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Red Sox minor league roundup: Christian Vazquez is more than just a glove; Anthony Ranaudo brings back power; Mookie Betts remains outrageous 04.05.14 at 9:01 am ET
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Christian Vazquez (AP)

Christian Vazquez (AP)

Over time, Christian Vazquez has developed a reputation as one of the top defensive catchers in the minors, someone whose arm behind the plate is a game-changing weapon that has earned the 23-year-old comparisons to perennial Gold Glover Yadier Molina. But increasingly, Vazquez is starting to earn more far-reaching comparisons to the Cardinals All-Star not just for his defense but for the trajectory of his offensive development.

As a hitter, Molina was something of a late bloomer, putting up solid but unspectacular numbers in the minors (.278/.335/.368) and struggling in his first three big league seasons (.238/.291/.342 through his age 23 season in 2006) before taking a leap forward as one of the top two-way catchers in baseball, hitting .297/.353/.422 from 2007-13.

It remains to be seen what kind of hitter Vazquez ultimately becomes, but his progress commands notice. In 2012, he walked 48 times and struck out 79 times; last year, he walked the same number of times (48) but cut his strikeout rate roughly in half (44) while posting a .287 average, .375 OBP and .391 slugging mark. His approach passes the eye test as a hitter who does not expand the strike zone and whose hand-eye coordination permits him to hit line drives to all fields.

This spring, there were signs that Vazquez’s improved knowledge of the strike zone could permit him to make more of an offensive impact as he takes some chances pulling the ball. He crushed a couple of homers in big league spring training, offering a glimpse of a catcher who could have the ability to hit for average, get on base and deliver a bit of sneaky pop — in short, a player who may be ready to challenge his perception as a defense-first player whose limited offensive skill set profiles as that of a backup or a below-average everyday catcher.

On Friday, Vazquez went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles — one to right, one to left. While the one-year deal for A.J. Pierzynski resulted in a sense that Vazquez could emerge as the Sox’ catcher by 2015, his offensive improvements suggest a player who will be ready before that if the need arises.

“In my mind, he’s ready now,” manager John Farrell said of Vazquez on WEEI’s Down on the Farm.

Programming Note: Sunday on Down on the Farm: Red Sox hitting coordinator Tim Hyers will discuss Vazquez and other Red Sox prospects, and ESPN’s Keith Law will discuss the shape of the different farm systems among American League East teams. Listen to the show on WEEI on Sunday morning from 8:30-9 a.m.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-4 WIN VS. LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)

(BOX)

– Left-hander Craig Breslow, pitching in the second of back-to-back games, logged a scoreless inning in which he allowed a double and struck out a batter. On Friday, Breslow said that it was his hope that he would be ready for activation from the disabled list after his second Triple-A outing, though he will meet with team officials on Saturday to make the determination of whether he will make any further rehab appearances. Breslow threw eight of 12 pitches for strikes, getting two groundouts and a punchout. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, christian vazquez, Craig Breslow, mookie betts
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 »

Read More: allen webster, anthony ranaudo, christian vazquez, garin cecchini
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.”

Read More: allen webster, christian vazquez, David Ortiz, deven marrero
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.

Read More: allen webster, christian vazquez, deven marrero, Red Sox
Sunday Red Sox notes: Christian Vazquez continues to impress as ‘one of the premier catching prospects,’ Bo Greenwell signs 03.02.14 at 11:30 am ET
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Bo Greenwell had been playing in the Cleveland system before signing with Red Sox. (AP)

Bo Greenwell had been playing in the Cleveland system before signing with Red Sox. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Christian Vazquez continues to impress in Red Sox camp.

The latest raves came from John Farrell after Vazquez threw out Minnesota’s Jermaine Mitchell trying to steal second base in the seventh inning at Hammond Stadium.

“Another one you probably saw last year,” Farrell said Sunday, referring to the many runners he threw out for Double-A Portland in 2013.

That’s something that has continued this spring in camp. “He’s thrown out every runner in camp he’s come across. He’s now 11-for-11,” Farrell reported.

“What’s impressive to me is the progress he’s making with the bat. There’s more strength in his swing, there’s more solid impact, drove the ball good to right-center field and then there was the home run the other day. When you look at the numbers, it’s heading in the right direction. He’s on a very good path.”

What will it take for Vazquez to reach the next level?

“Number of at-bats and I think as he’s getting stronger, that’s the thing that starts out,” Farrell said. “This is a guy when he first signed, there were some difficulty getting through a nine-inning game and now he might be one of the premier catching prospects in the game.”

What makes him that premier prospect is an arm unrivaled in the Red Sox system, throwing down to second in less than 1.9 seconds, a release that puts him in the very above-average category.

“1.86 on the throw to second,” Farrell said. “We [also] encourage all of our guys to [throw to first base]. We want any kind of deterrent to either an extended lead or a secondary lead or any kind of running the bases with freedom, we want to try to cut that down as much as possible.”

The latest on Grady Sizemore is that he will play Tuesday against Tampa Bay and Friday against Atlanta, both games scheduled for JetBlue Park.

“I wish we could fast-forward and get the answer but so far, so good,” Farrell said.

Anything unexpected from Sizemore? “Yeah, running into the center field wall,” Farrell laughed. “He got up and threw the ball so I guess some things don’t change.”

“Talking to him early this morning, he felt like he had a legitimate bead on that ball and time ran out. But he bounced right back up and is good to go. There’s been a couple of at-bats where he’s getting down the line. The times getting down the line are getting more in line with what’s expected, and I think that’s his mind is being a little more free and not guarded and so those are things, when you ask what are you looking for, you’re starting to see them play out in games in times down the line or how he’s responded to game situations. It’s been good.”

The team announced Sunday that they signed Bo Greenwell, the son of former Red Sox All-Star left fielder Mike Greenwell. Bo, 25, was originally drafted by Cleveland in the sixth round of the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft. It won’t be a long trip to camp as he went to Riverdale High School in Fort Myers.

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Read More: Bo Greenwell, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, felix doubront
Red Sox notebook Friday: Grady Sizemore, Daniel Nava to play Saturday, Christian Vazquez takes ‘big step forward’ 02.28.14 at 11:18 am ET
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Christian Vazquez is not just sitting and waiting for his time to become to Boston's next great catcher. (AP)

Christian Vazquez is not just sitting and waiting for his time to become to Boston’s next great catcher. (AP)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — All the reports on Grady Sizemore came back very positive Friday morning so his return to game action will continue on Saturday at Hammond Stadium against the Twins.

“Grady feels great,” manager John Farrell said. “He came out of yesterday’s three innings, two at-bats feeling good. I’m sure he was eager to get going. First time in a couple of years being in a live game but he has responded well.”

Sizemore, who missed all of 2012 and ’13 with back and knee injuries, flied out to center in his first at-bat in the first inning and flew out to left in the second inning. It was his first game action of any kind since Sept. 2011. Farrell said Sizemore will play center after playing left field on Thursday against Northeastern.

Another rehabbing outfielder will get his first taste of game action on Saturday when Daniel Nava returns from a neck ailment and plays left field. Nava missed some time early in camp after waking up one morning with stiffness and soreness in the back of his neck.

Christian Vazquez continues to impress the Red Sox with his offensive development. On Thursday, he homered over the Jet Blue Monster in left against Boston College. The ninth-round pick from 2008 has always had shown signs of power, hitting as many as 18 homers with Single-A Greenville in 2011, driving in 84 runs in 105 games and batting .283. He seemed to be on the fast track in 2012 when he batted .266 in 81 games for High-A Salem. But he dropped to .205 in 20 games with Double-A Portland to close out ’12.

Last year, mostly spent at Portland, he had a breakout season of sorts, batting .289 with a .376 OBP in 96 games.

“Big step forward last year. Improved average but I think more than anything, when you start to see the walks and strikeouts start to even out, I think that speaks to his confidence in the [batter's] box and be comfortable and remain calm in some of those two-strike situations. He’s an exciting-looking player and a solid step forward, offensively, last year.”

With a gun for an arm and very quick feet, his defensive skills have never been doubted from the moment he was drafted as a 17-year-old out of Puerto Rico. Farrell says Vazquez will take the next step in developing game-calling skills and handling a pitching staff.

“Those [skills] are evident,” Farrell said. “The game-calling are to hinge a lot on the strengths of the given pitcher on the mound and how familiar is he with that individual. There’s a good foundation already in place, and that starts from the time they’re in rookie ball and that building block is there. But what he has also shown is the ability to read some swings and use that to make some pitch selections. He’s on a very good path as far as the position is concerned, all phases.”

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Read More: anthony ranaudo, Boston Red Sox, christian vazquez, daniel nava
Red Sox prospects Henry Owens, Blake Swihart, Garin Cecchini among scheduled Rookie Development Program participants 01.07.14 at 10:08 am ET
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Garin Cecchini is among the participants in the Red Sox Rookie Development Program. (Salem Red Sox)

Garin Cecchini is among the participants in the Red Sox Rookie Development Program. (Salem Red Sox)

There have been years when the talent at the Red Sox‘ near-annual Rookie Development Program has seemed thin, with the majority of the participants seeming more likely to emerge as fringe rather than core contributors to the major league club. That is not the case this year.

Instead, the group that will convene in Boston for a week — from Jan. 13-18 — features several of the Red Sox’ top prospects, most of whom look like future big league regulars. It is one of the deepest group of Red Sox prospects to participate in the program, which seeks to bring prospects expected to impact the big league club within a 12- to 18-month window to Boston to gain familiarity with major league staffers, Fenway Park and the city of Boston. Of the 11 participants in the program last year, seven — Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Drake BrittonSteven Wright and Brock Holt — played in the big leagues at some point in the year.

According to industry sources, here are the known participants:

LHP Henry Owens — The 6-foot-7 left-hander (ranked the No. 2 prospect in the Red Sox system by Baseball America) authored a dominant 2013 season in High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, forging a combined 2.67 ERA with 11.3 strikeouts and 4.5 walks per nine innings in 135 frames. He gets swings and misses in volume with an 89-92 mph fastball that has touched 95 mph, a devastating changeup that ranks as the best in the Sox system and a curveball that looks like a solid average offering. The 21-year-old held opposing hitters to a .177 average, earning him the title of the most unhittable left-hander in the minors in 2013 — a designation underscored by a streak of 19 1/3 consecutive hitless innings at one stretch in Salem.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: anthony ranaudo, blake swihart, christian vazquez, dalier hinojosa
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