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Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes is moving up and Jose Iglesias is struggling

04.30.12 at 10:26 am ET
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Matt Barnes

Right-hander Matt Barnes was promoted to Salem on Monday. (John Corneau / Lowell Spinners)

On Sunday, for the first time, Matt Barnes gave up a run as a professional. It took five starts and it was not until his 27th inning of work that it occurred, but it happened.

The right-hander permitted three hits (all singles), walked none and struck out eight in 5 2/3 innings against Lakewood. (Josh Norris, who covers the Trenton Thunder, chronicled all eight strikeouts with video here.) However, the lone run that he permitted was hardly the sort of thing to convince the Single-A South Atlantic League that the 2011 first-round pick is stumbling. It came in the sixth inning, when Barnes allowed a leadoff single and then came back to punch out the next hitter and get a force out before being lifted when he reached his pitch limit. The first run allowed by Barnes, then, was via an inherited runner (on first base with two outs) who came around to score against a member of the bullpen.

The betrayal by his bullpen notwithstanding, Barnes was once again dominant, as he has been in every outing he has made this year. In his five starts, he has allowed no more than three hits, no more than one run and he has struck out at least seven batters each time he has taken the mound. The UConn product now has a 2-0 record, 0.34 ERA, 42 strikeouts and four walks in 26 2/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .130 against him. He leads the South Atlantic League in virtually every pitching category, and he set a Greenville Drive record for the most consecutive shutout innings (26 2/3) before finally being charged with a run.

And so, it came as little surprise that Barnes was promoted on Monday from Greenville to High-A Salem. He is moving up the ladder a bit faster than some other notable Sox pitching prospects in their first pro seasons, most notably Casey Kelly (9) and Anthony Ranaudo (10), but there simply wasn’t much left to prove for a pitcher who was dominating opponents with a mid-90s fastball, swing-and-miss curve and a change that he had incorporated with increasing frequency. Now, the 21-year-old right-hander will compete against more advanced hitters in the Carolina League, a league that is more laden with top draftees out of college.

There, perhaps Barnes will be tested in a way that he was not while with Greenville. It is the first of what the Red Sox hope will be many promotions to come.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 LOSS AT COLUMBUS (INDIANS)

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There was immense buzz and promise surrounding Jose Iglesias all spring, and with good reason. His defense, of course, was dazzling, but he also showed intriguing progress at the plate. He was squaring up balls (fastballs, to be sure) with greater authority than he’d shown before, in part because he was showing better-than-ever pitch selection.

Coming off a challenging 2011 season in Triple-A Pawtucket in which Iglesias hit .235/.285/.269/.554 as a 21-year-old, this seemed like a fresh start. But in the season’s first month — admittedly, a time when players struggle for any number of reasons, including the colder weather after spring training — it hasn’t quite played out that way.

On Sunday, Iglesias went 0-for-5, and is now hitting .185 with a .264 OBP, .198 slugging mark and .461 OPS. He could be on the cusp of concluding his worst statistical month as a pro, as his average would be easily the lowest of his pro career (his previous mark was a .220 average last June) and his OPS would fall below his previous low-water mark of .488 last June. That said, his eight walks this April represent the most for any single turn of the calendar and his four steals match a career-high for a month.

– First baseman Mauro Gomez went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, and he now ranks second in the International League in extra-base hits (15), third in slugging (.690) and sixth in OPS (1.079).

Nate Spears, in his first game back with Pawtucket since being designated for assignment after a brief major league callup, went 3-for-5 with a double.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-2 LOSS VS. READING (PHILLIES)

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– Left-hander Chris Hernandez continued to enjoy steady success at the start of his career. He allowed one run on six hits (all singles) while striking out three and walking none in 5 2/3 innings, and he elicited 11 groundball outs. In each of his last four starts, he has pitched at least five innings while allowing one or zero runs, a stretch during which he has a 0.83 ERA. In 30 professional starts, he has allowed three or fewer runs 26 times.

Oscar Tejeda went 2-for-4 with his second homer in five games, though he also struck out twice and has walked just once in his last 47 plate appearances.

Juan Carlos Linares went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks. His single in the sixth inning broke up a no-hitter. His first walk of the game (in the fourth inning) also represented the first baserunner of the contest for Portland, and ended a streak of 29 2/3 innings without a walk by Reading starter Travis Cloyd. On the year, Linares has more walks (11) than strikeouts (9) while forging a .462 OBP.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 8-3 WIN VS. CAROLINA (INDIANS)

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Sean Coyle matched a season high with three hits (in five at-bats), including a double, and he also swiped a pair of bases.

Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2-for-4 with a walk to nudge his OBP up to .479, second in the Carolina League. He also stole a pair of bases and now is second in the Carolina League in that category as well. Also of note: The left-handed-hitting Bradley is enjoying consistent success against both righties (.370/.479/.463/.942) and lefties (.368/.480/.579/1.059).

Keith Couch did not allow an earned run in 6 1/3 innings, allowing four hits, walking two and striking out five. The 22-year-old has punched out 28 and walked six in 26 1/3 innings this year. He became the fifth straight Salem starter to wear the same pair of pants.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 7-3 LOSS AT LAKEWOOD (PHILLIES)

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Keury De La Cruz tripled for the second straight game, and he now has nine extra-base hits — three homers, three triples and three doubles — this year. After going 2-for-4, he is hitting .312/.376/.545/.922. In his last 10 games, he is hitting .405/.444/.762/1.206, and eight of his extra-base hits have come in this stretch.

Blake Swihart went 0-for-4, and his third straight hitless game gave him season numbers of .179/.260/.284/.543. Against left-handers, the switch-hitter (whose natural swing is right-handed) is just 2-for-23 (.087) with a .207 OBP and no extra-base hits. But he has four walks and just three strikeouts against southpaws, and on Sunday, he delivered a sac fly against a lefty. Overall, his eight walks against 11 strikeouts this year suggest a 19-year-old who is not being overmatched at a full-season affiliate despite his unimpressive numbers.

Read More: blake swihart, chris hernandez, jackie bradley jr., jose iglesias Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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