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Red Sox minor league roundup: Brandon Workman’s ordinary meets extraordinary; Rubby De La Rosa dazzles; Garin Cecchini closes out spectacular month

05.01.13 at 11:28 am ET
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Once again, right-hander Brandon Workman dominated on Tuesday (Salem Red Sox)

The accomplishment was extraordinary. Through six innings, Brandon Workman retired all 18 batters he faced, simply overpowering his opponents with Double-A Reading.

Yet the thing that was most extraordinary about Workman’s run of perfection — which ended with a leadoff double in the seventh inning — was the fact that it represented a continuation of rather than an aberration from what he’d already been doing this year. He wasn’t doing anything that he hadn’t done in virtually every other outing this year, and most of his trips to the mound dating back to last season in High-A Salem.

He was aggressive in the strike zone with his fastball (which sat at 93 mph and topped out at 95) and cutter, threw a bunch of first-pitch strikes (16 of 23 hitters) and mowed through 11 plate appearances in three pitches or fewer. Workman’s blunt, strike-throwing approach — he threw strikes with 59 of 84 pitches (70 percent) — netted 15 swings and misses.

Impressively, after spending the full game in the windup, he bounced back from the leadoff double in the seventh by punching out the next two hitters, before finally faltering by allowing a walk and run-scoring double that ended his outing after 6 2/3 innings in which he permitted one run on the two hits and a walk while striking out six.

So, aside from the fact that there were 18 straight batters retired out of the gate, the outing looked very much like what the 24-year-old has been doing all season for Double-A Portland. On the year, Workman is now 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA and an eye-catching 34-to-6 strikeout-to-walk rate in 29 2/3 innings. He’s worked at least five innings in all five of his appearances, while pitching at least six frames in three of his five outings, with his strike-throwing approach permitting him to work reliably deep into games, in part because of how he attacks the strike zone, in part because he exhibits such tremendous intensity and focus while looming as an imposing, 6-foot-5 physical presence on the mound.

“Since last year when he came up, he comes right after hitters,” said Portland manager Kevin Boles. “The thing with him is, you watch him, you can see he wears his emotions on his sleeves. Sometimes, you’ll see him throw a ball and think, ‘OK, they’re getting to him.’ Then, all of a sudden, he’s pitching in the sixth or seventh inning. The opposing club has to be scratching its head thinking, ‘I thought this guy was going to self-destruct on the mound.’ But he’s so competitive and so fiery.

“You can see hints of him here and there losing that mound presence, but he refocuses and gets himself right on track. He attacks [with] a plus fastball. This curveball that he’s developed is a plus pitch. It’s late and sharp, a pitch that can finish hitters off. He has feel for a changeup. It’s an interesting pitch also. This guy, he has been terrific. He’s a guy you want on the mound. You know what you’re going to get. You know he’s going to compete, he’s going to give you his best every time he goes out there.

“He’s not red-lining by any stretch. It may look like it sometime. But it’s just his competitive fire. He doesn’t care what people think. They may think, ‘OK, you’re getting to me,’ but you’re not. He knows in his mind that he’s under control and he’s going to make the next pitch a quality pitch. That’s what’s so impressive — it’s pitch to pitch with him. He’s just going to try to execute as best as he can that pitch that he’s focused on.”

That focus was entirely evident on Tuesday, just as it has been for so many of his outings. He’s been the Sox’ most consistent starting pitching prospect over the last year, a pitcher who looks not only like he will be a big leaguer in the not-too-distant future, but someone who looks like he might be able to make a fairly quick transition to contributing at the game’s highest level in part because he can beat his opponents with the blunt instrument of a power arsenal (fastball, cutter) for which his secondary pitches (particularly his curveball, sometimes his changeup) are just that — secondary offerings.

It was a formula that was good enough to permit Workman to steamroll his opponent on Tuesday, and it’s a formula that’s good enough to have the Red Sox very excited about the 2010 second-rounder’s future.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-5 LOSS (15 INNINGS) VS. COLUMBUS (INDIANS)

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Rubby De La Rosa has extraordinary stuff: A mid- to high-90s fastball with velocity that he can sustain over the entire duration of a start, a curveball that paralyzes right-handed hitters, a diving changeup that elicits swings and misses from hitters on both sides of the plate. But through the first few weeks of the season, De La Rosa’s results did not align with his abilities. Undoubtedly, some of that reflected on the fact that he’s working to reclaim his feel after undergoing Tommy John surgery in late-2011 while dealing with considerable pitch restrictions, all while adjusting to life in a new organization. Still, there were, at times, concern about his batter-to-batter focus and execution that started in spring training and spilled into the start of the season.

But he may have turned a corner. After allowing 10 runs in 6 1/3 innings while walking six and striking out seven in his first 6 1/3 innings (spanning three starts), De La Rosa has pitched three shutout innings in each of his last two starts. On Tuesday, for the first time, he performed like a pitcher in complete command of the game, striking out five, walking none and throwing 30 of 50 (60 percent) of pitches for strikes — his second highest strike percentage of the year — while permitting just three hits. Of the four outs he recorded on contact, three were on groundballs.

“That was his best outing,” PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina told the Providence Journal. “His demeanor on the mound looked much different. He looked aggressive, he looked really ready to pitch. That was a glimpse of what we could see in the future.”

Jackie Bradley Jr., who had missed the previous two games due to minor soreness in his right shoulder, returned in impressive fashion as a DH, going 3-for-5 with a double and walk. It was his second three-hit game of the year and his third contest in which he’d reached four times. He’d been 0-for-12 in his previous three games.

– Shortstop Jose Iglesias was hit on the wrist by a pitch in the first inning. Though he stayed in the game for two more plate appearances and made a terrific play in the field, he left the game after six innings.

– Outfielder Bryce Brentz homered for the third straight game, his only hit in a 1-for-6 game in which he walked once and struck out once. The 24-year-old had never before gone deep in three straight games as a professional.

– Left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith continued to plaster zeroes on the scoreboard. He delivered four scoreless innings of relief, allowing a pair of hits while striking out one. Pitching on just one day of rest, the former starter threw 43 pitches, 31 for strikes. He’s now made seven straight scoreless appearances spanning 14 2/3 innings. For the year, he has a 0.55 ERA and .155 opponents batting average.

– Utility man Drew Sutton absorbed the loss after giving up a run in a pair of innings of work in his first appearance on a mound since high school. Sutton did punch out two without giving up a walk.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-3 WIN AT READING (PHILLIES)

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Xander Bogaerts went 1-for-2 with a walk, a single, a stolen base and, somewhat puzzlingly, a sacrifice bunt. It was the second sacrifice of the power-hitting prospect’s career. The 20-year-old (the youngest position player in the Eastern League) has now reached base in 14 straight games, during which he has a .339/.426/.492 line.

Travis Shaw went 0-for-3 but worked a walk, his 23rd in 22 games this year. Shaw, 23, has reached base in all 22 games in which he’s played this season, resulting in a .441 OBP that ranks second in the Double-A Eastern League.

– In his return to Portland, Daniel Bard allowed two runs on two hits (a double and single) and a walk while striking out a batter. He threw nine of his 18 pitches for strikes and got one swing and miss.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 10-3 LOSS AT WILMINGTON (ROYALS)

(BOX)

Garin Cecchini closed out his spectacular month by going 3-for-4 with a career-high three extra-base hits — a homer to the opposite field in left and two doubles. He wrapped up April with an outrageous line of .392/.478/.709 with three homers and 15 extra-base hits, with the three homers matching his career-high for a single month and the multi-base knocks surpassing his previous career-best for a month. For good measure, he also stole a pair of bases on Tuesday to conclude April with 10 steals (in 13 attempts). Tuesday’s homer came against left-hander John Lamb, improving the left-handed Cecchini to .458/.519/.750 in 27 plate appearances against southpaws.

– Catcher Blake Swihart went 0-for-4, ending a streak of 12 straight games in which he’d reached base.

– Outfielder Brandon Jacobs closed out the month in an 0-for-11 funk in his final three games, dropping his season-opening line to .195/.304/.325 with one homer and seven doubles in 22 games.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: OFF DAY

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