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Red Sox minor league roundup: Mookie Betts gets versatile; Rubby De La Rosa returns to the strike zone; Deven Marrero’s defensive wizardry

05.19.14 at 12:05 pm ET
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Rubby De La Rosa struck out a season-high eight on Sunday. (AP)

Rubby De La Rosa struck out a season-high eight on Sunday. (AP)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox system on Sunday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 LOSS VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)

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–Right-hander Rubby De La Rosa reacquainted himself with the strike zone, throwing 63 of 92 pitches (68.5 percent) for strikes in a five-inning outing in which he yielded two runs on nine hits (five singles, three doubles and a triple) but permitted just one walk and punched out a season-high eight. He was credited by MiLB.com’s GameDay with 13 swings and misses, slightly better than his season average of swings and misses on 11.9 percent of his pitches.

The outing broke a string of four straight starts in which the right-hander walked three or more batters, a span in which he struggled to a 5.95 ERA. In the five outings in which the right-hander has walked two or fewer batters (which includes Sunday), he’s dominated, recording a 1.63 ERA.

Dalier Hinojosa may have turned a corner after his early-season struggles. The 28-year-old Cuban right-hander, who is making his pro debut after defecting from C’uba last year, fired a pair of hitless innings in which he didn’t allow a run, walked one and punched out three. In his last four games, he’s worked six innings, allowing one run on two hits while walking one and punching out eight — a pronounced contrast to his first 11 1/3 innings, in which he gave up 10 runs (nine earned) with 11 strikeouts and 12 walks, at a time when he was pitching in cold weather for the first time in his life.

Ryan Lavarnway, making his ninth start of the year at catcher, clubbed his second homer of the year. He’s hitting .252 with a .348 OBP and .336 slugging mark.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 2-1 WIN VS. TRENTON (YANKEES)

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– Feats of Mookie: Versatility.

Mookie Betts bounced back from a Saturday contest that saw his 71-game streak of reaching base come to an end by going 1-for-3 with a single, a walk and a stolen base. (An errant throw by the catcher on the steal of third permitted Betts to score the game-winning run.) The 21-year-old is now hitting .382/.453/.586 with six homers, 22 walks, 13 strikeouts and 19 steals in 22 attempts this year. He’s converted all nine of his stolen base attempts in May.

However, his offensive and baserunning exploits were upstaged by a landmark event. For the first time in his professional career, Betts started in center field. All of Betts’ previous time in the minors with the Sox had come at either shortstop (13 games — one in his pro debut in 2011, and 12 more contests at the start of 2012 with Lowell) or second base (220 games). Sunday marked the Sox’ first opportunity to expose Betts (who felt most comfortable in center field in high school) to center to increase his potential pathways to the big leagues.

He didn’t see much action at the position, fielding a single and catching a flyball. Still, the development represented a point of departure that signifies the cultivation of versatility that often accelerates a player’s timetable for the big leagues.

Betts will continue to play second while also getting time in center. More on Betts in center field here.

– Shortstop Deven Marrero went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. Here’s why Marrero — at time when he’s posted a very solid line of .287 with a .378 OBP and .442 slugging mark — is getting close to creating some very interesting discussions for the Red Sox about the shape of the left side of their infield in years to come:

– Catcher Blake Swihart added to recent evidence of his progress with plate discipline. The 22-year-old went 1-for-2 and took his fourth walk in the last five games — after he walked just twice in his first 26 contests of the season. Swihart has struck out just once while going 4-for-14 with a homer during the five contests. All three of his plate appearances on Sunday came against lefties, against whom Swihart is hitting .366 with a .409 OBP and .659 slugging mark this year; the switch-hitter has a line of .250/.277/.363 against righties. Swihart was also 1-for-2 in nabbing potential base stealers, improving to a 45 percent (10 of 22) caught stealing rate this season.

– Right-hander Mike Augliera, 23, allowed one run on five hits in a season-long eight innings, striking out a season-high five and walking one. Though this was the 2012 fifth-rounder’s longest outing of the year, it marked the fourth time in eight starts that he’s thrown seven or more innings in an outing; the sinkerballer ranks third in the Eastern League with 51 2/3 innings pitched this year. While his pitch-to-contact approach has resulted in low strikeout numbers (3.7 per nine innings), he’s throwing strikes and rarely walking opponents (1.7 per nine innings), keeping the ball in the park (0.3 homers per nine innings) and churning through outings with evident efficiency. He required just 90 pitches, 64 strikes (71 percent) to log his eight innings on Sunday.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 3-1 LOSS AT CAROLINA (INDIANS)

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– Right-hander Simon Mercedes endured a woeful command struggling, finding the strike zone with just 33 of 71 (46 percent) of his pitches, while lasting 3 1/3 innings in which he permitted four hits (two singles, two doubles) while walking five and striking out two. The control difficulties represented an aberration from the work that normally characterizes the 22-year-old, who entered the game having issued just 2.8 walks per nine innings. Indeed, the outing represented the first time in his 22 professional outings that Mercedes had walked more than two batters.

– Right-hander William Cuevas, who followed Mercedes into the game, submitted 4 2/3 shutout innings of relief in which he matched a season-high by punching out eight, walked none and allowed just two hits (both singles). In 34 2/3 innings, Cuevas has 33 strikeouts and just five walks this year — and he’s now gone four outings spanning 18 innings without issuing a walk. Though he’s flyball-oriented with some home runs thrown into the mix as a result, his willingness to attack the strike zone and get swings and misses (at times) should allow him to keep moving up. Cuevas has an attention-grabbing 20-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio against right-handed hitters this year.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 3-1 LOSS AT ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES)

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– Right-hander Ty Buttrey left the game after 3 1/3 innings due to blisters on his pitching hand. The 2012 fourth-rounder (who received a $1.3 million signing bonus) sailed through three scoreless innings in which he allowed just two singles, but in the fourth, he allowed three straight doubles, a single and a sac fly before getting pulled due to the injury. The 21-year-old has endured a considerable season-long struggle, having allowed 16 runs (15 earned) in 11 1/3 innings over four starts.

– Right-hander Jonathan Aro delivered 4 2/3 dominating innings of relief for Buttrey, permitting one hit and one walk without allowing a run. He struck out six, giving the 23-year-old 26 strikeouts in his last 19 1/3 innings (12.1 per nine innings). Opponents are hitting just .134 against Aro this year.

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