Red Sox minor league roundup: Feats of everyone in Portland; Rubby De La Rosa rebounds; making sense of Trey Ball's performance struggles

May 25, 2014 - 7:27 am
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Saturday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 LOSS AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Right-hander Rubby De La Rosa had one of his best starts of the year, firing six shutout innings in which he allowed four hits (a doubles and three singles), walked two, punched out five and recorded nine outs via groundball. His control wasn't spectacular -- he threw 63 of his season-high 104 pitches (61 percent) for strikes -- but nonetheless held his opponents scoreless for the first time since his first start of the year. With the start, De La Rosa knocked down his ERA to 3.04. He's punched out 8.8 per nine innings and walked 3.9 per nine. -- Outfielder Corey Brown ended a 22-inning scoreless streak for the PawSox with a ninth-inning solo home run. In 23 games over the month from April 25 through May 24, Brown was tied for second in the International League with six homers, forging a .259/.322/.543 mark during that time. -- Catcher Christian Vazquez went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, and he's 2-for-21 in his last five contests. In May, he's hitting just .189/.246/.208 with one double, four walks and 11 strikeouts. On the year, he's hitting .248/.301/.328 -- marks that suggest that pitchers in Triple-A have adjusted to him, without him responding in kind. -- Utilityman Mike McCoy was removed from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. With injuries spreading like plague across the Red Sox big league roster, including the departure of Xander Bogaerts from Saturday's game with a hamstring cramp, McCoy could conceivably be a roster consideration to help offer the team defensive coverage at a number of positions, though without much threat of offense. McCoy is hitting .167 with a .272 OBP and .259 slugging mark. He's played short, second and center this year. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 18-0 WIN AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS) (BOX) -- Yes, 18-0. Portland now owns a staggering 33-15 record this year. -- One start after he threw 50 strikes among his 89 offerings, Henry Owens fired 61 of his 89 pitches for strikes, an impressive 69 percent of his pitches. It was his highest strike percentage since his second outing of the season, permitting the left-hander to work seven shutout innings -- his second highest innings total of the year. Owens punched out six and walked one, his third outing of the year in which he's walked one or no batters. Through 10 starts, the 21-year-old owns a 2.83 ERA, 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings and 4.4 walks per nine. Owens' stuff is drastically different from that of Jon Lester as a 21-year-old in Portland, but the similarities of their results bear mention. When Lester was in Double-A in 2005, he had a 2.61 ERA with 9.9 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine innings. -- Feats of Mookie: Filling up the box score. Mookie Betts, playing in center field, started walkover win against Blue Jays top pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez by taking a walk to lead off the game, the first of three free passes for Betts in the game. He went 2-for-3 with a double, three walks, a sac fly and a steal. Betts leads the Eastern League in average (.366), steals (21) and runs (50), and he now has a startling 30 walks against just 16 strikeouts. Though he's tailed off a bit, he still ranks sixth in the minors in average and second in runs. He's reached base 98 times this year, second in the minors only to Brandon Nimmo of the Mets, who has reached base 108 times. -- First baseman Travis Shaw went 2-for-5 with a homer and a walk. The homer came against a lefty, and while Shaw has been exceptional against righties (.340 with a .466 OBP and .649 slugging mark, with 22 walks and 10 strikeouts), he's also more than holding his own this year against lefties (.278/.345/.456 with four homers, seven walks and 12 strikeouts). -- Sean Coyle again impacted the ball in his second game back from the DL, going 3-for-5 with a double and homer while also stealing a base. Coyle has three homers, eight extra-base hits and seven steals in as many attempts over the 20 games he's played this year. Coyle has 55 steals in 63 attempts (87 percent success rate) in his minor league career, averaging 29 steals per 162 games played. He's a strong baserunner who also has significant right-handed raw power, and so despite the fact that he has had uneven performances in his minor league career -- particularly over two years in Salem, where he hit .247/.318/.429 with 23 homers and 27 steals in 164 games -- he remains a prospect whose raw skills generate intrigue. If he could ever translate his abilities to games on a consistent basis -- something he's done thus far this year in Portland, where he's hitting .343/.405/.552 albeit in a small sample of 20 games -- he could project as a big league starter at either second or third. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 7-6 WIN (WALKOFF, 10 INNINGS) VS. POTOMAC (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Outfielder Kevin Heller hit a two-run walkoff homer in the bottom of the 10th to conclude a career-day in which he hit two homers (matching a career high), collected three hits (matching a career high) and reached base four times (a new career high). In three pro seasons, Heller has just eight homers -- six of which have come in three two-homer games, one each in Lowell, Greenville and now Salem. The 24-year-old is now hitting .293 with a .414 OBP and .507 slugging mark along with four homers this year. He ranks second in the Carolina League in OBP and third in slugging. -- Catcher Jayson Hernandez went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and a walk, giving him three extra-base hits in his last two games (he homered on Thursday). One of the doubles came against a lefty, helping to improve the 25-year-old's line against southpaws to .368/.429/.579 in 21 plate appearances. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 14-0 LOSS VS. AUGUSTA (GIANTS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Trey Ball had a strong outing, delivering four shutout innings before getting touched for three runs in the fifth. The home run was hit by John Polonius, who to thine own self evidently was untrue, as the homer was the fourth of his pro career in 124 games. Ball punched out four and got nine swings and misses among his 77 pitches (49 strikes -- 64 percent). Ball, the Sox' first-round selection from last year's draft, now has an 8.38 ERA in five starts -- though it's worth recalling that Henry Owens had a 7.85 ERA through his first five pro outings in 2012, typically pitching well but enduring one hiccup inning. Ball hasn't shown the same ability to get punchouts in volume as Owens (he has just 5.6 strikeouts per nine; Owens was averaging nearly two strikeouts an inning) but there have been enough swings and misses to dampen any concern about Ball's rough early lines. -- Outfielder Manuel Margot went 2-for-3 with a steal. Margot is sixth in the South Atlantic League with 13 steals (in 17 attempts). -- Shortstop Stephen Drew had the day off.

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