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Red Sox minor league roundup: Bryce Brentz power sighting in Double-A

04.14.12 at 8:49 am ET

Aaron Cook and Rich Hill both looked like pitchers who will be able to offer meaningful depth to the Red Sox in the near future (indeed, Cook could probably do so right now), while power-hitting prospects Will Middlebrooks and Bryce Brentz showed, well, power.

Further down, it was a mixed bag for pitching prospects in the lower minors, with left-hander Drake Britton getting hammered, but 2011 first-rounder Matt Barnes dominating. The details:


Aaron Cook‘s sinker once again performed its distinctive sort of magic. He recorded 15 outs, 10 of which were on grounders with three more coming via strikeout. He was, however, slightly efficient than in his previous outing (a seven-inning complete game), as Cook tossed 81 pitches (54 strikes) over his five innings.

Jose Iglesias was 0-for-3 but had two walks. For a player whose plate discipline has been questioned, that represented a milestone of sorts. It was the first time that Iglesias has walked multiple times in Triple-A; he had two two-walk games in Double-A in 2010.

Will Middlebrooks continued the excellent start to his season. His two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth (this one to center field) was part of a 2-for-4 night that left the 23-year-old hitting .343/.343/.571/.914 with two homers in nine games.

— Outfielder Alex Hassan, who got off to an 0-for-17 start in Triple-A, went 3-for-4 with a double to get the roundest of numbers (.000) off of his stat line. While Hassan’s .143 average is nothing to text home about, it is worth noting that he has walked seven times and struck out just four this year, suggesting a player who is controlling the strike zone and for whom improved results were likely just a matter of time. It is interesting to note that Hassan has a higher OBP (.347) than Middlebrooks (.343), the latter of whom has yet to walk this year.

— Right-hander Junichi Tazawa tossed two shutout innings, striking out four, walking one and not allowing a hit. In three appearances this year (each a two-inning outing), he has struck out nine.


— The ability to regulate effort level has been a significant consideration for Bryce Brentz in the almost two years since the Red Sox drafted him as a supplemental first rounder in the 2010 draft. By his own admission, he was trying to hit five-run homers while struggling in his poor debut in Lowell in 2010, but then erupted for 30 homers last year as he came to realize that he didn’t always need to hit the ball beyond the horizon.

“[The struggle at Lowell] was effort level ‘€“ trying to do too much at the plate, swinging at bad pitches and getting out of the zone. Instead of being selectively aggressive, I was swinging at everything,” Brentz reflected last offseason. “I was swinging at everything. To put the pressure on myself, I was trying to do more and more instead of letting ability take over. So [in 2011], every time [hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez] came into town, he’€™d say, ‘€˜We’€™re not going to work on anything mechanical. I want you hit this ball as effortlessly as possible.’€™

“It was just a mental change, and it helped me get more disciplined at the plate. I’€™ve always been a free swinger. More than likely, I’€™m always going to be a free swinger. But I at least want to control the urge to go out and get the ball. Let it come to me, take a good swing and see what happens instead of trying to go out and get it and hit it nine miles.”

Brentz may have been experiencing similar issues at the start of his 2012 season in Double-A Portland. Entering Friday, he was 6-for-32 (.188) with three walks and 12 strikeouts; he did not have a single extra-base hit.

On Friday, he was not in the starting lineup but entered the game in the fourth inning after starting center fielder Pete Hissey was hit by a pitch. The result? Brentz clubbed his first Double-A homer, driving a ball out to the opposite field in right-center.

Perhaps it was mere coincidence. Or perhaps the unexpected entrance into the game allowed Brentz to relax and flash the raw power that has made him one of the most intriguing prospects in the system.

— Outfielder Juan Carlos Linares, moved down in the order from leadoff to third, went 2-for-4 with his third homer in nine games. He’s hitting .417/.475/.750/1.225 in the early going, and does not appear to be getting challenged at the Double-A level. With Che-Hsuan Lin likely on his way to Boston, Linares would appear to be in line for a move up to Triple-A Pawtucket.


Rich Hill once again blitzed through a rehab outing in the lower levels of the minors. He tossed two scoreless innings, allowing one hit (on a groundball single to center) and had three strikeouts and three groundball outs.

— Left-hander Drake Britton, trying to shake off a year-long struggle in 2011 in Salem, has instead seen his 2012 season begin in much the same fashion that the previous one did. Britton allowed six runs (four earned) in four innings. He did not strike out a batter and walked one. He now has a 12.96 ERA in two starts.

— Daily Travis Shaw Is On Fire update: 3-for-5, two doubles, two runs batted in, and a .464/.500/.643/1.143 line in his first seven games of the year.


— Two starts into his pro career, Matt Barnes looks like a pitcher who is not long destined for Greenville. In five innings, he allowed just one hit while striking out seven. That’s 10 innings, no runs, three hits and 16 strikeouts for the 2011 first-rounder. Still, the decision to have Barnes start in Greenville (rather than Salem) was based on the desire to familiarize himself with the five-day routine, something that will require at least a few more starts.

A year ago, Anthony Ranaudo dominated out of the chute but spent 10 starts in Greenville; Casey Kelly had nine starts of dominance in Greenville before moving up to Salem in 2009.

— Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 3-for-5, thereby doubling his hits total for the season. He also continued to show an ability to have an impact the game on the bases that exceeded the expectations about him when he was drafted. Cecchini swiped three bags and now has been successful on all five of his stolen base attempts this year. He’s now 17-for-19 in his pro career in stolen base attempts.


— Kudos to Jim Madelaro of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, who won sentence-of-the-day honors for this Friday the 13th description of Middlebrooks’ homer against Rochester: “They should have handed out nets and positioned fans in center field in an effort to stop calzetoophobia — the fear of socks attacking you.

— Time for Salem’s annual “Night of Elegance” promotion, featuring Salem’s players wearing tuxedo jerseys. Here’s a blast from the past on that front.

Read More: drake britton, garin cecchini, juan carlos linares, matt barnes
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