Red Sox minor league roundup: Taking stock of Anthony Ranaudo; Brian Johnson, Daniel McGrath dominate; Blake Swihart, southpaw slayer; injuries for Deven Marrero, Wendell Rijo
|05.21.14 at 11:37 am ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Tuesday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-0 LOSS VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE
— There was one sequence in the top of the sixth inning that stood out in the day of Anthony Ranaudo. With a runner on first (followinga leadoff walk) and no outs, a left-handed hitter — Kyle Roller — stepped to the plate. First pitch: changeup with arm side fade, swing and miss. Second pitch: Backdoor curveball on the outside corner, called strike. Third pitch: Fastball on the hands, swing and miss.
It was a sequence that suggests a big league starting pitcher’s arsenal — after some refinements are achieved.
To be sure, Ranaudo isn’t a finished product. His fastball control (on a pitch that once touched 96 mph on the McCoy Stadium scoreboard, but mostly sat at 93 mph) came and went at times, most notably in a 27-pitch first-inning labor in which a pair of walks and a double led to a bases-loaded, one-out jam. But he worked around that with a strikeout and pop-out, commencing a stretch in which he retired 11 of 13. On the day, he ended up allowing just one run (a solo homer on an elevated fastball) in 5 2/3 innings, yielding four hits but punching out seven (while walking four).
The 24-year-old has a 2.15 ERA in his last seven starts. Control has been an issue in his 10 starts this year — he’s walked at least three batters in six of the outings, yielding 4.8 walks per nine — but while he’s not in position to jump into the big league rotation right now, the time isn’t far when he will be in position to do so. He has the arsenal along with the frame to take on a workload (the 6-foot-7 right-hander was strong through the last of his 106 pitches, one start after a career-high 109 pitches); the question is the consistency of execution.
— Daniel Nava is starting to regain some of the comfort at the plate that characterized his 2013 season. He went 1-for-3 with a walk on Tuesday, and he’s now reached base in each of the last 11 games, posting a .270/.378/.378 line in that time with a double, a homer, six walks and six strikeouts. He also had an outfield assist, cutting down a runner at the plate.
— Brandon Snyder continued his recent surge, going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. In his last five games, he’s 10-for-19 with three homers and three doubles. Despite having played in just 28 of Pawtucket’s 44 games, he’s tied for the team lead with 14 extra-base hits.
— Outfielder Bryce Brentz was placed on the DL with a mild hamstring injury. The injury is not expected to be a long-term one.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 2-1 WIN VS. BINGHAMTON (METS)
— Left-hander Brian Johnson, coming off a five-walk yield in his prior outing, gave every indication that his command struggles were a blip. The 23-year-old offered another impressive Double-A performance, allowing one run on four hits (a double and three singles) while walking one and striking out six. In his four starts since getting promoted, he now has a 2.01 ERA with 20 strikeouts and seven walks in 22 1/3 innings. He’s pitched at least five innings in all four of his starts, and he’s walked one or no batters in three of his outings. In 48 combined innings between Salem and Portland, he’s punched out 53 (9.9 per nine innings), walked 14 (2.6 per nine) and he has yet to give up a homer.
— Blake Swihart‘s assault on left-handed pitching continued, as the 22-year-old launched his fourth homer of the year — all against southpaws — on Tuesday. He’s hitting .289/.321/.477 this season, but with pronounced splits: The natural right-handed hitter is crushing lefties at a .386/.426/.727 clip, while he’s posted a .238/.264/.345 line against right-handed pitchers. He also keeps throwing everyone out on the bases — with another caught stealing on Tuesday, he’s caught 11 of the 24 attempted base stealers against him (46 percent).
— Shortstop Deven Marrero went 0-for-3, but more notably, left the game in the top of the seventh due to a jammed finger. The initial reports suggested that the injury wasn’t serious, but the 23-year-old will be re-examined on Wednesday.
— Eikoom fo staef: Mookie Betts, making the start at second base for the first time since Saturday, went 0-for-4. He has now failed to reach base three times in the last five games, and gone hitless in four of his last six contests, a 3-for-21 stretch in which he’s walked just twice. His season average has dipped to a still-lofty .369 (tops in the Eastern League), with his OBP now at .438 (second in the league) and his slugging mark at .571 (third).
— Left-hander Cody Kukuk had his best start since his promotion to High-A Salem. The 21-year-old logged six innings in which he permitted two runs (one earned) on five hits (four singles and a double) while punching out five and walking one. He achieved highs in innings and strikeouts, while the start represented the first in which he walked fewer than three batters. In his four starts in Salem, Kukuk has a 2.55 ERA; opponents have hit just .200 against him with a .215 slugging mark that reflects the fact that he’s yielded just one extra-base hit (a double). Walks have been an issue (13 in 17 2/3 innings), but Kukuk — armed with a mid-90s fastball, swing-and-miss slider and changeup — continues to show the raw materials of a potential impact arm.
— Catcher Carson Blair went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Incredibly, of his 17 hits, 15 have been for extra bases — 10 doubles, a triple and four homers — resulting in a .167 average that has nonetheless yielded a .402 slugging mark.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 11-1 WIN AT ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES)
— After a rough debut with the Drive, starter Daniel McGrath was stellar in his second start, tossing six innings and allowing just one hit and one run while striking out five. He didn’t allow a single walk on the evening (though he did hit a batter in the first inning), and the only blemish came in the form of a solo home run. McGrath not only didn’t allow a walk, but he didn’t even reach a three-ball count to any hitter while getting nine swings and misses and throwing 40 of 57 pitches for strikes (70 percent). It was just the third time the 19-year-old has reached the sixth inning in his young professional career. McGrath, who is almost three years younger than the average age of a player in the South Atlantic League, earned his first win in A-ball with the impressive outing.
— Jantzen Witte had just one hit on the day, but it was a big one, clubbing a bases-loaded double and driving in three. He also drew a walk. Witte has been on fire when it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position, compiling a .391/.469/.696 line in 46 at-bats in that situation, while he’s 4-for-6 with seven RBIs when the bases are loaded. Witte has reached base safely in 18 of his last 19 games, batting .388/.488/.672 with 14 walks and 14 extra-base hits over that span.
— Third baseman Jimmy Rider slammed his first home run of the season, a solo shot to left field. The 24-year-old also added two singles, a walk and another RBI. Rider had been slumping, going just 3-for-25 over his last seven contests, but is still batting .301/.416/.437 on the season.
— Tzu-Wei Lin had his second multi-hit game in a row, going 2-for-5 with a double and a walk while driving in three. It was Lin’s 11th double of the season, and third in his last two games. Lin started the game as the DH but moved to the field when Wendell Rijo was taken out of the game in the fifth inning due to a jammed thumb that has been nagging in recent days (and that kept him out of action for a couple of days last week). The 20-year-old Lin is batting .241/.337/.319 in 35 games this season.
With Lin entering the game, both McGrath and fellow pitcher Jake Dahlstrand had at-bats. Both struck out.
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