Red Sox Minor League Notes: Daniel Bard's best stretch to date, Sean Coyle's recovery, a surprise emergence in Lowell

July 23, 2012 - 7:11 am
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A look at the happenings in the Red Sox minor league system on Sunday ... TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-3 WIN (12 INNINGS) AT LOUISVILLE (REDS) (BOX) -- The progress for Daniel Bard appears incremental, but it's progress nonetheless. For the first time this month, he has back-to-back scoreless appearances after he tossed a shutout inning on Sunday (following another one on Thursday). He gave up a pair of hits, but all five batters he faced made relatively weak contact (the two hits were on a soft liner and a ground ball to center). Though he didn't strike out anyone, he also didn't walk a hitter, the first time in five appearances that he hasn't issued a free pass. At this point, it would be futile to look too much into any single outing by Bard, who has mostly moved in fits and starts since being sent down to Triple-A. However, there is some evidence that he's doing a better job of repeating his mechanics than at any other point since being sent down. He threw 13 of 20 pitches (65 percent) for strikes on Sunday, repeating the strike percentage he had in his previous outing on Thursday after he threw 12 of 21 pitches (57 percent) for strikes in his prior outing last Monday. It is the first time that he's thrown more than half his pitches for strikes in three straight outings since he was sent down to Triple-A. The basis for Bard's rebound will always be his ability to throw strikes, and so his current run represents as promising a stretch as he's had in some time. -- Left-hander Chris Hernandez, in his first start in Triple-A, had an outing that typified his effective march through every level of the Red Sox system to this point in his career. He logged six innings and allowed little damage, permitting two runs on seven hits (five singles, a double and a homer) while striking out four and walking two. He threw 48 of 84 pitches (57 percent) for strikes. The 23-year-old has been as steady a performer as there has been among Red Sox minor league pitchers over the last two years. He had a 3.18 ERA, 5.7 strikeouts per nine innings and and 3.6 walks per nine while making his full-season debut last year in High-A Salem; a 3.18 ERA, 5.2 strikeouts per nine and 3.1 walks per nine this year in Double-A Portland and now, after all of one start, a 3.00 ERA, 6.0 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine in Triple-A. Hernandez, taken in the seventh round of the 2010 draft, is likely to be the first Red Sox player from that class to reach the majors. At some point in the next year, it is likely that he will get a call-up either as a spot starter, a long-man or eventually as a reliever capable of giving left-handers fits. -- Ryan Lavarnway went 4-for-7 with a pair of doubles, matching his season high in hits (done twice previously, both in June). The game was one of his best in what has been a difficult month at the plate. Lavarnway had been hitting .193 in July prior to the four-hit contest on Sunday. Still, for the year, he's hitting .300/.386/.451/.837. -- Jonathan Hee had a noteworthy game. He entered the contest in the ninth as a pinch-runner, had a two-run double in the 12th as part of Pawtucket's six-run eruption and then had a 1-2-3 inning on the mound in the bottom of the 12th. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-5 LOSS (10 INNINGS) AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS) (BOX) -- Jeremy Hazelbaker had an outrageous game to continue an outrageous stretch, going 1-for-3 with a homer (his sixth of the month in 11 games since the All-Star break), two walks and four steals. The four steals matched a franchise record. In 11 games since the All-Star break, he is hitting .293/.400/.829/1.229 with the aforementioned six homers and seven steals. His 11 homers since the beginning of June are the second most in the Eastern League. At 24, Hazelbaker is not young for a prospect. He is striking out in 24.7 percent of his at-bats, a rate that is high -- particularly given that he is repeating in Double-A. But he still represents a combination of power and speed like few others in the Red Sox farm system, as his 15 homers and 24 steals suggest. He is the only player in the Red Sox system with at least 15 homers and 15 steals, and he's in his third straight season with an OPS of at least .800. -- Hazelbaker's Ball State teammate, Kolbrin Vitek, made his return to Double-A after a two-month hiatus while recovering from an intercostal injury. He went 1-for-5 with a single and two strikeouts. -- Right-hander Chris Balcom-Miller had another dominant long relief outing, logging 3 2/3 innings in which he did not give up a hit, allowed just one baserunner (on a walk) and recorded 10 of his 11 outs by either strikeout (4) or ground ball (6). In his last four relief outings, he's worked 15 2/3 innings while allowing just one earned run (0.57 ERA) while striking out 13, walking five and allowing seven hits. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 4-3 LOSS VS. WILMINGTON (ROYALS) (BOX) -- After struggling for much of the year, Sean Coyle is starting to show the diverse skill set that contributed to his status as one of the better Red Sox position prospects entering the year. On Sunday, he went 1-for-2 with a double, a walk and an HBP while also stealing a base. In his last six games, he's 12-for-22 with three walks, two homers, four doubles, nine runs batted in and a steal. He's 12-for-12 in stolen base attempts this year. His .243/.305/.383/.688 line this year is down significantly from what he did a year ago in Greenville (.247/.362/.464/.826), but while it took some time, there's now evidence to suggest that he's making the adjustment to keep up with the level of competition in High-A. He's hitting .320/.355/.480/.835 in 20 games since the All-Star Break, and given that the diminutive second baseman, at 20, is one of the youngest position players in the league, what had been a challenging season is now starting to look like one that reveals positive player development steps. -- Miguel Celestino gave up four runs and two homers (the latter matching a season high), but he punched out seven (also matching a season high) and got eight ground ball outs. -- Michael Almanzar reached base in all four of his plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with a double and two walks. He matched a season-high for the most times on base, and the 21-year-old third baseman is trending towards career highs in virtually every offensive category. He's hitting .296/.348/.451/.800, with improvement of nearly 100 points or better in all four of those hitting categories from 2011, when he hit .199/.243/.275/.517 while splitting the year between Salem and Single-A Greenville. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 13-7 LOSS VS. LEXINGTON (ASTROS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Henry Owens had what likely ranks as his worst outing of what has been a very impressive first full pro season. He allowed six runs on three hits and four walks (matching a season high) while working just two innings (a season low). His 5.30 ERA is anything but impressive, but he's still asserted himself as one of the best pitching prospects in the Red Sox system while striking out 12.9 per nine innings this year, the highest rate in the minors. -- Keury De La Cruz went 0-for-3, continuing his most challenging offensive stretch of the year. He's hitting .178/.196/.244/.440 in his last 10 games. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 4-3 WIN AT CONNECTICUT (TIGERS) (BOX) -- First-round pick Deven Marrero went 2-for-5 with a double and a triple. It was his second game of the year with multiple extra-base hits. -- One of the more intriguing out-of-nowhere performances by a Red Sox minor leaguer this year has been from right-hander William Cuevas. His fastball has been as high as 95 mph this year, and his off-speed stuff has generated very bad swings. On Sunday, he tossed six innings and allowed two runs on four hits (including a homer) while striking out three and walking none. The 21-year-old is now 3-1 with a 1.89 ERA, 36 strikeouts and nine walks in 38 innings this year, with opponents hitting just .216 against him. -- Middle infielder Mookie Betts reached base in all four of his plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with a double, walk and an HBP. He now has a six-game hitting streak during which he's 9-for-21 while having reached base in 13 of 25 plate appearances. For the year, the 19-year-old is hitting .256/.302/.282/.584. ROOKIE LEVEL GCL RED SOX: OFF DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF