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Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Stolmy Pimentel re-establishing prospect status; Bryce Brentz keeps mashing in May

05.20.12 at 8:32 am ET
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Right-hander Stolmy Pimentel tossed six shutout innings in Double-A on Saturday. (AP)

The 2011 season was little short of a disaster for right-hander Stolmy Pimentel. He was battered to the tune of an 0-9 record and 9.12 ERA last year in Double-A Portland, resulting in that cruelest of things in July, a demotion to High-A Salem, a level that Pimentel thought had been left in his rearview mirror.

There, Pimentel was better though still not overpowering. He went 6-4 with a 4.53 ERA, 35 strikeouts and 16 walks in 51 2/3 innings.

The Sox, however, insisted that there was promise in the pitcher’s stuff, if not his results. He showed the best velocity of his career, touching as high as 97 mph, rediscovered a swing-and-miss changeup after he went back to Salem and shelved a curveball in favor of a slider that demonstrated greater promise as a legitimate breaking ball. His pitch mix suggested that he remained one of the better pitching prospects in the Red Sox system, but entering his second year on the 40-man roster in 2012, he needed to start demonstrating the sort of results to match, something that Pimentel himself understood entering the year.

“Last year, I had a bad year. But you have to learn from that,” he said this spring. “I’m not thinking about last year. I’m worried about this year, doing what I need to do to get better and be positive.

“Every day, you have to have a goal. You have to think about progress, not go back,” he continued. “I feel like I’m young. I know I’m going to be growing up. I know I have the stuff. What I need to do is be more focused, more consistent outing to outing, keep in my mind to have really good command of both sides of home plate. When you get that combination, everything will be good.”

Pimentel was slowed in spring training with a lat strain that rendered him unable to begin his season (back in Double-A Portland) until April 27. Since doing so, however, his results have aligned more closely with his stuff than at any point last year.

That continued on Saturday (his first start in 10 days after he’d been skipped in his previous scheduled start due to a minor back issue), as he logged six shutout innings, allowing four hits (three singles and a double) while striking out six and walking two. In four starts in Portland, he now has a 2.95 ERA, 17 strikeouts and just five walks in 21 1/3 innings. He is attacking hitters in a manner that suggests he has recovered the confidence that was nowhere in evidence in Portland a year ago.

“He’s brought a three-pitch mix to the table in each of his starts. He’s throwing a lot of strikes. He’s really gotten ahead and pounded the strike zone. The velocity has been good, up to 96,” Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett observed prior to Pimentel’s most recent start. “He’s come out and really hit the ground running in Portland.”

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 8-4 LOSS AT NORFOLK (ORIOLES)

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– Third baseman Kevin Youkilis went 1-for-4 with a single and a pair of strikeouts. In three rehab games, he is now 3-for-9 with a double, a walk and four strikeouts, having whiffed twice in each of the last two games.

– Reliever Clayton Mortensen made his third scoreless appearance since returning to the minors, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out a batter in two innings. In nine minor league appearances, he’s allowed one run in 15 innings (0.60 ERA), in addition to the 0.96 ERA (1 run in 9 1/3 innings) he produced at the major league level.

– Outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin recorded his third outfield assist of the season, once again showing off one of the strongest outfield arms in the system in recent years. From 2009-11, he recorded 45 assists — 18 in 2009 with High-A Salem, 15 in 2010 with Double-A Portland and 12 in 2011 between Portland and Pawtucket.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-5 LOSS VS. BINGHAMTON (METS)

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–Outfielder Bryce Brentz, after going hitless with two strikeouts in his first three plate appearances, clubbed a homer to center in his fourth trip to the plate. After hitting .216/.266/.318/.584 with just one homer in 94 plate appearances in April, the 2010 supplemental first rounder is hitting .393/.424/.625/1.049 with three homers in 59 plate appearances this month.

– Outfielder Juan Carlos Linares matched a season-high by reaching base four times, going 2-for-3 with a double and two walks.

–First baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez slammed his seventh homer of the month, one shy of the May franchise record of eight set last year by Ryan Lavarnway. Rodriguez has now launched eight homers this year, fourth in the Eastern League, and this month, he has a .700 slugging percentage, second in the Eastern League to Wilkin Ramirez of New Britain.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 1-0 LOSS VS. FREDERICK (ORIOLES)

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– In a game in which Salem had just four hits, Xander Bogaerts accounted for half of them, going 2-for-4 with a pair of singles. It was his fourth two-hit game in his last six contests, though the shortstop — whose prospect stock soared last year by a startling display of power, as he hit 16 homers in 72 games at Single-A Greenville — remains amidst a stretch of 13 straight games in which he has not delivered a single extra-base hit. His .412 slugging mark is still notably better than the .385 league average, however, and so given that he is one of the youngest position players in the league, the stretch currently represents a curiosity rather than something that would detract meaningfully from his prospect status.

– After he pushed his average up as high as .305 on April 27, catcher Christian Vazquez has been in something of an offensive tailspin. He went 0-for-3 on Saturday with two punchouts, his fourth straight game with at least two strikeouts, and since April 28, he is hitting .158/.262/.175/.437 with just one extra-base hit in 66 plate appearances.

–Right-hander Keith Couch, who had been moved from starting to piggyback duty when Matt Barnes was promoted to Salem, was outstanding in his first start since May 4. Couch allowed one run on four hits (including a solo homer) while striking out five and walking one in six innings. For the year, he has 40 strikeouts and nine walks in 43 innings.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 7-3 WIN VS. WEST VIRGINIA (PIRATES)

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– Right-hander Madison Younginer continued a string of performances in which he has been steady rather than dominant. He allowed three runs on six hits (including a solo homer) in 5 1/3 innings, walking three and striking out three. Younginer has pitched at least five innings while allowing four or fewer runs in each of his last five starts.

Boss Moanaroa went 2-for-4 and clubbed his fourth homer of the year while driving in three. His .407 OBP is best on the team, but the 20-year-old first baseman’s power has been inconsistent. He has significant raw power — the foremost tool that convinced the Sox to sign him as a catcher out of Australia as a 16-year-old — but to date, it has rarely shown up in games. He has just seven extra-base hits in 34 games this year.

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