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SoxProspects News

June 30, 2011 at 2:08 PM

Fox named to International League All-Star game

The International League today announced its roster for the Triple-A All-Star game set to take place on July 13 in Salt Lake City. The game will be held at Spring Mobile Park, the home stadium of the Pacific Coast League Salt Lake Bees (LAA). Pawtucket starter Matt Fox is the lone representative for the PawSox.

Fox, 28, is a former first round selection of the Minnesota Twins back in 2004. Claimed off waivers from the Twins last September, Fox allowed 2 runs on 4 hits over 3 appearances for the Red Sox at the end of last season. As a member of Pawtucket in 2011, Fox has compiled a 4-2 record with a 3.61 ERA in 17 appearances (10 starts). He has excelled at McCoy Stadium this season, posting a 1.84 ERA in 8 appearances, striking out over a batter an inning.
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at 12:33 PM

Cameron designated for assignment, Navarro called up to Boston

According to Tom Caron of NESN, outfielder Mike Cameron has been designated for assignment. Multiple sources are indicating that Pawtucket infielder Yamaico Navarro has been called up to Boston.

Cameron, 38, had been a major disapointment during his tenure with the Red Sox, missing most of the 2010 season to injury and hitting just .219/.285/.352 with 7 home runs and 24 RBI in 81 games across two seasons.

Navarro, 23, was originally signed as an international free agent in 2005. He made his major league debut in 2010 for Boston, collecting 6 hits in 42 at-bats and appearing in 42 games. In 2011, Navarro has hit .258/.362/469 with 5 home runs and 13 RBI in 34 games for Triple-A Pawtucket while seeing time at all three outfield positions. Navarro provides the team with much needed flexibility as he is adept in the outfield as well as in the infield.
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at 10:00 AM

Q&A with Chih-Hsien Chiang

2011 has been a breakout year for Portland right fielder Chih-Hsien Chiang, culminating with his recent selection to the World team at this summer’s XM All-Star Futures Game in Arizona as part of Major League Baseball’s All-Star Week. Through June 29, Chiang leads the Eastern League with a .616 slugging percentage, an unbelievable 80 points higher than any other player. He is also second in the league in RBI with 50, fourth with 21 doubles, and tied for seventh with 13 home runs. At a recent game in Manchester, I got the chance to talk with Chiang, with the help of coach Mickey Jiang, who interpreted (thanks Mickey!), about adjusting to the United States, playing internationally, and his breakout season.

Chris Hatfield: Congratulations on being selected to the Futures Game. When did you find out, and how did it feel to be selected?
Chih-Hsien Chiang: Yesterday, our manager, Kevin Boles, pulled me into his office. I didn’t know what was going on. I was kind of nervous until they told me I’d been selected to the Futures Game for the World squad. I was so excited. I will treasure this opportunity.

CH: You’ve been hitting well, dating back to even last August. What has led to this stretch of success for you at the plate?
CC: I try to be more consistent, day in and day out with my routine, how I swing the bat in the cage, in BP, and put it into the game. If I do that, the numbers will come up. That’s the only thing I’m working on.

CH: Since you’ve been in the system, what changes have you made at the plate, dating back from, say, the Gulf Coast League to now?
CC: I think being more selective. I can recognize pitches better, and I try to get better and better each year. I don’t want to go backward. I think the hitting approach is what I have learned since the first year I was here.

CH: It’s your third season playing the outfield. At this point, how comfortable are you out there? What aspects do you feel you still need to work on, and what do you feel that you’ve more or less mastered at this point?
CC: When they first tried to convert me to play outfield, it was during (the Fall Instructional League). I had no clue how to play a decent outfield. So I started working with our outfield coordinator in Instructs, spring training, and even during the season when he’d come down, we’d talk. Che-Hsuan Lin is also a great help for me, because he plays outstanding defense out there. I’ve learned a lot from him. As for what I’m working on right now, of course I feel more comfortable year by year. Even though they moved me from left to right last year, I have no problems with fly balls and whatever. Things I’m working on, I’m trying to get better reads on balls over my head.

CH: You’ve had the opportunity to play in the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic for Taiwan. Can you describe the experience of getting to represent Taiwan in those two competitions?
CC: It was an exciting experience for me to play with so many talented players from different countries. That was a great experience. Watching them play, and playing against them, you can learn from them, which made me a better player.

CH: Adjusting to playing in the U.S., how difficult was that and what was the biggest thing you had to adjust to on the field?
CC: I’d say the weather is huge. My first year in the GCL, the weather compared to Portland in Double-A is totally different. Playing in the South Atlantic League and Carolina League, it’s totally different. The weather is colder and chilly up here, and I have to get myself loose, spend more time stretching, stuff like that. That is a big factor for me making the adjustment to playing here.

CH: In the system, you’ve been able to play with a few other Taiwanese players – you mentioned Che-Hsuan Lin, but there have been a few others as well (ed.'s note: e.g. Chih-Hsiang Huang and Wang-Yi Lin). Has that helped with adjusting to playing in the United States and your overall level of comfort?
CC: Of course, if we do have more players from the same place, who speak the same language, that’d be awesome, but I’m still working on communicating with my teammates better. Playing with players from my country, it’s a great experience, and we hang out off the field.

CH: You’ve always been pretty young for the level you were at, especially lower in the system. How has that affected you either on the field or off the field?
CC: It’s not a big difference playing with older guys. I take every level my first year there as a challenge. The more challenge I have, the more motivated I will be to overcome it. It’s fun to hang out with the older guys because I can learn from them.

CH: How often do you get to communicate with your family during the season?
CC: There’s no certain frequency that I call back home. If I have a good day, I want to share that with my family if possible. If I have a bad day, it’s okay, I don’t want to share those bad feelings. I feel more comfortable talking with my family when I have a good day.

CH: So if you’ve been talking to them on the good days, does that mean you’ve been talking to them a lot recently?
CC: (Laughs) Yeah!

CH: During the offseason, do you get to go back home to Taiwan, and for how long?
CC: I have four months off during the offseason. During the first month the organization just wants me to shut down and just rest. In the second month of the offseason, I start doing some light workouts, following our strength and conditioning program, and working out with some baseball players back home, trying to get in shape. Two months before spring training, I start to get back on track and get ready for spring training and compete.

CH: What do you like to do off the field in your spare time?
CC: I like to go sight-seeing, whether in Boston or Portland. I like to find good food, I’ll try anywhere.

CH: Any favorite spots since you’ve come to the U.S.?
CC: There’s no particular one, but I enjoy staying in different cities. Every year, I move to a different city, so I try to find the famous spots and get to know the city better. I enjoy this life.
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at 6:00 AM

Weiland dominantes Red Wings in masterful performance

6/30 Cup of Coffee: Every team except the Gulf Coast League was a winner on Wednesday, using different methods to defeat their opponents. Dominant pitching pushed Pawtucket, Salem, Greenville and Lowell to the winner’s circle while Portland used some ninth inning heroics to find the win column.

Backed by one of the most impressive minor league pitching outings of the year, Pawtucket plucked the Rochester Red Wings (MIN), 4-1. It was the Kyle Weiland show for the PawSox as he went 8.0 innings, allowing 1 unearned run on 1 hit while striking out 12 and walking none. Weiland held the Red Wings without a hit for the first 5.2 innings as he had Rochester off balance all night. Pawtucket got on the board in the fourth on a Luis Exposito RBI single, giving them a 1-0 lead. The Red Wings would tie the game in the sixth but Pawtucket responded quickly in the bottom half of the inning. Hector Luna’s solo home run, Daniel Nava’s bases loaded walk and Ryan Lavarnway’s bases loaded hit by pitch brought home the PawSox final three runs of the contest. Nava, Luna and Jose Iglesias each had two hits to lead the Pawtucket offense.

In a back-and-forth game, Portland walked off with a 4-3 win over the New Britain Rock Cats (MIN). Chris Balcom-Miller turned in a solid 6.1 inning performance, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 9. Blake Maxwell tossed 2.2 innings of scoreless relief, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out 4 to pick up the victory. With the game scoreless in the second, the Sea Dogs plated two runs on a Reynaldo Rodriguez RBI single and a run scoring double play. In the third, New Britain took advantage of a Tony Thomas error to tie the game at 2-2. In the fifth, Ryan Khoury laced an RBI single that brought home Mitch Dening to give Portland the 3-2 advantage. New Britain battled back to tie the game in the seventh as Maxwell entered the game and let up a costly double. The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the ninth when Alex Hassan led off the inning with a game winning walk off home run. Hassan was the clear leader of the Portland offense, going 2 for 3 with a home run, run scored, RBI and 2 walks on the day.

Salem used solid pitching and timely hitting to shutout the Wilmington Blue Rocks (KC), 2-0. Pete Ruiz was outstanding during his 7.0 innings pitched, allowing just 3 hits and a walk while striking out 5. Chris Martin picked up his first save after tossing 2.0 scoreless innings, allowing 2 hits and striking out a pair. Salem scored its lone runs of the contest in the fifth and the sixth, receiving an RBI single from Derrik Gibson and a solo home run from Bryce Brentz. Gibson was 3 for 3 with 2 doubles to lead the Red Sox offense.

Greenville had major contributions on offense and on the mound as they brushed aside the Asheville Tourists (COL), 9-1. Tyler Wilson picked up his first win as a member of the Drive, going 5.0 innings, allowing no runs on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 4. Juan Rodriguez added 2.0 innings of relief, allowing 1 run on 1 hit, striking out 2. Michael Olmsted also hurled 2.0 innings of relief, allowing 1 hit and striking out 4. The Drive wasted no time getting on the board in this one, plating two runs in the first on a Brandon Jacobs RBI double and a passed ball. Greenville opened up the game in the third, bringing home four more runs on an RBI double from Sean Coyle, RBI single from Drew Hedman, a Christian Vazquez RBI double and a wild pitch. In the fourth, Coyle laced another RBI double and Jacobs added an RBI single to extend the Greenville lead to 9-0. Coyle was the offensive leader for the Drive, going 3 for 5 with 2 doubles, 2 runs scored and 3 RBI.

After being swept by the Tri-City Valley Cats (HOU) last week, the Spinners exacted some revenge in a 3-2 victory. Raynel Velette tossed the first 5.0 innings for Lowell, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits and 3 walks, striking out 2. Nefi Ogando picked up the victory for his 3.0 dazzling innings of relief, allowing 1 hit and 2 walks while striking out 2. Michael McCarthy picked up his second save as he tossed a flawless ninth inning, striking out 2. Down 2-0 in the second, the Spinners cut the lead in half on a Matty Johnson RBI ground out. Lowell would tie the game in the fourth on a Drew Turocy RBI ground out. In the seventh, a key fielding error by the Valley Cats shortstop allowed Keury De La Cruz to score the eventual game winning run. De La Cruz led the Spinners offense by going 3 for 4 with a double and a run scored.

In a game where hits were at a premium, the GCL Red Sox were shutout 3-0 by the GCL Orioles (BAL). Raul Alcantara was magnificent on the mound, hurling 5.0 shutout innings for the Red Sox, allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk, striking out 2. Jadd Schmeltzer provided 3.0 innings of relief, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits to pick up the loss. The Orioles took advantage of errors by Schmeltzer and Dreily Guerrero in the sixth to plate two runs and added another run in the eighth to claim victory.

Player of the Night: Kyle Weiland, who tossed 8.0 innings, allowing an unearned run on 1 hit and no walks while striking out 12 in Pawtucket’s 4-1 victory over Rochester.
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June 29, 2011 at 3:32 PM

The Ladder: 6.29.11

3B Garin Cecchini

The Line: 34 plate appearances, .179/.343/.250, 4 strikeouts, 6 walks

The View: In his first season of professional baseball, the highly-talented Cecchini has looked like many young hitters adjusting to an elevated level of competition in the early going. Much of the initial focus for him will be on beginning to polish his raw tools and develop a feel for the strike zone. Possessing a fluid and sweet swing from the left-side of the plate, he shows the ability to produce solid backspin in his batting practice sessions and displays plus batspeed. Cecchini also has solid lower body mechanics and uses his hips well to create torque when driving the head of the bat through the hitting zone. The raw power is there for him to develop solid-average-to-better power as he physically matures and begins to fill out his frame in the coming seasons. The key early need for him to begin tapping into his offensive potential lies with the development of his approach and improvement with picking up the spin of the baseball out of opposing pitchers’ hands more quickly.

In the early season so far, Cecchini has been jumpy and fidgety in the box, backing out against breaking balls and lunging at fastballs. Not overly relaxed, and looking hyperactive during at-bats at times, the game has been moving quickly for him, and the first adjustment he needs to make is to slow things down. It is not uncommon for young players beginning their careers coming out of extended spring training to be eager to impress and get out of the gate fast. Cecchini has fallen into this category in his first eight games, similar to Portland third baseman Will Middlebrooks at the start of his career with Lowell. As Cecchini begins to settle in and relax, I expect his raw skills to start showing. While he will most likely be streaky during his early career, his production should begin to ramp up for him as the season gets going and his level of comfort grows. With more of a relaxed nature in the box, his weight will stay back and that will allow him to drive the ball. Less flinching against breaking balls will be a good sign that he is picking up the spin of the ball better. Cecchini’s time with Lowell this summer is, in essence, a professional break-in period – time to gain valuable experience heading into full-season baseball next season while working to bring improvements and changes from his practice sessions into game action.

RHP Alex Wilson

The Line: 79.2 innings, 65 hits, 72 strikeouts, 30 walks, 6 home runs allowed

The View: Breezing through the low minors after being drafted by the Red Sox organization in 2009, Wilson experienced a bump in the road upon being promoted to Double-A in the middle of the 2010 season. He was often hit hard, leaving his 91-93 MPH four-seam fastball in the middle of the plate and elevating it frequently, and was much more of a thrower than a pitcher in his first taste of the upper minors. It was clear he needed to sharpen his fastball command and learn how to work both sides of the plate with it to adjust to more advanced Eastern League hitters. This season, things have considerably turned around for Wilson, due largely to the sharpening of his feel for his fastball, along with the understanding that he needed to spot the pitch better. With the ability to work in the mid-90s when he reaches back, he has also learned to pick his spots to increase his velocity and not burn himself out early trying to live in those upper reaches. His delivery still has some max effort in it and can wear on him as he gets deeper into outings, but so far, he has done a much better job this year of pacing himself and focusing on executing his fastball, not lighting up the radar gun.

Wilson’s key secondary offering is his solid-average-to-better 81-84 MPH slider that shows hard bite out of the strike zone. When on, it can be a devastating out pitch, with right-handed hitters bailing towards third base and waving over the top of it. While his slider has looked the same, Wilson has done a much better job setting up the pitch via his improved fastball command and dedication to establishing his heater lower in the strike zone this season. If he can consistently throw his breaking ball in the upper reaches of its velocity, he will have a true plus pitch at his disposal. Wilson also has been trying to feature his changeup in his sequences this season, and recently has been throwing it more frequently in outings, but the pitch currently is below-average. With Wilson at 24 years of age and entering the first stages of becoming a finished product, the offering has fringe-average potential and does not project to be an impact pitch for him. With two plus-potential pitches for him to attack hitters with, Wilson looks to be fulfilling his projection as a relief arm at the major league level and can round into one that can work in high-leverage, late-inning situations as he gains experience down the road.

Trending Up

Returning to Double-A to start the 2011 season, right-handed starter Stephen Fife has fared much better in the Eastern League during the first half of the season. Especially sharp in his last 10 starts, Fife has noticeably improved on spotting his 88-91 MPH fastball down in the zone and on the corners early in counts. The pitch has some sink and downward finish, and when he is working in this portion of the strike zone, opposing hitters tend to pound the ball into the ground and produce weak contact. Able to occasionally dial up his fastball to 93 MPH, Fife has done a much better job mixing in attempts to elevate past hitters, while working ahead in more counts has helped him not be forced into coming into the middle of the plate in counts where hitters can sit on his fastball. Also working in a 76-79 MPH curveball and low-80s changeup, he has shown good command of both pitches and the sense of when to mix them into sequences … Hot in the month of April for the Greenville Drive, outfielder Brandon Jacobs has been able to make the necessary adjustments during the course of the season to continue getting solid wood on the ball. Posting an excellent .325/.398/.602 line in June, Jacobs has found a groove with his power stroke, launching 6 of his 10 home runs in the month. The former Auburn football recruit has worked hard in transforming his body to that of a baseball player, and the results show with a more lean body that has been much less restrictive for him than the physique he possessed last season with Lowell. Balls jump off of Jacobs’ bat to all fields with excellent backspin, and he has shown a fluid stroke and improving batting eye … After a slow April, Portland’s Chih-Hsien Chiang has been one of the system’s hottest hitters since. Clubbing 13 home runs in 60 games so far this season, Chiang has posted an Eastern League-leading .616 slugging percentage despite his early scuffles. Finishing off 2010 strong for the Sea Dogs, he returned to Double-A for the 2011 season and has been proving that his skills may be in line for a challenge at the next level at some point this summer. However, his work in right field could still use a good bit of polish, especially with the routes he takes on fly balls … Greenville catcher Christian Vazquez has experienced a power surge in his last 10 games, drilling 5 home runs and adding 3 doubles. Struggling in May, the 20 year old has picked it up this month, making much better overall contact and looking more fluid with his swing.

Trending Down

Placed in High-A to start the season, 2011 has been a struggle at the plate for shortstop Derrik Gibson, who owns a line of .202/.275/.283 in 70 games. After having a solid season in 2009 with the Lowell Spinners, offensive progression has been slow for Gibson since entering full-season baseball last year. An excellent athlete, and while his game centers on speed, physical development has lagged behind for him and his lack of strength has made it difficult for him to consistently drive balls. Possessing a compact stroke, Gibson’s swing drags through the hitting zone due to his lack of strength and he has trouble pulling balls with much authority because of it. He does show a solid batting eye and a patient approach, but opposing pitchers are able to take advantage of the fact that he does not drive balls well and consistently pound the zone against him, resulting in a lot of weak contact … On the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery, right-handed pitcher Junichi Tazawa is still trying to find the feel for his secondary offerings and has yet to see his velocity return to pre-surgery levels. Working 84-88 MPH with his fastball and lacking a sharp-biting curveball, Tazawa struggled in his return to Double-A, only lasting 0.2 innings while giving up 6 earned runs on 3 hits for Portland on June 27 … After a torrid start to the season with Greenville and tearing through the South Atlantic League prior to his promotion to Salem, right fielder Bryce Brentz is still adjusting to the step up in competition. Brentz has fanned 11 times and drawn just 1 walk in 12 games in Salem, showing a need to become more selective. He does not project as a player that is going to log high walk totals, but his lack of selectivity and discipline allows pitchers to dictate his at-bats. Brentz will often chase offerings off the plate, or swing at pitchers’ pitches in good hitting counts. The development of a more relaxed approach at the plate is a must for him to continue to produce enough solid contact for his power to play up ... Back in Lowell for a second go-around, outfielder Seth Schwindenhammer has struck out a whopping 24 times in his first 37 plate appearances. Schwindenhammer, who hits out of an open, left-handed stance, has looked overmatched against higher velocity fastballs and breaking balls diving into the dirt in the early going of Lowell’s season.
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at 1:33 PM

Five Sea Dogs named Eastern League All-Stars

Five members of the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs were named to the 2011 All-Star game which will take place on July 13 in Manchester, NH at Notheast Delta Dental Stadium.

Pitchers Stephen Fife and Alex Wilson will be joining infielder Will Middlebrooks and outfielders Chih-Hsien Chiang and Alex Hassan as members of the Eastern Division squad. Middlebooks and Chiang were also selected for the MLB Futures Game on July 10.

Fife, 24, was also an Eastern League All-Star in 2010. This season for Portland he has compiled a 8-3 record with a 3.28 ERA in 13 appearances (12 starts).

Wilson, 24, was a Carolina League All-Star as a member of the High-A Salem Red Sox last season. In 2011, Wilson has gone 6-4 with a 2.82 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 79.2 innings pitched.

Middlebrooks, currently on rehab with the Short-Season Lowell Spinners, has hit .294/.335/.478 with 8 home runs and 32 RBI this season for Portland.

Chiang, 23, is in the midst of a breakout season, his sixth as a professional. He is currently hitting .301/.357/.616 with 13 home runs, 21 doubles and 50 RBI in 60 games for the Sea Dogs. He is currently leading the Eastern League in OPS (.973) and second in RBI (50).

Hassan, 23, is also having a stellar first go around in Portland. This season in 72 games for the Sea Dogs, Hassan is hitting .323/.447/.933 with 20 doubles, 7 home runs and 41 RBI. He currently leads the Eastern League in OBP (.447) and walks (51), is second overall in OPS (.933), and fourth in batting average (.323).
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at 12:52 PM

Solid bullpen efforts lift Pawtucket and Salem to wins

6/29 Cup of Coffee: Only three of the seven Red Sox affiliates notched victories, but the Greenville Drive and the GCL Red Sox fell short by only a run.

The Pawtucket Red Sox were able to overcome an early five-run deficit to beat the Rochester Red Wings (MIN), 8-6, in the first game of the series. Major league veteran Kevin Millwood struggled in his 4.0 innings of work, yielding 9 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks, and striking out 6. The bullpen, on the other hand, was flawless. Jason Rice, Scott Atchison, and Randy Williams combined for 5.0 scoreless innings. Che-Hsuan Lin, Daniel Nava, Ryan Lavarnway, and Lars Anderson started off the fourth inning with consecutive singles en route to a key four-run inning. Lin, Nava, Anderson, Hector Luna, and Brent Dlugach each had two hits.

Kyle Fernandes yielded a first-pitch home run to Deibinson Romero to start the top of the ninth inning, technically in extra innings, as Portland fell to the New Britain Rock Cats (MIN), 2-1, in the first game of the teams' doubleheader. The late home run spoiled Sea Dogs ace Alex Wilson's excellent outing. Wilson scattered 5 hits over 5.2 innings and struck out 5 batters, though he struggled with his command as he also walked 5. The Sea Dogs scored their lone run in the bottom of the third on an RBI single from Alex Hassan to take a 1-0 lead, but the Rock Cats got one back in the sixth to chase Wilson and tie the game. Hassan and Mitch Dening each had two hits in the game.

The Sea Dogs came back with a vengeance in the nightcap, beating the Rock Cats, 12-5. In his first start since his rehab stint with the Lowell Spinners,
Michael Lee struggled, giving up 4 runs on 9 hits in 3.2 innings. Portland rallied for seven runs in the bottom of the sixth to break a 5-5 tie. Dening, Ryan Khoury, Chih-Hsien Chiang, Matt Spring, and Jonathan Hee each had extra base hits. Caleb Clay notched the victory, allowing one run on two hits and striking out three over 3.1 innings.

Salem's Tom Ebert, Jeremiah Bayer, and Will Latimer combined to shut out the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (TEX), 7-0. Ebert allowed only three baserunners over his 5.0 innings of work (1 hit, 1 walk, and 1 hit batter), and struck out 2 to get the win. Salem scored four runs in a wild bottom of the fifth inning in which a hit batter, a passed ball, and three errors contributed. David Mailman went 3-for-5, and Wilfred Pichardo had 2 RBI. In his Carolina League debut, first baseman Miles Head hit a double. Outfielder Pete Hissey left the game with an injured ankle.

The Greenville Drive scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to come within a run of the Asheville Tourists (COL) before falling, 8-7. Henry Ramos brought in the first two runs of the frame with a double, followed by a walk to
Xander Bogaerts. However, the rally, and game, ended when Bogaerts was thrown out trying to reach third on David Renfroe's single to center, which brought in Ramos. After giving up a two-run home run in the second, Drive starter Keith Couch retired 10 of the next 13 batters he faced before running into trouble in the sixth. Couch gave up 5 runs (3 earned) on 5 hits over 5.1 innings. He walked none and struck out 4. Greenville scored three runs in both the sixth and ninth innings, but ended up stranding a runner in scoring position in both innings. Brandon Jacobs, Renfroe, and Lucas LeBlanc each had multi-hit games.

The Lowell Spinners were only able to plate just one run in the game's first eight innings, bowing to the Vermont Lake Monsters (OAK), 7-3. The sole run before the Spinners brought in a pair i the ninth came on a home run from third baseman
Travis Shaw. Will Middlebrooks hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, his third home run in as many games on his rehab assignment. Lowell starter Hunter Cervenka's recent struggles continued, as he gave up 5 runs on 3 hits, walked 3, and failed to record a strikeout. Swen Huijer had considerably more success in relief, pitching 4.1 innings and allowing just an unearned run. He scattered four hits, walked three, and struck out two. An unlikely candidate to record the only scoreless line for the Spinners, outfielder Moko Moanaroa threw a scoreless ninth, allowing only 1 hit.

The GCL Red Sox lost a close one to the Rays in Port Charlotte, 4-3. Starter
Mario Alcantara allowed 2 unearned runs over 5.0 innings, yielding 4 hits, 3 walks, and striking out 2. The Rays broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the seventh, scoring on a fielder's choice and a wild pitch from John Killen, who took the loss. Despite going hitless, Kendrick Perkins and Jose Vinicio each had an RBI on a fielder's choice and a sacrifice fly, respectively. Jose Colorado went 2-3 with an RBI, and Matt Gedman scored two runs, while the Sox' five through nine hitters went 0-for-17 with a walk.

In the Dominican, the DSL Sox scored first on an RBI single from
Aneudis Peralta, but that would end up being their only run of the day as they lost to the A's, 7-1. Sully Bonnelly was unable to escape the second inning, allowing 2 runs in the first and 5 in the second on 4 hits and 3 walks. However, after the second inning, Oscar Melendez, Carlos Pinales, and Ellis Jimenez combined for 6.2 scoreless innings. Robert Del Rosario paced the Sox offense, going 2-for-5 with a double.

Player of the Day: Tom Ebert, who pitched 5.0 shutout innings, allowing only 3 baserunners, striking out two.
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June 28, 2011 at 6:42 PM

Players of the Week, June 20-26; Luis Bastardo and Christian Vazquez

A member of the Spinners bullpen and Greenville's starting catcher are this week's SoxProspects.com Pitcher and Player of the Week. The community overwhelmingly selected Christian Vazquez as last week's standout player, receiving over 91% of the vote. In a much closer battle, Luis Bastardo took home Pitcher of the Week accolades as he shut down the Vermont Lake Monsters (WAS) in two relief outings last week.

Bastardo, 21, is embarking on his fourth season as a member of the Red Sox organization after signing as an international free agent in the fall of 2007. In two outings last week against Vermont, Bastardo provided top notch relief, tossing 5.2 scoreless innings, allowing 1 hit and 2 walks while striking out 9. In 2010, Bastardo compiled a 3-2 record with a 3.43 ERA in 16 appearances while posting an impressive 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Vazquez, 20, is also in his fourth season as a professional. A former 9th round selection out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in 2008, Vazquez has spent the bulk of his time in the field behind the plate, also seeing some time at the hot corner. In the midst of the best season of his career, Vazquez annihilated South Atlantic League pitching last week, hitting .467/.500/1.333 with 4 home runs, 7 RBI and 5 runs scored. The scalding hot week at the plate for the 5'9" catcher allowed him to also take home South Atlantic League Player of the Week honors. In 2011, Vazquez is hitting .282/.362/.498 with 10 home runs, 10 doubles and 44 RBI in 58 games.
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at 10:06 AM

Osorio's dominant relief performance leads the DSL Sox to a win

6/28 Cup of Coffee: The affiliates continued to struggle on Monday, as they took just 3 of 7 games.

Pawtucket was outhit 9-4, but they weren’t outscored, as they beat Indianapolis (PIT), 4-1. Nate Spears went 1-3 with a home run and 2 RBI. Matt Sheely went 1-4 with 2 RBI, while Brent Dlugach went 2-3 with a walk. Tony Pena started for Pawtucket and improved to 6-3 on the season. Pena went 5 innings and allowed 5 hits and a run. He walked 1 and struck out 2. Hideki Okajima and Blake Maxwell had identical pitching lines in relief to close the door on the Indians: 2 innings, 2 hits, no runs and a strikeout.

Not often can you say a game is lost before you even step up to the plate, but that’s precisely what happened to Portland, as they got slaughtered by New Britain (MIN), 15-5. The Rock Cats put up 8 runs in the top of the 1st inning, 6 of which were given up by starter Junichi Tazawa. Tazawa gave up 3 hits and those 6 runs while recording just 2 outs before being yanked. He walked 2 and struck out 1. Leading the way offensively for Portland were Ryan Khoury (2-5, home run, 2 RBI), Tim Federowicz (2-4, solo home run, walk) and Chih-Hsien Chiang (1-2, solo home run, walk).

Salem lost a wild one to Myrtle Beach (ATL), 10-8. The Pelicans scored 5 runs in the top of the 6th, turning what had been a 2-1 deficit into a 6-2 lead. Salem answered with 5 runs of their own in the bottom of the 7th to retake the lead, before Myrtle Beach scored 4 in the top of the 8th. Salem could not answer again, and as a result, lost their 6th game in a row. Dan Butler led the charge, as he went 3-5 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI. David Mailman went 2-4 with 2 doubles, an RBI and a walk. Kolbrin Vitek went 2-5 with a double and 3 runs scored. Anthony Ranaudo started with 5 solid innings for Salem, but struggled in the fifth. The former LSU Tiger entered the 6th having given up only 1 run, but proceeded to give up 4 more and was pulled from the game after recording just 1 out in the frame. His final line was 5.1 innings, 6 hits and 5 earned runs. Ranaudo did not walk a batter and struck out 4.

Greenville lost a close one to Asheville (COL), 3-2. Xander Bogaerts continued to impress for the Drive, as he went 3-4 with a double and an RBI. Through 14 games for Greenville, the 18-year old is hitting .314 with 2 home runs, 9 RBI and a .924 OPS. David Renfroe also had a solid game, as he went 2-2 with 2 singles and 2 walks. Scott Swinson started and took the loss, despite pitching pretty well. Over 6 innings, Swinson scattered 5 hits and 2 runs. He did not walk a batter and struck out 2.

Lowell used the power of the long ball to beat Vermont (OAK), 4-2. The game was scoreless until the Spinners scored 1 in the 5th and 3 in the 6th. Will Middlebrooks went 1-3 with a home run and 2 RBI. The homer was Middlebrooks’ second in as many games for Lowell as he rehabs from injury. Travis Shaw went 1-3 with a solo shot in the 6th inning. Jason Garcia started and pitched 5 shutout innings to earn the win. He allowed 2 hits, walked 3 and did not strike out a batter. Miguel Pena made his professional debut for Lowell and allowed 2 hits and a run over 2 innings. He walked 1 and struck out 3.

The GCL Red Sox let one slip through their fingers on Monday, as they lost to the GCL Rays, 6-5. The Red Sox led 5-4 entering the 9th inning, but Andrew Jones blew the save. The score stayed at 5-5 until the 12th, when Yunior Ortega gave up the game-winning run. Roberto Reyes went 2-5 with a home run and 2 RBI in the losing effort. Jose Colorado went 2-5 with a double, a triple and 2 RBI. Matt Gedman went 3-5 with a double, an RBI and a walk. Dennys Reyes started the game in a rehab appearance. He pitched the 1st inning and allowed 2 hits and a run in the frame. He walked 1 and struck out 1. Sergio Gomez relieved Reyes and pitched 5 scoreless innings of 1 hit ball. He walked 3 and struck out 3.

The DSL Red Sox won a shortened game, defeating the DSL Pirates 5-2 in 5 innings. Deiner Lopez went 2-3 with a triple and 2 RBI. Also contributing in the win were Aly Gonzalez (1-2, RBI, walk) and David Sopilka (1-3, RBI). Francellis Montas started the game and lasted 2 innings. He allowed 3 hits and 2 runs, did not walk a batter and struck out 1. Edwin Osorio came on for the final 3 innings and was unhittable, literally. He did not allow a run or a hit, walked 1 and struck out 5.

Player of the Day: Edwin Osorio, who pitched 3 hitless innings in relief to secure the DSL Red Sox’ victory. He walked 1 and struck out 5.
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June 27, 2011 at 7:19 PM

Speier: Head promoted to Salem

According to WEEI.com's Alex Speier, the Red Sox have promoted first baseman Miles Head to High-A Salem.

A recent participant in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, Head ranked near the top of the circuit in many offensive categories. The 20-year-old led the league with 25 doubles and 61 runs, was second with a .338 batting average, 15 home runs and 89 hits, third with a .612 slugging percentage and 53 RBI, and was sixth with a .409 on-base percentage.

Head was named the Red Sox' top hitter in the 2010 Fall Instructional League. Selected in the 26th round of the 2009 draft out of high school in Georgia as a third baseman, Head moved to first base last summer with the Lowell Spinners.

A countermove will need to be made on Salem's roster to accommodate the promotion.
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at 10:58 AM

Khoury's return brings stability to Sea Dogs' lineup

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Sea Dogs fans not up on recent transactions may have been confused by a familiar face at the top of the Portland lineup over the past week. After being among the last players cut by the Red Sox in spring training, Ryan Khoury rejoined the organization on June 21, immediately stepping in as Portland’s starting shortstop and number two hitter. The Red Sox’ 12th-round pick in the 2006 draft has wasted no time making himself at home either, reaching base in all six games since he signed.

“He’s done a great job. He’s worked counts at the plate, seeing a lot of pitches. Defensively, he’s really strengthened the middle infield for us,” said Portland Manager Kevin Boles. “He’s made the plays. He’s a grinder, grinds out at-bats. He plays the game the right way. He’s a gamer. It’s good to have him back in our uniform.”

Khoury signed with the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League after being cut, a gig born out of a conversation with former Red Sox minor leaguer Zach Borowiak, now the bench/defense coach with the Grizzlies, while Khoury drove home from Ft. Myers.

“We talked about the release and everything,” Khoury said. “He just mentioned (the possibility of playing for the Grizzlies) to me, and I waited until the dust settled in about a week or two. The more I looked at it, it was just a good situation for me to go out to.”

Khoury dominated the Frontier League immediately. He reached base in all 26 games he played for the Grizzlies, recorded a hit in 23 games, and reached base at least twice 20 times. Needless to say, his .454 on-base percentage put him among the elite hitters in the league, ranking third-best. He hit .320 and slugged .524 while playing his trademark strong defense, leading Grizzlies manager Phil Warren to call Khoury “the best all around player we have ever seen” in the release on the Gateway website announcing Khoury’s return to the Red Sox.

Taking advantage of the opportunity to stay sharp at the plate should an opportunity back in affiliated ball arise, Khoury noticed that the indy leagues were not quite the same as what he was used to in professional baseball.

“It’s different,” he said. “It makes you appreciate the players and appreciate the way you get treated in affiliated ball. In Indy ball, they obviously don’t have a lot of money, so they try to skimp on things and save money.”

Meanwhile, an injury to Ryan Dent had left the Sea Dogs without a starting shortstop. Vlad Frias and Jon Hee had split time at short over 51 games, making 12 errors combined. However, the Sox decided to look outside the organization to fill Portland’s shortstop role, ultimately bringing a familiar face back into the fold.

“They told me what their need was. They wanted a guy to come in and play short, and they obviously knew me from the years past,” Khoury recalled of hearing from the Sox again. “It wasn’t a thing where they were just taking a shot on a guy, so they said they thought that I’d be perfect for what they needed and I was excited for the chance.”

In addition to his success at the plate, Khoury has solidified the team’s infield defense. Through six games, Khoury, who moved around the infield and even played a little outfield while first coming up through the minors, has 36 combined putouts and assists, to give him a range factor ((putouts + assists) / games played) of 6.00. Portland shortstops had a 4.27 range factor prior to Khoury’s signing, so in essence, he is making almost two more outs per game at that position than his predecessors.

In the end, Ryan Khoury’s return to the Sox is more than an old hand getting a reprieve from indy ball. For the Sea Dogs, who sport one of the minor leagues’ worst records at 25-47, it’s the addition of a player who can help bring some stability and provide an example for the club’s younger players both up the middle and at the top of the lineup.

“I always prided myself on being into the game both offensively and defensively the whole game, and just concentrating on doing whatever I can do to help the team,” Khoury said. “They had a need, so I came in and I’m trying to fill it for them the best I can.”
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at 9:00 AM

The Book: Chris Balcom-Miller

RHP Chris Balcom-Miller
Date: June 23, 2011
Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Age: 22

Outing: 5.0 innings, 6 hits, 4 strikeouts, 4 walks, 3 earned runs allowed

Fastball: Working to establish this offering in the outing, Balcom-Miller’s fastball displays excellent sink and inward run on the hands of right-handed batters, which is the key strength of the pitch. Throwing his heater 62 times out of 87 pitches, he heavily relied on this pitch to either set batters up or get them to weakly put the ball in play. Sitting 89-90 MPH and touching up to 92 MPH on occasion, the hard sinking action can create strong ground ball totals when Balcom-Miller is able to command the offering in the lower portion of the strike zone. It is the type of fastball that must stay out of the middle of the plate and elevated within the zone though, otherwise batters get good swings at it. Balcom-Miller had trouble commanding his heater in the outing, picking up 34 strikes with it and often seeing the pitch drop too quickly out of the strike zone for batters to offer. Of the 34 strikes he collected, 18 of them were via either foul balls or balls put into play, and he generally relies on opposing hitters putting the pitch into play. From what Balcom-Miller showed in this outing, his fastball is about an average offering, but at times, especially early in the performance, played up as a solid-average pitch that can create swings and misses when started a little bit above the knees.

Delivery: Balcom-Miller has a lot of moving parts to his delivery and does not create easy velocity when bringing the ball to home plate. Utilizing a higher leg kick out of the wind-up, he first drops his shoulder back and then has an “extend and stab” motion as he bring his arm up into its slot. Balcom-Miller also cocks his wrist behind his back and is shorter with his arm. While he is able to consistently repeat his delivery and lock into his release point, the excessive motion and effort in his delivery tired him out. Averaging 90 MPH in his first 30 pitches with his heater and showing good command as well, by pitch number 30 his average fastball velocity had dropped to 89 MPH and his command began to waver. After 60 pitches, that average velocity was down to 88 MPH and he struggled to spot the pitch, looking gassed on the mound.

Take: Recently promoted to Double-A and just making his 5th start with Portland, Balcom-Miller is still adjusting to the step up in competition and getting comfortable with his new challenge. Also possessing a changeup and slider, he mixed these into his outing after the first inning, throwing 15 and 10, respectively. Balcom-Miller’s changeup grades out as his best offering and works 80-83 MPH with drop down through the strike zone. Plus at times, this pitch is average-to-better and he is able to work it off of his fastball. Despite not having huge separation, there is enough change in speeds that when he is burying the changeup batters swing over the top of it and there is potential for it to consistently become solid-average-to-better as he continues to improve his feel. A work in process, Balcom-Miller’s slider is currently a below-average pitch and is on the slurvy side. Operating 80-82 MPH, the break isn’t overly tight and it tends to roll up to the plate, staying in the middle of the strike zone and lacking finish.

Still learning how to pitch and getting the feel for his arsenal, Balcom-Miller has enough projection with his stuff to continue improving it into his mid-20s and have two solid average-to-better offerings at his disposal. Given his delivery and the effort he expends in creating his velocity, it looks like his fastball is maxed out, but could add a tick as he continues to physically mature. With the solid movement he creates, improving his feel for the offering is a key need to enhance his command and help mitigate the average velocity of his fastball. Presently, Balcom-Miller’s heater can have a mind of its own and he runs into instances when he doesn’t have much of an idea where the pitch is going. His delivery also lends clues that he ultimately projects as a reliever at the major league level, where working in shorter stints will allow his stuff to play up the best. With a lot of work to go with his slider, improvement with this pitch will help Balcom-Miller not rely so much on opposing hitters putting the ball in play against him. If the pitch can make a huge jump, he could slot into the back of a rotation, but pushing his slider to average would give him a complimentary piece in a 6th/7th inning role in a big league bullpen. Now in the upper levels of the Red Sox organization, the near-term for Balcom-Miller should focus on continuing to sharpen his overall repertoire in the starting rotation and pushing him against advanced competition to improve his stuff, with the eye on him potentially working into the major league mix in the next two seasons.
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at 8:42 AM

Diaz' excellent outing leads Lowell to win

6/27 Cup of Coffee: The affiliates struggled on Sunday, losing 4 of 6 games.

Pawtucket faced a large early deficit, and their comeback attempt came up just short, as they lost to Indianapolis (PIT), 7-5. After 4 innings the PawSox were down 6-0. The team scored 5 runs later in the game, but it was not enough. Ryan Lavarnway went 2-4 with an RBI and a walk. Lavarnway is positively murdering the ball since being called up to Pawtucket. He’s hitting .356 with 3 home runs and 10 RBI. Che-Hsuan Lin went 2-5 with an RBI. Lars Anderson went 1-4 with 2 RBI, and Jose Iglesias went 3-4 with a double from the 9 hole in the order. Iglesias’ double was the only extra-base hit of the game for the team. Felix Doubront started for Pawtucket and took the loss. Doubront went 6 innings, allowing 7 hits and 6 runs (4 earned). He walked 2 and struck out 3. Michael Bowden came on in relief and allowed a run on 4 hits over 2 innings. Bowden did not walk a batter and struck out 3.

Portland could not produce much offense on Sunday, as they lost to New Hampshire (TOR), 7-3. The team faced an early 6-0 deficit like the PawSox, but did not come as close to capping off a comeback as their AAA affiliate. Besides a 5th inning that saw them score all 3 runs, the Sea Dogs managed just 1 hit in the entire game, a 3rd inning single off the bat of Oscar Tejeda. Tejeda went 1-2 with a walk. Ryan Khoury went 1-3 with an RBI. Brock Huntzinger started for Portland and struggled yet again. Huntzinger allowed 7 hits and 6 runs over 4 innings. He walked 2 and struck out 4. One begins to wonder if there is something wrong with Huntzinger, as he has given up an astounding 84 hits and 44 earned runs in 56.1 innings this season.

Salem had just 3 hits in their game, as they lost to Myrtle Beach (ATL), 4-1. The lone offense came from Kolbrin Vitek (2-4) and Bryce Brentz (1-4, solo home run). Ryan Pressly started for Salem and pitched decently, despite taking the loss. Pressly allowed 8 hits and 3 runs over 6 innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out 3. In his first appearance for Salem since June 5, Anatanaer Batista gave up 2 hits and 1 run in 2 innings of work. He had been out with an undisclosed injury.

Greenville exercised the demons of the higher affiliates, as they mashed Lexington, 9-5. The game was actually a lot closer than the score would indicate, as Greenville scored 7 of its 9 runs in the 8th inning while Lexington scored all 5 of its runs in the 8th and 9th innings. Leading the way for the drive was Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs went 2-5 with a home run and 4 RBI. Christian Vazquez went 2-4 with a solo homer and a walk. Xander Bogaerts went 1-5 with a solo home run as well. All 3 of the Drive’s homers were hit in the monster 8th inning. Also contributing for Greenville were Heiker Meneses (3-5, RBI) and Miles Head (2-5, 2 doubles and an RBI). Manny Rivera started for the Drive and pitched superbly en route to earning his 5th win of the season. Rivera pitched 7 scoreless innings and allowed 5 hits (4 of which were singles). He did not walk a batter and struck out 6.

Lowell benefited from great pitching, as they beat Vermont (OAK), 4-1. Will Middlebrooks, DH’ing for Lowell as part of a rehab assignment, went 1-2 with a home run, 2 RBI and a steal. Jose Garcia went 2-4 with a double, while Matty Johnson went 1-2 with a walk. Johnson is 10-19 so far in Lowell, with 3 walks and has only struck out once. Luis Diaz started for the Spinners and twirled 5 shutout innings. Diaz surrendered only 2 hits, did not walk a batter and struck out 5. Luis Bastardo went 3 shutout innings in relief and allowed just 1 hit. He walked 2 and struck out 4. Chris Huseby came on in the 9th, and lost the shutout. He gave up a hit and a run, while walking 1 and striking out 1, in 1 inning of work.

The DSL Red Sox had only 3 hits, and generally that’s not going to get the job done against a team that puts up 8 runs on you, as they lost to the DSL Dodgers, 8-3. Deiner Lopez went 1-3 with an RBI and a walk. Jair Bogaerts went 1-3 with 2 runs scored. Edwar Garcia started for the DSL Sox and took the loss, though he did not get much help from his defense. Garcia went 3 innings and allowed 5 hits and 4 runs, none of which were earned runs. He did not walk a batter and struck out 5.

Player of the Day: Luis Diaz, whose 5 shutout innings led Lowell to a victory over Vermont. Diaz allowed just 2 hits, did not walk a batter and struck out 5.
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June 26, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Vazquez in driver's seat as Greenville remains hot

6/26 Cup of Coffee: With a full slate of minor league action on Saturday, Pawtucket, Portland, Salem and Lowell each found itself on the losing end of their games. Greenville remained red hot while the GCL and DSL Red Sox pulled out victories in close games.

Despite outhitting their opponents 11-6, the PawSox were chopped by the Indianapolis Indians (CLE), 6-5. Matt Fox got the starting nod for Pawtucket, going 4.0 innings, allowing 4 runs on 5 hits and 5 walks. Jason Rice followed Fox out of the bullpen, tossing 3.0 innings, allowing 1 run on 1 hit and striking out 4. Franklin Morales threw a scoreless inning of relief while striking out 2. Randy Williams picked up the loss for his 0.1 innings of work, allowing the winning run to score in the bottom of the ninth, allowing 2 walks and striking out 1. The PawSox wasted no time getting on the board in this one, as the first four runners reached base. The team plated three runs on a Hector Luna RBI single, Ryan Lavarnway RBI ground out, and a Nate Spears sacrifice fly. Lavarnway struck again in his next at-bat in the third, smashing a solo home run to give Pawtucket a 4-0 lead. Unfortunately for the PawSox, the Indians came right back and plated four runs of their own in the bottom half of the third to tie the contest. Down 5-4 in the ninth, Luna drove home his second run of the game on an RBI single to tie the game 5-5. In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians were aided by a hit by pitch, two walks and a wild pitch as they scored the winning run without the benefit of a hit. Brent Dlugach was 3 for 4 to lead the PawSox offense.

Portland continued to have issues with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR) as they fell, 9-5. The rehabbing Bobby Jenks tossed a scoreless inning to start off the game, allowing 1 hit and striking out 1. Stephen Fife piggybacked Jenks, tossing 4.0 innings, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits and 5 walks, striking out 4. Eammon Portice relieved Fife and did not fare much better, tossing 3.0 innings, allowing 5 runs on 4 hits and a walk, striking out 1. Oscar Tejeda’s RBI single in the second gave the Sea Dogs an early 1-0 advantage. With the game tied in the fifth, Portland broke through for 4 runs on a Chih-Hsien Chiang grand slam. The 5-1 lead was quickly erased by the Fisher Cats, as they scored eight runs over the final three innings to move to 7-2 against the Sea Dogs this season.

In a game where offense was at a premium and pitching ruled the day, Salem was edged 2-1 by the Kinston Indians (CLE). Chris Hernandez was the tough luck loser, dropping to 5-5 after his 6.0 inning outing during which he allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and a walks, striking out 3. Will Latimer added 3.0 scoreless innings of relief, allowing 2 hits and a walk while striking out 5. The game’s only scoring action came in the fourth, as Kinston struck in the top half of the inning for the 2 and Salem in the bottom half for 1 on a James Kang bases loaded walk. Salem only mustered four hits, with Kang and Kolbrin Vitek collecting 2 each.

Greenville’s offense remained in high gear as they beat back the Lexington Legends (HOU), 5-2. With the victory, Greenville is 9-1 in its last ten games, outscoring their opponents 58-21. Miguel Celestino moved to 6-4 on the year after a stellar 6.0 inning performance in which he allowed 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk, striking out 2. With the game scoreless in the third, Heiker Meneses laced a two out RBI single to commence the contest’s scoring. Christian Vazquez added a two run home run in the fourth to give Greenville a 3-0 lead. Lexington broke through for their only two runs of the game in the fifth. David Renfroe roped an RBI double in the sixth to give the Drive some breathing room, 4-2. Vazquez added an RBI double in the eighth to bring home an insurance run and give Greenville a 5-2 advantage. Vazquez was once again the star for the Drive, going 3 for 4 with a double, a home run and 3 RBI and is now hitting .306/.348/.661 in the month of June.

The Spinners continued to struggle as they were swept by the Tri-City Valley Cats (HOU), 6-4. Madison Younginer took the mound for Lowell, going 3.0 innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks, striking out 3. Nefi Ogando picked up the loss, hurling 4.0 innings, allowing 3 runs (1 earned) on 4 hits, striking out 3. Michael McCarthy added an inning of relief, allowing 1 run on 1 hit and 1 walk, striking out 2. The Spinners offense got off to a quick start in this one, plating two runs in the first on bases loaded walks to Matty Johnson and Jayson Hernandez. A fielding error by the Tri-City second baseman in the second and a Joantoni Garcia RBI single in the third gave Lowell a 4-2 advantage after 3. The Valley Cats struck for 3 runs in the fourth to take a 5-4 lead and added an insurance run in the eighth to secure the 6-4 victory. Johnson was the offensive star for the Spinners, going 2 for 3 with a run scored, RBI and 2 stolen bases in the loss.

Solid bullpen work and some late offense pushed the GCL Red Sox to a 5-4 victory over the GCL Twins (MIN). Francisco Taveras received the start for the Red Sox, going 6.0 innings, allowing 4 runs on 6 hits while striking out 2. Renny Parthemore followed Taveras with an inning of scoreless relief, striking out 1. Michael Olmsted picked up his first professional victory since 2008 as he tossed 2.0 scoreless innings of relief, allowing a hit and a walk, striking out 2. In the fourth, the Red Sox struck first as Kendrick Perkins laced a two out, 2 RBI single to give the GCL squad a 2-0 lead. Down 4-2 in the seventh, the Red Sox would tie the game on a Nick Robinson RBI ground out and a Matthew Gedman RBI single. In the eighth, Robinson lofted a sacrifice fly to bring home what would turn out to be the winning run. Perkins was the leader of the GCL offense, going 3 for 4 with a run scored and 2 RBI.

A four run sixth inning gave the DSL Red Sox a 4-2 victory over the DSL Royals (KC). Jeffry Hernandez took the mound for the DSL squad, going 5.0 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks, striking out 2. Ricardo Betancourt picked up his fifth win of the early season by tossing 4.0 innings of relief, allowing just 2 hits and a walk while striking out 3. Down 2-0 in the sixth, the Red Sox offense got into gear by plating 4 runs on an RBI single by Robert Del Rosario, an Aly Gonzalez bases loaded walk and a 2 RBI single by Jair Bogaerts.

Player of the Night: Christian Vazquez, who went 3 for 4 with a double, home run, 2 runs scored and 3 RBI in Greenville’s 5-2 victory over Lexington.
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June 25, 2011 at 10:04 AM

Lin breaks out in PawSox victory

6/25 Cup of Coffee: The story was the same around the organization on Friday, as many affiliates had the lead early in games but were unable to hang on for victories.

Pawtucket brought its hitting shoes to the ballpark en route to a 13-2 victory over the Indianapolis Indians (PIT). Che-Hsuan Lin led the way for the PawSox with 5 RBI on the evening. Lin (2), Brent Dlugach, and Nate Spears all knocked in runs in the second to give Pawtucket a 4-0 lead. That was plenty for Kyle Weiland, who earned the win with 5.0 innings pitched, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits with 4 walks and 1 strikeout. After a run in the fifth, Pawtucket exploded for five more in the eighth. After quickly loading the bases, back-to-back walks to Luis Exposito and Dlugach plated two. Then, Lin unloaded the bags with a bases-clearing double. Hideki Okajima and Blake Maxwell tossed the final four innings. Okajima did not allow a hit in his 2.0 innings of work.

Portland took the lead early but could not hold on, falling to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR), 4-3. RBIs from Chih-Hsien Chiang and Jorge Padron in the first and second innings gave the Sea Dogs a 2-0 lead. Stolmy Pimentel gave them both back, finishing with just 3.0 innings pitched. He allowed 2 runs on 3 hits with a pair of both walks and strikeouts. After Caleb Clay allowed a run in the fifth, the Sea Dogs tied it again on an RBI groundout from Oscar Tejeda. The Fisher Cats scored again in the seventh and the Sea Dogs could not answer back.

Though both teams had eight hits, Salem was doubled up in the run column and lost to the Kinston Indians (CLE), 4-2. The teams traded runs in the first, with Salem's coming on a sacrifice fly by Daniel Butler. Kinston picked up another run off of Red Sox starter Pete Ruiz, who went just 2.2 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts. Salem tied the game at two in the seventh inning on Shannon Wilkerson's ninth home run of the season. The game remained tied until the ninth, when Kendal Volz gave up a pair of runs and was charged with the loss.

Greenville also had an early lead, but a late rally from the Lexington Legends (HOU) handed the Drive a 4-3 defeat in walkoff fashion. Greenville opened up the scoring with a pair of runs in the fourth on a two-run home run by Miles Head. Chris Martin pitched 6.0 innings of scoreless ball, allowing 3 hits and a walk with 4 strikeouts. He left with a 2-0 lead, but the Drive bullpen faltered after Tyler Lockwood gave up two runs in the eighth, and another two in the ninth. Greenville had just three hits on the game, coming from Head, Henry Ramos, and Sean Coyle.

In a game with a combined 20 runs and 28 hits, Lowell dropped a game to the Tri-City ValleyCats (HOU), 12-8. The Spinners scored seven runs in the first four innings, but the bats quieted down as the game went on. Garin Cecchini had his finest game as a professional, picking up his first four career RBIs in a 2 for 5 effort. Jose Garcia and Tim Roberson also added home runs for Lowell. Raynel Velette started and went 3.0 innings, giving up 4 runs on 7 hits and 1 walk with 3 strikeouts. The Spinners led 7-4, but gave up the next eight runs in unanswered fashion. i

The DSL Red Sox earned a victory over the DSL Yankees2 (NYY) by the score of 7-4. The Red Sox scored the first five runs of the game, with runs in the second, third, and fourth. Pedro Reyes earned his second win of the season with a 6.0 inning effort. He allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits. He also struck out 3 batters, walked 2, and dropped his ERA to 1.74 on the season. Alixon Suarez collected a pair of RBIs to give him 12 on the season. Jose Espitia pitched 0.2 innings in relief, while German Taveras tossed the final 2.1 innings for his first save of the season.

The GCL Red Sox did not fare as well as their Dominican counterparts, managing just one run on five hits in a 10-1 drubbing at the hands of the GCL Twins (MIN). The lone Red Sox run came long after the damage was done on an eighth inning solo home run by Oscar Perez. The Red Sox used five pitchers in the defeat; starter Jacob Dahlstrand was saddled with the loss. He went just 2.0 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits. He gave way to Brenden Shephard, who struggled in his 2.0 innings, yielding 4 runs (3 earned) on 5 hits. Jenell Hudson also gave up four runs, though none of them were earned. The Red Sox were done in by poor defense after being charged with six errors.

Player of the Night: Che-Hsuan Lin, who went 3 for 5 with 5 RBI in Pawtucket's 12-3 blowout of Indianapolis.
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at 12:55 AM

Pimentel taking baby steps to regaining form

MANCHESTER, N.H. – For a player ranked fifth in the SoxProspects.com preseason rankings, it would be tough for even the most positive fan to sugar-coat how the 2011 season has gone for Stolmy Pimentel. Entering his start on Friday night, the 21-year-old Dominican right-hander had managed to throw just 43.0 innings in 12 starts, an average of less than four innings per start, and compiled an 0-8 record with a 9.42 ERA. He had given up 63 hits and 17 walks, striking out just 27 batters. Pimentel is very young for the Eastern League – he was the fourth-youngest in the circuit at the start of the season – but even despite struggling with some inconsistency last season in the Carolina League at 20, any struggles he had were nothing like these.

His first six starts were not dissimilar to last year’s results – a good start here, a bad start next, a mediocre one to follow. However, things really seemed to unravel over a five-start stretch from May 14 to June 12. He completed five innings just once over that span, and failed to get out of the second inning three times. In 13.1 innings, he gave up 31 hits and 27 earned runs, and struck out just 7 batters. It seemed that the only way things could have gotten worse would have been if he completely lost his command, Rick Ankiel-style.

However, Friday night marked the second straight (relatively) encouraging outing from Pimentel in what appears to be a strategy to limit him to shorter outings for a time. He went 3.0 innings on a wet, cold night at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, battling through occasional location issues, giving up 2 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks and striking out a pair of hitters. It was a second step back from the abyss after going 2.0 innings in his last start, giving up a run on three hits. Pimentel worked with runners on for most of his outing – he threw from the stretch to 10 of the 15 batters he faced – but his manager, Kevin Boles, saw some positives.

“I saw some fastball command,” Boles said after earlier commenting that both Pimentel and Caleb Clay made good pitches with runners on to limit damage. “He was able to maintain his stuff from the stretch. He got around his breaking ball a little bit, but showed a feel for a changeup occasionally.”

Pimentel had a similar assessment, pointing out that he threw some good curves and some bad ones, and that he commanded his fastball and threw some good changeups. The curve, in particular, noticeably came and went over the course of the outing. At times, it broke 11-5 at about 78 MPH, like when he threw it for a swinging strikeout to end the first. At others, he got around it, making it look more slurvy, and at others still, it plain slipped out of his hand, leading to a hit batter on at least one occasion. Pimentel, for his part, refused to use the wet conditions caused by days of rain in New Hampshire as an excuse.

“No matter what the weather is, what the mound is, we’ve got to just get ready to play,” he said. “I’ve got to get ready to pitch, no matter what the weather is.”

Boles praised Pimentel’s upside after the game, emphasizing what the club still sees as a bright future. He also praised how Pimentel has handled his recent struggles.

“(The plan is to) just keep grinding it out,” he said. “This kid, his work ethic is tremendous. He has never panicked. He keeps going after it. He believes in himself and he trusts the process. There’s going to be some struggles along the road to the major leagues. This kid’s handled things very fine. And we’re excited about his progress.”

It may be easy to dismiss Boles’ praise as a manager simply backing up his player. But for his part, Pimentel is saying the right things as well.

“I’ve been working to have better command of the plate, not being behind in the count,” said Pimentel. “Everything’s been better. I’ve been trying to not think about what’s been going on and just think about the present. Every day, I get to the ballpark and work, be positive, and keep going, no matter what.”

Scouts do not seem to be scared off by Pimentel either. The general feeling amongst the radar gun crowd in the stands behind home plate was something akin to “he’s still just a kid.” The stuff was there too. Pimentel was in the low 90s with his fastball, touching 94 MPH. The second strikeout came on a filthy changeup at 82 mph that broke down and in on the right-handed hitter, completely falling off the table. There was also some very hard contact – outfield prospect Anthony Gose, who is actually six months younger than Pimentel and was acquired by the Blue Jays for Brett Wallace after he had gone to Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal, had his way with Portland pitchers and catchers all night, finishing a triple short of the cycle and stealing two bases. Still, one can see the upside that Boles, in his third season as Pimentel’s manager, raved about after the game.

“People are going to look at the numbers. That’s the easy target. But the fact is that this kid is physically maturing,” he said. “When we first saw him in Greenville, he was a little bit awkward, but now he’s growing into his body. He’s filling out nicely. He’s got a real nice frame. And you’ve got to keep in mind that he’s 21 years old. If he was to come out of the draft this year as a junior, where would he be? This kid’s ahead of the game.”
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June 24, 2011 at 5:05 PM

Red Sox ink three more draft picks

The Red Sox have announced the signing of three more 2011 draftees, right-handers Matty Ott, Braden Kapteyn and Joe Holtmeyer

Ott, 21, was drafted in the 13th round of the 2011 draft. He burst onto the college scene in 2009, serving as LSU's closer. Ott set a school record with 16 saves as a freshman but couldn't duplicate his success as a sophomore, posting a 6.38 ERA. After his disappointing performance in 2010, he was outstanding as a member of the Harwich Mariners in the Cape League, posting a 0.44 ERA and striking out 20 in 20.1 innings pitched. The successful rebound on the Cape led to a stellar junior season at LSU in 2011 as he compilied a 2.60 ERA with 6 saves and 27 strikeouts. Boston plans to keep Ott in a relief role as he transitions into the professional ranks.

Kapteyn, 21, was the Red Sox 15th round selection in this year's draft. He excelled at Kentucky as both a first baseman and a pitcher, with the mound set to be his destination as a professional. A teammate of Ott's with the Harwich Mariners last summer, Kapteyn cemented his future as a pitcher with a 0.64 ERA with 29 strikeouts and just 7 hits allowed in 29.1 innings pitched. In 2011, he appeared in 14 games on the mound, posting a 9.00 ERA with 2 saves and 27 strikeouts in 17.0 innings pitched. At the plate, Kapteyn hit .300 with a 6 home runs and a team leading 42 RBI.

Holtmeyer, 21, was selected with the Red Sox 22nd round pick in the draft. Playing for Division II University of Nebraska-Omaha, Holtmeyer put himself on the map with an impressive 2010 season, posting a 2.89 ERA with a Division II leading 152 strikeouts in 87.1 innings pitched. Playing alongside Ott and Kapteyn for Harwich last summer, Holtmeyer posted a 3.18 ERA in 39.2 innings pitched. In 2011, Holtmeyer was 8-2 with a 4.56 ERA in 12 starts, striking out 96 in 71.0 innings pitched.

All three hurlers are expected to report to Lowell and make their professional debuts as members of the Spinners.
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at 8:12 AM

Tales of Tommy John

At 24, Portland Sea Dogs pitcher Alex Wilson has not been in professional baseball long enough to be considered an elder statesman. But Wilson, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007, is more than willing to tell friends and teammates who need the same procedure exactly what they will be up against.

His words are not exactly encouraging, nor would they strike others who had the surgery as out of the ordinary. In fact, they are pretty simple.

“Hey, your life is going to stink for the next month,” Wilson tells them, without getting into the additional 11 months it typically takes to get back to game action. “It’s miserable.”

Check out the rest on ESPN Boston, by Jon Meoli
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