|Closing Time: Red Sox’ late-inning bullpen vulnerabilities persist in loss to Rays||09.12.13 at 10:37 pm ET|
For the second night in a row, the Rays got to the Red Sox bullpen and scored a run in the eighth inning. This time, the Red Sox were unable to come back and win in their last at-bat.
With the score knotted at 3, Rubby De La Rosa was ineffective in his one-third of an inning. De La Rosa relieved Drake Britton with one out in the bottom of the eighth and proceeded to give up a long ground-rule double to Evan Longoria. De La Rosa forced Matt Joyce to pop out to foul territory, but he gave up the go-ahead run in the form of a double down the right-field line off the bat of Wil Myers. De La Rosa was removed after a hot shot to shortstop resulted in an error on Stephen Drew and a first-and-third situation. Matt Thornton came in and closed out the inning.
The seventh and eighth innings have proven to be vulnerable frames for the Red Sox and their bullpen. Brandon Workman worked the eighth on Wednesday night and gave up a game-tying home run, and De La Rosa was saddled with the loss on Thursday. De La Rosa has been shaky in relief for the Red Sox in his 9 1/3 innings of work, and he looks unlikely to be included on the postseason roster.
While the Red Sox’ magic number remained at 8, another moment in the game proved more ominous than the loss.
With one out in the sixth inning, the Red Sox held their collective breath when Jake Peavy was pegged with a comebacker line drive off the bat of Desmond Jennings, a hot shot that deflected over to Xander Bogaerts at third base and eventually resulted in a forceout. Peavy remained in the game for the last batter of the inning and did not return for the seventh inning. Chances are, even without taking a liner off the wrist, Peavy’s evening would have been over after those six innings. He did not rush to the clubhouse, however, a potential indication that the impact of the ball did not raise undue concerns. Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox add Ryan Lavarnway, Quintin Berry, Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Snyder as call-ups; Daniel Bard designated for assignment||09.01.13 at 9:43 am ET|
Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo said on WEEI on Sunday morning that the Red Sox have added outfielder Quintin Berry, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, right-hander Rubby De La Rosa and third baseman Brandon Snyder (the latter of whom has been activated off the disabled list). An industry source said that, to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Berry, the Red Sox have designated Daniel Bard for assignment.
Berry, acquired last week from the Royals in exchange for right-hander Clayton Mortensen, has hit just .191 with a .309 OBP and .257 slugging mark for three Triple-A teams this year (the affiliates of the Tigers, Royals and most recently, the Red Sox), will serve as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement off the bench. The 28-year-old is 30-for-34 in stolen base attempts in the minors this year, and he was 21-for-21 in the big leagues in that role for the Tigers last year.
Lavarnway was hitting .250/.346/.350 in 50 games for the PawSox this year. In the big leagues, he’s hitting .283/.323/.383 in 19 games. He gives the Sox a third catcher, offering protection both in case of injury and permitting the Sox in-game flexibility to pinch-hit or pinch-run for any of their catchers (Jarrod Saltalamacchia or David Ross) without leaving themselves in a position of vulnerability.
De La Rosa is in his third stint in the big leagues this year. In five games in the majors, he has a 4.76 ERA with three strikeouts and one walk in 5 2/3 innings. In 24 minor league games, the 24-year-old has a 4.26 ERA with 8.5 strikeouts and 5.4 walks per nine innings. Since being sent down from the Red Sox and working out of the PawSox bullpen in late-August, De La Rosa has allowed two runs in 3 2/3 innings with six walks and two strikeouts in four appearances.
Snyder, 26, is hitting .209/.227/.419 in 21 big league games this year. He’s been on the disabled list since August 8 due to a sore elbow.
Bard, who pitched on Saturday with Lowell (his first appearance outside the Gulf Coast League since May 15), worked a scoreless inning in which he managed to prevent anyone from crossing the plate despite walking four batters. A pickoff at third by catcher Jake Romanski, coupled with a pair of strikeouts (one swinging, one looking), allowed Bard to strand the bases loaded despite the four walks and a wild pitch. But he now has 27 walks and nine strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings in the minors this year, and even at a time when he has an option remaining, it had become clear that the most sensible path for the Red Sox and perhaps for Bard himself was to take him off the major league roster so that he can undertake the necessary work to recreate a foundation upon which he can move his career forward.
If he goes unclaimed, then perhaps that will happen in the Red Sox organization. However, because Bard has an option left, and because he is just two years removed from a three-year run as one of the most dominant relievers in the game, the Red Sox removed him from the 40-man roster with eyes wide open about the possibility that someone might take a flyer on him (either through a waiver claim or in a trade for little return), particularly given how quickly he left behind a year of disastrous command in 2007 to emerge as a dominant bullpen option who was nearing big league readiness in 2008.
|Red Sox minor league roundup: The challenge of scouting and projecting Henry Owens; Steven Wright locked in; Jose Vinicio’s horrific season||08.28.13 at 12:29 pm ET|
It was a line that has become something between comical and commonplace for left-hander Henry Owens.
The left-hander, who turned 21 last month, tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings in which he allowed just two hits while punching out six and walking one. For some pitchers, that line would have represented a season highlight. For Owens, it borders on a standard performance, the eighth time this year that he’s allowed two or fewer hits in five or more innings.
The 2011 supplemental first-rounder now has a 3-0 record, 1.09 ERA, 38 strikeouts (13.9 strikeouts per nine) and 14 walks (5.1 per nine) in five Double-A starts. In 25 overall starts this year between High-A and Double-A, he has a 2.57 ERA with 11.2 strikeouts per nine, 4.6 walks per nine and, perhaps most impressively, a .173 opponents’ batting average that ranks as the second lowest among all pitchers for full-season affiliates in minor league baseball.
There have been times this year where evaluators have seen a three-pitch mix that looks like that of a potential frontline starter. But not always. There have been times when Owens has outperformed his stuff. Such, seemingly, was the case on Tuesday.
Here’s how one NL talent evaluator, who had seen Owens in Salem earlier this year, viewed his outing on Tuesday:
“[I] cannot figure out how his numbers are so good compared to his stuff. [He] has good deception to his fastball (88-92 mph) with average life. He throws his fastball 90 percent of the time and he gets strikeouts with it. Change was solid (78-80 mph) as usual and he throws that soft curveball (67-73 mph) that rolls. Hitters must not pick up the ball. He had no strikeouts in the first three innings and had some loud outs, and then I look up at the end of the night and he has a two-hitter with six strikeouts. I give him credit.”
But, in terms of the projection based on Owens’ stuff, based on two looks — one in Salem, one in Portland?
“He’s a two-pitch guy — fastball/change — right now. A back-end starter,” said the evaluator, who felt that Owens looked like a No. 4 or No. 5 starter. “I don’t see the power stuff for the top of the rotation but he keeps getting guys out.”
Indeed, he *keeps* getting guys out.
And so, it seems worth asking: what does that mean? What kind of advances can be expected from pitchers who hold opponents to averages of .200 or lower?
A year ago, there were nine pitchers in the minors who held opponents to averages of .200 or lower:
Fernandez has been one of the top rookie pitchers in the big leagues in years. Bradley may be the top pitching prospect in the minors right now. But those two (and Crick) have very different arsenals than Owens. Still, left-handers Cingrani and Hultzen (the first of whom was excellent for the Reds until leaving a game in the last week with a back injury, the latter of whom was off to a dominant start in Triple-A before injuries wrecked his year) both tend to live in the low-90s with their fastballs, with Cingrani offering a model for a pitcher who can be quite effective in no small part on the strength of excellent deception on both his fastball and change.
The comp game, of course, is a bit dangerous and potentially misleading. But it is worth noting that, so long as they remained healthy, those pitchers who shut down opposing lineups last year proved capable of continuing to do so in 2013. Their excellent performances proved sustainable as they moved up in their careers.
Moreover, there is the reality that Owens is still growing, still filling out, his arsenal still sharpening. What he’s showing now while dominating is probably not what he will become. While his present stuff might look like that of a back-end starter, another evaluator who saw Owens on Tuesday noted that there’s likely more down the road than what he’s showing right now.
“I see future physicality, angle and deception with plus command,” said the AL evaluator, who suggested that Owens looked to him like a pitcher who will have (on the 20-80 scouting scale, with 50 being average) a 60 fastball, 70 changeup and at least a 50 curveball.
“I think he’ll be a No. 2 or 3,” the evaluator noted, adding that if the curve emerges as a plus offering rather than an average one, Owens — who has one start remaining this year — could be an ace.
But there’s a difference between what he is and what he might become, a sort of glass-half-full vs. glass-half-empty game. And there’s not a clear right or wrong perspective in those two outlooks.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 LOSS VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES) Read the rest of this entry »
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Why Allen Webster will have something to prove next year; an oddity for Rubby De La Rosa; Miguel Pena keeps cruising; Manuel Margot’s memorable homer; Mookie Betts denied a feat||08.22.13 at 11:53 am ET|
Allen Webster once again showed stuff against which his opponents could do little. He allowed just three hits (two singles and a double), struck out seven and got six groundball outs in 5 2/3 innings. But his ongoing struggle to throw strikes continues to limit him. He threw just 61 of 104 pitches (59 percent) for strikes while walking three and yielding three runs. That is in line with a season in which he’s likewise thrown 59 percent of pitches for strikes in Triple-A, helping to explain why in 19 starts this year, he has recorded exactly one out in the seventh inning. Though he’s moved beyond his extreme midseason command woes, the 23-year-old has pitched fewer than six innings in each of his last four starts.
Still, the remarkable upside remains apparent. In his last six starts, he has a 2.91 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 11 walks in 34 innings while holding opponents to a .195/.270/.268 line with one homer and six doubles. He has the stuff to shut down opposing lineups, and the potential pitch mix to work through lineups a third time.
But in 2013, the still-young — and still relatively-new-to-pitching — right-hander has yet to transform the dazzling raw materials into sustainable success that would allow him to thrive right now at the major league level. The pieces may yet come together, but for now, Webster seemingly requires more development time, and almost certainly will open next year back in Pawtucket as a depth option — albeit one with tremendous upside — for the Sox. Read the rest of this entry »
|Dennis Eckersley on M&M: Koji Uehara ‘magical’; Jon Lester not a No. 1 starter||08.08.13 at 12:15 pm ET|
NESN Red Sox analyst Dennis Eckersley checked in with Mut & Merloni on Thursday morning, and the former standout pitcher spoke highly of a number of Red Sox hurlers, most notably closer Koji Uehara.
Uehara pitched a scoreless ninth for his 11th save of the season in Wednesday’s 7-5 win over the Astros. Since taking over as closer, the right-hander is posting a 0.40 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings while limiting opposing batters to a puny .120/.143/.173 slash line.
“That guy is magical. He throws a fastball by guys like it’s 100 mph. It’s magic,” Eckersley said. “Aren’t you relaxed when comes in? I wonder if he’s going to punch out the side. And you’re talking about swinging and missing — I’ve never seen anything like it. … The game is over [when Uehara enters]. The game is absolutely over. Be careful with this guy. I just feel like he’s so precious — please don’t go down.”
Uehara is one of only a couple of rocks in a bullpen that still has a couple of question marks. Eckersley commended rookie left-hander Drake Britton, who has given up one run in 11 1/3 major league innings, and said Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa could offer a lot as relievers.
Still, their transition from starting to coming out of the ‘pen won’t necessarily be smooth, according to Eckersley, who himself switched from being a starter to reliever midway through his 24-year career.
“If they’re not going to go out and get a relief pitcher, they have to figure this thing out,” Eckersley said, later adding on De La Rosa, “I’m not quite sure if he has the makeup yet. You have to go out there a few times. You can’t be throwing him out there in September. You have to get his confidence up, put him out there three or four times.”
Eckersley was also confident in the team’s rotation, particularly with the addition of Jake Peavy, who he compared to right-hander David Cone, a 17-year major league veteran who played for the Red Sox in 2001.
|Rubby De La Rosa joins Sox bullpen for second time||08.03.13 at 5:20 pm ET|
Rubby De La Rosa has been called up to join the Red Sox bullpen for the second time this season on Saturday, giving the Sox another right-handed relief option.
Sox manager John Farrell said De La Rosa was brought up to provide a reliever who could pitch multiple innings if necessary, given the load the bullpen has carried over the last week of extra-inning wins and high-scoring games.
“This was Rubby’s fifth day. He was scheduled for a start, so we felt like we needed just to cover ourselves if we needed a guy that needed to go four or five innings,” Farrell said. “More out of just something unforeseen than anything, and an opportunity that we’ve talked about trying to get him here and see him work out of the bullpen.”
Command has been a significant issue for De La Rosa in his recent appearances. He’s walked 4.93 batters per nine innings on the year, canceling out some of the effects of his 8.69 per nine strikeout rate. In his last start at Triple-A Pawtucket, he walked four over 4 2/3 innings and gave up seven runs, six earned.
After a strong run in June, interrupted briefly by a stint in Boston, July was rough for De La Rosa: in 18 1/3 innings over six starts, he walked 17 and gave up 22 earned runs.
Farrell said that despite those issues, the Sox felt it was time for De La Rosa to get another shot at the major-league level based on his overall body of work.
“Lately, the first couple innings, first three innings of his last start were strong,” Farrell said. “And then, I’m not going to say the game got away from him, but there were some inconsistencies with overall command. … He’s been down there the entire year, as we know, and it felt like it was a bit – based on what he had done for the better part of the year, in addition to the calendar, it felt like it was time to get him here and take a look in this role.”
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Rubby De La Rosa in a funk; Xander Bogaerts’ outrageous month; a southpaw surplus; Blake Swihart’s standout game behind the plate; Trey Ball debuts||07.30.13 at 12:00 pm ET|
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Monday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-1 LOSS VS. LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)
– Rubby De La Rosa, who posted a dazzling 0.84 ERA in May and June, continued his recent fall from grace. The 24-year-old was shelled for seven runs (six earned) on four hits (three homers), four walks and three strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings on Monday. In his last five starts, he’s averaged just 3 2/3 innings, and he now has a 9.64 ERA with a jarring 8.2 walks per nine innings and more walks (17) than strikeouts (13). Opponents are battering him for a .315/.447/.548 line in that span.
The right-hander continues to show arm strength and a power repertoire. That being the case, it is possible, suggested one talent evaluator, that he is dealing with a lack of focus and motivation while biding his time and waiting for a call-up to the majors. Of course, that presents a chicken-and-egg problem, since De La Rosa likely needs to show improved performance in Triple-A in order to position himself for a call-up back to the big leagues.
– Xander Bogaerts extended his striking streak of consecutive games on base to 26, going 2-for-4 with a double. In that span, he is hitting .326 (12th in the International League) with a .439 OBP (3rd in the International League) and .528 slugging mark (10th), all at a time when he is the only 20-year-old at the level. Overall, in 41 games since his promotion from Double-A Portland last month, Bogaerts has a .279 average, .380 OBP and .483 slugging mark with eight homers and 14 extra-base hits.
– Left-hander Franklin Morales had a spectacular inning to start his rehab assignment, striking out the side in his inning of work while getting swings and misses on five of his 15 pitches. His presence in Pawtucket further underscores the fact that the Sox have a potential surplus from which to deal left-handers given the current presence of Craig Breslow, Drake Britton and Matt Thornton in the big leagues (not to mention Ryan Rowland-Smith, who was activated by Pawtucket on Monday after missing the last month due to an appendectomy, and carries a 1.03 ERA for the year).
– Right-hander Jose Contreras looks capable of offering the Red Sox an intriguing bullpen alternative should they not upgrade their relief corps via trade. The 41-year-old made his third straight scoreless, hitless appearance with Pawtucket since signing a minor league deal with the Sox, striking out a batter in the process. In three PawSox appearances, he’s thrown 4 2/3 innings while punching out eight and walking three. One caveat: His usage has been spread out considerably, as he’s had four days of rest between relief appearances. Read the rest of this entry »
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