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Red Sox minor league roundup: Blake Swihart powers up; Sean Coyle’s patience; Mookie Betts makes Triple-A debut; Garin Cecchini slumping; Deven Marrero, doubles machine 06.04.14 at 8:54 am ET
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Blake Swihart slugged his sixth homer of 2014 on Tuesday. (365digitalphotography.com)

Blake Swihart slugged his sixth homer of 2014 on Tuesday. (365digitalphotography.com)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-2 LOSS AT DURHAM (RAYS)

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– Feats of Mookie: Adjusting. Mookie Betts made his Triple-A debut at second base, going 0-for-4 with a walk. He did initiate a pair of 4-6-3 double plays and recorded seven assists.

Betts made the jump from Double-A to Triple-A after spending less time in Portland than any other top Red Sox prospect in recent years. He spent just 54 games in Portland, graduating from Double-A faster than Jackie Bradley Jr. (61 games), Garin Cecchini (66), Dustin Pedroia (66), Jacoby Ellsbury (67) and Xander Bogaerts (79).

– Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and an error (his ninth) in his first start since being sent back down to Pawtucket from the big leagues. The 23-year-old is amidst an atypical stretch — he’s gone 11 straight games without a walk, and he’s struck out nine times during that run. He’s 8-for-43 with a double (.186/.186/.209) during the slide — with, of course, a brief interruption for a double in two at-bats in the big leagues.

– First baseman Travis Shaw went 2-for-4, giving him hits in seven of nine games since his promotion to Triple-A. He was the only PawSox with a multi-hit game.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 11-9 LOSS VS. ERIE (TIGERS) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: blake swihart, deven marrero, garin cecchini, mookie betts
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:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 WIN VS. GWINNETT (BRAVES)

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– 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: Stephen Drew, Sean Coyle return; Garin Cecchini’s streak ends; Joe Gunkel’s unhittable start 05.24.14 at 10:32 am ET
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Stephen Drew went 1-for-2 for Greenville on Friday. (AP)

Stephen Drew went 1-for-2 for Greenville on Friday. (AP)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-0 LOSS AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)

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Daniel Nava went 1-for-4 with a double off of left-hander Aaron Laffey, his second extra-base hit against lefties in Triple-A. Nava is still exhibiting significant splits that suggest that if/when he returns to the big leagues, it will likely be in a platoon capacity. With Friday’s double, he’s hitting .231/.276/.308 with nine punchouts in 28 plate appearances (32 percent) against lefties, compared to a .263/.377/.439 line with punchouts in 17 percent of his 69 plate appearances.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Nava and Portland shortstop Deven Marrero will be the guests on WEEI’s Down on the Farm, Sunday morning from 8:30-9 a.m.

– Left-hander Rich Hill turned in his most dominant outing of the year, contributing 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball in which he allowed one hit and struck out five. Hill had struggled in his prior two outings, allowing three runs in 2 1/3 innings, but his performance has been largely solid for Pawtucket, with 29 strikeouts and 11 walks in 25 innings, no homers allowed and a 3.24 ERA.

– Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 0-for-3, snapping a streak of 27 straight games in which he’d reached base. During that run, Cecchini hit .302/.413/.349.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-3 WIN (10 INNINGS) AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: blake swihart, garin cecchini, joe gunkel, rich hill
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:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-0 LOSS VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE

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– 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: Garin Cecchini, Mr. Consistent; thieves abound (and caught) in Portland; Light on in Salem; a career minor-leaguer profiled 05.07.14 at 11:16 am ET
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While the minor leagues are typically most fascinating for the promise of the Next Big Thing, there is another, more common reality that prevails below the highest level of baseball. While the minor leagues represent a series of progressive stops en route to the big leagues for a select few, for many, they are a reality unto themselves, an opportunity to play professional baseball but without the certainty — or, in some cases, even the likelihood — of ever stepping foot on a big league field.

It is a phenomenon worth considering — and a reality check for prospects who come face-to-face with players whose careers evoke that of Crash Davis and Bull Durham. This is a great story by Tim Healey on Matt Spring, now playing in Double-A Portland in his 11th minor league season, and the existence of a career minor leaguer.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 LOSS VS. TOLEDO (TIGERS)

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Garin Cecchini has shown the same on-base ability in Triple-A that has characterized his ascent in the Red Sox system. (AP)

Garin Cecchini has shown the same on-base ability in Triple-A that has characterized his ascent in the Red Sox system. (AP)

– Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 2-for-4 with a double, and he’s now reached base safely in 16 straight games with a .298/.424/.426 line during that time. For the season, Cecchini has a .309/.398/.392 line, and he’s spent just one day this season with an average below .300. His current on-base streak — which is statistically almost indistinguishable from his typical performance over the full expanse of the season — underscores the value of Cecchini as a steady contributor who tends to be able to limit both the duration and impact of his slumps by controlling the strike zone and working walks. Consider his year-by-year statistical lines in his four professional seasons:

2011 (Short-Season Single-A Lowell): .298/.398/.500, 17 walks, 19 strikeouts

2012 (Single-A Greenville): .305/.394/.433, 61 walks, 90 strikeouts

2013 (High-A Salem and Double-A Portland): .322/.443/.471, 94 walks, 86 strikeouts

2014 (Triple-A Pawtucket): .309/.398/.392, 14 walks, 21 strikeouts

The composite profile suggests a player whose track record suggests uncommon offensive reliability whenever he is deemed ready for the big leagues. There is still development that needs to take place with the glove, but if the Sox continue to find themselves bemused by their offensive inconsistency in the big leagues as the season progresses, the temptation to see what Cecchini might be able to contribute could be considerable.

– Right-hander Matt Barnes, in his third start with the PawSox, threw a season-high six innings while permitting a season-high two runs. He did not have his characteristic control, throwing just 53 of 91 pitches (58 percent) for strikes while walking four, but he gave up just three hits (all doubles). Barnes punched out four. In 16 innings, he has a 2.25 ERA with 12 strikeouts and eight walks.

– Outfielder Corey Brown, after getting off to a brutal start (a .114/.149/.159 line through 13 games), continued what has been a run of impacting the baseball. He went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, and in his last eight games, he’s now hitting .308 with a .406 OBP and .615 slugging mark with two homers and two doubles. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: blake swihart, garin cecchini, mickey pena, pat light
Red Sox minor league roundup: Blake Swihart’s career day; the Mookie Betts show; Travis Shaw scorching; Cody Kukuk pushes for promotion 04.27.14 at 11:14 am ET
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Blake Swihart hit a homer and two doubles as part of a four-hit game in Portland on Saturday. (365digitalphotography.com)

Blake Swihart hit a homer and two doubles as part of a four-hit game in Portland on Saturday. (365digitalphotography.com)

While Mookie Betts has commanded the spotlight so far in Double-A Portland, he’s not the only potential up-the-middle All-Star for the Sea Dogs. Catcher Blake Swihart continues to offer signs that he could emerge as a catcher whose all-around game is that of an elite prospect, capable of leading a pitching staff, controlling the running game and offering an impact in the batter’s box.

Swihart authored a landmark offensive game on Saturday as part of an epic 9-8, 15-inning win for the Sea Dogs, going 4-for-7 with a game-tying homer (batting right-handed against switch-pitcher Pat Venditte) with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning and two doubles, including one that put runners on second and third and set up Portland for its 15th-inning walkoff. The four hits and three extra-base hits both represented career highs.

Both of Swihart’s homers this year have come as a right-handed hitter, a side from which he’s now hitting .444/.444/.778 in 27 plate appearances. Overall, he’s now hitting .344 with a .354 OBP and hefty .547 slugging mark.

The homer was a screamer down the left field line, just over the Maine Monster and just inside the foul pole. It underscored why the Sox believe that Swihart — who with two homers this year has now matched his total from 2013 in High-A Salem — has a chance to develop some home run capability down the line. The ball was absolutely hammered, a sign of Swihart’s bat speed and ability to barrel the ball; however, it also had virtually no loft, something that helps to explain why Swihart, who hits the ball as consistently hard as nearly anyone in the system, rarely hits home runs at this point in his career. He drills liners to the outfield and into the gaps, but has yet to develop his stroke in a fashion that allows those missiles to clear fences. But in time, Swihart may learn to elevate the balls that he barrels, and if so, he has plenty of strength to be able to clear the fences.

A look at his homer on Saturday: Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: blake swihart, cody kukuk, travis shaw,
Red Sox minor league roundup: Brandon Workman, strike-throwing machine; pivotal performance for Mookie Betts; Cody Kukuk breaking through; Wendell Rijo ahead of his years 04.22.14 at 10:36 am ET
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Right-hander Brandon Workman punched out eight in five innings on Monday. (AP)

Right-hander Brandon Workman punched out eight in five innings on Monday. (AP)

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

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-3 WIN VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

Shane Victorino went 1-for-4 with an infield single and is now 1-for-7 in two rehab games, with a third slated for Tuesday night. Will Middlebrooks was 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts in his first rehab game as he recovers from his right calf injury.

– Right-hander Brandon Workman, in his second start for Pawtucket, punched out eight and walked none in five strong innings. He allowed just four hits, though two of those were home runs, resulting in a three-run yield. Between the big leagues and minors this year, Workman has 17 punchouts and two walks in 14 2/3 innings.

Bryce Brentz went 2-for-3 with a double and and also negotiated his 10th walk of the month, his most walks in any month since he reached Triple-A at the end of 2012. In his last eight games, he’s 10-for-30 with three walks and three extra-base hits, good for a line of .333 with a .394 OBP and .500 slugging mark, boosting his season line to .227/.329/.364.

– Garin Cecchini continued to be an on-base metronome, going 2-for-4 to improve his season line to .317/.377/.397. It is worth noting that there does appear to be an adjustment to Triple-A pitching that the just-turned-23-year-old is experiencing. He’s walked just five times to date, a 7.2 percent walk rate that is just over half of his pre-2014 14.1 percent walk rate and down even further from his 16.9 percent walk rate of a year ago.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 7-4 WIN AT BINGHAMTON (METS)

(BOX)

– Feats of Mookie: Turning the pivot on a triple play. Mookie Betts found himself in the middle of a 5-4-3 triple play in the bottom of the first inning. With runners on first and second and no outs, Sean Coyle fielded a grounder right at the third base bag, stepped on it and fired to second — with the decision to throw to second after stepping on the bag representing a notable prospect development given that it showed impressive game awareness for a player who is playing a new position this season. The throw was described by Portland manager Billy McMillon to the Portland Press-Herald as being low, but Betts handled it and still managed to turn the pivot, throwing to first baseman Travis Shaw to complete the trick. (Here’s the call of the triple play from Sea Dogs play-by-play man Mike Antonellis, courtesy of the U.S. Cellular Sea Dogs Radio Network.) Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: blake swihart, Brandon Workman, carlos asuaje, cody kukuk
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