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Red Sox Minor League roundup: Could Red Sox add Aaron Cook as a sixth starter?

04.29.12 at 11:08 am ET
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It is, Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure told reporters, a good problem to have. Both Felix Doubront and Daniel Bard have looked very promising in the rotation, and so there is certainly no rush to replace either. Meanwhile, Aaron Cook has been terrific in his minor league stint with Triple-A Pawtucket. After allowing three runs in 6 1/3 innings on Saturday, he has a 1.89 ERA in his five starts for the PawSox.

Cook looks like someone who can help a big league rotation right now. But it remains to be seen how he could squeeze into the Red Sox rotation, barring a move of Doubront or Bard to the bullpen. And now, Cook has a May 1 opt-out of the minor league contract he signed this winter (with a $1.5 million big league salary) that looms should the Sox not call him up by Tuesday.

McClure told reporters that Cook’s shoulder has been healthy enough that a bullpen role might be a possibility, but as of yet, there have been no substantive conversations between the pitcher and club about pitching in relief. Indeed, given his past shoulder woes, while the Sox will discuss the possibility of adding Cook to the ‘pen (a pitcher with excellent groundball rates could be an interesting asset in situations with runners on base), the team might be disinclined to do so out of concern for the right-hander’s health.

One consideration worth noting: The Red Sox do have a stretch of 20 games in 20 days that starts on May 4. If there was a time to go to a six-man rotation while keeping the pitching staff on a fairly normal schedule (five days’ rest between starts, with an extra day of rest that could be beneficial as the Sox look to regulate the innings of Bard and Felix Doubront), this would be it.

A decision is looming on the right-hander. While the outcome is unknown, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the only way in which the Sox can add Cook to their major league staff would involve some creativity, either with the structure of the pitching staff or with Cook’s role.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-4 LOSS AT COLUMBUS (INDIANS)

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— In his last minor league outing prior to his May 1 opt-out date, right-hander Aaron Cook allowed five hits (four singles and a double) and three runs in 6 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out a season-high five. Uncharacteristically, the sinkerballer had just five groundball outs.

In five starts in Triple-A, Cook is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA while allowing one homer and holding batters to a .217 average in 33 1/3 innings. He has struck out 13 and walked 11, but more significant than his strikeout numbers is the fact that, Saturday’s outing aside, he recorded groundball outs in volume and showed both solid velocity (up to 92 mph) and excellent movement on his sinker during his minor league assignment that suggested that his shoulder is healthy.

— Left-hander Andrew Miller recorded a pair of strikeouts while allowing a groundball single to left-hander Lonnie Chisenhall. It marked just the second time in 14 plate appearances that a left-handed hitter made contact against Miller in his Triple-A assignment.

— Right-hander Alex Wilson made his second relief appearance, entering in the middle of the eighth inning (the Sox seemingly wanted him to enter with a runner or runners on base for the first time, but a homer led to a bases-empty situation) and recording two quick groundball outs.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 9-1 WIN VS. READING (PHILLIES)

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— Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka had seven strikeouts (all of the swinging variety) while permitting three hits (a triple and two singles), walking two and allowing one run in a rehab start for Double-A Portland. It was the right-hander’s second rehab outing in his return from Tommy John surgery. The Portland Press-Herald reported that his fastball registered as high as 93 mph. Sox manager Bobby Valentine told reporters that the right-hander could be moving up to Pawtucket next.

Bryce Brentz recorded his first steal of the year on a day when he went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk. Though hardly a base-stealing threat (he swiped three bags last year), Brentz did work during the offseason to improve his speed so that he could be a better baserunner.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 3-2 WIN VS. CAROLINA (INDIANS)

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— Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. went 1-for-3 with a double and was hit by a pitch, giving him six straight games of reaching base at least twice. His .473 OBP now leads the Carolina League. Bradley also stole a base, his sixth of the year.

— Right-hander Ryan Pressly allowed two runs on three hits and a walk in six innings while striking out six. Though he has struggled to an 8.87 ERA while repeating at Salem (where he went 6-11 with a 4.50 ERA last year), the right-hander’s stuff is more impressive than his numbers might suggest. Aaron McFarling of the Roanoke Times noted two intriguing aspects of Pressly’s outing on Saturday: First, his last pitch of the night was clocked as a 97 mph fastball. Secondly, he was wearing someone else’s pants.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-5, 12-INNING LOSS AT LAKEWOOD (PHILLIES)

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Keury De La Cruz came up a double shy of the cycle, delivering a single, homer and triple while driving in three. On the year, he is now hitting .301 with a .370 OBP and .521 slugging mark, and his seven walks in 81 plate appearances suggest strides in his plate discipline (he had just 10 walks last year in Lowell in 312 plate appearances). The 20-year-old has shown above-average power for his age, and if he can combine that with strides in his approach, his ensemble of tools makes him an intriguing (albeit little-heralded) prospect. He leads Greenville in average and OPS while ranking second in slugging and extra-base hits (8).

— Right-hander Jason Garcia, in his first start of the year, punched out seven in four innings while allowing one run on one hit. In 17 1/3 innings this year, the 19-year-old has 22 strikeouts.

Read More: aaron cook, alex wilson, andrew miller, jackie bradley jr.
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