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Red Sox minor league roundup: Would Mookie Betts be a consideration for an injured Dustin Pedroia?; the riddle of Allen Webster; Wendell Rijo shows some pop 04.14.14 at 12:22 pm ET
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Right-hander Allen Webster got tons of groundballs but continues to struggle to throw strikes. (AP)

Right-hander Allen Webster got tons of groundballs but continues to struggle to throw strikes. (AP)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-5 WIN (12 INNINGS) AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

– If Dustin Pedroia lands on the disabled list, Brock Holt would be in line for a call-up, with the possibility that the Sox could entrust everyday second base duties to him while keeping Jonathan Herrera in his current third base platoon/utility role. After all, Holt is off to a scorching start for Pawtucket — though 1-for-6 (with a double and walk) on Sunday, he’s now hitting .389/.476/.583 with five extra-base hits, four steals (in four attempts), five walks and two strikeouts in nine games. While Holt made little impact in the big leagues last year, hitting .203/.275/.237 in 59 plate appearances, he performed well in his only everyday opportunity in the big leagues, hitting .292/.329/.354 in 24 games with the Pirates at the end of 2012.

If Pedroia doesn’t end up on the DL and the Sox decide they need to make their bench deeper for the White Sox series with both Ryan Roberts and Herrera pressed into everyday duty, then utility man Mike McCoy — who can play virtually anywhere on the field — would become a consideration, as Holt cannot be called up until at least Thursday given that he was called up on April 7; barring a position player landing on the D.L., he needs to spend at least 10 days in the minors before he can return to the big leagues.

– Right-hander Allen Webster is at an interesting career stage, seemingly in a cocoon from which it is unclear if he will emerge as a butterfly or a moth. The 24-year-old had an outing that showed both his considerable potential and underscored the questions of whether he will be able to reach his ceiling, logging five innings in which he allowed four runs (three earned) on just three hits (one of which was a homer). He recorded a whopping 12 groundball outs, underscoring the degree to which his two-seam fastball can be a devastating offering, but he also had just one strikeout and walked four, while throwing a modest 58 of 96 pitches (60.4 percent) for strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to just half of the 24 batters he faced.

In three starts this year, the 24-year-old has seen last year’s strikeout rate of 9.9 per nine innings cut roughly in half to 4.9 per nine innings, and he’s also walked an identical 4.9 per nine innings. But he’s once again getting groundballs at a tremendous rate that had characterized much of his career prior to 2013.

If Webster can execute his two-seamer consistently in the strike zone, then it’s such a powerful weapon that it permits the possibility of opening up the rest of his arsenal and permitting him to have a starter’s pitch efficiency. But if he struggles to throw the pitch for strikes, then the possibility exists that concerns about his inability to give reliable innings will result in a move to the bullpen. Thus far in 2014, there are few indications of which outcome is more likely. Read the rest of this entry »

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John Farrell: ‘It’s hard to have any faith in the [replay] system’ 04.14.14 at 12:23 am ET
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John Farrell was ejected after arguing a decision reversed by replay. (AP)

John Farrell was ejected after arguing a decision reversed by replay. (AP)

Red Sox manager John Farrell felt that the replays were inconclusive. His feelings about the replay system are anything but.

On Sunday night, the Red Sox saw a video review go against them for the second straight day. On Saturday, the ruling both on the field and by replay officials — who failed to uphold Farrell’s challenge that Dean Anna had overslid the bag and was thus out — proved an immediate embarrassment when decisive still shots proved that the Yankees shortstop had been out. On Sunday night, the replay ruling – an overrule of a call on the field, with Francisco Cervelli deemed to have beaten out what would have been an inning-ending double play and instead having legged out what proved to be a decisive run-scoring fielder’s choice in New York’s 3-2 win — was less egregious.

Nonetheless, Farrell insisted that the replays did not offer decisive evidence to support the reversal of the on-field call. He said that the ball was in first baseman Mike Napoli‘s glove by the time Cervelli’s foot landed on the bag, and that the Sox had been told that a player need not squeeze the ball with his glove for the out to be called. And given his discomfort with the decisions of the two consecutive games, the Sox manager used the opportunity to unload on the replay system that Major League Baseball has introduced this year.

“We felt that it was clear that the replay was inconclusive,” Farrell told reporters in New York. “The frustrating part is when this was rolled out and explained to us, particularly on the throw received by the first baseman, we were instructed that when the ball enters the glove, not that it has to hit the back of the glove, is where the out is deemed complete. At the same time, any angle that we looked at, you couldn’t tell if the foot was on the bag behind Mike Napoli‘s leg. Where this became conclusive is a hard pill to swallow. On the heels of yesterday, it’s hard to have any faith in the system, to be honest with you.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Short-handed Red Sox offense comes up short in loss to Yankees 04.13.14 at 11:17 pm ET
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John Farrell was ejected after arguing a decision reversed by replay. (AP)

John Farrell was ejected after arguing a decision reversed by replay. (AP)

When Carlos Beltran reached free agency after the 2013 season, the list of his suitors was numerous, and included a pair of familiar rivals in the Yankees and Red Sox. But the Red Sox felt compelled to limit the term of their offer, and weren’t going to consider a three-year deal for the outfielder; when New York stepped in with a three-year, $45 million deal, Beltran was fitted for Pinstripes.

It may be that, by the third year of his deal (if not sooner), Beltran offers little return on New York’s investment. But in the more immediate term, he paid dividends for the Yankees against a team that also competed for his services. Beltran beat up Red Sox starter Felix Doubront, going 3-for-4 with a two-run homer that jumpstarted New York’s 3-2 victory. In the series, he was 6-for-15 with a pair of homers and two doubles, offering the Red Sox an unwanted reminder of the player whom they wanted to acquire, at a time when the Sox are struggling for offense.

With Sunday’s loss, the Sox have now scored two or fewer runs in five of their 13 games — a contrast to the steady offensive showings of a year ago, when the Sox had just 38 games of two or fewer runs, the second fewest such contests in the big leagues. The offensive inconsistency is a reflection of the inconsistent personnel available to the Sox, at a time when Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino are all unavailable. Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that the Yankees have likewise been decimated by injuries, with Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter and closer David Robertson unavailable, suggesting the Sox’ issues in the early-going run deeper than simply who is and is not available.

The Sox leave New York with a 5-8 record, the worst mark in the AL East.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– The Red Sox are unlikely to offer testimonials for baseball’s new replay system. On Saturday, replay failed to correct a blown call on the field when replay clearly showed that Yankees shortstop Dean Anna overslid the bag at second (he was ruled safe, a decision that was upheld by replay, but MLB subsequently acknowledged that the call had been blown).

“There’s a lot of questions that come up and really challenges the validity of the process that’s being used,” Farrell told reporters in New York prior to Sunday’s game.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox ‘hopeful and expecting’ Koji Uehara back for White Sox series 04.13.14 at 7:00 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

While Koji Uehara will remain unavailable on Sunday, two days after shoulder stiffness rendered him unavailable for a game against the Yankees, the Red Sox closer was able to long toss and throw on flat ground (mixing his fastball and splitter) on Sunday in Yankee Stadium, and based on how he responded, the Red Sox are optimistic that he’ll be able to avoid the disabled list and pitch during the forthcoming series against the White Sox in Chicago. Uehara will be examined at length in Boston on Monday (an off-day for the Red Sox), and he’ll need to throw off a bullpen mound to make sure he’s ready for game action, but if all goes well, the Red Sox believe that they may have averted a potential significant blow to their late-inning ambitions.

“He was really able to generate good arm speed. He’s moving past some of the concerns, mentally, that he had,” manager John Farrell told reporters. “During the time he was throwing, he felt better than he actually expected. He’s still going to return to Boston to go through a full workup tomorrow. At this point, we’re hopeful and expecting him to return to us in Chicago. We’d still like to get him off a mound in a bullpen session or get him back in a game, but today overall was very good news regarding Koji.”

Uehara has appeared in five games this year, tossing five scoreless innings with seven punchouts and no walks.

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Red Sox lineup: Dustin Pedroia scratched from series finale at Yankees with wrist injury 04.13.14 at 6:48 pm ET
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A Red Sox team that is already without two of its everyday players — right fielder Shane Victorino and third baseman Will Middlebrooks — will also be without second baseman Dustin Pedroia for the series finale against the Yankees in the Bronx. Pedroia was originally in the lineup, but when he went to hit prior to Sunday’s game, persistent soreness first encountered when he got wiped out on a double play pivot  against the Brewers last weekend worsened, resulting in the decision to take him out of the lineup. He’ll be sent to Boston for an exam on Monday morning.

“He’s had increased symptoms of soreness in his left wrist,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in New York. “He went down to hit early today, and the soreness continues to persist and gain in intensity, so he’s going to be heading back to Boston as well to get a workup first thing in the morning.”

Pedroia, who was 6-for-10 in the first two games of the year, has struggled to a .156/.156/.222 line in 10 subsequent games, and 3-for-27 since the Brewers series.

“There’s probably a direct correlation to what we’ve seen at the plate,” Farrell told reporters of the relationship between Pedroia’s injury and struggles. “There hasn’t been an event over the past couple of days that has brought this onset even further. It’s more just everyday play that the soreness increases. It’s got to be checked out. Until we have some results of imaging of any kind, that’s the best I can tell you.”

With Pedroia out, Jonathan Herrera is at second base and batting ninth. Pedroia had been scheduled to lead off; in his absence, Grady Sizemore will do the honors.

RED SOX LINEUP

Grady Sizemore, LF

Xander Bogaerts, SS

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Daniel Nava, RF

A.J. Pierzynski, C

Ryan Roberts, 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Jonathan Herrera, 2B

Felix Doubront, C

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Streaking Mookie Betts ‘isn’t human’; Deven Marrero impressing; one who got away shuts down Salem 04.13.14 at 9:38 am ET
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Mookie Betts (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

Mookie Betts (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

Feats of Mookie: Being Mookie Betts.

The outrageous emergence of Betts from obscurity to elite prospect status is reaching runaway train status. It’s too early in 2014 to draw many conclusions, but it’s also virtually impossible to ignore what he’s doing. With his 2-for-4 performance on Saturday for Double-A Portland that included a double, a sac fly and his third steal of the season, he now has a laughable line of .469/.514/.750.

“Mookie Betts . . . isn’t human,” concluded Salem broadcaster Evan Lepler.

Betts reached base in his last 30 games of 2013 with High-A Salem, posting a .418/.496/.655 line with 15 extra-base hits, 16 walks and nine strikeouts during that time, and he’s reached base in his first eight games of this season (getting on base multiple times in seven of his first eight contests). So, he now has a streak dating to last year of 38 straight games reaching base, during which time he has a line of .430/.500/.676 with 21 extra-base hits, 20 walks, 12 strikeouts and 15 steals in 18 attempts.

Again: Over roughly a quarter of a season in which he’s been one of the youngest players in two leagues, he’s hitting .430 with a .500 OBP and .676 slugging mark.

Betts was young for the level (20) last year in Salem when he started his surge following his mid-year promotion, and he’s young for the level (21, the sixth youngest position player in the Eastern League) now. He dominated in Single-A and High-A last year; he stood out in the Arizona Fall League as a player with impact tools; and now, he’s continuing his meteoric rise into Double-A, with the Eastern League representing the fourth venue in the span of 12 months (his 2013 campaign didn’t become truly captivating until a May explosion in Greenville) in which he’s dominated.

The diminutive Betts — he’s listed at 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds — has now been turning heads through this time by being the embodiment of the Sox’ selective-aggressive philosophy, doing a tremendous job with his plate discipline while unloading on the baseball in a fashion that belies his slight frame. How?

“He’s just a very good athlete who has very good hand-eye coordination. For some reason, he has the gift of being able to see the baseball early out of the pitcher’s hand,” said Red Sox minor league hitting coordinator Tim Hyers. “He just seems like he has really good balance at the plate, picks up the baseball really early and makes his decisions really quick. That’s part of the reason that I see him as a guy that’s going to have good plate discipline and probably a really good on-base percentage throughout his career.

“I don’t think [home runs] are ever going to be his main asset or biggest tool. I think he has sneaky power and if you make mistakes, he can put a hurt on the baseball. He can change the game. But I think he’s not going to live on the longball. His best strength is the middle of the field, hitting line drives. He’s going to hit a lot of doubles. He’s going to have some sneaky power where if they make mistakes, he can hit it out of the park.”

Throughout last year, it was difficult to make sense of Betts as a prospect, in part because his modest performance in 2012 with Lowell in his pro debut (.267/.352/.307 with nine extra-base hits in 71 games) was so difficult to reconcile with the way he was performing in Greenville. But as Betts continues to carry his breakthrough of 2013 forward into the upper levels, the uncertainty that loomed about his prospect status is quickly fading.

(To listen to more on Betts from both Lepler and Salem manager Carlos Febles, as part of a conversation about the significance of winning and losing for player development, click here to listen to the latest Minor Details podcast.)

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 LOSS AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS) Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: John Lackey, Red Sox get beaten up by Yankees 04.12.14 at 4:16 pm ET
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John Lackey allowed a career-high four homers in a loss to the Yankees. (AP)

John Lackey allowed a career-high four homers in a loss to the Yankees. (AP)

John Lackey was hammered for a career-worst four home runs, as the right-hander permitted all six Red Sox runs in a 7-4 loss to the Yankees.

A first-run, two-run homer by Carlos Beltran proved a harbinger. Brian McCann and Alfonso Soriano went deep in the fourth inning, and McCann got to Lackey for another longball — this time, a two-run shot — in the sixth. Though Lackey walked none and struck out six, he yielded 10 hits in his 5 2/3 innings. That ended his bid to open a season with victories in his first three starts for the first time in his career.

Lackey had only one outing in 2013 in which an opponent beat him up for a comparable yield, when the Yankees jumped on him for seven runs in 5 2/3 innings last September 7. Then, the Red Sox offense bailed him out in a 13-9 victory. Lackey received no such reprieve this time, as the Red Sox dropped to 5-7. They will look to salvage a split of the four-game set on Sunday night.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Hiroki Kuroda weaved out of trouble in the instances in which the Sox appeared to have him on the ropes, as the Sox — in a famliar refrain — went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Read the rest of this entry »

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