Red Sox minor league roundup: Daniel Nava begins the road back; Matt Barnes starts the road forward; Brian Johnson dominating
|04.26.14 at 12:56 pm ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Friday . . .
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-2 WIN VS. ROCHESTER (TWINS)
— Right-hander Matt Barnes, who joined the PawSox after opening the year in extended spring training after early spring shoulder tenderness resulted in a gradual buildup pace, tossed five innings in his first start of the season in Pawtucket, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits (five singles and a double) while walking two and striking out two. He struggled with his control, throwing just 44 of 81 pitches for strikes (54 percent) and, according to the MiLB.com’s Gameday tracker, he elicited just four swings and misses. Still, he showed good arm strength for his first outing, as Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times reported that Barnes touched 96 mph and sat at 93-94 on the stadium scoreboard.
— Daniel Nava, in his first game in Triple-A since being optioned, went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks and a steal. (He was also credited with a caught stealing at the plate while trying to advance during a Cecchini rundown.) Two of that plate appearances came against lefties, with Nava reaching on a hit and walk in those two plate appearances.
Nava suggested that even though he hadn’t anticipated being sent down, he wasn’t shocked once he was shipped to the minors.
‘It was something that I definitely wasn’t expecting, but at the same time, when it was brought to my attention, I understood why,” Nava, who was hitting .149 with a .240 OBP and .269 slugging mark, told the Pawtucket Times. “I just want to go out and play better, and this is an opportunity to do that.
“I feel that there’s no one to blame or get mad at them for anything. It also doesn’t matter if I view (getting sent down) as this or that,” he added. “The whole goal for everyone in that clubhouse is to get up or back to Boston. For me, this is an opportunity to get back on track, which is the best way I can really look at it.”
— Catcher Christian Vazquez went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, giving him nine two baggers on the year — most in the International League. He’s hitting .279/.318/.426.
— Third baseman Garin Cecchini was not credited with an at-bat, but in four plate appearances, he reached three times by walk and also had a sac fly. He’s now hitting .324 with a .397 OBP and .412 slugging mark. Defensively, he had mixed results, committing a pair of throwing errors (his second and third of the year) but also starting a 5-4-3 double play.
— Left-hander Drake Britton continued to have problems issuing free passes, issuing a pair of walks in his two innings (giving him nine in 12 1/3 frames this year), but he also punched out three and logged two more scoreless innings, giving him six straight scoreless appearances spanning eight innings and a 0.73 ERA for the season.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 14-10 LOSS VS. TRENTON (YANKEES)
— Feats of Mookie: Multiplicity. Second baseman Mookie Betts went 2-for-6 with his eighth steal of the year. He now has 10 multi-hit games this year and 13 contests (out of 17 played) in which he’s reached base multiple times. The 21-year-old leads the Eastern League in average (.431), OBP (.469), ranks fourth in slugging (.653) and is tied for second in steals (8).
— First baseman Travis Shaw is heating up, going 3-for-4 with a walk. In his last six games, he’s 11-for-24 with a pair of homers and three walks. In the process, the 24-year-old has boosted his season line from .114/.295/.114 to .254/.386/.356. While his line doesn’t stand out, it’s worth noting that he has more walks (12 — 16.7 percent walk rate) than strikeouts (9 — 12.5 percent rate), with the strikeout rate in particular representing an intriguing early step forward from a year ago in Portland, when he walked in 14.7 percent of plate appearances but with punchouts in 22.1 percent of plate appearances.
— Outfielder Henry Ramos, 22, had his second career four-hit game (his first since 2011), going 4-for-5 with a double. Ramos possesses athleticism, strong outfield defense, speed and some pop, and there are times when he shows the disciplined approach to suggest an interesting prospect. However, for now, that approach remains inconsistent, with relatively modest numbers as a result. He’s hitting .273/.304/.318 so far in Portland.
— Sean Coyle, back in the lineup after getting hit by a pitch on Monday, went 1-for-3 with a double and two walks. Of the 22-year-old’s five walks this year, four have come with runners on base, part of the early-season evidence of a disciplined, effective approach with runners on base. He’s hitting .214/.241/.321 with one walk and 10 punchouts with the bases empty, but .429/.538/.667 with four walks and five strikeouts with runners on base.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 10-0 WIN VS. LYNCHBURG (BRAVES)
— Left-hander Brian Johnson followed his six perfect innings in his prior start with another outstanding outing, tossing six shutout innings in which he permitted just four hits (one double, three singles), walked one and punched out eight. Johnson ranks fourth in the minors with 33 punchouts (11.6 per nine innings), a particularly impressive rate given that he’s walking just 2.5 per nine innings. The 23-year-old’s ability to command his fastball to both sides of the plate in his two-start run of 12 shutout innings has been particularly noteworthy — with his ability to pound his fastball inside opening up the outer half of the plate for his breaking ball, which was very good on Friday. He also featured a solid changeup.
He’s 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA thus far, but opponents haven’t hit him hard to date, as evidenced by a .230 batting average against and the fact that he has yet to give up a homer. If he can continue to show the ability to command both sides and to execute sequences at an advanced level with an understanding of how his stuff works, then he’ll make a compelling case for a promotion to Double-A Portland in the early months of 2014.
— Right-hander Kyle Martin gave up one hit in three shutout innings, and the 6-foot-7 23-year-old now has a formidable 24-to-2 strikeout-to-walk rate in 15 2/3 innings.
— Second baseman Reed Gragnani went 2-for-4 with a triple, improving to .385/.441/.481 with a double and two triples on the year.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 9-8 LOSS VS. LEXINGTON (ROYALS)
— The line for right-hander Myles Smith — five runs on five hits (four singles and a double), three walks and a hit batter in four innings — was ugly, though it’s worth noting that Smith cruised through his first 3 1/3 innings of work (getting the last out of the fifth and then not giving up a run in the sixth, seventh or eighth) before proving unable to get out of the ninth. Still, a number of his outs prior to that were on line drives and he struck out just one. When the Sox took him in the fourth round of last year’s draft, they saw Smith as an athletic pitcher with at-times electric stuff that he could run into the mid- and high-90s as an amateur, but given his relative inexperience as a pitcher (he started his college career as a position player), the expectation was that he would be challenged by the transition to pro ball. His early performance in Greenville — a 5.79 ERA, nine strikeouts, nine walks and three homers allowed in 14 innings — underscores the point.
— First baseman Jantzen Witte went 3-for-5 with a pair of homers, his first two longballs as a pro. Witte, 23, has seven multi-hit games in his last dozen contests to boost his season line to .323/.382/.508.
— Outfielder Bo Greenwell went deep as part of a 2-for-4 game, giving him three homers in two games.
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