April 8, 2016 at 7:00 AM
4/8 Cup of Coffee: Welcome back for another season of Red Sox minor league game recaps with the SoxProspects.com Cup of Coffee. Many followers of Boston's system have been eager to see how the offense that pounded the ball in Greenville last season would fare upon their promotion to Salem. They did not disappoint in the Salem opener, with Andrew Benintendi (pictured) and Yoan Moncada leading the charge in an offensive explosion for the High-A Red Sox. The three teams that played received great Opening Day outings from their starters, including quality outings from Aaron Wilkerson (Portland), Daniel McGrath (Salem), and Matt Kent (Greenville).
Pawtucket Red Sox vs. Buffalo Bisons (TOR) - PPD.
The PawSox, like the big club, will have to wait an extra day for their season to start as rain plagued Pawtucket and most of New England on Thursday. According to a team release, Pawtucket will play its opener on Friday at 6:15 with pregame ceremonies starting at 5:45. The two teams will play a doubleheader on Saturday.
Aaron Wilkerson did his best David Price impression for the Sea Dogs, racking up 11 strikeouts in six innings of work in the Portland opener. According to a team tweet, that was the most strikeouts in a single game since Brian Johnson fanned 12 on July 25, 2014. Wilkerson allowed just two hits in 5 2/3 innings of work, walking only one. Williams Jerez and Luis Ysla provided 1 1/3 and one innings of perfect relief, respectively. Rob Wort hung on for the save in a shaky ninth inning, allowing the Phils' only run on two hits and a walk. Jantzen Witte provided the big blow on offense, going 1 for 3 with a solo home run and two total RBI on the game. Jake Romanski started off the year strong with a 3-for-4 night and Mike Miller added an RBI double.
The highly-touted Salem offense wasted no time in showing why it could be one of the best lineups in the minors, opening with an 18-hit barrage. All but one Salem player had a hit and all but one had at least one RBI on the night. It was fourth-ranked prospect Andrew Benintendi who had the most impressive night in a game full of them, coming up a home run shy of the cycle. The 21-year-old outfielder went 4 for 5 with two singles, a double and a triple, driving in three runs and scoring twice. Yoan Moncada picked up right where he left off last season, going 2 for 4 with two walks, two runs scored, one RBI and a stolen base. Moncada swiped 49 bases in Greenville last year.
Rafael Devers was the only Salem player to not collect a hit, but he did drive in a run. Jordan Procyshen collected a pair of doubles and an RBI while right fielder Danny Mars went 3 for 4 and drove in a pair. Daniel McGrath posted a quality start, going six innings, allowing three runs on four hits while walking one and striking out one.
The Drive rallied in the seventh inning to make it a perfect night for Boston's affiliates. With the bases loaded and one out, Chad de la Guerra plated Luis Alexander Basabe with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. The next batter, Jeremy Rivera, put the Drive up for good with an RBI single. Matt Kent authored a quality start, going six innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks. Anyelo Leclerc picked up the win in relief with an impressive three perfect innings of work with three strikeouts. It was an opener to forget, however, for Michael Chavis and Austin Rei, who each went 0-for-4. Chavis also had an error that led to an unearned run.
Player of the Night: 2016 started with a bang for Andrew Benintendi, coming up a home run shy of the cycle. Perhaps most impressively, Benintendi used all fields on his hits, going to center on his two singles, right on his triple and left on his double. Last year's college player of the year, the first-round draft pick out of Arkansas tore his way through Lowell and Greenville and looks to quickly climb the ranks again in 2016. Get an up-close look at Benintendi's swing in this SoxProspects featured video recorded during spring training.
Photo Credit: Andrew Benintendi by Kelly O'Connor