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Red Sox Minor League Roundup: The return of Ryan Lavarnway, power hitter; the return of Aaron Cook, pitcher; and Mark Prior is still striking out everyone

06.19.12 at 11:47 am ET
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Ryan Lavarnway hit his seventh homer of 2012 on Monday (AP)

It was a matter of when, not if.

Ryan Lavarnway has been the most consistent power hitter in the Red Sox farm system since his first full pro season in 2009. In his first three minor league seasons, he launched 21, 22 and then 32 homers (the latter total serving as a prelude to a big league stint that resulted in two more longballs) between 2009 and 2011. And so, when he went 26 games and over a month between homers — a span running from April 18 to May 25 — the Red Sox considered it little more than a curiosity rather than a concern, particularly given that his approach at the plate remained typically sound during the stretch.

Any curiosity has now been erased. Lavarnway went 3-for-5 with two doubles and a homer on Monday for Triple-A Pawtucket. Of his seven homers this year, five have come in the past four weeks, a stretch in which he’s ranked with any hitter in the International League. Since May 22, Lavarnway has played in 19 games, hitting .342 (3rd in the International League during that time) with a .424 OBP (4th), .658 slugging mark (3rd) and 1.071 OPS (2nd) while belting five homers. The fact that he’s been putting up those numbers in the first season in which he’s been catching everyday — already, he’s been behind the plate in 51 games, and by next month, he will exceed his career-high of 66 games caught in a season — makes his surge even more impressive.

Lavarnway remains one of the top position prospects with the Red Sox. He’s made continual defensive strides in his time in the organization, and with his recent run, he has underscored the fact that those advances have not come at the expense of the considerable offensive skill that initially put him on the map as a future big leaguer.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 11-7 LOSS AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)

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Aaron Cook, out since May 5 after suffering a major laceration below his right knee, started a minor league rehab assignment, tossing four innings while allowing three runs on seven hits (six singles and a double), striking out three and walking one. Of the nine non-strikeout outs he recorded, six were on grounders and three were in the air. He got up to 66 pitches, with 40 of those registering as strikes.

Mark Prior gave up his first two runs with the PawSox, permitting a two-run homer. However, his outing still represented plenty of promise. First, he inherited a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the seventh inning (after Alex Wilson issued a walk to load them) and promptly struck out the first batter he faced to strand all three of Wilson’s runners. Then, after issuing a walk and permitting a homer to open the eighth, he struck out each of the next three hitters (one looking, two swinging) to continue a remarkable stretch during which 19 of the 24 outs he’s recorded in Triple-A have been by strikeout. Finally, for the first time this year, his appearance came after just one day of rest. In other words, despite the fact that he allowed a run, there were some checkmarks in boxes that suggested he is getting closer to the point where a big league callup could become realistic if the Sox have a need at the major league level.

Alex Wilson, for the first time in his move to relief, issued multiple walks. He allowed a hit and walked two while seeing another batter reach on an error as he gave up two runs (one earned) in 2/3 of an inning. He did not strike out a batter.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: OFF

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: OFF

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: OFF

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 2-1 WIN VS. CONNECTICUT (TIGERS)

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Francisco Taveras, a 22-year-old left-hander, struck out a career-high nine while dominating over five innings in which he permitted just one unearned run on three hits. He did not walk a batter, and of the six outs he recorded on contact, five came on groundballs.

– Second baseman Dreily Guerrero, 21, went 2-for-4 with a double, single and two line outs.

Williams Jerez, a toolsy 20-year-old whom the Red Sox tabbed out of New York in the second round of the 2011 draft, went 1-for-4 with a double.

ROOKIE LEVEL GCL RED SOX: 3-2 LOSS VS. GCL RAYS

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– Shortstop Cleuluis Rondon was involved in four double plays. Rondon is one of four position players who will play this entire season at age 18 on the team, joining fellow middle infielder Deiner Lopez and outfielder Shaq Thompson.

– Third baseman Nick Moore went 1-for-3 with a walk. Moore was taken in the 30th round of the 2011 draft but signed with the Sox for a bonus in line with the MLB slot recommendation for a third-round pick.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 3-2 WIN VS. DSL MARLINS

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Victor Ramirez, a 17-year-old right-hander from Venezuela, allowed one unearned run in four innings while striking out three and walking none. He’s been an effective strike-thrower early in the DSL season, having struck out seven and walked none in 10 1/3 innings, forging a 0.87 ERA in the process.

– Shortstop Raymel Flores went 1-for-3 while walking three times. The 17-year-old switch hitter has an .870 OPS, second on the team, along with a .268 average, .388 OBP and .482 slugging mark.

Read More: aaron cook, cleuluis rondon, deiner lopez, dreily guerrero
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