|Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Keury De La Cruz gives and takes lessons; big day for Blake Swihart||05.19.12 at 12:54 pm ET|
Keury De La Cruz has never been prominently mentioned as a Red Sox prospect. He signed for just $120,000 out of the Dominican as a 17-year-old in early 2009, having been passed over as a 16-year-old the previous summer. But his performance to date in the Sox system — particularly in a 2012 season that has represented a breakout seasonto date — has served as a reminder of the unpredictable nature of the market for Latin American amateurs, for whom multi-million dollar bonuses have been anything but a guarantee of success, while far more modest bonuses have netted quality big leaguers.
The Sox scouted De La Cruz a number of times before signing him in Feb. 2009. Despite a 5-foot-11 frame and a lack of strength at the time, the Sox were impressed by a swing that suggested projectable power once he filled out.
“He wasn’t strong then, but he had natural loft and showed the ability to drive the ball. He just didn’t have muscle behind it to make it go anywhere,” said Sox international scouting director Eddie Romero. ‘[Former Sox international scouting director Craig Shipley] said, ‘You can project power on this guy. He was right.’
That is certainly proving the case this year. On Friday, De La Cruz continued his phenomenal season in Single-A Greenville, going 3-for-5 with a double and triple to improve his line for the season to .329/.374/.579/.953. The left-handed hitter continued to do damage against southpaws (all three Power pitchers were left-handers), improving to .347/.439/.612/1.051 against them. His .579 slugging percentage is the third best among the organization’s minor leaguers, behind only Will Middlebrooks and Mauro Gomez (counting only the minor league stats for both). He has seven homers, nine doubles and four triples, averaging better than one extra-base hit for every two games.
His strong performance this year is impressive enough in its own right, but it is even more significant in that it demonstrates a prospect who endured struggles, learned from them and went on a mission to get better as a results of those lessons. De La Cruz, a strong performer in both the Dominican Summer League in 2009 and the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League in 2010, struggled in 2011 against more advanced pitching in a New York-Penn League that is loaded with college arms making their professional debuts. His numbers weren’t disastrous, but his line of .263/.292/.390/.682 was hardly head-turning.
But he used that experience as the basis for improvement.
“He didn’t look at it as a bad season. Usually, players look at the numbers and say, ‘I stunk.’ But he said, I didn’t hit what I wanted to and didn’t hit as many homers as I wanted to, but I learned a lot,” said Romero. “He went in with his old approach and realized it wasn’t working and that he needed to work on it in the offseason.”
That work has yielded a greater commitment to driving the ball to all fields and hitting the ball where it’s pitched. With positive results in that regard has come greater confidence and a more consistent approach in the box.
“When he was younger, he liked to tinker,” said Romero. “Now, he’s kind of focused on one, and he’s seeing the results.”
The results have been eye-opening for a player described as a hard-nosed gamer who plays the game with a positive intensity. De La Cruz did not enter the year with a prominent place on anyone’s prospect radar — he fell outside Baseball America’s top 30 prospects in the organization, for instance — but he is quickly making a case to move up quickly, at a time when his performance at a relatively young age (20) suggests that he could emerge one day as an everyday big-league corner outfielder.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-5 LOSS AT DURHAM
— In his first game at third base on his rehab assignment, Kevin Youkilis went 1-for-3 with a single and two strikeouts. Defensively, he had three assists (starting one double play turn) and caught a pop-up. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Patience paying off for Jose Iglesias; Bradley’s power surge continues||05.04.12 at 11:17 am ET|
Jose Iglesias did not appear in either of the two games for which he was summoned to the majors, and so with Will Middlebrooks now up in place of Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox moved swiftly to option him back to Pawtucket so that he could return to the lineup on Thursday. The result was one of the better stat lines of Iglesias’ professional career. He went 2-for-3 with a pair of walks, matching a career high (achieved four times in 2010 with Double-A Portland, and never before in Triple-A) by reaching base four times.
It is interesting to note that Iglesias, who endured periods of trying to pull the ball in the past, seems more comfortable than ever going up the middle and to the opposite field. His singles (one a line drive to right, one a grounder to second) both were to the right side of the field, while his out was on a ball hit to center. During the spring, the most notable aspect of his game was that he was driving the ball to center in a way that made center fielders have to go back on the ball.
All of that is consistent with Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett‘s claim that Iglesias is showing an approach that was not properly reflected by his numbers. After Friday, he is hitting .216/.300/.227/.527.
One caveat in Iglesias’ day: Toledo starter Casey Crosby issued seven walks, so there was a bit of a chicken-and-egg question with regards to Iglesias’ patience on Thursday.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-4 LOSS AT TOLEDO (DETROIT)
— Back in Triple-A, Junichi Tazawa submitted a dominant outing. He retired all seven batters he faced, striking out five and getting two on groundouts. Between Triple-A and the majors, Tazawa now has 10 appearances this year (five with the Red Sox, five with the PawSox) and has yet to allow a run. He’s struck out 18 and walked two in 15 2/3 innings between the two levels. Read the rest of this entry »
|Pregame Notes: Bobby Valentine on Mark Melancon, Junichi Tazawa and Andrew Miller||04.18.12 at 6:55 pm ET|
There was no injury (“We asked; he said absolutely not,” said Sox manager Bobby Valentine) to explain the pitcher’s catastrophic start to his Red Sox career, in which he has achieved both team and major league history with the depths of his struggles. Even Melancon seemed to recognize that his best chance of returning to the form that led him to forge a 2.78 ERA in 74 1/3 innings last year with the Astros was in Triple-A.
Melancon did not have a single 1-2-3 appearance in nine exhibition games during spring training, and quite clearly, after that slow start, he was unable to flip the switch once the regular season got underway. His 49.50 regular season ERA in four appearances, culminating in Tuesday’s yield of six runs on three homers without retiring a batter, made it clear that he needed to work to restore his command in the minors.
“He was anxious to get an opportunity to work more regularly so that he could get back to where he belongs,” said Valentine. “Mark just has to be the pitcher that he is. He struggled with his command. He’s a great command pitcher and thus far, he hasn’t had it. Don’t feel that he’d have the opportunity really here to work through it.”
And so, the Sox made the decision to option Melancon. In his place, the team decided to bring up Junichi Tazawa — who has minor league options remaining — rather than left-hander Andrew Miller, who is five appearances into a rehab assignment as he works his way back from a hamstring strain suffered in the middle of spring training. Miller does not have minor league options, and so once called up, the Sox have to keep him in the majors or risk exposing him to waivers. Right now, the team felt that he needs at least one more appearance during his rehab assignment.
“There was consideration [to calling up Miller],” said Valentine. “It was determined he just would benefit most from getting at least one other good performance in Triple-A. He’s coming off of a good one [in which he struck out the side on 15 pitches on Monday]. He’s going to pitch again [Thursday].’
With Miller not quite ready to come up, the Sox elected to have Tazawa join the bullpen. The right-hander has pitched in four games in Pawtucket this year, tossing seven shutout innings while striking out nine and walking two. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Andrew Miller progresses, and a forgotten prospect shows signs||04.10.12 at 11:39 am ET|
We’re going to try a new feature, with a quick daily look at noteworthy performances by prospects throughout the Red Sox farm system. In large part, the focus will be on individual players rather than the minor league affiliates. For more details on team performances, the invaluable soxprospects.com remains the place to get a daily Cup of Coffee:
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-3 LOSS VS. HICKORY (RANGERS)
— Andrew Miller delivered his second scoreless appearance of a rehab assignment with Single-A Greenville, tossing a scoreless inning. After the game, the left-hander told reporters that he expected his next rehab assignment to come for Triple-A Pawtucket, likely on Thursday.
— Third baseman David Renfroe, a second-round pick signed to a $1.4 million bonus in 2009, continued his excellent start in Single-A Greenville by going 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. He now has five extra-base hits (four doubles and a homer) in as many games. After striking out in 30 percent of his career at-bats entering the year, he has yet to strike out this year.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 8-3 LOSS AT TRENTON (YANKEES)
— The Sea Dogs are 0-5, the worst start in franchise history.
— Catcher Dan Butler, who made a tremendously favorable impression as a non-roster invitee to the Red Sox’ big league camp in spring training, collected his first two hits of the year, going 2-for-4 with a homer.
— Outfielder Bryce Brentz, who had gone 0-for-9 with six strikeouts in the previous two games, went 1-for-4 with a single and his first Double-A walk (against eight strikeouts).
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 1-0 LOSS VS. LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)
— The PawSox pitching staff has a 1.54 ERA to date, lowest in the International League. But despite a .351 OBP (second in the International League), the team is scoring just 2.2 runs per game, the lowest yield in the league.
— Right-hander Junichi Tazawa allowed three hits (all singles) in two scoreless innings while striking out one. That’s four scoreless innings so far for him in Pawtucket.
— Right-hander Clayton Mortensen made his debut for the PawSox, tossing a pair of shutout innings and allowing one hit.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: OFF
— PawSox broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith talked to Triple-A pitcher Aaron Cook about where he stands in his efforts to impact the Sox
— PawSox right-hander Justin Germano received a remarkable education from a Hall of Famer, notes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal
|Friday morning with Bobby Valentine: Red Sox pitching staff gets closer to definition||03.23.12 at 12:55 pm ET|
SARASOTA, Fla. — Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said that he was not in position to comment on the arrest of reliever Bobby Jenks this morning, as he had just learned about it via a brief text message about 10 minutes before meeting with the media. (Here are some emerging details of the arrest of the pitcher.)
While the Red Sox are in the process of investigating the Jenks situation and trying to gather information, the right-hander’s arrest does not impact the formation of the team’s roster, given that he is on the 60-day disabled list and expected to be out for months. In matters that more immediately impact the team on the field, the Sox have achieved some progress in edging closer to defining their season-opening ensemble of pitchers.
The Sox made seven cuts on Friday, optioning three members of the 40-man roster (pitchers Clay Mortensen and Junichi Tazawa and catcher Luis Exposito) and reassigning four non-roster invitees to minor league camp (outfielder Alex Hassan, catcher Max St. Pierre, left-hander Jesse Carlson and right-hander Brandon Duckworth). Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox postgame notes: Saltalamacchia swings into action||03.21.12 at 5:15 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — It had been a slow start to the spring for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who not only was just 1-for-13 in Grapefruit League action, but also missed time due to bursitis in his hip.
On Wednesday, in a 6-5 loss by the Red Sox, the 26-year-old had a game that represented a satisfying change of fortunes. Batting left-handed in all three of his at-bats against Pirates starter Kevin Correia, he went 2-for-3 with a double to left-center and a massive home run to right field.
“Me and [hitting coach Dave Magadan] have been working on some things, trying to stay on the ball more, and I was able to do it today at the plate,” said Saltalamacchia. “This spring I’ve really been getting underneath the ball and popping it up too much, just kind of bat head dragging a little bit. So we’ve really worked on getting the head outand staying on top. If I roll over or ground out, that’s OK, at least it’s not a pop-up. But what I’m still trying to do when I get two strikes, is trying to fight my way to get the ball in the field instead of striking out.”
That being the case, Saltalamacchia was particularly pleased with his second-inning double, in which he lined a two-strike fastball off the fence in left-center, a potentially important sign for a player who struck out in 119 of his 358 at-bats last year.
A year ago, the average AL hitter hit .185 with a .252 OBP and .283 slugging mark in two-strike counts. Saltalamacchia hit .157/.208/.347/.555, marks upon which he is hoping to improve. Read the rest of this entry »
|Bobby Valentine really liked what he saw from Red Sox pitchers Tuesday night||03.13.12 at 10:33 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was understandably pleased with what he witnessed when watching Red Sox pitching Tuesday night against the Yankees in Tampa. Sox hurlers allowed New York just four hits while striking out 13 and walking one. Here’s what he told reporters after the Sox’ 1-0 win:
Felix Doubront: 4 IP, 2H, 0R, 3K, BB
“I thought Felix was outstanding. I thought he had really good control of his changeup, which is a devastating pitch for him. He had good control and command of his fastball. His breaking ball was good. His composure was good. He pitched four good innings.”
Michael Bowden: IP, H, 0R, 3K 0BB
“First off, I thought Michael worked the runner as well as I’ve ever seen him do it on film or live. He’s been practicing his stretch and varying his speeds. He had a pretty veteran runner on base, a very veteran runner in Andruw Jones, and he really broke his tempo. I think he was trying to steal, and he never could. His stuff down in the zone was good. His breaking ball was good. We didn’t get to see his split, but his slider was a good pitch for him tonight. He threw them back-to-back, too, and did a good job with it.”
Vicente Padilla: 3IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 4K
“Padilla made it look easy, didn’t he? There’s probably a change of the lineup a little there that made it — but he does that. Vicente can throw a lot of pitches to get ahead of the bat. He’s a strike-thrower. He’s probably the best strike-thrower we have. He pitched well tonight.”
Junichi Tazawa: IP, H, 0R, 0BB, 3K
“This was his best outing tonight. He kept the ball down very well tonight. His other outings, he was scattering it a little more. He spotted his fastball, that two-strike fastball up in the zone, and that was right where he wanted to throw it. His breaking pitches were sharp, much sharper than they have been.”
|Bobby Valentine Notes: And then there were six…||03.06.12 at 12:01 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — When the Red Sox had Carlos Silva work out for them in December, they were impressed by his stuff, which seemed to have greater life than at any point in years. However, mindful that he hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2010, they were comfortable signing him only to a minor league deal.
While the right-handed sinkerballer had been slated to compete for a rotation spot this spring, that prospect is no longer realistic. The 32-year-old has been shut down indefinitely due to right shoulder inflammation. He is no longer being considered for the rotation, and it remains to be determined what his shoulder will allow him to do.
“That’s probably going to set him back enough that he won’t be totally in the mix,” said Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who said that while a definitive timetable was unavailable, the injury will keep Silva out of the “little picture situation.”
Valentine said that the issue was related to a pre-existing condition that the Sox knew about.
“I think we know exactly what it is and we were hoping it wouldn’t present itself as quickly as it did,” said Valentine.
Asked what the longer-term implications were of the condition, Valentine said simply, “It’s being discussed.”
Silva, 32, last pitched in the majors in 2010 with the Cubs, when he went 10-6 with a 4.22 ERA. He was 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA with the Yankees‘ Triple-A team last year before getting released. Read the rest of this entry »
|And so it begins: Bobby Valentine on the state of the Red Sox as spring training opens||02.19.12 at 2:58 pm ET|
FORT MYERS — It is an unusual spring for the Red Sox. As they return from a 2011 season that witnessed immense promise before ending in a startling collapse that yielded tremendous on- and off-field questions as well as turnover in both the front office and manager’s office, the Red Sox are a team that starts spring training with greater-than-usual uncertainty. The shape of the roster is less settled than is typically the case, and the mindset and dynamic of the organization will also be a work in progress over the coming six weeks in Fort Myers.
“At the start of season, you have all questions,” said Valentine. “You have questions about how the team will come together. How the pitching staff will work with the catchers. How the lineup will look and work together. I’d say we have all questions and questions of good health, too.
“As far as positions, we have a vacancy at shortstop, we have a vacancy in right field. Right now, [Carl Crawford]’s health is of question for maybe Opening Day anyway ‘ for opening day of Spring Training. We’ll deal with left field. You know a couple of spots in our starting rotation and our bullpen has open spots also. If you mean just the personnel, those are the questions that need answers. The general idea of all the things coming together need to be answered.’
Here are some of the questions that Valentine addressed on Sunday morning:
On what he think the team needs to do in the wake of its historic collapse in 2011: Read the rest of this entry »
|Depth charge: How Red Sox starting depth is shaping up||12.22.11 at 2:04 pm ET|
Most of the curiosity surrounding the Red Sox rotation this offseason has focused on which high-end pitchers the team might pursue (whether trading for someone like Gio Gonzalez, Matt Garza or Gavin Floyd or a free-agent such as Hiroki Kuroda or Roy Oswalt) or the two pitchers (Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves) who were key bullpen contributors for the Sox last year but who will be stretched out as starters in spring training.
However, the Sox’ efforts this offseason stretch well beyond just the top five starters whom they will feature, at least on paper, at the start of the season. Teams typically need at least seven or eight quality starters to make it through the shifting fortunes of the season and to withstand injuries and performances that fall short of expectations.
Last year, the Sox used 10 starters. They’re not alone. In the last 10 seasons, the Sox have averaged 10.2 starters per year. Since 2005, about 61 percent of teams in baseball have required 10 or more starters to make it through a year (led by a 2006 Royals team that used a shocking 17 starters in their season).
That being the case, the Sox are looking not just at high-end options (such as the free agent and trade candidates listed above), but also depth options that will give the team some stability when injuries inevitably enter the picture.
As the team continues that undertaking, here is a look at pitchers who are currently viewed as depth options in the organization:
GIVENS — the three starters who are certain (barring injury) to enter the year in the rotation, and require little explanation:
BUBBLE — entering spring training, the pitchers who are currently slated to compete for starting jobs:
Alfredo Aceves (10-2, 2.61, 114 IP in the majors): Aceves made four big league starts and two more in the minors. He has a four-pitch mix that suggests the stuff to be a starter, although he was also a remarkably impactful reliever given his unique ability to work several innings at a time.
Daniel Bard (2-9, 3.33, 73 IP): Bard hasn’t started a game since 2007, but his three-pitch fastball/slider/changeup mix makes him the highest-ceiling Sox pitcher in just about any role in which he pitches. That said, there is a great unknown about managing the sort of innings bump that he’d face. Read the rest of this entry »
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