Red Sox minor league roundup: Brandon Workman builds back; Drake Britton dominates; Kevin Heller going Howdy Groskloss on the Carolina League

April 17, 2014 - 7:51 am

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-6 WIN AT ROCHESTER (TWINS) (BOX) -- In his first start in Triple-A after being optioned to Pawtucket last week, right-hander Brandon Workman dominated early (three shutout innings in which he allowed a single, walked no one and punched out two) before hitting a bit of a wall in his fourth inning of work, in which he permitted a groundball single, a double and a walk before being lifted after 3 1/3 innings. All three of the runners whom he put on base scored, resulting in a line of three runs allowed in 3 1/3 innings. Still, overall, the outing represented an exercise in building arm strength with the late struggles not unexpected given that it had been more than three weeks since Workman had pitched into a fourth frame. -- Given that the Sox want to avoid shuttling Workman back and forth between the rotation and bullpen, the early-season dominance of left-hander Drake Britton is noteworthy, as the 24-year-old could emerge as the first line of bullpen depth from Triple-A. Britton recorded a two-inning save on Wedneday, allowing one hit and punching out four. He worked around a pair of ninth-inning walks by recording all three outs by strikeout in a one-run win. It was Britton's second save of the year. While his control (five walks in 8 1/3 innings) has been spotty, he has a 1.08 ERA, with opponents hitting .226 against him so far. -- Outfielder Alex Hassan went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles. Since going 0-for-7 in the first two games of the season, the 26-year-old is hitting at a .351 clip (13-for-37) with a .442 OBP and six doubles in his last nine games. -- In a striking reversal from a year ago, Brock Holt remains among the hottest hitters in the International League. He went 3-for-5 with a double to improve his line (in 10 games) to .415/.489/.610 with five doubles and a homer among his 17 hits. Last April, in twice the number of games, he hit .149/.234/.149 with no extra-base hits among his 10 knocks. -- Ryan Lavarnway, who has seen most of his playing time at first base thus far this year, continued his recovery from a slow (0-for-14 through four games) start, going 3-for-4 with a double. He's 12-for-33 (.364) with three walks, two doubles and a homer in his last eight games. -- Not only did outfielder Bryce Brentz continue his walking ways, going 1-for-4 while accepting his eighth free pass of the month, but he also recorded an outfield assist on a play at the plate. He has two outfield assists so far this year. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: RAINED OUT VS. BINGHAMTON (METS) HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 4-0 LOSS, 2-1 LOSS AT CAROLINA (INDIANS) (BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2) -- Outfielder Kevin Heller, 24, continued his dazzling run, going 2-for-5 with a double and triple in the doubleheader. Heller is hitting .433 (fifth in all of minor league baseball) with an OBP of .541 (third in the minors) through 10 games, one of the most impressive performances by a position playing Amherst alum in decades. (While Amherst has had a few pitchers in the big leagues such as John Cerutti and Rich Thompson, the last position player with ties to the Lord Jeffs to reach the big leagues was Howdy Groskloss, who played for the Pirates from 1930-32.) -- Catcher Carson Blair went 1-for-3 with a double and two strikeouts in the first game of the doubleheader, with the two-bagger coming against a left-hander and thus continuing a striking early-season pattern. Blair has the most dramatic splits of anyone in the Sox system in the early going, hitting .333/.522/.733 in 23 plate appearances against lefties and .000/.095/.000 (0-for-19 with two walks) against righties. Perhaps as shocking as the splits themselves is the fact that, while playing everyday, he's still had more plate appearances against lefties than righties to date. -- Right-hander Luis Diaz continues to allow tons of baserunners while managing to limit the damage from them. He allowed five hits (a double, triple and three singles) and walked three in 3 2/3 innings, yet permitted just one run. Despite a 1.42 WHIP, the 22-year-old has a 0.75 ERA in three starts, but his pitch ineffiency and many baserunners have resulted in his averaging just four innings per start. -- Right-hander Simon Mercedes, in his first start of the year (he'd been working as a piggyback starter), turned in a solid effort, allowing two runs (one earned) in 4 1/3 innings while permitting five hits and two walks. He struck out four and got five outs via groundball. While Mercedes' results in the early going have been mixed (a 5.59 ERA reflects two decent outings and one poor one), he has been getting groundballs in volume, with a 2.8 groundout-to-flyout rate overall and a 4.5 mark by right-handers against the 22-year-old. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 8-7 LOSS VS. CHARLESTON (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Right-hander Pat Light, after two dominant outings to open the year, got roughed up for the first time this season, permitting six runs (five earned) in 5 1/3 innings on six hits (two triples and the first homer he's allowed this year), four walks and four strikeouts. He did elicit eight groundball eights, but the 2012 supplemental first-rounder was less consistent in working down in the strike zone than he'd been through two starts. He'd entered the game with 15 strikeouts and no walks in 12 innings. -- Center fielder Manuel Margot went 1-for-3 with a single, a walk and two steals, swiping both second and third. Since going 0-for-8 in the first two games of the year, the 19-year-old is hitting .297/.350/.568 with a double, three homers and four steals in his last 10 contests, with nearly as many walks (3) as strikeouts (4) during that stretch. -- Corner infielder Jantzen Witte went 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles, and now has a streak of four straight games with at least one double. In his last six games, the 24-year-old is hitting .455 (10-for-22) with a .630 OBP and .727 slugging mark.