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Red Sox Minor League Roundup: A first for Matt Barnes; Ryan Kalish, Travis Shaw keep mashing

06.10.12 at 10:24 am ET
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Matt Barnes was in uncharted territory in his pro career.

He hadn’t thrown more than six innings in any of his previous 11 starts. But after requiring just 72 pitches through the first six innings on Saturday, he returned to the mound for the seventh (and last) inning in the front end of High-A Salem’s doubleheader against the Potomac Nationals. Yet in the seventh, he started to falter.

He allowed back-to-back one-out singles, and then after a strikeout, issued a walk to load the bases, putting the tying run on first base in a game that he led, 3-0. Salem manager Billy McMillon went to the mound for a visit.

“He ran out toward me,” Barnes told MILB.com’s Sam Dykstra. “I saw him get up in the dugout and thought, ‘You can’t pull me now.’ Then he started jogging and I thought, ‘If he’s jogging, he’s obviously not coming out to get me.’ He said, ‘I just want to let you know that this is your last batter.’

“For me, 6 2/3 is like running a marathon and stopping in the last mile. It’s just one of those things where you have to go and finish it.”

Barnes got a groundout to third for his first complete-game and shutout in pro ball. He allowed five hits (four singles and a double) while walking three and striking out five, on a day when he traded pitch efficiency and bad contact for his higher strikeout totals. He’s now logged 13 scoreless innings in his last two starts, and on the year, his 0.93 ERA and 0.80 WHIP (between Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem) are the best in the minors.

The Sox have no immediate plans to promote Barnes to Portland, and the pitcher is not looking ahead to when he might move up a level. That said, he welcomes the idea of taking a fast track to the big leagues.

“If I start thinking about where I’€™m going, when I’€™m going, I’€™m not giving the team 100 percent,” said Barnes. “Obviously, every player in pro ball wants to play in the big leagues. Otherwise they wouldn’€™t be in pro ball. I’€™m trying to be consistent with my mechanics, work on my three-pitch mix and get to Boston as fast as possible.”

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-4 LOSS VS. GWINNETT (BRAVES)

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— The performance of Ryan Kalish after being sidelined for most of the last 14 months is now little short of startling. He went 4-for-5 on Saturday and blasted his third homer in four games in Triple-A. He is 10-for-16 (.625) in Pawtucket with a .714 OBP, 1.313 slugging mark and 2.027 OPS. Against lefties, he is 6-for-9 with two homers and three walks, good for a line of .667/.750/1.444/2.194.

“He swung the bat in extended [spring training], but he hadn’t really swung the bat in a year, so I think there was some feeling out with his swing, just getting used to tracking pitches and getting into game speed,” said farm director Ben Crockett. “As he’s gone to the affiliates, he’s certainly been a lot more comfortable at the plate of late.

“It’s early in his return,” added Crockett. “The biggest thing is just his ability to have quality at-bats and have a pretty good feel for the zone and with his swing after being off for a while. … The power is probably a little more surprising [than the patience and walks], coming back at this rate. Any time a guy is hitting multiple home runs in a couple days, I don’t think you’re expecting that. We’ve been happy with the progress he’s made, he’s feeling good and that’s what we’re focusing on.”

Lars Anderson went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk, continuing a pattern in which virtually everything he’s hit has been for extra bases. Of his 44 hits this year, 21 have been for extra bases. Though he is hitting .256, Anderson has a .381 OBP, .465 slugging mark and .846 OPS.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-1 WIN VS. RICHMOND (GIANTS)

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Chris Hernandez matched a career-long by working seven innings in which he allowed no runs, scattered four singles, issued three walks and struck out four. Hernandez has a 2.88 ERA that ranks ninth in the Eastern League. His fastball is typically in the high-80s and perhaps touches the low-90s, and so it is not an offering that gets a lot of swings and misses. But the movement on his fastball is such that it is extremely difficult to square up and results in regular bad contact. Opponents have just 17 extra-base hits against him (four homers, or one in roughly every 17 innings) this year, with a .249 average and .352 slugging mark.

Bryce Brentz, after a scorching May and early-June, is struggling. After going 0-for-3 with a pair of punchouts on Saturday, he is now 2-for-18 with 10 strikeouts in his last five contests.

Reynaldo Rodriguez went 2-for-2 with a homer. His 12 homers rank second in the Eastern League, as does hit .553 slugging percentage.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 3-0 WIN, 6-1 LOSS AT POTOMAC (NATIONALS)

(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)

Travis Shaw continued his fascinating season. He went 2-for-7 with a homer in each half of the doubleheader, and he’s now crushed nine homers on the season. Members of the Sox organization rave about his ability to stay back behind the ball so that he can drive it to all fields. Because he rarely is reaching in front of the plate at the point of contact, his balance remains intact, permitting him to make consistently excellent contact while also commanding the strike zone. On the year, he’s hitting .325 (5th in the Eastern League) with a .411 OBP (5th), .573 slugging percentage (2nd) and .984 OPS (3rd). Since May 26, he’s hit eight homers in 18 games, the third most home runs in the minors in that span. At 22, the sweet-swinging lefty is performing at a level that vastly exceeds the typical expectations for a 2011 ninth-rounder.

Moreover, while he’s played just three games at third base this year, the Red Sox believe that he has good athleticism for first base and that the conversation remains open about his ability to play third. As such, the organization plans to look for opportunities to give him more playing time on the opposite side of the diamond. If he can demonstrate defensive versatility, it would continue to improve his prospect stock.

Michael Almanzar went 3-for-6 with a double, and in 56 games this year, he now has as many extra-base hits (22) as he did in 111 games in Salem and Greenville a year ago. The third baseman is hitting .303/.338/.444/.783 with three homers and 19 doubles.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 11-7 LOSS AT HICKORY (RANGERS)

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Mickey Pena, who was skipped in his previous turn in the rotation in order to get extra rest (a common practice in the minor leaguers, particularly for pitchers in their first full pro seasons), had his worst statistical line as a pro, allowing five earned runs (a career high) in four innings (his shortest outing of the year). He allowed eight hits (three doubles) while striking out two and walking none.

Drew Turocy went 2-for-4, and is now hitting .500 (16-for-32) during an eight-game hitting streak.

Lucas LeBlanc went 1-for-4 with his second homer in as many days, giving him three in 28 games this year — or two more than the 23-year-old had in 61 games in Greenville a year ago.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 4-1 WIN VS. DSL PIRATES

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Keivin Heras, a 17-year-old from Venezuela, tossed five shutout innings in which he allowed just two hits, walked one and struck out four. In two starts this year, the 6-foot-1 right-hander has thrown eight scoreless innings.

Manuel Margot went 2-for-3 with a triple and drove in three runs. He now has three multi-hit contests in seven games this year, and his 13 RBI top the DSL.

Read More: bryce brentz, keivan heras, Lucas Leblanc, matt barnes
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