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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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Red Sox minor league roundup: Allen Webster gets grounded; Salem makes history; puzzling outing for Brian Johnson 04.09.14 at 11:05 am ET
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Right-hander Allen Webster induced 10 groundball outs on Tuesday. (AP)

Right-hander Allen Webster induced 10 groundball outs on Tuesday. (AP)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-1 WIN VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)

(BOX)

– Right-hander Allen Webster threw strikes and showed a strong two-seamer over the course of six efficient innings in which he threw 54 of 83 pitches (65 percent) for strikes. Though Webster punched out just three batters (while walking two), he allowed just three hits (a double and two singles) while eliciting 10 groundball outs.

“My fastball command was 10 times better than where it was the last game. I was throwing my off-speed for strikes and they were getting bad contact,” Webster told Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times. “I was staying more in line and driving the ball to the spot rather than jerking it.”

Ryan Lavarnway, who had been 0-for-14 in his first four starts of the year, made his first hit of 2014 a resounding one, launching a solo homer to the opposite field in right. Lavarnway once again played first base, making his third start at that position (compared to one each at DH and catcher). Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox minor league affiliate roster analysis: Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox 04.01.14 at 1:58 pm ET
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Anthony Ranaudo (AP)

Anthony Ranaudo (AP)

The Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox roster:

Pitchers

Drake Britton

Rubby De La Rosa

Chris Hernandez

Rich Hill

Dalier Hinojosa

Jeremy Kehrt

Tommy Layne

Anthony Ranaudo

Chris Resop

Brayan Villarreal

Allen Webster

Alex Wilson

Catchers Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning notes: John Farrell talks progress of Christian Vazquez, Allen Webster, Deven Marrero; Will Middlebrooks still nursing injured finger 03.17.14 at 10:55 am ET
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Allen Webster

Allen Webster

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Prior to the Red Sox‘ spring training game with the Cardinals Monday morning, manager John Farrell discussed the progress made by each of the players sent out in the latest round of roster cuts.

Allen Webster: “Obviously with Allen Webster, I thought his spring training this year was more impressive than a year ago when he was the talk of our camp on a pitcher that comes in late in the game because of how powerful his stuff was. We’re seeing a guy that’€™s maturing on the mound. The use of his two-seamer particularly. And the number of strikes in the bottom of the strike zone has been very encouraging.”

Christian Vazquez: “The progression with the bat. His willingness to go the other way with some base hits. He’€™s starting to impact the baseball a little bit more in some advantage counts. He has the ability to shut down a running game with the way he defends and the way he throws. This is a guy, there would be no hesitation if the need were to arise to call upon.”

Deven Marrero: “A well-above-average defender. Last year, he had a little bit of exposure to us while he was in big league camp. But this year, a very good defender right now. And I think he’s settling in to an approach at the plate that’s not only consistent, but one that works best for him. He does have a tendency to tinker with some things and he’€™s always searching for what the right feel is. But we’ve seen him the last five, six days really impact the baseball to the pull side.”

Will Middlebrooks was out of the Red Sox‘ lineup with a hyperextended finger on his right hand, having attempted to play with the injury Sunday.

Farrell noted that Middlebrooks — who did take batting practice Monday — feels the ailment more when throwing the baseball. The third baseman suffered the injury Thursday when bracing himself during a feet-first slide.

Shane Victorino was back in the No. 2 spot, with Grady Sizemore leading off. With the earlier notion that Dustin Pedroia might be moved up to that slot, Farrell explained the dynamic.

“He’s got an ability in the two-hole to play the game a little more,” said the manager of Victorino. “If there’s a guy on base, he’s got the ability to bunt. He’s already seen some pitches by the guy ahead of him. Can’t deny the track record of what spots in the lineup show and the performance, getting on base particularly. And, you know, it gives us another guy with some speed at the top or an on base and speed guy at the top in addition to who might be leading off with him in the two-hole. And the fact that we had Pedey and David [Ortiz] in the 3-4 hole for pretty much the majority of last year, that’€™s not a new thing for them either.’€

– Sizemore is expected to play in back-to-back games again, Wednesday against the Pirates and Thursday vs. the Yankees (both at JetBlue Park).

– Ortiz is just 2-for-25 heading into Monday’€™s game, but his manager isn’t worried.

“I think more than anything if we can get to roughly 50 at-bats here, that’s the goal, enough at-bats where he’s seeing pitches, he’s getting his timing down, and that’s a round number, not to say we’re holding steadfast to that number, last spring he didn’t have any at-bats and I think he was pretty good last year. David’s getting in shape to start the year.”

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Red Sox option Allen Webster, Christian Vazquez to Triple-A at 9:35 am ET
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Allen Webster

Allen Webster

The Red Sox on Monday optioned pitcher Allen Webster and catcher Christian Vazquez to Triple-A Pawtucket and reassigned shortstop Deven Marrero to minor league camp.

The moves leave the Red Sox with 43 players in big league camp, including 33 players from the 40-man roster and 10 non-roster invitees.

Webster pitched Sunday against the Rays and struggled, allowing three runs (two earned) over four innings on three hits and three walks, with three strikeouts. In four spring training starts the 24-year-old right-hander is 0-2 with a 5.25 ERA, allowing 10 hits and seven walks in 12 innings with eight strikeouts.

Vazquez, 23, has appeared in eight games, with 10 at-bats, and is hitting .500/.583/.800 with one home run, three RBIs, two walks and a strikeout.

Marrero went 1-for-3 Sunday, hitting a ninth-inning home run off right-hander Juan Sandoval. In 21 at-bats over 13 games the 23-year-old is hitting .333/.462/.571 with two doubles, one home run, one RBI and eight strikeouts. His defense has been “spectacular,” according to manager John Farrell.

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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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Allen Webster knocked around in spring debut, Grady Sizemore falls down, passes a physical test 03.01.14 at 2:16 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — If Saturday was any indication, 24-year-old Allen Webster has fallen behind Anthony Ranaudo in the Red Sox pitching prospect race.

Webster, who made his debut with the Red Sox last season in seven spot starts, was roughed up by the Minnesota Twins in his first start of spring training at Hammond Stadium. The Twins beat the Red Sox for the second straight day, 6-2, before a Hammond record crowd of 8,547. Daniel Nava homered from the right side of the plate in the first inning and Grady Sizemore overcame a mild fall before the center field wall to go 1-for-3 in the loss.

After getting Aaron Hicks to ground out to Garin Cecchini at third to open the first inning, Webster allowed three straight hard-hit balls to the outfield that all found the grass. Brian Dozier then crushed a ball to left-center that caused Sizemore to truly test his body when he lost his footing on the warning track just shy of the wall trying to field it. Sizemore stayed in the game.

“He lost his footing when he went down,” manager John Farrell said. “You recognize he’s going to pivot and torque on the leg. He came out of it fine and there were no issues. It’s just good to see him get three at-bats and continue to build.”

Webster then gave up an RBI single to right by Joe Mauer. Josh Willingham followed with a double. Webster then hit Chris Parmelee and walked Trevor Plouffe to force in a run. Lefty Chris Hernandez began warming in the bullpen as Webster appeared as if he wouldn’t make it out of the first. But a sacrifice fly and a fielder’s choice ended the inning with Minnesota up, 3-1.

Manager John Farrell allowed Webster to start the second inning and Webster responded with getting the first two outs quickly before Dozier singled to right to end his day. Webster allowed four hits and three earned runs in his inning and two-thirds of work.

“I just got in there and got a little anxious, left a few balls up, fell behind and they made good contact with it,” Webster said. “I need to get the ball down and get ahead of the batter.”

Webster’s spring debut comes in contrast to that of Ranaudo a day earlier. Ranaudo retired all six batters he faced in two innings, striking out four. He needed just 24 pitches (19 strikes). Webster needed that many to get through the first inning.

As for Sizemore, he singled to right on a grounder past the second baseman with one out in the fifth on his third at-bat of the day. Farrell immediately substituted Mike McCoy in his place as a pinch-runner at first. Sizemore flew out to left to open the game, struck out looking in the third before singling in the fifth.

Drake Britton was a highlight for the Red Sox, as the lefty allowed one hit while striking out four in his two innings.

Read the rest of this entry »

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