Red Sox minor league roundup: Allen Webster gets grounded; Salem makes history; puzzling outing for Brian Johnson

April 09, 2014 - 7:05 am

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-1 WIN VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Right-hander Allen Webster threw strikes and showed a strong two-seamer over the course of six efficient innings in which he threw 54 of 83 pitches (65 percent) for strikes. Though Webster punched out just three batters (while walking two), he allowed just three hits (a double and two singles) while eliciting 10 groundball outs. "My fastball command was 10 times better than where it was the last game. I was throwing my off-speed for strikes and they were getting bad contact," Webster told Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times. "I was staying more in line and driving the ball to the spot rather than jerking it." -- Ryan Lavarnway, who had been 0-for-14 in his first four starts of the year, made his first hit of 2014 a resounding one, launching a solo homer to the opposite field in right. Lavarnway once again played first base, making his third start at that position (compared to one each at DH and catcher). -- Utility man Justin Henry put on an uncharacteristic power display, going 2-for-4 with a double and homer. In his seventh minor league season last year, the versatile 28-year-old set a career high for homers with two. -- Christian Vazquez was hitless for the second straight game, going 0-for-4, but he did throw out the only runner who attempted to steal against him. -- Left-hander Drake Britton struggled, allowing a run on two hits and two walks in an inning of work that saw him throw just 14 of 29 pitches for strikes. He's walked three, struck out two and allowed five hits in 4 1/3 innings spanning three appearances to start the year, though the run on Tuesday was his first earned run yielded of the year. -- Also from McGair: Bryce Brentz's defense has been thought to have limited his prospect ceiling in his time in the Sox organization, but thus far this year in Pawtucket, Brentz has been working to challenge that perception. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 10-1 LOSS AT TRENTON (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Catcher Blake Swihart had his third multi-hit game in four starts this season, going 2-for-4 to improve to .467. He has neither walked nor strcuk out to date. -- Second baseman Mookie Betts suffered his first hitless game in Double-A, going 0-for-2, but he did walk twice. He's accepted three free passes while whiffing just once in his first five games, forging a .474/.545/.789 line in 22 plate appearances. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 12-11 WIN OVER WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX) (BOX) -- Salem set a franchise record by winning its fifth straight game to open a season and tied a Carolina League record with its 16th straight win dating to last year; the record had been unchallenged since it was established by the 1950 Winston-Salem Cardinals. Salem play-by-play broadcaster Even Lepler is mildly enthused about the streak. Within this thoughtful post about why a winning streak like this is so fascinating -- in a player development realm where the focus is typically on individual player development rather than team outcomes -- you can hear his call of the final out. -- Left-hander Brian Johnson was hit hard in his second start of the year, with four of his eight hits allowed going for extra bases (three doubles and a triple) en route to a five-run yield in 4 2/3 innings. Most of the damage came against his fastball, which found the middle of the plate with increasing frequency as the game progressed, and so the 2012 first-rounder ended up pitching backwards in the latter innings of his outing. Despite the hard contact, he did get eight strikeouts -- six of them swinging -- while walking just one, on a night when he featured an 88-91 mph fastball yet still recorded 17 swings and misses -- four on his fastball, seven on his curve and six on his changeup. All 11 changeups he threw were for strikes. Johnson now has 15 strikeouts and three walks in 9 2/3 innings in Salem this year. -- Though 23-year-old right-hander Kyle Martin allowed three runs in his 2 1/3 innings (while also permitting a pair of runners inherited from Johnson to score), he punched out nine and walked none, giving him nine strikeouts without a walk in his 5 1/3 innings this year. -- Speedy outfielder Matty Johnson went deep as part of a 2-for-6 game, his second homer in 1,059 career professional plate appearances in indy ball and the Sox minor league system. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 10-1 LOSS AT CHARLESTON (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Right-hander Mario Alcantara allowed seven runs (five earned) on just three hits in four innings. He did allow a homer, but his primary undoing came from four walks and a hit batter, on a night when the hard-throwing right-hander threw just 37 of 74 pitches for strikes. -- Right-hander Myles Smith -- like Alcantara, a high-ceiling, hard-throwing wild card in the lower levels after being taken by the Sox in the fourth round of last year's draft -- likewise struggled with his control, finding the strike zone with just 32 of his 66 offerings while permitting a pair of homers among his five hits allowed, walking four and striking out two. -- Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin went 0-for-1 but worked a pair of walks, and he now has four walks (against three strikeouts) in his first four games of the season in which the 20-year-old has hit .455 with a .563 OBP.