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Red Sox minor league year in review: Corner infielders 09.25.13 at 4:11 pm ET
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As the major league season wraps up, WEEI.com will also wrap up its minor league coverage of the 2013 campaign by looking at the depth of prospects at the different position groupings in the farm system. Today: Corner infielders. Tuesday: Catchers.

Garin Cecchini led all of the minors in on-base percentage in 2013. (Salem Red Sox)

Garin Cecchini led all of the minors in on-base percentage in 2013. (Salem Red Sox)

Overview: First and third base are traditionally positions that supply much of a lineup’s thump. More home runs have been hit by first baseman than any other position; third basemen rank third in that category. (Right fielders are second.) Yet the Sox’ minor league system doesn’t have that prototypical masher at those positions, at least not in the upper levels of their farm system.

“We probably don’t have as much of a corner bat, a profile corner bat type than maybe we’ve had in the past,” said GM Ben Cherington in this recent podcast. “We’ve got some guys who we think can hit, but that may be an area that we don’t have as much of.”

The Sox have long focused on adding up-the-middle athletes to their organization with a chance to impact the game in numerous ways. Aside from Jason Place (first round, 2006) and Bryce Brentz (supplemental first round, 2010), the team hasn’t employed its top picks on players whose defining trait has been power. Aside from Michael Almanzar (2007) and, this year, Rafael Devers, the team has likewise made its most significant international commitments to up-the-middle players instead of corners.

The result is that the strength of the team’s minor league system isn’t found in power-hitting corners. Indeed, it’s telling that the organization’s top corner prospect right now — a very good prospect, it’s worth mentioning — has not yet hit as many as 10 homers in a minor league season. Meanwhile, there is no one in the organization who is ready to step in as an everyday first baseman in 2014, suggesting that the team’s only options are to try to bring back Mike Napoli, shift Will Middlebrooks to first (something that would presumably require the club to feature Xander Bogaerts at third) or hit the trade or free agent market.

Here’s a look at the performance of Red Sox corner infielders throughout the minors this year (skipping both Will Middlebrooks — who does embody the power-hitting third base/corner profile — and the traded Jose Iglesias, since most of their work took place at the big league level, as well as Xander Bogaerts, given that he’s more likely viewed as a shortstop): Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: alex hassan, aneudis peralta, brandon snyder, drew sutton
Red Sox minor league roundup: Brandon Workman’s ordinary meets extraordinary; Rubby De La Rosa dazzles; Garin Cecchini closes out spectacular month 05.01.13 at 11:28 am ET
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Once again, right-hander Brandon Workman dominated on Tuesday (Salem Red Sox)

The accomplishment was extraordinary. Through six innings, Brandon Workman retired all 18 batters he faced, simply overpowering his opponents with Double-A Reading.

Yet the thing that was most extraordinary about Workman’s run of perfection — which ended with a leadoff double in the seventh inning — was the fact that it represented a continuation of rather than an aberration from what he’d already been doing this year. He wasn’t doing anything that he hadn’t done in virtually every other outing this year, and most of his trips to the mound dating back to last season in High-A Salem.

He was aggressive in the strike zone with his fastball (which sat at 93 mph and topped out at 95) and cutter, threw a bunch of first-pitch strikes (16 of 23 hitters) and mowed through 11 plate appearances in three pitches or fewer. Workman’s blunt, strike-throwing approach — he threw strikes with 59 of 84 pitches (70 percent) — netted 15 swings and misses.

Impressively, after spending the full game in the windup, he bounced back from the leadoff double in the seventh by punching out the next two hitters, before finally faltering by allowing a walk and run-scoring double that ended his outing after 6 2/3 innings in which he permitted one run on the two hits and a walk while striking out six.

So, aside from the fact that there were 18 straight batters retired out of the gate, the outing looked very much like what the 24-year-old has been doing all season for Double-A Portland. On the year, Workman is now 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA and an eye-catching 34-to-6 strikeout-to-walk rate in 29 2/3 innings. He’s worked at least five innings in all five of his appearances, while pitching at least six frames in three of his five outings, with his strike-throwing approach permitting him to work reliably deep into games, in part because of how he attacks the strike zone, in part because he exhibits such tremendous intensity and focus while looming as an imposing, 6-foot-5 physical presence on the mound.

“Since last year when he came up, he comes right after hitters,” said Portland manager Kevin Boles. “The thing with him is, you watch him, you can see he wears his emotions on his sleeves. Sometimes, you’ll see him throw a ball and think, ‘OK, they’re getting to him.’ Then, all of a sudden, he’s pitching in the sixth or seventh inning. The opposing club has to be scratching its head thinking, ‘I thought this guy was going to self-destruct on the mound.’ But he’s so competitive and so fiery. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: blake swihart, brandon jacobs, Brandon Workman, bryce brentz
Closing time: Red Sox explode for six-run seventh, complete comeback against Astros 07.02.11 at 12:20 am ET
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Dustin Pedroia had quite an eventful game Friday night. (AP)

For six innings, it looked like Astros starter Bud Norris would be another in a long line of National League pitchers to contain the once-explosive Red Sox offense. Norris allowed a leadoff home run to Marco Scutaro in the first, then held Boston hitless through the first six innings. He struck out 10, making Boston’s 3-4 duo of Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis look downright silly (0-for-6 with five strikeouts and a double play against Norris).

The Astros, meanwhile, tied the game in the bottom of the first, went up 3-1 on a bunt and a ground-rule double in the second, then scored single runs in the fifth and sixth to go up 5-1 on Tim Wakefield and the Red Sox.

Then the seventh inning – Boston’s highest-scoring inning this season – arrived, and Boston’s offense returned. J.D. Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled off Norris before Josh Reddick doubled in a run. That chased Norris, and Boston went to work on the worst bullpen in the majors.

Drew Sutton scored a run with an infield single, then Dustin Pedroia hit a two-RBI single off reliever Wilton Lopez three batters later. Gonzalez followed Pedroia with a two-run double to deep left, and Boston’s bullpen kept the Astros off the scoreboard through the final 3 2/3 innings.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

- Boston’s five relief pitchers combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings, holding the Astros to just two singles. Dan Wheeler pitched the final two outs of the sixth in relief of Lopez. Matt Albers picked up the next two, and Franklin Morales recorded the final out of the seventh with one pitch. Daniel Bard struck out two in a scoreless eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon retired Carlos Lee on a ground out to second after allowing a two-out single to Hunter Pence to pick up his 16th save of the season.

- Josh Reddick was the only Red Sox hitter with a multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a walk, an RBI and a run. Friday night was the fourth multi-hit game in his last five starts.

- Dustin Pedroia and Jarrod Saltalamacchia also reached based three times, each going 1-for-3 with two walks and a run.

- Boston’s six seventh-inning runs increased their seventh-inning seasonal total to 74 runs.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

- Kevin Youkilis finished the game 0-for-4 with three swinging strikeouts and a walk. Norris completely dominated Youkilis, twice striking him out on four pitches.

- Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball had solid movement, dancing and darting through the strike zone, 10 times getting Wakefield to two strikes on opposing hitters. That third strike never came, however, and five of the 11 hits Wakefield gave up came with two strikes.

- Marco Scutaro was relatively ineffective as a leadoff hitter following the first inning. He finished the game 1-for-5 with two strikeouts and a bases-loaded double play that killed a tremendous scoring opportunity in the top of the eighth. He went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position.

- The Red Sox had multiple opportunities to break the game wide open, but left nine men on base and went 4-for-10 with runners ins coring position.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Bud Norris, drew sutton, Dustin Pedroia
Francona: Putting Crawford on the disabled list ‘a no-brainer’ 06.18.11 at 5:27 pm ET
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Carl Crawford

As soon as the injury occurred, the likely outcome seemed quickly apparent. As soon as Carl Crawford hobbled past the first base bag after beating an infield hit and then almost immediately was escorted to the Red Sox clubhouse in the first inning of Friday’s game, a trip to the disabled list for his Grade 1 left hamstring strain seemed a likely outcome.

On Saturday, that is precisely what happened. The Sox placed Crawford on the disabled list; prior to the start of the game, Josh Reddick will be added to the big league roster.

“I think the medical people thought at best it was going to be 10, 14 days. That’s kind of a no-brainer,” Francona said of the decision to put Crawford on the 15-day disabled list. “He gets it.”

Crawford, despite his struggles, has been a near-constant in the Red Sox lineup, having played in 67 of the team’s 69 games. Though he leads the majors in four-hit games, he is hitting .243 with a .275 OBP, .384 slugging mark and .659 OPS. Still, his range in left field has certainly had an impact on the Sox’ run prevention. Opponents currently have a .278 batting average on balls in play against the Sox, the second lowest mark in the AL (behind the Rays) and a reflection of the team’s excellent outfield defense.

– In Crawford’s absence, Francona said the Sox will “kind of piece it together a little bit.” The team has four options, with Mike Cameron, Darnell McDonald, Reddick and Drew Sutton all capable of filling in for Crawford in left field.

Reddick hit. 385 with a .400 OBP, .462 lugging mark and .862 OPS in five games in the majors, but then struggled after being demoted to Pawtucket. He went 1-for-23 in his first seven games back before hitting a pair of homers on Friday for the PawSox.

“It sure seems like [struggling after a demotion] happens, doesn’t it? I think it’s for different reasons,” said Francona. “Sometimes guys go down, in some instances they’re upset. You see that in spring training. A guy battles, battles, battles, doesn’t make a team, goes down there, it’s a letdown, and then all of a sudden you’re fighting your way uphill. With Josh, that isn’t the case. He knew why he was [in the majors].

“He’s still a young hitter that’s understanding his swing, and when he’s in a mode of using the entire field, he stays on the ball better, doesn’t swing at bad pitches and then he ends up hitting the ball out of the ballpark. Then he gets in that pull mode sometimes, then he starts swinging at balls out of the zone and gets himself in trouble. He went back to Triple-A and kind of struggled for a while. Fortunately, yesterday, he hit a couple balls out of the ballpark, and more importantly were that they were nice, level swings. He wasn’t cheating or selling out to get to a ball and happened to get a fastball middle-in, hit it for a homer.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bobby jenks, carl crawford, darnell mcdonald, drew sutton
Closing Time: Red Sox put up two touchdowns for second straight game 05.26.11 at 5:01 pm ET
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Detroit starting pitcher Max Scherzer had allowed just three earned runs in five starts at Comerica Park this season coming into Thursday. Then, he ran into a white-hot Red Sox offense.

Fresh off a 14-2 win over Cleveland on Wednesday, Boston piled on seven runs against Scherzer in the second and third innings to chase the Detroit righty before coasting to a 14-1 win over its Motor City hosts. All nine Red Sox starters got a hit in the win with each outfielder (Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Reddick) producing three RBI to pace the offense.

The continued offensive production nearly overshadowed a quality outing from Alfredo Aceves in his first win as a starter this season. For the second straight start as an injury replacement, Aceves kept opposing batters at bay, throwing six innings of one-run ball while allowing five hits and two walks and striking out six.

The game was called following a 55-minute rain delay after the teams had completed 7 1/2 innings.

Here’s the many things that what went right in the Red Sox win along with one very minor thing that went wrong.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

–Crawford (4-for-5, 3 RBI) struck a two-run triple in the third and had another RBI three-bagger in the seventh. After knocking in two in Wednesday’s onslaught in Cleveland, Crawford now has two multi-RBI games in a row for the first time in a Red Sox uniform and the first time since knocking in seven over a two-game stretch back in June 2-4 of last year as a member of the Rays organization. After entering the game with just one triple over the first 47 games of this season, Crawford, who led the American League in that category last season, also had his first game with multiple triples since July 26, 2008.

With his second four-hit game in a row, Crawford has raised his average 32 points, from .212 before Wednesday’s game to .244 following Thursday’s win. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, alfredo aceves, carl crawford, drew sutton
Closing Time: Red Sox demolish the Indians 05.25.11 at 3:08 pm ET
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It was batting practice.

The Red Sox lineup teed off on the Indians, flashing the sort of muscle that team decision-makers no doubt anticipated seeing from time to time when they assembled the club in the offseason. The team exploded out of the blocks with a seven-run first inning (the most runs the team has scored in an inning since last August) in which it collected nine hits, most since they racked up 10 in a memorable 25-8 win over the Marlins in 2003. The Sox then kept adding on.

The team’s 10 extra-base hits were its most since last June 3, and represented the team’s biggest output on the road since June 20, 2007, in a game against the Braves. Of the members of the starting lineup, every one scored at least one run. Only one (shortstop Jed Lowrie) failed to collect either a hit or an RBI.

That set the stage for a 14-2 wipeout of the Indians, the most lopsided Sox road victory since a 14-2 win over the White Sox in 2007.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

–The list of accomplishments by the Sox batters in Wednesday’s game is long. Before getting to that, then, it’s worth taking stock of the performance of Jon Lester. Lester started slowly, allowing a pair of singles in the first (marking the career-high eighth straight inning, spread over three starts, in which he’d allowed at least two baserunners). But he escaped without any harm, and then did what a good starting pitcher should do when entrusted with a huge lead.

Lester, primarily on the strength of fastballs and a very good cutter, retired 15 straight Indians in one stretch. After working to a 7.27 ERA over his previous three starts, Lester ended up delivering six shutout innings on a day when the ball was evidently jumping in Cleveland.

His pitch efficiency (97 pitches in six innings) left something to be desired, and he did issue a walk in the sixth (extending his career-long streak of games in which he permitted a walk to 19). Even so, he allowed just three hits while punching out seven over six shutout innings, lowering his ERA to 3.36. He became the first pitcher in the American League to reach seven wins.

Moreover, he has now held opponents scoreless in 26 of his 134 career starts (19.4 percent) — or roughly one out of every five outings.

He continued a fine run by a rotation that now has a 1.95 ERA over its last eight starts. It was the Sox’ major league-best 12th game this year in which a starter didn’t allow a run.

As for the offense…

Carl Crawford went 4-for-4 with a homer and two doubles. It was the first time in his Red Sox career that he’d collected more than two hits in a game. It was Crawford’s 30th career four-hit game, and his fifth career game with three or more extra-base hits.

Dustin Pedroia put the Sox on the board with a two-run homer in the first. It was his first homer since April 15, ending a drought that had reached 136 at-bats. Pedroia went 2-for-5 with 3 RBI.

Adrian Gonzalez continued his electric May, going 2-for-6 and driving in yet another run. He’s driven in 28 this month, most in the majors; he also leads the AL with 21 multi-hit games this year.

David Ortiz continued his explosive May. He went 2-for-6 and launched a homer to deep right. He is hitting .337 with a 1.056 OPS, eight homers and 16 extra-base hits (most in the majors) in the month.

–Two Sundays ago, Red Sox catchers did not have a single homer on the year. But then, Jarrod Saltalamacchia went deep on May 15 and he hasn’t stopped crushing the ball since. He now has four homers in a six-game stretch, and the Sox now are tied for 11th in the majors with five homers from their catchers. Saltalamacchia, after going 2-for-4 with 3 RBI, now has a .240 average and .716 OPS on the season, better than the AL averages of .229 and .673 at the position.

Drew Sutton, a late addition to the lineup when Kevin Youkilis was scratched due to a sore left hand, matched a career high in hits and set a new career high for extra-base hits by going 3-for-5 with two doubles.

Jacoby Ellsbury (3-for-4 with two walks) had his fourth three-hit game in his last 16 contests. His five times on base matched a career-high, achieved twice before — both in the 2009 season. Since returning to the leadoff spot on April 21, he’s hitting .341 with a .395 OBP.

Mike Cameron got his first double of the 2011 season. His streak of 19 straight games without a double — dating to last year — was the sixth longest of his career. He did, however, have a pair of homers this year.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

Jed Lowrie was the only Sox member of the lineup without two hits. Indeed, he was the only one not to collect a single hit, going 0-for-5 with a walk. Over his last 24 games, Lowrie is hitting .233. His average for the year has now fallen to an even .300.

–While Franklin Morales did touch 97 mph with his fastball, the left-hander allowed a pair of runs on three hits in his inning of work, thus denying the Red Sox a shutout.

Read More: carl crawford, Cleveland Indians, David Ortiz, drew sutton
Red Sox option Jose Iglesias to Pawtucket, announce other roster moves 05.20.11 at 6:17 pm ET
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It’s been a busy 24 hours for the Red Sox. In addition to winning in walk-off fashion Thursday night and preparing for a much-hyped weekend series with the Cubs, Terry Francona also announced a number of roster moves before Friday’s game.

Perhaps the most notable is that top shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias was optioned back to Pawtucket. The fielding wizard stirred up quite a bit of excitement when he was called up last week, but he registered just four at-bats in six games. Francona said everyone knew he needed more playing time than that.

“We thought [Marco Scutaro] would possibly be just a two-week DL, but it looks like it’s going to linger a little bit more than that,” Francona said. “[Iglesias] needs to play. He even understood that. I thought the experience was really good for him. I thought he did a good job paying attention, kind of following [Dustin Pedroia] around, things like that.

“But he needed to play. With Jed [Lowrie] about playing every day, I don’t think we need to have just a backup shortstop.”

The Sox purchased the contract of PawSox infielder Drew Sutton to replace Iglesias on the big-league roster. The 28-year-old has been stellar in Pawtucket, batting .304 with five home runs, 26 RBI and a .906 OPS.

“We might not want him out there every day, but he can go out there and play short, we can move him around, he can switch-hit and give you a professional at-bat,” Francona said. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: dan wheeler, drew sutton, franklin morales, jose iglesias
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