Red Sox minor league roundup: Why Double-A is right place for Henry Owens right now; triple play in Pawtucket; Drake Britton struggling; feats of Mookie’s teammates in Portland
|05.20.14 at 12:16 pm ET|
Left-hander Henry Owens had an outing consistent with a number of his recent games for Double-A Portland: He verged on unhittable, allowing just two singles; he got tons of swings and misses, with eight punchouts and 14 swings and misses resulting from his 89 pitches; and he walked four batters, resulting in both the only damage that came against him (a fourth-inning leadoff walk turned into a run) and abbreviating his outing. It was Owens’ second straight start in which he worked exactly four innings — and his third straight with at least a walk an inning (his four on Monday followed five in his previous two outings).
Owens is second in the Eastern League in strikeouts (57), strikeout rate (10.2 per nine innings) and batting average against (.190, but he’s also second in walks (27), and his 4.8 walks per nine innings this year represent a career-worst mark. All of that suggests that, whereas he looked like he had a chance to leave Double-A in his wake at the start of the year (when his command and control were locked in), it now appears safer to describe Portland as the right place for his player development at this time.
“The stuff’s undeniable — the stuff and his ability to use it to get swings and misses and mis-hits,” said Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett on this episode of Minor Details. “There are other things, some of which go beyond the box score. Controlling the running game is one point of emphasis coming into this year with some adjustments made. Particular pitch development — fastball, changeup are clearly strengths for him. He has a very good curveball as well. That’s something that’s been in the mix as well, a focal point. And overall command is something that does need continued improvement. … For us, fastball command continues to be paramount on the next level and it’s something that gets exploited as you move up and face older, more experienced hitters who are less fazed by pure stuff. Those are things that Henry is still working on. He’s made tremendous progress on those things.
“Clearly, the results are undeniable — he’s having a lot of success, and there are a lot of positives to be had, but I think he’s also had several outings this year when he’s truly been challenged by runners on base, by tough situations, facing good hitters in leveraged situations and he’s really had to work. So despite the couple outings where he undeniably hasn’t given up hits — many or any hits — he’s had other outings he’s had to grind through, shorter outings where he’s had to work hard. Those are things where there are huge developmental opportunities for him in those challenging starts as well as ones that are going well, to be pushing the envelope with some of the weaknesses.”
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-3 LOSS VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)
– Garin Cecchini may remain a work in progress defensively — something that the 23-year-old acknowledged to Tim Britton of the Providence Journal — but he showed excellent situational awareness and aggressive instincts in setting in motion this 5-4-3 triple play, a collaboration with second baseman Ryan Roberts and first baseman Ryan Lavarnway.
– Left-hander Drake Britton is amidst a considerable struggle. He allowed his first homer of the year as part of a two-run yield in an inning of work that saw him permit two hits, walk two and strike out none. He’s now gone five straight appearances without a strikeout, giving him 17 walks and 13 strikeouts on the year. Britton, who turns 25 on Thursday, has allowed five runs in 1 2/3 innings in his last two appearances. His outing could have been worse, but he was bailed out by the triple play.
– Right-hander Allen Webster was pitch inefficient but effective, tossing five innings in which he allowed just one run on three hits (a double and two singles) while walking three, striking out four and throwing just 59 of 99 pitches (60 percent) for strikes. The three walks snapped a stretch of five straight outings in which he hadn’t issued more than two free passes. While Webster has spent plenty of time pitching with runners on base this year, he has still been stingy with runs. His 2.47 ERA attests in no small part to opponents’ .205 average with runners on base against him and a paltry .128 average with runners in scoring position.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-0 LOSS, 8-2 WIN VS. BINGHAMTON (METS)
– Staef fo eikoom: Slumping? For the second time in three games, Mookie Betts did not reach base in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader. That marked the third time in four games that he failed to get a hit — something that he did just twice in the first 35 games of this season for Portland. However, he did rebound in the night contest to go 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Betts, who started in center field in the first game and served as DH in the nightcap, has seen his line drop to a still-outrageous .378/.447/.585 with 21 extra-base hits, 19 steals, 22 walks and 13 strikeouts.
– Deven Marrero went 3-for-7 with a double and two steals in the doubleheader, with his line now creeping up to .294/.381/.449 with 16 extra-base hits and eight steals this year — in roughly one-third of the plate appearances that it took him to collect 22 extra-base hits last year.
– First baseman Travis Shaw keeps pushing for a promotion with his most consistent performance since tearing up High-A in the first half of 2012. He went 3-for-7 with a triple and homer in the doubleheader, bringing his line to .301/.392/.523 with eight homers in 40 games, including a colossal .329/.441/.600 line against right-handers. He has 17 walks and just eight strikeouts against righties.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: OFF DAY
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 10-3 LOSS AT ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES)
– Left-hander Trey Ball, in his return from strep throat, could not get out of the first inning, allowing five runs on five hits (four singles, one double) and walking two. Four of the hits could be characterized as bad luck, given that two came on groundball singles and two were on soft hits in the air that found holes. Nonetheless, when his pitch count reached 36 in the first inning (20 strikes), he had to be pulled. He elicited three swings and misses. The 2013 first-rounder’s ERA stands at 9.42 with eight strikeouts and seven walks in 14 1/3 innings.
– Second baseman Wendell Rijo has seen his performance tail off. He’s 3-for-25 in his last seven games with a .120/.214/.280 line, a homer, a double, two walks and eight strikeouts in 28 plate appearances.
– Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. It was the first time in his career that the 20-year-old had collected multiple doubles in the same game, but the third time that he had multiple extra-base hits in a contest — in both the GCL in 2012 and Lowell in 2013, he had a game with a double and triple. The game boosted Lin’s line to .235 with a .331 OBP and .309 slugging mark.
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