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October 4, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Dispatches from the Fort: Fall Instructs edition

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A couple weeks ago, I got the chance to attend a couple days of the first week of the Fall Instructional League, better known as Instructs. Although much of what I was able to see was originally posted on Twitter, what follows is a compendium of what I was able to catch over the two days.

Saturday: Game @ Twins

Forgive me if this is light on hitter information. On Saturday, the Twins threw stud prospect (and former Red Sox draftee) Alex Meyer for the first three innings, keeping the right-hander ready for the Arizona Fall League. He was sitting in the mid-to-high 90s—there were gasps from the pitchers behind the backstop when he hit 99 mph—with a great slider and change in the mid-80s, so the Low A-and-below lineup fielded by the Sox stood NO chance. He struck out six in three innings, giving up just one hit and one walk.

The Twins followed with Alex Wimmers, a former first-round pick who has, like Meyer, reached Double-A. However, he is coming back from Tommy John surgery and looked it, sitting in the mid-80s. So generally, it was hard to take much from Red Sox players’ at-bats for the first six innings, for opposite reasons.

As for that Sox lineup on Saturday, it was as follows (the second column of players entered in the fifth):

DH Bryan Hudson
2B Mike Miller / Wendell Rijo
LF Aneury Tavarez / Mike Meyers
C Alixon Suarez / David Sopilka
3B Rafael Devers / Deiner Lopez
RF Joseph Monge
1B Nick Longhi / Nick Moore
CF Jordon Austin / Manuel Margot
SS Raymel Flores / Javier Guerra
DH Jon Denney

Miller (pictured, above), who missed most of the year due to injury, had the lone hit against Meyer, a single through the right side. He went the other way again in the fourth against Wimmers, singling on a line drive to right field. He was hitting well with Greenville (.356/.442/.489) before going down 15 games into 2013, and looked like he'd shaken the rust off … Tavarez took Wimmers very deep over the fence in right after Miller’s single to drive in the only Sox runs … Hudson struck out three times, but he laid down an outstanding base-hit bunt attempt in his third at-bat that only kicked foul due to a pebble. Small ball might wind up being his game … For the second time in as many times that I’ve seen him, Monge was hit-or-miss in right field. He made a great diving catch in the seventh, but his bad judgment on a ball in the eighth let a base hit fall in that should have been caught. It’s easy to dream on all the young guys in Rookie ball, but seeing them in person hammers home just how far they all have to go … Margot showed great range in center field making one running catch in right-center … Denney was passive at the plate, walking against Meyer in the third and striking out looking twice. In his defense on the strikeouts, the plate umpire’s strike zone was very, very inconsistent all game.

Brian Johnson started and performed like a High-A lefty facing an Instructs lineup should. He sat 90-92 mph, and got up to 95 a couple times. His curve came in 76-78 and showed nice depth. Also mixed in a cutter and changeup. The athleticism he showed in fielding a ball down the third-base line belied his past as a two-way player at Florida … Jamie Callahan followed with a good outing. He sat 90-92 as well, throwing mostly fastballs. … Two GCL Dominicans, Edwar Garcia and German Taveras, showed good velocity. Garcia sat 93-94 in his two innings, while Taveras sat 92-93 in the ninth, throwing a single slider at 81 … Their nice outings presented a stark contrast to that of 2013 seventh-round pick Mike Adams, who got rocked. His fastball sat just 85-86 mph, and dropped to the low-80s once he started getting hit. He showed poor body language on the mound as well. Given that the Sox gave him $150,000, his showings in Lowell and now in Fort Myers are puzzling.

Hammering home just how informal these games are: Yes, there were two DH’s in the Sox lineup … The Sox batted out of order in the eighth to bring Denney to the plate in a two-out, RISP situation ahead of Guerra … The game went 10 innings in order to get the subs on both teams another chance to hit.

Sunday – camp day

A “camp day” is really “practice” in pro baseball terms. The only players wearing jerseys (and thus identifiable by name) during the four-inning intra-squad game were the four pitchers, so again, not a ton to pass on for the position players other than a couple tidbits from infield and batting practice.

Rafael Devers, though the youngest player in camp, looked just as physically mature as the rest of the group. With that big of a body at 16, it’s easy to see him potentially moving across the diamond to first base if he keeps growing, but it’s not like he can’t field his position. He looked smooth and athletic at third during infield, and did well fielding a bunt single during an intra-squad game (he had no chance to throw the runner out, but made it close). At the plate, he looked very raw on both days, but I overheard at least one conversation on Saturday of a Sox staff member raving to his Twins counterpart about Devers. Based on what I saw, he may struggle a tad in Rookie ball next year, but you can see why the Sox thought he was worth $1.5 million, even in the new international salary cap era.

Deiner Lopez (pictured, above on the right) looked outstanding taking groundballs at third base. He has the talent to play defense at short, but the presence of Tzu-Wei Lin (pictured, above on the left), Raymel Flores, and Javier Guerra at short had him getting his work elsewhere, especially with third baseman Victor Acosta in Boston for the weekend to get his Latin Program Player of the Year award. I expect Lopez will stick around the system for a long time as a versatile infielder who can field three positions well … Wendell Rijo did not appear to be wearing the bulky knee brace he sported for most of the season, and he looked like he was moving quite well. He still has a bit of hot dog in him—I noted when one coach on Sunday yelled at him to set his feet before throwing to first—but he shows the tools to be a plus defender at second. He also looked much more balanced at the plate than when I caught him in the GCL. His stance is a bit unorthodox, but it works for him, at least for now … We had already reported that David Renfroe is making the transition to pitching from playing the infield, but I can also confirm that infielder Heiker Meneses was working out at catcher. It is most likely that the Sox are making him into a super-utility player, rather than moving him there full-time, but that could depend on how the transition goes. It is an interesting decision, as 5-foot-9, 160-pound middle infielders like Meneses are not typically the kinds of players who move to catcher after having reached Triple-A, especially since he's shown to be a solid up-the-middle defender … Speaking of Triple-A catchers, Dan Butler was in camp staying fresh in case the Red Sox needed him. It was funny to see the reverence with which he was treated, even if jokingly, given the relatively young age of the players present: someone yelled out "okay boys, now it's time to see how it's done" or something similar when he stepped in to take BP in the morning.

The four pitchers who worked the four-inning intra-squad game, all throwing two innings, were Teddy Stankiewicz, Ty Buttrey, Daniel McGrath, and Corey Littrell. Stankiewicz was the most impressive of the four, sitting 90-92 mph with a curve at about 77 and change at 81-83. He did get a bit wild when the batter squared to bunt, the type of situation players are at Instructs to work on … Buttrey threw pitches of 91, 89, and 90 to the first batter he faced, but was around 87-88 the rest of his outing … McGrath threw one pitch at 89 and one at 88 in his first inning, but otherwise didn’t top 87. His changeup was at 78-79, and he threw some slow curves around 73 mph. Neither he nor Littrell was able to finish their second inning of work due to pitch counts … Littrell started his outing sitting 88-90, but dropped to about 87-88 from the stretch. He mixed in his changeup at about 81 and curve around 77 throughout the outing.

Chris Hatfield is Executive Editor of SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @SPChrisHatfield.