Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Garin Cecchini walks off, Kevin Youkilis comes back, Ryan Pressly shows his stuff

May 17, 2012 - 6:18 am
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In all likelihood, Gavin Cecchini will not be a member of the Red Sox. The highly regarded shortstop is a near lock to be off the board by the time the Red Sox have a chance to make their first first-round selection at No. 24 overall. Of course, the fact that the Red Sox have another Cecchini -- third baseman Garin Cecchini -- in their system required a special confluence of circumstances. Garin Cecchini entered 2010 as one of the most highly regarded amateur prospects around. On a Team USA squad in 2009 that featured Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, there was a case to be made that Cecchini outperformed both, going 8-for-24 while leading the team in OBP (.529) and slugging (.708). But he blew out his ACL before his senior year, and so with medical questions surrounding a player who was content to go to college at LSU if his first-round price tag wasn't met, he slipped in the draft. He was there for the taking in the fourth round, and the Sox were thrilled to get an extremely advanced high school hitter with a significant offensive ceiling. Cecchini has been slowed by injuries -- because of the ACL repair, he was unable to play in games after the Sox signed him for a $1.31 million bonus in 2010, and last year, after a strong showing at Lowell, his season ended after just a month when he suffered a hairline fracture after being drilled on the wrist by a fastball -- but when on the field, he has looked like everything that the Sox thought they were getting. On Wednesday, he delivered a two-run, walkoff double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, turning a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 victory. It was Cecchini's second hit of the game, giving him six multi-hit games in his last nine contests, a stretch in which he is hitting .385/.442/.641/1.083. For the year, Cecchini is now hitting .301/.367/.434/.800. Cecchini's numbers against right-handers are particularly impressive this year, as he's hitting .344/.402/.527/.929 against them, with 14 of his 15 extra-base hits coming against righties. In his last 27 games, Cecchini is hitting .349/.408/.495/.904, looking very much like the advanced player who was named the second best prospect in the New York-Penn League last summer. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-4 WIN AT DURHAM (RAYS) (BOX) -- Kevin Youkilis, serving as the designated hitter in the first game of his rehab assignment, drew a six-pitch walk, fouled off a pair of 2-2 pitches before flying to deep right in his second plate appearance and then doubled off the glove of the Durham third baseman to finish his day 1-for-2 with a double and walk in his three plate appearances. Youkilis is slated to be back in the PawSox lineup while playing third base on Thursday, a game in which Daisuke Matsuzaka will be on the hill. -- Lars Anderson appears to be getting comfortable at the plate. The first baseman went 1-for-2 with a three-run homer (his third of the year and second in three games) and three walks on Wednesday, marking the first time this year that he reached base four times in a game. He has a five-game hitting streak during which he is 5-for-15 with eight walks, two homers and a double, good for a line of .333/.565/.800/1.365. -- Jose Iglesias had two more hits in five at-bats, giving him nine multi-hit games in his last 13 games to push his average up to a season-high .267 (with a .324 OBP, .319 slugging mark and .643 OPS). -- Alex Wilson was brought into the game in the bottom of the sixth with the PawSox up, 4-3, and runners on first and second. Though he gave up a game-tying groundball single to left, he came back to elicit an inning-ending double play from Hideki Matsui and then raced through a 1-2-3 seventh inning in which he struck out a pair of batters (one swinging, one looking) to earn the victory. -- Mark Melancon made his 13th straight scoreless appearance, delivering a perfect ninth for his fifth save. He now has 21 strikeouts without a walk. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 7-3 LOSS AT READING (PHILLIES) (BOX) -- Bryce Brentz, after going 10-for-14 in his previous three games, was 0-for-4, though he did draw his eighth walk of the year. -- Juan Carlos Linares was hit in the rib cage by a pitch in his first at-bat and, after initially remaining in the game, had to be removed due to shortness of breath. -- For the first time this season, left-hander Chris Hernandez allowed more than three runs. The 2010 seventh-rounder permitted five runs (four earned) on seven hits, striking out five and walking two. His ERA went up by just over half a run, from 2.11 to 2.64. -- Shortstop Derrik Gibson entered the game in place of Linares, and continued to show improved results at the plate. He went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, extending his season-long hitting streak to nine games. During the stretch, he is hitting .379 with a .486 OBP, though he hasn't walked during the stretch. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-4 WIN AT CAROLINA (INDIANS) (BOX) -- Ryan Pressly submitted a dominant outing, tossing seven shutout innings in which he struck out eight, walked none and allowed four hits. In 25 innings over his last four starts, the right-hander -- whose velocity has regularly been in the mid-90s -- has struck out a batter an inning (25 in 25) while permitting just three walks. He has a 2.52 ERA and 3-1 record over those four starts. The Red Sox took Pressly, now 23, out of high school with an 11th round pick in the 2007 draft. At the time, he was typically throwing just 88-90 mph, but at a lean 6-foot-3, he represented a pitcher for whom more velocity could be projected.  He struck out roughly a batter an inning over his first two pro seasons in the GCL (in 2008) and Lowell (in 2009), but it was in 2010, when he spent the year in Greenville, that the Red Sox saw the right-hander's velocity sneak into the mid-90s. In Salem last year, he struggled to a 6-11 record and 4.50 ERA, with his strikeout rate dipping to 5.0 per nine innings, though he also showed an ability to work down in the strike zone with velocity, resulting in good groundball rates. Though he is 3-1 with a 5.95 this year while repeating at Salem, he has been far more dominant than those numbers would suggest in his recent outings, and his strikeout rate for the year is up to 7.4 per nine innings with just 2.1 walks per nine. -- Brandon Jacobs went 3-for-5 with a double, giving the outfielder his fourth multi-hit game in his last six contests. He's 11-for-25 (.440) with three walks and three doubles in that stretch, improving his numbers for the season to .295/.343/.411/.754. Though he has just one homer, he is tied for fourth in the Carolina League with 12 doubles. -- Xander Bogaerts, who left the first game of Wednesday's double header after being hit on the leg by a pitch, was back in the lineup and went 2-for-5. -- Jackie Bradley Jr. had a double and walk. He's reached base in 29 straight games. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 5-4 WIN VS. ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES) (BOX) -- Blake Swihart went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk, marking the third time this year that he's had an extra-base hit and a walk in the same game. Since his average and OPS bottomed out on May 4 at .167 and .493, Swihart has slowly been lifting those marks, going 7-for-26 (.269) in his last seven contests, including doubles in each of his last two games. -- Shortstop Jose Vinicio continued a strong stretch that dates to April 30. In his last 11 games, he's hitting .317/.341/.439/.780. Given that he is, at 18 years old, one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League, a player with the defensive tools to be a true shortstop and that he remains very undersized, his ability to perform at a league-average level (Vinicio is hitting .260/.327/.385/.713, with league average in the South Atlantic League being .254/.335/.379/.714) speaks well of his offensive maturity and potential. LINKS -- Tim Kurkjian, in an interview with Salem's play-by-play man Evan Lepler, breaks down prospect Matt Barnes. Actually, it is self-declared "half-Kurkjian" Pete Ruiz, who became a Youtube celebrity with his ability to imitate the eponymous ESPN personality. Ruiz was one of Rich Hill's favorite players in the Sox system as the left-hander made his rehab journey through the Sox system, and Ruiz talked with Lepler about the impact that Hill made on his approach to pitching. -- Tim Britton of the Providence Journal sat down with Youkilis in Durham to reflect on his career arc and career crossroads. -- If you want to see Youkilis fly out to the warning track in right, here's your chance. -- SoxProspects.com pours the daily Cup of Coffee, reviewing what transpired with all the affiliates.