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Red Sox minor league roundup: Matt Barnes and the role question; Blake Swihart belongs; Rafael Devers is ridiculous

07.13.14 at 4:59 pm ET
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Matt Barnes has struggled to deliver innings this year in Pawtucket. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Matt Barnes has struggled to deliver innings this year in Pawtucket. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 10-5 LOSS AT TOLEDO (TIGERS)

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– Right-hander Matt Barnes was pitching in the All-Star Futures Game two years ago, at a time when it appeared he might be on a fast track to the rotation as the Sox’ top starting pitching prospect. The memory of that time feels increasingly distant.

Barnes got hammered for seven runs (six earned) on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings on Saturday. He struck out four and walked four — his second straight outing with at least that many walks, fourth straight with at least three walks and this straight in which he had at least as many walks as strikeouts — while throwing 57 of 93 pitches (61 percent) for strikes. The outing marked the 10th time in 14 starts this year that Barnes has not been able to record a single out in the sixth inning. It was the third time that he’s allowed at least six earned runs and the fifth time he’s yielded four or more.

Barnes is now 4-7 with a 5.06 ERA. He’s averaging a tick over five innings a start, typically requiring his bullpen to record 12 or more outs. That suggests one of two things: 1) He still could end up being a big league starter, but will end up taking far longer to get to that point than anyone expected when he blazed a trail to the Futures Game in his first full pro season; or 2) He might simply be a late-innings bullpen arm who hopes to see his typically powerful fastball play up in short stints.

The former possibility shouldn’t be dismissed given that Barnes’ year started behind the eight-ball due to a shoulder injury and a shutdown; that sort of health issue can leave a pitcher to play catch-up all year. But the latter possibility of Barnes as a future bullpen option is becoming more real than ever, at a time when the Red Sox’ upper levels are getting more and more crowded with other starting options.

Alex Hassan added to a scorching run by going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer, his third longball of the year. Since he returned to Pawtucket from the his first big league summons, Hassan is hitting .359/.445/.583 with 18 extra-base hits in 28 games.

– Outfielder Derrik Gibson, who spent most of the last two and a half years in Double-A Portland, moved up to Pawtucket, where the 24-year-old went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout in his Triple-A unveiling while playing center. Gibson hit .314/.404/.424 in Portland, including .389/.454/.484 against lefties.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-2 WIN, 2-0 LOSS VS. NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS)

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– Left-hander Brian Johnson tossed a seven-inning complete game in the opener of the doubleheader, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits (including a double and a solo homer) while walking two and striking out four. He required just 84 pitches (12 per inning) to sail through the outing, throwing strikes with 65 percent of his offerings. The outing marked the third time in Portland that Johnson has thrown seven innings; he’s pitched at least six innings in eight of 13 starts in Double-A, with Saturday’s outing representing a considerable bounceback from his first struggle since his promotion (2 1/3 innings, 7 runs in his prior outing).

– Catcher Blake Swihart went 1-for-2 with a double and a walk. The 22-year-old switch-hitter is hitting .293 with a .350 OBP and .473 slugging mark.

“He’s unbelievable. He keeps getting better every year. He should be in this locker room right now,” Portland teammate Henry Owens said from the Futures Game.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 2-1 WIN AT WILMINGTON (ROYALS)

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– Catcher Carson Blair went 3-for-3 with a double and the game-winning homer in the ninth. The 24-year-old — who is old for High-A, but who has some untapped prospect status given that he’s playing every day for the first time in his career — is now hitting a robust .273/.398/.503 with eight homers and 25 extra-base hits in 53 games.

– Right-hander Joe Gunkel, one outing removed from a nine-run yield in five innings, rebounded to permit just one unearned run in 5 2/3 innings while allowing two hits, walking two and punching out three. The 22-year-old has a 3.81 ERA in five High-A starts and a 2.79 overall mark between Greenville and Salem.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-0 WIN VS. AUGUSTA (GIANTS)

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Manuel Margot went 2-for-3, slamming a homer (his eighth of the year) and a double. He also has 28 steals, making the 19-year-old one of seven minor leaguers with at least 25 steals and eight homers, hinting at a power-speed combo that, in tandem with his impact defense, makes Margot one of the Sox’ best position prospects.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 9-3 LOSS VS. MAHONING VALLEY (INDIANS)

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Nick Longhi went 1-for-3 with a walk to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. The walk was the 18-year-old’s second in as many games and his fourth in his last 10 contests; he’d walked just twice in his first 14 games of the year. He’s now hitting .352/.389/.477.

– Outfielder Danny Mars reached base four times, going 2-for-3 with a pair of walks. The sixth-rounder improved his line to .367/.436/.571 in a dozen games.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 9-2 WIN VS. GCL TWINS

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Rafael Devers is wasting no time in solidifying his standing as the top hitting prospect in the Red Sox system. The 17-year-old went 2-for-4 with a double and a homer while driving in three. He now has seven extra-base hits in as many games — tied for second most on the team despite the fact that he’s played as many as a dozen fewer games than his teammates — while his two homers are tied for the team lead. He’s walked three times and struck out twice while forging a .500/.552/.962 line.

– Shortstop Javier Guerra went 3-for-5 with a double and triple to boost his average to .314/.333/.486 while playing excellent defense at shortstop.

– Center fielder Joseph Monge followed a monster game on Friday by going 2-for-4 with a double (and reaching base a third time by HBP). The 2013 17th rounder is now hitting .326/.442/.605 with seven extra-base hits in 12 games.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 5-4 WIN VS. DSL METS

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– Left-hander Jhonathan Diaz tossed five shutout innings, allowing just two hits while walking two and punching out five. The 17-year-old has a 1.98 ERA with 28 strikeouts and just eight walks in 36 1/3 innings to date.

Read More: blake swihart, brian johnson, manuel margot, matt barnes
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