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Red Sox minor league roundup: A promising beginning for Stolmy Pimentel

04.28.12 at 11:42 am ET
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Aside from Alex Wilson, who is now transitioning to the bullpen in Pawtucket, the Red Sox‘ pitching prospects are concentrated between Single-A and Double-A. Stolmy Pimentel, even after a disastrous 2011 campaign at Portland, is a significant part of that, and so it was notable that his season got off to a strong start on Friday.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 LOSS AT COLUMBUS

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Andrew Miller has now made seven appearances during his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. He’s only allowed runs in two of those, yet particularly in comparison to the straight line progression of Rich Hill, it feels like considerably more than that. On Friday, Miller did record three strikeouts (all swinging) in an inning of work, but after he blitzed through two strikeouts to start the inning, he allowed a two-out walk and a two-run homer (the first longball he’s given up during a rehab assignment that is now more than three weeks old).

Miller’s stuff remains good enough that he’s struck out an average of more than two batters per inning in Triple-A (15 in 7 1/3 innings), and he’s permitted just three hits while holding opponents to a .115 average. Still, he’s been an adventure, with 11 walks.

One aspect of Miller’s relief work does merit consideration: He has faced 12 left-handed hitters. Just one has put a ball in play, as Miller has eight strikeouts, three walks and one ball in play (a flyout) against lefties.

Mark Melancon allowed a single in a scoreless inning of work, striking out two. He now has four scoreless appearances in which he has given up four hits while striking out eight and walking none. Of the 13 outs he has recorded, all have come either via strikeout (8) or groundball (5).

– For just the fourth time in 21 games, Will Middlebrooks failed to reach base, going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. He has struck out five times in nine plate appearances over his last two games.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-4 LOSS VS. READING (PHILLIES)

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– Right-hander Stolmy Pimentel, who was sidelined for much of spring training by a lat strain, was added to the Portland roster on Saturday and made a strong first start. He allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits (all singles) while striking out seven and walking none. It was just the second time that he did not walk a batter in a Double-A start.

This marks the second straight year in which Pimentel opened the year in Double-A. Friday’s outing was a promising sign for a 22-year-old who went 0-9 with a 9.12 ERA for the Sea Dogs a year ago before his demotion to High-A Salem, where he went 6-4 with a 4.53 ERA. As much as he struggled last year, his stuff was still promising, as Pimentel’s fastball ticked up to the mid-90s (touching as high as 97 mph last year), he still has a swing-and-miss changeup in his pocket and he transitioned from an inconsistent curveball to a slider that he showed greater ability to command. The Sox have long viewed Pimentel as one of their better pitching prospects, and while last year’s setback may have slowed his ETA for the majors, at 22, he is still young enough to remain a prospect.

Several Sox pitchers have struggled, repeated a level and then gone on to enjoy successful careers, including Felix Doubront, Daniel Bard and Clay Buchholz. Those precedents give both the Sox and Pimentel hope for his career going forward.

– Outfielder Bryce Brentz went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, the first time that he collected multiple extra-base hits in a game at the Double-A level. That the two doubles came to center and right suggests that Brentz was able to control his effort level and stay back on the ball to drive it to the opposite field.

– Outfielder Juan Carlos Linares, in his second game back from a groin injury, went 2-for-4 with a homer, his fourth of the year. It was his first multi-hit game since April 13.

– Third baseman Kolbrin Vitek went 0-for-4 with a season-high three strikeouts. In his last six games, he is 3-for-25 with seven strikeouts.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 7-2 WIN VS. CAROLINA (INDIANS)

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– Right-hander Brandon Workman needed just 61 pitches (44 strikes) to work six shutout innings in which he gave up three hits, walked none and struck out four.

– Catcher Christian Vazquez continued his strong run of recent play, going 1-for-2 with his first homer of the season along with a pair of walks. The homer came against a lefty, and in 19 plate appearances this year against southpaws, Vazquez is now hitting .385/.526/.692/1.219, with five of his six walks and two of his four extra-base hits coming against lefties. Against righties, he is hitting for average (.283) but has yet to show patience (.292 OBP) or power (.326 slugging) this year.

Jackie Bradley Jr. reached base two more times, going 1-for-4 with a double and a walk. That actually dropped his OBP to .471.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-0 LOSS AT DELMARVA (ORIOLES)

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– Left-hander Miguel Pena continued his strong start at Greenville, tossing 4 2/3 shutout innings while allowing just two hits, striking out six (a season-high) and walking one. He has shown no reservations about attacking the strike zone. In four starts, Pena has 17 strikeouts and three walks in 19 1/3 innings en route to a 2.33 ERA.

– Catcher Blake Swihart, a first-round pick in the 2011 draft, went 0-for-4 to drop his average to .190 with a .278 OBP, .302 slugging mark and .580 OPS. While those numbers are less than impressive, it is worth noting that Swihart appears to be having competitive at-bats, given that he has walked eight times and struck out just 10 in 72 plate appearances.

– Shortstop Jose Vinicio went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts and is now 0-for-13 in his last four games, dropping his average to .220 in the process.

Read More: andrew miller, bryce brentz, mark melancon, Stolmy Pimentel
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