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Red Sox minor league roundup: Rubby De La Rosa makes a dominating case; Blake Swihart rolling; the unhittable (and wild) Cody Kukuk

06.23.13 at 1:06 pm ET
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With Clay Buchholz unable to throw his side session due to neck stiffness and Allen Webster struggling again in a spot start, it may be time for the Red Sox to look to Rubby De La Rosa. And De La Rosa may have made that decision even easier with a stellar outing on Saturday, throwing six innings of near-perfect ball.

He allowed only one hit, a double to lead off the second inning, and struck out seven (tied for his season-high) without allowing a walk. The starter was not a factor in the decision despite holding Toledo scoreless through six. The outing was De La Rosa’€™s longest outing of the season, as the righty, who is a little under two years removed from Tommy John surgery, is working to get stretched out and go deeper into games. The hard-throwing right-hander threw 63 pitches with 42 going for strikes, and was touching 99 mph on the radar gun.

De La Rosa was just about unhittable on Saturday, tying his season-high with seven strikeouts and getting 11 swings and misses. The starter didn’€™t allow any walks for the first time in six starts, which is a big step forward after walking a season-high five in his previous outing. But De La Rosa has been difficult against opposing batters all season, posting a 2.54 ERA in 13 starts on the season and allowing only three earned runs in his last 43 innings, a 0.84 ERA. De La Rosa has not allowed more than four hits in any outing, and right-handers are hitting only .159 against him while lefties aren’€™t faring much better, hitting .172. Control has been the only real issue for De La Rosa, who has struck out 50 batters but walked 25 in 49 2/3 innings.

If the Red Sox opt to send Webster back to Pawtucket and bring up a reliever, he will have to remain in the minors for 10 days before being recalled (unless someone is placed on the disabled list in a corresponding move), which would leave De La Rosa and Alfredo Aceves as the most likely options to make the next start in the place of the injured Buchholz next weekend against the Blue Jays. De La Rosa has been called up to the big leagues once already this season earlier this month, but did not see any game action.

With the way De La Rosa has been dominating hitters in Triple-A, he could be a very enticing option for the Red Sox either in the starting rotation (for the time being) or, at some point, as an arm out of the bullpen. De La Rosa has progressively been throwing more innings every start, with his highest pitch count being 87 in his outing last outing before Saturday’s, and the starter is showing no signs of tiring with the extra work. Though Webster showed some encouraging signs (20 swings and misses) even as he struggled with his fastball location in his most recent start, De La Rosa could be the next to get a crack at making the rotation in Buchholz’s absence.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-4 WIN (10 INNINGS) AT TOLEDO (TIGERS)

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Justin Henry provided just about all of the offense for Pawtucket, driving in four runs on the day, including two in the top of the 10th inning to give Pawtucket the lead and eventual victory. Henry went 2-for-5 on the day with a single and a double, and brought his RBI total to 27 on the year. It was his first multiple RBI game since June 2. The second baseman is 5-for-12 in his past three games, and is batting .246/.324/.335 on the season with 16 extra-base hits.

Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2-for-5 on the day with a double and a single, and reached on an error in the top of the ninth inning, a play that pushed across the tying run for Pawtucket. Bradley has been struggling as of late, hitting .222 in the month of June through 45 at-bats. He’€™s showing signs of getting back on track, however. After a four-game hitless streak, Bradley has gone 6-for-17 with two doubles and a home run in his last four games. He’€™s still batting .306/.411/.492 through 31 games in Triple-A despite the recent slump.

– Reliever Clayton Mortensen, who is on a rehab assignment with Pawtucket after being placed on the disabled list on June 11 with a right groin strain, faltered in his second appearance for the PawSox. Mortensen relieved De La Rosa in the seventh inning and proceeded to walk a batter and give a go-ahead two-run home run to Toledo’€™s Danny Dorn. The right-hander threw two innings, allowing two runs on three hits while walking one and striking out two. He will be eligible to come off the disabled list next week, and would be a potential option for a return to the big leagues if Franklin Morales ends up on the DL.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 8-3 LOSS AT TRENTON (YANKEES)

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- After going hitless in six straight games (19 at-bats), Shannon Wilkerson had a big night on Saturday, reaching base three times with two doubles and a walk. Wilkerson also drove in his 21st run of the season. With the long hitless streak, Wilkerson’€™s line on the year fell to .251/.337/.363, and the outfielder has 11 doubles, four triples, and three home runs through 65 games. His first-inning double was his first since June 7, and a sixth-inning RBI was his first in 12 games.

Tony Thomas, who has split his time between left field and designated hitter so far this season, made his first start of the year at second base, where he’€™s spent significant time in the past. Thomas went 2-for-4 with a double, his second in three games, and a run scored. It’€™s been a rough month so far for Thomas, who is hitting only .193 through 16 games in June, though he’€™s showing signs of breaking out of the slump, going 5-for-12 in his last three games. Overall on the year, Thomas is batting .238/.300/.435 with 18 doubles, six triples, and seven home runs.

– In his second game with Double-A Portland, Garin Cecchini went 0-for-4 with his first two strikeouts with the Sea Dogs, including a strikeout with the bases loaded to end the game. Cecchini also drew his first walk since being promoted. Through two games at the Double-A level, the third baseman is 1-for-8 with a walk and two strikeouts.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 11-7 LOSS AT WILMINGTON (ROYALS)

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– It’€™s been a good month for Keury De La Cruz, who extended his hit streak to 18 games with a 2-for-5 day on Saturday. The outfielder, who is batting .385/.395/.538 in 20 games in June, is leading the Carolina League in RBI this month (20) and is second in batting average in that time span. The one thing De La Cruz hasn’€™t been able to do during his hot stretch is work walks; he has drawn only one free pass this month. De La Cruz has lifted his line on the year to .288/.316/.442 through 70 games.

– Starter Kyle Stroup was roughed up by the Wilmington offense, allowing a season-high eight runs on eight hits in an inning and two-thirds, his shortest outing of the year. Stroup was having difficulty hitting his spots, leaving the ball up in the zone and getting hit hard, giving up a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning while allowing five singles and a double in the second. The rough outing caused Stroup’€™s ERA to rise more than a full point, from 3.57 to 4.59 on the year. The starter was coming off one of his better outings of the season, in which he gave up only three hits and one run in seven innings, but with the loss on Saturday he fell to 4-5 on the season.

Blake Swihart has been hot lately, going 2-for-5 with a two-run double, Salem’€™s only extra base hit of the day. Swihart clubbed the double from the left side of the plate, sending an eighth-inning offering deep to right-center field.  The double was his third in four games and his 14th of the season. Swihart is batting .283/.360/.444 on the season, and while his OBP is the highest among regulars in the Salem lineup, he hasn’€™t drawn a walk in eight games, the second time he’€™s gone eight straight games without a free pass.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 8-0 WIN VS. HAGERSTOWN (NATIONALS)

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– Left-hander Cody Kukuk offered a fitting microcosm of his season, showing the fastball/slider combination that has made him almost unhittable this year. Indeed, he gave up no hits in his five shutout innings of work and struck out four. But he once again struggled considerably to stay in the strike zone, issuing seven walks while throwing just 44 of 85 pitches for strikes. The 20-year-old features stuff that is matched like few in the system, but with significant room for development as he tries to learn to harness it consistently in the strike zone.

Opponents are hitting a microscopic .156 against him with just over a strikeout per inning (52 in 51 1/3 innings) but nearly as many walks (50). He’s 4-7 with a 4.21 ERA, and right now, you could either foresee him as a pitcher who never reaches the big leagues or one who ends up being a frontline starter. Some evaluators consider him as a more likely candidate to be an electric bullpen arm given that he currently features two plus pitches (albeit wildly inconsistent command of them), but regardless, the potential is tantalizing, even if the 2011 seventh-rounder requires considerable refinement.

– Second baseman Mookie Betts went 3-for-4, boosting his average to .294/.415/.496. Since his average bottomed out at .145 on May 2, he’s now more than doubled it. Since May 5 — the start of a 19-game hitting streak — he’s hitting .368 (fifth-best among all qualifying minor leaguers at full-season affiliates) with a .458 OBP (ninth best) and .612 slugging mark in 39 games.

– Shortstop Jose Vinicio had his third three-hit game of the year, going 3-for-4.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 6-3 LOSS VS. TRI-CITY (ASTROS)

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– Outfielder Kendrick Perkins continued his solid start by going 2-for-4, driving in a run and stealing a base. Perkins has reached base in all four games so far, hitting .389/.476/.500 in 22 plate appearances.

– Outfielder Manuel Margot, the youngest position player in the New York-Penn League, went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk. He has hits in each of his last four games. He did get caught stealing.

– Right-hander Ty Buttrey, a 2012 fourth-round pick out of Providence High School in North Carolina who was signed for the equivalent of a first-round bonus ($1.3 million), allowed four runs on four hits (three singles and a double) and four walks in 3 1/3 innings.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 5-4 WIN (11 INNINGS, WALKOFF) VS. GCL TWINS

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Randy Perez, a 19-year-old left-hander from the Dominican, had a nearly perfect four inning outing, recording four of his 12 outs via punchout and the other eight via groundball while giving up just one hit and one walk. Perez was 5-3 with a 3.97 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 27 walks in 56 2/3 innings in the DSL last summer.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 2-0 LOSS AT DSL A’S

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– Catcher Isaias Lucena had the only hit of the game for the DSL Sox. The 18-year-old is hitting .200/.360/.250 this year.

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