Archive for August, 2012

Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Xander Bogaerts’ baseball IQ, Drake Britton’s finishing kick, Bryce Brentz moves up

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Bryce Brentz moved up to Pawtucket on Thursday. (Jim Allen / Courtesy Portland Sea Dogs)

A quick look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday, entering the final weekend of the regular season throughout the minors . . .

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 1-0 WIN, 3-2 WIN AT GWINNETT COUNTY (BRAVES)

(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)

– Outfielder Bryce Brentz was promoted from Double-A for Thursday’s doubleheader, concluding his tenure in Portland with a .296 average, .355 OBP, .478 slugging mark, .833 OPS and 17 homers. While his power suffered in comparison with his performance in High-A in 2011 (where he blasted 19 homers in just 75 games, compared to 75 in 122 in Portland), he had a higher average (.296 in Double-A compared to .274 in Salem) and OBP (.355 to .336) than in his previous stop last year. Brentz is the headliner of the position players whom the Sox will send to the Arizona Fall League after the season.

In his first two games in Triple-A, Brentz was 0-for-6 with two strikeouts.

– Right-hander Chris Carpenter gave up a run on a hit and a walk in Game 2 of the doubleheader, snapping a string of 11 consecutive scoreless appearances. His ERA in Pawtucket went up to 1.15; opponents are now hitting .137 against him. Carpenter did strike out two batters in his inning of work, giving him 17 punchouts and eight walks in 15 2/3 innings in Triple-A.

– Outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker went 2-for-7 with a pair of doubles (his first two extra-base hits in Triple-A) in the doubleheader. He’s now 3-for-17 with seven strikeouts in four games since his promotion.

Ivan De Jesus Jr. went 3-for-6 with a double in the doubleheader, and he’s hit in all five games since the Sox acquired him from the Dodgers, going 10-for-18 with two walks (.556 average, .600 OBP) in the process.

Billy Buckner tossed a seven-inning, complete game shutout in Game 1 of the double header. Buckner, a few days removed from his 29th birthday, continued an outstanding second-half run. Over his last nine starts, he is 7-2 with a 1.78 ERA, 33 strikeouts and 16 walks in 55 2/3 innings.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-1 LOSS AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

– One of the reasons why the Red Sox are so bullish on the future of Xander Bogaerts is the fact that he has shown the ability to make adjustments with dazzling speed, suggesting a considerable baseball IQ. Obviously, he’s been thrown into the deep end at every level of pro ball where he’s played, having been among the youngest players in his league at every stop. But beyond that, one of the things for which Bogaerts has earned high marks is his ability to adjust quickly to address weaknesses.

Last year, his hitting coach in Greenville, Luis Lopez, described Bogaerts’ precocious understanding of hitting thusly: (more…)

Friday’s Red Sox-Athletics matchups: Aaron Cook vs. Brandon McCarthy

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Aaron Cook

As the starting rotation continues to take form following the trade that sent Josh Beckett to the Dodgers, the Red Sox will send out sinkerballer Aaron Cook for his 13th start of the season as the team begins the second series of its West Coast road trip.

Heading into his sixth start of August, Cook (3-7, 4.76 ERA) looks for a strong finish to a month in which he became a regular in the rotation after making just seven starts through July. Cook’s last start came against Kansas City on Aug. 25, when he received a no-decision after giving up three runs over six innings in a 10-9 Royals win.

Since pitching a complete-game shutout in June, Cook has been a decent starter, but he has not dominated at any point and has seen his numbers decline. After posting an ERA of 2.66 in six starts throughout June and July, Cook has recorded an ERA of 5.14 in his five starts so far in August. He’s also given up an uncharacteristic eight walks this month after allowing just four in all of his starts prior.

Most of Cook’s experience against the A’s came from his July 16th start in Oakland, when he gave up all three runs in a 3-2 loss. It was only the third start of Cook’s career against the A’s, as he spent most of his career in the National League, leaving him with limited experience against Oakland’s lineup. That is, except for shortstop Stephen Drew and outfielder/designated hitter Jonny Gomes, both of whom have posted monster numbers against Cook. Drew, who regularly faced Cook in the NL, has an OPS of .969, including six extra base hits, against him. Gomes has an OPS of 1.714 and three home runs in 14 plate appearances against Cook, most of which came while he was in Cincinnati.

Starting opposite Cook will be a fellow sinkerballer: towering right-hander, Brandon McCarthy (7-5, 3.12 ERA). Since arriving in Oakland in 2011, the 6-foot-7 McCarthy has reinvented himself as a pitcher, virtually removing the four-seam fastball from of his repertoire in favor of a ground ball-inducing arsenal of mostly cutters and sinkers. The overhaul has been a game-changer for McCarthy, who boasts a 3.25 ERA in his time in Oakland as opposed to a 4.68 in previous three-year stint with the Rangers.

(more…)

Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Daniel Bard’s return; Jackie Bradley, OBP machine; Keury De La Cruz’s impressive Salem debut

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Daniel Bard says he's ready to return to the big leagues (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox system on Wednesday . . .

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET: 9-4 WIN AT GWINNETT COUNTY (BRAVES)

(BOX)

Daniel Bard has rejoined the Red Sox and will be added to the big league roster on Thursday, almost three months removed from his demotion after he struggled to a 5-6 record and 5.24 ERA as a member of the rotation. The overall numbers suggest that Bard did little better while searching for his mechanics in Pawtucket. He was 3-2 with a 7.03 ERA while walking 29 and striking out 32 in 32 innings spanning 31 appearances as a reliever.

Still, Bard has taken some recent forward steps with his mechanical consistency, helping him to avoid issuing any walks in his last three outings while throwing 24 of 38 (63 percent) of pitches for strikes. He feels that he’s moving in the right direction, having left behind some awful outings, and he believes that the increased adrenaline of the big league setting will be a benefit to him going forward.

“The initial shock of getting sent down and pitching in that environment after being up here for three years, it’s hard. There’s no adrenaline. It’s 100 percent development and just working on things. Once I got through that and got to the point that I forced myself to just go out and compete, those were the best outings I had. Getting to this environment up here is only going to help,” Bard told reporters. “I feel like I’ve thrown the ball well the last few weeks. There have been a couple of hiccups here and there, but it was more just trying to tweak something in the mechanics and carrying it into a game maybe didn’t go as well as we wanted, but it wasn’t a confidence thing, it was working on some new things. The last few have been really good. I feel like I’ve simplified my delivery to the point that I can just go out there and not think about it and focus on getting the hitter out.” (more…)

Thursday’s Red Sox-Angels matchups: Jon Lester vs. Zack Greinke

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Jon Lester

The Red Sox finish their three-game set against the Angels on Thursday as Jon Lester gets the start.

Lester’s season has aligned perfectly with Boston’s disappointing year as he’s 8-10 with a 4.98 ERA. However, he seems to have turned it around lately, winning three straight since Aug. 12. August has been by far his best month at 3-2 with a 3.12 ERA, as he has finished at least the sixth inning in all of his starts this month.

In his last outing on Friday, Lester earned his eighth win by going seven innings and allowing only three runs on six hits in a 4-3 win over Kansas City. It was the first time he had gone back-to-back starts while completing at least seven innings since June 22 and 27.

The lefty’s career record vs. the Angels is an impressive 4-1 despite having a 4.20 ERA in seven starts. He’s also 2-0 in Angel Stadium. The current Angels lineup is somewhat familiar with him as five players have more than 10 at-bats vs him in their careers. Maicer Izturis and Torrii Hunter have the most success against him out of that group and are 5-for-11 and 5-for-12, respectively.

The Angels will send deadline acquistion Zack Greinke to the mound opposite Lester.

Greinke was acquired from the Brewers in July to help bolster the starting rotation, however he hasn’t been able to return to his early season form. Currently he’s 2-2 with a 5.22 ERA in six starts with Los Angeles, but overall this season, he’s 11-5 with a 3.87 ERA. Only two of his six starts with the Angels have been of the quality start variety.

(more…)

Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Allen Webster unveiled; the growing significance of Travis Shaw

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

First baseman Travis Shaw went 3-for-5 with a homer for Portland on Tuesday (Photo courtesy Salem Red Sox)

The Red Sox got their first glimpse of the centerpiece return of their deal with the Dodgers, as right-hander Allen Webster made his first start since the Sox acquired him in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, taking the mound for Double-A Portland against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The three-run yield on six hits (four singles, a double and a triple) and two walks in four innings was less than electrifying. The stuff, however, was sensational.

Webster showed what one talent evaluator at the game considered an “electric” arsenal, with a fastball that he ran up to 96 mph and both a slider and a changeup that he viewed as above average pitches.

Another evaluator at the game was impressed albeit with slightly greater reserve, seeing a fastball that topped out at 96 while sitting at 94-95 mph with plus sink at times. While Webster has made his bones this year by pitching down in the zone, the second evaluator felt that he was pressing a bit in his debut for a new organization, perhaps explaining why he uncharacteristically left the ball up in the zone. The slider worked as a swing-and-miss weapon, while he labeled the pitcher’s changeup “just OK.”

Still, given the mix and the fact that he’s holding his own at an advanced level, a compelling case can be made that Webster immediately vaults to status as the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox system.

More on Webster a bit later today. In the meantime, here’s a look at the rest of the action in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday . . .

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: POSTPONED AT GWINNETT COUNTY (BRAVES)

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 9-3 WIN (12 INNINGS) AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

Travis Shaw went 3-for-5 with a homer (his third in Double-A) and a double as well as a walk. Though he’s hitting just .233 in 25 games in Double-A since his mid-year promotion, he’s continued to show a solid plate approach and good command of the strike zone while flashing consistent extra-base power. He’s hitting .233/.358/.467/.824 with three homers and 12 doubles in 25 games. (more…)

Closing Time: Ace’d out — Alfredo Aceves blows save in return as Angels walk off past Red Sox

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

The Angels were celebrating a win after Alfredo Aceves blew another save Tuesday night. (AP)

Alfredo Aceves returned from his three-game suspension, but he submitted results that were dismally familiar. The right-hander, entrusted with a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth, blitzed through his first inning of work but then allowed a pair of runs in the ninth as the Angels claimed a 6-5 walkoff win.

Aceves fell to 2-9 on the year and suffered through his eighth blown save, tied for the most in the majors. He has a 4.76 ERA. The blown save was the second in as many outings for the 29-year-old, who also permitted five runs on six hits in two innings in his prior appearance last Thursday — the one that preceded his sitting while Andrew Bailey was brought in for a save on Friday, prompting Aceves’ angry reaction that led to a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team.

On Tuesday, his only conduct detrimental to the team occurred in the ninth inning, when he hit a batter’s foot, issued a walk, gave up a broken-bat single up the middle by Mike Trout and then allowed a walkoff sacrifice fly by Torii Hunter.

The Sox fell to 62-68.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

• Aceves suffered his third blown save in August, a month in which he has a 10.32 ERA.

Jose Iglesias, in his first start of the season, went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and, after failing to execute a sacrifice bunt attempt, grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

Scott Podsednik, who carried a seven-game hitting streak into the game, went 0-for-4. Still, he continues to lead all big leaguers with at least 100 plate appearances with a .362 average.

Ryan Kalish, in his first start since his latest recall on Monday, went 1-for-4 with a strikeout. He grounded into a bases-loaded double play that scored a run but also gave Angels starter Jared Weaver the needed breathing room to limit the damage in a three-run fourth inning. Kalish also was fooled by a fly ball off the end of the bat of Trout, allowing it to drop for a single — a misplay that he compounded by overrunning the ball for an error that allowed the speedy Angels leadoff hitter to advance to second. He did line a single through the left side of the infield in his last at-bat, however. (more…)

Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Casey Kelly’s dominant big league debut, Stolmy Pimentel’s intrigue, Xander Bogaerts’ tough day, Jeremy Hazelbaker’s promotion, Deven Marrero’s injury

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Former Red Sox first-rounder Casey Kelly made his big league debut on Monday (AP)

Blast from the past: Former Red Sox first-rounder Casey Kelly made his big league debut for the Padres, firing six shutout innings against the Braves. He allowed just three hits (a double and two singles) while walking two and striking out four. Here is the gamer on Kelly’s MLB debut.

Kelly, of course, was the centerpiece of the deal that brought Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox from the Padres. The Sox took him with their first-round pick (No. 30 overall) in the 2008 draft, signed him to a $3 million bonus (still the biggest ever given to the Sox by a draftee) and now, four years later, he’s seemingly become what the Red Sox anticipated he would be.

He had a remarkable 39-to-3 strikeout-to-walk rate in 37 2/3 innings over eight minor league games this year (he was limited to that number by a forearm injury), and on Monday, his ability to throw strikes and get swings and misses with three pitches (a fastball that topped out at 95 mph, a curveball and a changeup) was on display. He worked efficiently through the Braves lineup, requiring just 87 pitches to mow through six frames, and never requiring more than 17 pitches in a single inning.

The Sox always felt that Kelly’s stuff and athleticism gave him a chance to be an above-average starting pitcher in the big leagues, with the ceiling, perhaps, of a No. 2 starter. His path through the minor league wasn’t a straight shot — he dominated in Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem in 2009, struggled in Double-A Portland as a 20-year-old in 2010, had a good-not-great season in Double-A San Antonio after being traded to the Padres in 2011 and then took a considerable step forward this yer — but the talent was always apparent.

There’s been some conjecture that the Red Sox might have walked away from Gonzalez’s contract for nothing — especially given the Dodgers’ willingness to take on the deals of Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett as well — but the fact that the team had to give up on a prize like Kelly, along with a potential All-Star first-baseman in Anthony Rizzo and a toolsy former first-rounder in Reymond Fuentes (albeit one who has struggled severely this year in Double-A) might have made that difficult. Parting with onerous contracts was, of course, a welcome development for the Sox, but had the team not been able to find some high-upside arms in Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa — pitchers who, in some respects, are at similar career stages to Kelly — a deal might have been difficult to swallow.

A quick look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday . . .

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-1 WIN AT GWINNETT (BRAVES) (more…)