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Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Matt Barnes, phenomenon; Bryce Brentz, progressing

05.12.12 at 1:52 pm ET
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At this point, they are becoming events as much as they are starts. When Matt Barnes takes the mound, the eyes of the organization are on him.

Thus far, he has yet to disappoint. The right-hander made his seventh pro start (and second in High-A Salem) on Friday night, and he just kept overpowering hitters. Though he did permit two runs (one earned) — the largest runs total he’s permitted this year — and he was taken deep for the first time as a professional, the 2011 first-rounder (No. 19 overall) struck out eight and walked none in his six innings of work, while filling up the strike zone with an outrageous 75 percent of his pitches (59 of 79).

Barnes leads all of pro baseball — majors and minors — with 62 strikeouts. He’s walked only five. He’s shown a plus fastball (topping out at 98 mph, still reaching 96-97 mph in the later innings of his outings, capable of getting numerous swings and misses) and a plus curveball with a changeup that has a chance to grade as an above-average third offering. In his two starts since being promoted to Salem, he has a 1.50 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 12 innings. Overall this year, between his seven starts in Greenville and Salem, he is 3-0 with a 0.70 ERA, a ton of groundballs and strikeouts and a .153 batting average against.

Chaz Scoggins of the Lowell Sun recently noted the parallels between the professional debuts of Barnes and Roger Clemens. In the intervening almost three decades, it would be difficult to identify another Red Sox prospect who has been so dominant out of the gate in his pro career. That is not to say that Barnes should start clearing spots on his mantle for Cy Young awards, but for an organization that has had several lessons in the limitations of free agency and the trade market in order to acquire quality starting pitching, the fact that Barnes has hit the ground running represents one of the most promising signs that the farm system can offer.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-1 WIN VS. COLUMBUS (INDIANS)

(BOX)

Jose Iglesias went 2-for-4 with a bloop single and a bunt as his season continues its reversal since a slow April. He now has multiple hits in seven of his last nine games, hitting .429 in that stretch to improve his numbers to .259 with a .326 OBP, .293 slugging mark and .619 OPS. He also swiped a base, and is now 5-for-6 in stolen base attempts this year.

Alex Hassan went 0-for-3, marking the second time in three games that he hasn’t reached base. Though Hassan’s average is just .244, his disciplined approach at the plate allows him to draw loads of walks (16 so far), something that helps to explain the fact that his low average hasn’t prevented him from leading current members of the PawSox (at least those with enough plate appearances to qualify for the International League batting title) with a .381 OBP.

Daisuke Matsuzaka will make his next rehab start on Saturday, with manager Bobby Valentine suggesting that the pitcher is getting very close to being ready for big league competition. The biggest remaining issue facing Matsuzaka is the ability to work deeper into games, as he’s topped out at 4 2/3 innings in his three rehab outings. If Matsuzaka needs another rehab start beyond Saturday, it is possible that he could travel with the PawSox next week to Durham, NC, where he might face Hideki Matsui, who is in Triple-A after signing a minor league deal with the Rays.

— The Red Sox have acquired veteran outfielder Scott Podsednik from the Phillies in exchange for cash considerations, according to multiple major league sources. Podsednik will give the Red Sox some left-handed hitting outfield depth in their system, as he will be assigned by the Sox to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The 36-year-old is hitting .203 with a .289 OBP, .216 slugging mark and .505 OPS this year in 22 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. A veteran of parts of 10 years in the big leagues, Podsednik is a career .279/.340/.381/.721 hitter with 301 career steals. He last played in the majors in 2010, when he hit .297/.342/.382/.724 with 35 steals in 134 games. But a foot injury ended his 2010 season prematurely, and another foot injury limited him to 34 minor league games in the Phillies and Blue Jays systems last season.

This year, while he hasn’t been hitting, he has been able to play all three outfield positions. The Sox do not have a comparably versatile left-handed hitting outfielder in their system, so they made the move to achieve some depth.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-2 WIN AT TRENTON (YANKEES)

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Bryce Brentz went 2-for-4 with an opposite-field double to right and a single to left. He’s hit in nine of his last 10 games, including five multi-hit games, with two homers and five doubles with a line of .368/.385/.658/1.043 in that stretch.

“The at-bats have been a lot better. There’s been a big improvement from early in the season,” said farm director Ben Crockett. “He just hadn’t been pitched the way he was being being. Coming off a 31-homer season, he was seeing a large number of breaking balls. That, combined with making the jump to Double-A and trying to make an impression, those things probably led to struggles early on.

“But he’s been working really, really hard and has a good idea of what he’s trying to do up there. The last week or 10 days, the at-bats have been a lot better and we are starting to see some of the results coming through. Even further back, before we were seeing the results, the quality of the at-bat had changed where he wasn’t chasing breaking balls, he was getting in better counts and he was seeing fastballs. Things just weren’t clicking for him. The timing was a little bit off. But the quality of at-bats was better, and now, as he’s regaining his comfort in the box, the results are starting to come as well.”

— Left-hander Chris Hernandez delivered another excellent performance in a season in which he has produced the most consistent lines in the Red Sox system by any pitcher aside from Matt Barnes. Hernandez logged 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits (five singles, a double and a homer). He struck out just two while walking one, but despite the fact that he averages just 4.9 strikeouts per nine innings this year, Hernandez gets consistently poor contact. Opponents have hit just two homers in 38 1/3 innings against him, and the 23-year-old is holding opponents to a .233 batting average, helping to produce his impressive 2.11 ERA this year. While his 6 2/3 innings represented a season high, he’s pitched at least five innings while allowing three or fewer runs in every start (indeed, he’s allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last six starts). Hernandez was considered advanced when the Sox took him as a seventh-round selection out of Miami in 2010, and thus far, he has given every indication that he will be a big league pitcher within the next couple of seasons.

Anthony Ranaudo has now been with Portland for a couple of days, though the date of his first start has not yet been announced. Jon Meoli of SoxProspects.com checked in with the right-hander.

Kolbrin Vitek, playing for just the second time in six days, went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. He’s now whiffed 12 times in his last 37 at-bats over nine games.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-3 WIN AT MYRTLE BEACH (RANGERS)

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— Shortstop Xander Bogaerts went 2-for-7 to produce his first multi-hit game in 10 contests, but he struck out three times and remains (in ipsative terms) in a slump, as he is hitting .200/.300/.229/.529 in his last nine games, with his three punchouts on Friday giving him 10 in that span.

Jackie Bradley Jr. went 1-for-5 with two walks, In reaching base three times, his OBP actually fell to .490. Bradley, who had been successful on 11 of his first 12 stolen base attempts of the season, was gunned down twice on Friday.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 2-1 LOSS AT AUGUSTA, 11-4 WIN AT AUGUSTA

(GAME 1 BOX; GAME 2 BOX)

Keury De La Cruz saw his 12-game hitting streak snapped in Game 1 of the double header, going 0-for-4, but rebounded in a big way in the second contest, going 3-for-5 with a double and a grand slam while driving in six. He is hitting .347/.396/.597/.992 with six homers and 16 extra-base hits.

— Middle infielder Jose Garcia played for the first time since April 16, going 1-for-3. In limited playing time this year, the 21-year-old is hitting .265/.422/.412/.834.

OTHER

The Red Sox have signed Pablo Urena, a 17-year-old catcher, out of Panama. Urena became a catcher just a couple months ago, and the team was impressed with his arm strength at the position. While his defense was considered more advanced than his bat at the time of signing, Murena held his own at the plate in camp games at the team’s Dominican Academy.

Read More: alex hassan, bryce brentz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, jose iglesias
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