Red Sox minor league roundup: Time for Garin Cecchini to head to Portland; breaking down Matt Barnes’ struggles; Jackie Bradley Jr. ends slump with a bang
|06.19.13 at 12:34 pm ET|
The participation of Garin Cecchini in the High-A California -Carolina League All-Star Game might not have been noteworthy but for the fact that it may well have represented Cecchini’s last game as a representative of the High-A Salem Red Sox.
Cecchini walked, grounded out and reached on an error in the showcase event, and with that event now concluded, multiple team officials suggested anything from the idea that he is a strong candidate for a move up to Double-A to a more direct portrayal that a move up the ladder is likely “imminent.”
No conversation with the third baseman had taken place as of Tuesday afternoon, but given his remarkable consistency in Salem as a 22-year-old this year, the idea that Cecchini should be tested at a higher level is anything but surprising.
Cecchini is hitting .350 with the second best OBP (.469) in all of minor league baseball. He has a .547 slugging mark on the strength of 28 extra-base hits, and he’s walking with much greater frequency (43 times) than he’s striking out (34). He’s been as impressive, as consistent a hitter as there’s been in the Red Sox minor league system, and so it’s time for him to move up to another level, just as was the case for Jackie Bradley Jr. when the outfielder enjoyed similar offensive dominance to Cecchini in 2012 at Salem.
Unlike Bradley, there are areas where Cecchini will require further polish. Foremost, whereas Bradley looked like a Gold Glover in the making for Salem, Cecchini’s defensive year has been characterized by struggle. After making considerable strides while recording just 14 errors in 99 games at third in 2012, he’s committed a dozen errors in 59 contests at the hot corner in 2013. The Sox will need to get him considerable playing time at third in Portland in order to give him an opportunity to tighten up his work at the position.
That, in turn, means that the Sea Dogs will need to juggle Cecchini (third base, DH), Michael Almanzar (third base, first base, DH) and Travis Shaw (first base, some third base, DH) at three positions. It was a balancing act that the team had to negotiate in the first half as well, until the decision was made to shift Kolbrin Vitek from third to left field, where the 2010 first-round pick is now getting all of his playing time.
All the same, whereas positional bottlenecks convinced the Sox not to promote Cecchini from Greenville to Salem in 2012, this year, the performance of the 2010 fourth-rounder has been too compelling to ignore. Cecchini is expected to be the only player in the Sox system coming out of the two A-ball All-Star breaks to be ticketed for imminent promotion.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 WIN AT COLUMBUS (INDIANS)
— Jackie Bradley Jr. broke out of an 0-for-15 slump with his third home run of the season on Tuesday. Bradley took a 2-2 offering from Joe Martinez to deep center field to lead off the fifth inning for a solo shot. He also drew a walk, his 17th, and has drawn walks in four of his last five games. Bradley is now batting .297/.400/.486 with 14 extra-base hits, 17 walks, and 26 strikeouts in 28 games with Pawtucket.
— With the Red Sox bringing up a rotating core of bullpen reinforcements from Pawtucket, other members of the PawSox bullpen are stepping up in their absence. Reliever Ryan Rowland-Smith has been dominant for Pawtucket this season, especially over his last 10 appearances. The righty has allowed only one run on nine hits and two walks over his last 13 2/3 innings, striking out 14 while opposing hitters are batting .180 against him. The reliever owns a stellar 0.69 ERA in 22 games and 39 innings for the PawSox. Anthony Carter has also been impressive lately, allowing only one hit and no runs over his last 6 2/3 innings. Carter’s 4.33 ERA is not necessarily a good indicator of how he’s pitched recently, since a one-inning, six-run disaster of an outing back in April has inflated his ERA quite a bit. Carter has saved 10 games in 10 opportunities for the PawSox.
— Serving as the designated hitter on Tuesday, Xander Bogaerts enjoyed his second multi-hit game in a PawSox uniform, going 2-for-5 with two singles on the day. Despite his two hits, he did leave three runners on base and struck out once, his seventh strikeout in Triple-A. The shortstop is batting .263/.300/.421 in 20 plate appearances through his five games with Pawtucket, driving in two and scoring two runs.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-1 LOSS AT READING (PHILLIES)
– Matt Barnes suffered his third straight loss in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, dropping to 3-4 on the season. Barnes didn’t necessarily pitch poorly, allowing two unearned runs on three hits and two walks while striking out six, but control problems in the third inning and poor defense from second baseman Derrik Gibson did not help the pitcher. In the third, after the leadoff man reached on the game’s second error by Gibson, a wild pitch, a walk, and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out. Barnes would have been out of the inning had it not been for his second wild pitch, this one allowing a runner to score.
A high pitch count is what forced Barnes out after only four innings, throwing 89 pitches (62 for strikes) while facing 19 batters. It’s the third straight game in which Barnes was unable to get past the fourth inning, and the second outing in a row in which Barnes went exactly four innings while tossing 89 pitches.
It’s been a strange season for the Red Sox pitching prospect, who has looked poised for a breakout at times, but has not been able to string together consistently solid starts. Barnes has been unable to get his ERA under 4.50 at any point during the season, and it now stands at 5.46 through 13 starts.
‘I think he’s just one little tick away,’ says fellow Portland starting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo, who typically pitches one day behind Barnes in the Portland rotation and so charts his teammate’s outings. ‘I think he’s just learning how to become a power pitcher, but mix in his offspeed as well. Sometimes he’ll lean too much on his curveball and changeup, and sometimes he’ll pitch too much to his fastball. He’s just trying to find that balance, and once he does that, he obviously has the stuff and command to dominant hitters.’
While Barnes has still generated strong strikeout numbers this year (10.9 per nine innings), whereas he would typically put away hitters with ruthless efficiency in early 2012 on the strength of an overpowering fastball, he’s seen his pitch count get driven up by one foul ball after another in Double-A, perhaps, suggested a couple of talent evaluators, because opponents have been able to sit on his powerful fastball because his curveball has been too inconsistent to force them to chase.
— The Portland bats were relatively quiet all day on Tuesday, or at least until first baseman Travis Shaw made some noise with a three-run double in the third inning of the nightcap, driving in the Sea Dogs’ only runs of that game (and all the runs they would need). The Sea Dogs took advantage of a throwing error to lead off the third inning followed by two consecutive walks before Shaw cleared the bases with his 14th double of the year, a shot to right field. The double brings Shaw’s average with the bases loaded to .250 on the year with two doubles and six RBI, but he’s still batting only .198 with runners on, and .194 with those runners in scoring position.
Shaw now owns a five-game hitting streak after struggling through a five-game hitless streak. He is hitting .421/.421/.737 with three doubles and a home run over his last five games. What’s unusual is that Shaw, who owns a .350 OBP despite his .227 average on the season, has not drawn a walk in eight games. He has drawn 42 free passes while striking out 65 times in 64 games.
– Charlie Haeger threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the nightcap, earning his third win of the season and bringing his record to an even .500 on the year. The knuckleballer allowed only four hits on the evening, but his line is rather deceiving, and not all that indicative of how he pitched.
Haeger walked five batters and labored through his 5 2/3 inning, having to strand nine runners, including working out of a bases-loaded jam in the third after walking the leadoff hitter, allowing a single, and hitting a batter. Command been a real issue for Haeger, who has walked 36 in 52 1/3 innings while hitting seven batters and uncorking 11 wild pitches. But opposing batters have not been able to hit Haeger hard even when they get pitches in the zone, batting only .221 against him through nine starts.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: OFF (CALIFORNIA-CAROLINA LEAGUE ALL-STAR GAME)
— Catcher Blake Swihart went 1-for-3 with an RBI in the All-Star game. Left-hander Henry Owens, who started on Sunday for Salem, did not pitch.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: OFF (SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE ALL-STAR GAME)
— DH David Chester finished second in the Home Run Derby, then went 1-for-2 in the All-Star game. The 24-year-old leads the Drive with 10 homers during the regular season.
— Second baseman Mookie Betts went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.
— Reliever J.B. Wendelken, 20, faced two batters, walking one and striking out one. Wendelken, a late add to the game, has a 2.94 ERA, 39 strikeouts and 19 walks in 49 innings on the year.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: RAINED OUT AT CONNECTICUT (TIGERS)
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 6-1 WIN AT DSL RAYS
— Left-hander Luis Ramos, 18, continued the outstanding pitching of the DSL Sox, who are now 12-3 on the strength of their arms. The Panamanian tossed five innings, allowing just one unearned run while striking out three and walking none. Ramos improved to a 1.29 ERA with seven strikeouts and one walk in 14 innings.
— Though shortstop Javier Guerra went 0-for-2 to extend his hitless streak to five games (0-for-19), he walked twice, and now has 11 walks and just three strikeouts in his last nine games.
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