SoxProspects News

April 30, 2011 at 9:11 AM

Salem holds off Potomac for only affiliate win of night


4/30 Cup of Coffee: In what wasn't exactly a day to remember for Red Sox affiliates, Pawtucket and Portland were both held scoreless while Greenville was clobbered, leaving Salem as the only affiliate with a victory.

Alfredo Aceves got the start for Pawtucket and yielded just two hits, but was saddled with the loss as the PawSox were blanked by the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI) 3-0. Though he gave up just two third-inning singles, the right hander allowed those two runs to score, and also walked three across his five-inning outing. On the other side of the ball, the PawSox struggled with the bats after the first three frames. Yamaico Navarro tripled with two outs in the third to give Pawtucket its third hit of the game, but that would be the last hit allowed by IronPigs pitching. Lehigh Valley also did not pick up another hit after their two-run output in the third. Rich Hill, Scott Atchison, and Clevelan Santeliz all threw hitless innings of relief for Pawtucket.

Portland had similar struggles at the plate, as they were only able to scratch out three hits in a 2-0 shutout at the hands of the Reading Phillies (PHI). Stolmy Pimentel is still in search of his first win with the Sea Dogs after dropping to 0-3 on the season. He finished his day with 5.0 innings pitched, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits while walking 1 and striking out 4. Portland's best chance for a run came after Che-Hsuan Lin and Alex Hassan both walked to lead off the fourth inning. The next three Sea Dogs were set down in order, however, and Portland was held without a run. Pimentel gave way to Seth Garrison in the sixth, who allowed just 1 hit over 3.0 innings pitched to keep Portland in the game. Hassan's double in the sixth was Portland's only extra-base hit, and it gave Hassan a five-game hitting streak. In fact, it was his first game in the streak where he picked up just one hit-- he now has 10 hits in his last 20 at-bats.

Salem used a three-run fourth inning to propel itself to a Carolina League-leading 15th win of the season, a 5-2 victory over the Potomac Nationals (WAS). After starter Pete Ruiz yielded a run in the top of the first, Salem tied it up when the speed of Jeremy Hazelbaker forced an obstruction call, allowing him to score from second on a groundout. With a pair of runners on in the fourth, Derrik Gibson doubled to center to score them both and break the tie. Gibson would come around to score on a Hazelbaker single to make it a 4-1 Salem lead. Ruiz gave up another run in the fifth, finishing his day with 5.1 innings pitched, allowing 2 runs (1 earned) on 6 hits. The 23 year old walked just 1 while striking out 6. Jeremiah Bayer came on to replace Ruiz, throwing a scoreless final 3.2 innings to earn the long-form save. A Vladimir Frias solo home run in the sixth gave Salem its fifth run of the game.

Greenville fell behind early and could never recover, as they were blasted by the Greensboro Grasshoppers (FLA) 11-4. Greenville sent Kyle Stroup to the mound for the start, and for the third time in four outings, he allowed 6 or more runs. The 21 year old tossed just 2.2 innings, allowing 7 runs on 10 hits, while walking 1 and striking out 2. Dennis Neuman didn't fare much better on the mound than Stroup, as he was tagged for 4 runs (3 earned) in 2.1 innings pitched. After Neuman's day was done, Keith Couch dealt 4.0 shutout innings to drop his ERA to 1.13 on the season. Trailing 7-0 in the bottom of the third, the Drive got two runs back Bryce Brentz's fifth home run of the year. Down 8-2 in the fourth, Jose Garcia knocked in a run on an RBI ground out. The only other Drive run came on a wild pitch in the seventh inning.

Player of the Night: Jeremiah Bayer
, who earned his first save for Salem by allowing just a hit and a walk over 3.2 innings pitched in a 5-2 win over Potomac. His ERA is now a stingy 0.53.
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April 29, 2011 at 6:59 AM

Offense overpowers foes as affiliates complete sweep


4/29 Cup of Coffee: The affiliates continued to have solid offensive performances as every team in the Red Sox system was victorious on Thursday.

Pawtucket used a seven run fourth inning to muzzle the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI) 11-8. Felix Doubront received the start and went 3.0 innings, allowing 1 walk and striking out 2. Kris Johnson followed and also added 3.0 innings, allowing 5 runs on 6 hits and a walk. Clevelan Santeliz tossed 1.0 inning of relief, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk. Michael Bowden picked up the win as he went 2.0 innings, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and a walk. The PawSox wasted no time getting on the board, plating three in the first on a lead off Yamaico Navarro solo shot and a Hector Luna two run home run. In the fourth, Juan Carlos Linares smacked a three run home run, Daniel Nava added a sacrifice fly, Drew Sutton laced an RBI double and Josh Reddick blasted a two run home run to put Pawtucket up 10-0. Reddick would add a solo home run in the sixth, that gave the PawSox an important insurance run, as Lehigh Valley’s late inning comeback fell short.

A day after fog shortened their contest, the Sea Dogs smacked around the Binghamton Mets (NYM) 12-5. Alex Wilson moved to 3-1 for his 5.0 inning performance, allowing 1 run on 5 hits and a walk while striking out 5. Caleb Clay followed Wilson with 0.2 innings of relief, allowing 1 run on 1 hit and 3 walks. Eammon Portice, fresh off his SoxProspects Pitcher of the Week honors, allowed 3 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks in his 2.1 innings of relief. Blake Maxwell pitched a flawless ninth inning, picking up two strike outs. The Sea Dogs got off to a quick start, plating three runs in the first on a Tim Federowicz sacrifice fly and an RBI double by William Vazquez. Up 4-1 in the fourth, Portland extended their lead to 9-1 on a pair of two run home runs by Alex Hassan and Ryan Lavarnway as well as an RBI double by Oscar Tejeda. Federowicz blasted a solo home run in the fifth and Will Middlebrooks added solo home runs in the sixth and the eighth to complete the Sea Dog barrage. Every member of the Portland lineup reached base at least once, with Middlebrooks and Hassan each collecting 3 hits.

In a game that was shortened due to rain, Salem edged the Kinston Indians (CLE) 4-3. Chris Balcom-Miller took the hill for the Red Sox, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks while punching out 7 in his 4.0 innings of work. Anatanaer Batista picked up the win for his 3.0 innings of relief, during which he allowed just 2 hits and a walk as he struck out 3. Cesar Cabral picked up his fifth save for tossing a scoreless eighth inning. Salem jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first as Kolbrin Vitek lofted a sacrifice fly to bring home Peter Hissey. Down 3-1 in the third, Hissey laced an RBI double that brought Salem within one. Dan Butler’s two run home run in the fourth proved to be the game winner, improving the Red Sox to a league best 14-5.

Solid pitching and relentless offense allowed Greenville to snuff out the Greensboro Grasshoppers (FLA) 12-1. Manuel Rivera tossed a dazzling 6.0 innings, allowing just 2 hits while striking out 8. Charle Rosario added 2.0 innings of scoreless relief, allowing just one hit. Garrett Rau allowed 1 run on 2 hits in the ninth. Greenville scored in every inning except the fourth, as they pounded out 16 hits. Drew Hedman was 3 for 4 with a double, triple and 4 RBI, Brandon Jacobs was 3 for 5 with 3 runs scored, Jose Garcia was a perfect 3 for 3 with 2 RBI and Miles Head smacked his sixth home run of the season to help lead the Greenville offense.

Players of the Night: Will Middlebrooks and Manuel Rivera. Middlebrooks went 3 for 4 with 2 home runs, 2 runs scored, a double and 3 RBI in Portland’s 12-5 victory over Binghamton. Rivera tossed 6.0 shutout innings, allowing 2 hits, no walks and striking out 8 in Greenville’s 12-1 victory over Greensboro.
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April 28, 2011 at 9:30 AM

Dan Butler has made himself a prospect


It’s hard to imagine a better start to the 2011 campaign for Salem Red Sox catcher Dan Butler, who earned Carolina League and SoxProspects.com Player of the Week honors last week after posting a .471/.591/1.118 line with two homers and 14 RBI.

Throw in his improbable two-run home run in Boston’s exhibition finale against the Astros, and Butler, who hit .310 with an .893 OPS during stops in Greenville, Salem, and Pawtucket in 2010, is proving to be one of the most interesting players in the Red Sox farm system.

But it’s also hard to imagine a player who has come farther to make that happen. The effort and perseverance required for Butler to even become a professional ballplayer, along with the tireless work ethic he taught himself at the University of Arizona, go a long way in telling the story of a player who carries a chip on his shoulder onto the field every day.


“That’s not Danny Butler”

A few months after Tommy John surgery ended Butler’s disappointing redshirt-freshman season at the University of Arizona, he showed up to work at the school’s baseball camp. Coach Andy Lopez, who had not seen Butler over the summer, was standing with an assistant coach when Butler walked across the outfield. Lopez, who said Butler was a “little, pudgy, overweight” catcher when he arrived in Tucson, didn’t believe it when the assistant said the shirtless figure in the outfield was Butler.

Said Lopez: “I told him, ‘That’s not Danny Butler.’ I walked down and looked at [Dan] and said, ‘My God.’ He transformed himself from a pudgy, out-of-shape catcher to a Greek god.”

The 5-foot-10 Butler had slimmed down from 225 to 180 pounds. After a short conversation with his astonished coach, the catcher got up to run sprints in the Tucson summer heat.

“When I went into the surgery,” Butler said, “I thought to myself, ‘You better make the most of this now, because your body’s not going to last forever. You might as well get yourself in shape.’ I stayed in Tucson that whole summer. I barely ate, and worked out every day. It became a lifestyle, getting into the gym and all that stuff. I educated myself on what I needed to do and how to go about it.”

Now listed at 190 pounds, Butler believes his improving conditioning hastened his return from surgery, which took just eight months. Although he has not regained full range of motion in his arm—he still cannot touch his shoulder with his right hand—Butler shows no ill-effects in his throwing, having thrown out a respectable 41 of 107 potential base stealers in his first two professional seasons.

In his second season at Arizona, the newly-fit Butler saw more playing time, but hit just .268 in 56 at-bats. As a junior, he hit .263 with three home runs and 18 RBI in 76 at-bats. Twenty-two of his 46 career starts came that season.

“He didn’t play as much as I’m sure he wanted to, and in retrospect, he should have played more,” Lopez said. “And I want to make this clear: He wasn’t playing a lot, but not because he wasn’t good enough. He was plenty good enough. But we had a starter who played for two years. We had to find Danny playing time.”

That starter was Dwight Childs, a highly-touted defensive catcher whose .253 career average at Arizona was just three points higher than Butler’s. Childs went to Cleveland in the 18th round of the 2009 Draft, and has played just 31 games professionally since. Scouts told Butler he could be a late-round pick that June, but he wasn’t surprised when the draft passed without a call.

“It’s hard to draft a guy that doesn’t really play, but I knew I could play.” Butler said. “I wasn’t like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t get drafted. I’m going to quit baseball.’ It was kind of up in the air anyway.”

The next step was summer ball. Butler had enjoyed playing for the Bend (Ore.) Elks of the West Coast League the previous summer, but with the stakes now raised, he decided to ply his trade against the nation’s best college players in the Cape Cod League.

“I went to the Cape to be signed (by a major league team), but I just really wanted to play summer ball again,” he said. “I wanted to play in the league where everybody wants to play. I went and just did what I knew I could.”

Even there, Butler was slighted. After 10 games with Yarmouth-Dennis, he was released to make room for LSU catcher Micah Gibbs. The Brewster Whitecaps signed him to be their everyday catcher, and manager Tom Myers told the Cape Cod Journal that Butler immediately became a leader behind the plate for the club.

Butler’s efforts did not go unnoticed. He was selected as a reserve in the 2009 Cape League All-Star Game, playing in the July 23 showcase game at Fenway Park. Four days later, the Red Sox signed him for $10,000 and sent him to Lowell.

Though signing officially ended his time at Arizona, Lopez has kept Butler’s memory alive in Tucson.

“He’s a legend around here,” Lopez said. “I still use him as an example when guys lose weight, get in the weight room and attack it physically. He’s a great young man with a tremendous work ethic. He made himself a college catcher.”


“He’s opened a lot of eyes”

If it seemed like the Red Sox did not exactly treat Butler like a top prospect after he signed, it’s because he wasn’t. When he arrived at short-season Lowell, the coaching staff didn’t know what to make of him.

“We didn’t know much about him at all,” said Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker, who was the Spinners' pitching coach in 2009. Walker was also with Butler in Greenville in 2010. “We needed him in Lowell as a backup at the time, but when he got his opportunity, he made the most of it.”

After hitting .179 in 22 games with Lowell, Butler jumped up to High-A Salem for a few late-season games, indicating that the comfort and development of the organization’s other catchers, such as Ryan Lavarnway (in Greenville at the time) were more important than Butler’s.

Despite the poor debut, Butler’s first full season was an unqualified success. He broke camp with the Low-A Drive in 2010 and quickly became one of the biggest surprises in the entire Red Sox system. He was the Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Month in April, and was named a South Atlantic League All-Star, walking and scoring a run in front of the hometown fans at the All-Star Game in Greenville.

He hit .327 with 6 home runs and 31 RBI for the Drive, but before he could be promoted to Salem, the front office sent him on a small detour - Butler earned a brief call-up to Triple-A Pawtucket. He called his week-long stay in Rhode Island a whirlwind experience, one in which the older players were incredibly helpful in making the young catcher feel comfortable. He went hitless in five at-bats, but the promotion showed that the front office believed he could handle Triple-A pitching.

His return to Greenville lasted just over a week before he was called up to Salem to replace Lavarnway, who had been promoted to Portland. He hit .292 in 35 games with Salem, taking over as everyday catcher when fellow backstop Tim Federowicz went down with an injury. Butler credits his prior experience in the Carolina League for his hot start this season, but says he approaches every game and every season the same way.

“I feel like I’ve got to perform every day,” Butler said. “(The Red Sox) have nothing invested in me. It’s easy to let a guy go. I’ve got to show intensity and energy every day I come out to the field. There’s always somebody out there who’s just as good as you. It’s all about who outworks who.”

Butler’s impressive first month has caught the right people’s attention.

“Dan has continued to make an impact on both sides of the ball, and that has not gone unnoticed,” said Ben Crockett, Boston’s Assistant Director of Player Development. “His makeup, offensive approach, and catch-and-throw skills make him an interesting prospect who the organization holds in high regard.”

And while he tries not to concern himself with what he can’t control, Butler is aware of the system’s catching situation, along with his place in it.

“I just go out there and play every day,” he said. “You know what’s going on, but you can’t really do anything about it, so why worry? If you do well, you get the results. That’s what they want. If it’s the right time, you get the call-up.”

For now, waiting a little bit for that call-up might be better for Butler. In Salem, he is the team’s primary catcher, and has caught 13 of the their first 18 games. With Michael McKenry and Luis Exposito in Pawtucket and Lavarnway and Federowicz in Portland, there doesn’t look to be an immediate opening should Butler master the Carolina League, at least for now.

Salem manager Bruce Crabbe has been impressed by his starting catcher so far, and predicts a bright future for Butler, regardless of whether he is blocked.

“He’s come a long way in his rise through this organization, and he’s opened a lot of eyes,” said Crabbe. “He’s made himself into a prospect in a short period of time. He still has a lot to learn, but he has a ceiling to get even better.”

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at 7:03 AM

Wilkerson leads charge as Salem runs away with win


4/28 Cup of Coffee: Pawtucket saw their early season ace smacked around, while Portland and Greenville used solid offensive outputs to roll to victory. Salem put on a hitting display in game one of a doubleheader, but failed to score in a game two loss.

Brandon Duckworth’s near flawless start to 2011 came to a screeching halt, as Pawtucket was dropped 8-2 by the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI). Duckworth picked up his first loss of the year, tossing only 3.2 innings, allowing 8 runs (7 earned) on 6 hits and 5 walks. Matt Fox relieved Duckworth, and hurled 3.0 scoreless innings, allowing 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 3. Jason Rice finished the final 1.1 innings, allowing 1 hit and punching out 1. Down 3-0 in the fourth, Josh Reddick led off the inning with a solo home run, his sixth of the season. The IronPigs would retaliate in the bottom half of the inning, plating five to open up an 8-1 lead. Pawtucket mustered their only other run of the game in the sixth, receiving a two out RBI single from Hector Luna. Luna was 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI to lead the Pawtucket offense.

In a game that was called early due to fog, Portland left the Binghamton Mets (NYM) in a haze, claiming a 9-6 victory. Sea Dogs starter Brock Huntzinger picked up his second straight victory by completing 5.0 innings, allowing 2 unearned runs on 4 hits while striking out 6 and walking none. Jeremy Kehrt tossed 2.0 innings of relief, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits. After Binghamton took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, Portland picked up three runs on a Chih-Hsien Chiang RBI double and a fielding error by the Mets shortstop. The Sea Dogs broke the game wide open the very next inning, bringing home six on RBI singles by Chiang, Alex Hassan and Tim Federowicz, as well as an RBI double by Che-Hsuan Lin and a Jonathan Hee bases loaded walk. The game was called after 6.5 innings due to thick fog that blanketed Hadlock Field, the first time in team history that a game was cancelled or shortened due to fog.

Eager to get on the field after being washed away a day before, Salem annihilated the Kinston Indians (CLE) 16-6 in game one of a doubleheader. Drake Britton took the hill for the Red Sox, lasting just 3.2 innings, allowing 3 runs on 2 hits and 4 walks, punching out 2. Mitch Herold picked up his first win of 2011, finishing the final 3.1 innings, allowing 3 runs on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 4. Salem got on the board quickly in the first, grabbing two runs on a Kolbrin Vitek RBI triple and a Reynaldo Rodriguez sacrifice fly. The Red Sox really put the game away in the second, bringing home ten runs on RBI singles by Derrik Gibson, Jeremy Hazelbaker and Vitek; RBI doubles by Peter Hissey and Dan Butler, a throwing error and a pinch hit two run home run by Shannon Wilkerson. The power display continued with a Rodriguez two run shot in the third, a Hazelbaker solo blast in the fourth, and Wilkerson’s second home run of the game in the sixth. The Red Sox pounded out 17 hits in just seven innings as every member of the lineup reached base at least twice.

Game two was a much different story, as Salem was held to just four hits and shut out 6-0 by the Indians. Tom Ebert took the mound for the Red Sox and went 4.0 innings, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 6 hits and a walk while striking out 4 to pick up his second loss of the season. Kendal Volz contributed 2.0 innings of relief, allowing 1 run on 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 3. Salem’s best scoring chance came in the first inning, as Wilkerson and Vitek pulled off a double steal, but were left stranded in scoring position.

Trying to bounce back after an 11-0 thrashing the day before, Greenville squashed the Greensboro Grasshoppers (FLA) 7-4. Miguel Celestino picked up the victory for his 5.0 innings of work in which he allowed 2 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks, striking out 2. Juan Rodriguez added 2.0 innings of scoreless relief, allowing just a walk to go along with his 3 punch outs. Tyler Lockwood finished off the game for the Drive, going 2.0 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits while picking up a strike out. Down 1-0 in the first, Lucas LeBlanc scampered home on a wild pitch to even the score 1-1. The Drive found themselves down 2-1 in the third, but once again tied the game as Miles Head laced his fifth home run of the season. Greenville showed its muscle in the fifth, getting a pair of two run home runs from Bryce Brentz and Sean Coyle which gave the Drive a 6-2 advantage. A Christian Vazquez sacrifice fly added an important insurance run in the sixth, as Greensboro’s ninth inning rally ended up falling short.

Player of the Night: Shannon Wilkerson, who went 2 for 3 with 2 home runs, 2 runs scored, a walk and 4 RBI in Salem’s 16-6 game one victory over Kinston.
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April 27, 2011 at 7:07 AM

The Ladder: 4.27.11


RHP Brandon Workman

The Line: Struggling through his first two outings of the season with Greenville, Workman began to show signs of finding his form in his outing on April 20, firing 5.0 innings while picking up 4 strikeouts against Charleston. However, he was unable to follow this performance up and got hit hard on April 26 against Greensboro, allowing 5 hits and 4 earned runs in 3.1 innings, including a long first inning home run. Covering 14.1 innings on the season, Workman has been touched for 16 hits, 3 of which have left the yard.

The View: Selected by the Red Sox in the second round of the 2010 Draft, Workman signed at the deadline last season and made his professional debut this year with Greenville. Without having the luxury of spending the summer with the Lowell Spinners to begin coming up to speed with working on the five day pitching cycle, his initial adjustment in A-ball has centered on getting used to his new routine. Featuring a four-seam fastball that sits 92-93 MPH and can top out around 95 MPH when he reaches back, his command of this offering has been in and out thus far, causing him to labor through innings in the early going of the season and work too much in the middle of the plate. When on with his fastball, Workman throws downhill from a ¾ arm slot and can create some late run away from right-handed batters with the pitch, but he’s been inconsistent with his release point and his heater has been very flat. One of the early tells that he has been continuing to build arm strength and settle into throwing every fifth day has been a 2 MPH drop in velocity his second time through the order. His out-pitch currently is a mid-to-high 80s cutter, that shows sharp finish and slight break across the strike zone. Workman has good feel for this offering and as he becomes more consistent commanding his fastball it can play well off of it due to the movement at the last moment upon approach to the plate. His cutter is close to a plus pitch presently and still has some room for improvement. As Workman continues to get comfortable with his routine, it can be expected that more consistent outings will follow. Much of his work throughout the season rests on sharpening his curveball and changeup. Showing good depth and knee-bending break at times, his 75-78 MPH curve can be loopy and inconsistent out of his hand as well. Improvement with the amount of snap he produces with this offering can push it towards a solid-average-to-better weapon at his disposal. Inexperienced with throwing a changeup, much of the progress Workman can make with this pitch will determine whether he can stick in a starter’s role as he reaches the upper minors in the next couple of seasons. Beginning his development as a professional pitcher this season, Workman has some clear near-term work ahead of him. As the summer months begin to heat up he should be in the midst of finding a nice groove, which will point to initial progress being made in his development.

1B Reynaldo Rodriguez

The Line:
Picking up where he left off last season with Greenville, Rodriguez is off to a torrid start at the plate in High A, posting a triple slash of .397/.457/.776 through 16 games, with an eye popping 15 extra-base hits. He turned in back-to-back two hit performances April 18-19 against Lynchburg, helping pace Salem’s attack with 2 doubles, 1 home run, 6 runs scored, and 5 runs driven in during the two game series. Rodriguez has kicked it into high gear in his last four games, turning in multi-hit efforts in each game, highlighted by 5 doubles and 2 home runs to anchor the middle-of-the-order.

The View: Signed by the Red Sox out of the Golden Baseball League in 2009 after washing out of the New York Yankees organization due to injury problems, Rodriguez has been an interesting find for the team. He started out in Extended Spring Training last season, but once he joined Greenville in May the offensive production soon followed and he has been off to an impressive clip to start 2011. The main caveat to what Rodriguez is currently doing lies with his age, turning 25 years of age this past February and well ahead of the curve for the level of competition he is presently facing. While it’s expected that he should dominate the more inexperienced pitching and be able to take advantage of the many mistakes he sees, Rodriguez has some clear hitting talent. Using more of a compact stroke, he shows quick wrists and is especially adept at pulling his hands inside the baseball on offerings running in on him to clean out them out effectively. Rodriguez produces nice upward loft with his swing and generates good lift when attacking offerings in his hitting zone to drive the baseball with backspin. Thus far, he’s shown to be quick with his load and lead with his hands on pitches running away from him to use the whole field effectively. Rodriguez is going to experience a much tougher challenge when he reaches the upper minors and have to prove himself against competition more in line with his age, but the early returns point to a hitter trending towards being ready to take on that challenge. Presently, it’s unclear as to how well he will be able to hit better spotted pitches and effectively pick up the spin of advanced secondary offerings, but for now Rodriguez is doing what is expected from him and showing he’s advancing past another rank of the Red Sox system.

Trending Up

Top pitching prospect Anthony Ranaudo has found an early groove to start his professional career with the Greenville Drive and has been showing he is quickly becoming ahead of the curve against South Atlantic League batters. Through 19.2 innings on the season, the 21-year-old right-handed starter has picked up 23 strikeouts and limited opposing hitters to just 10 hits. Utilizing a 92-94 MPH fastball that has topped out at 95 MPH thus far, Ranaudo can be overpowering when staying on top of the ball and using his heater to pound the strike zone early in sequences. Also snapping off his hammer curveball with frequency, this offering has shown excellent teeth and hard 12-to-6 break down through the zone. While Ranaudo is still working on feeling his changeup better and keeping himself controlled within his delivery to have more consistent command, the early returns have been very positive for last year’s top signing and a move to the next level in the Red Sox system could be on the horizon with continued mastery of Low-A…After getting a taste of the major leagues during a late season call up in 2010, Pawtucket infielder Yamaico Navarro has been out to prove he’s ready to contribute to the big league club should the opportunity presents itself. Posting a .936 OPS in 18 games this season with the PawSox, Navarro has ripped 8 extra-base hits and worked 13 walks in the process. Struggling with his plate discipline upon first entering the upper minors with Portland in 2009, he has steadily improved with his selectiveness to allow his natural batspeed and ability to create backspin generate more instances of solid contact. Still a bit rough with handling secondary offerings, Navarro will have to continue to focus on keeping his hands back and not guessing quite as much at the plate, but his versatility in the field and pop in his bat can provide the Red Sox with an attractive infield option should they need to reach down for help…Salem left-handed starter Chris Hernandez has been a groundball machine in High-A in his first three outings of 2011, with a whopping 80 percent of the balls put in play against him on the ground. Making use of a one-seam fastball that moves down and in against right-handed batters, Carolina League hitters have had a tough time making hard contact against Hernandez. While he will have to rely on changing speeds and pinpoint command, most likely posing a tough initial challenge of his stuff when he reaches Double-A, he should continue to show that he is ready for that challenge in the near future…With an impressive 21 strikeouts in 10 innings of work on the season, Greenville righty Juan Rodriguez has come out firing to start the 2011 season in Low-A. Possessing a live 93-94 MPH fastball that can touch 96 MPH when he reaches back, Rodriguez mainly operates with his heater at the moment. Working to improve the tightness of his high-70s curveball and round out the rough edges of his delivery, he is still very much a work in progress as a pitcher, but is an intriguing arm, especially if he can sharpen his breaking ball into more of a power slider.

Trending Down

Things have been slow out of the gate for Portland catcher Ryan Lavarnway, mainly stemming from his timing being off and getting caught between some pitches in the early going. 13 for his first 58 and with only 4 extra-base hits on the young season, Lavarnway has had some trouble keeping himself from opening up too soon, resulting in him rolling over a lot of balls and yanking the head of the bat too quickly through the hitting zone. After looking very comfortable during Spring Training and producing a lot of hard contact, he has yet been able to translate those results during the first month of 2011. An excellent hitter and one with cresting home run power, once Lavarnway works out the kinks with clearing his lower body early, expect an extended stretch of solid contact to follow…Left-handed starter Drake Britton has been adjusting to his move up another level of the Red Sox system to start the season and has yet to find his form through three outings with Salem. Giving up 15 hits in 9.1 innings of work thus far, Britton has struggled with his fastball command and keeping on top of the ball to fire it downward through the strike zone. While his velocity has been on par at 93-95 MPH and his curveball sharp at times, his overall command of his arsenal hasn’t been there as of yet to allow him to consistently work ahead of hitters for extended stretches. As he begins to feel his arsenal better and make less mistakes within the zone, Britton should be able to get deeper into outings with results more in line with what he did with Greenville last season…Playing regularly in High-A to start the season, Salem infielder Michael Almanzar has found it tough to make solid contact in his first 15 games. The 20-year-old right-handed hitter is just 9 for 54 with 13 strikeouts and only 3 walks. Almanzar has battled balance issues and keeping his swing short for most of his career with the Red Sox organization. The next steps in his development lie in translating the improvements he makes into game action and showing that his raw tools are trending into more consistent skills. Almanzar has high power potential and a lot of natural strength, but his mechanical issues have lead to him having trouble consistently driving offerings and being quick enough with the barrel on balls in good spots for him to handle…Greenville’s Lucas Leblanc has found the initial adjustment to professional baseball to be a steep one, logging 14 strikeouts in 14 games and a .194 average to start at the plate. Possessing a nice set of tools, highlighted by a plus throwing arm, solid speed, and strong hands, if Leblanc can make strides relaxing his approach at the plate and becoming more selective as a hitter, he’s an interesting low minors outfielder to keep an eye on.
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at 6:53 AM

Michael Lee-ds Portland to victory



4/27 Cup of Coffee: Pawtucket and Portland cruised to victory, while Greenville's bats were unusually silent.

Pawtucket had little trouble taking care of Lehigh Valley (PHI), 7-2. Josh Reddick was 1-5 in the game, but made the 1 count in the form of a solo home run. Reddick is hitting just .242 in his last 8 games, but has hit 4 home runs in that time. Juan Carlos Linares also made his presence known at the plate. The outfielder went 3-4 with 2 RBI. Andrew Miller started for the PawSox and earned his first victory as a member of the Red Sox organization. Miller went 5.2 innings and allowed just 1 hit and 2 runs (1 earned). He walked 2 and struck out 2. Scott Atchison relieved Miller and went 2.1 hitless innings. He walked 1 and struck out 1. Rich Hill pitched the 9th inning and allowed a hit. He did not walk a batter and struck out 1.

What looked like a pitcher's duel early on did not end that way, as Portland defeated Binghamton (NYM), 8-2. The game was scoreless through 5 and a half innings before the Sea Dogs blew the game open with 3 runs in the 6th and 5 runs in the 7th. Oscar Tejeda led the way, as he went 3-4 with a home run (his first of the season) and 4 RBI. Tim Federowicz delivered a 2-5 performance with 3 RBI. Will Middlebrooks went 1-3 with an RBI and a walk, while Alex Hassan went 2-4 with a walk and a stolen base. Hassan improved his Eastern League-leading batting average to .414. Michael Lee started for Portland and came through with one of the best pitching performances from any Red Sox minor leaguer this season. Lee went 6 innings, allowed 2 hits, did not walk a batter and struck out 6. The tall righty faced just 1 batter over the minimum.

Salem's game with Kinston (CLE) was rained out. No makeup date was announced.

There were few positive items to take from Greenville's 11-0 loss at the hands of Greensboro (FLA). The Drive managed just 5 hits in the defeat. Sean Coyle went 2-3 with a double. Coyle is hitting just .196 on the season (9-46) but has an .807 OPS due to his incredible 16 walks and .415 OBP. I'm no expert, but that isoD is quite good. Brandon Workman drew the start for Greenville. Workman lasted just 3.1 innings and got lit up to the tune of 5 hits and 4 runs. He did not walk a batter and struck out 2. The loss drops Workman to 0-3 on the season with a 5.65 ERA.

Player of the Day: Michael Lee, who threw 6 brilliant innings in Portland's win over Binghamton. Lee allowed just 2 hits, walked no batters and struck out 6.
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April 26, 2011 at 2:11 PM

Players of the Week, April 18-24: Dan Butler and Eammon Portice


Two oustanding performances last week helped two prospects overwhelmingly win SoxProspects.com honors.

Salem catcher Daniel Butler continued his impressive start to 2011 by taking home Player of the Week honors, while Eammon Portice's near flawless week of relief helped him attain Pitcher of the Week accolades.

Butler, who also took home Carolina League Player of the Week honors this week, helped lead Salem to a 5-2 record as the team continues its sizzling start. In five games this week, Butler hit .471/.591/1.118 with 2 home runs, 5 doubles and 14 RBI in 17 at-bats. Perhaps the highlight of the week for Butler was his 3 for 3, 3 double, 2 RBI performance on Friday against Potomac, that pushed the Red Sox to a 6-4 victory.

While the Sea Dogs only scratched out 1 victory last week, Portice continued to put together an amazing start to his 2011 campaign. In his two appearances last week, Portice hurled 5.0 innings, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 6. The 24-year-old Portice currently holds a 1.59 ERA with 11 strikeouts and only 2 walks in 11.1 innings pitched this season.
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at 8:52 AM

Reynaldo Rodriguez keeps slugging in Salem's victory


4/26 Cup of Coffee: The 3 Red Sox affiliates in action last night all had double-digit hit totals, but only the Salem Red Sox came out victorious.

Pawtucket and Rochester (MIN) were rained out, with a doubleheader scheduled for July 5th.

Despite 11 hits, Portland was doubled up by Binghampton, 6-3. Jorge Padron went 3-5 with an RBI. Alex Hassan went 2-5 with a double. Hassan leads the team with a .407 batting average. Stephen Fife took his first loss of the season. Fife went 4.1 innings, allowed 5 hits and 4 runs. He walked 1 and struck out 3. Tommy Hottovy continued his impressive season. Hottovy went 2.2 scoreless innings and allowed just 2 hits. He walked 1 and struck out 2. The lefty’s ERA now stands at an impressive 0.84 on the year.

Salem used 14 hits to beat Kinston (CLE), 7-3. Leading the way was none other than Reynaldo Rodriguez. He went 3-5 with a home run and 4 RBI. Over his last 10 games, Rodriguez has been scorching hot. In that time, he’s hit .450 with 3 home runs and 15 RBI. Kolbrin Vitek went 2-5 and raised his average to .349. After a pretty miserable start to the season, Vitek has really turned it around. Over his last 8 games, the Ball State product has hit .500 (18-36). Chris Hernandez started for the Salem Sox and went 4 innings and allowed 3 hits and a run. He walked 2 and struck out 3. Jeremiah Bayer relieved Hernandez and earned the win. Bayer went 3 innings, allowed 3 hits and a run while he walked none and struck out 6. Cesar Cabral earned his 4th save of the season as he went the final 2 innings and allowed 3 hits and a run. Cabral walked 1 and struck out 2.

Apparently, 11 hits was not a good omen for Sox affiliates last night, as Greenville got 11 hits and also lost to Greensboro (FLA), 5-2. Christian Vazquez went 3-4 with a double, an RBI and a walk. Brandon Jacobs went 3-5 with a double to increase his team-leading average to .391. Jacobs has hit .563 (9-16) over his last 4 games, and ranks 4th ihttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifn the SAL in both batting average (.391) and on-base percentage (.481). Anthony Ranaudo started the game for Greenville and went 4.2 innings. He allowed just 2 hits, 3 runs (0 earned) and a walk. He struck out 8 in the outing. The precocious righty’s ERA now stands at a paltry 0.46.

Player of the Day: Reynaldo Rodriguez. We try to mix up the POD as much as we can here at SoxProspects.com, but this guy has simply been too good. He went 3-5 with a home run and 4 RBI in Salem’s victory over Kinston.
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April 25, 2011 at 6:31 PM

Catcher Exposito getting up to speed


If the Red Sox front office decides to look for an alternative to the current catching platoon of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek, one of the primary options in the minor league system right now is Pawtucket backstop Luis Exposito, a 24-year-old native of Miami.

Check out the rest on ESPN Boston
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at 8:00 AM

The Book: Tim Federowicz


C Tim Federowicz
Date: April 21, 2011
Team: Portland Sea Dogs


Line: 2 for 4, 2 singles, 2 runs scored, groundout, popout

Defense: Known as an advanced defender since being drafted by the Red Sox organization in 2008 with above-average major league defensive potential, Federowicz has continued to push his skills during his time in the system and hone the finer points of the catching position. With a sturdy and solid frame, actions behind the dish are extremely fluid and natural for him. Federowicz moves well from side-to-side and is very quick dropping his body down on balls that bounce out in front of the plate in the dirt, allowing him to control and smother wild offerings before they get too far away from him. He shows good anticipation with the break or movement of a pitch being delivered and usually sets his body up in a square position to the ball. This enables him to provide a strong target for pitchers to throw to and front pitches rather than stab at them with frequency. Possessing a plus throwing arm, Federowicz is capable of controlling the running game, but needs a little more work coming out of his crouch cleanly to consistently get his throws on the bag. He can get his arm tangled up a bit with his body from time to time, which causes his throws to tail into the runner. Improving with popping out from behind the plate more crisply should allow him to take more advantage of his arm and be more consistent with catching would-be base stealers.

Approach: Federowicz has found his approach pushed since he was promoted to High-A and this area of his offensive game has the most improvement in front of it for him to become a consistent hitter at the major league level. Now in Double-A this season, he will need to continue working to use the whole field and looking to go deeper into counts. Federowicz can jump at pitches early in the count and be too pull happy, rolling over fastballs on the outer corner instead of trying to drive them the other way. So far during the early season he has done a better job of being more patient during at-bats and using right field to his advantage. Federowicz has some pop in his bat and is capable of plugging gaps when he drives the ball with backspin, along with generating home run power on offerings middle-to-outer third around the thighs. Continuing to improve on his selectivity should enable him to drive more balls and create solid contact with greater frequency. Federowicz can be slow on fastballs around the belt and get jammed on higher velocity offerings running in on him. There have been a couple of times he has driven pitches in this area, but he tends to pop up most of the ones he puts into play. Whether he can work to bring his hands quicker above the baseball consistently in this area or lay off these offerings with greater frequency will most likely show in consistent positive results during the season.

Take: Federowicz is a strong defensive player and appears to be trending towards rounding out as an above-average defender at the major league level. With more experience handling upper level pitchers and continuing his work to become the game manager on the field, he should be close to becoming ready to handle the rigors of catching at the big league level in the near future. When watching Federowicz play behind the plate, the smoothness of his actions and how in control of his body he is jump out considerably. Balls typically don’t get too far away from him after blocking them in the dirt and he’s extremely firm handling pitches delivered to him. Federowicz demonstrates the traits and skills expected out of a solid receiver. However, to be consistent throwing runners out, he will need to continue to focus on coming out of his crouch quicker and not dragging his arm when throwing. When Federowicz struggles with this it leads to erratic throws or late ones despite his very strong arm. It becomes interesting projecting his future role when bringing his offense into the equation. With just average batspeed, his approach is going to have to make strong strides at this stage in his development to help him get into good counts so he can work on offerings he can handle. As a hitter at the major league level, Federowicz has the look of one who will have to guess and cheat some to get his bat started early against the high caliber of pitching. This can make him susceptible to off-speed pitches, along with opening his hips up early, causing him to be more of a hitter that yanks outside pitches consistently and one who will have constant maintenance with his swing to keep it fluid. Presently, Federowicz appears likely to be a backup at the major league level, capable of starting in stretches, and giving a team stability behind the dish while he is in the lineup. His bat still has some development in front of it though and work to better create consistent hard contact can push his projection up a little bit. Federowicz appears to be adjusting well to the Eastern League in the early going and is continuing to hone his skills towards potentially becoming a solid backup catcher at the major league level.
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at 6:16 AM

Red Sox sweep the board in a shortened slate of games



4/25 Cup of Coffee: Both Pawtucket and Salem clubbed double digit hits to earn victories on a day where only 2 Red Sox affiliates saw action.

Pawtucket had little trouble dispensing with Rochester (MIN) by a score of 9-3. Michael McKenry (4-5) and Nate Spears (3-5) each contributed 3 RBI to Pawtucket's cause. Drew Sutton (3-4, 2 doubles, 1 RBI) and Yamaico Navarro (2-4, 1 double, 1 RBI) also had good days at the plate. Navarro, a shortstop, started in left field in an effort to improve his versatility. Kyle Weiland got the win for Pawtucket as he went 6 innings and allowed just 2 hits and a run. He walked 2 and struck out 3 in the strong effort. Michael Bowden continued to impress, as he pitched a perfect 9th inning with 1 strikeout. Bowden has not allowed a walk or a run in his last 5 appearances.

Salem got behind 4-0 in the 2nd inning, but scored the next 11 runs of the game to beat Potomac (WAS), 11-4. Reynaldo Rodriguez led the way, as he went 3-4 with 2 doubles, a home run and 2 RBI. Over his last 9 games, Rodriguez is hitting .429 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI. Michael Almanzar went 1-3 and hit his first home run of the season. Other notable hitting performances included Pete Hissey (2-5, a double and 3 RBI) and Jeremy Hazelbaker (2-2, a double and 3 walks). Ryan Pressly started the game for the Salem Red Sox and struggled mightily. He went just 2.2 innings and allowed 4 hits and 4 runs (2 earned). Pressly walked 4 and struck out 2. Anatanaer Batista relived him and pitched 3.1 perfect innings with 3 strikeouts to earn the victory. Will Latimer got the 3 inning save for Salem. He allowed just 2 hits, didn't walk anyone and struck out 2.

Player of the Day: Reynaldo Rodriguez, who went 3-4 with 2 doubles, a home run and 2 RBI in Salem's victory over Potomac.
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April 24, 2011 at 7:00 AM

Greenville scores seven in last two innings to complete dramatic comeback


4/24 Cup of Coffee: In today's installment of the Cup, runs were easy to come by with the three affiliates in action combining for 24 runs, though only Greenville would come away victorious.

Pawtucket jumped out to an early lead, but couldn't hold on as they were outlasted by the Rochester Red Wings (MIN) 9-7. It was just the second loss for the PawSox in eight games. Pawtucket picked up three runs in the first, thanks in large part to a two-RBI triple by Josh Reddick. Hector Luna also knocked in a run in the first. Alfredo Aceves got the start for the PawSox and pitched two scoreless innings before getting tagged for three runs in the third. Aceves was removed after the third, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits, with 1 walk and 1 strikeout. He gave way to Matt Fox, who allowed a pair of home runs in his first inning of work. Facing his former team, the 28 year old struggled, allowing 5 runs on 5 hits in 2.1 innings. Luis Exposito gave Pawtucket a boost in the fifth with a solo home run while a Drew Sutton double brought in two more, but the Rochester lead proved to be too much to overcome. Sutton homered in the ninth as well for his third RBI of the game. Rich Hill pitched 1.2 innings of hitless relief for the PawSox in a losing effort.

Rain in the New England area caused Portland's game with the New Britain Rock Cats (MIN) to be postponed. No makeup date was announced. The Sea Dogs will have Easter Sunday off, followed by a four-game set at home against Binghamton.

Salem was involved in a slugfest as well, but was eventually knocked of by the Potomac Nationals (WAS) 9-8. Trailing 1-0 early, the white-hot Dan Butler came up with the bases loaded and got a hold of one to left for a grand slam. Butler now has 14 RBI in his last five games. Potomac came right back in the second, however, with four runs of their own off of starter Pete Ruiz. Ruiz went 4.0 innings, allowing 5 runs on 6 hits with 2 walks and 3 strikeouts. Trailing 5-4, Salem picked up three runs on RBI doubles from David Mailman and Derrik Gibson. They tacked on another run in the fifth on a Michael Almanzar single. But that would be all for the Salem offense, and Potomac scored three in the seventh to tie it and one more in the ninth for the win. Kendal Volz gave it up in the ninth and was charged with the loss, but it was the first run he has allowed in 5 appearances and 9.0 innings pitched this season.

Greenville trailed 7-2 headed into the eighth inning, but a five-run fifth and two more in the ninth gave the Drive the victory over the Charleston RiverDogs (NYY) in a wild one, 9-8. A two-RBI single from Drew Hedman gave Greenville a 2-0 lead in the first. Kyle Stroup got the start for the Drive, and allowed one run in the first and five in the fourth. He finished with just 3.1 innings pitched, allowing 6 runs on 8 hits with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts. Trailing 7-2 in the eighth, Greenville's bats came alive for five runs to tie the game. The big blow came on a Lucas LeBlanc bases-loaded single. The ball was misplayed in the outfield, and three runs came around to score on the play. LeBlanc would then score on a wild pitch in the next at-bat. With the score tied at 7 in the bottom of eighth, Charleston scored a run to retake the lead. But the Drive battled back once more. After an error allowed Bryce Brentz to score and tie the game, Brandon Jacobs delivered a two-out, RBI single to push across the eventual game-winning run. Tyler Lockwood earned the win for Greenville by pitching the final 3.0 innings and allowing just one run.

Player of the Night: Brandon Jacobs, who went 2 for 3 with a pair of RBIs, including the game-winning single to propel Greenville to a 9-8 comeback victory.
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April 23, 2011 at 9:38 AM

Butler stays hot as Salem knocks off Potomac


4/23 Cup of Coffee: Sox affiliates went 2-2 yesterday, as a banner week for a Salem player continued, while a top prospect struggled on the mound for Portland.

Pawtucket picked up its International League-leading 10th win of the year, as they took down the Rochester Red Wings (MIN) by a score of 3-1. In what appeared to be an effort to try and stretch out Felix Doubront, the Venezuelan left hander got the start for the PawSox and pitched three innings. Doubront gave up just one hit, while striking out 3 and yielding no walks. Kris Johnson, whom Doubront replaced in the rotation, came in to replace the 23 year old and gave up the first run of the game in the fourth. Pawtucket did all of their scoring in the sixth on back-to-back home runs from Yamaico Navarro and Josh Reddick. After Johnson's three innings of one-run ball, Scott Atchison came on for two scoreless innings. Michael Bowden then pitched the ninth to earn his third save of the season.

Stolmy Pimentel was looking for his second consecutive impressive start for Portland, but the Sea Dogs were outslugged by the New Britian Rock Cats (MIN) 9-7. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the third, Tim Federowicz cracked an RBI double to center to tie the game. But the Rock Cats got to Pimentel for three more runs in the top of the fourth to regain the lead. The Sea Dogs answered back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the fourth, however. After a wild pitch scored Jorge Padron, Ryan Dent hit a sacrifice fly to cut the New Britain lead to one. Pimentel left with one out in the fifth, and was charged with two more runs to finish the day with 6 runs allowed in 4.1 innings pitched. The right hander gave up 6 hits with 2 strikeouts and 2 walks. Trailing 6-3 in the bottom of the fifth, Portland clawed back with a run on a Chih-Hsien Chiang groundout. The Rock Cats went on to score two in the sixth and another in the seventh, leaving the Sea Dogs with a big hill to climb in the late innings. After Eamonn Portice pitched two perfect innings in relief, Portland did stage a minor comeback in the ninth. A two-run home run by Ryan Lavarnway and an RBI double by Oscar Tejeda made it 9-7, but it wasn't enough.

The reigning SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Week got the start for Salem and earned the win, as they downed the Potomac Nationals (WAS) 6-4. Chris Balcom-Miller improved his record to 3-0, giving up 1 run on 8 hits, while striking out 6 without walking a batter. Salem trailed 1-0 in the third when they picked up three runs thanks to RBIs from Kolbrin Vitek, Reynaldo Rodriguez, and Dan Butler. Rodriguez and Butler both knocked in another run after back-to-back doubles in the fifth to give Salem a 5-1 lead. Balcom-Miller was replaced by William Latimer, who gave up 2 runs over the next 2.0 innings. Salem got another run in the sixth on a double by Zach Gentile. Cesar Cabral pitched the final two innings for his third save of the year.

Greenville gave up a big sixth inning, and they fell to the Charleston RiverDogs (NYY) 6-5. The Drive jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after a solo home run by Bryce Brentz in the top of the first. Brentz is now hitting .354/.400/585 on the season. Charleston pushed across a pair in the bottom of the third to take the lead, but they were the only runs Manny Rivera would allow. The 21-year-old left hander fired 5.0 innings giving up just those 2 runs on 2 hits, while walking just one and striking out 7. Greenville retook the lead in the top of the fifth on a Christian Vazquez two-run homer. In the sixth inning, the Drive had runners on first and third and David Renfroe at the plate when Brandon Jacobs stole second. The throw went into center field, allowing Jacobs to move to third and a run to score. With Renfroe still at the plate, Jacobs scored on a wild pitch to give Greenville a 5-2 lead. Garrett Rau was called on to replace Rivera, but was saddled with the loss after allowing 4 runs and 5 hits over 2.0 innings. Jordan Flasher pitched a perfect eighth for the Drive.

Player of the Night: Dan Butler, whose perfect 3-for-3 night at the plate helped Salem to a 6-4 win over Potomac. He doubled in all three official at bats and added 2 RBI to give him 14 on the season. Butler now has 10 RBI in his last 4 games.
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April 22, 2011 at 7:00 AM

Sutton leads Pawtucket's offensive clinic


4/22 Cup of Coffee: Pawtucket broke out the lumber in a big way as they continued their recent success. Elsewhere, Portland pounced on the Rock Cats while Salem and Greenville couldn’t quite put it together.

After being stopped in their quest for eight wins a row a day earlier, Pawtucket annihilated the Syracuse Chiefs (WAS) 14-0. Brandon Duckworth continued to be near perfect for the PawSox, tossing 7.0 scoreless innings while only allowing 6 hits and a walk to drop his ERA to 0.48. Clevelan Santeliz relieved Duckworth and threw 2.0 scoreless innings. Pawtucket began its run barrage in the first, plating three on a Drew Sutton RBI single and bases loaded walks to Daniel Nava and Michael McKenry. The game became a laugher in the third, as the PawSox pushed across nine runs on bases loaded walks to Nava and McKenry, RBI singles by Jose Iglesias, Lars Anderson and Nava, and a Nate Spears grand slam. McKenry added his third bases loaded walk in the seventh, which was followed up by another Iglesias RBI single to put Pawtucket in front 14-0. Every member of the lineup reached base at least once, led by Sutton’s 5 for 6 performance at the plate. Ryan Kalish had to leave the contest in the third after making a diving catch. He will be evaluated by team doctors today.

Returning home after a five game road trip, Portland got back in the win column with a 5-1 victory over the New Britain Rock Cats (MIN). Brock Huntzinger received the starting nod and pitched admirably, twirling 5.0 innings, allowing just 1 run on 4 hits. Seth Garrison and Santo Luis each contributed 2.0 scoreless innings of relief out of the Sea Dogs bullpen. Portland wasted no time getting on the board, scoring twice in the first thanks to a bases loaded walk to Ryan Lavarnway and a wild pitch that brought home Tim Federowicz. The Rock Cats trimmed the lead in half in the top of the fourth inning, but the Sea Dogs would respond in the bottom half of the frame. Alex Hassan roped an RBI double and Federowicz followed with a smash to third that was misplayed by former Red Sox farmhand Ray Chang. Lavarnway came up next and added an RBI single which gave Portland a 5-1 advantage. Federowicz and Jon Hee each had 2 hits to pace the Sea Dog offense.

Fresh off of a sweep of Lynchburg, Salem fell flat against the Potomac Nationals (WAS), falling 5-2. Tom Ebert received the spot start, going 4.0 innings, allowing 5 runs (4 earned) on 3 hits and a walk. Jeremiah Bayer added 4.0 innings of his own, allowing only 1 hit and a walk while striking out 4. Kendal Volz came on for the ninth, pitching a 1-2-3 inning with 2 strike outs. Down 2-0 in the third, the Red Sox cut the lead in half on Pete Hissey’s RBI single. Potomac responded with 3 in the top of the fourth to open up a 5-1 advantage. Salem tried to chip away in the eighth, getting an RBI single from Daniel Butler, but ultimately couldn’t muster a sustained rally. Kolbrin Vitek stayed hot at the plate, going 3 for 4 with a double and a run scored. Vitek is now 11 for his last 17 to bring his average to .341.

Greenville dropped into a first place tie after they were quieted by the rival Charleston RiverDogs (NYY) 5-3. Miguel Celestino picked up his first loss of the season as he tossed 4.0 innings, allowing 4 runs on 7 hits. Charle Rosario added 2.0 scoreless innings of relief, allowing just 1 hit and striking out 6. Dennis Neuman finished the last 2.0 innings of the game, allowing 1 run on 1 hit and 3 walks. The Drive did not get on the board until the fifth, when Sean Coyle blasted a two run home run to cut the RiverDogs lead in half at 4-2. Christian Vazquez led off the seventh with a solo home run which brought Greenville within 1. Charleston got the run back in the bottom half of the inning and quieted the beginnings of a Greenville ninth inning rally to hold on for the win. Vazquez and Brandon Jacobs each had two hits to lead the Drive offense.

Player of the Night: Drew Sutton, who went 5 for 6 with a double, RBI and 4 runs scored in Pawtucket’s battering of Syracuse 14-0.
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April 21, 2011 at 3:14 PM

Who's on third?


In the latest installment of my series highlighting the Red Sox organizational depth at each position, let's take a look at the system's depth at third base, which is a position that could actually have an opening in a few years if Kevin Youkilis transitions to designated hitter at some point. Here's a quick rundown of the six legitimate third base prospects in the Sox system.

Check out the rest at ESPN Boston
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at 10:54 AM

SoxProspects.com Podcast #14


In our April podcast, we discuss the early returns for the 2011 season, what players might actually be due for an early promotion, and take some questions from the Twitterverse.

Players discussed: Drake Britton, Kolbrin Vitek, Anthony Ranaudo, Will Middlebrooks, Miguel Celestino, Sean Coyle, Brandon Jacobs, and more!

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at 8:00 AM

Q&A with Pete Ruiz


One of the first stops on many prospects’ paths in the Red Sox system is Lowell, a place that affords fans the opportunity to see the system’s young talent before they head south to Greenville and Salem for seasoning. But as we’ve come to find out, not every prospect’s path is the same. After spending his first two seasons in the Gulf Coast League, Salem pitcher Pete Ruiz skipped Lowell and overcame midseason struggles in 2010 to have a breakout season for the Drive. In his last eight starts of the season, Ruiz posted a 1.76 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 48:4, good enough to earn a pair SoxProspects.com Pitcher of the Week awards and Pitcher of the Month honors in August. The big righty recently took some time to talk to me about his conversion to pitching, his development on the mound, and his spring training roommate, Ryan Westmoreland.


Jon Meoli: You converted from a position player to a pitcher. Can you talk about what sparked that?
Pete Ruiz: I went to Santa Barbara Community College as a corner infielder. I redshirted because I hit the ball well but I just didn’t have power, and I knew I just wasn’t going to play. I asked to throw a bullpen a couple times and they said no. I finally threw a bullpen and after five pitches they said, “Alright, you’re going to pitch.” I had thrown in one game in high school, but never really pitched in my career. I knew I had a strong arm and a good breaking ball, given the chance. I guess I was about 19 when I started pitching.

JM: What was that transition like?
PR: It was really frustrating. I’m a very competitive person, and pitching is tough. It’s very mental. There’s a lot more downtime compared to being a position player, and I was in the bullpen in college. That was tough, some days throwing, some days not throwing. I started to get the hang of it at the end and I started enjoying it.

JM: What was the draft and signing process like for you?
PR: I committed to the University of Oregon in the fall of my sophomore year in 2008. My thing was that if I went in the top ten rounds then I would sign. Draft day was kind of stressful. I thought the Mariners were going to take me, for sure. They called me [in rounds] 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 but didn’t take me, and then the Sox took me in the tenth. I was really happy with the organization that took me and I saw it as a good opportunity, so I passed up Oregon.

JM: Now you’ve been pitching with the Red Sox for a few seasons. Did you feel at any point that you stopped standing on the mound and throwing and started pitching? Do you think you’ve reached that point at all?
PR: I’m close. I still feel like I’m a little behind in certain situations compared to the other guys that have been doing it their whole career, just in pitch counts, throwing different pitches in different counts. But for the most part I’ve learned that a quality pitch is a quality pitch. It’s not really what you throw, it’s where you throw it. I’ve really worked on minimizing walks, forcing contact, and things like that, especially as a starter. I feel like I’m definitely starting to make the transition into being a pitcher.

JM: In terms of your arsenal, what are you throwing these days?
PR: I’m a four-seam and two-seam fastball guy. I get pretty good movement on my two-seam, so I use that for ground balls and if I fall behind in the count. I throw my two-seam to my arm-side and my four-seamer to the opposite arm side. My two-seam is anywhere from 89-91 and 92 on a good day and my four-seam is about 92-94. It just depends on the count and the situation. I’m very confident in my breaking ball. It’s definitely my out pitch, my go-to pitch when I’m ahead in the count. I’m still developing a changeup. Especially as a starter, that’s what I need to work on the most, trusting it in any count and throwing it. I definitely have a feel for a good changeup now. It’s all about going out there and trusting it in a game.

JM: You threw the most innings you’ve thrown in your career last season. Were there any ill-effects that altered your preparation for this season?
PR: I stayed with the same approach as I did the offseason before—same throwing program, same shoulder program. We have a great lifting program, and I stuck with that. It was definitely a lot of innings. The most I threw in college was 66, and I threw 125 [last year]. It was definitely a much bigger load, but I’m getting older and I think I’m definitely at a point now where I can handle those kinds of innings.

JM: You had a lot of success last year towards the end of the season. Did you notice anything different that you were doing to bring that about?
PR: It was kind of an interesting year. I started in the bullpen, did pretty well, got promoted to piggyback starter, and had success there too. Then I finally worked my way into a starting role. When Roman Mendez went down, I got the nod. My first start was pretty good and then I had a really tough time for a month and a half. I think I just lost confidence in my stuff and thought being a starter was “Oh, you have to nitpick corners and be this crafty guy.” That’s not the case. The second half, I was just really aggressive with my pitches. I threw my breaking ball whenever I wanted to. That was really my out pitch in the bullpen. I started throwing my pitches with conviction.

JM: How did you feel this spring?
PR: Very good. I felt very good this spring. My velocity was good. Stuff-wise I felt really confident. There was a lot less pressure this year. I had a good season last year, and I came into the year thinking, “Ok, I put myself on the map. Don’t put as much pressure on yourself. Just let yourself work out there.”

JM: And you had put a lot of pressure on yourself in the past?
PR: My coach in junior college was a 40-man roster guy with the Indians for a couple years. He had some Triple-A time, a little big league time. He did his best, but he told me every day that there’s nothing that can prepare you for professional baseball. You see that every day. You come from wherever you are and you’re the guy. You throw 90, but everyone here throws 90. Everyone has a good breaking pitch. It’s very competitive and you know that you’re fighting for spots. You definitely feel a bit of pressure, but now that I’ve been in the system for a couple of years I know where I stand. I know what I need to do. It’s easier to individualize my priorities instead of focus on the big picture.

JM: You’ve been in the system for a couple of years now. Has anyone in particular impressed you with their talent?
PR: I really respect Kyle Weiland and how fast he’s catapulted himself to where he is. He does his work every day. Stephen Fife is another guy that I lived with in the spring and kind of look up to. He’s a little older than me, he’s been about a level ahead of me each year but he’s a guy I can talk to about certain things. Even the new class coming in—Anthony Ranaudo is a very good pitcher, Brandon Workman. There are a lot of guys in this organization that are impressive pitchers.

JM: Lastly, I’ve heard that you’re close with Ryan Westmoreland. You got to see him over the spring, correct?
PR: We lived together over the spring. It’s unbelievably great to see him out on the field, taking batting practice, lifting and conditioning. I went through a lot with him the year before with the surgery and I went and saw him in Arizona before it happened. To see where he was, having gone through the surgery to where he’s at now, it’s such a rewarding feeling to see him back on the field where he belongs. He’s come such a long way. He’s worked so hard. I pull for him every single day.

JM: It seems kind of unfair that people are judging his recovery through the lens of baseball. What’s it like for you as a friend to hear people concerned with that?
PR: When that first happened, it wasn’t an issue of baseball. I talked to his dad a lot and his family, and it was definitely more about quality of life. You don’t know if he’s going to live through the surgery, you don’t know if he’s going to walk or talk. All of those factors. Baseball is a huge part of Ryan’s life and he’s got a bulls-eye on him because he was a number one prospect, big money signing. His talent was so recognized that it’s very easy for people to say that if he doesn’t play baseball again, it’s a failure. But from where he was to where he is now, he’s already won. The kind of person he is, I know he’s going to keep working and baseball is going to be his number one goal. If that, for some reason, doesn’t happen for him, then what he’s already accomplished is good enough. It’s pretty amazing.
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