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Red Sox minor league roundup: Feats of Xander Bogaerts; Garin Cecchini debuts in Double-A; Brandon Jacobs, Henry Ramos scorching in Salem; more promise in the lower levels

06.22.13 at 2:40 pm ET

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox system on Friday — the first day of the year in which all seven Sox minor league affiliates have taken the field:



— Shortstop Xander Bogaerts launched his second Triple-A homer in eight games since his promotion. He’s now hitting .200/.273/.400 in eight games with Pawtucket. Bogaerts did, however, also commit his second error since his promotion to Triple-A.

Still, that will do little to detract from the impression made by a 20-year-old’s ability to stay on a breaking ball that dove below the strike zone and barrel it, driving it out to left-center. Witness:

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— Outfielder Bryce Brentz went 2-for-4 with a double. Though he’s hitting just .214 in June, seven of his 12 hits have gone for extra bases, resulting in a .482 slugging mark.

— Catcher Dan Butler, 26, sustained his recent hot streak, going 2-for-4 with a ninth-inning homer. In those six contests, he has five multi-hit games, going 10-for-22 with a double and three homers, good for a line of .455/.478/.909. On the year, he’s hitting .237/.340/.420.



— It was a strange night on the mound for starter Drake Britton, who no-hit the Trenton Thunder through five innings before becoming completely unraveled in the sixth. Britton was hit hard, allowing a double to lead off the sixth, recording an out, then allowing a run to score on a wild pitch before walking a batter and giving up a string of six hits (a triple, three doubles, and two singles) and being lifted from the game after 5 1/3 innings. Chris Balcom-Miller then gave up a three-run home run in his second pitch in relief, allowing two of Britton’€™s runners to cross the plate. When all was said and done, Britton had allowed a season-high eight runs on seven hits, two walks, and four strikeouts.

Britton looked great through five innings, using only 53 pitches and retiring the first 13 batters of the game in succession before walking the second batter of the fifth inning. Before the hit parade in the sixth inning, Britton had allowed only two earned runs in his last 37 IP, a 0.49 ERA in that span.

The lefty fell to 6-6 on the year after taking the loss, his first since May 30, and now owns a 3.74 ERA on the season, compiling 72 strikeouts and 30 walks. Manager Kevin Boles was impressed that Britton managed to maintain his composure during an inning in which the starter could only get one out, telling the Portland Press-Herald, ‘€œI thought he executed his pitches. All you have to do is keep competing, and he did that. He kept competing and kept his mound presence.’€

Garin Cecchini made his Double-A debut on Friday night after earning the promotion from High-A Salem, going 1-for-4 with a double (Portland’€™s only extra-base hit of the night) and an RBI. Cecchini also made an error at third base while recording three assists. Cecchini forced his way into a promotion to Portland by leading the Carolina League in batting average (.350), OBP (.469) and coming in second in slugging percentage (.547) while also leading the league with 43 walks while striking out only 34 times. The third baseman also had 19 doubles, four triples, and five home runs in 63 games while swiping 15 bases with the Salem Red Sox.

‘€œIt did feel good,’€ Cecchini told the Portland Press-Herald of his debut. ‘€œOf course I would like to get the win, but that’€™s baseball. Things didn’€™t go out way. I enjoyed it and had fun out there. Now I have my feet in the water.’€

Michael Almanzar drove in Portland’€™s only other run, singling in Matty Johnson in the first inning for his team-leading 49th RBI of the year. The third baseman/designated hitter is batting .284/.344/.489 on the season, with 17 doubles, two triples, and 11 home runs. He’€™s batting .296 with runners in scoring position in 81 at-bats, driving in 36 runs.



Brandon Jacobs‘ first half was nothing short of a disappointment, as he put up worse numbers (.223/.308/.400) while repeating in High-A than he’d posted in a full year in Salem in 2012 (.252/.322/.410). However, towards late-May, he started to show improvement, hitting .295/.403/.475 over his final 19 games of the first half. He opened the second half with an eyebrow-raising performance, going 2-for-4 with a pair of homers. He’s now up to nine homers in 63 games this year, and his right-handed raw power remains as substantial as that of virtually anyone in the system. Given the performance over a year and a half in High-A, it’s fair to wonder whether Jacobs’ skills will ever translate to the sort of consistent output that will allow him a pathway to the big leagues. But during stretches like the past three weeks, there’s evidence of enough talent to make it impossible to give up on the possibility.

— Center fielder Henry Ramos, 21, continues to show intriguing signs of a developmental step forward. The athletic outfielder from Puerto Rico, hitting leadoff, went 2-for-5 with a pair of triples. Several observers inside the organization suggest that he’s made some of the most impressive strides of anyone in the system this year, going from a relatively crude approach to one that gives him an opportunity to advance. That’s been reflected in the results of late. In 15 games since June 5, he’s hitting .408/.474/.755 with four homers, seven extra-base hits and seven walks in 58 plate appearances.

— Left-hander Mickey Pena, in his second start back from a 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse, had a dominant outing, tossing five innings in which he gave up one run on three hits while walking one and punching out seven. In 22 1/3 innings this year, Pena now has 19 strikeouts and five walks. The 22-year-old has a big league caliber pitch mix — low-90s fastball, changeup, curveball, slider — that was evident last year in Single-A Greenville, where he had a 3.01 ERA, 95 strikeouts and just 22 walks in 104 2/3 innings.



— Second baseman Mookie Betts went 2-for-4, improving to .286/.410/.491. The 20-year-old has made a compelling case to advance to High-A Salem, but with Sean Coyle likely to return from injury in the not-too-distant future (he’s currently in extended spring training), the Sox likely need to wait for Coyle to perform his way up to Double-A rather than creating the possibility of an overcrowded second base situation in Salem.

Francellis Montas remained enmeshed in a funk. The 20-year-old flamethrower allowed six runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. He’s failed to last as many as five innings in any of his last four starts. In that span, he has a 9.37 ERA with 16 strikeouts and 10 walks, matching the number of free passes he issued in his first 39 frames of the season.



— Another day, another dominant starting performance in Lowell. Right-hander Jamie Callahan, a 2012 second-round pick out of high school in South Carolina, tossed five shutout innings, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out three. At 18, Callahan is the youngest pitcher to see action in the New York-Penn League thus far this year.

— Fellow 18-year-old Manuel Margot went 1-for-4 with his first extra-base hit of the season, a double. Margot is the youngest position player in the New York-Penn League, a level typically dominated by recent draftees out of college.



— Australian left-hander Daniel McGrath, signed in early 2012, made his first pro appearance an impressive one, allowing one run on just two hits while striking out six and walking none. The 6-foot-3 southpaw was scouted with a low-90s fastball when the Sox signed him for $400,000. Other teams were believed to have offered larger bonuses, but McGrath — whose family has New England ties — wanted to sign with the Sox.

Wendell Rijo, a 17-year-old whom the Sox signed out of the Dominican last year, made an impressive pro debut, going 2-for-5 (with a pair of strikeouts) while playing second. Rijo, whose father is a scout, is considered incredibly advanced for an international amateur who signed at 16, helping to explain the Sox’ comfort with having him skip the DSL and go straight to the GCL in his first pro assignment.

Oscar Perez, signed in 2008 as a catcher, made his first professional appearance as a pitcher, tossing a pair of shutout innings while giving up no hits and walking one. (He didn’t strike out anyone.) Perez, 21, was always viewed as a strong defensive catcher with an excellent arm but never hit, amassing a career .193/.248/.250 line while never advancing beyond short-season Lowell, thus resulting in the decision to convert him.

— First baseman/left fielder/DH Mark Hamilton, who has been out since fracturing his wrist in mid-May, appeared in the game, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout. The 28-year-old was off to a solid start in Pawtucket prior to his injury, hitting .275/.392/.529 in 31 games.



— Third baseman Victor Acosta continued to make his case as the top early-season performer among DSL Red Sox position players, going 2-for-4 with a homer. The 17-year-old is now hitting .250/.366/.383.

— Though left-hander Carlos Garcia is a bit older than many of his DSL counterparts at 18, the native of Venezuela continued to show an intriguing ability to miss bats. In five innings of one-run ball, he struck out eight and walked none, giving him 26 punchouts and seven walks in 19 1/3 innings. He’s struck out at least seven batters in each of his last three appearances.

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