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July 31, 2011 at 4:18 PM

Red Sox acquire Erik Bedard in three-team deal

The Red Sox acquired left-hander Erik Bedard and Triple-A right-hander Josh Fields from the Seattle Mariners in a three-team, seven-player deal that also involves the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Red Sox sent catcher Tim Federowicz, pitcher Stephen Fife and pitcher Juan Rodriguez to the Dodgers for outfielder Trayvon Robinson. Boston then sent Robinson and outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang to Seattle for Bedard and Fields.

The deal, which was reported just after the 4:00 p.m. trade deadline, gives Boston starting pitching depth in the form of Bedard, who has pitched well when healthy over the past few seasons. In 16 starts this season, Bedard is 4-7 with a 3.45 ERA in 91.1 innings. Since being traded to Seattle after the 2007 season, Bedard has a 3.31 ERA with 241 strikeouts in 255.1 innings, but has missed significant time in each of the last four seasons, including all of 2010 while recovering from a 2009 labrum surgery, and part of this season with a knee injury.

Boston also acquired right-handed relieve Fields, a former first-round pick out of the University of Georgia. Fields has spent time with Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma this season in the Mariners organization, posting a 2.77 ERA in 20 appearances for Jackson before stumbling to a 6.23 ERA with Tacoma. The 20th overall selection in the 2008 draft after an All-American season as Georgia's closer as a senior, Fields, a Scott Boras client, did not sign with Seattle until February 2009. He scuffled with Double-A West Tennessee that year, perhaps in part due to rust from not facing live hitting in nearly a year, going 2-2 with a 6.48 ERA in 31 appearances, tallying 33.1 innings. He rebounded that fall in his first swing through the Arizona Fall League, being named to the Rising Stars game after posting a 1.64 ERA in 11.0 innings, allowing 6 hits and 6 walks while striking out 10. Last year, Fields was plagued by a forearm injury that limited him to 28.2 innings, again for West Tennessee. He again went to the Arizona Fall League to pick up some innings, and was named a Rising Star for the second time, although his numbers were not quite as good with a 3.09 ERA in 11.2 innings, over which he allowed 11 hits and 5 walks, striking out 8.

In the first part of the trade, Boston sent Federowicz, Fife, and Rodriguez to the Dodgers to acquire Triple-A outfielder Trayvon Robinson. Federowicz, considered one of the premier defensive catchers in the minor leagues, hit .274 with a .734 OPS in 89 games for the Sea Dogs. Fife, who was drafted in the third round out of Rice, was 11-4 with a 3.66 ERA in his second go-around in Double-A. Rodriguez, a right-handed flamethrower out of the Dominican Republic, has been lighting up radar guns across the South Atlantic League this season with his high-90s fastball. He has 88 strikeouts in 59 innings, but also posted a 2-4 record with a 5.19 ERA.

The Red Sox later flipped Robinson, who is batting .293 with 26 home runs and a .938 OPS in 100 games for Triple-A Albuquerque, and Chiang to Seattle for Bedard and Fields. Chiang emerged as one of the organization's best hitters in the 2011 season, earning a trip to the MLB Futures Game last month. In 87 games, Chiang leads the Sea Dogs with a .338 batting average and a 1.086 OPS. His 18 home runs and 78 RBI are tops among current Portland players. Signed as an international free agent out of Taiwan in 2005, Chiang moved to the outfield from second base after the 2008 season.

Not to be forgotten is that Federowicz, Fife, and Chiang were all due to be added to the 40-man roster after this season. The Red Sox were faced with a 40-man logjam this offseason, as described here, which could make those players more valuable to a team with more room to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason.
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at 8:39 AM

Harden-Anderson deal called off

According to multiple sources, the Rich Harden-Lars Anderson deal has fallen through due to concerns with Harden's medicals. More details to follow as they become available.
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at 6:00 AM

Bogaerts power display helps Greenville edge Charleston

7/31 Cup of Coffee: On a day which featured a prominent prospect rumored to be traded, Red Sox affiliates went 3-4 as a pair of Greenville players achieved career-firsts.

Pawtucket allowed a sixth-inning run that broke a 2-2 tie and handed the PawSox a 3-2 loss to the Louisville Bats (CIN). Kevin Millwood was charged with all 3 runs scored by the Bats, though he did strikeout 10 batters in his 5.2 innings pitched. Trailing 2-0 in the third, the PawSox tied the score thanks to an RBI single from Lars Anderson and a run-scoring groundout by Luis Exposito. After retiring the first two batters of the sixth on strikes, Millwood allowed three straight singles, the last of which brought home the eventual game-winning run. In the seventh, Anderson was removed for a pinch hitter, signaling that he might be involved in a trade. At this point, however, a deal involving Anderson going to the A's organization for pitcher Rich Harden appears to be on hold.

There was decidedly less off-the-field drama in Portland's contest with the Altoona Curve (PIT), but the Sea Dogs fared no better than their Triple-A counterpart, falling by a score of 5-1. After falling behind 1-0, Portland tied the score in the third on a Chih-Hsien Chiang RBI groundout. Altoona scored two more in the fourth off of Brock Huntizinger, who went on to allow 4 runs on 7 hits in 5.0+ innings of work. Caleb Clay took over for Huntzinger and gave up the Curve's fifth run of the game, though he did pitch a solid 3.2 innings out of the bullpen. Jeremy Hazelbaker stole his 20th base with Portland and now has 32 thefts on the season overall.

Salem scored all of its runs late but managed to come back for a 6-3 victory over the Lynchburg Hillcats (ATL). Starter Drake Britton gave up 3 runs and 6 hits in his 5.0-inning outing while striking out 3 and walking 2. The game remained 3-0 all the way until the eighth, when the Red Sox got to the Hillcats for four runs. Alex Valdez singled home the first run, then a two-run double by Peter Hissey tied the score. The next batter was Kolbrin Vitek, who knocked in a run of his own with a single to give Salem a 4-3 lead. Valdez provided some insurance in the ninth with a two-run blast to extend the lead to 6-3. Chris Martin earned the win in relief, pitching 4.0 shutout innings and allowed just 2 hits in the process.

Greenville withstood a late charge from the Charleston RiverDogs (NYY) and held on for 4-3 victory. After Brandon Workman allowed the game's first run in the top of the first, Christian Vazquez tied the score in the bottom half with an RBI single. Then in the fourth, Xander Bogaerts led off with a solo home run to give the Drive the lead. Bogaerts launched another solo shot in the sixth and Wilfred Pichardo hit an RBI triple to extend the Greenville lead to 4-1. Workman, meanwhile, had his longest outing as a professional, firing 7.0 innings with 1 run and 4 hits allowed with 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. The RiverDogs made it interesting in the ninth, scoring two runs off of Charle Rosario. But Rosario got out of the inning with the tying run on third for his fourth save of the season.

Lowell was tied in the ninth, but lost in walk-off fashion 3-2 to the State College Spikes (PIT). The Spinners took a 2-0 lead in the third on an RBI triple from Jose Garcia and a run-scoring single by Keury De La Cruz. De La Cruz has knocked in at least one run in each of the last five games, with eight RBIs in total in that span. He is also hitting .400/.462/.629 over his last 10 contests. Jason Garcia gave up two runs in the fifth, which was his final inning of work. In his 5.0 innings pitched, he allowed 2 runs on 4 hits while walking 3 and striking out 2. Hunter Cervenka came on in relief and did not allow a run until the bottom of the ninth, when he uncorked a wild pitch which allowed the winning run to come across and give the Spikes the victory.

The GCL Red Sox doubled up the GCL Twins (MIN) in both the run and hit column with a 4-2 victory. Francisco Taveras tossed 5.0 shutout innings to earn the win. He gave up just 2 hits while walking 1 and fanning 6 to move to 4-1 on the year. David Chester opened the scoring in the first with an RBI single, while a wild pitch and a passed ball gave the Red Sox two more runs in the fifth inning. The Twins picked up an unearned run off of Matt Kramer in the sixth, but the Red Sox regained their three-run lead in the seventh on another RBI from Chester, this time with a double. The 22 year old has knocked in seven runs in his last three games. The Twins scored once in the eighth, but the Red Sox held on for the win after Yunior Ortega pitched a 1-2-3 ninth.

In a game shortened by rain, the DSL Red Sox were defeated by the DSL Indians (CLE), 3-1 in seven innings. The lone Red Sox run came in the third inning after Andres Garcia scored on an error. Starting pitcher Sully Bonnelly was saddled with the loss after allowing 2 runs on 4 hits in 5.0 innins pitched. He also walked 4 and struck out 2. The Indians tacked on another run in the sixth off of Edwin Osorio before rain forced the game to be called.

Player of the Night: Xander Bogaerts, who had his first multi-home run game as a professional. Both were solo homers, as the 18 year old native of Aruba went 2 for 3 with a walk and 2 RBI in Salem's 4-3 win over Charleston.
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July 30, 2011 at 9:50 PM

Sox acquire Harden from A's for Anderson, PTBNL

The Boston Red Sox will acquire pitcher Rich Harden from Oakland in exchange for first baseman Lars Anderson and a player to be named later, in a deal to be made official on Sunday if Harden passes a physical.

Anderson was pulled for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning of Pawtucket's game Saturday night, fueling speculation he was involved in a trade. PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler confirmed that he received a call to pull Anderson from the contest during a postgame interview.

The oft-injured Harden is a veteran of nine major league seasons with the A's, Cubs, and Rangers. This season, he has made five starts since returning from a strained right shoulder on July 1, going 2-1 with a 4.30 ERA. The Sox may be looking favorably on Harden's last three starts - since shaking the rust off in his first two starts, he has gone 18.1 innings, giving up 12 hits and 8 walks while striking out 22 batters.

Anderson's present legacy in the Red Sox system is as the club's former number-one prospect who has not seemed to be able to reach his considerable promise, despite showing flashes. Anderson, who is originally from Oakland, peaked at number 19 on Baseball America's annuyal list of the top prospects in the game in 2009, also being named on that list in 2008 (40) and 2010 (87). This season, his struggles in Triple-A continued, as he hit .261/.362/.420 overall, but scuffled early before catching fire in July. This month, Anderson hit .296/.367/.571, hitting 6 of his 10 home runs and displaying some of the power that many projected him to develop during his greatest success in the lower parts of the minors.

Anderson's advanced plate approach has bordered on too passive, but always allowed him to post high walk totals and on-base percentages. He is at his best when driving the ball to the opposite field. While not a great first baseman defensively, Anderson worked hard to become about average at the position. He also gained a reputation as being one of the more intellectual players in the system, giving a number of interviews that strayed a bit off topic into things such as music and his annual cross-country drives back home at the end of the season.

In an interview following Pawtucket's game, Anderson kept his trademark sense of humor when asked about being pulled from the game. According to Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, Lars' response: "I don't know man. There are rumors I didn't like my walk-up music and took myself out of the game."
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at 5:39 PM

Red Sox sign picks Weems, Moore; others in camp

Multiple sources are reporting that the Red Sox have announced the signings of third-round pick Jordan Weems, a catcher, and 30th-round pick Nick Moore, who plays third base. In addition, SoxProspects.com sources say that the following draft picks have also reported to Fort Myers, and their signings could be announced soon: seventh-round pick left-handed pitcher Cody Kukuk, 10th-round pick outfielder Cody Koback, and 40th-round pick catcher Matt Martin.

Weems is a catcher out of Columbus High School in Georgia, and was ranked the 188th-best draft prospect by Baseball America. WEEI.com's Alex Speier reports that Weems received an over-slot deal to sign out of a commitment to Georgia State. Weems helped hit .443 with six home runs and 26 RBI in 39 games this year to help lead Columbus to a second-straight state championship. As a junior, the left-handed hitting Weems hit .403 with 6 doubles, and 12 RBI. He hit .357 as a sophomore. Weems' father, Rick, was an All-America catcher and was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1985 draft, and his older brother Chase was taken by the New York Yankees in 2007 and currently plays in the Cincinnati Reds organization.

Moore comes from a strong high school football program, also in Georgia, and also drew attention from schools as a defensive back. He was signed out of a commitment to Kennesaw State.
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at 3:27 PM

Red Sox acquire IF Aviles for UT Navarro, RP Volz

The Red Sox have acquired infielder Mike Aviles from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for utility infielder Yamaico Navarro and right-handed reliever Kendal Volz.

Aviles, 30, had been serving in a backup infielder role for the Royals, but had split his season between Kansas City, where he'd hit .222/.261/.395 in 53 games, and Triple-A Omaha, where he'd hit .307/.329/.586 in 35 games. Although he originally came up as a shortstop, he has seen most of his time at second and third base this year. He was perhaps acquired for his success against left-handed pitching, as the right-hand-hitting Aviles is hitting .309/.344/.600 against major league lefties this season and .296/.343/.464 against them for his career. However, it is noteworthy that Aviles recently expressed his displeasure with playing in a backup role to The Kansas City Star. Aviles was originally drafted in the seventh round of the 2003 draft by the Royals and finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2008. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009.

Navarro split his time between Boston and Pawtucket this season. The versatile Navarro, 23, can play second base, third base, shortstop, and both corner outfield positions. In 40 major league at-bats this season, he has hit .216/.275/.351, but in the minors he had hit to the tune of .258/.362/.469. He missed about five weeks earlier this season with a strained oblique and slumped terribly upon returning to the PawSox (5-for-43, .116/.208/.186), but was called up by the Sox on June 30 on the strength of his work earlier in the season and versatility. Navarro is solid defensively at the infield positions and is learning in the outfield, but can be prone to lapses in focus and effort. He can be a bit aggressive at the plate and can be prone to breaking balls, but has great balance and generates good bat speed. Navarro was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2005 for just $20,000. He received league all-star honors in the Dominican Summer League (2006), New York-Penn League (2007), and South Atlantic League (2008), and was named a SoxProspects.com All-Star by our readers at shortstop in 2008 and 2010.

Volz, a ninth-round draft pick out of Tulane in 2009, had been pitching out of the bullpen for High-A Salem. The big, 6'5" Texan had pitched 51.1 innings in 31 games, going 2-3 with 2 saves and a 3.33 ERA. Volz showed great control during his time in the system, striking out 150 hitters but walking just 26 in 167.2 innings. Volz gained his greatest notoriety as a draft prospect as the closer for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, which also featured top arms like Stephen Strasburg, Kyle Gibson, Mike Leake, and Mike Minor, allowing just 1 unearned run in 13 appearances. While a comparatively subpar year at Tulane as a junior dropped his draft stock some, the Sox gave him a $550,000 bonus to leave college early. Volz possesses a heavy 88-91 mph fastball, a 77-81 mph slider that he likes to use late in counts, and a low-80s changeup. The readership of SoxProspects.com voted Volz an all-star in 2010, when he went 6-5 as a starter for Low-A Greenville.
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at 6:00 AM

Jerez, Perkins combine for 7 RBI in GCL Red Sox victory

7/30 Cup of Coffee: Red Sox affiliates went 5-2 in a successful day around the organization as the non-waiver trade deadline draws closer and closer.

Pawtucket closed the gap to 2.0 games in the in the IL North with a 4-3 victory over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI). Lars Anderson opened the scoring in the first with an RBI single to make it 1-0 early. After the IronPigs tied it in the second, the PawSox got two runs in the fourth thanks to back-to back RBI doubles from Nate Spears and Luis Exposito. Once again, Lehigh Valley tied the score with two runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning. With the score once still tied 3-3 in the sixth, Jose Iglesias singled home a run for what would turn out to be the game-winning run. Starter Brandon Duckworth got the win and went 5.0 innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts. A combination of Royce Ring, Jason Rice, Tommy Hottovy, and Scott Atchison pitched the final 4.0 innings without giving up a run, and Pawtucket came away with the victory over the division-leading IronPigs.

Portland was also victorious last night, taking down the Altoona Curve (PIT) by a score of 6-2 in a rain-shortened affair. A Will Middlebrooks double scored two in the bottom of the first and gave the Sea Dogs the early lead. Portland tacked on another run after Mark Wagner led off the fourth with a solo home run. After the Curve got one back in the top of the fifth, the Sea Dogs broke it open with three more runs in the bottom half on RBIs from Chih-Hsien Chiang, Wagner, and Tim Federowicz. Altoona scored another run in the sixth, but the weather intervened after the inning and the game was called. Newly-signed knuckleballer Charlie Haeger made his first start for Portland and went the distance (albeit only 6.0 innings), allowing 2 runs on 7 hits with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts.

A six-run inning was not enough for Salem as they were defeated by the Lynchburg Hillcats (ATL), 8-7. Salem got on the board with a run in the first after Daniel Butler singled home a run. Stolmy Pimentel held the Hillcats scoreless over the first 4.0 innings but was removed after the fourth, giving up just 3 hits and 1 walk. He was replaced by Anatanaer Batista, who struggled in his 1.0 inning of work, giving up 5 runs (4 earned). But the Red Sox came right back in the sixth inning, plating six runs of their own. Shannon Wilkerson and Bryce Brentz both had RBI singles, and the big blow came off the bat of Butler, who smacked a three-run homer to left. With Salem now leading 7-5, Lynchburg came back to tie it in the bottom of the sixth with two runs off of Tom Ebert. Ebert was still on the mound in the eighth, when he allowed the decisive run in his third inning of work.

Greenville extended its winning streak to four games with a 4-1 victory over the Charleston RiverDogs. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the third, Greenville tied the game on an RBI single from Brandon Jacobs. In the sixth, Sean Coyle's 11th home run of the season gave the Drive a 2-1 lead. The insurance runs came in the eighth on RBIs from both Henry Ramos and Xander Bogaerts. Kyle Stroup got the start for Greenville, exiting after 4.2 innings pitched. He allowed 1 run on 3 hits, walking 1 batter and fanning 7. Tyler Lockwood earned the win with 2.1 innings of scoreless relief, while Michael Gleason his third save of the season with 2.0 shutout innings.

Lowell gave up runs in bunches against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (CLE), dropping its game by a score of 8-4. The contest was scoreless into the bottom of the fifth when the Scrappers got to Luis Diaz for four runs in the inning. Diaz left after 5.0 innings, yielding 4 runs on 4 hits with 1 strikeout. A two-run home run by Keury De La Cruz in the sixth cut the lead in half and the Spinners drew closer in the eighth after De La Cruz singled home another run. But Mahoning Valley scored four more times off of Kevin Brahney in the bottom half of the inning to put the game out of reach. Roberto Ramos knocked in a run with a single in the ninth to make it a four-run game, but that was as close as Lowell would get.

A slugfest broke out in the Gulf Coast League, with the GCL Red Sox getting the win over the GCL Twins (MIN), 15-9. Zachary Good did not make it out of the second, going just 1.2 innings and allowing 4 runs on 4 hits. Jacob Dahlstrand didn't fare much better, giving up 4 more runs in his 2.2 innings of work. The Twins were leading 7-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth, but the Red Sox came back to score seven of their own in the inning to tie the score. The first five batters of the inning reached base for the Red Sox for the first two runs. After a strikeout for the first out of the inning, back-to-back bases loaded walks gave them two more runs. David Chester hit a sacrifice fly for run number five, Kendrick Perkins hit his second single of the inning for the six run, and an error allowed Williams Jerez to score and tied the score 7-7. The Twins regained the lead in the fifth with a run, but the Red Sox took it right back, scoring four times in the bottom half. The big blow was a two-run triple by Jerez, with the other two runs coming on a wild pitch and an RBI single from Chester. The Red Sox also scored a pair of runs in both the seventh and eighth, and when the dust finally settled, they came away with the win. Jerez finished with 4 RBI, while Chester and Perkins both knocked in two on the game. Perkins also had a perfect 4-for-4 day at the plate.

In a marathon contest, the DSL Red Sox outlasted the DSL Brewers (MIL) 2-1 in 14 innings. David Sopilka knocked in a run in the bottom of the first with a sacrifice fly. From there the game remained scoreless all the way until the top of the ninth, when the Brewers tied the score. Starter Jonathan Aro pitched 6.0 scoreless innings, allowing 4 hits while striking out 3. After Jose Espitia allowed the game-tying run in the ninth, Ellis Jimenez came on for the last out of the inning. He went on to pitch brilliantly in extras, not allowing a hit in 4.1 innings of work. The game remained tied in the 14th, Leonel Vasquez pitched a scoreless inning, and Sopilka picked up his second RBI on a groundout to first, which allowed Ynoel Aguero to score the game-winning run.

Player of the Night: Williams Jerez, who fell a home run short of the cycle in a 3-for-4 game with 4 RBI and 3 runs scored in a 15-9 win for the GCL Red Sox.
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July 29, 2011 at 2:43 PM

Greenville Drive Notebook - July 2011

Bogaerts upbeat despite struggles

Though he’s come down to earth after a torrid start in affiliated baseball, shortstop Xander Bogaerts is far from discouraged by his first season with the Low Class-A Greenville Drive.

After he made the unprecedented jump from the Dominican Summer League to a full-season affiliate, Bogaerts has seen his numbers decline in July. Before going 3 for 5 with a double, a home run, and 3 RBI in Tuesday’s 11-4 win at Hagerstown, Bogaerts had just 1 hit in his last 8 games and saw his batting average plunge to .206. For the season, Bogaerts is batting .222 with 7 home runs, 21 RBI and a .750 OPS in 37 games.

Principally responsible for the drop-off is the difference in pitching he is now facing. Early on, he feasted on fastballs—he estimated that all but one of his home runs came on heaters—just as he did in the Dominican Republic and Extended Spring Training, where pitchers rarely throw breaking balls. Now, opposing pitchers attack him with off-speed pitches.

“Here, you have cutters, sliders, and curveballs,” Bogaerts said. “They mix it in very well. I’ve been striking out a lot. I’m not used to that.”

Unfortuantely, there’s no quick way to improve pitch-recognition, an aspect of his game that Bogaerts rarely had to work on to this point. But getting at-bats every day at such a high level will certainly help.

“His age tells us that he needs repetition after repetition,” manager Billy McMillon said. “He’s one of the youngest guys in the league. He’s been playing solid defense and offensively, we’ve seen the power and we’ve seen him, at times, hit the ball for average. He’s got to use this experience and build upon it and get better.”

Despite the results, little doubt exists that Bogaerts is in over his head.

“We thought that he was going to be competitive in this league, and he’s shown that he’s competitive,” hitting coach Luis Lopez said. “We don’t care about their batting average; we care about their daily routine and how they approach the game. This organization would not send someone to a league to fail.”

In the approach and daily routine category, Bogaerts earns high marks. In triple-digit heat before Sunday’s regular pre-game warmups, Bogaerts and teammate Henry Ramos were doing extra conditioning in the outfield. And even when he isn’t in the lineup, Bogaerts is involved in the game. On a scheduled day off Saturday, Bogaerts sat next to Lopez and asked questions for the entire game—to the point that the hitting coach had to ask him to stop so he could chart the game properly.

“It’s fun to have kids like that because you see the hunger,” Lopez said. “They’re humble, and they want to learn. That’s something you don’t teach. This is what they live for.”

Consistency key in Jacobs’ first full season

In a season that has seen Greenville’s other top performers promoted to High-A Salem, outfielder Brandon Jacobs has spent the entire season with Greenville, where all the athletic outfielder has done is hit on a night-in, night-out basis. Jacobs is batting .323 with 14 home runs, 63 RBI and a .935 OPS in 86 games, and he hasn’t gone more than two games in a row without a hit.

“He’s been very consistent,” McMillon said. “I think that’s the key to his season this year. From day one, he’s been solid offensively and defensively. I see a lot of upside to him. Is he ready now? No, but if he can iron out some things and improve on that consistency, he has a chance to be a major league player for a long time.”

Lopez said that consistency comes from Jacobs’ ability to not give away at-bats, as well as the player’s penchant for finishing bad days at the plate strongly and stopping the negative momentum before it builds up.

The preparation for his first full season began in the winter, when Jacobs worked hard to transform his football body into a baseball body. Instead of trying to get bigger, Jacobs worked to tone his body, doing lighter lifts with more reps than the power lifts required for football players.

He carried his work ethic into spring training, where he took advantage of all the hitting instructors and hit every morning with Lopez. There, he saw more advanced players putting in extra work, just as he was.

“Some of the guys in there [that early], [Will] Middlebrooks, [Ryan] Kalish, [Chih-Hsien] Chiang, [Che-Hsuan] Lin—that’s a lot of good hitters, and they were putting in the extra work too,” Jacobs said. “That’s something I’ve done all my life, to try to get that advantage.”

While he admitted to wearing down at the tail end of a long season, Jacobs said the work he did prepared him well for the 142-game season, and that the only change to his routine this coming offseason will be in the interest of adding speed. His 26 stolen bases are second on the team this season, but he feels he could do better.

“In my early high school years, base stealing was something I was heavily into,” Jacobs said. “In ninth grade, I might have had 30 steals in a full season, which was 60 games. I want to get back to that.”

Coyle fighting to find a groove

In a debut campaign marred by bad luck on the field, second baseman Sean Coyle isn’t letting his batting average or anything else take away from his outlook on the season.

“Numbers only tell so much of the story,” Coyle said. “I’m learning a lot. Of course, I’d rather be hitting .300 than whatever it is I’m hitting, but this is a struggle that I’m learning so much from. I’m not glad to be struggling, but it’s something that will really help me in the long run.”

Coyle, who has posted a line of .241/.357/.470 with 10 home runs and 40 RBI this season, looks to be putting some of those lessons into use as the Drive enter the final month of the season. In his last nine games, Coyle is batting .375 with 3 homers and 7 RBI. He’s shown signs of turning around before—most notably a 17-game stretch between April 21 and May 12 in which he hit .299 and raised his average from .121 to .240—only to have his progress derailed by injury.

“At the beginning of the season, things were kind of coming together at the plate, then I strained my shoulder diving for a ball.” Coyle said. “I came back from maybe a week, and then I got hit in the face. It’s been tough to get things going then be on the DL, then come back, but that’s something you just have to deal with. I’m learning from it.”

Coyle is also working to refine the approach that earned him so much praise coming out of high school. His 71 strikeouts in 72 games aren’t indicative of a player with an advanced approach, but Lopez said Coyle embodies the organization’s philosophy of being “selectively aggressive” at the plate.

“My dad would always preach, ‘Don’t swing at his pitch, swing at yours,’ " Coyle said. “When you’re swinging at strikes, you’re going to be in a pretty good place. Sometimes, you’re going to swing at a pitch you know you can handle and you’re not going to get all of it, or you’re not going to put a perfect swing on it, but the more piches that you swing at that are in the zone and you know you can handle, the better success rate you’re going to have.”

This approach—looking for pitches that he can drive—could account for the curious splits Coyle has put up this season. With 10 home runs, 19 doubles, and 6 triples, over half of Coyle’s 63 hits have gone for extra bases this season.

“I think it’s just a matter of hitting balls that I know I can drive, and the balls that I’m not hitting as hard just aren’t falling. It’s an odd stat, but I don’t know how else to explain it.”

Dominguez, Kang give new meaning to “riding the bus”

While the headlines are made when highly touted teammates make the trip from Greenville to Salem or Salem to Portland, infielders Drew Dominguez and James Kang have been making the same trips all season without fanfare—and with little complaint from either.

Given the organizational lack of depth in the infield, Kang and Dominguez are frequently called upon to fill in at other levels, picking up at a moments notice.

Kang has played 5 games for Triple-A Pawtucket, 14 with Salem, and 13 with Greenville this season. Dominguez has played 19 with Greenville and 1 with Double-A Portland, though he’s spent time on the Salem roster as well.

Dominguez, who became the first Wesleyan University player to sign with a major-league team in 44 years when he signed as an undrafted free-agent after the 2009 draft, is grateful for the opportunity to be playing baseball at all. He plans to attend law school, but for now, is enjoying the ride—every last one of them.

In one whirlwind stretch in June, Dominguez moved five times in ten days. He joined Portland on June 11 from Greenville, and returned to the Drive on June 13. On July 15, he was assigned to Salem. He traveled from Kinston to Potomac with Salem, who then sent him to Portland on June 18. On June 20, he rejoined the Drive, where he’s been comfortably playing ever since.

Both players have had to deal with their belongings being scattered along the east coast. As soon as things arrive in one place, they’re frequently on the move to another—if they arrive at all.

Dominguez’ baseball gear didn’t make it to Akron, where he played his only Double-A game on June 18.

“There was a mix-up in Potomac, but the guys up there in Portland were really good to me,” Dominguez said. “I used [Ryan] Dent’s glove, [Oscar] Tejeda’s bats, [Matt] Spring’s batting gloves, and Paul [Buccheit] the trainer’s contacts. They even lost my contacts. It was unique, but he had the same prescription as I do, so it all kind of worked out.”

Couch controlling SAL hitters

Since taking over Anthony Ranaudo’s spot in the starting rotation, right-hander Keith Couch has quietly been the Drive’s most consistent starter. After allowing 6 runs in his first start against the Bryce Harper-led Hagerstown Suns, Couch has gone at least 5.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs or less in each of his 10 starts. As a starter, Couch has a 3.22 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 6 walks in 54.1 innings He has walked only 11 total batters on the season in 99.0 innings.
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at 10:16 AM

Futures at Fenway

There are still great tickets available for the Futures at Fenway event this year. This is a fantastic, affordable event - I have been every year and have always had a blast. Here's the info from the Red Sox press release -- you can purchase tickets at www.redsox.com/futures.

Mark your calendar! The Boston Red Sox will proudly host the sixth annual Futures at Fenway, presented by Xfinity, Minor League doubleheader at Fenway Park on Saturday, August 20.

"America's Most Beloved Ballpark" will once again play host to the fun and excitement of Minor League Baseball. Beginning at 1:05 p.m., game one will feature the Red Sox AA affiliate Portland Sea Dogs taking on the Binghamton Mets from the New York Mets organization. The second game will showcase the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox battling the Syracuse Chiefs, an affiliate from the Washington Nationals organization.

The afternoon of baseball will allow fans to enjoy moderate ticket prices, discounted concessions, and a fun-filled family atmosphere. Children in attendance will have the chance to take part in various activities throughout the day. From on-field promotions to autograph sessions with the stars from both games, fans will be a part of the action.

Family-friendly ticket prices start at just $5. Tickets for this one-of-a-kind event are on sale now. Fans with disabilities may call (877) REDSOX-9 to purchase accessible seating (while supplies last). The Red Sox' TTY number for hearing-impaired fans is (617) 226-6644.

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at 6:00 AM

Pressly tosses five no-hit innings in hard-luck no decision

7/29 Cup of Coffee: Salem got five no-hit innings from its starter on Thursday, while both Greenville and Lowell had offensive explosions in victories.

Pawtucket broke a deadlock with a run in the eighth and held on for a 2-1 victory over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI). Matt Fox allowed 1 run on just 2 hits over 6.0+ innings, though he did walk 5 with 4 strikeouts. A single from Che-Hsuan Lin in the second gave the PawSox the early lead. They held that advantage until the seventh when the IronPigs tied it up. Pawtucket didn't wait around to regain the lead, however, as the very next half-inning a wild pitch allowed Lars Anderson to score and give the PawSox a 2-1 lead. Scott Atchison earned the win after replacing Fox in the seventh. He was replaced by Hideki Okajima, who pitched a scoreless eighth, and Michael Bowden shut the door in the ninth for his 13th save.

Portland's game featured a battle of the bullpens, but it was the Altoona Curve (PIT) who came out on top, 7-4. After the Curve opened the scoring with a run in the top of the second, the Sea Dogs came back with two in the bottom half thanks to RBI singles from Oscar Tejeda and Heiker Meneses. The teams traded runs in the third, with Portland's coming on a throwing error allowing Alex Hassan to score. Starter Michael Lee allowed his third run of the game in the fifth, he was replaced after 4.1 innings pitched. He allowed the 3 runs on 8 hits while striking out 5. Eamonn Portice was called on to replace Fox, but he allowed 4 runs in his 2.2 innings of work. Portland scored a run in the eighth after the damage was done after a double play plated Hassan from third. The outfielder had the only two-hit game for the Sea Dogs, with a pair of doubles and two runs scored, as well.

Salem led its game for the majority of the contest, but late runs from the Frederick Keys (BAL) toppled the Red Sox, 3-2. Ryan Pressly did not allow a hit in his outing, going 5.0 innings and striking out 5, but walked 4 and was removed before the sixth. Salem's two runs came in the fourth on back-to-back RBI singles from Vladimir Frias and Shannon Wilkerson. With the lead still in tact in the seventh, Pete Ruiz allowed two in the frame and one more in the eighth, and the Keys escaped with the victory.

Greenville trailed 6-0, but powered back to outslug the Charleston RiverDogs, 13-8. Miguel Celestino spotted the RiverDogs a six-run lead in his 4.0 innings of work, allowing 8 hits and 1 walk with 6 strikeouts. But the Drive scored three runs apiece in each of the next four innings to come back and take the lead. Christian Vazquez and Michael Almanzar each had three-RBI games while Brandon Jacobs knocked in four of his own. With the lead in hand, Michael Olmsted and Justin Erasmus combined for three scoreless innings of relief to seal the win.

Lowell featured another high-powered offensive attack as they took down the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (CLE), 10-7. The Spinners jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first after Travis Shaw singled in a run, Jayson Hernandez plated a pair with a single of his own, and Drew Turocy picked up an RBI on a groundout. Madison Younginer gave the lead back, though, allowing 5 runs on 7 hits in 4.2 innings of work. The Scrappers held the 5-4 lead into the eighth, when Lowell took the lead with a three-run inning thanks to a sacrifice fly by Turocy and a two-run single from Keury De La Cruz. Lowell picked up three more insurance runs in the ninth, which would come in handy after Luis Bastardo (who earned the win) gave up two runs in the bottom of the inning.

The GCL Red Sox took part in a wild one--though the score doesn't reflect it--but ended up falling to the GCL Orioles, 8-3 in 11 innings. Raul Alcantara allowed his only run of the game in the first, but settled down and held the Orioles to just the 1 run and 5 hits over 6.0 innings. Trailing 1-0 in the second, the Red Sox tied it on an RBI groundout by Jose Vinicio. Then, they took the lead in the fourth on a Matthew Gedman RBI single. After the Orioles tied it again in the seventh, the teams remained deadlocked through nine. The Orioles took the lead with a run in the 10th, but the Red Sox knotted the score once more on a solo blast from Gedman. The teams went to the 11th, but the Orioles broke it open with five runs and came away with the win.

The DSL Red Sox were off last night, but resume action today with a 10:30 a.m. contest against the DSL Brewers (MIL).

Player of the Night: Ryan Pressly, who tossed 5.0 innings of no-hit ball and left with the no-hitter and lead in the sixth, though Salem was unable to hang on for the victory.
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July 28, 2011 at 8:36 AM

Dent, Middlebrooks go deep in Sea Dogs victory over Binghamton

7/29 Cup of Coffee: The pitching was outstanding throughout the organization on Wednesday, as opponents combined for just 14 runs over six different games. The offenses did not follow suit, however, as the affiliates went 3-3 on the day.

Pawtucket was done in by allowing a crooked number early, dropping one to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI), 4-1. Back in Triple-A, Kyle Weiland allowed three runs in the second, and finished his day with those 3 runs allowed on 2 hits in 4.0 innings pitched. He struggled with his command, however, walking 5 in his outing while striking out 3. In the seventh, the IronPigs tacked on a run against Clevelan Santeliz. The only PawSox run came courtesy of Lars Anderson, who delivered a solo home run in the fourth, his 10th of the season. The PawSox offense managed just three hits in the game, as the team dropped its third straight.

Portland, meanwhile, scored the first five runs of the game to take down the Binghamton Mets (NYM) 5-2. Ryan Dent opened the scoring with a second-inning two-run home run to give the Sea Dogs an early 2-0 lead. Ryan Khoury singled a run home in the fifth, and two more came around in the sixth thanks to a Will Middlebrooks solo homer and a wild pitch to score Mark Wagner. On the mound, Stephen Fife held the B-Mets scoreless over his 6.0 innings of work, allowing 5 hits and 3 walks while striking out 3. Binghamton did get two runs off of Charle Rosario, but Portland held on for the win.

Salem used a run in the ninth inning to propel itself to a 2-1 victory over the Frederick Keys (BAL). It was Frederick that took the lead first, however, scoring its only run of the game off of Chris Hernandez in the fourth. Hernandez went 4.2 innings and allowed 1 run on 6 hits while walking 4 and striking out 4. He gave way to Jeremiah Bayer, who not only kept the Red Sox in the game, he went on to earn the win thanks to 3.1 innings of one-hit ball. In the sixth inning, Peter Hissey tied the game at 1 with an RBI double. With the game still knotted up in the ninth, a two-out RBI single by Daniel Butler gave Salem the 2-1 lead. Kendal Volz pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save of the season.

Greenville had the night off, but the team returns home for a four-game set with the Charleston River Dogs (NYY) tonight.

Lowell yielded single runs in each of the first five innings and dropped its game with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (CLE), 5-3. Three of those runs were charged to Raynel Velette, who pitched the first 3.0 innings allowing 3 hits and 4 walks while striking out 4. Nefi Ogando replaced his Dominican countryman and gave up the other two. Lowell got in the board in the third thanks to an error which allowed Jayson Hernandez to score. Then in the fourth, Seth Schwindenhammer led off with a home run to give the Spinners another run. Trailing 5-2 in the ninth, a Keury De La Cruz groundout gave Lowell one more run, but that was all the would get in both the inning and the game.

Though outhitting its opponent 7-5, the GCL Red Sox fell to the GCL Orioles (BAL) by a score of 2-1. Adalberto Ibarra gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on an RBI single, but that was the only run the team would score all game. The Orioles tied it in the second, then took the lead in the third, and that was that. Both teams had its chances, but were held off the scoreboard for the remainder of the game. Mario Alcantara was saddled with the loss after allowing 2 runs on 4 hits in 5.0 innings of work. He also walked 2 and struck out 1.

The offense was even more scarce in the DSL Red Sox contest, but the Red Sox came away with the 2-0 win over the DSL Rays (TB). Two pitchers combined for the shutout, including a 5.0 inning, 8 strikeout performance by starter Edwar Garcia. The right hander gave up 3 hits and did not walk a batter. Oscar Melendez also pitched well, tossing the final 4.0 innings and giving up 3 hits with 1 walk sprinkled in. A fourth-inning double by David Sopilka gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead while the insurance run came in the eighth on a Jair Bogaerts sacrifice fly.

Player of the Night: Jeremiah Bayer, whose stellar relief outing helped Salem to a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Frederick. The right hander allowed just 1 hit in his 3.1 innings of relief work and struck out 2 to earn the win and move to 6-2 on the season.
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July 27, 2011 at 1:50 PM

Red Sox trade chips

With the trade deadline just a few days away, I’m consistently asked what prospects the Red Sox may be willing to give up in a trade. The short answer is that no prospect in the Sox system appears untouchable, but there are undoubtedly several prospects that Theo Epstein will not part with without getting a proven impact major league player in return. While Epstein could surprise us with such a major move, it appears more likely that Boston is in the market for a couple role players to bolster its current roster at the deadline -- perhaps a right-handed hitting outfielder and/or a lefty reliever. Here’s a list of prospects Boston has to offer in trades, broken down into six categories.

Check out the full column on ESPN Boston
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at 11:56 AM

The Ladder: 7.27.11

OF Bryce Brentz

The Line: Salem- 35 games .276/.329/.582

The View: Brentz proved his skills were ready to be tested further after tearing up the South Atlantic League and received a promotion to High-A on May 21. Feasting on inexperienced pitching and picking on a lot of mistake fastballs prior to joining Salem, the main adjustment for him in the Carolina League has been to continue his work reeling in his aggressive approach at the plate. Brentz has a tendency to chase elevated fastballs and hard breaking balls away in the dirt, especially expanding his strike zone too much in hitter’s counts. While he has assimilated well and continued his solid power production, there is going to come a point when he is going to have to become more disciplined at the plate or he will consistently get himself out. The signs point to that challenge coming when he reaches Double-A.

Through experience and maturation Brentz should develop his approach enough to allow his natural tools to do the rest. Generating excellent batspeed through the hitting zone, his raw power is plus-to-better and projects to produce 20-25 home runs at the major league level with continued honing of his offensive game. Brentz’s hit tool is good enough to project him as a solid-average hitter in the big leagues, but at times in High-A so far has shown stretches of picking up the ball late out of opposing pitches hands. When this happens, he is slow getting his swing started and loses the effectiveness of his plus batspeed. Brentz can also compound this by bringing his hands too far forward in his stride, which causes the bat head to drag behind him through the zone and not get good wood on the ball. With the aforementioned work on his approach and concentration on keeping his weight back, these needs can be corrected. Brentz has some rough edges to polish off as he reaches the upper levels, but the package is there for him to be an everyday right fielder in the big leagues with above-average offensive potential in peak seasons.

SS Xander Bogaerts

The Line: Greenville- 36 games .221/.302/.450

The View: Just 18 years of age, Bogaerts received an aggressive promotion to A-Ball on June 9 out of extended spring training after spending all of last season in the Dominican Summer League. Expect his production to fluctuate and for there to be bouts of inconsistency the rest of the season, but his ceiling is amongst the highest of any prospect within the Red Sox system. Bogaerts’ raw tools jump out when seeing him. Bringing the head of the bat quickly through the hitting zone via strong wrists, he produces excellent backspin when he squares balls up and is capable of driving the ball to all fields at an early age. His ability to keep his hands back before attacking the ball has impressed thus far during his time in Greenville. A lean body type, Bogaerts has a lot of room on his frame to fill out as he matures into his 20s and projects to have plus power as he continues to learn to tap into his natural strength.

Bogaerts is currently playing shortstop, but as he physically matures will slide over to third base or out into the outfield depending on how much he fills out. His defensive skills have been improving since his time in the 2010 Fall Instructional League and this past Spring Training. Bogaerts has a tendency to pull up early on groundballs and also doesn’t show the smoothest of reactions though. While expected for a raw player his age, it bears watching to see how that aspect of his game progresses over the next couple of seasons. Experience will be the key for Bogaerts to start making strides on both sides of the ball. He is still learning the strike zone and will be pushed to improve upon his pitch recognition as he rises up the ranks. Most of his strikeouts come as a result of chasing breaking balls and elevated fastballs. Given how much development Bogaerts has in front of him, he could just as easily never make it to Double-A as make it to the major leagues. However, after being able to see Bogaerts in Instructs and Spring Training, while also following up on him during this season, the view here has him as a talent very capable of rising up to the big leagues and being able to potentially produce at elite levels offensively.

Trending Up

20-year-old infielder Heiker Meneses has been an interesting player this season. Projected to spend 2011 with the Lowell Spinners, Meneses received an early promotion to Greenville out of extended spring training where he adjusted well over the course of 51 games. After the Red Sox system began to experience some thinning out in the middle infield due to injuries, he was promoted up to Double-A to man the shortstop position out of need. Posting a line of .304/.355/.357 over 16 games with the Sea Dogs, he hasn’t been too overmatched, but his approach is still coming up to speed shown by his 19 strikeouts versus 3 walks. Capable of also playing second base and the hot corner, Meneses is a versatile player defensively, who shows a quick first step and solid instincts. Second base has looked like his best position. Light with power and slightly built, much of his offensive value will lie in how much contact he will be able to produce and whether he can continue to hone his base stealing skills as he matures. Watching Meneses’ skill set this season has lent clues that he can project as a utility type infielder down the line…A very projectable arm, Portland lefty reliever Cesar Cabral has steadily recovered from some early bad outings after making the jump up from Salem in May. Cabral’s fastball has operated 89-92 MPH and at times has touched up to 93 MPH when reaching back. Also featuring a solid low-80s changeup, he shows good deception with this offering and can work sequences well with it after establishing his fastball. Cabral’s 76-78 MPH curveball is currently fringe-average, but shows the potential to tighten up if he can improve with how he gets his wrist on top of the pitch. Selected in last year’s Rule 5 Draft and again eligible this off-season, do not be surprised to see Cabral taken again this year should he be left unprotected, and this time with a better chance of not returning…Lowell third baseman Garin Cecchini’s season may have ended prematurely after suffering a broken bone in his wrist via a hit by pitch, but he showed some glimpses of what he can become at the plate. Finishing with a line of .298/.398/.500, Cecchini had been getting more and more comfortable at the plate. With a sweet swing and excellent hands, once he began to relax in the box things started to look very fluid and natural for the 20-year-old. Still filling out his frame and able to generate solid backspin, Cecchini projects as a hitter that can blend power with high contact ability when progressing through the ranks.

Trending Down

Portland outfielder Alex Hassan has been fighting it at the plate for much of July. After getting out of the gate strong and being named an Eastern League All-Star, the instances of solid contact have been declining during the stretch. An excellent fastball hitter, he has some work to do driving advanced secondary offerings. Polished with his approach and control of the strike zone, his main offensive development work centers on producing more backspin when he squares balls up and learning to lift pitches without sacrificing too much of his contact ability. Hassan is on the limited side defensively and projects as a left fielder at the big league level so his potential power production will be key to track as an everyday player…2011 has been shaping up as a very tough season for starting pitcher Stolmy Pimentel. Tagged for much of his time in Double-A, Pimentel was demoted to Salem to get himself back on track. Things have been much of the same for him in his three High-A starts. Most alarming has been the reduction in his ability to finish hitters off and prevent contact against. His fastball velocity has been consistently sitting 92-93 MPH and popping up to 95 MPH, but his overall command of his arsenal has been extremely lacking. Pimentel has been unable to get ahead of many hitters to feature his plus low-80s changeup, which is capable of producing a lot of swings and misses when his command is on. Still just 21 years of age, these types of bumps can be valuable learning experiences for young players...After posting a robust .772 slugging percentage in April, Salem catcher Dan Butler has been unable to consistently drive the ball since. Butler has not posted a slugging percentage above .400 in any subsequent month. Showing solid offensive improvement in 2010 and pushing himself up the depth chart, he’s been stuck in neutral for the majority of this season. He can have a tough time getting his hands above the baseball on fastballs above the thighs. Butler’s swing also drags through the hitting zone when he extends his arms early and has shown holes that have been exploited. He has the type of defensive skills to continue pushing himself up the ranks, but some cleanup work with his swing to become quicker to the ball is necessary to take the next step.
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at 5:00 AM

Killer B's: Bogaerts and Blair lead Greenville's offensive outburst

7/27 Cup of Coffee: Portland the DSL Red Sox each pulled out close victories while Greenville brought home a more decisive victory on Tuesday. Pawtucket dropped an extra inning affair while Salem and the GCL Red Sox could not pull out close battles.

After losing a close game the night before, Pawtucket could not close out the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI) as they dropped an extra inning decision, 8-7. Tony Pena twirled 7.0 innings for the PawSox, allowing 5 runs on 6 hits and a walk while striking out 5. Scott Atchison added an inning of relief, allowing an unearned run on 1 hit, striking out 1. Jason Rice received the loss for his 1.1 innings of work, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits while striking out 1. Hector Luna’s RBI double in the first gave Pawtucket an early 1-0 lead. A Ryan Lavarnway 2-RBI double in the second inning vaulted the PawSox to a 3-0 advantage. Down 5-3 in the seventh, Pawtucket reclaimed the lead on another Lavarnway 2-RBI double and a Daniel Nava RBI single. Lehigh Valley tied the game in the bottom of the eighth on a costly passed ball by Luis Exposito. Nate Spears led off the top of the tenth inning with a solo home run to give the PawSox a chance for the victory. However, the IronPigs plated two in the bottom of the tenth to crush Pawtucket’s hopes and take home the victory. Nava was 4 for 5 with 3 runs scored in the loss.

A day after being beat down easily, Portland’s pitching held firm as they toppled the Binghamton Mets (NYM), 4-2. Chris Balcom-Miller tossed 5.2 innings for the Sea Dogs, allowing 1 run on 7 hits and a walk while punching out 7. Kyle Fernandes picked up the win for his 2.0 innings out of the bullpen, allowing 1 run on 1 hit and a walk, striking out 4. Blake Maxwell added 1.1 scoreless innings of work to collect his tenth save. Chih-Hsien Chiang’s RBI single in the first and Oscar Tejeda’s sacrifice fly in the second put Portland on top, 2-0. After Binghamton tied the game in the seventh, the Sea Dogs added runs on an Alex Hassan RBI single in the eighth and a Tim Federowicz solo home run in the ninth to seal the victory.

Salem could not squeeze out enough offense as they were silenced by the Frederick Keys (BAL), 4-3. Anthony Ranaudo hurled 5.0 innings for the Red Sox, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks while punching out 3. Chris Martin finished the game with 3.0 innings of relief, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits while striking out 1. A run scoring double play in the first gave Salem a quick 1-0 advantage. In the sixth, Bryce Brentz cracked a leadoff home run to put the Red Sox on top, 2-0. Down 4-2 in the eighth, Dan Butler added a solo home run to put Salem within one at 4-3. The Red Sox offense remained quiet for the remainder of the ballgame as they lost their third in a row.

Greenville compiled a 15 hit attack and took advantage of 3 errors to dim the Hagerstown Suns (WAS), 11-4. Manuel Rivera pitched the first 3.0 innings of the contest for the Drive, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and a walk, striking out 3. Scott Swinson picked up the victory for his 4.0 innings of work, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks, striking out 2. Justin Erasmus added a scoreless innings of relief, allowing 1 hit and punching out 1. Michael Gleason also added an inning out of the bullpen, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and 2 walks, striking out 1. The Drive wasted no time getting on the board in this one, plating three in the first on a Xander Bogaerts 2-RBI double as well as a David Renfroe RBI single. Leading 3-1 in the second, the Drive tacked on 2 more on a run scoring balk and a Sean Coyle RBI single. Greenville took an 8-1 lead in the third on an error and a Carson Blair two run home run. Bogaerts added a solo home run in the seventh to widen the Greenville lead to 9-2. The final two runs of the day for the Drive came on a Drew Domginuez RBI groundout and a Blair RBI single in the ninth. Bogaerts and Blair were the stars of the day for Greenville, each going 3 for 5 with a home run, double, and 3 RBI.

Despite outhitting their opponents 8-3, the GCL Red Sox were kept at bay by the GCL Rays (TB), 3-1. Sergio Gomez received the start for the Red Sox and tossed 6.0 scoreless innings, allowing a walk and 3 hits while punching out 3. John Killen received the loss for his 0.1 innings of work, allowing 3 runs on 3 walks. Jennell Hudson added 1.2 innings out of the bullpen, allowing a hit and 2 walks while striking out 1. The Red Sox lone run of the contest came in the seventh on a Bryan Johns sacrifice fly. David Chester and Jose Vinicio each had two hits in the loss.

The DSL Red Sox used a 4 run eighth inning to pull out a 4-3 victory over the DSL Pirates (PIT). LinkJeffry Fernandez hurled 3.1 innings for the Red Sox, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks, striking out 2. Ricardo Betancourt moved to an impressive 7-0 for his 4.1 shutout innings of work, allowing 3 hits and a walk. Ellis Jimenez received his fourth save for 1.1 scoreless innings of relief in which he struck out a batter. Down 3-0 in the eighth, the Red Sox plated four runs on an Anthony Amaya RBI single, and an Aneudis Peralta 3-RBI double to take a 4-3 lead. The Pirates had their chances to tie the game, leaving the bases loaded in the eighth to fall to the defeat.

Players of the Night: Xander Bogaerts and Carson Blair. Bogaerts was 3 for 4 with a double, home run, 3 RBI and 3 runs scored while Blair was 3 for 4 with a double, home run, 3 RBI and 1 run scored in Greenville’s 11-4 trouncing of Hagerstown.
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at 1:20 AM

Players of the Week, July 18-24: Ryan Lavarnway & Mario Alcantara

This week's SoxProspects.com Player and Pitcher of the Week, Pawtucket's Ryan Lavarnway and the GCL Red Sox Mario Alcantara, hail from the highest and lowest levels of the system.

Lavarnway literally powered his way to victory with four home runs and three doubles, i.e. seven of his nine hits were for extra bases and he posted a .409/.519/1.091 line in 22 at-bats over six games. He was also named the International League Player of the Week for the same period. On the season Lavarnway is batting .318/.393/.603 with 27 home runs and 20 doubles in 355 at-bats over 93 games between Portland (55) and Pawtucket (38) and is currently the fifth ranked prospect in the organization by SoxProspects.com.

Alcantara hurled six perfect innings last Thursday (July 21) against the GCL Orioles with three strikeouts, earning his second win of the season. In six 2011 starts Alcantara owns a 2-2 record with a 2.70 ERA, allowing nine earned runs on 22 hits over 30.0 innings, holding opposing batters to a .210 average. Signed as an international free agent in 2009, Alcantara, 18 spent last season in the Dominican.

Honorable mention: Brandon Duckworth was named International League Pitcher of the Week and Garin Cecchini was named NY-Penn League Player of the Week.
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July 26, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Q&A with Michael Bowden

Michael Bowden entered this season knowing that he would be coming out of the bullpen full-time for the first time in his career. As a supplemental first-round draft pick out of Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, Ill. in 2005, Bowden enjoyed success as a starter at an early age at nearly every stop along the way in minors, reaching the major leagues for a spot start at the age of 21. Following that first start in 2008, however, he made only one other major league start before the decision was made to transition him into a full-time bullpen role midway through the 2010 season. This season, despite frequently shuttling back-and-forth between the majors and Triple-A, Bowden has consistently pitched well out of the bullpen with Pawtucket. All told, he has pitched 42.0 innings over 30 appearances for the PawSox this season, putting up an ERA of 2.79 to go along with 12 saves, 53 strikeouts, and a 1.24 WHIP. With Boston, he has managed a nifty 1.29 ERA in 2011, but has only pitched 7.0 innings in 6 appearances, striking out 2. When I recently got a chance to sit down with Bowden before a PawSox game, he talked about dealing with riding the “I-95 shuttle” between Pawtucket and Boston, gaining consistency at the major league level, his transition to the bullpen, and the reinvention of his repertoire over the past couple seasons.

Matt Huegel: How have you been able to adapt to being called up and sent down? Is that tough mentally and pitching-wise?
Michael Bowden: Pitching, not so much. It’s still a matter of when I go up (to Boston), I’m up there for short periods of time, so it’s tough to get really comfortable up there. But I feel like the more I go up there, the more comfortable that I become, so I’ll be able to actually pitch my game and go up there with the same approach that I have here and eventually get the same results that I’m getting here. It’s just a matter of when I’ll get that opportunity and when I can be up there on a more consistent basis to show them that.
But as far as going up and down, it’s just part of it. It’s right down the road, so it’s not a very tough transition. I’ve got friends up there, very good guys in the bullpen, in the clubhouse, so it’s a very easy transition. It’s fun here, it’s fun there, and I’m happy every time I get to go up there.

MH: What have you noticed are the biggest differences between getting hitters out at the Triple-A level and at the major league level?
MB: A well-executed pitch here is a well-executed pitch there. I think it’s more (a matter) of me just executing my pitches more consistently up there. And I think, like I said earlier, that’s just a matter of me feeling more and more comfortable up there where I can do it on a more consistent basis.
But also, hitters, they’ll just put together a little bit better at bats up there; they’re smarter; they’ll work the counts a little more. But if you’re throwing your game, throwing good strikes, good pitches, you’ll get the same results as here.

MH: Now that you’ve been in the relieving role for this whole season, how would you say that fits you as a pitcher?
MB: I like it a lot. Like you said this is the first year I’ve actually started in the bullpen, but after the last All Star break when I was converted to the bullpen I was still learning a lot. I learned a lot from the guys here at Triple-A that we had last year and I learned a lot from the (big league) guys when I got called up in September. So everything that I’ve learned from them has helped mold me to how I go about my business now. Also getting the opportunity to play in winter ball this offseason, and seeing different types of roles, closing, eighth inning, stuff like that, I believe really helped me out. This season I just feel very comfortable in the bullpen, every time I go out there I kind of know my job. I think I have the mindset for the bullpen role, and I think it suits me very well.

MH: What would you say is your favorite aspect of the relieving versus starting?
MB: I like them both in their own rights. But as far as being in the bullpen, I think it’s awesome to come to the park every day and you’ve got to be ready to go. There’s a chance that you might get in the game and play.

MH: In terms of your arsenal, it seems like in the past couple seasons you’ve really reinvented yourself. Has the slider been your main breaking pitch since moving to the bullpen?
MB: Yeah. Fastball, slider, cutter, and changeup. Right now, I feel like I have control over all of them. All of them have been very effective for me getting outs. And they’ve been consistent so it’s fun going out there. Finally, the slider’s to where I want it to be and I’m throwing it for strikes, I’m throwing it for an out-pitch, so I have very good command over it.

MH: So do you throw the curveball at all anymore or just strictly slider?
MB: No, I haven’t thrown a curveball in two years.

MH: What went into that decision to switch to the slider?
MB: I had a 12-6 curveball, and it was just hard for me to consistently throw that for strikes. By the time it went over the plate, there wasn’t a big margin of space for that to drop in for a strike, and I couldn’t do it consistently. So I just wanted something that I could throw more consistently for strikes, and also a little sharper and harder.

MH: You added the cutter even more recently. How has that been going and how do you use that pitch?
MB: It’s been going real well. I started this offseason, but right now it’s getting to the point where I’m using it fairly consistently. I’m throwing it to righties to just get mis-hits. I’m also throwing it to lefties – in to them, getting in on their hands. It looks like my fastball, and it’s just a mis-hit pitch. I’m throwing it for strikes and it’s gotten very good results.

MH: One of your trademarks is your unique pitching motion. We’ve heard at different times that you’ve tried to clean that up or do different things with it in the offseason. Have coaches ever tried to completely change it to a more traditional motion? And do you think that sort of funky motion works to your advantage especially out of the bullpen?
MB: This is probably the first year I’ve actually gone into the season knowing exactly what I’m going to do with my mechanics. Every year, I’ve been working on something, trying to clean it up, trying to simplify it, just trying to see what works for me. And yeah, there’s been coaches with a lot of different suggestions, but now I’m to the point in my career where I know what I have to do, I know what feels good, and that’s what I’m going to do. So I feel very comfortable right now with my mechanics.

MH: Having been in the organization now since 2005, have you been able to take more of a leadership role on this team this year?
MB: Yeah. I’m not a very vocal guy, but I feel like I’m very professional. I go about my business the right way, and I just try to lead by example, whether it’s in the bullpen or in the clubhouse. I mean, I’m still not nearly the oldest guy here, so there’s other guys that have that role, but I’ve been actually on the PawSox a lot more than anybody here. I know my way around, so I’m a guy that people ask for questions around here, how to do stuff around here sometimes. So I just try to go about my business the right way.

MH: Over those years, your name has cropped up in countless trade rumors. How have you been able to deal with that? How do you keep that from affecting your pitching?
MB: It’s very simple to deal with. Nothing’s happened yet, so it’s out of my control. I mean, I don’t pay attention to it, I don’t care about it. It’s been since 2005 and nothing’s happened so it’s nothing that bothers me or worries me or has me thinking.

MH: What is your best memory as a professional thus far?
MB: It’s still probably my [major league] debut, just that feeling. It was very special. You know, just going up there and getting the start, just making it to the major leagues, all the hard work and everything that I’ve ever dreamed of finally came true. So I’d say it’s that, but I’m hoping to replace that in the near future with some more memories.

MH: Lastly, during your time in the organization is there one player that has stood out to you, either by the way they lead or their abilities?
MB: This organization does a real good job at not only drafting players, but signing players with very solid personalities, good character, whether it’s in the minors or in the big leagues. So everywhere you go, you’re going to run into guys who are just good guys, good people to be around, and they know the game and they’re fun to play with. I think that’s really important, because you spend 10 hours a day together for however many months in a row. So there’s not really one person who stands out to me.
I mean, one of the players I really respect is Jason Varitek. He’s so easy to talk to, even with the younger guys, you can ask him anything. He doesn’t have an ego, and he’s very respectful to you. He’s just a good guy, and I really look up to him as a player.
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at 5:00 AM

Perkins powers Red Sox over Rays

7/26 Cup of Coffee: Greenville, the DSL Red Sox and the GCL Red Sox were the only affiliates victorious on Monday. Pawtucket, Portland and Lowell could not contain their opponent’s offenses while Salem lost a close contest.

Attempting to duplicate their come from behind win a night prior, Pawtucket fell just short of another comeback in an 8-7 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bisons (NYM). Kevin Millwood tossed 5.0 innings, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits and 3 walks while striking out 2. Tommy Hottovy added 2.0 innings of relief, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk, striking out 1. Royce Ring received the loss for his lone inning of relief, allowing 1 run on 1 hit. Nate Spears led off the game with a solo home run to give Pawtucket a very quick 1-0 lead. Down 2-1 in the third, Lars Anderson’s RBI double tied the game 2-2. In the seventh, a Ronald Bermudez RBI single pulled the PawSox closer as they trimmed the Buffalo lead to 5-3. Facing a 7-3 hole to begin the eighth, Pawtucket rallied for four runs to tie the game on a wild pitch and a Hector Luna three run home run. The Bisons came right back in the bottom of the eighth, plating a run to reclaim the lead. In the ninth, Pawtucket left a runner on third as they suffered the defeat. Spears and Bermudez were the only members of the Pawtucket lineup to record multi-hit games, each smacking two hits.

Portland’s pitching faltered in the later innings as they were crushed by the Binghamton Mets (NYM), 13-2. Brock Huntzinger suffered the loss, tossing 5.0 innings, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks, striking out 4. Caleb Clay added an inning of relief, being torched for 8 runs (6 earned) on 6 hits and a walk, striking out 1. Cesar Cabral finished the game with 2.0 innings out of the bullpen, allowing 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 2. Down 2-0 in the fourth, Chih-Hsien Chiang laced a solo home run to cut Portland’s deficit to 2-1. In the sixth, Tim Federowicz’s sacrifice fly tied the game 2-2. The Mets would go on to score six in the bottom of the six and five in the seventh to pull away with the easy victory.

Despite outhitting their opponents 8-6, Salem was doubled up by the Frederick Keys (BAL), 4-2. Drake Britton dropped to 1-10 on the season for his 4.0 inning performance, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits while striking out 5. Tom Ebert added 3.0 innings of relief, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits and a walk, striking out 3. Will Latimer contributed 1.0 inning of relief, allowing just 1 hit. Down 2-0 in the fifth, Vladimir Frias scampered home on a balk as the Red Sox cut their deficit in half. Peter Hissey’s sacrifice fly in the eighth once again cut the Salem deficit in half, 4-2. The Red Sox offense was quiet the rest of the way as they dropped their second straight.

Greenville used some late scoring punch to extinguish the Hagerstown Suns (WAS), 6-4. Keith Couch picked up the victory for his 6.0 innings of work, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 4 hits and a walk while striking out 7. Tyler Lockwood added 2.0 innings of relief, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 4 hits, striking out 1. Michael Olmsted picked up his second save for a scoreless ninth inning in which he struck out two. Down 1-0 in the sixth, Greenville took a 4-1 lead, thanks to a Wilfred Pichardo RBI double and a Henry Ramos three run home run. In the seventh, the Drive expanded their lead to 5-2 on a Drew Dominguez RBI single. Drew Hedman’s solo home run in the ninth gave Greenville some breathing room, 6-4. Brandon Jacobs was the only member of the Drive lineup to record a multi-hit contest, going 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored.

Avoiding raindrops, Lowell was easily dismissed by the Auburn Doubledays (WAS), 8-2. Tyler Wilson suffered the loss for his 4.0 innings of work, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks, striking out 6. Matty Ott added 1.2 innings out of the bullpen, allowing 4 runs on 3 hits and 3 walks. Kevin Brahney contributed 2.1 innings of relief, allowing 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 5. Andrew Jones twirled a perfect ninth inning. Down 1-0 in the second, Seth Schwindenhammer led off the bottom half of the inning with a solo home run to tie the game, 1-1. The Spinners only other run of the evening came in the seventh on a Keury De La Cruz RBI single. Schwindenhammer was 2 for 4 with a triple, home run, run scored and RBI in the loss.

The GCL Red Sox overcame three errors with plenty of offense in a 9-5 victory over the GCL Rays (TB). Francisco Tavares received the start for the Red Sox, going 3.1 innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out 1. Yunior Ortega received the victory for his 3.2 innings of relief, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks, striking out 2. Renny Parthemore and Jordan Flasher each added an inning of scoreless relief. Kendrick Perkins smashed a two run home run in the first to give the Red Sox a quick 2-0 lead. Down 3-2 in the fourth, Oscar Perez brought home two on his RBI single to give the Red Sox a 4-3 advantage. Perkins lofted his second two run home run of the day in the fifth, vaulting the GCL squad to a 6-3 lead. The Red Sox expanded their lead to 8-3 in the sixth on back-to-back RBI singles by Williams Jerez and David Chester. Perez looped a sacrifice fly in the seventh to give the Red Sox their ninth and final run. Perkins was the star of the game for the Red Sox, going 2 for 3 with 3 runs scored, a walk, two home runs and 4 RBI.

Coming off of the All-Star break, the DSL Red Sox used a four run fifth inning to propel themselves to a 5-1 victory over the DSL Dodgers (LAD). Pedro Reyes picked up the victory for his 5.0 innings of work, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and a walk while striking out 7. Carlos Pinales recorded his seventh save for 4.0 scoreless innings of relief, allowing 3 hits and a walk while striking out 7. Down 1-0 in the fifth, the Red Sox brought home four on an Anthony Amaya RBI single, Ynoel Aguero sacrifice fly, and a David Sopilka RBI single. A run scoring double play in the eighth accounted for the only other Red Sox run of the contest. The Red Sox recorded only four hits in the victory.

Player of the Night: Kendrick Perkins, who went 2 for 3 with two home runs, 4 RBI, 3 runs scored and a walk in the GCL Red Sox 9-5 victory over the GCL Rays.
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