Red Sox minor league roundup: Andrew Miller getting close, Ryan Lavarnway goes deep

April 17, 2012 - 5:13 am

A Red Sox prospect who was taken under the wing of Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes this past offseason had a very strong performance, as did rehabbing left-hander Andrew Miller, who is likely close to joining the Red Sox' big league club. Also, the leading home run hitter in the Red Sox organization in 2011 cleared the fences for the first time this year. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-3 WIN AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Andrew Miller bounced back from an appearance on Sunday in which he lost the strike zone. Miller struck out the side while throwing 12 of 15 pitches for strikes, punching out megaprospect Bryce Harper (swinging) and longtime big leaguer Mark Teahen (swinging) before getting right-hander Jhonatan Solano looking. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine suggested last week that, after Monday's game, the Sox would be in a position to evaluate whether Miller is ready to join the big league club, with his outings on back-to-back days seemingly representing a final test for the left-hander. In five minor league innings, Miller has struck out nine, walked five (all in the two Triple-A outings that preceded Monday) and allowed three hits. -- Right-hander Junichi Tazawa came into a one-run game and pitched a scoreless ninth for his first professional save. For the first time this year, he did not get a strikeout, but for the year, he has now tossed seven scoreless innings in four appearances, striking out nine, walking two and permitting five hits. -- Catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who last year hit 34 home runs in 133 total games in Double-A, Triple-A and the majors, went deep for the first time in 2012, hitting a solo homer to right in the sixth inning. It was just the second extra-base hit in 45 plate appearances for Lavarnway, though some of that can likely be traced to the fact that opponents seem to be treating him like a radioactive substance. Though he's hitting .200, he has a .378 OBP thanks to 10 walks thus far this year, including five in his last three games. -- Third baseman Will Middlebrooks went 0-for-4 as his seven-game hitting streak came to an end. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 10-5 LOSS VS. BINGHAMTON (METS) (BOX) -- Third baseman Kolbrin Vitek now has a seven-game hitting streak after going 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles on Monday. It was the ninth time in his career that the 2010 first-rounder has had multiple extra-base hits in the same contest. -- Outfielder Juan Carlos Linares was named the Eastern League Player of the Week (or, more accurately, player of the week and a half) for the first "week" of the season, having hit .415 with a .489 OBP, .707 slugging mark, 1.197 OPS, three homers, three doubles and eight RBI. Perhaps more significantly, the hamstring injury that caused him to exit Sunday's game turned out to be nothing more than a cramp, and so he is expected to return to the lineup soon. -- Kevin Thomas of the Portland Press-Herald reports that Chris Balcom-Miller could miss a start after having a fingernail get torn off of his right hand during his rough outing on Sunday. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-0 WIN VS. LYNCHBURG (BRAVES) (BOX) -- Left-hander Rich Hill made his second rehab appearance with Salem, allowing a walk and hitting a batter but striking out two and getting an inning-ending groundout. He threw 15 of 24 pitches for strikes. According to Aaron McFarling of the Roanoke Times, Hill hit 94 mph with his fastball, according to the stadium scoreboard. (The Sox have not had Hill with quite that velocity, but they have seen him reach 93 mph during his rehab assignment.) Even more notable, according to Salem broadcaster Evan Lepler, was that Hill bought steaks for his teammates for the postgame spread. -- Second baseman Sean Coyle had his first three-hit game in High-A, going 3-for-4 with a double. After getting off to a 2-for-18 start, he's 8-for-21 (.381) with two doubles and two walks in his last five games. -- With Jackie Bradley Jr. getting the night off, Brandon Jacobs made his second start in center field, going 2-for-4 with a double. Jacobs spent all of last player left field in Greenville, but improved speed, strides in his throwing arm and improved defensive instincts have put him in a position where the Sox are trying to give him some playing time in center as well. -- Right-hander Brandon Workman tweeted that he will be heading to Salem to start his minor league season. The big right-hander out of Texas went 6-7 with a 3.71 ERA, 115 strikeouts and 33 walks in 131 innings last year with Greenville. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-2 LOSS AT LEXINGTON (ASTROS) (BOX) -- Right-hander Matt Barnes was named the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week after tossing 10 shutout innings while striking out 16 and walking two in two starts. The Sox have been extremely pleased with what they've seen to this point from the 2011 first-round pick, though there are also still developmental checkmarks that they are hoping to see from the UConn product. Close to the top of the list before he gets promoted is greater comfort mixing in his changeup. While the team believes he has the makings of a decent change (to complement his mid-90s fastball and good curveball), to date, Barnes has used the pitch roughly a handful of times in each of his two outings. -- The Drive were shut down by Astros prospect Mike Foltynewicz, who allowed just two runs (one earned) on three hits in seven innings while striking out six. The 20-year-old once said that he expected the Sox to take him with their first-round pick (No. 20 overall) in the 2010 draft -- a pick that ended up being used on Vitek -- before the Astros grabbed him at No. 19. LINKS -- Right-handed pitcher Keith Couch, who tossed six shutout innings and struck out seven on Monday, spent the offseason working out with Jose Reyes (among others) in New York, according to McFarling of the Roanoke Times. Couch has been very good so far this year, with 19 strikeouts in 16 innings. -- McFarling also had this fascinating observation: Five players on the Salem roster are listed at 5-foot-10 or shorter. Coyle, the shortest of the bunch, took stock of the phenomenon: '€œBaseball'€™s a great sport. You don'€™t see any guys that are 5-7 playing for the Heat. That'€™s why I love it. Big guys, short guys '€“ baseball gives everybody a shot to do their thing.'€ -- Larry Mahoney of the Bangor Daily News looks at Portland Sea Dogs manager Kevin Boles and his winter of vegemite-avoidance (and baseball team-building) in Australia. -- PawSox reliever Garrett Mock faced a number of former teammates who are with the Nationals' Triple-A affiliate. He showed very good stuff on a day that he described as "a little different," according to Tom Leo.