|Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Mickey Pena’s perfect day, Jackie Bradley’s perfect month||05.09.12 at 12:03 pm ET|
In both 2009 and 2010, Mickey Pena was drafted but did not sign. The left-hander turned down the Nationals when he was selected in the fifth round coming out of high school, and again could not find middle ground with the Padres when they selected him in the 13th round out of San Jacinto Junior College in 2010.
Both the decision to turn down offers to sign and the fact that he was kicked out of the Cape League in 2010 (reportedly due to issues with his host family) led to questions about the young pitcher’s makeup off the field. But the Sox (led by former area scout Matt Dorey) did their homework on the pitcher, met with his family and got the sense that with the right structure in a professional environment, any off-the-field makeup concerns could be muted.
Meanwhile, on the field, the team loved his makeup. Pena is somewhat slight — he’s listed at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds — and perhaps does not feature the prototypical pitcher’s build, something that no doubt impacted his draft stock, but what he showed on the mound suggested a pitcher with obvious promise. Regional cross-checker Tom Allison felt particularly strongly about the left-hander based on his three glimpses of him at San Jac, offering steady, constant reminders in the draft room that the Sox should remain mindful of the possibility of taking the pitcher.
Allison and Dorey saw a pitcher who was fearless in throwing strikes with four pitches (an 89-92 mph fastball, slider, curve and change), had a smooth delivery with easy arm action and a feel for pitching as advanced than perhaps any other pitcher whom the Sox took out of college last year. In short, his on-field mound presence, arsenal and left-handedness made it easy to project Pena as a big leaguer so long as off-field issues (and, as is the caveat for all pitchers, health) did not get in the way. As a sixth-rounder who was willing to sign for a fraction ($85,000) of what he’d been offered the previous two times he’d been drafted, he represented a potentially excellent value.
And the fact that Pena was willing to sign for $85,000 in order to begin his pro career also counted as a plus in terms of his makeup. It showed evident determination to become a professional pitcher and to do everything he could to advance his career.
‘I signed so quick just to get out here and start playing pro ball and start working my way up,’ Pena explained last summer. ‘I’ve felt that I’ve been ready since I got out of high school. I think my senior year and then my freshman year in college has been a major setback for me. I don’t know where I could have been by now. It was definitely one of the reasons why I came out early.’
The left-hander had a strong performance in Lowell last year, recording a 2.35 ERA while striking out 22 and walking just three in 15 1/3 innings. This year, he has taken it up a notch, with a 1.72 ERA and 29 strikeouts against three walks with Single-A Greenville.
On Tuesday, Pena enjoyed a remarkable performance. He retired all 18 batters he faced, setting in motion the first no-hitter (a combined effort with Hunter Cervenka and Tyler Lockwood) in Greenville Drive franchise history. The 21-year-old struck out seven, walked none and got seven groundball outs.
“Everything was working for me, to be honest — my fastball, changeup, slider (and) curve,” he told the Greenville News.
To date, he’s been extremely consistent, allowing one or no earned runs in five of his six starts. He is living up to the reports that suggested that he projects as a big leaguer.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-1 LOSS VS. ROCHESTER
— For the second straight start, Ross Ohlendorf struggled with his command. The right-hander, who had walked one batter in each of his first four starts, issued three free passes for the second straight outing, and threw just 48 of 89 pitches (54 percent) for strikes while allowing three runs on five hits (including a homer) and three walks in five-plus innings while taking the loss. He struck out two. On the season, the 29-year-old is now 3-3 with a 4.55 ERA, 20 strikeouts and 10 walks in 31 2/3 innings. Read the rest of this entry »
|Minor Details: Keith Law on Sox trade chips||11.19.10 at 3:22 am ET|
Keith Law of ESPN.com joined this week’s installment of Minor Details. The weekly podcast, which examines the shape of the Red Sox farm system, focused this week on how well positioned the Red Sox are to make trades this winter now that the Hot Stove season seems to have been ignited.
Law touched on a number of topics, including:
–Is it worth trading top prospects for a one-year rental such as Adrian Gonzalez? Law suggested that while he thinks that the Padres superstar first baseman would thrive outside of Petco Park, the fact that he is only signed through 2011 means that the Red Sox should not deal a top prospect — such as Casey Kelly — for him.
“In the Red Sox’ division, I wonder if they’re ever really high enough of a probability of making the playoffs that it’s worth giving up prospect depth,” said Law. “You could probably look at Kelly and say he could be in the big leagues in 2012. Maybe not with the Red Sox, but he’s not that far away. … Casey Kelly is not untouchable for me, but he’s pretty darn close to it. I don’t think I’d trade Casey Kelly for one year of Adrian Gonzalez, and I love Adrian Gonzalez.”
–Do the Red Sox have the pieces to trade for superstars such as Justin Upton this offseason? For many teams, Law believes the answer is yes. There might be some clubs that are looking for what he described as the “country strong,” light-up-the-radar gun pitching prospect who is not to be found in the upper levels of the Red Sox system. But for most clubs, the array and depth of prospects the Sox feature create the basis for deal.
“Your currency may not be good at all 29 banks in the trade market,” said Law. “It might be good at 20 of them. That’s good enough in most cases.”
–Whether there are untouchables in the Red Sox system?
–The trade value of Felix Doubront, whom Law described as a valuable secondary component to a deal because he is big league ready and capable of either taking a spot in the back of the rotation or filling a bullpen role right now.
“He’s valuable as a chip because he’s a big league-ready arm in some role … who will make no money,” said Law. “That’s tremendous value. … You can’t build a deal around Felix Doubront, but he has a lot of value as the second or even third player in a larger deal because he delivers value to the acquiring club from day one.”
Law described Doubront as being a great fit for teams like the Padres and Pirates.
–How the Sox might view the possibility of trading either Lars Anderson or Anthony Rizzo, based on their relative values, their potential and the fact that the team has some redundancy at first base. Law describes Rizzo as potentially having 30-35 home run power, making him “the more valuable property,” although he also noted that Anderson could play first base for a major league club on opening day.
–Does Jose Iglesias make Jed Lowrie expendable? Does Jed Lowrie make Jose Iglesias expendable? Law described Lowrie as being, like Doubront, a very valuable secondary piece to a deal, a major league-ready piece but someone who does not anchor a deal. Iglesias — about whose defense Law raved — might have more trade value, or value to the Red Sox.
–At what position do the Red Sox possess the greatest surplus for a deal?
–Why did Andrew Miller project to be a star in college, and why does he now represent a project hoping to salvage his career.
–How are Red Sox prospects such as Ryan Lavarnway and some Rule 5-eligible relievers performing in the Arizona Fall League?
To listen to the podcast, click here.
To listen to the first episode of the podcast, discussing Baseball America’s list of the Top 10 Red Sox prospects with Sox farm director Mike Hazen and Baseball America’s Jim Callis, click here.
To send feedback or suggestions for future episodes, email email@example.com.
|Johan Santana is really, really good||05.22.09 at 9:37 pm ET|
Somehow, Johan Santana needed just 28 pitches to blitz through the sixth and seventh innings, and his 118th pitch resulted in a Kevin Youkilis whiff on a changeup, one batter after Santana punched out David Ortiz with 92 mph gas. (No further exchanges occurred between Santana and Youkilis, who seemed not too far from tussling in the fifth.) Santana almost got dinged by Dustin Pedroia, whose fly ball to left fell just short of the scoreboard.
Now that David Ortiz’ home-run drought has concluded, Pedroia’s may come into sharper focus. The second baseman, who hit 17 dingers last year, has not hit any since Opening Day. His 38-game homer-less streak (entering tonight) is easily the longest of his career, breaking his previous long of 27 games without a homer. He has had 160 at-bats since going deep in the first game of the 2009 season.
|Youkilis and Santana: Thems is (almost) fightin’ words||at 9:06 pm ET|
A near fracas occurred in the bottom of the fifth, when Johan Santana fired a 93 mph fastball (on a 2-2 pitch with two outs) off of the elbow of Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. The pitch was barely inside off the plate, and likely hit Youkilis only because of his willingness to hover over the inner half of the plate.
Youkilis looked to the mound as he headed to first, and uttered a pair of profanities (though neither seemed directed personally at Santana, and rather suggested general bemusement about the discomfort of a pitch off the elbow). Apparently, Santana took the naughty words personally, and so there was a bit of a verbal joust while the home-plate umpire (Paul Nauert) ran to block Youkilis from any advances to the mound. Though that was unnecessary (Youkilis did not show any intention of charging the pitcher), the usual elevation of blood-pressure spread across the park: in the Red Sox bullpen, the pitchers made a couple steps towards the door. Players in both dugouts shuffled towards the top step. The Mets bullpen door opened a crack.
But the fuse never lit, order was restored, Santana struck out Jason Bay (his sixth punchout of the night) and the inning was ended, presumably with order restored.
Still, it will be fascinating to see what happens if Youkilis — not the most popular of players in New York — faces Santana again. That, however, seems unlikely: the Sox have made the left-hander throw 90 pitches through five innings. Still, Santana and the Mets lead, 4-3, after five.
UPDATE: Following the game, winning pitcher Johan Santana took exception with Kevin Youkilis staring back at him after being plunked in the fifth inning of Friday night’s 5-3 Mets’ win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park. “I just told him to just take his base,” Santana said. “That was about it. But he was still looking at me and talking and it fires me up. I’ve got respect for everybody and I respect this game but at the same time, I’m going to play hard. If you’re looking at me like that, you’re going to get it back because I’m a gamer and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Youkilis said that he was merely joking after getting hit, and that he uttered what intended to utter a profanity in jest while telling the pitcher, “That hurt.”
“I was joking around,” said Youkilis. “He told me to head to first base. Whatever. I was headed that way. I don’t know. Maybe I should have ran to first base. Like I’ve said, I’ve changed a lot of my ways of playing the game. Maybe I need to revert back to getting (ticked) off, throwing my bat down and going down to first. I’m not going to change my ways now. I’m pretty happy with going out there, enjoying the game and having fun.
“Everyone always told me in my career that I shouldn’t get so serious, you should enjoy the game and joke around,” Youkilis added. “When I do do it, I change my ways and joke around a little bit, I guess it’s the wrong thing. What are you going to do? Win some, lose some, I guess.”
|…And Jason Varitek Owns Johan Santana||at 7:51 pm ET|
Johan Santana looked all but unhittable through the first seven batters of the game. Yes, he allowed an infield hit to Jacoby Ellsbury, and yes, Dustin Pedroia reached when David Wright booted his potential double-play ball, but none of the Sox had taken a good hack against him.
That changed when Jason Varitek stepped to the plate. Varitek is batting right-handed, and so should theoretically be quite vulnerable to Santana’s incredible changeup. Yet it was that very pitch that Varitek jumped on and drove onto Lansdowne Street for this eighth homer of the year, and third in as many days. Against Santana, Varitek’s career numbers are remarkable: 9-for-19 with two homers, a .474 average, .524 OBP and .789 slugging mark, with a 1.313 OPS.
Varitek’s numbers against left-handers this year are even better: in just 24 at-bats, he has five homers and a double as part of a stat line of .333 / .414 / .958 / 1.372. He is tied for third in baseball for most homers against lefties this year.
Varitek’s blast tied it, 1-1, after two innings.
|The day Johan Santana made Dustin Pedroia||at 7:30 pm ET|
It was more than two years ago — May 5, 2007 — but Dustin Pedroia not only distinctly remembers the at-bats, but even the pitches within them.
“Fastballs,” said the Red Sox second baseman, “both of them.”
The ‘them’ is perhaps two of the most important hits of Pedroia’s career, each coming against the pitcher he hadn’t faced until Friday night at Fenway Park, Mets’ starter Johan Santana. One was a single to right field, the other coming on a ground-rule double down the left-field line. But what made the moments so memorable was the timing.
It marked the beginning of a run of success that still hasn’t been derailed.
“There’s obviously important times in season where you remember certain swings and how you felt when you did it,” Pedroia said. “Those are kind of turning points. And looking forward you take that one swing, you feel great, and you try to get that muscle memory.”
Setting the scene, Pedroia entered that game in Minnesota hitting just .180 after toiling through his first full month in the major leagues. The then-rookie had been given the day off the night before to work on an adjustment that included holding his head more upright within his batting stance.
“I was just thinking about trying to make my adjustments and make everything right,” he remembered. “I was working hard in the game on things and was hoping it would translate into games fast. I didn’t know if it was going to happen against (Santana). I got a couple of hits and walked a couple of times, then the next day I got like three hits and I just kept on going.”
In the following three games Pedroia would go 3 for 4, and then 2 for 4 on back to back occasions, boosting his average 87 points in a matter of four days. And to think, it all just happened to start against one of the best pitcher in baseball.
“Not at that time,” said Pedroia when asked if he was thinking about who he was going up against that day. “When you’re scuffling it doesn’t matter who you’re facing. You’re trying to find a way out of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re facing a guy who has won five straight Cy Youngs or a guy with a 20 ERA. You’ve got to find a way to figure out what you need to do to get out of it.”
|Red Sox vs. Mets Match-Ups, 5/22||at 3:27 pm ET|
Santana remains on the short list of the best handful of pitchers in baseball. He’s been otherworldly this year with the Mets, going 5-2 with a ridiculous 1.36 ERA. All the same, the Red Sox have had few reasons over the last couple of seasons to regret their decision to pull the trigger on a deal for the two-time Cy guy. Jon Lester offered a reminder of that notion last night, and, of course, the Sox might not have made the playoffs last year if they’d had Santana rather than Lester, Justin Masterson, Jed Lowrie and Coco Crisp.
In the bigger picture, that’s all well and good. But that will be little consolation for the Red Sox batters who will step to the plate against Santana tonight, some with a blindfold and a cigarette.
RED SOX VS. JOHAN SANTANA
In his career, Santana is 4-4 with a 3.40 ERA in 12 games (9 starts) against the Sox — excellent numbers, to be sure, but not quite as devastating as some of his performances against other clubs.
Jason Varitek has been quite impressive against the left-hander, with eight hits in 18 at-bats — somewhat surprising, given that Santana’s change is toxic to right-handed hitters. Right-handed hitters have worse numbers against Santana this year than lefties, so it will be interesting to see whether the Sox decide to use Rocco Baldelli (who has performed poorly against Santana in his career) or J.D. Drew (who has never faced the southpaw).
Julio Lugo (23 career plate appearances vs. Santana): .182 average / .217 OBP / .273 slugging
Jason Varitek (20): .444 / .500 / .611, homer
Rocco Baldelli (17): .125 / .176 / .125
David Ortiz (12): .182 / .250 / .455, homer
Mike Lowell (11): 1-for-10, walk
Jason Bay (6): 2-for-5, homer, walk
Nick Green (6): 0-for-5, walk
Dustin Pedroa (5): 2-for-5, double
J.D. Drew (3): 0-for-2, walk
METS VS. DAISUKE MATSUZAKA
Santana will oppose Daisuke Matsuzaka, in his first start since coming off the disabled list. Matsuzaka (0-1, 12.79) made just two starts this year before being shut down with arm fatigue. The Sox claim that he is strong, but the team said the same thing last year in his first appearance off the D.L. The result? The worst outing of Matsuzaka’s career, a one-inning, seven-run stinker against the Cardinals.
Matsuzaka has never faced the Mets. Indeed, only two current members of New York’s National League team have faced him. That said, the Mets might have a secret weapon in the form of Alex Cora. Though on the D.L., the former Sox infielder spent a lot of time on the field behind the right-hander (as well as watching him from the dugout). Cora is considered something of a genius when it comes to reading a pitcher’s tips. If Matsuzaka has any tells, there’s little doubt the Mets have been made aware of them.
Gary Sheffield (13 career plate appearances vs. Matsuzaka): .545 average, .615 OBP, 1.000 slugging, homer
Jeremy Reed (3): 0-for-3
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