|Finishing touches: Anthony Ranaudo hopes tweaked mechanics, new pitch position him for breakthrough||06.14.14 at 10:30 am ET|
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Two weeks ago during a bullpen session, Anthony Ranaudo decided that something needed to change. The righty felt that his fastball command was not as consistent as it could be.
While the tall righty has been among the most consistent pitchers for Triple-A Pawtucket so far this season, he thought he could be even better. Ranaudo, who sports a 2.79 ERA with a 1.296 WHIP, 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings, always felt more confident throwing his fastball out of the stretch than he did out of the windup.
PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur began to brainstorm with Ranaudo about what the two could do to improve the 24-year-old’s control over his four-seamer. After some discussion, Sauveur and Ranaudo concocted a solution to the righty’s concerns.
The two decided to make Ranaudo’s windup simpler by having it more closely resemble the righty’s motion out of the stretch.
“It’s always a small adjustment that seems to make things go,” Sauveur said. “Moving him in a forward direction, it doesn’t need to be something big and that’s what it was with him. He’s done a nice job. He’s always working very hard. He knows when he’s not happy. He’s frustrated because he knows that command is not where it wants to be and he’s always looking to get better.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox to option right-hander Alex Wilson, call up Garin Cecchini||05.31.14 at 11:20 pm ET|
Next up: Garin Cecchini.
According to multiple industry sources, the Red Sox will call up third baseman Garin Cecchini from Triple-A Pawtucket for Sunday’s game against the Rays. In order to make room for the 23-year-old — who entered the year ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the Red Sox organization according to Baseball America — the team will option right-hander Alex Wilson to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Cecchini is expected to offer the Red Sox short-term roster protection while Stephen Drew completes his 10-day minor league assignment, restoring a mix of 13 position players and 12 pitchers on the active roster. (On Saturday, the Sox featured 13 pitchers and 12 position players.) A fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft who signed for a bonus commensurate with a first-round pick ($1.31 million) while coming off a ruptured ACL that truncated a decorated high school career, Cecchini has been among the steadiest offensive performers in the Red Sox system in recent years.
In four minor league seasons, Cecchini is hitting .307 with a .408 OBP and .440 slugging mark. In his first season in Triple-A, he’s hitting .278 with a .354 OBP and .335 slugging mark, showing an offensive approach that is widely viewed as big league-ready.
Here’s how Cecchini described his goals for the 2014 season in spring training.
“I know what my dream is, and that’s to win multiple World Series with the Red Sox,” he said. “I’m going to help the Red Sox win a World Series this year. That’s one of my goals. That’s the only goal to tell you the truth. Because at the end of the day that’s all that matters. I just want to help this team win a World Series.”
|Red Sox call up C Ryan Lavarnway, send P Alex Wilson to Pawtucket||05.26.14 at 10:39 am ET|
Right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was sent to Pawtucket to clear room on the roster.
Lavarnway has appeared in 44 games for the PawSox this season, batting .265/.357/.346 with two home runs and 11 RBIs. He saw 25 games in the majors for the Red Sox last season, hitting .299/.329/.429 with one home run and 14 RBIs. He also had brief stints with the major league squad in 2012 and ’11.
Wilson pitched a scoreless sixth inning — allowing just a walk — in Sunday’s 8-5 loss to the Rays, his only major league appearance this season. He previously appeared in 18 games for the PawSox, posting a 1-0 record, 1.42 ERA and 1.263 WHIP.
Wilson saw action in 26 games for the Red Sox last season, posting a 1-2 record with a 4.88 ERA and 1.735 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings.
|Red Sox minor league roundup: A year of Feats of Mookie (and the change that set them in motion); Allen Webster breaks through; Alex Wilson is ready; Henry Ramos is hitting||05.05.14 at 12:48 pm ET|
Feats of Mookie: A year of dominance.
Mookie Betts went 2-for-5 and scored a run on Sunday for Portland in its victory. Though his average actually declined from .406 to .405, the 21-year-old extended his streak of consecutive contests reaching base to 56 regular-season games dating to last year with High-A Salem. But the consistency of his excellence extends far beyond even the start of that streak in Salem last August.
Betts entered play last May 5 with a .150 average, .340 OBP and .263 slugging mark. Though he’d launched a pair of homers, he otherwise showed little ability to impact the ball, and indeed, he primarily seemed to be a curiosity given that his on-base percentage was more than double his batting average.
Behind the scenes and unnoticed, Betts did some work at that time with U.L. Washington, the hitting coach of the Single-A Greenville Drive. He worked to replace a drastic leg kick — “like a pitcher,” Betts said in this Minor Details podcast — with an approach meant to improve his timing at the plate.
“[Washington] told me, ‘Just stride. Stride so you’re on time consistently.’ That’s been working for me,” Betts said. “That week, I started driving the ball and I didn’t even realize I could do it. From then on, I realized, ‘Now I can do it, I might as well try to drive the ball.’ ”
Drive it he has.
On May 5 — after he’d had a couple of days off for that work with Washington — a 1-for-4 performance with a walk represented the start of a phenomenon that couldn’t have been predicted at the time. That contest represented the first of 19 straight in which Betts collected a hit, and set in motion a run of steady excellence that has led Betts to the point where he went from prospect obscurity (the No. 31 prospect in the Red Sox system after the 2012 season) to someone who now likely belongs among the top 31 prospects in all of baseball.
Over a full calendar year while blitzing from Single-A Greenville to High-A Salem to Double-A Portland, Betts is now hitting .360 (tops among all minor leaguers with at least 400 plate appearances in that time) with a .436 OBP and .569 slugging mark while launching 17 homers as part of his 66 extra-base hits, stealing 47 bases, walking 70 times and striking out just 54 times, someone who has been performing so well that his 2-for-5 day on Sunday lowered his batting average from .406 to .405.
Now, he represents a statistical anomaly of a different sort than he did a year ago. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox to call up right-hander Alex Wilson, option Daniel Nava||04.23.14 at 12:48 pm ET|
An industry source confirmed a report by WEEI’s Lou Merloni that, with the Red Sox pitching staff taxed by a combined 11 innings of work on Monday and Tuesday, the team will call up right-hander Alex Wilson from Triple-A Pawtucket for Wednesday night’s game. In order to make room on the roster for Wilson, Daniel Nava will be optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Shane Victorino will thus wait until at least Thursday for his activation from the disabled list.
Nava, a key contributor to the Red Sox‘ title run in 2013 when he hit .303 with a .385 OBP and .445 slugging mark while playing four positions, never enjoyed consistent production in the season’s first three-plus weeks this year. He hit .149 with a .240 OBP and .269 slugging mark.
‘We’re trying to get him going offensively,’ Sox manager John Farrell said on Tuesday. ‘He’s probably swung the bat a little bit more earlier in counts than we’ve seen in the past and that might be maybe some reflection of the current level of confidence. When he’s squared up some balls, he hasn’t seen the fruits of that too much. Like all players, they go through a little bit of a peak and valley and we’re trying to get him out of that right now. Fundamentally I can’t say it’s any one thing that he’s breaking down from a swing mechanic standpoint.’
Wilson, who made his big league debut last year, has made eight scoreless appearances in Pawtucket this year, most recently when he recorded a season-high four outs on Monday. He’s struck out nine and walked five while showing an ability to get a considerable number of outs on the ground, effectively employing the two-seamer he developed last year while favoring his injured thumb that denied him his typical power on his four-seam fastball.
Victorino completed his third rehab game on Tuesday in Triple-A Pawtucket, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He has gone 1-for-11 with an infield single during his rehab assignment.
The Red Sox thought that they might activate Shane Victorino from the disabled list as soon as Wednesday, following the third game of his rehab assignment in Triple-A Pawtucket (in which the outfielder went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts). But with the Sox having gotten just 2 1/3 innings from Clay Buchholz on Monday and 4 2/3 frames from Jon Lester on Tuesday, the team felt that a taxed bullpen that had worked a combined 11 innings over those two games might require reinforcements. As such, manager John Farrell said that the team might consider a pitcher instead of activating Victorino on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to take a look,” said Farrell. “We may have a pitching move because of how deep we’ve had to go in the bullpen the last couple of days, so Shane is not a given for [Wednesday].”
If the Sox make a move for a pitcher, an obvious choice would right-hander Allen Webster, who is the scheduled starter for Pawtucket on Wednesday. Webster is on the 40-man roster, and he has some experience in the big leagues as a reliever at the end of last year. He could provide the Sox with length if they endure another game that requires the services of the ‘pen. The other option would likely be Alex Wilson, who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings on Monday to give him eight scoreless appearances (spanning eight frames) this year in Pawtucket. Wilson would be able to give more than three outs, though he’s unlikely stretched out to the point of being able to provide long relief if needed, at a time when both Chris Capuano and Burke Badenhop likely will be unavailable.
None of the other options on the 40-man roster seem to fit for a one-day callup. Drake Britton pitched on Tuesday, making him a less-than-ideal callup. Brandon Workman started on Monday, so would not be a consideration. Anthony Ranaudo has never pitched in relief, and he’d be pitching on three days’ rest. Rubby De La Rosa — the best pitcher in Pawtucket to date — started on Tuesday night.
As for a move to open a roster spot for a pitcher and then Victorino, the Sox haven’t announced any decisions, but outfielder Daniel Nava met with Farrell behind closed doors following Tuesday’s game. Nava’s endured a season-long struggle, hitting .149/.240/.269, and he’s been out of the starting lineup in two of the last four games, including Tuesday night against right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.
“We’re trying to get him going offensively and [Jonny Gomes] gives us a little bit more of that right now,” Farrell explained before the game of the decision to start Gomes over Nava. “He’s probably swung the bat a little bit more earlier in counts than we’ve seen in the past and that might be maybe some reflection of the current level of confidence. When he’s squared up some balls, he hasn’t seen the fruits of that too much. Like all players, they go through a little bit of a peak and valley and we’re trying to get him out of that right now. Fundamentally I can’t say it’s any one thing that he’s breaking down from a swing mechanic standpoint.”
Nava has two options remaining, and so he can be sent down without exposing him to waivers.
|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|
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 »
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