Red Sox minor league roundup: For Garin Cecchini, a question of approach for Red Sox long-term; Brock Holt squeezing Pedro Ciriaco?; Mookie Betts, All-Star; Jose Almonte's impressive unveiling

June 04, 2013 - 7:30 am
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The Salem Red Sox played a doubleheader on Monday night, during which third baseman Garin Cecchini stepped to the plate seven times. He reached base in all seven of them -- collecting two singles and three walks, getting hit by a pitch and reaching on an error. In the process, he managed to push his absurd on-base percentage up from .469 to .481. One can make a compelling case that Cecchini has been the foremost on-base machine in all of the minors this year. His .481 OBP ranks second in all of the minors, trailing only Dartmouth product Joe Sclanfani, who is benefiting from playing in the zero-gravity launching pad that is High-A Lancaster's home in the California League -- an offensive environment so distorted that the Red Sox felt compelled to buy a minor league affiliate in Salem in order to never have to play there again after spending the 2007-08 seasons there. Cecchini, meanwhile, is playing in a home park in Salem that typically rewards pitchers far more than hitters. Cecchini's standout season to date signals what could become a fascinating long-term issue. The Red Sox this offseason redoubled their commitment to building a lineup predicated on plate discipline, grinding at-bats, high walk rates ... all of which are traits possessed by Cecchini. His standout season at third comes at a time when Will Middlebrooks has continued to exhibit considerable raw power but has endured a struggle to sustain a solid average or on-base percentage. It's in Middlebrooks' DNA to have an aggressive approach that results in significant power; it is in Cecchini's to work counts, be patient, take walks. "His power is going to come. We know that. We always tell Garin, don't worry about your power. And you know, the Red Sox are telling him that," explained Raissa Cecchini, Garin Cecchini's mother and high school hitting coach. "But the deal is this -- you've got to get on base. You've got to find a way to get on base and help your team win. That's what we tell him. Get hit by the pitch, walk -- because most of the time, if Garin walks or gets on base, he's going to steal second and he'll probably steal third. Find a way to help your team win." At some point this year -- likely after the Carolina League All-Star break later this month -- the Sox will promote Cecchini to Double-A Portland. Sometime this offseason, the Sox will add him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. And so while there is not an immediate crossroads, the time is coming closer when the Sox may have a choice to make between two very different types of offensive third basemen in Middlebrooks and Cecchini. Of course, the team could work around an either/or with a position change for one or (if Xander Bogaerts ever ends up moving to third base) both. Cecchini is viewed as having the potential to move to the outfield, while Middlebrooks could certainly be moved across the diamond to first if the need arose. Still, given the contrast between the two players and the fact that there are no current plans to move either, the discussion is a fascinating one that gets to the heart of what the Red Sox value in terms of offensive approach. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-5 LOSS (11 INNINGS) VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Jose Iglesias is not the only threat to Pedro Ciriaco's Red Sox tenure. Brock Holt's tremendous offensive run in Pawtucket continued on Monday, with the utility man going 3-for-5. In 18 games since May 15, Holt is hitting .446/.513/.508. With Iglesias in the big leagues, Holt's last 11 games have come at shortstop, but he's also seen plenty of time at second while also playing in four games at third base this year. The first of Holt's three minor league options is being used this year. Iglesias will be out of options after this season. Ciriaco is already out of options. Xander Bogaerts will have to be added to the 40-man roster by this offseason. Almost inevitably, the Sox were and are facing a situation where they'll have to part ways with at least one of those middle infielders no later that this winter. Given that Iglesias is outplaying Ciriaco at the major league level and that Holt (because of his options) offers greater long-term roster flexibility, Ciriaco would appear in considerable danger of being relegated to odd-man-out stature, particularly because, whereas he offered a solid big league performance in an everyday capacity last year thanks to injuries, this year he's struggled to contribute during his sporadic playing opportunities as a reserve. If Holt's season-opening struggles had persisted, then it would have been far more difficult for the Sox to consider a move that would have depleted their utility reserves. But given Holt's more recent success, which has brought his 2013 numbers more into line with what he'd shown throughout his career, Ciriaco may well prove expendable. -- Alfredo Aceves proved efficient in his return to the PawSox rotation, tossing 7 2/3 innings in just 102 pitches (70 strikes) while allowing four runs on six hits and one walk. He proved vulnerable to the longball, giving up three homers, but allowed just one walk while striking out six. -- Mitch Maier went 3-for-6 with a double, improving to .353/.476/.765 in 21 plate appearances since his return from the DL. With Jackie Bradley Jr. already on the big league roster, Maier represents the likely next line of defense should the Sox need to add another outfielder from the minors. Maier isn't on the 40-man roster, but the Sox don't have any outfielder currently in the minors who *is* on the 40-man. -- In a potential sign of the apocalypse, both left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith and right-hander Chris Martin gave up runs. Rowland-Smith permitted his third earned run in 34 innings with the PawSox this year, with his ERA ballooning to 0.79, while Martin -- who opened the year with 28 1/3 scoreless innings in Portland and Pawtucket, has now been scored upon in each of his last three outings with Pawtucket, giving up four runs in 4 1/3 innings in that time to elevate his Triple-A ERA to 3.09 and his 2013 overall ERA between the two levels to 1.09. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: OFF HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-4 WIN, 6-3 WIN VS. WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX) (BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2) -- Salem may have been 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position while leaving 10 runners on base in the first game of the doubleheader, but Keury De La Cruz was exempt from that lack of production. The outfielder drove in four of Salem'€™s five runs in the game, clubbing a bases-clearing triple in the first frame and bringing in another run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth. It was De La Cruz'€™s second four-RBI game of the year. The 2-for-3 performance was an encouraging feat for De La Cruz, who has been struggling through a 5-for-33 slump over his last eight games. De La Cruz raised his batting average 12 points by the end of Monday'€™s doubleheader. De La Cruz'€™s big day carried over into the nightcap, in which the outfielder added another two hits and an RBI, including a tie-breaking double to left field in the fifth inning. The opposite-field shot was his second extra-base hit of the day. '€œWhen he hits the ball how he did tonight, you can see how he could have a breakout year last year,'€ Salem manager Billy McMillon told The Roanoke Times after the second game of the doubleheader. '€œThe deal for him is just to be able to do that day in and day out.'€ The double just missed clearing the wall for De La Cruz'€™s fourth home run of the year. De La Cruz'€™s power has seen a drop-off since smashing 20 home runs between Greenville and Salem in 2012, though he does have 17 doubles to his credit this year, and his current offensive environment is notably different from the one he experienced in the Single-A South Atlantic League and Greenville's cozy home dimensions at Fluor Field. McMillon says that the challenge the Carolina League offers may be an explanation for the 21-year-old'€™s power outage. '€œYou play the same teams over and over again and if a team has an idea of how to get you out, they'€™re going to try to do that. He'€™s had to deal with how pitchers have been adjusting to him,'€ the manager told the Times. -- Right-hander Noe Ramirez pitched 2 2/3 innings of hitless, scoreless relief for Salem in game one after Mike McCarthy, who cruised through four innings, gave up four runs in the fifth. Ramirez, 23, was able to minimize the damage upon entering the game, inducing an inning-ending double play ball to complete the fifth inning. He would preserve Salem'€™s one-run lead and earned the win, moving to 2-0 on the season with a 2.55 ERA. '€œHe'€™s been one of our more consistent guys out of the '€˜pen," McMillon told the Times. '€œHe has a couple pitches that work for him. Pitching last year at Greenville and playing at a high level of college, he has some stuff, and so far it'€™s been playing up here pretty well.'€ The Cal State Fullerton product has fanned 33 batters in 35 1/3 innings this year for Salem while walking only six. -- Shortstop Deven Marrero has been enjoying a hot streak at the plate, going 2-for-3 in the day'€™s first game, his third multi-hit contest in a row. Prior to game two of the doubleheader, Marrero went 9-for-19 over the course of his last five games, though he went hitless in the nightcap, dropping his line on the year from .274/.341/.376 after game one to .264/.331/.364 by the end of the night. -- Kyle Kraus made his High-A ball debut on Monday night, getting the start in the second game of the doubleheader for Salem. The 23-year-old allowed a run on four hits to Winston-Salem while striking out three. If Kraus made one mistake, it was a pitch to White Sox top prospect and 2012 first-round pick Courtney Hawkins, who sent one of the starter'€™s offerings over the left field wall to lead off the fourth inning. Kraus had been pitching in relief for the Greenville Drive, but went four innings for Salem in his first start of the year, his longest appearance of the season. In 13 games with the Drive, Kraus had gone 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA and one save. Kraus exhibited excellent control in Greenville, striking out 20 while only walking two batters in 18 1/3 innings. The right-hander was drafted in the seventh round by the Red Sox out of the University of Portland in 2012. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: OFF-DAY -- Feats of Mookie: Mookie Betts was named to the South Atlantic League's All-Star Game on the strength of an incredible run over the last four weeks. Since May 7, he's hitting .389/.487/.716 with six homers and 19 extra-base hits in 24 games. In the process, he's gone from a player who controlled the strike zone and walked his way -- despite a .150 average -- to a .343 OBP to someone whose approach suggests not just the ability to hit for average and get on base but also to generate some pop as a 20-year-old. Betts, a 2011 fifth-rounder, is now hitting .280/.417/.509 with eight homers and 11 steals. -- Joining Betts on the All-Star team is 24-year-old David Chester, who ranks fifth in the league with nine homers and is tied for fourth with 42 RBI while producing a .260/.344/.464 line as an everyday first baseman/DH. The University of Pittsburgh product was taken by the Sox in the 33rd round of the 2011 draft. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 9-2 WIN VS. DSL RAYS (BOX) -- Right-hander Jose Almonte, whom the Sox signed for $610,000 (their biggest international signing bonus of 2012) last July 2, made an impressive professional debut. The 17-year-old allowed one run in five innings while permitting a pair of hits, walking two and punching out four. Almonte has a big frame (6-foot-2, 175 pounds) with an easy delivery and arm action; he's already working at up to 91 mph with his fastball, but his projectable frame suggests there could be more velocity in the future. -- Though third baseman Victor Acosta was not a prominent name in the 2012 international signing period, team officials suggest that he shows surprising skill as a hitter. The 17-year-old third baseman went 2-for-5 on Monday.