Red Sox minor league roundup: Anthony Ranaudo's promotion one year in the making; Travis Shaw shows pop; Blake Swihart pushes through the wall

August 03, 2013 - 8:47 am

The promotion to Triple-A for right-hander Anthony Ranaudo had seemed a long time in coming given his early season dominance in Double-A Portland. But when the move up to Pawtucket finally arrived after 19 starts in which the 23-year-old went 8-4 with a 2.95 ERA, 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.3 walks per nine, its significance was nonetheless hard to overlook. After all, a year ago at this time, it was becoming apparent that Ranaudo's year in Double-A had reached a premature dead end. He'd been shut down due to shoulder woes, having concluded a dismal year in which he made just nine starts, posted a 6.69 ERA and walked the same number of batters that he struck out (27). As he dealt with a groin issue and then his shoulder injury, his velocity fluctuated, sometimes unable to crack 90 mph, leaving scouts scratching their heads and wondering why Ranaudo was characterized as a prospect. This year, the 6-foot-7 right-hander -- despite a bit of a downturn in his performance in his final weeks in Portland -- raised no such questions. He showed the ability to work comfortably in the low- to mid-90s, bumping the upper-90s with his swing-and-miss fastball and power curve as well as a changeup that he incorporated to positive effect at times. Through most of the first three months of the season, he demonstrated tremendous command of the offering, overmatching opponents. He has taken a consider step forward, for the first time as a professional resembling the pitcher whom the Sox thought they were getting based on his dominance as a college sophomore at LSU and his standout performance on the Cape in the summer of 2010, after the Sox jumped at the chance to get him in the supplemental first round following a junior year struggle at LSU. For Ranaudo, it has been a year of accomplishments -- the Eastern League All-Star game, the All-Star Futures Game, the promotion to the brink of the big leagues -- made sweeter by virtue of what he went through a year ago. "It's just totally different," Ranaudo explained last month of the contrast between 2012 and 2013. "Last year, during in-game stuff, I was worried about what I had to do to try to create more velocity. Obviously it was down. I was worried about my mechanics. I was worried about my health. This year, I'm able to go out, know that I'm healthy, know that my mechanics are good because I've gotten the repetitions, know my velocity is there, that I can just go out there, throw, compete and focus on in-game situations -- the things I need to focus on as far as runners on base, things like that, that I wasn't necessarily able to focus on last year." This year, the focus has been in the right place, with Ranaudo being rewarded as a result. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-2 LOSS (15 INNINGS) VS. NORFOLK (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- Shortstop Xander Bogaerts went 3-for-7 with a double, collecting Pawtucket's only extra-base hit. Few will recall that, in his first 15 games in Triple-A, Bogaerts hit .207 with a .281 OBP and .414 slugging mark. That is because the 20-year-old has rendered that struggle a distant afterthought. He's now reached base by hit or walk in 30 straight games dating to June 29, hitting .327 with a .433 OBP and .523 slugging mark during the run. His average in that time ranks eighth in the International League, while his OBP is third and his slugging mark ranks 10th. -- Catcher Dan Butler went 2-for-3 with a walk, and in his last 11 games, the 26-year-old is hitting .462/.533/.897 to improve his season line to .275/.374/.491 with 11 homers in 65 games, standout numbers given his position. -- Right-hander Clayton Mortensen, in a spot start, tossed four shutout innings in which he allowed only two hits while punching out five and walking one. In 20 2/3 innings in Pawtucket, he's proven vulnerable to home runs (allowing four) while striking out more than a batter an inning (10.0 per nine innings) with opponents hitting .247 against him. -- Infielder Drew Sutton, pressed into duty as a pitcher for the third time this year, tossed a shutout 14th inning before permitting three runs in the 15th to suffer his second loss of the year. In five innings, he's given up four runs while walking two and punching out four. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 9-2 WIN (11 INNINGS) AT BOWIE (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- In a year that has featured few standout power performances in the Red Sox system (the leading home run hitter in the system, Bryce Brentz, hit 16 before his season-ending knee injury), it is worth noting that, despite his struggles, Portland first baseman Travis Shaw has demonstrated an ability to put a charge in the ball. The first baseman went deep on Friday, his 14th homer of the year (tied with shortstop Xander Bogaerts by the most among any active Sox minor leaguer), with nine of his homers coming in his last 31 games. During that span, Shaw isn't posting great numbers -- a .208 average, .309 OBP albeit with a standout .537 slugging mark -- but he's walked 16 times, struck out with acceptable frequency (25 times) and seemingly has been the victim of horrific luck, as evidenced by a .178 batting average on balls in play. -- Outfielder Shannon Wilkerson, 25, went 4-for-5 with a double, a walk and a steal. He's 8-for-12 with two doubles and two walks in his last four games to improve to .232/.309/.322. -- Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 0-for-4 and is now 1-for-18 in his last six games, but he had two walks on Friday, giving him four multi-walk games in that same six-game stretch to forge a .333 OBP even during this period of few hits. That sort of stretch helps to explain why Cecchini has a .435 OBP this year. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-4 WIN (11 INNINGS) AT LYNCHBURG (BRAVES) (BOX) -- Catcher Blake Swihart continued his fine run, going 2-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to seven games, during which he's hitting .414/.469/.517 with three walks, three doubles and five strikeouts, a hot streak that is particularly impressive given that he's already caught 80 games this year -- 14 more than he caught a year ago in his first full pro season with Single-A Greenville. For the year, the 21-year-old is hitting .278/.356/.409. -- Right-hander Kyle Stroup, in his first start in a month after a trip to the DL, allowed a run on three hits and a walk in a two-inning start (the brevity of which was in keeping with the schedule laid out for him in his first appearance off the DL). For the year, the 23-year-old has a 5.05 ERA with 47 strikeouts and just 20 walks in 71 1/3 innings. -- Matt Gedman had a standout day, going 4-for-5 with a homer. In his last four games, the 24-year-old first baseman is 9-for-18 with two homers and a double. -- Second baseman Mookie Betts went 1-for-4 with a walk but also struck out three times, and for the first time this year, he's getting beaten by opposing pitchers' stuff to the point of dealing with an increased frequency of swings and misses. In his last 10 games, he's hitting .139/.262/.222 with six walks and nine strikeouts, including six punchouts in his last three games. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 9-4 LOSS VS. SAVANNAH (METS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Cody Kukuk continued his pattern of alternating promising starts with those in which he loses the strike zone. On Friday, the 20-year-old gave up three runs on four hits and five walks in four innings while striking out five. He has an astonishing 7.4 walks per nine innings this year, yet his stuff is good enough that his ERA is respectable at 3.80 thanks to his 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings and .178 opponents' batting average. -- Outfielder Aneury Tavarez had his third straight multi-hit game, going 2-for-4. He's 6-for-12 with a double and two homes in those three contests. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 8-6 LOSS AT BATAVIA (MARLINS) (BOX) -- Starter Mario Alcantara got knocked around a bit in his ninth start of the season, giving up seven runs on nine hits and a walk in 3 2/3 innings. He also hit a batter and unloaded a wild pitch. It'€™s the second start in a row in which Alcantara was unable to get past the fourth inning, giving up a total of 11 earned runs in his last 6 2/3 innings. The 20-year-old'€™s ERA has risen to 5.17 and his WHIP to 1.617 through 38 1/3 innings. He'€™s demonstrated some real command issues, walking an average of 4.2 per nine innings, while hitting six batters already this season. -- Francisco Taveras, who is on a rehab assignment with the Spinners, finished the last 5 1/3 innings and kept the team in the game, giving up only one run on five hits without issuing a walk. Taveras has pitched in only three games, but has allowed just two runs in 12 1/3 innings, good for a 1.46 ERA. He'€™s 2-0 between one start and two relief appearances. Taveras, 23, was 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA in 15 games with Greenville this season. -- Outfielder Williams Jerez drove in two with a 2-for-4 day, clubbing a double and his first triple of the year. It was the first multi-hit game since June 29 for the 21-year-old, who is hitting .165/.202/.247 in 25 games with Lowell. It was the first time this year that Jerez had driven in multiple runs in a game; he has a total of six on the season. -- Jose Colorado had a big day at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a double, a RBI and two runs scored. Colorado, a 22-year-old outfielder, struggled in both the GCL and Greenville before settling in with the Spinners. He'€™s hitting .294/.324/.412 through his 10 games with Lowell, after compiling a .468 OPS with Greenville and a .474 OPS in the GCL this year. ROOKIE-LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 5-3 LOSS, 2-1 WIN VS. GCL TWINS (BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2) -- First baseman Jake Davies provided most of the offense for the GCL Sox in the first game, knocking in two runs with a double, going 1-for-3. The 23-year-old has really struggled this season, hitting .190/.212/.222 through 22 games, but has picked it up recently, going 6-for-19 in his last six contests. However, Davies has drawn only two walks in 67 plate appearances this season. -- Luis Ortega got the start in the second half of the twin bill, throwing five shutout innings, allowing only three hits while striking out four. Ortega, a 20-year-old lefty, has not allowed a run in his last four starts (13 1/3 innings), and has given up just nine hits and three walks in that span. The five innings count for his longest outing of the season, having reached the fourth inning only twice previously. Ortega is 2-2 on the season with a 2.59 ERA, recording 17 strikeouts and walking 10. - Sean Coyle played in the first game of the doubleheader, going 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. The single was only Coyle'€™s second hit with the GCL Red Sox, and the walk was his first. He continues to work his way back to Salem, where he played in 36 games before suffering a knee injury. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 8-2 WIN AT DSL ROYALS (BOX) -- Dedgar Jimenez earned his third win of the season and continued his impressive performance in his first professional year, going six innings and allowing only a run on four hits, though that run was not earned. He also walked one and struck out five. The 17-year-old lefty has made 11 starts this season, and has given up more than one earned run in only one of those. He'€™s fanned 47 in 51 innings while walking only seven, and has posted a 1.41 ERA and 0.882 WHIP. -- For the second day in a row, Luis Alexander Basabe notched two hits, going 2-for-4 with two singles, a walk, a run scored and a RBI. The 16-year-old outfielder is beginning to heat up, going 8-for-23 in his last six games. Basabe is hitting only .207 in 43 games, but has drawn 37 walks, good for a .381 OBP. -- Franklin Guzman had gone hitless in nine at-bats before a 2-for-5 day on Friday. Serving as the DH, the 21-year-old drove in two with his seventh double of the season. Through 48 games, Guzman is batting .256/.325/.344 with 23 RBI, with three triples and a home run to go along with his seven doubles.