Red Sox minor league roundup: Blake Swihart’s career day; the Mookie Betts show; Travis Shaw scorching; Cody Kukuk pushes for promotion
|04.27.14 at 11:14 am ET|
While Mookie Betts has commanded the spotlight so far in Double-A Portland, he’s not the only potential up-the-middle All-Star for the Sea Dogs. Catcher Blake Swihart continues to offer signs that he could emerge as a catcher whose all-around game is that of an elite prospect, capable of leading a pitching staff, controlling the running game and offering an impact in the batter’s box.
Swihart authored a landmark offensive game on Saturday as part of an epic 9-8, 15-inning win for the Sea Dogs, going 4-for-7 with a game-tying homer (batting right-handed against switch-pitcher Pat Venditte) with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning and two doubles, including one that put runners on second and third and set up Portland for its 15th-inning walkoff. The four hits and three extra-base hits both represented career highs.
Both of Swihart’s homers this year have come as a right-handed hitter, a side from which he’s now hitting .444/.444/.778 in 27 plate appearances. Overall, he’s now hitting .344 with a .354 OBP and hefty .547 slugging mark.
The homer was a screamer down the left field line, just over the Maine Monster and just inside the foul pole. It underscored why the Sox believe that Swihart — who with two homers this year has now matched his total from 2013 in High-A Salem — has a chance to develop some home run capability down the line. The ball was absolutely hammered, a sign of Swihart’s bat speed and ability to barrel the ball; however, it also had virtually no loft, something that helps to explain why Swihart, who hits the ball as consistently hard as nearly anyone in the system, rarely hits home runs at this point in his career. He drills liners to the outfield and into the gaps, but has yet to develop his stroke in a fashion that allows those missiles to clear fences. But in time, Swihart may learn to elevate the balls that he barrels, and if so, he has plenty of strength to be able to clear the fences.
A look at his homer on Saturday:
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TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-5 WIN AT LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)
— Right-hander Brandon Workman continued to build innings in Triple-A, tallying a season-high six frames (on 87 pitches, 49 strikes), but he allowed four runs on nine hits (seven singles, two doubles) while walking two and striking out just three. Workman is now stretched out as a starter, though he has yet to excel in that role in Pawtucket, as he has a 6.28 ERA in his three starts, though with a solid 13-to-3 strikeout-to-walk rate in 14 1/3 innings of work.
— First baseman Ryan Lavarnway went 2-for-3 with a double and a pair of walks, bringing his numbers close to season highs (.256 average, .351 OBP). The 26-year-old’s double was his first extra-base hit in 10 games; he has just four (three doubles and a homer) in 22 games this year.
— Left-hander Rich Hill had his best outing of the year, firing two perfect innings with a pair of strikeouts. He has a 3.38 ERA with 15 strikeouts and eight walks in 13 1/3 innings.
— Right-hander Alex Wilson gave up his first run of the season, but he continued to produce groundballs and strikeouts in steady measure. Of his three outs, one came via strikeout and the other two were groundballs. In 10 innings this year, he has a 0.90 ERA and a .152 opponents batting average. Right-handers are just 1-for-20 with eight strikeouts against him.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 9-8 WIN (15 INNINGS) VS. TRENTON (YANKEES)
— Feats of Mookie: Popping the clutch. With the Sea Dogs down to their final out in the bottom of the 14th inning, Mookie Betts launched a two-out, solo homer to center field (his third of the year) to tie the game, 7-7, and send it to a 15th frame, where Portland erased a one-run deficit with a pair of runs to claim an unlikely walkoff win in which they erased three deficits in extra innings. Betts went 2-for-7 and has now collected multiple hits in 11 of 18 contests this year, good for a .418/.455/.658 line. It’s now been five games since he struck out.
— Pete Hissey erased the disappointment of an 0-for-6 day by pitching the 15th inning, navigating the frame by allowing one run on two hits. While he was slated to absorb a loss, the left-hander (who topped out around 80 mph) ended up emerging victorious thanks to the Sea Dogs’ two-run rally in the bottom of the 15th. It was the 24-year-old Hissey’s first professional pitching appearance.
— First baseman Travis Shaw has suddenly gotten very hot, going 2-for-6 with a homer (his third in seven games) and a walk. In his last seven games, he’s hitting .433/.514/.733 with five walks and just one strikeout. He’s more than doubled his average (from .125 to .262) while elevating his OBP more than 100 points (from .282 to .392) and more than tripling his slugging mark (from .125 to .400) in that span.
— Outfielder Henry Ramos followed a four-hit game on Friday with a 3-for-7 contest on Saturday that included a double and the two-run walkoff single in the bottom of the 15th inning. The switch-hitting 22-year-old now has an eight-game hitting streak en route to a .288/.316/.342 line.
— Outfielder Aneury Tavarez went 2-for-4 with a steal and drove in Salem’s only run. He’s driven in 12 runs in nine games, plating at least one run in seven of the nine games in which he’s played to date, including each of the last four. He’s hitting .265 with a .324 OBP and whopping .647 slugging mark, including a .350/.409/.950 line with runners on base.
— Right-hander Simon Mercedes allowed three runs on three hits (including a three-run homer) in four innings as a piggyback starter, though he did strike out four, walk just one and elicited five groundball outs.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 5-1 WIN VS. LEXINGTON (ROYALS)
— Left-hander Cody Kukuk fired six shutout innings, continuing his early-season dominance in his second year in Greenville. Though he walked four and threw just 52 of 90 pitches for strikes (58 percent), he elicited 11 swings and misses while striking out five and permitted just two singles. In five starts, Kukuk has shown the consistent dominance that eluded him last year, producing a 3-0 record with a 1.88 ERA with 29 strikeouts (10.9 per nine innings) and 12 walks allowed (4.5 per nine) in 24 innings. Opponents are hitting just .217 against him with one homer in 24 frames. Kukuk, who lasted as many as five innings in just 12 of his 24 starts last year, has pitched five or more frames in four of his first five starts this year. The early dominance may force a promotion to Salem in the near future.
— Center fielder Manuel Margot went 3-for-4 with a double, giving him seven extra-base hits in 18 games this year (after he collected 11 in 49 games in Lowell last year). He’s been inconsistent on a day-to-day basis but with a handful of standout games that underscore the 19-year-old’s considerable ceiling. He’s hitting .269/.319/.463 with five walks and 11 punchouts.
— Carlos Asuaje, playing third base on Saturday, had yet another multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a double. The 22-year-old is now hitting .365/.467/.635 with 12 extra-base hits in 18 games, ranking fourth in the South Atlantic League in average, first in OBP and second in slugging.
— Left-hander Trey Ball, the Red Sox‘ first-round pick (No. 7 overall) in the 2013 draft, makes his Greenville debut on Sunday.
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