|Red Sox minor league roundup: Will Middlebrooks is in line to join the Red Sox, but is Andrew Miller?||05.02.12 at 10:22 am ET|
After a month in the spotlight in Triple-A Pawtucket, Will Middlebrooks may be ready for his closeup.
With third baseman Kevin Youkilis having been sidelined for the last three games by a stiff back, the Red Sox’ top prospect likely would have been in line for his call-up on Tuesday, but a minor thumb issue (he jammed the digit while swinging over the weekend) resulted in Middlebrooks sitting out of Monday’s game, and the Sox wanted to verify that he was fine before a possible promotion. That led to the decision to add Jose Iglesias to the big league roster on Tuesday to provide infield depth behind Mike Aviles and Nick Punto.
Middlebrooks returned to the Pawtucket lineup and went 0-for-4 on Tuesday, but was deemed healthy. And so, the 23-year-old is now available for a recall and could receive a summons to the majors as soon as Wednesday, pending a determination about the health of Youkilis, according to an industry source. Assuming that Youkilis remains sidelined, it appears likely that Middlebrooks — who is hitting .333 with a .380 OBP, .677 slugging mark and 1.057 OPS, along with nine homers in 24 games — will be in line for his first major league summons.
Middlebrooks told WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan Show on Tuesday morning that he’s ready if called upon.
“Personally, I’d love to say yeah, I am [ready],” Middlebrooks said. “I came in here with a sense of urgency. I wanted to come in and show everybody that I’m a good player, and that it wasn’t just a freak year last year.”
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 8-3 LOSS AT TOLEDO (TIGERS)
– While the opt-out clock for Aaron Cook has been a focal point, the rehab clock for left-hander Andrew Miller is also close to expiring. His 30-day rehab assignment concludes on May 6, at which point the Red Sox will have to make a decision about whether to call him up. He had one of the most dominant outings of his stint in Pawtucket on Tuesday, striking out five (while walking two) in two innings. He punched out all three left-handers whom he faced.
Miller remains as puzzling as ever. He has been overpowering when in the strike zone, striking out 22 in 10 innings while limiting opponents to a .113 average. However, he has walked 13.
The reality is that he is too talented for the Sox to give up on him. There is a chance that Miller could become a pitcher like Matt Thornton, a towering lefty with lightning stuff but drastic command issues. Thornton walked well over six batters per nine innings in the majors and minors between ages 26 and 28, but after an organizational change (a move from the Mariners to the White Sox) paired him with Chicago pitching coach Don Cooper, he emerged as a dominant left-handed power arm. Since 2006 (his age 29 season), Thornton has 10.0 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings.
Miller has the stuff to follow a similar transformation, but the reality is that Thornton represents an atypical case of a pitcher who was able to find his command after enduring severe challenges on that front early in his career. Still, the upside of Miller remains undeniable, and outings such as Wednesday’s reinforce that point, underscoring why you don’t walk away from a player of his ability.
– Alex Wilson made his third relief appearance, allowing two runs on three hits (all singles) and a walk while striking out one. He threw exactly half of his pitches (14 of 28) for strikes. In three outings out of the bullpen, Wilson has now been touched for three runs on five hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings while striking out two. His most recent relief appearances came on three days and two days of rest.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: RAINOUT VS. TRENTON (YANKEES)
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 9-5 LOSS AT WILMINGTON (ROYALS)
– Jackie Bradley Jr. had done almost everything in High-A Salem. Almost.
But through his first 21 games, he had yet to hit a homer. Asked about the drought on Tuesday afternoon, the center fielder laughed.
“I’m ready,” he said.
Indeed he was. Hours later, Bradley led off Wednesdays’ game with a homer to center field, his first in Salem. His 2-for-5 performance with a homer and a double continued what has been a tremendous start to Bradley’s first full year of pro ball in which he has shown everything that the Sox wanted to see. The center fielder has delivered what farm director Ben Crockett called “incredible” defense, as well as an advanced approach in which he has been working deep into counts (often getting to two strikes) while spraying line drives and taking his walks. He’s also swiped eight bases. And now, with his homer, he has filled up every back-of-the-baseball-card checkbox in his first four weeks of the season.
Though Bradley struck out twice on Tuesday, his first month of 2012 has been as impressive as that of any position player in the system. He is hitting .361 with a .462 OBP, .518 slugging mark, .980 OPS, one homer, eight doubles, a triple and eight steals.
– Xander Bogaerts likewise continued his terrific start to 2012. His numbers do not match those of Bradley, but given that he is 19 years old in a league dominated by players who were drafted out of college, they shouldn’t. Bogaerts went 2-for-4 and slammed his third homer of the year, and he is hitting .289/.366/.506/.872.
– For the first time since Aug. 18, 2010, Michael Almanzar homered and walked in the same game. The third baseman has significant power potential but his approach remains suspect. So far this year, he’s shown significant improvement in Salem. After hitting .182/.223/.245/.469 in 61 games in Salem last year (a performance that resulted in a demotion to Greenville), he is posting marks of .277/.319/.446/.765 this year. The 21-year-old’s three walks in 69 plate appearances offer a reminder that his approach remains somewhat crude, but this year has nonetheless been one of Almanzar’s more impressive showcases of his potential since at least early 2010.
– Sean Coyle reached base multiple times for the third straight game, going 2-for-5 with a double.
– Brandon Jacobs had his third straight two-hit game, also going 2-for-5 with a double.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: OFF
– Jose Iglesias was called up on Tuesday, and while his numbers suggest that he struggled in April in Pawtucket, Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett suggested that the shortstop has made significant strides so far this season that aren’t necessarily reflected in his statistics.
– Tim Britton of the Providence Journal returned to his native lands in order to author this excellent look at Red Sox pitching phenom Matt Barnes, with input from both Ray Fagnant (the Red Sox area scout who signed Barnes) and a scout. From the story:
“One thing that separated him for me is he had a big power curveball; he could really spin it,” Fagnant said. “We see a lot of guys that throw hard and don’t have any secondary stuff. He had that power curveball.”
“They’ve both got a chance to be good,” a scout who’s seen Barnes twice this season said of his curve and change. “The curveball can be a plus pitch for him, the changeup can be solid-average for him down the road. He’s just got to repeat them better.”
– Aaron Cook, whom the Sox did not call up by midnight on Tuesday but who appears likely to be brought up to the big leagues in the coming days, discussed the possibility of pitching out of the Red Sox bullpen with PawSox play-by-play man Aaron Goldsmith.
– Former Sox prospect Kyle Weiland, traded to the Astros along with Jed Lowrie for Mark Melancon this offseason, underwent shoulder surgery on Tuesday to address what was believed to be an infection. There is no timetable for the pitcher’s return. Weiland is 0-3 with a 6.62 ERA for the Astros this year, though his most recent start (on April 21, against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw) was the best of his career, as he logged seven innings, allowed three runs and struck out six while walking one.
– In that vein, worth mentioning that Casey Kelly, who got off to a terrific start with the Padres in Triple-A this year, could be back by the end of May after suffering what turned out to be a strained elbow ligament that will not require surgery.
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