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Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Matt Barnes and the reality of a long year; Bogaerts amazes; Bradley injured

08.21.12 at 10:40 am ET
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No one in the Red Sox system had a more electrifying start to the season than Matt Barnes. The right-hander was completely overpowering opposing lineups, to the point where it was surprising if he gave up a run. For much of the first couple months of the year, he led all of minor league baseball in strikeouts per nine innings, ERA and WHIP. After blitzing through Single-A Greenville in just five starts — in which he allowed one run — the start of his tenure in High-A Salem suggested that he might be able to stay on the fast track and reach Double-A Portland this year. After all, through eight starts at that level, he had a 1.37 ERA with 53 strikeouts and just eight walks in 46 innings.

But since then, in his last 10 starts with Salem, he’s endured a common element of a player’s first pro season: Struggle. In his last 10 starts, he’s 0-3 with a 5.63 ERA, 35 strikeouts and 14 walks in 40 innings. The change in fortunes was not unexpected.

“This is Barnes’ first go-round,” explained Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker. “We talk about how long the minor league season is, how you’re going to get tired at the end of the season. Even though you might not feel tired, your body is taking its toll, not knowing what a full season is like. Coming out of college, it’s another thing for Barnes.”

On Monday, Barnes yielded five hits and a run in four innings, striking out three and walking none. In 13 2/3 innings this month, he’s struck out just eight, though in his last two starts (after being skipped in the rotation), he’s given up just one run in nine innings. The process of learning to pitch through the season-ending fatigue of a five-plus month season requires adjustments, challenges and growth. A select few blaze a trail past the physical limitations of it. Barnes, like most, has not. Still, the fact that he’s no longer dominating — at a time when he’s reached 112 2/3 innings for the year — does not detract from the overall thrust of the 2011 first-rounder’s first full pro season.

“He’s had a great year. The guy’s come in, not really knowing what a season like this has entailed. He’s done everything we’ve asked,” said Walker. “He’s made every start — obviously we’ve thrown some skips in there — but he’s made every start, his arm is strong, he’s really learning — the experiences have been invaluable — he’s learning what it takes to be a successful pitcher. The stuff he has, the mental game that he has, all of it is a good combination. He should be very proud of his first season and really hungry for next year.”

A look at the rest of the action in the Red Sox system on Monday . . .

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-6 LOSS VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS)

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Rich Hill, in his first rehab appearance for Triple-A Pawtucket, blitzed through a 1-2-3 inning in just eight pitches, getting the two right-handers he faced on a first-pitch flyout and three-pitch groundout, and getting the left-hander on a four-pitch strikeout. Hill has now made three straight scoreless appearances in his rehab assignment.

Daniel Nava went 1-for-3 with a homer in the second game of a rehab assignment. He would appear likely to receive a call-up with Carl Crawford‘s season coming to an end due to Tommy John surgery.

Daniel Bard put a zero on the scoreboard for the first time in five appearances, allowing a single in a scoreless inning that featured neither a walk nor a strikeout. Of his 13 pitches, eight were strikes.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-3 WIN (10 INNINGS) AT NEW BRITAIN (TWINS)

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Xander Bogaerts had his third straight two-hit game, going 2-for-4 (both singles) with a hit by pitch. In 10 Double-A games, he has seven multi-hit games, and is hitting .390/.405/.756/1.161 — an outrageous line that actually is below his overall August marks (in both Salem and Portland) of .448 (fourth highest in the minors in August) with a .479 OBP, .791 slugging mark (third best), 1.270 OPS (fourth) and 16 extra-base hits (2nd) in 16 games.

He has a combined line of .311/.380/.529/.910 with 18 homers and 54 extra-base hits in 114 games. He was the third-youngest position player in the High-A Carolina League this year (older by a matter of weeks than Cheslor Cuthbert and Hanser Alberto), and he’s the youngest position player in the Double-A Eastern League. The ability to dominate older competition is a hallmark of the elite prospects, and Bogaerts has certainly displayed that trait this season.

– Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. suffered an ankle injury while running the bases (after a leadoff single) on an unexpectedly slippery infield (it hadn’t rained in New Britain, but the grounds crew nonetheless had to spend time working on the consistency of the field). However, the injury does not appear to be serious. From the Portland Press-Herald:

Bradley, a 5-foot-10, 180-pounder, smacked a leadoff single and thought about heading to third on a single by Jeremy Hazelbaker. When he stopped suddenly, he fell and scrambled safely back to second, but did not get up immediately.

“He just slipped. I think he was more scared than anything else,” Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said. “He’s going to be fine. It just caught him off guard. The track was definitely pretty wet.”

Bradley’s condition was evaluated by Sea Dogs trainer Brandon Henry.

“He was able to put weight on it,” Boles said. “We’ll check him out tomorrow to see how he is but he should be back sooner than later.”

Drake Britton matched a season-high by working seven remarkably efficient innings. He threw an eye-opening 60 of 79 pitches (75.9 percent) for strikes while limiting New Britain to five hits (four singles and a double), walking one and striking out three. Of particular note: After allowing singles to the first four batters he faced, Britton managed to regain control of the game, retiring

In four starts in August, Britton is 2-1 with a 1.19 ERA, 17 strikeouts and nine walks in 22 2/3 innings. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs and has pitched at least five innings in each of his last six starts, a stretch during which he has a 1.56 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 14 walks in 34 2/3 innings.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-1 LOSS AT MYRTLE BEACH (RANGERS)

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Sean Coyle, in his first game in a week, went 1-for-4 with a single and two strikeouts.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-1 LOSS VS. AUGUSTA (GIANTS)

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– For the second straight game, Noe Ramirez allowed four earned runs while punching out seven, walking one and giving up a homer. This time, the right-hander’s line came over six innings, as opposed to the 4 2/3 inning effort in his previous outing. Ramirez has good strikeout-to-walk numbers (70-to-17 in 74 innings), though the 10 homers he’s allowed represent a high total. He’s 2-6 with a 4.01 ERA, and in his last three starts, he has a 6.88 ERA, perhaps a sign that the first-year pitcher (a fourth-round draftee last year) is hitting the proverbial wall.

Blake Swihart went 1-for-4 with his second double in as many games. In five games since returning from the DL, he’s 6-for-20 with no walks, five strikeouts and the two walks.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 2-1 LOSS VS. HUDSON VALLEY (RAYS)

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– First-rounder Deven Marrero went 1-for-4 with a triple. He’s reached base in each of his last eight games, hitting .364/.432/.545/.978 in those contests.

– Though fifth-round pick Mike Augliera allowed a pair of runs on four hits (including a homer, the second he’s allowed this year) while striking out one and walking one, he also got seven groundball outs in his three innings of work, achieving the same sort of groundball rates that made him an attractive prospect to the Sox out of Binghamton.

ROOKIE LEVEL GCL RED SOX: 2-1 WIN AT GCL ORIOLES

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– Left-hander Cody Kukuk did not give up a hit in three scoreless innings, striking out four and walking two. In seven innings, he’s given up just one hit (and one run) while striking out 10 and walking three. Opponents are 1-for-24 against him.

– Right-hander J.B. Wendelken, after walking a batter in each of his previous three outings, struck out two and walked none in a shutout inning. The 12th-rounder has shown, through most of his pro debut, incredible fastball command given his age and experience, resulting in a 25-to-3 strikeout-to-walk rate in 19 1/3 innings for the 19-year-old.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 10-8 WIN AT DSL PIRATES

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Manuel Margot continued his strong August, going 2-for-4 with a double and triple as well as a walk and steal. In his last 10 games, he’s hitting .308/.429/.436/.864, though the most interesting component of his run might be the fact that he’s walked eight times and struck out just one.

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