at their place he went in and hit a guy. I mean, it goes through your head a little bit. The first one got away from him, but after that we’ve got to pitch in,” Saltalamacchia said. “We didn’t pitch in at all tonight, and you saw what happened. It’s an at-bat [in which] we need to shut them down right there. We got two quick outs and we needed that third one. It’s just unfortunate it got away.”

The Red Sox remain in last place in the AL East, 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading Orioles and 4 1/2 games behind the second-place Rays.

“I wouldn’t say there’s bad blood,” he said. “It’s a rivalry. ‘€¦ We want to win, so whoever we put in front of us that we play, it’s going to be a game that we’re heated and ready to go and want to win.”

Read More: Bobby Valentine, franklin morales, jarrod saltalamacchia, Luke Scott

Closing Time: Rays blast Jon Lester and the benches clear

05.25.12 at 10:38 pm ET
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It was a busy night at Fenway Friday, but unfortunately for the Red Sox, the most noise from their end came when Franklin Morales plunked Luke Scott in the top of the ninth inning to the clear the benches as part of a 7-4 Rays win.

The Rays teed off on Jon Lester for three home runs, chasing him after four innings. Lester allowed seven earned runs, all of which were the result of Rays homers.

The benches cleared when Morales threw behind Scott and later hit him in the top of the ninth, and in addition to coaches getting into it (Sox pitching coach Bob McClure and Carlos Pena had some words), B.J. Upton could be seen shouting at Red Sox fans before being brought back to the Rays dugout. The altercation brought about no ejections.

Though the Red Sox drew first blood on Kevin Youkilis‘ RBI single to score Mike Aviles in the bottom of the first inning, the Rays capitalized on the long ball against Lester in the third and fourth innings. With runners on the corners in the top of the third, Lester walked Ben Zobrist before allowing a grand slam to Matt Joyce with two out. The next inning, the Sox’ starter allowed back-to-back shots to Elliot Johnson and Carlos Pena, the first of which was a two-run homer.

The Red Sox had the makings of somewhat of a rally in the bottom of the fifth inning, but they would only get one run off an Adrian Gonzalez double that scored Scott Podsednik. Tampa starter Alex Cobb went five innings, allowing three hits, one earned run (Aviles initially reached base in the first inning on a Drew Sutton error), four walks and striking out two batters.

The Red Sox would add two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on an RBI single from Marlon Byrd and a sacrifice fly from Aviles.

The Sox and Rays will continue their three-game series Saturday at Fenway when Josh Beckett opposes David Price.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– The homers that Lester allowed ending up making a huge difference, as all seven runs the Rays scored on the lefty came off of home runs. Lester hadn’t given up multiple homers in a game since July 30 of last season against the White Sox, but he surpassed that in allowing three dingers over the span of two innings Friday night. Joyce’s grand slam in the third inning was just the second grand slam Lester has allowed in his career, with the other coming on Sep. 30 of the 2010 season to Paul Konerko.

Friday marked the second time that Lester has allowed seven earned runs this season, with the other occasion coming on April 17. Lester lasted just two innings in that game, allowing eight hits and and seven earned in Boston’s 18-3 loss to the Rangers.

– The Sox had the opportunity to improve their record to above .500 for the first time this season, and for the fourth time, they failed. Boston’s record fell to 22-23 on the season, and they remain in fifth place in the AL East.

– After Youkilis’ RBI single that scored Aviles in the first inning, the Red Sox did not get another hit off of Cobb until Podsednik singled to center to lead off the fifth. Cobb put runners on base in the time in between (he walked Byrd and Jarrod Saltalamacchia), but the Sox weren’t able to generate any offense while the Rays were racking up the runs.

– Podsednik would end up scoring on Gonzalez’ two-out double in the fifth inning, but the Sox stranded both Gonzalez and David Ortiz in scoring position when Youkilis grounded out to third to end the fifth inning. Driving the two home would have made it 7-4 at the time rather than keeping the Sox in a five-run hole.

Bobby Valentine made an interesting decision in an attempt to chip away at the Rays’ five-run lead. After J.P. Howell walked both Saltalamacchia and Daniel Nava before giving way to Burke Badenhop, Valentine elected to have Podsednik bunt. The successful sacrifice left two runners in scoring position with one out and allowed for both runners to score on RBI from Byrd and Aviles, but it also may have hurt a potentially bigger rally. It was a pretty conservative approach to take given the circumstances, and though it got the Sox to within three, it may have squashed a bigger inning.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

– Though Lester struggled with the long ball and three walks, the bullpen turned in some very clean work for the Sox. Scott Atchison allowed two hits and two walks but didn’t give up a run, while Matt Albers tossed a 1-2-3 seventh inning on nine pitches. Though Morales started the whole ninth inning fracas by hitting Scott, that was the only baserunner he allowed.

– Byrd picked up his first RBI in his last six games when he singled to right field to score Saltalamacchia on the first pitch he saw from Badenhop. Byrd now has seven RBI in 27 games since coming to the Sox in a trade with the Cubs this season.

– Aviles stole his sixth base of the season when he successfully swiped second in the bottom of the first inning. Both Cobb and catcher Chris Gimenez were paying close attention to him after he reached on Sutton’s error, throwing over to first regularly, but Aviles got a tremendous jump during David Ortiz’ at-bat and beat a throw from Gimenez that was well off-target. He scored two batters later on Youkilis’ single.

Aviles also made a dandy play in the field in the top of the eight throwing a one-hopper across his body from the left field grass to throw out Gimenez at first on a groundout.

Bobby Valentine: ‘There’s a chance’ Adrian Gonzalez will see Fenway right field tomorrow night

05.25.12 at 5:55 pm ET
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A hot topic in Bobby Valentine‘€™s pregame press conference before Friday’€™s Red Sox game one matchup of a three-game series with the Rays revolved around Adrian Gonzalez‘€™s return to first base and the question of whether he’ll see time in right field at Fenway Park.

Gonzalez started in the outfield in four of the last five games ‘€“ all on the road ‘€“ and is moving back to first to ‘€œgive him a break from running out to right field,’€ Valentine said on Friday.

He added that there’€™s a chance Gonzalez could see the outfield in Fenway for the first time tomorrow night when Will Middlebrooks returns to the lineup.

‘€œThere’€™s a chance of that happening,’€ Valentine said. ‘€œYou never know what’€™s going to happen between now and then, so we’€™ll see what happens.’€

Gonzalez’€™s relative inexperience in the outfield raises questions about whether he’€™ll be able to handle covering such a large Fenway right field. But Valentine said that he has no qualms about giving him a chance at Fenway.

‘€œSome people have had that hesitation, and I’€™m not sure how to read it,’€ Valentine said. ‘€œI think he positions himself extremely well and he gets a very good jump on the ball. Does that make up for some of the foot speed? I’€™m not sure. When the ball is hit we do a pretty good job of retrieving it, and the opportunities he’€™s had have led me to believe that he could catch it if he could get to it.’€

Since Kevin Youkilis‘€™ return from injury, a three-way position battle has sprung up involving Middlebrooks, Youkilis and Gonzalez at both third and first base. Valentine fielded questions regarding Middlebrooks possibly playing another field position, and said while he’€™s considered it, he hasn’€™t put too much stock into the idea.

‘€œI keep asking if there’€™s another position, and I keep hearing ‘€˜no,’€™’€ Valentine said. ‘€œSo other than DH, I’€™m not sure what that would be. We had experimented with some things, though. I wouldn’€™t say it’€™s out of the realm of possibilities, but it hasn’€™t been discussed in a light that has inspired me.’€

He hasn’€™t talked directly to Middlebrooks about the possibility of playing another field position.

‘€œTrying to make sure that a young player is concentrating on what he should be concentrating on, and he’€™s doing a pretty good job at that,’€ he said.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Bobby Valentine, Red Sox, Will Middlebrooks

Buddy Cianci on D&C: Curt Schilling situation ‘a comedy of errors’

05.25.12 at 4:06 pm ET
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Appearing on Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning, former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci called the mess surrounding 38 Studios a “comedy of errors” while placing blame on Rhode Island’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) as well as Curt Schilling. To hear the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio page.

“It’s going to go deeper. There’s a lot of accusations with insider deals now, with people involved in government who wanted this thing to happen,” Cianci said. “Just yesterday all the employees were laid off. Curt Schilling, according to the governor, has not been forthcoming with financial information and it’s just been a comedy of errors and it’s just an awful thing for the state of Rhode Island.”

Cianci, who served four years in federal prison for racketeering and now hosts a radio show in Providence, said there was not enough vetting and research done on Schilling’s company, and the judgment to give 38 Studios the loan happened too quickly.

“Even today we don’t have the information that is necessary to make determinations as to what course of action should be taken,” Cianci said. “The [Rhode Island] governor was on my radio show the other day and he said that Schilling was stonewalling the whole process, number one.”

Cianci added he believes part of the problem came from a fascination that surrounded Schilling.

“There’s people that were enamored with him, with the industry, with the opportunity for a quick fix, and create an industry that frankly they thought could boost the financial prowess of Rhode Island,” Cianci said. “And they were all wrong.”

The former Providence mayor said the EDC originally approached the legislature with an idea for a $50 million loan, available to any business, to help create jobs. But the EDC had $75 million added to the loan for Shilling, without notifying the legislature, Cianci said.

“That was a gathering of fools in that legislature,” Cianci said. “They were voting for something that they thought was for all businesses, but it really was just for Schilling. That’s what people are mad at.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Kevin Millar on M&M: Have to praise Bobby Valentine’s creativity

05.25.12 at 12:45 pm ET
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MLB Network Analyst Kevin Millar appeared on Mut & Merloni for his weekly Friday spot to touch on Adrian Gonzalez‘s power issues, Bobby Valentine‘s creativity and Daniel Bard‘s velocity. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Millar recognizes that Gonzalez’s power numbers are down, but he isn’t worried.

“You know that at some point he will hit his eight to 12 home runs, go off, hit .447,” Millar said. “The common players aren’t of capable of doing that, and the superstars are. … I’ll never forget Manny Ramirez would always tell me that it’s that one good month. You could go out and hit three home runs, two home runs, and all of the sudden you pop eight. All of the sudden you’re healthy. All of the sudden you have 13 or 14 home runs in that first half because of that good month.”

Added Millar: “[The home run drought] weighs on you. … It’s not fun when you’re going through it. And I know that Adrian can say all the right things he wants in the media. But he knows he has to hit more home runs. You’re paid to hit more home runs. You’re paid to hit higher. You’re not paid to have common numbers.”

Millar is comfortable with Valentine’s decision to move Gonzalez to right field, and he even praised the creativity.

“You have to give some credit to Bobby Valentine for getting creative and figuring out a way to make this work,” Millar said. “As much as we been on Bobby at times for some of his decisions, it’s pretty crafty right now. OK, [Will] Middlebrooks, we’ll leave him at third. We’ve got [Kevin Youkilis] coming back, we’ll put him at first. Adrian, tip your hat to him, I’ll move to right field.”

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Read More: Bobby Valentine, Daniel Bard, Kevin Millar,

Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Matt Barnes finds a different way to dominate; Jackie Bradley takes his lumps

05.25.12 at 12:32 pm ET
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Matt Barnes no longer leads the minor leagues in strikeouts. He’s “slipped” all the way to third with 70 strikeouts (though he ranks second among minor league starters in strikeouts per nine innings with 12.4, behind only Red Sox prospect Henry Owens, who has 13.1 punchouts per nine), and on Thursday, he fanned a career-low three batters while getting saddled with his first professional loss, coming up on the wrong end of a 1-0 pitcher’s duel.

Yet in some ways, the fact that Barnes has struck out just eight batters in 12 innings over his last two starts is arguably more interesting than some of the dominating punchout lines that he forged so regularly in his first seven outings of the year. After all, he’s still dominated in his most recent two outings, giving up just one run (0.75 ERA) while striking out eight and walking one.

Barnes has now made four starts in High-A since his promotion from Greenville. After he gave up one run on five hits (two doubles, three singles) while topping out at 98 mph on the stadium gun, he has a 2-1 record and 1.13 ERA along with 28 strikeouts and just two walks in Salem. He has worked exactly six innings in each of his four starts, filling up the strike zone with a relentlessness that belies his relative inexperience. He is second in the minors in ERA with a 0.71 mark, opponents are hitting .161 against him and he’s given up just one homer this year in 50 2/3 innings.

He has been overpowering in his debut, in a fashion that has little precedent in the Red Sox system. And the fact that he was as good as he was on Thursday, even on a day when he didn’t strike out batters, suggests that his abilities are not one dimensional. He is not just reliant upon the swing-and-miss; he is also capable of getting bad contact while working down in the strike zone.

“He got outs last night by location and pitch execution,” Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker wrote in a text message, who praised Barnes for attacking the lower half of the strike zone while also noting that Barnes was able to work the inner half of the plate effectively, while finding the right spots in which to mix in a handful of changeups.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 WIN VS. TOLEDO (TIGERS) Read the rest of this entry »

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