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Red Sox lineup: Rusney Castillo sits, David Ortiz starts in Pirates finale 09.18.14 at 3:22 pm ET
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David Ortiz will be in the lineup at first base in the Red Sox‘ final interleague contest of the season. Mike Napoli will sit in deference to Ortiz, while Rusney Castillo — one day after his major league debut — will also get the night off, as Jackie Bradley Jr. will start in center field. Here is the Red Sox lineup for Thursday night:

RED SOX LINEUP

Mookie Betts, 2B

Xander Bogaerts, SS

David Ortiz, 1B

Allen Craig, RF

Daniel Nava, LF

Will Middlebrooks, 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Christian Vazquez, C

Brandon Workman, SP

Manuel Margot, Rafael Devers headline Red Sox Fall Instructional League roster 09.18.14 at 1:37 pm ET
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Outfielder Manuel Margot is among the Red Sox prospects taking part in Fall Instructional League. (Darrell Snow/Greenville Drive)

Outfielder Manuel Margot is among the Red Sox prospects taking part in Fall Instructional League. (Darrell Snow/Greenville Drive)

While the minor league season is officially done, the work of player development continues. Most immediately, the Fall Instructional League — which includes a number of lower-levels prospects who would be characterized as high-upside players but whose probability is harder to project given their distance from the leagues — is currently underway.

The players in Instructional League mostly played with short-season affiliates this year, though there are some players who spent the season in full-season A-ball. One notable omission: First baseman/outfielder Nick Longhi, who was enjoying an excellent season as an 18-year-old in the New York-Penn League with the Lowell Spinners, continues to recover from surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb.

The group includes several top Red Sox prospects, including outfielder Manuel Margot, 17-year-old slugging third baseman Rafael Devers, 2014 first-rounders Michael Chavis and Michael Kopech and shortstop Javier Guerra (among others).

The list: Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox minor league roundup: That’s a wrap 09.17.14 at 11:54 am ET
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Rusney Castillo punctuated his 11-game minor league stint with his first pro homer. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Rusney Castillo punctuated his 11-game minor league stint with his first pro homer. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

A wildly successful season in Triple-A Pawtucket came to an anticlimactic conclusion, as the PawSox (three days removed from their International League Governor’s Cup trophy) lost to the Omaha Storm Chasers, 4-2, in the Triple-A Championship Game on Tuesday night. While the Pawtucket lineup was held largely in check, the contest featured a few prospect performances of note:

– Rusney Castillo closed out his minor league warmup with a bang, lining a homer over the fence in left on the first pitch of the bottom of the first, wasting little time before jumping on the offering. Castillo showed a situational penchant for ambushing first-pitch fastballs in some at-bats, underscoring the view of him as an aggressive hitter (not necessarily the prototypical leadoff hitter) who looks to drive the ball rather than merely remaining content to put the ball in play and use his considerable speed. Here’s what the homer looked like:

Castillo, who went 1-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts (one swinging, one looking on a curveball that appeared outside) in Tuesday’s championship game, concluded his 11-game minor league tuneup by hitting .293 (12-for-41) with a .370 OBP, .463 slugging mark, five walks, nine strikeouts and five extra-base hits (four doubles and Tuesday’s homer).

Castillo is slated to make his Sox debut in center field on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Here’s a primer on the 27-year-old based on the limited opportunity to evaluate him in his three-level tour of the minors.

– First baseman Travis Shaw closed out his year on a high note, going 3-for-4 with a homer. Shaw had a tumultuous postseason. He was 6-for-13 with a homer, two doubles and five walks through his first four games, then went 3-for-22 with one walk, 11 strikeouts and no extra-base hits in his next four games before Tuesday’s finale. Shaw closed out the year with 23 homers, most among Sox minor leaguers. The 24-year-old likely needs more minor league seasoning to see if he can make the adjustments to lower his strikeout rate (he whiffed in 22.0 percent of plate appearances following his promotion from Double-A to Pawtucket), but his offensive profile — with the raw materials to combine extra-base hits and solid on-base percentages — is intriguing enough that he’ll represent a very interesting subject of conversation for protection on the 40-man roster to keep him from being eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rusney Castillo’s homer not enough as PawSox fall in Triple-A championship 09.16.14 at 11:46 pm ET
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Though outfielder Rusney Castillo launched the first homer of his pro career — jumping on a first-pitch fastball while leading off the bottom of the first and sending a liner over the fence in left-center — the PawSox were otherwise held in check for most of the night by the Omaha Storm Chasers, ultimately falling in the Triple-A championship game, 4-2.

Castillo went 1-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. Travis Shaw provided the other offensive fireworks for the PawSox, going 2-for-3 with a game-tying solo homer in the bottom of the sixth against Royals prospect Kyle Zimmer. But the tie proved short-lived, as Pawtucket reliever Miguel Celestino permitted a two-run homer in the top of the seventh to catcher Brett Hayes that resulted in the final score.

The PawSox have now won the International League‘s Governor’s Cup Finals but lost in the Triple-A championship game in two of the last three years. More to come from the game in Wednesday’s Minor League Roundup.

Why you should have cared about Tuesday’s game: Beyond Anthony Ranaudo’s home run struggles 09.16.14 at 10:14 pm ET
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(For the final month of the regular season, “Closing Time” will be called “Why you should have cared,” looking beyond the final score — at a time when losses are arguably more valuable to the Sox than wins (for draft and waiver position) — for either meaningful signs for 2015 or simple aesthetic considerations.)

Anthony Ranaudo has now given up 10 homers in 32 1/3 innings in the big leagues. (Getty Images)

Anthony Ranaudo has now given up 10 homers in 32 1/3 innings in the big leagues. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

It’s easy to jump to the conclusion, based on his initial exposure to the highest level of baseball, that Anthony Ranaudo will struggle to be a big league starting pitcher.

On Tuesday, in the Red Sox‘ 4-0 shutout loss to the Pirates (the 15th shutout loss for the Red Sox this year, the most times the Sox have been blanked since they were shut out 16 times in 1990 and tied for the sixth most times the team has been shut out since 1914), he suffered his third loss in as many starts, giving up three runs on a pair of homers (a two-run blast by Russell Martin and a solo shot by Starling Marte) in 5 2/3 innings. Ranaudo has now permitted 10 homers in 32 1/3 innings in the big leagues, one more than he allowed in 138 innings in Triple-A this year, and he’s struck out just 13 while walking 15 in that time. He’s a flyball pitcher who hasn’t been able to get swings and misses at the big league level.

That’s all fair, but there are a few takeaways from which Ranaudo and the Sox can derive encouragement. First, he’s showing strong mound poise and a consistent ability to compete at the big league level. He’s gotten into the sixth inning in five of his six starts, and he’s permitted three or fewer runs in four of those outings. Secondly, he’s competing even at a time when he’s working to push through a physical wall of a career-high in innings. He’s now up to 170 1/3 innings this year, up from his previous career high of 140 frames in 2013 — a 21.7 percent increase that is unsurprisingly accompanied by some diminution in stuff. Third, he’s showing at least hints of adapting, as suggested by the fact that he got seven groundball outs on Tuesday, showing at times action that suggested the incorporation of a two-seam fastball (or at least something that acted like it) to get his fastball off the barrel of opposing hitters.

Ranaudo’s stuff right now is down from where it was in much of 2013, and even in much of 2014. If, after a healthy offseason, he comes back with a velocity bump and sharper action on his secondary pitches to give him at least some potential for swings and misses, if the intelligent 25-year-old continues to show the ability to adapt his arsenal (he made a number of tweaks this year in Triple-A that demonstrated self-awareness about who he is as a pitcher) to get more regular groundball contact, he has a chance to be an important depth option for the Sox. He’ll likely be in Triple-A to open next year, but there are traits that he’s shown that suggest the potential to be a big league starter if his progress in 2014 represents part of a progression rather than an end point.

OTHER REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE CARED ABOUT TUESDAY’S GAME

– Left-hander Drake Britton continued to offer evidence that it’s premature to dismiss the potential for him to win a bullpen job for 2015, retiring the lone batter he faced. Opponents are now 1-for-13 against him in the big leagues this year.

– Xander Bogaerts went 2-for-4, extending his hitting streak to nine games during which he’s hitting .405/.425/.676.

– Though Will Middelbrooks struck out twice, he also had a double to right-center on a 1-2 pitch in the ninth inning against Pirates closer Mark Melancon.

– Though Koji Uehara gave up a leadoff double, the 20th extra-base hit he’s allowed this year, he rebounded by striking out the next three hitters, the first time he’s punched out three hitters since July 27.

Red Sox lineup: David Ortiz remains out as Red Sox open series in Pittsburgh 09.16.14 at 3:36 pm ET
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Red Sox DH David Ortiz, who had to leave Sunday’s game due to a family emergency, remains out of the lineup on Tuesday for the start of a three-game interleague series against the Pirates. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts will remain atop the order, with Daniel Nava batting third and Yoenis Cespedes cleaning up in front of Mike Napoli.

RED SOX LINEUP

Mookie Betts, 2B

Xander Bogaerts, SS

Daniel Nava, RF

Yoenis Cespedes, LF

Mike Napoli, 1B

Will Middlebrooks, 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Christian Vazquez, C

Anthony Ranaudo, RHP

Red Sox minor league roundup: When winning matters 09.14.14 at 10:22 am ET
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Typically, player development is individual. Ordinarily, the significance of wins and losses in the minor leagues are secondary to what happens to individual prospects as they work to move closer to the big leagues. In contrast to what happens at the highest level, a 4-for-4 is a bigger deal than a defeat.

But there are exceptions. There are times when the idea of winning becomes primary, even for players for whom a Triple-A postseason run represented a two-week delay of a potential September call-up.

On Saturday night, the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox followed their nail-chomping, 13-inning, 4-2 win over Durham in an elimination game with another victory, this one a wire-to-wire 4-1 win over Durham in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the Governor’s Cup Finals. The victory marked Pawtucket’s second International League championship in three years, an accomplishment that offered a reminder that the greatest achievements on the field are experienced collectively rather than individually, a notion made clear in the rush to the middle of the infield after right-hander Miguel Celestino’s 95 mph fastball was popped up to center, where it settled into the glove of Rusney Castillo.

This is what it is to care about winning in the minor leagues:

Some player notes from the game: Read the rest of this entry »

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