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SoxProspects News

March 31, 2011 at 4:12 PM

Red Sox continue minor league cuts, release Matt Phillips, Jason Place and Willie Holmes

SoxProspects sources have confirmed that the Red Sox continued their minor league cuts today by releasing outfielders Jason Place and Willie Holmes, and left-handed pitcher Matt Phillips.

Place, 22, was Boston's first selection (#27 overall) in the 2006 amateur draft. Highly-touted leading up the draft, Place was never able to put together any success as a member of the Red Sox organization due to injuries and poor performance. In five minor league seasons, Place hit .234/.315/.390 with 47 home runs and 218 RBI.

Phillips, 23, was signed as a minor league free agent in June of last year. In twelve outings for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox last summer, Phillips was 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA, striking out 19 in 23 innings.

Holmes, 23, was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 14th round of the 2009 amateur draft. In two seasons with the Boston organization, Holmes hit .247/.332/.419 with 8 home runs and 41 RBI in just 63 games.
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at 12:11 PM

Red Sox release Bates, Mills and Khoury

Pawtucket broadcaster Dan Hoard is reporting that the Red Sox have released infielders Aaron Bates and Ryan Khoury along with pitcher Adam Mills.

Bates, 27, was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2006 amateur draft. In five minor league seasons he hit .277/.373/.438 with 70 home runs and 310 RBI. He had a five game cameo with the Boston in 2009, collecting 4 hits in 11 at-bats.

Khoury, 27, was originally drafted in the 12th round of the 2006 amateur draft. In five minor league seasons he hit .261/.356/.377 while being a versatile middle infielder.

Mills, 26, was originally selected in the 8th round of the 2007 amateur draft. In four minor league seasons, Mills compiled a 26-27 record with a 4.37 ERA in 91 games.
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at 8:00 AM

Q&A with Lucas LeBlanc

Lucas LeBlanc was the Red Sox’ 11th-round draft pick in the 2010 draft out of Delgado Community College in New Orleans—pretty high for a guy that didn't expect to make Delgado's team in the first place when he walked on in 2009. In his 2010 season at Delgado, LeBlanc hit .420 with 89 hits and 67 RBI. Like the Red Sox' 39th overall pick, Anthony Ranaudo, and fourth-round pick, Garin Cecchini, LeBlanc was also set to play at LSU in 2011 if he had not signed; but he felt that playing professionally was his best option, and signed for $500,000 at the August 16 signing deadline. Playing professional baseball was never LeBlanc's intention; now it's his day job.

LeBlanc’s hard work since joining the organization appears to be paying dividends already. He has impressed many this spring training, and it looks likely that he will start the season with the Greenville Drive. LeBlanc sat down with Elizabeth Dreeson of SoxProspects.com to discuss his progression as a player at Delgado, as well as his time in the Red Sox organization thus far.

Elizabeth Dreeson: You were drafted in the 11th round out of Delgado Community College, but you were also committed to LSU. What were the deciding factors in choosing to go professional rather than going to LSU?
Lucas LeBlanc: Financially, I knew if I went to LSU and had a bad year or got hurt, my chances of getting drafted that high weren’t good. It was hard because I’m from Louisiana. I wanted to go to LSU, but at the end of the day, I had to take care of the family. I mean, I always wanted to play. I like the Red Sox; I wanted to play here too, I’ve got to look out for the family at the end of the day.

ED: Going back to high school, what were your strengths and weaknesses there, how did you mature at Delgado, and how are you a different player now than you were in high school?
LL: I think (in) high school, I didn’t take it as seriously as I do now. It was more of a game, time to hang out with friends. I worked hard, but I didn’t take it as seriously. I think taking it lightly has its advantages and disadvantages, but I would say in high school I played more loose, where at Delgado I developed a work ethic, coming everyday, working out, getting better. I think that’s where I’ve kind of matured as a player and gotten better.

ED: What are the advantages and disadvantages of taking it lightly?
LL: The advantages (are that) you don’t want to be up (at the plate) tense all the time, but you don’t want to take it too lightly where you’re not competing, so you have to be focused without being tensed up. Sometimes that’s hard to do when you’re competing for a spot, and you’re still trying to have fun out here. It’s still a game, but at the same time, it’s your job now, so you (have to) find that balance. (I’m) still trying to figure that out.

ED: What was your biggest challenge last year at Delgado?
LL: Just living up to the hype. I had a good year my first year, and no one really knew about me, and my first game (last season) there were fifteen scouts there. I saw them, and I think being that go-to-guy and learning to take that role and use it to my advantage was a big step, but it ended up working out. I had a good year.

ED: So you say no one really knew about you your first year, but then you were kind of a big deal your second year. What clicked? What made you the big focus?
LL: I didn’t have a Division I scholarship out of high school. I just didn’t get noticed. I was from a small town, not a big baseball school, and then I walked on at Delgado. I guess they just saw something in me, and they put me out there starting, hitting third, and I think scouts finally noticed me. I had a good year, and I had an even better year my second year, so I think just getting noticed, people coming out to see me.

ED: So you were a walk-on?
LL: I walked on at Southeastern University and got redshirted, and then I walked on at Delgado. I didn’t think I was (going to) make the team at first, and then I ended up being our starting center fielder, hitting third for two years in a row, and then I got drafted and (had) an offer at LSU.

ED: So was playing professionally always part of the plan, or did it just kind of happen?
LL: It happened. I never dreamed I’d be playing professional baseball. It kind of just went on with the plans. It’s crazy. In high school if you asked me if I was (going to) play professional baseball, no way…

ED: How did the Fall Instructional League contribute to your development and what did you see it as an opportunity for?
LL: Just getting in the routine of (being a professional baseball player). I’m being coached more here: little things like in my swing and defense. That helped me get a little better and fine tune some of my weak points. I think that’s the biggest thing from Instructs I learned: just kind of tweaking, getting everything a little bit better.

ED: So what exactly did you tweak?
LL: Hitting-wise, I was just using all hands (and) no legs, and I’m in the transition of using more legs than all hands. (In the) outfield, just defensive work: fielding the ball outside my leg, and crow hop—just (the) technique of doing everything right. I hadn’t really been coached too much in high school, so I’m learning a lot from it.

ED: So right now, what is your biggest strength and biggest weakness?
LL: My biggest strength is I have a good arm from the outfield, and I think on the bases I’m pretty quick, but I have a good approach at the plate. I would say my biggest weakness at the plate is my pitch selection: I tend to swing a little bit outside. I’m very aggressive at the plate. I would say that’s something I need to work on as well.

ED: If you had to pitch against yourself, what weaknesses would you take advantage of?
LL: I would say inside fastball, because I’ve been trying to look opposite field, so to adjust to inside fastballs is what I need to work on right now. And maybe off-speed low, off-speed away, getting myself to chase. I think I’d pitch myself pretty good, actually.

ED: Where do you think you’re going to start the season?
LL: I think in Greenville. I think I’ve proven myself. They never really got to see me play at Instructs—I was kind of hurt, beat up—but I’ve played in a couple of games. I haven’t done outstanding, but I think I’ve done well enough to earn a spot in Greenville.

ED: What was your injury in Instructs?
LL: I pulled a muscle in my labrum playing in Wisconsin, and I never really got over it. It kind of lingered, so they helped me out until I was 100%.

ED: So you’re anticipating starting in Greenville, which is obviously a full-season affiliate, which you might not necessarily be used to. How are you preparing for the daily grind?
LL: This summer I learned a lot, because this summer was the first time I dealt with failure. I didn’t hit as well as I would have liked. I didn’t live up to my expectations, and I didn’t play as long. I played for three months straight everyday, so I got a little taste of it there, but I think as far as maturity, I think I’m a lot more mature than most because of the family. I think I can handle failure better than some guys, so I think I’ll handle it well.

ED: You played in the summer league in Wisconsin you said?
LL: I played for the Madison Mallards. I was just trying to prove myself to the Red Sox that I could play. I didn’t do as well as I would have liked. I think I (kind of) hurt my draft stock, but I still went 11th.

ED: What is the biggest thing you’re working on this spring?
LL: Probably just getting to be more (of a) professional hitter—pitch selection, hitting balls opposite field—I think those are my two biggest things I’m working on. I think I’m comfortable with myself in the outfield. More hitting, being a professional hitter, is what I’m really working on the most.

ED: Who are some other players around camp that have impressed you?
LL: On the Salem field, (Kolbrin) Vitek swings it really well; I was impressed. I knew he was a first-rounder, so I was expecting it, but he really swung it well. Defensively, (Jose) Garcia at short is really good. I would say those two guys have really stood out to me

ED: What is the biggest thing fans overlook or take for granted when it comes to the game?
LL: I think behind the scenes. They see what’s on the field for three hours, (and) they’re like, “oh, you just come play for three hours.” But getting to the field at 1 for a 7 o’clock game, getting home late: it’s just a grind of playing every day for six months. Being away from family—I know I’m experiencing that right now. Bus rides at two in the morning on the way home. I think a lot of people don’t see that and don’t really understand what baseball players go through.
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at 6:43 AM

Fort Report: March 31

With Spring Training officially over, here is the final installment of the Fort Report.

Today's minor league notes:

  • Catcher Dan Butler had a moment he'll never forget in Boston's 10-0 win last night in Houston. He belted a 2-run home run in the ninth inning with his family in attendance.
  • On Tuesday, the Red Sox dealt reliever Daniel Turpen to the Colorado Rockies for catcher Mike McKenry. McKenry will serve as valuable Triple-A depth and is adept at throwing out base stealers and getting on base offensively. To make room for McKenry on the 40-man roster, catcher Mark Wagner was designated for assignment.
  • The Red Sox announced their new Spring Training home in Lee County will be named JetBlue Park. The park will open next season and marks the end of a nineteen-year run for the team at City of Palms Park.
  • Pawtucket broadcaster Dan Hoard learned that Alfredo Aceves will be the opening day starter for the PawSox. In yesterday's Triple-A contest vs the Norfolk Tides (BAL), Aceves hurled five perfect innings, striking out nine.
  • Hoard also learned that outfielder Bubba Bell has been traded to Cleveland. The return to the Red Sox has yet to be announced. In the same article, Hoard sits down with Zach Daeges, who talks about how a rash of injuries has put a wrench into his career.
  • Speaking of the PawSox, they toppled the Durham Bulls (TB) on Tuesday 7-2. Big days from Yamaico Navarro and Juan Carlos Linares helped lead the offensive charge.
  • WEEI's Alex Speier reports that Boston has yet to decide where Jose Iglesias will open 2011. They are currently contemplating either Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket.
  • Speier's also caught up with Felix Doubront, who is progressing nicely after experiencing elbow issues earlier in camp. Speier also provides some video of Brandon Workman pitching to fellow Red Sox minor leaguers, displaying his cutter which proves to be a menace to opposing hitters. Speier also indicates that Garin Cecchini has an outside shot at being placed at a full season affiliate and that Sean Coyle will mostly likely start in Greenville.
  • As rosters began to be finalized, the Red Sox made some more cuts in the past few days, releasing Lenny Dinardo, Jorge Jimenez, Bryan Peterson, Ryne Miller and Eric Curtis.
  • Elizabeth Dreeson had a chance to view Jason Garcia, who has lost 15 lbs during the offseason and added some velocity to his fastball.
  • Minor leaguers who saw game action with the major league squad the past few days include: Nate Spears, Drew Sutton, Dan Butler, Blake Maxwell, Alex Hassan, Jorge Padron, and Paul Hoover.
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March 30, 2011 at 11:12 PM

Bubba Bell traded to Cleveland for cash considerations

In a transaction first reported by Pawtucket broadcaster Dan Hoard, the Red Sox have traded outfielder Bubba Bell to the Cleveland Indians. According to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe, the Red Sox will receive cash considerations for Bell.

Bell, 28, was originally drafted by Boston in the 39th round of the 2005 amateur draft. He had a standout season in 2007, hitting .337/.420/.584 with 26 home runs and 105 RBI split between High-A Lancaster and Double-A Portland. Across six minor league seasons in the Boston system, Bell has hit .292/.370/.447 with 59 home runs and 318 RBI.
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at 5:32 PM

Red Sox release 3 minor leaguers

The Red Sox have released pitchers Ryne Miller, Eric Curtis, and outfielder Bryan Peterson.
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at 7:15 AM

2011 Prospect Previews: Drake Britton and Anthony Ranaudo

The second to last installment of the series takes an in-depth look at the top two pitching prospects within the Red Sox organization.

Drake Britton
Position: Starting Pitcher
2010 Team: Greenville Drive
2011 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 21

Strengths: Returning to full health after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2008, Britton saw his stuff make good strides in regaining the form that led to him being selected as a late-round bonus baby in the 2007 Draft. Featuring a very live fastball that he throws from a high ¾ arm slot, he sits 92-94 MPH with the ability to reach back to touch 96 MPH when the situation calls for it. Making improvements with staying on top of his heater and not dropping his wrist under it, Britton’s fastball shows some downward action through the strike zone that makes it very tough to square up when he is commanding it on the corners of the plate. With improving command and feel for the offering, he has been spotting up much better with the pitch and using it to get ahead in counts with more frequency. After showing batters his plus-to-better fastball, Britton leans on a classic mid-70s 12-to-6 curveball with tight rotation and excellent bend as it breaks down through the strike zone. Already advanced with the offering upon entering the Red Sox system, he’s been able to quickly re-learn the feel for it and produce hard snap as he gets further removed from surgery. Able to either break it off hard into the dirt or drop it into the strike zone with knee-buckling break, Britton’s curve projects as his go-to out-pitch. Cleaning up his mechanics and repeating his delivery more consistently post-surgery, he now throws the ball much more loosely and generates velocity with greater ease.

Development Needs: While he is pushing his fastball and curveball on the path to rounding out as above-average at the major league level, Britton has work to go with polishing off his changeup to bring his arsenal up to the level of possessing three big league caliber pitches. Raw with throwing it after signing with the organization, he’s still trying to learn how to bury it deeper in his hand and produce enough arm speed when delivering the offering to create good separation between his fastball, along with getting more bottom-dropping action due to the reduction in velocity. His changeup has the potential to develop into a solid pitch down the line and play up well off of his heater, but presently it is below-average. Much of whether Britton is going to stick in the starting rotation and continue to project as a potential front-line starter rests with the strides his change can make in the coming seasons. At some point, especially when entering the upper levels of the minors, he may also look to develop a two-seam fastball or cutter-type pitch to create a little more movement to prevent advanced hitters from sitting on his four-seam fastball. Currently, he gets by well with his four-seamer and curve, but down the line it could mitigate a potential rise in solid contact against. At times, Britton gets himself out of control on the mound and can speed up his delivery, which causes him to miss up and away with his fastball or have his curve spin out of his hand. Continued work with his pitching pace and staying within himself during his delivery should make these instances fewer and farther between.

2011 Outlook: Working with a controlled pitch count and on a structured innings limit in the early goings of 2010, Britton came on strong to close out the season as his restrictions loosened. Ready to break camp with Salem to start the season, he will look to build upon the strides he made with Greenville last year and continue his innings progression as he further hones his improving arsenal. After getting a feel for the rise in the level of competition in High-A, he has the potential to put up strong strikeout totals and make it tough for opposing batters to make solid contact against him. As he gets more comfortable throwing his changeup and starts to see more progress with the offering through repetition, Britton has a chance to push his strikeout totals even further and be trending towards Double-A with a legit three pitch mix at his disposal. The majority of his development this season should focus on working more with his change and further sharpening his fastball command to show by season’s end he has mastered High-A. A young, left-handed arm on the rise within the Red Sox system, 2011 is slated as challenge for Britton to prove he’s able to handle another rank of the minors, with an eye on showing he’s cresting towards becoming an impact pitcher at the major league level in the coming seasons.

Anthony Ranaudo
Position: Starting Pitcher
2010 Team: Did not play
2011 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 21

Strengths: Very strong and operating out of an extremely large frame, Ranaudo has an excellent physical base for developing a power pitcher’s game. Coming at hitters from a high ¾ arm slot and looking like he is coming right down on top of them, he generates outstanding arm speed to produce plus-to-better velocity with his fastball. Able to consistently sit right around 93 MPH and touch the mid-90s in stretches, Ranaudo’s fastball has the potential to be extremely tough on hitters as he continues to work on being consistent with his release point. A downhill thrower, his heater shows its best tail and late finish in the lower portions of the strike zone. He’s demonstrated pin-point accuracy with his fastball and the ability to constantly hit his desired spots within the strike zone or just off the plate for hitters to chase. Once Ranaudo has pounded the zone and established his fastball against opposing batters, he then flashes a high 70s power curveball with good depth and tight rotation. This offering can be plus at times and, with further polishing of his feel, has the potential to be an above-average weapon consistently at the major league level. During his early career in the low minors, he should pick up plenty of swings and misses with his curve, especially when he starts it off lower in the strike zone and it falls hard off the table into the dirt. Despite slipping in the 2010 Draft due to injury concerns and a subsequent drop in his stuff, the Red Sox organization made it a top priority to get him signed and showed their belief in his talent by giving him a $2,550,000 signing bonus as a supplemental round pick.

Development Needs: After showing he was over the injury hump during his time in the Cape Cod League this past summer, Ranaudo will work to prove in the early going as a professional that his struggles in college were just a blip on the radar screen. With his fastball and curveball making a return to form and having strong big league potential, his focus should turn on continuing to sharpen the feel for his 82-84 MPH changeup. Set to work on developing consistency and trust with this offering in the beginning stages of his professional career, Ranaudo has a chance to see quick initial strides with it. Showing fade down through the strike zone and slightly moving in on right-handed batters, polishing how he finishes out of his delivery with the pitch can round it into a solid-average-to-better secondary offering with which he can keep hitters off balance. Showing some strides with his changeup will be important for him as he reaches Double-A and to keep more polished professional hitters honest against his fastball. A lanky guy, Ranaudo can get out of whack with his mechanics from time to time, either falling off the mound too much towards first base or dropping his arm slot a tad. In both cases, he loses command of his repertoire and can work too often up in the strike zone. He has the type of fastball velocity to challenge hitters, but it tends to flatten out some in the upper reaches of the zone and loses its effectiveness constantly being thrown behind in the count.

2011 Outlook: Gearing up for a highly anticipated debut season, Ranaudo has been throwing with the Salem group in the minor league camp and looks on track to take a turn every fifth day in the High-A starting rotation. While there are big expectations in regards to his future development path and potential at the major league level, it should be expected that he’ll need some time to settle into professional baseball and get his feet wet with the routine. Given his advanced arsenal and excellent stuff, after feeling things out and getting some innings under his belt, strong results should start to trend as the season gets going. With his overpowering fastball and hammer curve, Ranaudo has the potential to pile up a lot of strikeouts and keep the solid contact against him inconsistent. A good sign that his changeup is making strides towards catching up to his other pitches is more and more ease with going deeper into outings as the summer months heat up. With all things going as planned and his stuff proving to be advanced as it was during his sophomore year in college, Ranaudo has a strong chance to contend for a promotion to Portland by mid-season. In Double-A, he’ll be tested against much more advanced hitters and will be challenged to further round out his arsenal, while also getting a taste of the Eastern League before a 2012 assignment. A talent that many envision filling the blue chip prospect gap in the upper levels of the Red Sox organization as his career gets going, 2011 is a season for Ranaudo to put the wheels in motion and begin rounding out a potential high caliber major league arsenal. If all goes to plan he will likely begin to show glimpses of fulfilling his projection as a front-of-the-rotation starter down the line.
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March 29, 2011 at 8:38 PM

Red Sox trade Turpen to Colorado for C McKenry

The Red Sox have traded RHP Daniel Turpen to the Colorado Rockies for catcher Mike McKenry, the Rockies announced.

Turpen, 24, was originally acquired from the San Francisco Giants at last year's trade deadline. He was selected in this offseason's Rule 5 draft by the New York Yankees and returned to the Red Sox earlier this month. Last season with Double-A Portland, Turpen was 2-1 with a 4.91 ERA and 3 saves in 12 appearances.

McKenry, 26, was originally drafted by Colorado in the 7th round of the 2006 amateur draft. In four minor league seasons McKenry has hit .265/.357/.455 with 66 home runs and 287 RBI in 491 games. He made his major league debut last season and went without a hit in 8 at-bats for the Rockies. Last season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, McKenry hit .265/.328/.424 with 10 home runs and 49 RBI in 99 games.

McKenry was on the Rockies 40-man roster, so the Red Sox, in order to clear room on their 40 man roster, designated catcher Mark Wagner for assignment.
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at 5:04 PM

JetBlue Park to open next year

The Red Sox have announced that their new spring training facility will be called JetBlue Park, and is scheduled to open in 2012. City of Palms Park had been the organization's home in Fort Myers since the Red Sox moved there in 1993, but hosted its last Red Sox Spring Training game earlier today.
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at 4:41 PM

Red Sox release LHP Dinardo, IF Jimenez

According to Pawtucket broadcaster Dan Hoard on Twitter, the Red Sox today have released LHP Lenny Dinardo and infielder Jorge Jimenez.

Dinardo, 31, signed a minor league deal with Boston this offseason. Last season as a member of Triple-A Sacramento (OAK), Dinardo went 2-5 with a 3.40 ERA in 10 games. Dinardo was originally a member of the Red Sox organization from 2004-2006, going 1-3 with a 5.53 ERA in 43 games.

Jimenez, 26, was originally drafted by Boston in the 15th round of the 2006 amateur draft. He was selected by the Florida Marlins in the Rule 5 draft last season before being returned to Boston. In five minor league seasons, Jimenez has hit .282/.360/.394 with 27 home runs and 237 RBI in 462 games.
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at 1:17 PM

Fort Report: March 29

Today's minor league notes:

Drew Sutton, Nate Spears, Blake Maxwell, Jason Rice, and Dan Butler will travel with the big club for tomorrow's game at Houston. Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, Dennys Reyes, Bobby Jenks, and Daniel Bard are slated to pitch in the game.

Alex Speier reports that the Pawtucket rotation will likely be Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller, Brandon Duckworth, Matt Fox, and Kyle Weiland, with Felix Doubront set to join the rotation in mid-April. That could leave veteran starters Lenny DiNardo and/or Adam Mills on the outside looking in.

Elizabeth Dreeson tweets that Brandon Workman and Chris Hernandez are likely to start the season in Low-A Greenville. That could mean a promotion to High-A Salem for Ryan Pressly.

Outfield prospect Jeremy Hazelbaker hit a two-run home run in the top of seventh on Monday to lead Boston to a 3-2 win over Toronto. Look for big things out of Hazelbaker in Salem this season - possibly a 70 stolen base, 20 home run season.

Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports that Hideki Okajima, recently optioned to Pawtucket, expects to return to Boston sooner rather than later. He'll certainly be one of the first alternatives for the big club when the need arises, especially as his option can be used all season, meaning there aren't any limits on how many times he's sent back-and-forth between Boston and Pawtucket.

Pawtucket broadcaster Dan Hoard brings us an interesting report on LHP Rich Hill, who is getting his fastball up to 92 mph this spring -- pretty impressive for a side-armer.

Don't miss Speier's report on Caleb Clay and mustached minor league crew. The picture alone is worth the click.
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at 9:00 AM

Q&A with Anthony Ranaudo

I recently had the opportunity to talk to top prospect Anthony Ranaudo about his baseball career, ranging all the way from high school to being on the brink of pitching his first professional inning with the Red Sox. Here's the transcript of our discussion. For a deeper look at Ranaudo's career, check out this column on ESPN Boston.

Mike Andrews: Can you tell me a little bit about your high school career? Were you scouted heavily? Were you drafted? Did you get a lot of attention from other schools besides LSU?
Anthony Ranaudo: After my junior year of high school, I hit the showcase circuit and went to a bunch of tournaments. Once July 1 rolled around, I started talking to a bunch of schools. After the summer, I had it narrowed down to LSU, Alabama, Vanderbilt, and Virginia. I visited all of them – except Vanderbilt – because once I went to LSU, I committed right away because I loved it.

MA: What made you love LSU so much?
AR: The fans, the atmosphere. At that point, we had the old stadium, but they showed me the blueprints for the new stadium, and said it would be ready for my sophomore year. Also the fact that they were starting anew. They had new coaches, all new recruits, so I was going to be part of the next wave – a new generation at LSU. All of that really appealed to me. We had such a great team coming up, and I felt like it would be fun to play a part in turning that team around. We did, and it made for a great experience.

MA: Taking a step back, did you get drafted out of high school?
AR: I did. After my senior year, I got picked in the 11th round by the Rangers. It was an interesting spring with all of the scouts following me. It gave me some good experience, but in the end I was dedicated to LSU, and it wasn’t a tough decision to go to school.

MA: You impressed early on at LSU, can you talk about the experiences during your freshman and sophomore seasons?
AR: In my freshman year, I got hurt. I had a little bit of elbow tendinitis. But since I was so young – I was only about 18 at the time, and they had a bunch of pitchers [ahead of me], so the staff took it slow with me and sat me out for a couple weeks. I really didn’t contribute too much my freshman year, but I was part of the post-season roster, and I got to travel to Omaha [for the College World Series] with them. I gained a lot of experience just doing that. Then I came back my sophomore year. Going in, I made up my mind that since we lost all of our weekend starters, I wanted to be the Friday guy, even though I had only pitched 13 innings the previous season. I worked really hard, had a good fall and pre-season, and wound up being the Friday guy. Louis Coleman and I both ended up having good years, and we led the team to a championship in Omaha. We also had a great offense, so the team just kind of clicked all around. We had a great time, and it made for some good memories.

MA: Then comes your junior season at LSU. I don’t want to put words into your mouth, but you seemed to have some struggles with mechanics or maybe injuries. Can you talk about what happened?
AR: Everything was good until a week before the season started, when I had a little bit of tightness in my elbow. They took some precautionary measures and sat me out for a few weeks. When I came back, I probably wasn’t in as good of shape as I should have been. But when I did come back, everything started off okay from a success standpoint. But then – maybe it was a mechanical thing, I don’t know – it seemed like I was messing up with my pitches. My breaking ball was not nearly as sharp as it had been. From there, it took me a little bit to get back in the groove, and in the meantime I got hit around pretty good. I just didn’t have the success I had had the year before, and that was frustrating, but it was also a learning experience. And I had good teammates, and they all helped me get back on track towards the end of the year. I felt like I started to come around towards the end of the season, especially when we won the SEC Tournament.

MA: So would you say that the struggles were a mix of physical, psychological, and mechanical, and you can’t really just nail one thing down as the main issue?
AR: Yeah – it was a mix. I was healthy, and my arm felt great – there was nothing wrong with my arm. It was all either in my head or mechanical. But the facts are facts. I got hit around, I missed my spots, I walked people, I didn’t have my best stuff, and it seems like every weekend they took advantage of it. I went through some struggles, but it’s all part of the game. It’s that adversity, which I think I overcame, that made me a better pitcher in the long run. And it’s all in the past now.

MA: Regardless of those struggles, I imagine you were still scouted by all thirty teams in the majors?
AR: Everything stayed the same the whole year as far as scouting goes. I didn’t hear until a couple weeks before the draft that I was falling on draft boards. Everything seemed normal - my velocity was the same. So I thought everything was going to be fine, but I guess when you go out there and put up a 7-something ERA, you can fall down some draft boards. But like I said, it all worked out. I’m glad the Red Sox picked me – I’m with a great organization and happy to be here.

MA: Going into Day 1 of the Draft, did you have any expectations on that morning?
AR: Well, I tried not to have any expectations just so I didn’t get let down. But of course, naturally, I did have some expectations, and I was a little let down in falling out of the first round. Like I said though, when the day was over, and I put my head on the pillow, I was just happy to be drafted, realizing that not everybody gets this opportunity. I was ecstatic and excited to see what was going to happen that summer and to see if I could come to terms with the Sox.

MA: Did you know that it was going to be the Red Sox before the team picked you, or did you not find out until you saw it on a ticker?
AR: It’s a funny story actually. We didn’t know what was going to happen in the first round area. Then my advisor [Scott Boras] called me and said “it looks like the Sox might pick you in the supplemental round.” I was actually in an airport during the first round coming back from our Regional, and I was on the plane when I got picked. After we landed, I actually tried to turn my phone on when we were taxiing on the runway, but somebody in front of me got his phone on first – one of my teammates – and he turned around and said, “Congrats, man, you got picked by the Sox at number 39.” Once I got my phone on, I had a million text messages and got a bunch of calls from my family congratulating me.

MA: From there, you went to the Cape Cod League, and put up some excellent numbers. What was that experience like?
AR: I remember I was driving from Louisiana to New Jersey, by myself in my car for a 20-hour drive, thinking about a ton of things during that drive. One of those things was that the Cape League experience could either make or break me as a pitcher. I could go there, and keep all the stuff that happened last year in my mind, and maybe go down the drain as a pitcher. Or I could look myself in the mirror and just say “you’re a lot better than that, you can overcome the adversity, make yourself into a better pitcher, and really dedicate yourself.” And that’s what I did. I feel like I had great focus up there. I also had really good teammates and really good coaches who allowed me to do what I wanted. They backed me when I went out there and pitched. We were all on the same page, and that helped get me into a great routine. Everything just kind of came into place. My arm felt good and my stuff was working. My team was rated as the number one summer team in the country at one point. It was just a really great summer, those five to six weeks I spent up there. It was also fun living there - I had a really good host family, and it was a really nice area. I also became close friends with all of the guys up there.

MA: What was the initial reasoning for going to the Cape League?
AR: There were two reasons. The first reason was [the limited ininngs] I got during the season - I only pitched about 55 innings at LSU. So I wanted to keep my arm in shape, to go there and get at least 30 innings so I could maybe get up to 85 to 90 innings for the year. That way, if I did go back to LSU, I would have that many innings under my belt and be in good shape for Fall Ball. And then second, obviously, was to go up there and showcase myself to the Red Sox a little bit more, so they can get a good look at me, focus in and watch my routine in their own backyard. Those were the two ends up the spectrum, and I’m just glad it worked out for everybody.

MA: Did the Red Sox come and watch all of your starts?
AR: I think they sent some people every time I pitched. There was always someone there watching.

MA: It’s been reported that a deal with the Red Sox was a last minute thing, that you basically signed at the midnight hour on signing deadline day. Is that what actually happened? How close were you to actually going back to LSU?
AR: To be honest, everything happened in the last five minutes – that’s the 100% truth. At 11:55, I got a phone call saying $2.55 million is the offer. That’s where I saw myself. I told [LSU Coach Paul] Mainieri a few days earlier that if I get the bonus I want, I’m going to sign, but if I get a penny less than what I want, I’m going to come back. So Coach Mainieri knew that it just came down to what the Red Sox offered, and they ended up offering what I wanted. We were all on the same page.

MA: Were there negotiations with the Red Sox leading up to that point? Or was it just that you told them up front what you wanted, and then you didn’t hear from them until the last minute?
AR: Exactly [the latter]. There really weren’t any other negotiations. They knew what I wanted, and that whole time in Cape Cod was an evaluation period, to see if they thought I was worth what I thought I was worth. It all came together and worked out in the end. I would have loved to have gone back to LSU, but I’m happy about being a professional baseball player now, especially in the Red Sox organization.

MA: So you headed off to Lowell from there and didn’t end up pitching. I assume that was a front office decision?
AR: Right. As soon as I signed, I [was] in their hands. They told me where to go, so I headed up to Lowell to get adapted to professional baseball. I wasn’t going to pitch, but they just wanted to get me in the routine. I spent a little over two weeks there and finished the year with them. It was good to get my feet wet and see how everything works, and to meet some of the players and coaches.

MA: And then you went to the Fall Instructional League. Did you pitch there?
AR: No, I didn’t pitch. I went to Instrux for a little over two weeks, to do the strength and conditioning program. I got to sit with the older guys and pick their brains. I also got to meet a bunch of the front office people, and a lot of the on-field coaches. It was just a matter of learning how things work in the system.

MA: What did you do over the winter?
AR: The Red Sox gave us a throwing program and a lifting guide. I tried to follow that to the best of my ability, knowing my body, and knowing the Red Sox obviously want me to report in shape. I also combined that with a workout at BSTI – the Boras Sports Training Institute in California. I went there for a couple weeks and worked out with my agent, did kind of a hybrid workout [while] following the Red Sox throwing program so I can show up here and be ready to go.

MA: How are you feeling now?
AR: I feel great. My arm feels unbelievable. I’m just excited to pitch on Saturday [March 19] and finally get out there.

MA: That will be your first action?
AR: That will be my first professional anything. First time in a Red Sox uniform on the mound, so I’m pretty jacked up. I’ll probably go two innings.

MA: Is your arsenal or mechanics any different than when you were at LSU?
AR: At this point, it’s not any different. The Red Sox are just letting me keep everything the same. I’m just working on being consistent with my fastball – being able to locate and really establish that pitch. I’d also like to be able to work off of that and continue the development of my changeup. I feel like I have a pretty good feel for my curveball, so I just want to make sure to stay consistent with that. With the development of my changeup, I feel like I can have three true pitches and attack hitters with that arsenal.

MA: Have you had any discussions with the front office in terms of where you might be starting?
AR: Nope, I have not had any conversations. They may know, but I hear that they don’t fill us in until the last couple days before we break camp. I‘m just getting ready, preparing for anything, and wherever they tell me to go, I’m going.

MA: Have you felt any pressure as a result of being labeled as the new top pitching prospect in the organization?
AR: Well, this is pretty much my first media interview this spring, so I haven’t felt any pressure on that front. But even if I had [talked to the media more], I wouldn’t feel pressure. If people consider me that, that’s great. If not, I haven’t even thrown an inning – or even one pitch – yet as a [member of the] Red Sox. Right now I’m just trying to go out there and get better, to develop myself into the pitcher I think I can be. If I can go out there and get better every day, and just work hard, wherever that takes me is great. I just want to go out and compete right now.

MA: Have you ever worked as a reliever?
AR: I’ve always worked as a starter. I feel like I adapt to changes well, so if the Red Sox told me they need me to relieve, that’s fine, whatever they need from me. But I’ve always been a starter, I see myself as a starter, and I hope the team does as well. I want to be a frontline starter at the major league level.

MA: Is there any one teammate that has really impressed you so far this spring?
AR: Since we just started games a couple days ago, I haven’t had a chance to see much game action, so it’s kind of hard to tell at this point. I’m still just getting to know everybody. I've been working with a lot of the pitchers on the Salem field. I saw Drake Britton throw, he threw really well the other day. Kendal Volz - he’s a great leader from what I’ve seen. Pete Ruiz pitched really well. [I'm impressed with] all the Triple-A and Double-A guys. I see that they all just carry themselves so well and those are the guys I try to watch and follow because they’ve been through the system, and are obviously doing something right to make it up to those levels. Those are the guys I’m watching to focus on their daily routines.

MA: Last question, it’s a bit of an off-topic one. Being from New Jersey, how do you feel about how New Jersey is being represented with the whole Jersey Shore thing?
AR: You know what’s scary, is it’s true. That show is dead on with what happens in the summer in Jersey. Those are the people that come down there – the people from Long Island, from Staten Island, and New York [City]. They come down to the Shore and rent houses, and live that life. It’s actually pretty accurate, and to be honest with you, I’m a big fan of Jersey Shore. I watch it every week. I love it - it’s fun. It’s good entertainment.

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March 28, 2011 at 9:51 PM

SoxProspects.com Podcast #13: The Fort Rapport

In this podcast Mike, Hatfield, and Mellen discuss their Ft. Myers observations in depth. We talk about the players in Minor League camp who surprised, disappointed, and are poised for breakout seasons. We also predict the player we feel will make The Leap this season.

Players discussed: Oscar Tejeda, Ryan Lavarnway, Kolbrin Vitek, Drake Britton, Jose Vinicio, Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, Kendrick Perkins, and many more.

Blog Page

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at 12:40 PM

Cesar Cabral returned to Sox

Left-handed pitcher Cesar Cabral was returned to the Red Sox today after the Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the Rule 5 draft, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.

The 21-year-old dazzled in 31.1 relief innings with Low-A Greenville last year, posting a 0.29 ERA while striking out 35 and only walking 7. However, after a promotion to High-A Salem his ERA dipped to 5.81 in 48.0 innings. In 9.2 innings with the Rays this spring he pitched to an ERA of 5.59. The club likely saw him as a potential lefty specialist out of the bullpen, but ultimately decided to go in a different direction.
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at 10:44 AM

Albers and Reyes win last two spots in Boston, Okajima and Aceves optioned to Pawtucket

The long-awaited resolution of the Red Sox bullpen competition was announced this morning, as Hideki Okajima and Alfredo Aceves were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Matt Albers and Dennys Reyes were added to the team's 25-man roster.

The decision to option Okajima and Aceves was based on the fact that both pitchers have minor league options remaining while Reyes and Albers do not, according to General Manager Theo Epstein.

This is how the four pitchers have fared so far this spring:

Aceves : 0-1, 4.05 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched

Okajima: 5.14 ERA, 8 strikeouts in 7.0 innings pitched

Albers: 2.84 ERA, 1 save, 13 strikeouts in 12.2 innings pitched

Reyes: 1-1, 2.70 ERA, 8 strikeouts in 10.0 innings pitched.

Aceves will be used as a starter in Pawtucket while Okajima will be a member of the bullpen.

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at 8:13 AM

2011 Prospect Previews: Kolbrin Vitek and Stolmy Pimentel

Today's edition of the series focuses on a pitching prospect slated to continue to hone his craft in Double-A this coming season and a position player prospect ready to begin his first full season with the Red Sox organization.

Kolbrin Vitek
Position: Third Base
2010 Teams: Lowell Spinners/Greenville Drive
2011 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 22

Strengths: New to the organization after signing this past summer, Vitek brings an advanced offensive skill set to the diamond highlighted by high contact potential. Batting out of a closed and straight up stance, he’s adept at hitting inside the baseball to drive offerings from foul line to foul line with authority. With quick, explosive hands, Vitek drives them to the point of contact well and is capable of barreling up pitches both on the inside and outside portions of the plate, covering a good portion of the strike zone in the process. Generating excellent batspeed and good backspin, he’s able to produce about average present power with the potential to develop it further as he continues to physically mature and learns to hit with more loft as he settles in against professional baseball. Demonstrating above-average bat control and displaying a good understanding of the strike zone, Vitek has the ability to go deep into counts and hang tough in at-bats, spoiling offerings before getting one he can put into play hard. Transitioning back to third base after signing with the Red Sox organization, he’s shown a strong work ethic and willingness to put in extra work to push his defensive game towards developing in the right direction.

Development Needs: With a flat swing path through the hitting zone and not much extension after the point of contact presently, Vitek has some work ahead of him to round out his power and translate it into more home runs during game action. Lean at the moment, there is room on his frame to fill out a bit, especially in his lower body, and physical gains should help boost his strength levels and allow him to get more behind the ball when he drives it. Capable of generating some power now, Vitek’s near-term development in this area will focus on using his legs during his swing and finding a balance with muscling up on offerings in his hot zones to consistently produce solid-average power, which he shows in flashes at the moment. Still transitioning to professional baseball and adjusting to the advanced pitching he is seeing on a daily basis, Vitek will have his approach and pitch recognition tested by the adjustment to better secondary offerings. Not overly natural at third base, he shows just average reactions and instincts. He can be indecisive on how to play balls and allows himself to get eaten up on tougher balls put into play, along with showing rough footwork. Despite being a former pitcher his throws to first base tend to lose steam at the end, but he has been coming back up to speed in this area. As he reaches the upper levels of the Red Sox system, there seems to be a good possibility that he will move off of third base and into the outfield.

2011 Outlook: After settling into professional baseball and adjusting to wood bats during this past summer, Vitek looks set to break camp with Salem and begin an assignment at the High-A level to start the season. More advanced than many draftees entering the system, a placement here will be a good test for his skills and push him against competition more in line with his level of development. Once getting a feel for the pitching he is going to see in the Carolina League, Vitek should produce excellent contact rates and demonstrate strong patience at the plate. He has the potential to put up a high batting average, while also producing his fair share of extra-base hits. A good tell that he’s beginning to learn to hit with some more lift and drive the ball with his whole body will show in rising home run totals over the course of the season. However, it shouldn’t be expected for him to experience a huge spike in these totals at this point in his development, but high double totals aren’t out of the question. Now entering his first full season with the Red Sox organization, followers will get a better look at what Vitek is capable of doing, especially offensively. By season’s end, he has a strong chance to prove that he’s trending towards the upper minors and ready to enter the next wave of position player prospects on the major league horizon in the next two to three seasons.

Stolmy Pimentel
Position: Starting Pitcher
2010 Team: Salem Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 21

Strengths: Maturing physically over the last couple of seasons, Pimentel has grown into his body and taken big physical steps. Possessing an arsenal that can be electric at times, he’s continuing to hone the command of his fastball, which sits 92-93 MPH and can touch 95 MPH when he reaches back for something extra. Pimentel has gotten better at spotting up with his heater and keeping the ball on the corners with more consistency. After establishing his fastball and working to get ahead of batters with it, he leans heavily on his above-average changeup later in the count to create swings and misses or weak contact due to how out in front hitters can be against it. Pimentel displays excellent arm speed when throwing the change and strong deception between it and his fastball. This offering should serve him well as he continues his progression in the upper minors and has the potential to be a devastating out-pitch at the big league level down the line. Pimentel rounds out his repertoire with an improving curveball that can be plus at times and show excellent depth as it breaks down through the strike zone. Further refinement of his curveball can push his arsenal to consist of three plus-to-better pitches and solidify him as a potential second or third starter at the major league level.

Development Needs: Pimentel still has some cleanup work to do with his delivery, which causes him to struggle with his fastball command and fight with bouts of inconsistency. At times, he can be stiff with the landing out of his delivery and lack fluidity finishing pitches. When this happens, his fastball tends to miss up in the zone while his curveball can hang in the fat part of the plate. Improvement with repeating his optimal delivery and landing more cleanly should help enhance the consistency of these offerings. Primarily throwing a four-seam fastball, Pimentel is still learning how to master his two-seamer and create more movement with the pitch since it is presently on the straight side. Development of a two-seam fastball will allow him pound the strike zone with the pitch to generate weak contact and spot up his four-seamer to create more swings and misses. Progress with this should mitigate upper level hitters from sitting on his fastball with frequency. A key need for Pimentel to continue to project as a starter is learning the same feel for his curveball that he currently shows for his changeup. With plus potential, he can lose his hook for stretches and further consistency with generating hard snap will give him another secondary offering to put hitter’s away with.

2011 Outlook: Despite some inconsistent results with Salem in 2010, Pimentel put together a good season of development and handled his age-advanced assignment in High-A pretty well. After getting some work in during the early portion of Spring Training in major league camp, he has been back in minor league camp preparing for a placement in Double-A with the Portland Sea Dogs. Pimentel will enter the season once again as one of the younger players in the league and can expect to experience some adjustment time as he deals with the bump up in competition, especially having to be finer with his fastball command within the strike zone. If he can continue to reel in his delivery and keep the ball down, the results should start to trend upwards in the form of reduced solid contact against and more consistent outings. A bump up in his strike out totals will be a good sign that Pimentel is sharpening the consistency of his curveball and also beginning to get a better feel for throwing his two-seam fastball. A prospect that has grown up in the Red Sox organization after signing at the age of 16, he’s begun to see his overall package come together and may be poised to take the next step in the upper minors in 2011. With another season of development ahead of him, Pimentel has the type of stuff and potential to show he’s a player pushing to enter the contributing mix at the major league level in 2012.
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March 27, 2011 at 8:41 AM

Fort Report: March 27

Today's minor league notes :

  • Josh Reddick discusses feeling pain similar to an oblique injury he suffered last season and being ready for action in Pawtucket with WEEI's Alex Speier. In the same piece, Alex Hassan and Tim Federowicz talk about their roommate shuffle and Brandon Workman's agent change is detailed.
  • Junichi Tazawa was placed on the 60-day disabled list as he continues his rehab from Tommy John surgery last April.
  • The Boston bullpen situation began to get a little clearer when reliever Dennys Reyes had his contract purchased yesterday. Reyes was also added to the team's 40-man roster.
  • Alex Speier also details the numerous cuts that were made this week as team rosters began to round into shape. Scott Atchison, Rich Hill, Randy Williams, Brandon Duckworth, Michael Bowden and Andrew Miller were all sent to minor league camp. Two players who were not sent down, Nate Spears and Drew Sutton, will both be with the big league squad until the end of spring training.
  • According to Speier, Boston's considerable pitching depth has drawn the interest of teams looking for arms as the season draws near.
  • SoxProspects' Jonathan Singer announced four new DSL signings this week on Twitter. The new additions include RHP Jose Espitia, SS Cleuluis Rondon, C Alixon Saurez, and 3B Aneudis Peralta. To follow our staff, be sure to add the SoxProspects Twitter list.
  • Ryan Khoury fouled a ball off his calf in a March 25 contest and is day-to-day with the injury.
  • Our newest staff member, Elizabeth Dreeson, took in some action at the Red Sox Minor League Complex this week. She details a sparkling outing by Drake Britton, an update on the rehabbing Renny Parthemore, and a look into what lineups we may see for the affiliates this season.
  • The past few days saw numerous minor league players get a chance to see action with the big league squad. These players include: Yamaico Navarro, Aaron Bates, Josh Reddick, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Drew Dominguez, Alex Hassan, Pete Hissey, William Vazquez, Matt Sheely, Ryan Khoury, David Mailman, Jon Hee, Dan Butler, Ronald Bermudez, Oscar Tejeda, Will Middlebrooks, Bryce Brentz, and Mitch Dening.
  • In order to trim the roster of the minor league affiliates, a number of players were released this week according to SoxProspects sources. These players include Chris Court, former third round selection Bryce Cox, TJ Large, Ryne Lawson, Lance McClain, Ryne Reynoso, Ken Roque, Michael Bugary, Stephen Fox, Ramon Soto, Kelvin Pichardo and Doug Wogee.
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March 26, 2011 at 4:04 PM

Tazawa placed on 60-day DL

The Red Sox have placed right-hander Junichi Tazawa on the 60-day disabled list, clearing a roster spot on the 40-man roster.

Tazawa, 24, underwent Tommy John surgery last April after rocketing through the minors to make his major league debut in his first season in the United States in 2009. At the moment, there is no timetable for Tazawa's return to the mound as he continues to make progress during his rehab.

The move, while not surprising, is widely assumed to open up a roster spot for left-handed reliever Dennys Reyes who has been competing for one of the last spots in the Boston bullpen. Reyes pushed back the opt-out clause in his contract to today and will likely end up on the 25-man roster for opening day. This spring, Reyes has appeared in 9 games, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits while striking out 8 in 9.0 innings pitched.
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March 25, 2011 at 3:56 PM

Andrew Miller reassigned

Per Alex Speier, Andrew Miller has been added to the list of players reassigned to minor league camp earlier today.

There was some question as to whether the 25-year-old left-hander was in competition for a major league bullpen spot, but this move confirms that the Red Sox wish to develop him as a starter with Pawtucket. Miller posted a 10.57 ERA in 7.2 Grapefruit League innings this spring while striking out 6, but showed flashes of dominance.
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at 3:23 PM

Sox option Atchison, reassign 5 others

Relievers Scott Atchison and Michael Bowden were optioned to Pawtucket earlier today, along with outfielder Ryan Kalish. Pitchers Randy Williams, Rich Hill, and Brandon Duckworth were also reassigned to minor league camp.

Atchison, Hill, and Bowden were battling for a spot in the major league bullpen, and are likely to be the some of the first arms called upon when reinforcements are needed. Kalish will continue his development as a potential future major league starting outfielder with the PawSox.
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at 12:12 PM

Red Sox cut 12 players from minor league camp

According to SoxProspects.com sources, the Red Sox released the following minor league players this week: RHP Chris Court, RHP Bryce Cox, RHP TJ Large, RHP Ryne Lawson, LHP Lance McClain, RHP Ryne Reynoso, 2B Ken Roque, LHP Michael Bugary, RHP Stephen Fox, RHP Ramon Soto, RHP Kelvin Pichardo and RHP Doug Wogee.
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at 7:56 AM

2011 Prospect Previews: Oscar Tejeda and Will Middlebrooks

Today's installment of the series takes an in-depth look at two of the rising position player prospects within the Red Sox system slated to continue their development in Double-A this coming season.

Oscar Tejeda
Position: Second Base
2010 Team: Salem Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 21

Strengths: Making strong strides offensively this past season, Tejeda cleaned up his hitting mechanics to improve the quickness of his load and keep himself balanced at the plate during his stride. Possessing exceptional batspeed and a whip-like swing, he’s much more fluid bringing the head of the bat through the hitting zone to consistently square offerings up with authority than he was earlier in his career. With quick and explosive wrists, Tejeda clears out inside pitches well and has improved with how he hits to the opposite field, driving the head of the bat to balls on the outside corner rather than looping around them. His improved balance has reduced the instances of him pulling his head off the ball and yanking the head of the bat to the point of contact. Always capable of hitting higher velocity fastballs, his crisper mechanics have further brought this trait along and allowed him to constantly get good wood on the ball to produce hard line drives. Previously lanky and lean, Tejeda has experienced big physical gains in the last couple of seasons that have enhanced his present power and project him to hit for solid-average-to-better power with continued refinement. Switching over to second base last season, he’s come up to speed quickly with the change in positions and demonstrates positive attributes defensively, highlighted by his plus arm and solid reactions to balls hit his way. Age-advanced at every stop in the Red Sox system, Tejeda has handled himself well during his career and is now starting to experience his physical development meshing together with the polishing of his initially raw tools.

Development Needs: Approaching the upper levels of the organization, Tejeda is going to experience much sharper secondary offerings and improved ability to spot up on corners of the plate by opposing pitchers. Improving with his selectiveness and discipline in recent seasons, his near-term work will focus on taking this aspect of his offensive game to the next level and continuing the trend against advanced competition. An aggressive hitter, Tejeda can over-expand his strike zone and chase breaking balls diving into the dirt. Improvement with learning his strike zone and further working to attack ideal offerings will be a key need to make the type of consistent, hard contact displayed in lower levels. Better with keeping his hands back during his stride and tracking pitches as they approach home plate, continuing to be mindful of keeping his weight in unison with his hands will allow him to keep his swing fluid and produce solid contact as he adjusts to the initial jump up a level. Becoming stiffer as he physically develops, it remains to be seen as to whether Tejeda can stick in the infield as he continues to mature. While showing good range and soft hands, he’s still rough at second base and his defensive game has some improvement in front of it to become major league caliber. At times, he can struggle with his technique and needlessly rush plays leading to unforced errors. A move to leftfield down the line may not be out of the question as he gets closer to being ready for the major leagues.

2011 Outlook: After putting together a good season with Salem and seeing his work polishing his skills start to translate into game action, Tejeda is set to break camp with Double-A to start the season. Looking very comfortable in the batter’s box and on the ball during Spring Training games, he’ll work to carry it over during his initial adjustment to the Eastern League. Some time to adjust should be expected, but once Tejeda gets going strong results have a good chance to show in the form of solid contact rates and high extra-base totals as the season moves along. A good sign that he is becoming more selective at the plate and making strides in this area will be an uptick in his walk totals, which should drive his strikeout rates down or at least keep them level. Experiencing a jump in his home run totals in 2010, Tejeda can produce similar numbers this season and display that his power is cresting as his offensive game continues to mature. A good example of how young hitters can make big strides when starting to put things together, 2011 is a season for him to prove he’s continuing his rise as one of the top position players in the Red Sox system and that his initial breakout last season is carrying into the upper ranks of the organization, bringing his projection as a major league bat on the horizon closer to coming to fruition.

Will Middlebrooks
Position: Third Base
2010 Team: Salem Red Sox
2011 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 22

Strengths: A developing hitter, Middlebrooks has come a long way from his early career to take steps at polishing his hitting tools into those of a complete hitter. Struggling considerably with his pitch recognition in the past, he has made strides with how he picks up secondary offerings out of opposing pitcher’s hands and keeps himself from lunging at balls breaking across the strike zone in the dirt. His work with relaxing himself at the plate and effort to become conscientious of the strike zone has jumped out during his development stages. Featuring excellent batspeed and a more compact swing, Middlebrooks is capable of exploding to the point of contact and producing very good backspin on his line drives. At his best when he is looking up the middle and letting his hands react to offerings on the inside third, he’s able to drive balls to all fields and hit from gap-to-gap with power. Possessing plus raw power and a filling out lower base, Middlebrooks has high home run potential as he continues to hone his selectiveness and use his hips more to drive the ball during his swing. A former shortstop and moving over to third base once signing with the Red Sox organization, his defensive game at the hot corner has rapidly been developing towards that of an above-average defender. With a quick first step and excellent reactions, he covers good ground and has become very steady after learning to play the proper angles at the position. His defensive prowess is accented by a plus throwing arm that is one of the best, if not the best, in the system.

Development Needs: While Middlebrooks has made good strides with building a professional approach and coming up to speed with recognizing advanced pitching, he still has some ways to go make this a key strength for him. He can fall into ruts of chasing breaking balls or getting caught in-between pitches, which leads to inconsistency. Not projecting as a high batting average player or one who is going to draw a ton of walks, it will be necessary for Middlebrooks to cut down on his strikeouts and increase the amount of contact he makes to reach his offensive potential. Some of his instances of swings and misses are directly related to his improvement needs with pitch recognition and tightening selectivity, which should naturally progress as he continues to gain experience. He’s been closing up his hole on the inner third of the plate against higher velocity fastballs and getting beat less in this area as he over-compensates less for secondary stuff, especially later in the count. At times though, Middlebrooks can dip his back shoulder too much and loop under fastballs on the inner third, either swinging under them or jamming himself. Continued focus on driving his hands to the point of contact to get the sweet spot of the barrel on the ball and allow his natural batspeed to clean out offerings here will make this area more of a hot zone for him. With a level swing through the hitting plane, work adding some lift and extending after the point of contact can see him tap fully into his above-average power potential to produce home runs with more frequency in games.

2011 Outlook: Middlebrooks experienced some ups and downs offensively with Salem in 2011, but made some good progress towards putting his overall game together, which has him slated to begin a good challenge in Portland this coming season. Maturing and gaining an understanding for what it takes to grind out at-bats, his approach will be pushed in the early going in the Eastern League and he’ll have some adjustments to make against the more experienced pitching. Trusting his skills and staying relaxed are keys for Middlebrooks to get over the initial hump and begin to flash that type of results he put up for stretches this past season. Once settled in and more comfortable as the summer months approach, good signs that he is improving his selectivity and picking up secondary offerings should show with rising contact rates, followed by a spike in his extra-base numbers. A good tell that he’s staying back and beginning an upward trend is that he’s driving the ball to all fields with authority. Unlikely to experience a huge breakout with home runs at this juncture, Middlebrooks is capable of displaying around average power. Rising home run totals over the course of the season is a positive sign that he is further learning how to tap into his raw power. 2011 is a season for him to prove he’s pushing his development further in the upper minors and solidifying himself within the Red Sox organization as a position player on the rise. With a strong defensive game and continuing to hone his craft at the plate, by the end of the season Middlebrooks can put himself in position to be trending towards fulfilling his potential as an everyday major leaguer down the line.
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