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Overshadowed but rarely overmatched: Red Sox OF Allen Craig has made a career of shattering expectations 08.28.14 at 11:45 am ET
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Allen Craig has yet to show it to Red Sox fans, but he has a history of reliable production. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Allen Craig has yet to show it to Red Sox fans, but he has a history of reliable production at the plate. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Jeff Luhnow is leaning against the padded railing at the top of the visiting team’s dugout at Fenway Park, looking on as the Red Sox take batting practice on the field. It’s a Saturday evening in mid-August, and the Astros general manager is in town to watch his team play the third game of a four-game series in Boston.

Within shouting distance is Allen Craig, who is sporting a red jacket with “Red Sox” emblazoned across the chest. Craig quietly works out alone, unnoticed and unbothered. He is testing out the left ankle he tweaked while running over first base in his Red Sox debut Aug. 1. He rounds third base and heads toward home. He begins shuffling down the third base line and back. He’s preparing himself for a short rehab stint in Pawtucket that will begin two days later.

It’s a simple exercise that doesn’t garner attention. But Craig’s obscurity is prominent as Luhnow reflects on arguably one of his greatest discoveries as the Cardinals’ scouting director.

Luhnow recalls a conversation with Mark DeJohn in the summer of 2006. DeJohn then was the manager of the State College Spikes, St Louis’ Class-A short-season affiliate in the New York-Penn League, and had just coached Craig’s first summer as a professional baseball player.

Back then, Craig was a skinny shortstop who had just graduated from the University of California. He was an eighth-round pick who, at 6-foot-2 and still growing, Luhnow said would need to rely on his bat and versatility in the field to make the big leagues.

In the top 10 rounds of the amateur draft, Luhnow said, teams are looking for players who will impact the major league team. But by the eighth round that probability is slim.

Coming off an impressive senior season at Cal, Craig’s first summer in the pros was expectedly unspectacular. He hit .257 for the Spikes with four home runs in 48 games. But DeJohn saw something special in him that at the time took Luhnow by surprise.

“He came into our system without a lot of fanfare as a senior out of college,” Luhnow said. “€œI remember Mark DeJohn said, ‘This guy is a prospect.’ I said, ‘What makes you think that? He hit [four] home runs.’ He said, ‘This is a hard league and he was tired after a long college season. But this guy is a prospect. Wait until you see what he looks like in the spring.’ ”€

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Garin Cecchini’s hot August; Carlos Asuaje on fire; Javier Guerra, future breakout candidate 08.28.14 at 11:24 am ET
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Garin Cecchini

Garin Cecchini

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-1 LOSS AT LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)

(BOX)

– With a 2-for-3 night, Garin Cecchini has put togther multi-hit performances in three of his last four games. Cecchini had a couple of singles, a walk and drove in the PawSox’ only run on Wednesday night. He’s now 9-for-20 over a mini-five-game hit streak, and driven in five runs over his last four contests. The third baseman has been hot all month long after struggling at the plate for the better part of the season, hitting .341/.419/.537 in August with 10 doubles after collecting just 11 two-baggers in the previous four months combined.

Jackie Bradley Jr. followed up his three-hit showing on Tuesday with an 0-for-4 night. Since being demoted to Triple-A, the outfielder is hitting .204 with a .220 OBP and a couple of extra-base hits. He’s drawn just a single walk, but his strikeout problems followed him to Pawtucket, where he’s fanned in 12 of 50 at-bats.

Steven Wright was hit hard, lasting six innings but allowing five runs on 12 hits (which represents a season-high, and the first time he’s permitted double-digit hits in an outing) and two walks while fanning four. It’s the second outing in a row and third time in his last five starts in which Wright has allowed five earned runs. He owns a 5.56 ERA over his last five starts compared to a 2.37 mark through his first 10 outings of the season. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: carlos asuaje, garin cecchini, javier guerra, kevin mcavoy
Agent: Rusney Castillo eligible to start playing in games 08.28.14 at 12:53 am ET
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Juan Perez, the president and CEO of Roc Nation Sports, told ESPNBoston.com  Wednesday that Rusney Castillo has secured a work visa from the United States government and is immediately eligible to start playing in games. Perez’s agency represents Castillo, who signed a seven-year, $72 million deal with the Red Sox last week.

Castillo began working out in Fort Myers, Fla. Wednesday, and was scheduled to continue is workouts at JetBlue Park Thursday. There would be an opportunity for the outfielder to see game action with the Red SoxGulf Coast League team, which is scheduled to participate in a one-game playoff Friday with the chance to move on to a best-of-three final round with a win.

A team source suggests that Castillo will still need 2-3 days of team-monitored workouts before a decision is made regarding where he might start game participation.

According to the report, the P-1A visa extends for five years, with the opportunity to extend another five years. Castillo will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship while holding the visa.

Prior to Wednesday, Castillo’s only other visit to the Red Sox‘ minor league facility came Aug. 1 when the team put the 27-year-old through a private workout.

Closing Time: Rogers Centre, Blue Jays doom Junichi Tazawa once again 08.27.14 at 9:48 pm ET
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Junichi Tazawa had yet another rough outing in Rogers Centre, Wednesday night. (Getty Images)

Junichi Tazawa had yet another rough outing in Rogers Centre, Wednesday night. (Getty Images)

Joe Kelly deserved a better fate. Junichi Tazawa’s fate? Well, that was all too familiar.

The Red Sox starter hurled his second straight solid start, Wednesday, but ended up with nothing to show for it. Kelly was pulled after just 86 pitches, leaving the Sox’s fate in hands of their bullpen. It didn’t work out for John Farrell or his starting pitcher.

The Sox fell victim to a four-run seventh inning by the Blue Jays, paving the way for a 5-2 loss to the hosts at Rogers Centre.

As has been the case so many times against the Jays, Tazawa took the brunt of Toronto’s offensive attack. This time the Red Sox reliever finished his inning being charged with two runs, having allowed a key, pinch-hit, three-run homer off the bat of former Sox third baseman Danny Valencia.

After the game, both Farrell and Tazawa suggested to reporters they had identified the issue against the Jays, believing the reliever might be tipping his pitches.

“They picked up something that we felt like we corrected two and a half months ago,” Farrell said. “Tonight was a matter of a ball that ran back to the inner third of the plate against Valencia rather than staying down and away from him.”

“I think that was a fact in the past,” Tazawa noted via a translator. “It was mentioned in the past when I had some meetings with my coaches but I think that I have already eradicated that.”

Kelly started the pivotal seventh inning, allowing a lead off double by Edwin Encarnacion. With the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead, Farrell brought on lefty Tommy Layne to face left-handed hitter Dioner Navarro. But — after a dropped pop-up by Sox catcher David Ross — the Jays catcher kept things going with a single to left.

That paved the way for Tazawa, who entered the game with a 7.71 ERA in eight games at the home of the home of the Jays. The righty promptly surrendered the three-run blast to Valencia, who was pinch-hitting for Juan Francisco, giving the Blue Jays a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Tazawa allowed another run later in the frame when Kevin Pillar came home on a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop by Jose Reyes. Pillar initially reached on a double one batter after Valencia’s homer.

The Red Sox had claimed the lead with two runs in the sixth, coming on a David Ortiz RBI single and a run-scoring wild pitch by Jays starter Marcus Stroman.

Kelly finished his six-plus-inning outing allowing just two runs on three hits, striking out four and walking two. The reason for his early departure, according to Farrell, were precautionary measures after the shoulder soreness the pitcher felt in his previous start.

“After he came out of the last game, we had every intention to hold his pitch count down in the 85 range. He pitched exceptional tonight,” the manager said. “He was very good. He and David Ross worked well together. But we felt like in light of five days ago, we were going to hold him shorter than normal, and knowing we were going to have to match up through the bottom of the order, it didn’t work out the way it looked like we could match up.”

“It’s a manager’s decision. I have no right to say anything,” Kelly told reporters. “I respect everything every manager I’ve ever played for has for the game. I should have never let that guy on. It was one of the more missed fastball command pitches I had all night, especially a fastball down and away, and I threw it up and right down the middle and he put a barrel on it, kind of, and got a double out of it. Credit to him. He’s a really good hitter.”

Recently-recalled Edwin Escobar made his major league debut, pitching a perfect eighth inning for the Red Sox.

Red Sox lineup: David Ortiz returns, Yoenis Cespedes sits 08.27.14 at 4:44 pm ET
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David Ortiz will return to the Red Sox lineup in his customary third spot for the series finale against the Blue Jays. With his return, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes will get the day off.

RED SOX LINEUP

Brock Holt, SS

Dustin Pedroia, 2B

David Ortiz, DH

Mike Napoli, 1B

Daniel Nava, LF

Allen Craig, RF

Mookie Betts, CF

Will Middlebrooks, 3B

David Ross, C

Joe Kelly, RHP

Red Sox minor league roundup: Eduardo Rodriguez’s electrifying first impression; Bryce Brentz mashing; Henry Owens finding his way 08.27.14 at 12:37 pm ET
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Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez has been dominant in five starts for Portland. (Lynn Chadwick / Portland Sea Dogs)

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez has been dominant in five starts for Portland. (Lynn Chadwick / Portland Sea Dogs)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-3 WIN AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

– On a night when he walked his most batters (4) and threw just 61 of his season-high 105 pitches for strikes (58 percent), left-hander Henry Owens overcame his struggles to limit his opponents to three runs on eight hits. His efforts were helped by his eight punchouts in 6 1/3 innings. In his five starts with Pawtucket, Owens is now 2-1 with a 3.66 ERA, 35 strikeouts and 10 walks in 32 innings. Opponents are hitting .248 against him with three homers in that span, up from the .201 average to which he held opponents in Double-A this year. In short, there’s an adjustment to a higher caliber of opposing hitters to which Owens is still adjusting, though he’s holding his own amidst that transition.

– Right-hander Dalier Hinojosa was dominant, retiring eight of nine batters he faced. The 28-year-old has a 2.03 ERA since the beginning of June with 26 strikeouts and eight walks in 26 2/3 innings. After he entered July with a 5.51 ERA, he’s dropped that mark to 3.90.

Bryce Brentz can mash against left-handers with good stuff. He went deep against highly regarded Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris, his 12th homer in 58 games in Pawtucket this year. Against southpaws, Brentz is hitting .304/.355/.725 with eight homers in 76 plate appearances (one for every 9.5 trips to the dish). His performance both against lefties and overall since his return from a groin injury (.260/.333/.558) suggest someone who might be getting close to capable of contributing at the big league level. Yet as much as the Sox’ recent acquisitions of outfielders such as Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig and Rusney Castillo has raised questions about the future of a player like Shane Victorino in the organization, the questions are just as significant for players like Brentz and Alex Hassan, who now find themselves behind a considerable crowd of corner outfielders. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bryce brentz, dalier hinojosa, eduardo rodriguez, gabe speier
Wednesday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Joe Kelly vs. Marcus Stroman 08.27.14 at 11:44 am ET
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Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly

Coming off two straight extra-innings victories over the Blue Jays, the Red Sox send Joe Kelly to the mound opposite rookie right-hander Marcus Stroman in Wednesday’s series finale at Rogers Centre.

Kelly (0-1, 4.09 ERA) is looking for his first win in his fifth start with the Sox since being acquired from the Cardinals on July 31. He pitched five scoreless innings in his last start, allowing just one hit, but he left the game after 86 pitches due to a shoulder concern, and Sox closer Koji Uehara proceeded to implode in the ninth inning of a 5-3 loss to the Mariners.

The Sox medical staff checked out Kelly after removing him and found nothing to prevent him from taking the ball for his next scheduled start.

“Joe came in and felt no ill effects from [Friday] night after a battery of tests that he went through after the game that didn’t reproduce any of the symptoms,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said the day after. “It was followed up with him feeling well [Saturday] morning and he’s on target to start in five days.”

Stroman (7-5, 4.11 ERA) held the Red Sox to one run over 14 innings in back-to-back wins for the rookie on July 24 and 29. The Duke product has struggled since then, however, going 0-3 with an 8.66 ERA in four starts.

In his most recent outing, Friday against the Rays, Stroman gave up six runs on a season-high 10 hits with three walks in five innings of an 8-0 loss. Despite pitching on six days’ rest, Stroman saw his winless streak reach four starts.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” he said afterward. “I couldn’t keep my team in it today to get a win.”

The 23-year-old — who at 5-foot-9 is one of the game’s shortest pitchers — has 20 games of major league experience, all coming this season.

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Read More: Joe Kelly, Marcus Stroman,
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