Red Sox minor league roundup: Felix Doubront unhittable in rehab start; Brian Johnson dominating Double-A; Sean Coyle mashing; despite struggles, Trey Ball maintains prospect status

June 16, 2014 - 4:36 am
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 LOSS VS. CHARLOTTE (WHITE SOX) (BOX) -- Felix Doubront threw five dominant innings, giving up no hits while striking out 10, all swinging. He also permitted just one ball to be hit into the outfield (a fly out to left). According to Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal, Doubront sat at 88-91 mph with his fastball and touched 94. Doubront did walk four and threw just 50 of 93 pitches (54 percent) for strikes, and there were times when he appeared to lose his delivery, as when he walked a pair of batters in his fifth and final inning. "I thought he showed better stuff today," PawSox manager Kevin Boles told Daniels. "I thought he had a feel for a breaking ball at times. His fastball ticked up in velocity and I thought he threw with quality. He got out of his delivery a few times, but thought it was pretty impressive because he was able to get back on track." In three rehab starts, Doubront now has a 2.63 ERA with 15 strikeouts and five walks in 13 2/3 innings. -- Right-hander Matt Barnes, piggybacking Doubront in his first professional relief appearance, tossed three shutout innings, scattering three hits (all singles) while punching out two and walking none. In his last three outings spanning 15 2/3 innings, Barnes hasn't walked a batter while punching out 11. He has a 2.30 ERA in that span. -- Left-hander Drake Britton gave up a pair of hits, including a two-run homer, in the ninth. Opponents are hitting .311 against him this year, with lefties hitting .313. The game-winning homer was delivered by a left-handed hitter. -- Feats of Mookie: Manufacturing. Mookie Betts went 0-for-3, but he turned a first-inning walk into a run by stealing second (his second steal in as many games), advancing to third on a bunt single and scoring on a wild pitch. Betts, once again playing center field, did strike out twice, the first time he's whiffed multiple times in a game in Triple-A, but he still has more walks (8) than strikeouts (6) while hitting .267/.377/.400. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 8-0 WIN AT AKRON (INDIANS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Brian Johnson continued to dominate in Double-A, logging six innings in which he permitted one run on four hits (three singles and a double) while eliciting nine groundball outs, punching out five and walking one. He threw 62 of 91 pitches (68 percent) for strikes. Since joining Portland in May following an early-season promotion from High-A Salem, Johnson has been arguably the most consistent pitcher in the Red Sox system. He's gone at least five innings in each of his eight starts -- including six or more innings in his last five games -- and has yet to give up more than two runs. The 23-year-old is 5-1 with a 1.71 ERA, 7.6 strikeouts per nine and 2.5 walks per nine. Opponents are hitting .179 against him. -- Outfielder Keury De La Cruz went 2-for-4, slamming a pair of homers -- the third multi-homer game of his pro career and first since 2012. He also walked once and struck out once. In 11 games since opening the year on the DL, the 22-year-old is hitting .286/.311/.524, with his six extra-base hits offering a reminder of his ability to put a charge into the ball like few others in the Red Sox system, though with a characteristically aggressive approach that can be exploited by opposing pitchers. -- Second baseman Sean Coyle went 2-for-4 with a homer and a walk (as well as a strikeout), adding to his gaudy numbers for the season. In 38 games, the 22-year-old is hitting .348 with a .401 OBP and .548 slugging mark that includes five doubles among his 17 extra-base hits. Known as a streaky hitter in the past, Coyle hasn't gone more than two straight games without a hit all year. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 6-5 WIN VS. LYNCHBURG (BRAVES) (BOX) -- Left-hander Cody Kukuk is enduring control problems that border on alarming in his time with High-A Salem. A pitcher with nearly incomparable stuff in the Sox system (a fastball that sits at 93-94 mph as a starter and tops out at 97-98, a sometimes-wipeout slider and a changeup that can get swings and misses -- all from the left side) is also one of the most inconsistent strike throwers, two traits that continued on Sunday, when he did not give up a hit but walked seven and struck out three in 1 2/3 innings for Salem. Kukuk also uncorked a pair of wild pitches. The 21-year-old started the year looking like he'd achieved something of a breakthrough with his strike-throwing while repeating at Single-A Greenville, going 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA and 4.5 walks per nine innings for the Drive. But since his promotion to Salem, he's now 1-4 with a 7.06 ERA, 28 walks and 28 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings. He hasn't pitched out of the fourth inning in any of his last three outings, including back-to-back starts in which he hasn't made it out of the second while walking a total of 10 batters. -- Carson Blair went 3-for-4 with a walk, adding to a scorching push to the conclusion of the first half. The 24-year-old catcher is hitting .500/.609/.778 with two homers in 10 contests in June, improving his season line to .254/.387/.500. -- Outfielder Aneury Tavarez extended his hitting streak to 12 games by going 3-for-4 with a double, homer and walk. The 22-year-old is hitting .353/.377/.627 with three homers and five doubles during the stretch (though with just one walk and nine strikeouts). The three homers have come in his last five games. On the year, Tavarez is hitting .230/.275/.419, showing the ability to drive the ball despite his diminutive stature (he's listed at 5-foot-9), but with a hyperaggressive approach that results in difficulty hitting for average and getting on base. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 8-5 LOSS AT HAGERSTOWN (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Trey Ball closed out the first half with a loss, dropping to 1-6, in a day where he allowed four runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings while walking one and punching out four. While the final line once again looked ugly for Ball -- whose ERA is at 7.07 -- he was cruising through 5 1/3 innings, having allowed just one run on four hits, before his outing came apart in the sixth, when he allowed Hagerstown to hit for the cycle in a four-batter span to end his afternoon. Though his ERA and record both suggest a struggle, the Sox continue to see front-of-the-rotation potential in their 2013 first-round pick. "Obviously, to become a front-line big league starter, you've got to have the mental side of it built in. He's going through his lumps a little bit right now that he's never dealt with before, and he's not wavering. He's not going out there and carrying it over where you see guys sulk and see guys' body language change. I haven't seen that once. That part of it is already there," said Greenville pitching coach Paul Abbott in this edition of Minor Details. "With his angle and his frame, he can very easily be a front-line starter. He's got excellent angle, his fastball, with his velocity as it is now, is very sneaky for being 92-94, because of his extension. He's got very clean mechanics -- mechanics that hold up under pressure and that will hold up for a very long period of time. Down the road, he can easily be one of those guys you can count on. "He's very athletic, for one, probably as athletic a pitcher as we have. Those guys usually seem to pan out and win you 15 games a year. I see him down the road, it's going to take a little time -- I don't see him fast-tracking unless things get better really quickly, but he's 19. He can be a guy you can count on in the front end of a rotation." -- Center fielder Manuel Margot went 1-for-3 with a walk, closing out the first half by reaching base in eight straight games in which he hit .357 with a .438 OBP, giving the 19-year-old a line on the season to date of .262/.333/.379 with 22 steals in 27 attempts (he got caught stealing on Sunday). -- First baseman Jantzen Witte went 1-for-3 with a homer and a walk, closing out the first half with a .330/.418/.554 line. The 24-year-old is in the top five in the South Atlantic League in average (third), OBP (fifth) and slugging (third). SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 6-4 LOSS VS. VERMONT (ATHLETICS) (BOX) -- Left fielder Nick Longhi went 2-for-4 with a double, giving him three extra-base hits through three games in Lowell. The 18-year-old has uncommon bat speed with his compact swing, and so far, the 2013 30th rounder is showing the ability to put the bat on the ball and drive pitches against older competition. He has yet to walk or strikeout through 13 plate appearances. -- Left-hander Jake Drehoff spun five impressive innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits while punching out six and walking none. In his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League last year after the Red Sox selected him in the 12th round of the 2013 draft, the Southern Miss product likewise struck out six and walked none in 10 innings, so he has yet to issue a free pass through the first 15 innings of his pro career. -- Third baseman Jordan Betts, taken by the Sox out of Duke after his senior season, homered in his first pro game. The Sox viewed Betts, an 18th-round pick, as a player with some raw power and solid makeup who had been a good performer (.316/.404/.515 with five homers in 51 games) as a senior. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY

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