Red Sox minor league roundup: Allen Webster's steady (if unspectacular) year continues; Deven Marrero streaking; Cody Kukuk's baffling struggles

June 23, 2014 - 6:43 am

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-4 LOSS AT SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Allen Webster allowed four runs (two earned) on four hits (including a first-inning solo homer) while lasting just 5 1/3 innings. He labored through 101 pitches in which he threw just 53 (52 percent) for strikes, but still limited his walks to two while punching out five. The outing snapped a string of four straight starts in which Webster had logged at least six innings, but gave him five straight starts of three or fewer earned runs, during which he has a 2.58 ERA in 31 1/3 innings. Overall, Webster has had a far more consistent season in 2014 than he did in 2013, but without the same flashes of complete dominance that he offered last season. In many respects, he more closely resembles a big league starter now than he did in 2013 given the consistency with which he's been able to deliver credible starts in Triple-A, and the fact that his control of his two-seam fastball has been far better this year than last (perhaps most notable: he's hit just two batters this year after drilling 16 hitters a year ago), but his performance has suggested more of a potential back-of-the-rotation starter than someone with the ceiling of a front-of-the-rotation hurler if the stars aligned. Through 16 starts, Webster is 3-4 with a 2.97 ERA, 7.1 strikeouts per nine and 3.5 walks per nine; in 2013, he was 8-4 with a 3.60 ERA, 9.9 strikeouts per nine and 3.7 walks per nine. -- Garin Cecchini played his first career game in left field, handling a pair of fly outs and a single. Though Cecchini had spent his entire pro career at third base, however, he does have some noteworthy prior experience in left field as an amateur. The 23-year-old went 0-for-4, and he's now hitting .260/.340/.324 for the year in Pawtucket. -- Will Middlebrooks went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and a strikeout. He's now 6-for-19 with two walks (good for a .316 average and .381 OBP) while striking out just four times in 21 plate appearances. -- Catcher Dan Butler, for the second straight year, appears to be heating up in June. The 27-year-old went 3-for-4 with a double, his second straight multi-hit game that included an extra-base knock, improving to .294/.375/.382 in his last 10 games and .255/.364/.345 in June. He hit .226/.315/.371 in April and .179/.246/.214 in May. -- Feats of Mookie: Sustaining. Mookie Betts went 1-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to seven games. He's reached base at least once in all 19 of his Triple-A contests, with a .312/.391/.455 line. He has 10 walks and 12 strikeouts in Triple-A, and has punched out at least once in eight of his last nine games. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-4 LOSS VS. ALTOONA (PIRATES) (BOX) -- Shortstop Deven Marrero extended his hitting streak to six games with a 3-for-4 day, driving in a run. Two of his three singles on the afternoon didn't leave the infield. Still, Marrero has been on fire at the plate, going 13-for-20 over those six contests with two extra base hits and four runs driven in. Prior to the streak, Marrero's average on the season had fallen to .259 with a .347 OBP, but he's managed to boost those numbers up to .292 and .372, respectively. Marrero has reached base safely in 16 of his last 21 games and is hitting .351/.424/.488 over that stretch with seven extra-base hits. -- With 19 games under his belt at the Double-A level, Keury De La Cruz is still hitting .300 after a 2-for-4 afternoon on Sunday. Cruz had gone 2-for-his-last-11 prior to the multi-hit showing. Both hits came off of righties, with De La Cruz hitting to the tune of a .318/.348/.545 line against right-handers. -- Starter Mike Augliera lasted 6 2/3 innings but allowed five runs on nine hits and took the loss, his sixth of the season. The right-hander didn't walk a batter, but hit three while he also fanned five. He gave up two home runs. The 24-year-old owns a 5.10 ERA in 14 starts and 83 innings with the Sea Dogs this season. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 11-4 LOSS AT POTOMAC (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- There is no greater disparity of stuff and results in the Red Sox system than that exhibited by left-hander Cody Kukuk. Kukuk got shelled for eight runs on seven hits (including a homer and two doubles) in three-plus innings on Sunday, his third straight start of allowing at least twice as many runs as innings pitched. In nine starts spanning 32 1/3 innings since his promotion from Greenville to Salem in May, Kukuk has allowed more than a hit an inning (39) while permitting 35 runs (31 earned) and walking as many batters (30) as he's struck out. He's an athletic lefty who has topped out at 98 mph with two strong secondary pitches, but his lack of command and control has created a severe and unexpected struggle for a 21-year-old with all the talent in the world. -- Catcher Carson Blair continued his epic June, as the 24-year-old went 2-for-3 with a walk to bring his line for the month to .489/.586/.766, and his season line to .268/.395/.517 with 22 extra-base hits in 42 games. He's controlled his strikeout rate this month, whiffing in 14 of 58 plate appearances (24 percent) after striking out in 36 percent of his plate appearances in the first two months of the season, helping to explain his meteoric ascent from a .167/.307/.402 line entering June. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 7-3 WIN VS. SAVANNAH (METS) (BOX) -- Myles Smith lasted just four innings and threw 87 pitches but he held the opposition to two  runs on five hits, walking a pair and striking out four. He ran into trouble in the second inning, loading the bases with nobody out with two walks and a single but limited the damage to just one run. A balk on the part of Smith led to the second run. The 22-year-old has been inconsistent throughout the season and owns a 5.85 ERA in six starts and eight relief appearances, but he's allowed just two runs over his last 10 innings of work. - Catcher Carlos Coste had a 3-for-4 day out of the ninth spot in the lineup, driving in a run. The 21-year-old has played in just six games since joining the Drive on May 31, but he's hit safely in five of those contests and is batting .364 in an obviously small sample size. Coste doesn't have any walks or extra-base hits in his 22 plate appearances, however. Coste hasn't shown much offense in any of his four professional seasons, compiling a slash line of .169/.220/.208 over three seasons in rookie ball and never finishing a year with an average over .200. -- Playing shortstop for just the fourth time in his professional career, Carlos Asuaje went 2-for-4 with a run scored. The 22-year-old has managed to put up a .311/.416/.549 line over 67 games this season, all while getting starts at four different positions, including second base, third base and left field. Asuaje's been especially hot at the plate lately, hitting .361 with four extra-base hits and eight runs driven in over his last nine games. SHORT SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 2-1 LOSS VS. TRI-CITY (ASTROS) (BOX) -- Making his first start of the season, Willie Ethington went four innings and allowed just one run while striking out two and issuing three walks. The righty, who was drafted in the 17th round by the Red Sox in 2012, gave up just one hit on the afternoon. The walks hurt him; he walked the first batter of the game, who stole second and came around to score on two ground outs. Ethington has appeared in three games thus far for the Spinners, allowing one run in each outing and compiling a 2.38 ERA through 11 1/3 innings. -- Nick Moore was just about the only member of the Spinners' lineup who could get anything going against Tri-City pitching, going 2-for-3 with a double. The 21-year-old, who has spent multiple stints with the Spinners over the last three years, already has five doubles and a home run through nine games and 36 plate appearances in 2014. -- Reliever German Taveras tossed two scoreless innings to finish out the game, allowing three hits while walking one and striking out one. Taveras was roughed up in his first outing of the season, allowing three runs in 2 1/3 innings, but hasn't allowed a run in five innings since. ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY