|Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Matt Barnes dominates; Daniel Bard takes a step forward; Jackie Bradley (kind of) slumps||06.15.12 at 7:55 am ET|
The absurd dominance of Matt Barnes in his debut season can be encapsulated thusly: By allowing one run in five innings on Thursday, his ERA went up.
For the year, in 13 starts between Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem, Barnes has a 0.99 ERA, still the lowest mark in all of professional baseball. In eight starts since his promotion to Salem, the 21-year-old (he turns 22 on Sunday) has a 1.37 ERA.
On Thursday, he punched out nine and walked just one while allowing just two hits. On the year, he is averaging 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings, including 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings since his promotion.
The fact that he has been one of the foremost strikeout pitchers in the minors this year reflects a somewhat fascinating development, given that he did not necessarily qualify for such a designation at UConn. A year ago, for instance, he punched out 117 batters in 121 innings — a solid number, to be sure, but some scouts wondered why, while pitching in the Big East, he didn’t put up even bigger strikeout totals while working off of his mid-90s fastball and curveball.
So why the bigger strikeout totals now? Evaluators have seen a sharper curveball that wasn’t always present in his junior year as well as better ability to spot the fastball and blow it past hitters in the strike zone. Barnes has his own ideas.
“My mechanics are a little more consistent. I’m able to spot the fastball a little better, more often, I think. I think the secondary pitches, I’ve had to throw them a little more now and I’ve been using them effectively,” said Barnes. “The change from metal bats to wood bats allows you to throw inside a little bit more. You’re more confident throwing inside because you know if you make your pitch, then more often than not, guys aren’t going to get a good swing on it. In college, with metal bats, throw inside and guys get jammed, they can still get a hit. I’m just trying to attack the zone a little more now and mix pitches a little bit.”
Clearly, the formula is working.
Shameless self-promotion: Barnes will be a guest on “Down on the Farm” on Sunday morning, a weekly radio show on WEEI (airing Sunday’s from 8:30-9 a.m.) looking at the Red Sox minor league system.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-0 WIN AT BUFFALO (METS)
– Daniel Bard had his best outing since being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, tossing two scoreless innings in which he did not permit a hit, walked one and struck out four. The right-hander, who came in as a reliever for the start of the bottom of the seventh inning, walked the first batter he faced, but immediately erased him with a groundball double play. He then got a strikeout looking to end the seventh before striking out all three batters he faced swinging in the eighth.
According to PawSox play-by-play man Aaron Goldsmith, Bard topped out at 94 mph. Of his three swing-and-miss strikeouts, two came on breaking balls, the last on a fastball.
“I felt good,” Bard told the Providence Journal. “It was definitely a step in the right direction for me. It definitely built some confidence and stuff for my main two pitches [fastball and slider]. It’s nice to have the results to match how I felt out there.”
In three outings with the PawSox, Bard has allowed four runs in as many innings while striking out eight and walking two.
– The power is starting to come with greater frequency for Ryan Lavarnway. The catcher went 1-for-3 with a homer (his sixth) and a walk, improving his line to .285 with a .376 OBP, .435 slugging mark and .812 OPS this year. After hitting just two homers in his first 37 games this year, he now has four in his last 13, including three in nine games in June. This month, he’s hitting .351 with a .405 OBP, .676 slugging mark and 1.080 OPS.
– Right-hander Doug Mathis tossed six shutout innings while allowing just three hits and one walk, notching three strikeouts. In his last seven starts, Mathis has a 3.28 ERA thanks to three outings in which he has pitched at least six shutout innings. In that same stretch, he has five starts of six or more innings while permitting two or fewer runs.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 2-0 LOSS AT BOWIE (ORIOLES)
– Chris Hernandez continued to perform as one of the more consistent pitchers in the Red Sox system. Though he suffered the loss on a day when his teammates managed just one hit, the left-hander tossed six innings while allowing two runs on six hits (all singles) with two walks and one strikeout while getting 12 groundball outs. He has now pitched at least five innings in all 13 of his starts in Double-A this year. He has allowed two or fewer runs in nine of those starts.
Hernandez pitches to contact. He’s had fewer strikeouts than innings pitched in all but one of his outings. He’s striking out just 4.9 per nine innings. But with an across-the-board arsenal of pitches that move all over the place, opponents simply struggle to square him up. He’s given up just four homers in 74 2/3 innings (none in his last three starts), and his 1.85 groundout-to-flyout ratio is the eighth-best in the Eastern League.
– Oscar Tejeda went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, and in his last four games, he’s now 0-for-17 with five whiffs, dropping his year-long numbers to .250/.287/.381/.668.
– Portland has now gone 21 straight innings without scoring a run.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 4-3 WIN VS. CAROLINA (INDIANS)
– Jackie Bradley Jr., for the first time this year, is in a stretch that looks sort of like a slump. He went 0-for-4 (with no walks) on Thursday, and he is now 0-for-8 (with four walks) in his last three games. In his last nine contests, he is 6-for-28, hitting .214 with a .389 OBP, .214 slugging mark and .603 OPS. That said, he did drive in a run with a groundout on Thursday.
– Heiker Meneses continued to perform well in his demotion to High-A Salem, going 2-for-2 with a walk, stealing a base and driving in a pair of runs. In four contests with Salem, he’s now 6-for-12 with a walk and two doubles.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-3 LOSS, 6-1 LOSS AT AUGUSTA (GIANTS)
– Left-hander Miguel Pena tossed five shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out five. It marked just the second outing this year in which Pena has issued more than one walk. On the year, he has 64 strikeouts and 10 walks in 61 1/3 innings.
– Drew Turocy went 3-for-5 in the two games of the two games of the doubleheader, and he’s now hitting an even .400 (with a .430 OBP and .505 slugging mark) through 27 games in Greenville.
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 12-1 LOSS AT DSL METS
– Second baseman Andres Garcia, 18, went 3-for-3 with a double and a steal.
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