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Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Brandon Workman works in the cutter; Stolmy Pimentel gets his W; Bryce Brentz powers up

05.10.12 at 12:41 pm ET
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In his junior season at Texas, Brandon Workman discovered a cool new toy. The big, hard-throwing right-hander developed a cutter than simply overpowered college opponents for most of the year. It was his go-to pitch in a year that saw him go 12-2 with a 3.35 ERA before the Red Sox took him in the second round of the 2010 draft.

But the cutter is viewed as something of a trick pitch in the lower minors. Most young ballplayers have never seen a good cutter, making it easy to fall in love with for a pitcher, who can simply overpower opponents with it. For that reason, the Sox typically discourage its use — if not outright prohibiting it — at the earliest developmental stages, since they want their pitchers to develop the rest of their arsenals.

So, the Sox didn’t let Workman throw his cutter through the first half of his first pro season in Greenville, instead wanting him to employ his fastball, curve and change. Once he showed development with those pitches — particularly the curve — the Sox let Workman start working his cutter into the mix in the middle of last season, around July, in limited doses. This year, the team is letting him throw it more freely, and the .213 opponents batting average, strikeout an inning rate and groundball rate all suggest a pitcher who has a mix of pitches that is allowing him to thrive in the Carolina League.

“We’ve seen the breaking ball really come on last year, and that’s continued this year. It’s been a really good pitch for him. Now, having the cutter/slider, whatever it is, in addition to that, gives him a really nice mix,” said farm director Ben Crockett. “He’s pitched really well with his fastball, curveball and changeup. That cutter has been his third or fourth pitch, which is pretty good when your third or fourth pitch is as good as his cutter.”

On Wednesday, Workman allowed just two hits (a double and a single) in 4 2/3 innings while allowing two runs. Though he struggled with his command (four walks), he was overpowering when in the strike zone, as evidenced by his eight strikeouts, the second most of his professional career. In four starts in Salem, Workman now has 22 strikeouts and five walks in 21 innings along with a 3.00 ERA. He’s shown interesting steps forward in his pitch mix since making his pro debut in Greenville last year. While he has been brought along relatively slowly, spending all of last year in Greenville (atypical of a pitcher of his college pedigree at a national powerhouse), his mix could allow him to advance more aggressively going forward.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-2 WIN VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS)

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Jose Iglesias went 2-for-5 with a pair of singles and two strikeouts to lift his season average to .250 with an OBP of .322 and OPS of .609. That represents across-the-board improvement from last year, when he hit .235/.285/.269/.554. Because Iglesias will likely never hit for more than modest gap power, the on-base figure is the key index of his progress. If he can eventually become a player capable of a .320 OBP or better in the majors, then in the context of a position where the current major league average is .254 with a .307 OBP, .369 slugging mark and .676 OPS, he’ll be an above-average big league shortstop given his glove.

That said, it was interesting to note that, according to multiple reports out of Kansas City, it was Pedro Ciriaco who traveled to join the Sox on Wednesday for a potential addition to the roster in case Will Middlebrooks was unavailable to play. In 16 games, Ciriaco is hitting .359 with a .386 OBP, .469 slugging mark and .854 OPS.

Lars Anderson went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk, and though he’s hit just one homer this year, he now is tied for second in the International League with 10 doubles, including five in his last five games.

Mark Melancon worked around a pair of singles in the ninth inning to record another scoreless inning while earning his second save in Pawtucket. He punched out two but, for the first time in his Triple-A stint, recorded an out that was neither a strikeout nor a groundball, as the final out of the game was a line out. Still, in 9 2/3 innings, he has a 0.00 ERA, 17 strikeouts and no walks, giving him more strikeouts without a walk than any other pitcher in Triple-A.

Justin Germano remains the most consistent starter on the PawSox. He allowed two runs in six innings while striking out five and walking two. He has allowed two or fewer runs while pitching five or more innings in all seven of his starts, and he’s now 4-1 with a 2.29 ERA

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-4 WIN VS. NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS)

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Bryce Brentz seemingly is starting to figure out Double-A. He went 2-for-4 and, for the second straight day, slugged a homer, this time going deep to center field. Indeed, he hit the ball to all fields — the homer to center, a single to left, a flyout to right, a strikeout to the catcher — in a fashion that suggests that he is starting to recognize pitches and react to them rather than trying to force the outcomes of his at-bats. That approach was characteristic of Brentz last year, and recently, it is an approach that has started to reappear in Portland. In his last eight games, Brentz is hitting .367 with a .387 OBP, .677 slugging, two homers and four doubles. Though he’s walked just once in the 31 plate appearance stretch, he’s also struck out just seven times, suggesting that he’s doing a better job of recognizing the pitches he can damage and then making solid contact with them. The 2010 sandwich-round pick is still hitting just .243 with a .283 OBP, .393 slugging mark and .676 OPS for the year, but there is evidence that he is adapting to more experienced competition.

— In the 18th try, it happened. Stolmy Pimentel had made 17 previous starts in Double-A, going 0-9 in that time. He’d shown considerably better performances in his first two outings of 2012 with Portland than he did in 15 starts a year ago, when he went 0-9 with a 9.12 ERA en route to a demotion to Salem. Still, a win had eluded him.

And so, on Wednesday, the right-hander achieved something of a milestone. He tossed six innings, scattered five hits, permitted two runs (one earned) and finally secured his first victory in Double-A. Though he struck out just one, he also issued only one walk, showing a willingness to pound the strike zone and pitch to contact (while eliciting 11 groundball outs) in a fashion that he never did a year ago. In three starts, Pimentel has a 4.11 ERA that is somewhat misleading, since he’s essentially had just one bad inning in Portland.

He has struck out 11 and walked three in 15 1/3 innings, and is offering evidence that he’s ready to move forward after his step backwards a year ago. He is still just 22, and he has three pitches — a fastball that can touch the mid- to high-90s, a slider and a changeup — with the potential to be big league average to above average offerings. And so, the early returns on 2012 suggest that he once again looks like a prospect.

Juan Carlos Linares continued his season-long assault on the Eastern League, going 3-for-4 with two doubles. He’s now hitting .358 with a .432 OBP, .589 slugging mark and 1.022 OPS along with 12 extra-base hits in 27 games.

Heiker Meneses was back in the lineup for the first time since April 28, when he suffered a shoulder injury. The 20-year-old went 2-for-3 while playing second base.

— Shortstop Derrik Gibson, who recently endured an 0-for-28 drought over seven games, has now hit in two straight contests after going 2-for-3 on Wednesday. Still, he has gone 18 games without an extra-base hit, and he is hitting .191/.265/.213/.479 for the season.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 6-2 WIN VS. POTOMAC (NATIONALS), CALLED AFTER 5 INNINGS

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Travis Shaw had shown an excellent approach and, with 14 extra-base hits, an ability to drive the ball, but through 27 games, he had not gone deep. That changed when he launched a grand slam on Wednesday. With that box on his stat line now checked, Shaw is having one of the more impressive seasons in the system to date, hitting .375 with a .415 OBP, .554 slugging mark and .968 OPS. He’s shown an ability to drive the ball to left-center, something that would play well for him if he is ever able to call Fenway Park his home park.

Jackie Bradley Jr. continued to be the foremost on-base machine in all of professional baseball, going 1-for-2 with a walk to improve his OBP to .504.

Sean Coyle homered for the second time in as many games, and the diminutive second baseman is amidst his best stretch in High-A this year. In his last nine games, he is hitting .314 with a .415 OBP, .571 slugging mark and .986 OPS along with two homers, three doubles and four steals. While his season stats don’t jump off the page (.250/.326/.414/.739), they are significantly more impressive given that, at age 20, he is among the youngest players in the Carolina League and he is seemingly adapting to his level of competition.

Brandon Jacobs went 3-for-3 with a double, and in his last eight games, he’s hitting .375/.400/.531/.931/. Two of the hits came against a left-hander, as Jacobs continued to mash against southpaws. For the year, he’s now hitting .370/.414/.593/1.006 against lefties compared to .250/.291/.338/.628 against right-handers.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: OFF DAY

Read More: Brandon Workman, bryce brentz, sean coyle, Stolmy Pimentel
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