Full Count
A Furiously Updated Red Sox Blog
WEEI.com Blog Network
Shane Victorino collects first hit of rehab assignment, Will Middlebrooks hitless in Pawtucket 04.21.14 at 9:13 pm ET
By   |  Comments Off

Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino, in the second game of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket, had an infield single in four plate appearances while playing seven innings. He also popped out twice and grounded into a double play, making the 33-year-old 1-for-7 in his rehab assignment from a hamstring injury. Victorino is also slated to play in Pawtucket one more time on Tuesday before he is re-evaluated for possible activation during the forthcoming Red Sox-Yankees series.

Joining Victorino in Pawtucket on Monday was third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who played in his first rehab game on the 16th day of his stint on the DL due to a Grade 1 calf strain suffered on April 5. Middlebrooks went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts and lined out to right. All three of Middlebrooks’ plate appearances came against highly regarded Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman, a hard-throwing starter. Victorino’s first three plate appearances came against Stroman while his fourth (a pop-out) came against left-hander reliever Rob Rasmussen.

Read More: Shane Victorino, Will Middlebrooks,
Red Sox insist Clay Buchholz’s arm strength, not health, is the issue 04.21.14 at 6:06 pm ET
By   |  Comments Off

It wasn’t the worst start of Clay Buchholz‘s career, but it was close. And so, after the right-hander struggled through 2 1/3 innings in which he allowed six runs on seven hits in a 7-6 loss to the Orioles while regularly featuring a fastball that didn’t crack 90 mph, the question had to be asked: Is he dealing with any physical issues that are undermining his performance at the start of the season?

“He doesn’€™t speak of any [physical issues],” said manager John Farrell, who described his starter as featuring stuff that was “a little bit flat” on Monday. “In all the physical testing that we do with all of our pitchers, it doesn’€™t indicate any deficit. Nothing present physically.”

So what is it? Buchholz suggested he’s merely in the stretch of the season where he’s still working to build arm strength. That *could* be interpreted as a red flag, and given that Buchholz has endured significant injuries in two of the past three years (back in 2011, shoulder in 2013), it’s natural to ask whether the pitcher is healthy given the arm strength issues. The Sox acknowledge that reality at a time when he’s struggled to a 7.71 ERA through four starts. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Clay Buchholz,
Closing Time: Concerns mount about Clay Buchholz as Red Sox comeback effort against Orioles comes up short 04.21.14 at 2:27 pm ET
By   |  Comments Off

Is Clay Buchholz injured or just struggling? And which would be worse?

Buchholz looked very little like the pitcher who customarily dominated when healthy enough to pitch last year. After two effiicient innings, his outing unraveled in the third, when he permitted six runs on eight hits. A year ago, he didn’t allow more than four runs in any of his 16 starts. Thus far this year, he’s permitted six runs in a pair of his four starts.

Statistically, Buchholz’s results have been atrocious. He is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA. Opponents are hammering him for a line of .375/.402/.568.

Yet it’s not just a matter of his results being bad. His stuff has also simply been different than in past years. His fastball velocity is down, as he came into the game averaging about 91 mph on his fastballs (four- and two-seam), about 2 mph off of where he threw it over the prior four seasons. His swings and misses on his four- and two-seam fastballs are also down by about half, from about one in every 12 pitches to one in every 25. (He didn’t have a single swing and miss on a fastball on Monday.) With the diminished power and greater vulnerability to his fastball has come a greater reluctance to use it — whereas he threw a fastball (either four- or two-seamer) almost every other pitch last year (a combined 49.4 percent of the time), this year, he’s using those primary offerings just over a third of the time (a combined 34.8 percent).

The Red Sox have not suggested that Buchholz is dealing with any kind of injury. It’s possible that he’s healthy and simply has yet to cut loose with his stuff — not unlike how, at the start of a 2012 season when he was returning from a back injury, he seemed cautious throughout April, with diminished results following, before he turned his year around in mid-May and dominated for most of the remaining 4 1/2 months of the year.

That history can give the Red Sox hope. Unless Buchholz is dealing with an injury, then given what they’ve seen so far in 2014 — particularly on Monday morning, when he got just three swings and misses among his 55 pitches, and put the Sox in a hole so deep that they couldn’t escape in a 7-6 loss to the Orioles — those are the sorts of silver linings to which the Sox must cling with a pitcher who is critical to what they hope to accomplish.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox minor league roundup: A strike-throwing machine in Salem 04.21.14 at 11:21 am ET
By   |  Comments Off

With three of the Red Sox‘ four affiliates having Sunday off, this is the briefest of roundups…

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: OFF DAY

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: OFF DAY

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 10-8 LOSS AT WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX)

(BOX)

— Right fielder Kevin Heller maintained his status as a doubles machine in the first two-plus weeks of the season, going 1-for-3 with his eighth double of the year and a walk. The 24-year-old is now hitting .364 (third in the Carolina League) with a .481 OBP (tops in the Carolina League), .636 slugging mark (second in the Carolina League) and 10 extra-base hits (tied for the league lead). Heller already has more extra-base hits this year than he did last year (8) in 45 games between Single-A Greenville (35 games), High-A Salem (3 games) and Double-A Portland (7 games).

— On the one hand, right-hander Kyle Martin has been hit hard, as he’s saddled with a 5.68 ERA with opponents hitting .357 with six extra-base hits in 60 plate appearances against the 2013 ninth-rounder. On the other hand, he’s struck out just over one of every three batters he’s faced, punching out 21 and walking just two, and he has yet to permit a homer in 48 2/3 professional innings.

At the least, the fact that he’s been a strike-throwing machine suggests that, since he adjusted from a low arm slot to a more over-the-top delivery that made him a strikeout and groundball machine last year, he’s been able to repeat the delivery in a fashion that has allowed him to pour pitches into the strike zone. He posted a 1.25 ERA in his pro debut in Lowell and Greenville last year, allowing seven runs with 30 strikeouts and 10 walks in 36 innings. To date in Salem, his fastball has been flatter than it was last year, resulting in hard contact, but some Sox officials feel he has a chance to be an interesting sleeper pitching prospect given his ability, when his delivery is right, to work at the bottom of the strike zone with a fastball, curveball, changeup and slider.

— Right-hander William Cuevas, who had been off to a solid start (11 innings, three runs, 11 strikeouts, one walk in his first two starts), got shelled for eight runs on seven hits and a walk while recording just two outs. He allowed a pair of homers.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: OFF DAY

Read More: kevin heller, kyle martin,
Red Sox vs. Orioles Patriots’ Day Live Blog 04.21.14 at 10:40 am ET
By   |  Comments Off

Gut Morgen! (The most appropriate Patriots’ Day greeting imaginable.)

The Red Sox and Orioles are ready for the quick turnaround at Fenway Park, with first pitch on Patriots’ Day scheduled for just over 12 hours after the Red Sox walked off with their 6-5 victory on Sunday night. Clay Buchholz (in advance of starting on Monday), Mike Napoli (in order to receive treatment on his knee, which got hit by a pitch last night) and John Lackey all spent the night at the ballpark. Other players seemed to be waking up as they made it to the ballpark at a time unfamiliar since spring training.

“We’ll be there — I can’t say with bells on — but we’ll be raring to go,” said Sox manager John Farrell.

Follow all the Fenway Park action from this spectacular sporting day — with the latest news, pictures, updates and analysis from the pressbox — in the live blog below.

 

window.cilAsyncInit = function() { cilEmbedManager.init() }; (function() { if (window.cilVwRand === undefined) { window.cilVwRand = Math.floor(Math.random()*10000000); } var e = document.createElement(‘script’); e.async = true; var domain = (document.location.protocol == ‘http:’ || document.location.protocol == ‘file:’ ) ? ‘http://cdnsl.coveritlive.com’ : ‘https://cdnslssl.coveritlive.com'; e.src = domain + ‘/vw.js?v=’ + window.cilVwRand; e.id = ‘cilScript-c39c576df0′; document.getElementById(‘cil-root-c39c576df0′).appendChild(e); }());

Red Sox minor league roundup: Is Mookie Betts top Red Sox prospect?; return of Anthony Ranaudo; Shane Victorino’s rehab begins 04.20.14 at 8:42 am ET
By   |  Comments Off

Feats of Mookie: Defying superlatives.

Mookie Betts recovered from his two-game slump — a doubleheader on Friday in which he went 1-for-4 in both contests — by reasserting himself as an unstoppable force for Double-A Portland. The 21-year-old went 4-for-5, launching his second homer of the season in his final at-bat of the night, for his second four-hit game of the year and his sixth in his professional career (all of which have come in the last 12 months). In the process, he reclaimed the minor league lead in batting average (.453). He also leads the Eastern League in OBP (.492) and ranks third in slugging (.717).

Entering this season, there was some question as to whether Betts’ extraordinary breakout season of 2013 was real or a mirage. The contrast between his first two pro seasons — a 2012 campaign where he spent all year in Short-Season Lowell, hitting .267/.352/.307 with no homers and nine extra-base hits in 71 games, compared to a 2013 season where he tore through Single-A Greenville and earned a promotion to High-A Salem, getting better along the way en route to a combined .314/.417/.506 line with 15 homers, 55 extra-base hits and 38 steals in 127 games — created some pause about how highly he should be regarded in the Red Sox prospect rankings. Plenty of tools — bat speed, excellent plate discipline and hand-eye coordination, some power, quick-twitch athleticism that lent itself to both strong defensive range and great jumps as a baserunner — were on display, but it was hard to ignore the idea that his year might, just might, be a one-hit wonder that he might never match.

His start to the 2014 season, against a higher level of competition in Double-A, suggests that his performance of a year ago was no mere illusion. Obviously, his willingness to conjure a couple weeks of Nintendo numbers is unsustainable, particularly given his obscenely high batting average on balls in play (though it is worth noting that Betts may well be in possession of The Force, permitting him to bend the wills of weaker-minded opponents in a fashion that permits him to steer opposing defenders away from anything with which he makes contact and thus to sustain unusually high BABIPs). Nonetheless, the tools that proved so fascinating last year remain on full display this year, as Betts continues to show the ability to transform games in numerous ways.

And so, it is worth asking: Where does Betts rank right now among Red Sox prospects, at a time when he is laying waste to a league in which he is one of the youngest position players, someone who would be amidst his junior year of college had he not signed with the Sox out of high school? Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alex wilson, anthony ranaudo, blake swihart, jackie bradley jr.
Red Sox minor league roundup: Perfection for Brian Johnson; Garin Cecchini and the power question; Miguel Pena strikes out everyone 04.19.14 at 10:12 am ET
By   |  Comments Off

It can be easy for pitching prospects to be forgotten in the lower levels of the Red Sox minor league system. After all, with a high-ceiling inventory of arms in Double-A and Triple-A, the line that has formed in front of those who remain in A-ball is long, creating the likelihood of a deliberate progression through the minors.

Yet just because they are at a greater remove from the big leagues does not mean that such pitchers aren’t an important part of the Red Sox future. And perhaps no Red Sox pitcher in A-ball is more likely to embody that notion than left-hander Brian Johnson.

The 2012 first-round selection out of the University of Florida — where he was the best two-way player in the country (a power-hitting first baseman to accompany his mound work) — Johnson was often forgotten in his first full pro season of 2013, in no small part because he struggled out of the gate after his first professional offseason was spent recovering from a line drive to the face. He couldn’t follow a normal strength program, and so he struggled with stuff and results early in the year in Single-A Greenville before landing on the DL with shoulder tendinitis.

But when he came back, Johnson showed some of the more interesting raw materials in the Sox system. The left-hander saw his velocity bump up, topping out towards the end of the year at 94 and 95 mph, while mixing in a diverse array of secondary offerings — curve, slider, changeup. None of the pitches graded as better than average last year, but the Sox believe the curveball could play up, and his feel for pitching suggests the future possibility of adding more weapons, such as a cutter.

The 23-year-old was one of the more impressive performers in spring training games, and given that he came from an elite college program and demonstrated feel for pitching, there were those in the Sox system who believed that, despite the slow progression in his first full pro season (when he spent almost all of 2013 in Greenville, moving up to Salem only at the very end of the year for two starts), he had a chance to accelerate his development pace going forward, much as Brandon Workman did after spending all of his first full pro season of 2011 in Greenville.

Johnson started slowly this year, getting tons of swings and misses (20 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings) in his first three starts — with his changeup having emerged as an intriguing weapon at times — but permitting 11 runs (7.24 ERA). But on Friday, he was nothing short of brilliant, firing six perfect innings with five strikeouts and seven groundouts while showing the ability to throw off-speed and breaking stuff in any count for strikes and working efficiently.

He recorded seven swings and misses with his curveball, but more significant than the quality of any single pitch was the way that he executed with his arsenal. He threw strikes with all four pitches, and did an impressive job of attacking inside with an 88-91 mph fastball with angle to open up the outer half of the plate for breaking stuff, notably both a quality changeup and a tight curveball with bite that, according to Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker, he’s had as a consistent putaway pitch in the early stages of the season. And he pounded strike after strike, in a way that caught the attention of Winston-Salem.

“At one point, we had thrown 120 pitches, and their guy had thrown 45,” Winston-Salem manager Tommy Thompson noted to the Winston-Salem Journal.

There are a lot of believers in Johnson in the Red Sox organization. While evaluators from other organizations last year came away underwhelmed — mostly on the basis of starts early in the year, before his velocity crept up — and saw a potential back-of-the-rotation starter, he’s shown enough in terms of his raw materials — the possibility of working comfortably with 91-93 or even 94 mph velocity, with a curve or change that can get swings and misses, to suggest the possibility of a durable mid-rotation presence who has a chance to become a very important part of the Red Sox‘ future.

Certainly, he’s further from the big leagues than pitchers like Workman and Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster and Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo, but there are times when it’s possible to imagine a future in which he *could* be more important than any of those pitchers. Friday’s 18-up, 18-down effort was one such moment.

A snapshot of the rest of the action in the Red Sox farm system on Friday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-3 LOSS VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS) Read the rest of this entry »

Red Sox Box Score
Red Sox Schedule
Ace Ticket
Red Sox Headlines
Red Sox Minor League News
Red Sox Team Leaders
MLB Headlines
Tips & Feedback

Verify