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Red Sox minor league roundup: Garin Cecchini, run producer; Mookie Betts adds another position; Henry Owens, Joe Gunkel ridiculous; Trey Ball’s struggles continue

06.27.14 at 12:07 pm ET
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-3 WIN VS. NORFOLK (ORIOLES)

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Garin Cecchini, back at third base on Thursday, launched a first-inning grand slam as part of a 1-for-3 day that also included a walk. While Cecchini’s overall numbers this year have looked modest (.263/.340/.343), he’s been a monster with opportunities to drive in runners. With runners on base, he’s hitting .320/.395/.410, marks that bump up to .393/.493/.536 with runners in scoring position and .625/.625/1.250 with two doubles and a homer in eight plate appearances with the bases loaded. The grand slam was the first of Cecchini’s pro career.

– Feats of Mookie: Diversifying. With Shane Victorino‘s rehab stalled by back stiffness, Mookie Betts played right field for the first time on Thursday. Though he bobbled a single, he recovered in time to throw out a runner trying to advance from first to third. At the plate, he went 0-for-2 but drew two walks, extending his streak of consecutive games reaching base by walk or hit since his promotion to Pawtucket to 22, with a line of .330/.422/.455 in that time. He also stole his seventh base in nine attempts since joining the PawSox. At a time when he may be days away from a big league callup, Betts displays surprise about his rocketing career trajectory.

– First baseman Travis Shaw went 2-for-4 with a double, giving him four extra-base hits in two days after he had just six in his first 27 contests following his promotion from Portland.

– Right-hander Matt Barnes allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings, allowing five hits (a solo homer and four singles), walking three and punching out five. Though the three walks were the most he’d issued in six starts, Barnes threw 69 of 102 pitches (68 percent) for strikes, and on the year, he’s showing improved control from a year ago, trimming his walk rate from 3.8 to 2.8 per nine innings. Since a two-start stumble in which he gave up 13 runs in 7 1/3 innings, Barnes has a 3.41 ERA in his last five starts.

– Outfielder Andres Torres joined Pawtucket from Lowell, going 0-for-3 while playing center field.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 9-4 WIN AT READING (PHILLIES)

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– Left-hander Henry Owens proved human, allowing four runs on five hits (including a pair of two-run homers) in six innings. The four-run yield matched his total from his previous eight outings (spanning 51 1/3 innings).

Yet Owens continued to attack the strike zone, issuing two walks (his sixth straight outing of two or fewer walks) while throwing a startling 70 of 98 pitches (71 percent) for strikes. While attacking, he continued to get swings and misses (punching out six in his six frames), and with the exception of the two homers (the first he’d given up in 54 1/3 innings), he got plenty of bad contact, as evidenced by the eight groundball outs he elicited.

He’s had six straight outings of at least six innings. With Portland’s comeback victory, Owens became the first Eastern League pitcher this year to reach double digits in wins, improving to 10-3, with his ERA going from 1.99 to 2.25. In 21 career Double-A starts (15 this year, six in 2013), Owens has a 2.13 ERA — the best in Sea Dogs history by a pitcher with at least 120 innings at the level.

Pedro Martinez has taken note of Owens’ performance.

Sean Coyle went 3-for-4 with a three-run double and a walk, his fourth three-hit game of the year. The 22-year-old has reached base in 18 straight games, hitting .371/.466/.677 with five homers and nine extra-base hits in that run.

– Shortstop Deven Marrero went 2-for-3 with a walk, extending his hitting streak to nine games during which he’s 17-for-30 (.567) with five multi-hit games, boosting the 23-year-old shortstop’s season line to .296/.376/.432, up from .252/.338/.317 a year ago.

– Right-handed reliever Noe Ramirez has been dominant. He tossed three shutout innings in relief of Owens to earn his eighth save in as many opportunities. He has a 1.85 ERA with 34 strikeouts and nine walks in 39 innings for the year, with a 0.72 ERA in 25 innings in May and June.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 2-1 WIN VS. CAROLINA (INDIANS)

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– Right-hander Joe Gunkel threw six shutout innings, allowing four hits (three singles and a double) while walking two and punching out four. He’s allowed three runs in 11 1/3 innings in two starts since his promotion from Greenville. The 22-year-old has started his professional career by posting a 7-0 record, 2.04 ERA, 102 strikeouts and 18 walks in 83 2/3 innings; opponents are hitting .144 against him.

– The irrepressible Reed Gragnani, playing left field for the second time (he’s primarily played second with some third base in the mix this year), went 2-for-4 with a double. He now has 25 multi-hit games this season en route to a .330/.429/.439 line.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 9-4 WIN AT ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES)

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– Left-hander Trey Ball‘s challenging first year of pro ball continued, as he yielded six runs (just three earned) on 10 hits (seven singles and three doubles) while walking one and punching out four before getting knocked out in 3 2/3 innings, laboring through 90 pitches (of which a whopping 64 — 71 percent — were strikes). The 2013 first-rounder’s record now stands at 1-7 with a 7.27 ERA; opponents are hitting .370 against him in his 11 starts, and after showing signs of progress at the end of the first half, he’s allowed 10 runs (seven earned) in 7 2/3 innings in two starts to open the second half.

The fact that Ball (who turned 20 today) continues to throw strikes through his struggles represents a noteworthy marker in its own way, evidence of his persistence in the fact of adversity that suggests to the Sox that he’s at the right level for his player development at this point in time. And at times when he shows the ability to complement his low-90s fastball with off-speed stuff that he can throw for strikes (particularly his curveball, which has shown potential), he’s been able to hold his own. But when his secondary stuff has been lacking, he’s become fastball-dependent in a way that has made him vulnerable.

The Sox understood when they drafted Ball with the No. 7 overall pick in 2013 that they would need to be patient with him. He represented a pick who offered all kinds of projectable promise, given an easy delivery that generated 92-94 mph velocity as a high school senior, with flashes of an above-average curveball and a solid changeup. As his body matured, the Sox expected, there would be more power to the fastball, and repetition with his curve (a pitch he only started throwing as a high school junior) would offer the possibility of a nasty mix.

The Sox continue to look at Ball in the same light now, through his first 11 pro starts in Greenville. But from at least the statistical standpoint, the severity of the challenge that Ball has experienced in his first full pro season has been unexpected.

– Second baseman Wendell Rijo went 2-for-4 with a double but struck out twice. After opening the year with a surprising .309/.440/.471 line in April that belied his status as one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League, the 18-year-old has seen his strikeout numbers spike and his ability to get on base take a hit. In May and June, he’s hitting .240/.306/.357 with 14 walks and 45 strikeouts.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 3-0 WIN VS. TRI-CITY (ASTROS)

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Randy Perez, a 20-year-old left-hander, threw six shutout innings, scattering four hits (two singles, two doubles), issuing a walk and punching out six (his second-highest strikeout total as a pro, exceeded only by a nine-strikeout game in 2012 in the Dominican Summer League). The 5-foot-10 southpaw has a 2.40 ERA with four walks and 11 punchouts in 15 innings for the Spinners.

Nick Longhi continues to perform at a level that belies his youth. The 18-year-old went 2-for-3 with a walk, improving to .350/.372/.500. It was his second straight contest in which he collected two hits and reached base three times.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 9-0 LOSS AT GCL RAYS

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– Third baseman Victor Acosta had his fourth extra-base hit in two days, going 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. Through five games, the 18-year-old has walked and struck out in equal measure (three times each) while hitting .222/.333/.556.

– Center fielder Derek Miller, a 21-year-old whom the Sox drafted in the 23rd round this year out of the University of Texas-Arlington, went 3-for-4 for his third multi-hit game in six contests. He’s hitting .360 with a .385 OBP (and no extra-base hits to date) in his first six pro games.

– Fifth-rounder Josh Ockimey made his pro debut, punching out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 7-6 LOSS VS. DSL CARDINALS

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Rafael Devers Watch: Still in the DSL. Devers struggled through a rough day, going 1-for-5 with three strikeouts while also committing a throwing error. While the 17-year-old is mature beyond his years at the plate (he’s hitting .348/.450/.573), he’s enduring struggles more typical of a player his age in the field, having committed eight errors in 18 games at third.

– Shortstop Carlos Tovar, 18, went 0-for-3 but walked three times to maintain his OBP of over .400. He’s currently hitting .273/.406/.416.

Read More: garin cecchini, joe gunkel, mookie betts, Trey Ball
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