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

08.30.12 at 10:23 am ET
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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)

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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.”

– There was some sentiment that Ivan De Jesus Jr. might be a good change-of-scenery candidate. Selected by the Dodgers in the second round of the fabled 2005 draft, the infielder had been bypassed by other middle infielders in the Los Angeles system, and the 25-year-old has received limited opportunities in the majors over the last couple of years. But he has good hands, and has shown a consistent ability to post good averages and OBPs in the minors, and if his first few days in the Red Sox organization (after the blockbuster trade with the Dodgers led to his move from one coast to another) are any indication, the change of scenery is indeed giving him a fresh start.

On Wednesday, De Jesus went 4-for-6 (his second four-hit game of the year; he went 4-for-4 on Aug. 5 for Triple-A Albuquerque), and in three games for the PawSox, he’s 7-for-12 (.583) and has reached base in nine of 14 plate appearances. As a member of the 40-man roster who is out of options and in a new organization, he would appear a good candidate for a September call-up.

Rich Hill also is ready to return to the majors. The left-hander, who is completing a rehab assignment from his strained flexor tendon, tossed a scoreless inning with two strikeouts and a walk. In five rehab appearances spanning five innings, he hasn’t permitted a run while allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out five.

– Knuckleballer Steven Wright, in his third start for the PawSox, allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits (no homers) while walking one and striking out five. He has 12 punchouts and just two walks in 14 innings in Triple-A.

Josh Fields is now up to 11 2/3 scoreless innings since his promotion to Triple-A. He has 16 strikeouts and two walks for Pawtucket, and on the year, he’s punching out 12.0 batters per nine innings while walking 2.9 per nine innings.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 7-0 LOSS AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS)

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Jackie Bradley Jr., out since Aug. 20 with an ankle injury, returned to the lineup as the designated hitter. He went 0-for-1 but reached base three times, drawing two walks and getting hit by a pitch. It marked the second time since July 23 that he has reached base three times in a game. While he has been in the throes of a considerable slump starting with an 0-for-3 game on July 8, however, he has still managed to post respectable on-base numbers even during this challenging stretch. Since July 8, he’s hitting .221 with a .333 OBP, .409 slugging mark and .743 OPS — in a league where average performance translates to a .260/.330/.392/.722 line. In other words, the 22-year-old has remained an average to slightly above-average offensive player even at a time that has seen his performance suffer. Overall, he is hitting .275/.369/.441/.811 in Double-A, and .318/.429/.485/.914 combined in his two minor league stops this year.

Bryce Brentz went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, snapping his eight-game hitting streak.

– In what was either his last or second to last start of 2012, Brandon Workman submitted one of his worst outings of the year, permitting six runs (five earned) in just two innings. It was his shortest outing of the year, and snapped a streak of 16 straight starts of at least five innings.

Still, overall, this season has represented a considerable step forward for the right-hander. His 10-8 record, 3.43 combined ERA at two levels (Salem and Portland), 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.6 walks per nine innings, and 133 2/3 innings of work all point to a pitcher who showed the ability to hold his own as a professional. Moreover, his pitch mix has gotten considerably better since he turned pro, as he’s able to get swings and misses with his fastball, he’s improved his ability to locate his curve and he features a cutter that elicits bad contact.

The jury remains out on whether he will start or relieve in the big leagues, but certainly, the idea that he could be a viable starter is only increasing with his gains on the mound.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 8-6 WIN VS. FREDERICK (ORIOLES)

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– In his High-A debut, Keury De La Cruz went 3-for-5 with a double and a stolen base, his 20th of the year. Like Pawtucket outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker, De La Cruz is now one homer shy of becoming the first Red Sox minor league since George Lombard in 2005 to post a 20/20 season. In 117 games this year, the 20-year-old De La Cruz is hitting .311/.354/.539/.893.

Drew Hedman, a 50th round draft choice of the Sox in 2009 out of Pomona College, continued to show a penchant for walkoff hits. He swatted the game-winning two-run blast in the bottom of the 10th. He also specialized in late-inning heroics during a 17-game stretch in Double-A Portland.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 5-4 WIN AT KANNAPOLIS (WHITE SOX)

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Garin Cecchini went 2-for-5 with a triple and a stolen base, his 47th of the year. He has five games left to get the three steals needed to become the third Drive player in as many years to swipe 50 bags. Jeremy Hazelbaker (63) and Felix Sanchez (55) accomplished the feat in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Cecchini has 11 steals in August, his most in any month this year, while hitting .319/.413/.420/.833.

Blake Swihart went 3-for-4 with a double, RBI, walk and steal. In 13 games in August since returning from the DL due to a hip flexor injury, he is hitting .333/.362/.467/.828 — his highest marks for any month in each of those four categories.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 6-0 WIN VS. VERMONT (ATHLETICS)

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– Right-hander Justin Haley threw three hitless innings, striking out four and walking two. The imposing 6-foot-5 right-hander has a 1.71 ERA, 31 strikeouts and 13 walks in 31 2/3 innings in his pro debut. Interestingly, he’s held left-handed hitters to a .125 average; overall, opponents are hitting .193 against him.

– Second baseman Mookie Betts went 1-for-2 with a triple (his first of the year, and his eighth extra-base hit overall) while drawing two walks. In his last 10 games, he’s hitting .310/.450/.414/.864.

ROOKIE-LEVEL GCL RED SOX: 5-2 LOSS TO GCL PIRATES (LOST BEST-OF-THREE GCL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES, 2-0)

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– Hard-throwing right-hander Frank Montas struck out four in two innings, but also permitted four hits including the first homer he’d given up all year. Overall, the 19-year-old with a fastball in the triple digits had 45 strikeouts and 13 walks in 42 2/3 innings.

– Third baseman Nick Moore went 1-for-3 with a single, walk and stolen base. The 19-year-old was one of the most impressive performers for the Sox in the GCL this year, showing an a good eye (.367 OBP in 50 games during the regular season) and the ability to drive the ball in a fashion that is atypical for players at that level.

– Right-hander Jamie Callahan, a second-round pick of the Sox in this year’s draft who just turned 18, tossed two shutout innings with a strikeout and a walk.

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