Red Sox minor league roundup: The bigger picture for Allen Webster; Will Middlebrooks faces heat; Jamie Callahan bounces back; A triples machine in Greenville
|04.24.14 at 11:41 am ET|
It would have been easy for the Red Sox to summon Allen Webster to the big leagues on Wednesday. They needed a pitcher capable of providing innings in case anything went off the rails with John Lackey, given that the team’s bullpen had been pushed to obscene (11 innings) lengths in the prior two days. Webster, whose day it was to start in Pawtucket, would have given the team the possibility of a significant workload if needed.
But the Sox resisted the temptation to do so, instead electing to bring up Alex Wilson for the day. The reason?
“Didn’t want to disrupt Webster’s starting rotation work there. We felt like a two-inning reliever is what we needed, which Alex has done,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters. “Familiarity with the role. That’s why Alex is here.”
The Sox are mindful of what occurred a year ago, when Webster got off to a spectacular start in spring training and then April in Pawtucket, but started to see his dominant early performance get derailed once he started shuttling up and down between Pawtucket and the big leagues. He seemed to struggle with the transitions, lost confidence along the way and went from a pitcher who looked like he was on the cusp of being a big league-ready starter to one who looked lost.
And so, Webster remained in Pawtucket this time, under different circumstances than the ones that had the Sox looking for opportunities to bring him to the big leagues last year. He’s struggled through four starts, permitting more walks (12) than strikeouts (11) in 20 innings.
The decision to leave Webster in Triple-A was rewarded by his best outing of the year. For just the third time in his Triple-A career, he pitched more than six innings, logging 6 1/3 frames in which he attacked the strike zone in a fashion that stood out from his prior outings, walking just one, throwing 66 percent of his pitches (64 of 97) for strikes, punching out five, getting (by the count of Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal) 14 swings and misses and getting seven outs via groundball (including his first six of the game).
It was the sort of performance — mid-90s velocity with the ability to get grounders and swing-and-misses while throwing strikes — that points to the considerable potential the pitcher possesses. Now, he must start showing that he can achieve such results consistently. Leaving him in Pawtucket on Wednesday may have been a critical foundation for that pursuit.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-1 WIN VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS)
— For the second time in as many rehab games, third baseman Will Middlebrooks faced a top prospect with tremendous velocity and stuff and came away with a rough line to show for it. He went 0-for-3, striking out in all three plate appearances against giant Twins prospect (and former Red Sox draftee — whom the Sox wanted to sign so badly that they sent a front office cabal on owner John Henry‘s private jet to the pitcher’s doorstep in Indiana) Alex Meyer, who hit 99 mph on the McCoy Stadium gun.
“I asked a coach, ‘Who’d he make mad? Why is he here? Are there five guys better than him in Minnesota?’’ Middlebrooks told the Providence Journal. “I don’t know what his deal is. I just know that today he was nasty.”
Middlebrooks will get one more rehab game. He’s in the PawSox lineup on Thursday morning. He’s expected to be activated for the weekend series in Toronto.
— Middlebrooks was replaced for the top of the eighth by Garin Cecchini, who jumped on a 2-0 fastball away and up from left-hander Edgar Ibarra and drove it to left-center for a two-run double. Though Cecchini’s numbers to date this year against lefties (.273/.273/.364) have been modest, he’s had a consistently impressive approach throughout his minor league career against players of both handedness, contributing to the impression of him as a near-lock as a future big league everyday player.
— Bryce Brentz went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk — the 11th free pass he’s now taken in 20 games, matching his total from his first 42 games of 2013 in Pawtucket. Brentz is hitting .316/.567/.474 when ahead in the count.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: POSTPONED AT BINGHAMTON (METS)
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 4-2 WIN VS. LYNCHBURG (BRAVES)
— Left-hander Corey Littrell allowed one run in five innings, his fourth straight outing to open the year in which he’s permitted two or fewer runs. To date, the 22-year-old — who owns a 2.08 ERA — has punched out more than a batter an inning (22 in 21 2/3 innings) with eight walks. Interestingly, he’s been dominant to this stage against righties, who own a .204 average with 19 strikeouts and three walks against him; fellow lefties have hit him at a .360 clip with five walks and three strikeouts.
— Right-fielder Aneury Tavarez, a hyperaggressive hitter with the ability to put a charge into the ball, launched his second homer of the year, and now has four homers among his six hits in seven games. He’s hitting .231/.310/.577 in the early going.
— Right-hander Pat Light has been promoted to High-A Salem from Single-A Greenville.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-0 WIN VS. ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES)
— Right-hander Jamie Callahan, given seven days of rest between starts instead of the typical five after getting shelled for five runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings in his prior outing, rebounded with five shutout innings. The 19-year-old worked out of the stretch and around trouble for much of the game, as he permitted four hits (two doubles, two singles), walked three and uncorked a wild pitch while throwing just 48 of 90 pitches (53 percent) for strikes, but he also showed an ability to pitch out of jams, with four strikeouts and six groundball outs.
— Though Carlos Asuaje has played second, third and left field thus far this year, the 22-year-old has taken up unofficial residence at third base. He continued his outstanding start on Wednesday by going 3-for-4 with a double and a triple. His five triples this year are second most in all of minor league baseball. The development comes as somewhat surprising given that he had 12 doubles and one triple (along with one homer) in his pro debut with Lowell last year, but Asuaje insisted that his cluster of three-baggers is not accidental.
“I took a long time getting out of the box before,’ Asuaje told the Greenville News. ‘This year, in spring training, I worked to speed that up. Last year, I hit a lot of doubles. This year, I’m getting more triples because of that. It was definitely an adjustment I had to make.’
Asuaje has 11 extra-base hits in his first 15 games this year, and owns a robust line of .396/.492/.698 with an equal number of walks (9) and strikeouts (9).
— Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin went 1-for-4 and stole his second base in as many games and his fourth (in four attempts) this year.
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