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Red Sox split squad beats Orioles and pitcher Alfredo Aceves 03.11.14 at 4:25 pm ET
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A split squad of Red Sox players in Sarasota showed no dearth of firepower against the Orioles, as Boston’s used three homers and a rally against former Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves to claim a 6-5 victory over the Orioles. Will Middlebrooks homered for the second time in as many games against Orioles right-hander Tommy Hunter, while Brock Holt and Ryan Lavarnway both went deep for the first time of the spring. Lavarnway’s homer came against former teammate Aceves, who allowed three runs on five hits (including an RBI double by Daniel Nava and RBI triple by Jackie Bradley Jr. in the seventh inning and Lavarnway’s eighth-inning solo homer) in two innings of work. Nava went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, while catcher A.J. Pierzynski went 3-for-3 and drove in a run.

Sox starter Allen Webster was dominant early, allowing two hits (both singles, one of the infield variety) and striking out three through the first three frames while getting one groundball after another. But he issued three straight walks with one out in the fourth to end his day on a down note; he was ultimately charged with two runs when reliever Alex Wilson permitted two of his inherited runners to score.

Still, the Sox managed to keep the game in check until breaking a 3-3 tie with their trio of runs in the seventh and eighth innings against Aceves.

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Mookie being Buxton/Springer; Henry Owens joins elite Red Sox pitching prospect pool; Blake Swihart, game-changer 09.02.13 at 8:09 am ET
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Mookie Betts' diverse offensive skill set this year compared to only two of the top prospects in the minors. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

Mookie Betts’ diverse offensive skill set this year compared to only two of the top prospects in the minors. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-0 WIN (5 INNINGS) AT LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)

(BOX)

– For the sixth time in 10 Triple-A starts since the beginning of July, knuckleballer Steven Wright did not allow an earned run. The right-hander logged five shutout innings, tossing a complete game (albeit of the rain-shortened variety) while allowing three hits, walking two and striking out two. In his last 10 minor league appearances, Wright now has a 2.04 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 23 walks while permitting just one homer in 61 2/3 innings. He has given up two or fewer walks in five of his last six starts.

Jackie Bradley Jr. went 1-for-3 with a double and two strikeouts while getting hit by a pitch. In 79 games this year with Triple-A Pawtucket, he’s now hitting .273 with a .373 OBP and .470 slugging percentage — marks that look fairly similar to what he did last year after a mid-year promotion to Double-A Portland, but with more power. In 61 games last year with Portland, Bradley hit .271/.373/.437. While he was not among the Red Sox’ first wave of September call-ups on Sunday, given that both Shane Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury left the contest with injuries, it’s possible that the Sox will choose to give themselves a bit more outfield depth by recalling Bradley.

– Outfielder Alex Hassan, in his first game since August 15 (he’d been on the DL with a broken finger), went 2-for-3 with a walk. Though his playing time has been limited severely by injuries, he’s had a spectacular offensive year when able to play. The 25-year-old is hitting .321/.434/.462. While the Sox’ decision to put Hassan on the 40-man roster last winter came as something of a surprise following a year in which he hit .256/.377/.365 as a 24-year-old in Pawtucket, his performance this year has been sufficiently outstanding that he would stand virtually no chance of clearing waivers if the Sox were to attempt to remove him from the 40-man roster.

– With catcher Ryan Lavarnway moving up to the big leagues, the Red Sox promoted catcher Christian Vazquez to Triple-A Pawtucket after a performance that suggests he deserves mention as one of the top catching prospects in all of the minors. In his age 22 season (Vazquez turned 23 just last month), the 2008 ninth-rounder hit .289 with a .376 OBP and .395 slugging mark while throwing out a whopping (and league-leading) 46.5 percent of attempted base stealers. For all of Vazquez’s exceptional defensive tools, it is necessary to note that he committed 23 passed balls — far and away the highest total in the league, and not just a product of the occasional presence of knuckleballers in Portland — but his potential to be an elite defender who controls the game along with a player capable of showing above-average hit and on-base skills (particularly for his position, where the big league norm this year was a .248 average and .314 OBP) suggests a player who now must be considered a potential everyday catcher by the 2015 season.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 9-4 LOSS VS. TRENTON (YANKEES)

(BOX)

It likely wasn’t the final note for which Henry Owens might have hoped with Portland. He suffered his first loss in Double-A, allowing three runs on six hits (five extra-base hits: two homers, three doubles) in 5 2/3 innings. Still.

The left-hander punched out eight and walked one while filling up the strike zone by throwing 67 of 100 pitches for strikes on Sunday. That capped a season-ending, six-start stretch in Portland in which Owens went 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA while racking up 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings (albeit with 4.5 walks per nine). Though he was the third-youngest pitcher in the Eastern League this year, Owens achieved dominant results against older opponents, as evidenced by his .167 opponents’ batting average.

On the year, between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, Owens absorbed a considerable innings boost — he went from 101 2/3 frames in 23 outings last year to 135 in 26 starts this year — but sustained dominance throughout his increased workload. The 21-year-old left-hander held opponents to a .177 average on the year (the second lowest mark among all pitchers with full-season minor league affiliates). He went 11-6 with a 2.67 ERA. He punched out 169 batters (the highest strikeout total by a Sox minor leaguer since Clay Buchholz punched out 171 in 125 innings in 2007). He had a 0.89 WHIP.

There have been few seasons like that among recent Red Sox pitching prospects. The ability to generate swings and misses in such volume has been rare. Indeed, since 2000, Owens is just the sixth Red Sox minor leaguer to punch out at least 150 batters in a season. Here he is in comparison with the other five: Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Breakthrough for Allen Webster; Jackie Bradley Jr., Christian Vazquez finishing strong; Justin Haley’s upward trajectory; Simon Mercedes punches out everyone; the returns of Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves 08.27.13 at 12:54 pm ET
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Monday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 (WALKOFF) VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)

(BOX)

Right-hander Allen Webster logged a season-high eight innings on Monday. (AP)

Right-hander Allen Webster logged a season-high eight innings on Monday. (AP)

– No one doubts that Allen Webster has the sort of stuff that few others possess. His raw materials — mid- to upper-90s fastball that he can sink, swing-and-miss slider, swing-and-miss changeup — suggest the ability to dominate. But how that’s translated to results has been a different matter.

Prior to Monday, Webster’s challenges with control meant that he rarely proved capable of working deep into games. He had recorded just one out in the seventh inning in 26 starts between Triple-A and the majors. That being the case, Monday represented a landmark.

Webster was hardly pinpoint with his command, as he issued three walks and hit a batter while throwing 61 percent of pitches for strikes (60 of 98). But when he did lose the strike zone, he quickly found his way back and attacked the opposing lineup, permitting just one run on two hits (one solo homer accounting for the only damage against him) while punching out five.

That Webster logged eight innings (the second time in his career that he’s worked eight or more frames — in 2011, he had a nine-inning complete-game shutout in Double-A) was significant in its own right. But it becomes even more meaningful in that it’s part of a broader trend.

In his last seven starts, Webster now has a 2.63 ERA while averaging a tick under six innings per outing. During that time, he has more than a strikeout per inning (45 in 41 frames) while averaging 3.1 walks per nine innings. Opponents are hitting just .177 against him during that time — the lowest mark of any pitcher in the International League — while his 0.98 WHIP is seventh in the International League since July 26. It is a strong finishing leg for a season in which Webster has explored divergent performance extremes.

Jackie Bradley Jr. went 3-for-4 with a double, and he’s now reached base in all 16 games since coming off the DL on August 9. During that time, he’s hitting .279 with a .375 OBP and .459 slugging mark. Yet rather than being an outlier, that stretch has reflected what has been Bradley’s norm in Pawtucket this year. In 74 Triple-A games, he’s hitting .279 with a .378 OBP and .483 slugging mark. Moreover, whereas Bradley appeared to have hit a wall by this point in his first full professional season, this year, he is showing an ability to sustain his performance down the stretch in a fashion that suggests improvement over where he was as a player in Double-A at this time in 2012. In short, he’s performed in a fashion that has done nothing to alter the view that he’ll be ready for an everyday role in the big leagues by next year. Read the rest of this entry »

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Alfredo Aceves is hoping to remain with Red Sox for quite a while 07.26.13 at 8:02 pm ET
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Alfredo Aceves

Alfredo Aceves

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Alfredo Aceves is hoping to remain with the Red Sox beyond this season … and then some.

“Yes,” he said when asked prior to the Pawtucket Red Sox’ Friday night game if his desire was to remain in the organization. “I’ve talked to the Red Sox and I said, ‘If you want to do a deal for 10 years, I will do a deal for 10 years.’ I don’t want to go anywhere.

“I’ve had this body since I was 15-years-old and I can keep this body until I’m 45-years-old. I want to play here. I want to play more years with this team.”

Aceves hasn’t pitched since rejoining the PawSox, currently residing on the seven-day disabled list with a left oblique strain. The righty injured the muscle during his final appearance with the Red Sox, in Seattle, and is scheduled to get a second opinion on the diagnosis Sunday morning.

Aceves hadn’t been with the PawSox since being taken off Boston’s 40-man roster July 14. Prior to being put on the disabled list, he had been granted a three-day leave due to the birth of his son.

“It’s been six years (in professional baseball) and I’ve been hurt twice. That’s not bad,” Aceves said. “I’m looking forward to playing this year. We’re in a good position right now. I feel great.”

As for the Sox’ decision to take Aceves off the 40-man roster (with nobody claiming the righty), he would only say, “I’m still the same. It’s part of the business.” And was he surprised? “No comment,” Aceves added, going on to reiterate, “I feel great.”

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Ben Cherington: Red Sox will ‘keep an open mind’ on bullpen trades, but Sox might not need ‘major change’ 07.19.13 at 7:10 pm ET
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Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington addressed the Andrew Bailey shoulder injury before Friday's game with the Yankees. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington addressed the Andrew Bailey shoulder injury before Friday’s game with the Yankees. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

The Red Sox thought they had achieved a measure of bullpen stability just before the All-Star break. The trade to acquire Matt Thornton on the final weekend prior to the break seemed like something of an offset to the loss of left-hander Andrew Miller. But one week later, the Sox are left to confront another likely season-long loss of a key reliever with the news that right-hander Andrew Bailey has both a capsular tear and labrum tear in his right shoulder, an injury incurred in his appearance against the A’s on the final day of the first half.

The Sox had already planned to see if they could reinforce their bullpen with internal options, having called up Brandon Workman (who will start on Tuesday unless he’s used out of the bullpen before then) and left-hander Drake Britton from Pawtucket. The team added Jose De La Torre from Pawtucket to take Bailey’s roster spot on Friday. There are other arms on the horizon in the upper minors, and the Sox will try to figure out as much as they can about the group’s readiness to help.

Ideally, the Sox would like to take a homegrown approach to their bullpen shortage. But GM Ben Cherington acknowledged that he will also certainly be exploring potential trade reinforcements — something that the team was already planning on doing even before Bailey’s injury.

A brief summary:

– Cherington acknowledged that the loss of Bailey was a meaningful one, and “did move the needle” to some degree regarding the team’s trade deadline motivations.

– He believes there are internal solutions in the organization.

– He will explore trade candidates, both prior to the July 31 trade deadline and in August.

– He doesn’t necessarily foresee drastic moves. “I’m not sure this team this needs major change,” he said.

“Obviously we were counting on [Bailey] being a part of the ‘pen. And we’ve still got a little more information to gather. He may get another opinion, but he’s going to be down for some time and so, you know, the guys have to step up,” said Cherington. “I think as far as how it affects us, we’re going to give younger pitchers a chance and see what they can do. As I said when Miller went down, when a guy goes down you have to replace him somehow. You hope that the guys are already here internally, but you’ve got to keep an open mind and continue to do that over the course of the next couple days.

“You’ve got to figure out who’s pitching what roles and some new guys are going to get a chance and we’ve got a lot of confidence in those guys,” added Cherington. “At the same time we will continue to work the phones and see if there are ways to help the team from outside of the organization. Those things are hard to predict. It takes finding the right match and we’ve got a lot of good things going on this team and we’re still very confident in the guys here now.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox send down Allen Webster, Alfredo Aceves; call up Pedro Beato, Steven Wright 07.10.13 at 10:16 pm ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

The Red Sox made a pair of moves to reinforce their bullpen after Allen Webster left 6 2/3 innings for his relievers to manage on Tuesday night. The team optioned both Webster (who lasted just 2 1/3 innings) and Alfredo Aceves (who pitched just 2/3 of an inning in relief of Webster) to Triple-A Pawtucket and called up right-handers Steven Wright and Pedro Beato.

Webster is now 1-2 with a 9.57 ERA in six starts this year. He’s the only pitcher in the majors with two starts of fewer than three innings and seven or more earned runs allowed. Rather than keep him in the rotation and on turn for a start on Sunday, the Sox elected to send him down to provide more of a safety net with its relief corps. The team has yet to make a decision about who will start on Sunday, but manager John Farrell said that both Brandon Workman and Wright would be considerations — though not necessarily the only ones.

“Depending on how much Workman is used, even though we’ve brought him here to work out of the bullpen, if he pitches tonight, he would be a candidate,” Farrell told reporters in Seattle. “Steven Wright would be a candidate. That’s not omitting anyone that might be on turn at Pawtucket.”

Farrell said that while Aceves has been dealing with some soreness in his side, he was available both to pitch deeper into Wednesday’s game than the two outs he recorded and added that “he is not injured.” Still, because he pitched on Tuesday, there were questions about whether Aceves could offer a potential multi-innings relief security blanket, so he was sent down. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox place Andrew Miller on DL, recall Alfredo Aceves 07.07.13 at 5:15 pm ET
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Andrew Miller is heading to the DL. (AP)

Andrew Miller is heading to the DL. (AP)

One day after he left Saturday’s game with a left foot injury, left-hander Andrew Miller was placed on the 15-day DL, the team announced. While Miller told reporters in Anaheim that initial X-rays did not reveal a fracture after he landed awkwardly while jumping out of the way of a comebacker in the seventh inning, he also said that he did not feel better, and he was wearing a walking boot in the Red Sox clubhouse. The team planned to fly Miller back to Boston for further tests.

With Miller down, the Red Sox have recalled right-hander Alfredo Aceves from Triple-A Pawtucket. Aceves has been working as a starter for the Red Sox and Triple-A Pawtucket since a one-inning relief appearance on May 24, forging a 3.80 ERA in seven starts since May 27 (though he’s gotten hit hard in his last two starts, allowing 10 runs in 10 innings with the PawSox). But, with Miller down and the Red Sox amidst a search for stability in their relief corps, the 30-year-old might have an opportunity to assert himself for a meaningful bullpen role.

Aceves is 4-1 with a 5.05 ERA, 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings and 5.6 walks per nine innings in 35 2/3 frames in the big leagues this year. Miller owned a 2.64 ERA with 14.1 strikeouts and 5.0 walks per nine innings in 37 games (30 2/3 innings). With his absence, the Sox have just one left-hander on the roster (Craig Breslow).

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