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Red Sox minor league notes: Sean Coyle gets a look at third, Xander Bogaerts corrects the record

02.23.14 at 10:16 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox might want to assign both Mookie Betts and Sean Coyle to Double-A Portland early in 2014, perhaps even to open the season, after both players concluded 2013 in High-A Salem. Coyle has shown tantalizing upside as a power-hitting second baseman, but inconsistency and injuries have resulted in him spending the last two years in Salem, where he’s hit .247 with a .318 OBP, .429 slugging mark, 23 homers and 27 steals in as many attempts over 164 games. There’s little to be gained from having him start a third straight year in Salem; it’s probably time for him to be pushed to show if he will sink or swim against upper levels pitching.

The 21-year-old Betts, meanwhile, had a dazzling performance last year that raised the possibility of a fast track to Double-A. He dominated in Single-A and High-A, hitting a combined .314/.417/.506 with 15 homers and 38 steals in 42 attempts, and then he held his own against mostly more experienced opponents in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .271 with a .368 OBP and .373 slugging mark, a homer and eight steals while squaring the ball with head-turning consistency. The ability to impress against older competition offered a case that he could be ready for Portland.

But there’s one problem if the Sox want to start both players in Portland: They both play the same position. Or, at least, they have been playing the same position.

Both Betts and Coyle spent all of last season playing second base. Coyle hasn’t played another position as a pro. Betts has 14 games of experience at shortstop, but Deven Marrero is expected to be the Sea Dogs’ primary shortstop to start the year.

All of that being the case, while there has been thought given in the organization to cultivating Betts’ versatility (not only does he have experience at short as a pro, but he played center in high school), it was noteworthy that it was Coyle who was working out at third base on Saturday with Salem manager Carlos Febles. The more versatile the two players are, the more options it gives the Sox for assigning them to the same level without cutting into the playing time of either. There’s been no decision yet as to whether Coyle will second and third during the season, but this spring offers a chance for the Sox to see if that will be a possibility to permit the two high-ceiling prospects to be teammates as they move forward in their player development.

A couple of additional prospect notes:

— Right-hander Miguel Celestino confirmed that he hit 100 mph in Portland last year, but he noted that velocity isn’t the most important thing for him — command is. After all, even though the 6-foot-6 pitcher may be the hardest thrower in the Sox organization, he struggled to a 1-9 record and 6.12 ERA in his move to the Portland bullpen, allowing 10 homers in 72 innings.

Garin Cecchini reports that he’s up to 220 pounds this spring. Xander Bogaerts, meanwhile, expressed bemusement that people are exaggerating his size.

“I’m 6-foot-1 — I don’t know where people are coming up with 6-foot-3. I just did the physical [on Friday],” he said. “Correct [the record]: I’m 6-1, 210.”

— While the Red Sox have said they’ll stretch out Drake Britton and haven’t made a final determination for his role this year, even if he’s in the minors, there’s a good chance he will progress full-time as a reliever based on how he seemed to respond so naturally to the role after being converted to the bullpen in the big leagues last year. Even if he ends up relieving, however, the Sox will still want to build him up to handle multiple innings during the spring. Part of the left-hander’s focus this spring is on staying upright on the mound rather than collapsing his back leg in search of more power; the latter, the Sox felt, might have allowed his velocity to tick up but left his stuff flat through the strike zone, making it more hittable. Staying upright would permit him to better leverage the ball down in the strike zone.

Read More: mookie betts, sean coyle, spring training 2014, xander bogaerts
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