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Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes struggles again; Bryce Brentz shows discipline; Kolbrin Vitek getting squeezed?

04.27.13 at 1:41 pm ET
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Right-hander Matt Barnes gave up a career-high 11 hits, six of them for extra bases (5 doubles, 1 triple) and matched a career high by yielding six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings for Double-A Portland on Friday. In 14 innings this year, Barnes has shown power stuff — as evidenced by his 17 strikeouts in 14 innings, and his 13 swings and misses out of 83 pitches on Friday (16 percent) — but he’s also seemingly struggled with location and execution.

On Friday, he showed plenty of arm strength (sitting at 92 mph, up to 95) with good action on his curveball and changeup, but struggled to command the secondary offerings for strikes and to keep his fastball down in the zone. The result was an ugly line, something that has characterized three of Barnes’ four outings to date this year. He’s given up 14 runs in his 14 innings, with opponents owning a .387/.449/.581 line against him.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Portland manager Kevin Boles will join Down on the Farm on Sunday to discuss Michael Almanzar‘s emergence as a late-blooming prospect as a 22-year-old in Double-A. He’ll also discuss a number of interesting prospects in Double-A Portland. To listen, tune into WEEI from 8:30-9 a.m. on Sunday, or listen to the complete interview at weei.com/podcast.

A look at what happened elsewhere in the system:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 8-4 LOSS AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

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— Right-hander Joel Hanrahan velocity (94-97 mph) but struggled with his location in an innings of work, giving up a double and two-run homer. He struck out one and threw nine of 14 pitches for strikes. He’s slated for another rehab outing on Sunday.

— Outfielder Bryce Brentz went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk while driving in a run. A notoriously aggressive hitter throughout much of his career, Brentz has undergone an interesting change of course in the season’s first week. Through 11 games, he’d walked just once while striking out a dozen times. In eight subsequent games, he’s walked six times with six strikeouts. In those eight games, he’s 7-for-26 (.269) with a .406 OBP and three extra-base hits (a double, triple and homer).

— For the first time as a professional, Jackie Bradley Jr. had a three-strikeout game. He went 0-for-5. He started in right field, a position where he could see action in the big leagues in the not-too-distant future depending on the duration for which Shane Victorino is sidelined. The soonest that Bradley could be called back up without a Red Sox player landing on the disabled list would be Sunday.

— With Ryan Lavarnway in the majors for a few days, Dan Butler has an opportunity to get a few days of regular playing time. The catcher has gone 3-for-6 with a homer, double and walk in his first two contests since Lavarnway’s promotion. On the year, in 10 games, the 26-year-old is hitting .241 with a .371 OBP and .448 slugging mark. Four of his seven hits have been for extra bases.

— Outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker suffered a left wrist injury that forced him out of the game, but X-rays were negative.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-3 LOSS AT TRENTON (YANKEES)

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Kolbrin Vitek, for the first time in his pro career, played a position other than third base, entering the game as a second baseman in the bottom of the third after Juan Carlos Linares left the game due to an ankle injury (he’s expected to be fine). However, the alignment simply reflected an emergency defensive substitution for Vitek (who played second base in college at Ball State, but has made noteworthy strides defensively at third base since turning pro), rather than a shift from regular work at third base.

Still, it’s an interesting time for Vitek, the Sox’ 2010 first-round selection. With Michael Almanzar‘s tremendous start to the season as a third baseman and Travis Shaw likewise off to an excellent start as an everyday first baseman, Vitek has seen his playing time squeezed. He’s started in back-to-back days just once this season, having played just 10 games in which he’s hit .270/.372/.378 while batting sixth or seventh in the order.

Thus far, the 24-year-old Vitek simply has not emerged as the impact bat with above-average secondary skills (speed, defensive ability) that the Sox projected him to be when they took him three years ago. Part of that is unquestionably related to injuries (last year, for instance, he was sidelined for most of the last three and a half months of the year after suffering an intercostal strain — and to a degree, the Sox would be regulating his playing time this year with that injury history in mind). But, with a career line of .270/.342/.377 and eight homers in 1,077 minor league plate appearances, Vitek’s development path has not been that of a player who profiles as an everyday corner infielder. Almanzar and Shaw are playing as if they have at least a chance to fit that profile, and so in the early season, Vitek has had to bide his time while waiting for his opportunities.

— Speaking of Shaw: He went 0-for-2 but with three walks, and now has a .466 OBP along with a .292 average. He is tied for second in the minors with 22 free passes; he’s second among all Double-A players in OBP.

— Reliever Chris Martin tossed another hitless inning. He’s now logged 14 1/3 shutout innings in Double-A this year with 17 punchouts and four walks.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 6-3 LOSS VS. LYNCHBURG (BRAVES)

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Garin Cecchini continued his absurdly good run, going 2-for-4 with a triple for his sixth two-hit game in his last eight contests, a stretch in which he’s reached base at least twice in every contest. In fact, Friday represented the first time in seven games that he hadn’t walked. Since going 0-for-7 to start the year, he’s hitting .400/.487/.646 in 17 games.

— After a slow start, Brandon Jacobs appears to be finding his footing in his return to Salem. Over his last nine games, following a 1-for-3 performance with a double and a walk on Friday, he’s hitting .323/.450/.484 with seven walks and seven strikeouts in his last nine games.

— Right-hander Heri Quevedo, making his pro debut as a 22-year-old, punched out six batters in 3 2/3 innings, his second straight six-strikeout game as a piggyback starter. He did allow three runs on three hits and two walks, but still, the Red Sox expected that he would likely showing outing-to-outing inconsistency in terms of results given his professional inexperience against a fairly advanced level. Most notably, Quevedo has punched out 23 in 15 innings; to the surprise of the Sox, he’s also walked 10 in the early goings (he was a strike-throwing machine in both spring training and Florida instructional league in the fall, owing to a very clean and repeatable delivery), but the fact that he’s demonstrated an ability to overpower hitters at High-A represents a good point of departure for his pro debut.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 10-3 LOSS VS. DELMARVA (ORIOLES)

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— Plate discipline? Check. Mookie Betts went 1-for-2 with three walks, giving him seven free passes in the last two games. He now has 17 walks against seven strikeouts in 18 games this year. The 20-year-old is now hitting just .167 but with a .346 OBP this season.

— Catcher Jordan Weems went 0-for-3 but with two walks. In his last eight games, the 20-year-old is hitting .320 with a .433 OBP and two doubles.

Read More: brandon jacobs, bryce brentz, chris martin, Dan Butler
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