Red Sox minor league roundup: Anthony Ranaudo and the trade question; impressive debut for Jose Contreras; Rubby De La Rosa struggles; Henry Ramos raking

July 20, 2013 - 6:54 am

Technically, Anthony Ranaudo had stayed on his turn of the rotation over the last couple weeks, pitching every fifth day. But, as he made a pair of one-inning stints in showcase games -- the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game and the All-Star Futures Game -- he unquestionably was taken out of his normal routine. That may or may not have contributed to his struggles in those two contests (the fastball command that had permitted Ranaudo to overpower the Eastern League wasn't evident), but either way, it was time for Ranaudo to get back to a more normal work schedule. He did so on Friday, working around seven hits to limit his opponents to two runs through six innings before giving up a solo homer and a double while recording one out before getting pulled in the seventh. He wasn't dominant by any stretch of the imagination, striking out just four while walking three. It's an interesting time to assess the big right-hander's season. One year ago, he'd been shut down for the year and wasn't a consideration for other teams as the trade deadline approached. This year is different. Ranaudo has reminded people of why he was such a highly regarded prospect during his college career at LSU, holding opponents to a .205 average, forging a 2.87 ERA and striking out just over a batter an inning (98 in 97 1/3 frames). Of late, he's been inconsistent, alternating dominant Eastern League outings with pedestrian ones while forging a 4.64 ERA in his last seven starts. Still, the overall impression he's made this year has been a positive one that is certain to make him a prominent subject of interest as the trade deadline approaches. "When I saw him this spring, he looked great in the spring -- up to 95, great downhill plane, very good curveball and an improving changeup with a little bit of sink. He's going to have to maintain his delivery and that changeup still needs a little bit of work, but if he can stay healthy, I think he has the profile of definitely being a No. 3 guy, maybe a No. 2 if everything goes right," said one AL scout. "With the way he's throwing now, the angle is huge. The breaking ball is swing and miss. I was a little surprised how tight his spin was. It really has progressed since when I had seen him in high school. Some guys don't make that progression. It was exciting to see. As long as he stays healthy, he should definitely be a main guy in Boston's rotation at some point." That is, of course, assuming that Ranaudo is not dealt. Given that the Red Sox have considerable depth in the upper levels among their pitching prospects, most conversations between now and July 31 will invoke the names of many of those pitchers, including Ranaudo. That could create an odd sort of limbo for the pitcher, but Ranaudo didn't seem terribly unnerved by the prospect. "We can't predict what's going to happen as far as a trade," said Ranaudo. "You have to focus on trying to make it up to the big leagues with the Red Sox. That's where we're at right now. All of us believe we have the talent and ability to do it, and we're all having pretty good years. We know that any time, any one of us can get called up. It's something all of us have all put in the work for, we've all prepared for, and it's something we're looking forward to." PROGRAMMING NOTE: This week's Down on the Farm will explore potential Red Sox trade chips. Guests this week are Keith Law of ESPN and pitching prospect Henry Owens of High-A Salem. Tune in on Sunday at 8:30 am on WEEI.  TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-7 WIN AT DURHAM (RAYS) (BOX) -- Rubby De La Rosa was not sharp on Friday, going only 3 1/3 innings while allowing four runs on five hits and five walks while striking out one. The right-hander struggled with his command and was hit hard throughout his 3 1/3 innings. De La Rosa got himself into jams in both the first and second inning, but escaped unscathed. A walk, single, sac fly and a hit batter in the fourth inning led to the starter being lifted. He threw 80 pitches with only 41 going for strikes. Over his last three outings, De La Rosa has allowed a total of 13 earned runs in nine innings, and has walked 10 after a string of three starts in which he didn't issue a single free pass. Those 10 walks come in comparison to only seven strikeouts. Opposing hitters are batting .421/.529/.579 against De La Rosa in those three starts. The recent stretch of bad outings has caused De La Rosa's ERA to rise to 3.90 on the season. The starter has fanned 68 batters in 67 innings while issuing 35 walks. -- Signed to a minor league contract earlier in the day, veteran righty Jose Contreras made his debut in the Red Sox system, throwing a scoreless inning and two-thirds, allowing a hit and walk and striking out three. The 41-year-old was released by the Pirates earlier in the season after posting a 9.00 ERA in five innings and seven appearances. -- Will Middlebrooks, who has been mired in a bit of a slump as of late, broke out of it with a big game on Friday, going 3-for-5 with a double (his second since returning to Pawtucket) and two RBI, bringing his total to 19 in 20 games with Pawtucket. With the three-hit day, Middlebrooks managed to raise his slash line from .231/.277/.436 to .253/.295/.458 in his second stint with the PawSox. -- Catcher Dan Butler hit his seventh home run of the season, a three-run shot to left field in the second inning. Butler finished the day going 2-for-3, adding a single and two walks. Butler also drove in a season-high four runs. Butler had been struggling since his last multi-hit game, batting .150/.320/.200 with a doubles and a RBI in his last seven games. On the year, the 26-year-old, who is on the Red Sox 40-man roster, is batting .243/.353/.422, walking 29 times with 42 strikeouts through 56 games. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-3 LOSS VS. READING (PHILLIES) (BOX) -- Stephen Drew, in his second rehab game with Portland, went 1-for-3 while batting leadoff and playing five innings at shortstop. -- Garin Cecchini went 0-for-4, just the second time since his promotion to Double-A Portland that he's failed to reach base. In his last seven games, he's just 4-for-27 with a .148/.258/.333 line, though with four walks and six strikeouts, suggesting that he's still commanding the strike zone. while hitting .326/.434/.494. -- Right-hander Noe Ramirez threw 2 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just one hit, walking no one while punching out four. In his last four appearances, he's allowed three runs in 10 2/3 innings with 13 strikeouts and no walks. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 9-8 LOSS AT FREDERICK (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- Henry Ramos continues to amass strong plate appearances, going 1-for-3 with two walks and his 10th steal of the year on Friday. The 21-year-old is walking in 11 percent of plate appearances, hitting for average (.279), getting on base (.359 OBP) and showing some pop (.455 with 11 homers and 30 extra-base hits). More to the point, he's now been one of the better players in the Carolina League for some time. Since June 3, he ranks among Carolina League leaders in average (.333, 6th), OBP (.402, 7th), slugging (.577, 4th) and OPS (.979, 4th). He's young enough that both his approach and his performance merit notice. -- Left fielder Keury De La Cruz went 3-for-5 with a homer. His sixth homer of the year ended an 11-game stretch without an extra-base hit. The 21-year-old hasn't reached a spectacular plateau like the 20/20 season he posted last year, but he's nonetheless more than holding his own at a level where he's a bit below the league average for position players, hitting .288/.324/.429 with six homers, 37 extra-base hits and 10 steals in 94 games. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-0 WIN VS. ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES) (BOX) -- Right-hander Luis Diaz keeps dealing. The 21-year-old fired seven shutout innings, his third start in his last four turns in which he logged seven innings. In his last five starts, he's been outstanding, going 4-0 with a 0.56 ERA while holding opponents to a .156/.191/.211 line, punching out 30 and walking just five in 32 1/3 innings while showing a fastball that has bumped 95. -- Shortstop Jose Vinicio went 2-for-4 with a steal, his second straight multi-hit game with a stolen base. He's now 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts since the start of June (and 7-for-7 in 14 games this month), showing signs of the dynamic middle-of-the-field skill set that made him an intriguing prospect with his age 18 performance in Greenville last year. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 4-2 LOSS AT STATE COLLEGE (CARDINALS) (BOX) -- Starter Daniel McGrath, making his first start for the Spinners after being promoted from the Gulf Coast League, threw six solid innings in his debut, allowing three runs on seven hits while striking out four. It was smooth sailing for McGrath through the first five innings, but he gave up a two-run home run in the sixth. McGrath, an Australia native signed as an international free agent in January, was dominant in his four GCL starts, allowing only three earned runs and eight hits while striking out 30 batters in 20 innings. The left-hander turned 19 on July 7. -- Cleuluis Rondon went 2-for-4 with his third double of the season. The second baseman has been on a tear recently, hitting .400/.423/.480 in his last seven games. The 19-year-old is enjoying his best professional season to date, hitting .273/.326/.364 with 10 RBI in 26 games with the Spinners. -- Outfielder Jose Colorado was also promoted from the GCL, and enjoyed a successful first game with the Spinners this season, hitting a solo home run, his first of the season. Colorado has split time between three teams this year, beginning the season with Greenville. He's struggled between the three clubs, batting .177/.268/.182 through 20 games. ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 4-2 WIN VS. GCL TWINS (BOX) -- Right-hander Willie Ethington, 19, allowed just one unearned run on four hits and a walk while striking out three in five innings. He has 16 strikeouts and just two walks in 18 innings spanning five outings in the GCL. -- Outfielder Bryan Hudson once again found his way on base multiple times, going 1-for-3 with a walk. The 15th-rounder is hitting .313/.452/.417 with 13 walks and 17 strikeouts in 18 games. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 3-2 WIN (COMPLETION OF 7/3 SUSPENDED GAME), 4-0 WIN AT DSL DODGERS (BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2) -- Left-hander Luis Ramos, an 18-year-old from Panama, threw five shutout innings, permitting just three hits, walking none and punching out five. In eight starts spanning 37 innings, he has a 1.95 ERA, 23 strikeouts and just two walks. -- Third baseman Victor Acosta went 2-for-4 with a double while plating a pair of runs. The 17-year-old's 24 RBI lead the DSL Sox and are tied for 14th in the league.