Red Sox minor league roundup: Brandon Workman, strike-throwing machine; pivotal performance for Mookie Betts; Cody Kukuk breaking through; Wendell Rijo ahead of his years

April 22, 2014 - 6:36 am

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-3 WIN VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS) (BOX) -- Shane Victorino went 1-for-4 with an infield single and is now 1-for-7 in two rehab games, with a third slated for Tuesday night. Will Middlebrooks was 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts in his first rehab game as he recovers from his right calf injury. -- Right-hander Brandon Workman, in his second start for Pawtucket, punched out eight and walked none in five strong innings. He allowed just four hits, though two of those were home runs, resulting in a three-run yield. Between the big leagues and minors this year, Workman has 17 punchouts and two walks in 14 2/3 innings. -- Bryce Brentz went 2-for-3 with a double and and also negotiated his 10th walk of the month, his most walks in any month since he reached Triple-A at the end of 2012. In his last eight games, he's 10-for-30 with three walks and three extra-base hits, good for a line of .333 with a .394 OBP and .500 slugging mark, boosting his season line to .227/.329/.364. -- Garin Cecchini continued to be an on-base metronome, going 2-for-4 to improve his season line to .317/.377/.397. It is worth noting that there does appear to be an adjustment to Triple-A pitching that the just-turned-23-year-old is experiencing. He's walked just five times to date, a 7.2 percent walk rate that is just over half of his pre-2014 14.1 percent walk rate and down even further from his 16.9 percent walk rate of a year ago. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 7-4 WIN AT BINGHAMTON (METS) (BOX) -- Feats of Mookie: Turning the pivot on a triple play. Mookie Betts found himself in the middle of a 5-4-3 triple play in the bottom of the first inning. With runners on first and second and no outs, Sean Coyle fielded a grounder right at the third base bag, stepped on it and fired to second -- with the decision to throw to second after stepping on the bag representing a notable prospect development given that it showed impressive game awareness for a player who is playing a new position this season. The throw was described by Portland manager Billy McMillon to the Portland Press-Herald as being low, but Betts handled it and still managed to turn the pivot, throwing to first baseman Travis Shaw to complete the trick. (Here's the call of the triple play from Sea Dogs play-by-play man Mike Antonellis, courtesy of the U.S. Cellular Sea Dogs Radio Network.) Betts also, naturally, went 2-for-5 with a double and a steal. He's hitting .448 with a .484 OBP, .707 slugging mark, 10 extra-base hits, five walks, seven strikeouts and five steals in 14 games to date. The 21-year-old has now reached in 44 straight regular season games dating to last year in Salem, with an insane line during that time of .429 with a .492 OBP, .673 slugging mark, seven homers, 25 extra-base hits, 21 walks, 16 strikeouts and 17 steals. The remarkable run, with its machine-like consistency, make a compelling case that Betts belongs in the conversation about the Red Sox' best prospect (once Xander Bogaerts graduates from prospect status, likely next month). -- If not for the fact that Betts has become an eclipse who renders all else in the Red Sox organization invisible, more attention might fall upon the tremendous run by Blake Swihart to this point. Swihart went 2-for-4 with a double, and the 22-year-old is now hitting .362/.375/.532 in 12 games. He's reached base in all 12 games so far this year, collecting hits in 11 of them. -- Left-hander Henry Owens had an atypical outing, striking out just three in six innings but getting nine groundball outs (three on the triple play). He did walk a season-high four and seemed to lose the strike zone at times (he threw just 50 of 94 pitches for strikes, 53 percent), but still managed to limit the damage (three runs, two earned) and worked six innings. -- First baseman Travis Shaw, 24, went 2-for-4 with a homer, his second longball in a three-game span during which he's 7-for-13. -- Shortstop Deven Marrero, sidelined since Thursday due to toe soreness, is expected to return to the lineup on Tuesday. Coyle was hit by a pitch on Monday (shortly after taking part in the triple play) and will be re-evalatued today. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 7-1 WIN AT WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX) (BOX) -- Right-hander Luis Diaz retired the first eight batters he faced and allowed only one baserunner as far as second base over the course of a season-long six innings in which he allowed one run on three hits, walked none and struck out one. In six starts in High-A -- two at the end of last year, four so far this year -- the 22-year-old hasn't shown dominant stuff, striking out just 4.9 per nine innings (17 in 31 frames), yet he's still shown outstanding results, forging a 1.16 ERA. -- When catcher Carson Blair hits 'em, they go. The 24-year-old is just 9-for-51 (.176) with 22 strikeouts so far this season, but of his nine hits, seven have been for extra bases, including his third homer of the year as part of a 1-for-4 performance on Monday. In his last six games, he's 7-for-24 with two homers and three doubles, good for a line of .292/.414/.667. -- Right-hander Simon Mercedes was overpowering in three innings of relief behind Diaz, retiring all nine batters he faced with three strikeouts. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 8-3 WIN VS. ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES) (BOX) -- For the second straight outing, left-hander Cody Kukuk overmatched his opponents, scattering five hits (four singles and a double) while punching out seven and walking one. In his last two starts, Kukuk has a 1.80 ERA with 15 strikeouts and two walks in 10 innings. The back-to-back outings mark the first time that the 2011 seventh-rounder has walked one (or fewer) batters in consecutive appearances during his 30-appearance history in Greenville. The 21-year-old now has 24 strikeouts (12.0 per nine innings) and eight walks (4.0 per nine innings) in his four starts so far this year, and if he can continue to harness his powerful fastball in the strike zone, he has a chance to force his way to High-A Salem relatively early in the season. -- Second baseman Wendell Rijo launched his second homer of the year as part of a 1-for-3 day in which he also claimed a walk. Though just 18, Rijo is producing remarkably mature at-bats, having walked nearly as much (10 times) as he's struck out (11) while hitting .333/.472/.571. He's third in the South Atlantic League in OBP; the three players ahead of him on the list are at least 22 years old. -- Carlos Asuaje continued to decimate right-handed pitching. The left-handed hitting 22-year-old was 2-for-3 with a double and a triple, improving to .410/.500/.744 in 46 plate appearances this year against righties. He's 2-for-8 with no walks or extra-base hits in his limited exposure to southpaws this year. -- Though he gave up three hits, including a homer, Joe Gunkel punched out five in two innings of work, and he now has 18 strikeouts and just two walks in 12 innings so far for Greenville.