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Red Sox minor league roundup: How Pedro Martinez helped Rubby De La Rosa correct course; Matt Barnes gets lit up; monkeys ride dogs

06.03.13 at 11:07 am ET
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Right-hander Rubby De La Rosa threw a season-high 4 2/3 innings on Sunday. (AP)

Through his first three outings of the year, Rubby De La Rosa struggled. It wasn’t just that the 24-year-old with an electric arm had given up 10 runs in just 6 1/3 innings while struggling with workload restrictions. There was also the uncomfortable transition to a new organization without necessarily having a trusted, familiar presence with whom he could navigate his difficulty.

Enter Pedro Martinez. The retired three-time Cy Young award winner and current special assistant to the GM with the Red Sox not only possesses deified status among young Dominican pitchers, but he also has a longstanding personal history with De La Rosa, dating to when the current Red Sox prospect’s grandmother was the nanny to Pedro and Ramon Martinez. And so, in mid-April, Martinez spent a few days in Pawtucket — interacting with all the players on the roster, but with a particular interest in De La Rosa.

The cause-and-effect may not be as direct as it appears, but nonetheless, it is noteworthy to see that since their time together in Pawtucket, De La Rosa has been outstanding.

“It was great having [Martinez] there. I really think the Pedro thing, talking to De La, it really set in. I saw a difference in him the first outing after Pedro was there, and he stuck with it. … There was absolutely nothing bad that could come out of that. It was all going to be good,” said PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur recently. “We just wanted him to talk to him, explain to him that, hey, we’re thinking about you.Look what we’re doing — we have Pedro Martinez in this organization. We wanted him to talk to him and say, we’re here for you.”

In seven outings since Martinez’s visit, De La Rosa has a 1.01 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 11 walks in 26 2/3 innings, with opponents hitting just .179 against him. He’s been working with what Sauveur describes as a plus fastball (typically 92-98 mph), a plus-plus changeup with “ridiculous sink on it, that the hitters get very ugly swings on,” and a slider that Sauveur suggests has “improved a ton” that projects as a plus pitch as well.

And, as he gets more distant from his August 2011 Tommy John surgery and gets deeper into the season, his workload restrictions are gradually easing. On Sunday, he logged a season-high 4 2/3 innings, working around a pair of solo homers to yield two runs on just three hits and two walks while matching a season-high with seven strikeouts. He continued to show an improved willingness to attack the strike zone with his outstanding three-pitch mix — fastball, curve, change — throwing 53 of 83 pitches (64 percent) for strikes with 11 swings and misses. Slowly but surely, the reins are loosening as De La Rosa increasingly begins to resemble the pitcher who made an impressive big league debut in 2011.

Here’s a look at his swing-and-miss stuff from the outing:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 10-3 WIN VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)

(BOX)

– Corner infielder Brandon Snyder continues to pulverize the baseball. He went 3-for-5 with a double and homer (his ninth of the year) on Sunday, and in his last 12 games, the 26-year-old is hitting .404/.472/.660 with two homers, four doubles and a triple. On the year, Snyder has a .307/.393/.553 line with the PawSox.

– Utility infielder Brock Holt went 2-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. He’s collected hits in 16 of his last 17 games, hitting .433/.507/.500 in that span, improving his average exactly 100 points (from .172 to .272) during the stretch.

– Outfielder Mitch Maier homered for the second time in as many games, going 1-for-3 with a pair of walks. In three games since returning from the DL for a wrist sprain, he’s 3-for-11 with two homers and four walks.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 13-6 LOSS VS. ALTOONA (PIRATES)

(BOX)

Matt Barnes endured the worst line of his pro career. On a day when a stiff wind was blowing out, Barnes gave up seven earned runs (a career high) and three homers (matching a career high), and he was knocked out after just 1 2/3 innings thanks to a second frame in which he gave up six hits and hit a batter. Barnes did strike out two.

The 22-year-old right-hander, according to one evaluator, had poor pitch selection and execution. His secondary stuff wasn’t sharp and was employed at the wrong times.

Scouts of other organizations have noted progress in the 2011 first-rounder’s changeup but the absence of a consistent breaking ball from Barnes, something that’s slowly eroded the dominance of his fastball that he showed in Single-A Greenville and for his first eight starts in High-A Salem. While he shows the ability to spin a curveball, Barnes has been very inconsistent with it in his pro career, leading one evaluator to wonder whether he’d be better off ditching the curve in favor of a slider that might play better off the fastball.

For now, the Sox don’t plan to go that route. When the team scouted Barnes in college entering the draft, their evaluators saw a better, more consistent curveball than changeup, and so the team wants to work with Barnes to see if he can hone that pitch into a more consistent weapon.

Even without a consistent breaking ball, Barnes still has the live arm of a prospect. He’s punched out 53 in 48 2/3 innings this year (9.8 per nine) while walking just 14 (2.6). But right now, he’s still working to develop and properly utilize a full pitch mix, with struggles along the way that have yielded a 5.36 ERA and seven homers.

– Shortstop Xander Bogaerts went 2-for-4, and he’s now 12-for-20 (.600) with seven walks and one strikeout in his last seven games.

Matt Spring, 28, continues to enjoy perhaps his best stretch as a pro. He went 3-for-4 and launched his sixth homer of the year — in just 17 games (69 plate appearances) — on Sunday, and is now hitting .338/.377/.692.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 3-2 WIN VS. MYRTLE BEACH (RANGERS)

(BOX)

– Starter Kyle Stroup tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and one walk to the Pelicans while fanning five. It was the second start in a row in which Stroup has gone seven innings. Overall, Stroup, 24, has had a solid year for Salem after missing all of 2012 with an ACL injury, finishing Sunday’s game with a 3.88 ERA and 3-3 record. Since he was roughed up two starts ago, allowing seven runs on 11 hits, Stroup has been effective in his last two outings, allowing only two earned runs, nine hits, and two walks while striking out seven. Stroup looked solid through his entire start on Sunday, retiring his final 11 batters in succession.

– Salem may have scored three runs, but the team only had one hit on the day. That hit, however, was a very timely double off the bat of Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs delivered a line drive to left field to knock in two runs in the fourth inning, and would reach base a total of three times, also drawing two walks. The outfielder, who made his first start in right field since 2010 on Sunday afternoon, has been heating up after a disappointing start to the year, hitting .409 (9-22) over his last six games. His average is higher than it’s been in over a month at .211, while his OBP is steadily creeping towards .300 at .299.

– Third baseman Garin Cecchini may not have gotten a hit on Sunday, but that certainly doesn’t mean he didn’t make an impact in the game. Cecchini drew three walks and scored two of Salem’s three runs on the day. The 22-year-old now has a seven-game on-base streak and has drawn more walks (32) than he has strikeouts (27), and is batting .358/.469/.578 on the season.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: RAINED OUT VS. ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES)

– While a bit late, it seems a dreadful oversight to overlook the fact that the Drive featured monkeys riding dogs herding sheep on Saturday.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF

Read More: brandon jacobs, brandon snyder, garin cecchini, kyle stroup
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