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Finishing touches: Anthony Ranaudo hopes tweaked mechanics, new pitch position him for breakthrough 06.14.14 at 10:30 am ET
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Anthony Ranaudo PawSox

Anthony Ranaudo hopes that recent mechanical tweaks and the addition of a slider to his repertoire help him make his major league debut in 2014.
(Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

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 »

Read More: alex wilson, anthony ranaudo, Rich Sauveur,
Red Sox minor league roundup: Ready or not, here comes Stephen Drew; Anthony Ranaudo’s command struggles; progress for well-rounded prospects Deven Marrero, Manuel Margot 06.02.14 at 11:29 am ET
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Stephen Drew is expected to join the Red Sox in Cleveland on Monday. (AP)

Stephen Drew is expected to join the Red Sox in Cleveland on Monday. (AP)

Ready or not, here comes Stephen Drew.

In his final scheduled game of his minor league assignment, Drew went 1-for-3 with a double, a pop-up and a line out to first. It was the first game of his seven-game assignment in which he didn’t punch out. Drew went 2-for-13 with a double, a walk and five strikeouts in Pawtucket and 5-for-21 with a pair of walks and nine strikeouts in 23 plate appearances overall, a .238/.304/.381 line.

Given that his long free agent purgatory has Drew nearly three months worth of games behind his competitors, it’s safe to suggest that he’s still regaining his competitive timing and rhythm. In that vein, there are similarities to a similar situation that the Red Sox faced in last April, when Drew — after being sidelined in spring training by a concussion — went 2-for-13 in a rehab assignment before displacing a hitter who was enjoying a hot streak in Jose Iglesias.

Just as was the case last year, when questions arose about whether the Sox had made a mistake in signing Drew given the early success of Iglesias, there is a public dialogue about the merits of having Drew return at a time when Brock Holt has been a catalyst for the Sox. But ultimately in 2013, the decision to sign Drew and give the Red Sox roster depth proved one of the most important that the Sox made in the 2012-13 offseason.

The presence of Drew, Jose Iglesias and Will Middlebrooks gave the Sox depth on the left side of the infield that permitted them to have answers during first-half injuries and slumps by Drew and Iglesias. It bought time for Middlebrooks to redevelop his offensive approach in Triple-A when he struggled, and it gave the Sox an opportunity to give Xander Bogaerts time to finish his minor league development in a fashion that left him not only ready to compete offensively in the big leagues but also to develop at third base — something that proved crucial in positioning the Sox to enjoy the fruits of the superprospect in the postseason en route to a championship. And ultimately, by the time Bogaerts was close to ready, because the Sox had Drew, they could afford to use Iglesias to swing a deal that addressed both short- and longer-term rotation needs with the acquisition of Jake Peavy.

In other words, from the perspective of a major league front office: Depth is good. Options are good. Roster flexibility is good. Trade chips are good.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, deven marrero, keury de la cruz, manuel margot
Red Sox minor league roundup: Travis Shaw moves up; Mookie Pedroia; Blake Swihart’s power surge; Anthony Ranaudo, Christian Vazquez have work to do 05.27.14 at 10:14 am ET
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First baseman Travis Shaw was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday. (Salem Red Sox)

First baseman Travis Shaw was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday. (Salem Red Sox)

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



– First baseman Travis Shaw, 24, went 1-for-3 in his Pawtucket debut following his promotion from Double-A. Shaw delivered a dominating performance in Portland, hitting .305/.406/.548 with 11 homers, 29 walks and 23 strikeouts while showing the ability to destroy right-handed pitching (.333/.458/.635 with seven homers, 22 walks and 11 strikeouts) and hold his own against lefties (.272/.337/.444 with four homers, seven walks and 12 strikeouts).

Shaw’s dominant performance in Portland this year followed a season of struggle at the same level last year, when he hit .221/.342/.394 with 16 homers but 117 strikeouts (22 percent of plate appearances). But after the season, Shaw worked with his father — former All-Star closer Jeff Shaw — to stay back on the ball and regain the all-fields approach that characterized his career as an amateur through an impressive 2012 full-season debut. Shaw carried that into the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .361/.452/.705 with five homers in 17 games, and maintained his swing and approach through the offseason entering this year.

His reward was a long-anticipated goal — after spending parts of three years in Portland (following an August 2012 promotion to Double-A from High-A, the entirety of 2013 and the beginning of this year), he is finally one step from the big leagues.

‘€œI was definitely on a mission to show that I could handle Double A because there have been questions that I couldn’€™t hit consistently at that level for the past year-and-a-half,’€ Shaw told the Pawtucket Times. ‘€œI feel that I’€™m in a good place mentally and physically. It’€™s also nice to be out of Portland. I wanted to prove myself and get out of there as soon as possible.’€

– Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo continued an overpowering run, firing 6 2/3 shutout innings. He’s now allowed just one run in his last three starts spanning 19 1/3 innings (0.47 ERA). The 24-year-old gave up four hits (two singles, two doubles) and struck out four. However, he also threw a relatively modest 64 of 106 pitches (60 percent) for strikes, and for the fifth time in his 11 starts this year, he walked four batters. While Ranaudo has minimized hard contact (opponents are hitting .225 against him with 0.5 homers per nine innings) and is showing the ability to handle a considerable workload (he’s logged at least 104 pitches in each of his last four outings, with a 1.38 ERA from the fourth inning on), his 4.9 walks per nine innings suggest a pitcher who has been searching for his fastball command over the course of the season and who, despite an impressive 2.90 ERA, requires refinement before he’ll put himself in consideration for a spot in a big league rotation. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, blake swihart, christian vazquez, Dustin Pedroia
Red Sox minor league roundup: Taking stock of Anthony Ranaudo; Brian Johnson, Daniel McGrath dominate; Blake Swihart, southpaw slayer; injuries for Deven Marrero, Wendell Rijo 05.21.14 at 11:37 am ET
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Anthony Ranaudo has a 2.15 ERA in his last seven starts. (AP)

Anthony Ranaudo has a 2.15 ERA in his last seven starts. (AP)

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



– There was one sequence in the top of the sixth inning that stood out in the day of Anthony Ranaudo. With a runner on first (followinga leadoff walk) and no outs, a left-handed hitter — Kyle Roller — stepped to the plate. First pitch: changeup with arm side fade, swing and miss. Second pitch: Backdoor curveball on the outside corner, called strike. Third pitch: Fastball on the hands, swing and miss.

It was a sequence that suggests a big league starting pitcher’s arsenal — after some refinements are achieved.

To be sure, Ranaudo isn’t a finished product. His fastball control (on a pitch that once touched 96 mph on the McCoy Stadium scoreboard, but mostly sat at 93 mph) came and went at times, most notably in a 27-pitch first-inning labor in which a pair of walks and a double led to a bases-loaded, one-out jam. But he worked around that with a strikeout and pop-out, commencing a stretch in which he retired 11 of 13. On the day, he ended up allowing just one run (a solo homer on an elevated fastball) in 5 2/3 innings, yielding four hits but punching out seven (while walking four). Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, blake swihart, brian johnson, bryce brentz
Red Sox minor league roundup: Time to start thinking about moving up Mookie Betts?; Keith Couch flirts with perfection; Anthony Ranaudo dominates; Travis Shaw, Bryce Brentz mash 04.30.14 at 1:27 pm ET
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Mookie Betts went 3-for-4 with a homer on Tuesday. (365DigitalPhotography.com)

Mookie Betts went 3-for-4 with a homer on Tuesday. (365DigitalPhotography.com)

Feats of Mookie: Absurdity. Players who are young for their leagues, who have been on a blindingly fast development path, aren’t supposed to dominate at a level to the degree that Mookie Betts has done so in Portland, even if only for a month. The ridiculous month of Mookie continued on Tuesday with the 21-year-old second baseman going 3-for-4 with a homer. He’s reached base in all 21 games for the Sea Dogs this year, with a season line of .422/.471/.689 with four homers, 15 extra-base hits, 10 walks, eight strikeouts and 10 steals in 12 attempts. He leads all of minor league baseball in average, ranks 13th in OBP and eighth in slugging. He’s been one of the dominant performers in all of the minors — and not just this year. Dating back to last May 5, when he made an adjustment from a leg kick to a stride in the batter’s box, he’s hitting .361/.438/.580 with 68 walks, 53 strikeouts, 17 homers, 44 steals (in 49 attempts) and 66 extra-base hits in 125 games while blitzing across three levels.

Obviously, he hasn’t been thrown by his rapid ascent up the ladder. He was more than ready for the Carolina League after his 76 games of dominance in Single-A last year, and more than ready to open this year in Portland after he finished last year with 51 games in Salem.

So how soon could he see a move up to Triple-A? His performance has forced that conversation on the Sox earlier than expected, even if there’s no evidence that a promotion is imminent. There simply aren’t many parallels in recent years in the Red Sox organization for what Betts is doing.

The closest comparable came from another leadoff hitter, Jacoby Ellsbury, who spent just 17 games in Portland at the start of the 2007 season, hitting .452/.518/.644 before forcing his way up to Pawtucket. But Ellsbury was different in a few key respects: 1) He was a 23-year-old who had been drafted out of college; 2) He’d spent 50 games in Portland at the end of his first full pro season in 2006. So, Ellsbury didn’t force his promotion until he’d been in Double-A for 67 games rather than 50.

The Sox have had few position players who were drafted out of high school dominate like this. Will Middlebrooks was 22 when he arrived in Portland and had a great year, hitting .302/.345/.520 with 18 homers in 96 games before an end-of-year promotion to Pawtucket. Anthony Rizzo made it to Portland as a 20-year-old in 2010 and hit .263/.334/.481 with 20 homers in 107 games before getting traded that offseason.

Xander Bogaerts had 79 games in Double-A — 23 at the end of 2012, 56 more at the start of 2013 — before his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket in his age 20 season.

So, as Kevin Thomas of the Portland Press-Herald pointed out (via twitter), the Sox haven’t had a top position prospect blitz through Portland in recent years in fewer than 61 games. That suggests that Betts may have a while to wait before he moves up to the top rung of the minor league ladder. Of course, it’s worth noting that no one else dominated Portland out of the chute in the fashion that Betts has. He may be forcing his own set of rules.

“Nobody knows why he’s still here. He’s a freak, man,” Portland pitcher Keith Couch told MiLB.com. “He should be in the big leagues. He has this electricity to his game. He’s just crushing balls and getting on base and scoring runs.”

Here’s video of the homer: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, Keith Couch, mookie betts, travis shaw
Red Sox minor league roundup: Anthony Ranaudo’s early struggles, Justin Haley sailing in Salem, Bo Greenwell’s career day 04.25.14 at 4:19 pm ET
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Anthony Ranaudo (AP)

Anthony Ranaudo (AP)

The briefest of looks at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday:



– Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo had his shortest start of the year, allowing three runs (two earned) in three innings while permitting six hits (five singles and a double), walking four and striking out four. He required 71 pitches, of which 39 (55 percent) were strikes. So far this year, Ranaudo has had one standout start (a six shutout inning effort on April 19) but otherwise has struggled in the early stages of the year. He’s getting strikeouts (25 in 23 2/3 innings) but his walk rate has spiked considerably (5.3 per nine innings) from last year, his velocity has fluctuated between outings and he’s been getting hit hard when missing up in the zone, particularly against lefties. Left-handed hitters have crushed him to the tune of a .378/.511/.622 line with 10 walks and 10 strikeouts in 47 plate appearances.

– Right-hander Alex Wilson showed no ill effects of his one-day shuffle to and from Boston. He pitched the ninth inning, needing just eight pitches to garner a strikeout and two groundouts. He’s now worked nine scoreless innings this year.

Bryce Brentz went 2-for-4 and has now reached base in 12 straight games, during which he has a line of .317/.404/.439. He did, however, commit an error in left field and struck out twice.

Daniel Nava is expected to join the PawSox on Friday. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, Bo Greenwell, Justin Haley, luke farrell
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
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Mookie Betts leads all of the minors in batting average with a .453 mark. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

Mookie Betts leads all of the minors in batting average with a .453 mark. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

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.
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