Red Sox minor league roundup: Brian Johnson's amazing run; Trey Ball's turnaround; early impressions of Edwin Escobar

August 06, 2014 - 8:34 am
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Tuesday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-1 LOSS VS. COLUMBUS (INDIANS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Edwin Escobar turned in a solid performance in his second outing with the PawSox following his trade from the Giants. He worked around eight hits (including four in one inning in which an outfield assist allowed him to avoid giving up a run) to limit the damage to one run, a solo homer by former Red Sox minor leaguer Dusty Brown. Escobar walked two and struck out five. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journalreported that the 22-year-old topped out at 94 mph while using a three-pitch (fastball, slider, changeup) mix. Through two starts with the PawSox, Escobar has a 1.50 ERA with 10 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings. In a brief sample with Pawtucket, he's shown significant right/left splits, having held lefties to a 1-for-8 mark with no walks and three strikeouts (.125/.125/.125), while righties are hitting .316/.366/.500 against him. Prior to the deal sending him to the Sox, Escobar showed similar dominance against lefties (.188/.239/.208) while getting shelled by righties (.334/.395/.603). -- Shortstop Deven Marrero went 0-for-4. He's now 3-for-31 in his last nine games, dropping his line in Triple-A to .255/.292/.330. -- Right-hander Brayan Villarreal, in his first appearance in Pawtucket since April, retired all four batters he faced, striking out two. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-1 WIN (11 INNINGS) AT BOWIE (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- As much as the buzz about integrating prospects into the Red Sox rotation now revolves around Henry Owens, it's worth noting that another left-hander is having a year that is similarly impressive. Brian Johnson continued his remarkable season by logging eight shutout innings (a new career high in duration for a game), permitting five hits (one double, four singles), walking none and punching out five. He was in complete control throughout the outing, showing an unpredictable pitch mix that once again left his opponents unbalanced, even in the absence of huge swing-and-miss numbers (according to MiLB.com's GameDay, he had seven). Somehow, in a year where he's been singularly spectacular in 17 starts in Portland, going 9-2 with a 1.89 ERA, 7.5 strikeouts and 2.5 walks per nine innings, he's been even better of late, throwing at least seven innings in four of his last five starts with a 0.51 ERA with 28 strikeouts and nine walks in 35 1/3 innings. His advanced execution continues to impress evaluators as the stuff of a future big league starter, with a fairly straightforward projection of a pitcher with a four-pitch mix and the ability to carve the strike zone that suggests a ceiling of a No. 3 starter. -- Kelly Johnson started his rehab assignment by going 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts while playing first base. In 77 games with the Yankees this year, Johnson was hitting .219/.304/.373. -- Second baseman Sean Coyle went 1-for-3 with a double and a pair of walks while snapping a streak of eight straight games in which he'd punched out at least once. It was his first multi-walk game since June 27. Coyle still has impressive numbers for the year, with a .311/.386/.500 line in 83 games, but over the month from July 6 to August 5, he hit .209/.271/.326 with seven walks and 28 strikeouts. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 13-5 LOSS VS. LYNCHBURG (BRAVES) (BOX) -- For the third straight outing, right-hander Simon Mercedes gave up five runs, this time doing so over the course of five innings in which he allowed six hits (a triple and five singles), walked two and struck out two. In four starts since returning to Salem following a DL stint of roughly six weeks, the 22-year-old has a 9.92 ERA. -- Carlos Asuaje went 3-for-5 for his first three-hit game since being promoted to Salem, but his seventh multi-hit game among his last 11 contests. In 14 games with Salem, the versatile 22-year-old is now hitting .328/.391/.483 with six extra-base hits in 14 games. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 8-4 WIN VS. AUGUSTA (GIANTS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Trey Ball claimed his first win since April while offering increasing evidence of having turned a corner in his first full professional season. The 2013 first-rounder matched a season-high by logging six innings in which he allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits while walking three and striking out four. In seven starts since July 1, Ball now has a 3.00 ERA with 6.2 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine innings while holding opponents to a .188 average. He's worked at least five innings in six of those seven outings. Though it hasn't been the stuff of dominance, it represents a marked improvement from Ball's first 11 starts of the year, during which he posted a 7.27 ERA that would have ranked, at that point, as the worst in the South Atlantic League if he'd had enough innings to qualify. Ball's improved game management was on display in the second. Ball had given up two runs on three hits and a catcher's interference, and with runners on second and third and one out, he faced the sort of situation that had snowballed on him earlier in the year. In this instance, a four-pitch punchout and a lineout ended the threat and kept the game in order, with Ball cruising through four shutout innings from that point forward. "This guy's pitched progressively better and better as the year's gone on," Greenville manager Darren Fenster told the Greenville News. "I don't know if we've had anybody who's really developed as much as he has." -- Center fielder Manuel Margot went 2-for-5, his fifth straight game in which he's reached base multiple times. The 19-year-old is 10-for-21 with a .476/.542/.667 line in five games in August, boosting his season line to .272/.344/.421. -- For the fourth straight game since he joined Greenville, Sam Travis collected a hit, going 1-for-3 with a double and walk. Through 18 plate appearances, he has a .438/.500/.563 line with two doubles and two walks. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: OFF DAY ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: RAINED OUT DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 3-3 TIE (SUSPENDED, 14 INNINGS) AT DSL METS (BOX) -- Right-hander Gerson Bautista tossed five innings in which he allowed one run on four hits, walking none and striking out three. The 19-year-old, who is making his pro debut, has a 0.52 ERA while holding opponents to a .155 average.

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