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Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Lars Anderson’s epic blast, Madison Younginer has a strange night

05.30.12 at 9:02 am ET
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What is it like, Lars Anderson was once asked, to put a perfect swing on a baseball and to launch it into another dimension?

“I would describe it as a feeling that’€™s almost not a feeling. It feels so good but you can’€™t describe what it feels like because it doesn’€™t even feel like anything. It doesn’€™t even feel like you hit the ball,” Anderson reflected. “It’€™s just energy. You can feel it.”

On Tuesday night, Anderson had such a moment. The first baseman delivered a jaw-dropping blast, launching a baseball off the McCoy Stadium scoreboard in deep, deep, deep right-center. This was no urban myth. The homer — captured in the video clip below — actually knocked out lights on the scoreboard.

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Anderson went 2-for-4 with a homer, single and walk, matching a career-high with five runs batted in. In his last three games, he is 5-for-11 with three homers, two walks and eight runs batted in, along with one epic blast that offered a feeling of no feeling.

Anderson was once on a rocketing ascent through the minors that seemed to follow the same trajectory as the baseball he demolished on Tuesday. He delivered an elite performance in Single-A in 2007 and then in both High-A and Double-A in 2008. But his career changed gears the next year, the second of three in which he would spend some part in Portland. Similarly, he is now playing his third season in Pawtucket.

He plays a position that typically demands power, and so at 24, Anderson’s prospect status has diminished from that of one of the top up-and-comers in the game — a player with tremendous pitch recognition and strike zone judgment and what seemed like tremendous projectable power — to that of a likely future big leaguer with limitations, including the fact that, to date, he hasn’t put up monster power numbers in the minors. Anderson’s career-high in homers is 18, achieved back in 2008 thanks in part to the absurd hitting conditions in the California League. Last year, he hit 14 homers — a respectable number, but not one that screams “everyday major league first baseman.”

Yet the power potential clearly remains. For years, Sox officials have said that Anderson has tremendous raw power, and that when he puts a perfect swing on a ball and generates backspin, he is able to drive pitches to the nether regions of ballparks. And on Tuesday, Anderson issued a dramatic reminder of that notion, with a blast that longtime PawSox observers suggested had no precedent in the history of the stadium.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 11-8 WIN VS. NORFOLK (ORIOLES)

(BOX)

Ryan Lavarnway matched a season high (achieved twice previously) by reaching base four times, going 3-for-4 with a walk. To this point in 2012, a lot of his line in Pawtucket is similar to what the catcher did a year ago. He’s hitting .274, down slightly but not significantly from his .290 mark of a year ago. His .376 OBP is identical to his on-base percentage last year. He’s walking in 12.7 percent of plate appearances, up slightly from his 11.3 percent last year. His strikeouts are down from 21.3 percent of plate appearances to 16.2 percent, suggesting at-bats in which he’s showing discipline and a sound approach.

In short, about the only thing he’s not doing is demonstrating the skill that sent his prospect stock soaring last year: Hitting for power. Lavarnway was named the top power hitting prospect in the International League by Baseball America last year, when he pulverized Triple-A pitching for 36 extra-base hits (18 homers, 18 doubles), averaging one extra-base knock every 7.3 trips to the plate. This year, he has just 10 extra-base knocks (7 doubles, 3 homers), or one every 17.3 plate appearances.

Given the consistency of his power numbers year after year while coming up in the minors, it is likely a matter of time before Lavarnway starts reaching more distant regions of the park. Still, his .384 slugging mark thus far this year represents a drop of more than 200 points from the eye-popping .612 he posted a year ago in Pawtucket.

– With Jose Iglesias struggling with a stiff back, Pedro Ciriaco might be the top candidate for a call-up should the Sox place Dustin Pedroia on the disabled list. Ciriaco went 2-for-5 on Tuesday, and his season line now sits at .304/.324/.399/.723.

Ross Ohlendorf, in his last start before June 1 (the date by which the Sox must add him to the 40-man roster or else permit him the right to opt-out of his contract), matched season-highs with yields of 10 hits and five runs while lasting just four innings. He struck out five (his second-most strikeouts in a game this year) and walked two. For the year, he is 4-3 with a 4.61 ERA, 37 strikeouts, 15 walks, and a .277 batting average against in 52 2/3 innings.

– For just the second time in his Triple-A stint, Mark Melancon permitted a run. However, the run scored in his second inning of work (the first time since May 2 he’s gone more than one inning), and the rally came on the strength of two singles (one of the infield variety) and a fielder’s choice. He’s given up only two extra-base hits (both doubles) in 75 plate appearances while striking out 26 and walking three batters in 18 2/3 innings.

– It seems worthy of mention that former Red Sox farmhand Lew Ford — a 12th round selection of the Red Sox in 1999 — went 5-for-6. The 35-year-old is hitting .380/.415/.500/.915 in 50 at-bats this year for Norfolk.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: RAINED OUT AT HARRISBURG (NATIONALS)

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: RAINED OUT VS. LYNCHBURG (BRAVES)

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 12-2 LOSS VS. SAVANNAH (METS)

(BOX)

Madison Younginer had his worst start of the year, matching a season-high in earned runs allowed (four) while giving up a season-high eight hits and six walks and matching a season-low by striking out two batters and getting knocked out after 4 1/3 innings, ending a streak of six straight starts in which he went at least five innings. Yet as bad as the line looked, seven of the eight hits were singles, six of those singles were on groundballs and Younginer got one groundball after another, recording nine outs in that fashion without a single flyball or line drive out. Younginer has gotten 2.52 groundouts per flyball out this year, the second best mark in the South Atlantic League, but one that makes him highly dependent on his defense at a level where infielders are often struggling to learn their craft and infields can be hazardous. In other words, while Younginer’s 1-5 record and 5.17 ERA seemingly suggest struggle, he’s likely been better than those numbers, given his respectable strikeout rate (7.5 per nine innings) and high groundball rates.

Blake Swihart extended his season-long hitting streak to seven games, going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. In his last 10 games, the switch-hitter is hitting .385/.442/.564/1.006 with four doubles, a homer and four walks. Tuesday marked his first career game with multiple extra-base hits.

Boss Moanaroa went 3-for-5 with two doubles to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. He is now hitting .298/.436/.440/.876, with the .436 OBP ranking third in the South Atlantic League. During his hitting streak, the 20-year-old is hitting .422/.525/.622/1.148 with a homer and six doubles.

– On a night when the Sand Gnats featured only right-handed pitchers, Garin Cecchini went 2-for-4, improving to .361/.440/.549/.989 on the year against right-handed pitchers. Against southpaws, Cecchini is hitting .200/.294/.217/.511.

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