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Red Sox minor league roundup: Perspective on Matt Barnes, Rubby De La Rosa; Garin Cecchini, hit machine; promise from Frank Montas

04.09.13 at 10:37 am ET
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A year ago, there was no such thing as hyperbole when it came to Matt Barnes. His dominance was so complete in Single-A that people no longer wanted to consider the idea that there remained player development in front of him. Everyone saw the 42/4 strikeout-to-walk rate in Greenville along with the 0.34 ERA in five starts and wanted to answer just one question: When would Barnes be in the big leagues?

Initially, Barnes’ outstanding performances in High-A Salem poured more gas on the fire. If anything, he was better there than he’d been in Greenville, given that his 1.37 ERA and 53/8 strikeout-to-walk rate through eight starts was against more advanced competition. Anticipation was breathless: Could Barnes position himself for the big leagues by 2013? Perhaps even late-2012?

But then reality set in. Barnes tired, maybe lost a bit of zip on his fastball, and the fact that his secondary offerings (changeup, curveball) required more development put him in a position where he endured struggles over the final three months of the season. Those struggles offered tremendous lessons in his growth as a pitcher, even though they didn’t inflate his statistics.

What Barnes did in 2012 offered a reminder that the data provided by early-season performances should be treated with somewhat measured perspective. The results of a single game are less important than what you see or hear regarding a pitcher’s stuff and/or execution, or a hitter’s approach and/or improvement of physical tools (for instance, signs that a player has developed the strength to drive the ball out of the park rather than to the gaps).

That reality hovers over Barnes’ first career outing with Double-A Portland. The right-hander lasted just one inning, allowing two runs on two hits while walking one and recording all three outs via strikeout. He showed good velocity on his fastball, along with the ability to spin some curveballs with power, but his counterparts from Reading managed to drive up his pitch count to 33 (with 21 strikes – 64 percent) in the frame, and so his day was done. There was no injury — just a decision that, after an inning in excess of 30 pitches, the Sox didn’t want him to pitch in a fatigued state, particularly in his first outing of the season.

The brevity of the outing was a disappointment to Barnes, for obvious reasons. Still, on a day where he struck out three batters swinging, there was also a bigger picture.

“That’s not how you draw up your first one,” Barnes told the Portland Press Herald, “but overall I can’t be too upset. … If I have stuff like that all year, I think it’ll be pretty good.”

Now is not the time to draw premature conclusions from a single box score. It is, after all, April.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 14-5 LOSS AT LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)

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– An unexpected oddity: Rubby De La Rosa made his first career Triple-A appearance on Monday. He’d been promoted straight from Double-A to the majors by the Dodgers in both 2011 and 2012. His maiden appearance in Triple-A, however, was not so memorable. The right-hander was tagged for five runs on four hits (two homers) and a walk in 2 1/3 innings. He did record three strikeouts. It is worth noting that De La Rosa gave up three of his five runs in his third inning of work — the first time this year that he’d worked into the third inning after being limited to two-inning outings all spring.

– Outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker continued his terrific first week for the PawSox, going 2-for-5 with his third multi-hit game of the year and his third homer of the young season, this one a drive just over the fence to the opposite field. He’s also reached base multiple times in four of the five games in which he’s played.

This offseason, the Sox did not add Hazelbaker to the 40-man roster for the purpose of protecting him from the Rule 5 draft. Though he has a combination of raw power and speed like few others in the Sox system, his approach at the plate remained sufficiently raw that no team took a flyer on him in the Rule 5, after a 2012 season in which he’d posted decent numbers (.273, .335 OBP, .472 slugging in his age 24 season) in his second season in Double-A Portland. That, in turn, allowed him to experience his first Red Sox big league camp, where he performed well enough (.389 average, .476 OBP, .500 slugging in 18 plate appearances) to give him a foundation of confidence entering the year.

Thus far, it’s carried over. And if Hazelbaker can take a step forward in his performance this year in Triple-A, he’ll position himself either for a call-up or to find his way onto someone’s 40-man roster (whether the Red Sox or another team’s) next offseason.

Bryce Brentz blasted his first homer of the season, and he’s now collected five extra-base hits in as many games. He went 1-for-5, and is hitting .333 (though his OBP is also at .333, since he has yet to walk in 24 plate appearances).

Here’s a glimpse of Brentz’s considerable power (complete with a rockin’ soundtrack):

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– Though he gave up a run on two hits and a walk, right-hander Chris Carpenter punched out four in 2 1/3 innings of work. Of the 13 outs he’s recorded in two multi-inning relief appearances, 10 have been via strikeout.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 7-4 LOSS VS. READING (PHILLIES)

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Stephen Drew wrapped up his minor league rehab assignment by hitting a homer to deep right. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and played eight innings at short.

Xander Bogaerts had his second straight multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 (both singles) with a walk. The walk was his second in 116 plate appearances in Double-A, and his first of 2013.

Michael Almanzar continued his strong start, going 2-for-3 with a double (one to center, and the second to the opposite field in right) with a walk. He has multiple hits in all three of the games in which he’s played, having gone 6-for-10 with a pair of walks. More on Almanzar from Monday here.

– Catcher Christian Vazquez is hitless (0-for-7) in three games to start the year, though thanks to four walks, he has a .333 OBP.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 7-6 WIN AT POTOMAC (NATIONALS)

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– Shortstop Deven Marrero went 3-for-5 with three doubles (all against left-handed pitchers) while delivering what Salem play-by-play broadcaster Evan Lepler described as “a slew of scintillating defensive plays at shortstop. He robbed Cutter Dykstra of a base hit with a diving stop and quick release in the second inning; he also caught a sinking liner with a full extension diving catch in the fourth, taking a hit away from Adrian Nieto.”

The contest marked Marrero’s first as a pro with three extra-base hits in a game. He had one contest in Lowell last season in which he had a pair of doubles.

– Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 4-for-4 with a double and a pair of steals. It was his third career game of at least four hits — Cecchini had four hits in a game with Lowell in 2011 and a five-hit game with Greenville last season. For more on Cecchini, click here to listen to his interview on the Minor Details podcast. Unexpected bonus: he sounds a lot like Jonathan Papelbon.

Sean Coyle watch: Four straight games of multiple times on base. He went 1-for-4 with a double and walk, and is now hitting .400 (6-for-15) with a .500 OBP in 18 plate appearances to start the year.

– Of the many, many pitchers whom the Red Sox drafted in 2012, only Mike Augliera started the year in High-A. That assignment was a reflection both of the fact that the right-hander, who was drafted as a college senior, was a bit older than his fellow draftees (he is 22, turning 23 in June), as well as the fact that he showed consistently excellent command while pitching for the Lowell Spinner last summer, striking out 43 and walking just three in 38 2/3 innings while trusting his sinker to miss bats or get bad contact. His High-A debut featured a somewhat deceiving four-run yield — of the seven hits he allowed, two were infield hits, two were doubles, and three were singles — while showing the ability to get some swings and misses (four strikeouts), attack the strike zone (one walk) and get a lot of grounders (seven groundouts to one flyout).

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 5-4 LOSS AT HICKORY (RANGERS)

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– Right-hander Frank Montas, the 20-year-old who regularly dials up high-90s velocity as a starter, made an impressive debut in full-season ball. For the first time in his pro career, he worked into the sixth inning of a game. Though he gave up a pair of runs (both solo homers) on six hits, in 5 2/3 innings, he punched out seven, didn’t issue a walk and got eight outs via groundball. He showed his usual mid- to upper-90s velocity with his four-seam fastball (getting both swings and misses and, at times, locating it down in the zone for grounders) while also getting swings and misses with a slider that has become a go-to out pitch for him.

David Chester, a 24-year-old whom the Sox selected after a huge season as a senior at Pittsburgh in 2011, went 2-for-3 with a double and homer. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound DH has hits in each of Greenville’s first five games.

– Shortstop Mike Miller went 3-for-4 with a double and a walk. In his last two games, the 23-year-old has reached base seven times in 10 plate appearances.

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