Red Sox minor league roundup: Keury De La Cruz's tempo; Sean Coyle's powerful return; Garin Cecchini's hot streak

April 25, 2013 - 7:18 am

Outfielder Keury De La Cruz collected his second walk-off hit of the year, pulling a double to right-center in the bottom of the ninth inning, as part of a 2-for-4 day in which he also walked and stole a pair of bases. De La Cruz, who seemingly drove at least one ball to (or over) the fences per game in Fort Myers during spring training, now appears to be heating up after a slow start. He has five extra-base hits in his last four games, a span in which he's 6-for-16 with three walks. The cluster of walks and extra-base hits is likely more than just a coincidence. De La Cruz, 21, is one of the most aggressive swingers in the Red Sox system, appearing to come out of his cleats at times while going after fastballs. While that sometimes gets him in trouble and leaves him prone to swing and miss, when he controls his effort level and zones in on pitches, his bat speed is such that he can generate plenty of pop with a more relaxed cut. Perhaps that explains the disparity between De La Cruz's numbers when hitting with the bases empty as opposed to with runners on base. So far this year, he's hitting .176/.243/.294 with 12 strikeouts in 37 bases-empty plate appearances. With runners on base, that line shoots up to .306/.350/.528 with seven strikeouts in 40 plate appearances. With runners in scoring position, he's been even better, hitting .346/.400/.654 with six strikeouts in 30 plate appearances. When De La Cruz plays under control, his talents are considerable -- as evidenced by the fact that he became the first 20/20 player in the Red Sox system since 2005 last year, as a 20-year-old. The performance with runners on base suggests that the corner outfielder possesses the ability to do so; the question he must continue to answer in the lower levels is how consistently he can find the right pace to his game. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: RAINED OUT AT BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS) -- Catcher Ryan Lavarnway will be called up to the Red Sox on Thursday, with Alfredo Aceves being optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Lavarnway gives the Red Sox an extra right-handed bat at a time when Shane Victorino's availability could be in question in the immediate term after he experienced tightness in his lower back for the second time in five days. Lavarnway, 25, has reached base in all 11 games in which he's played this year. He'€™s hitting .310 with a .423 OBP and .452 slugging mark, showing excellent command of the strike zone (he has seven walks and seven strikeouts) but, to date, collecting just four extra-base hits (three doubles, one homer). He'€™s posted strong numbers against both lefties (.308/.412/.615) and righties (.310/.479/.379) in limited action this year. Behind the plate, he'€™s thrown out four of eight runners who have attempted to steal against him. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 8-6 LOSS VS. BINGHAMTON (METS) (BOX) -- Xander Bogaerts tripled for the third straight game, going 1-for-4 with a walk. It marked the sixth time in the last seven games that he's reached base multiple times. -- Michael Almanzar went 2-for-5 with a double while driving in two. The 22-year-old has multiple hits in 10 of his 18 games this year. One interesting facet of Almanzar's game while asking the question about whether he could be a late-blooming prospect: While the 6-foot-3 Almanzar possesses the long frame and arms that can make it difficult to barrel the ball with any consistency, he's managed to get the bat on the ball and avoid strikeouts more than might be expected for a player his size. Last year in High-A Salem, he struck out 77 times in 498 plate appearances (15.5 percent); thus far this year, at a higher level, he's fanned 14 times in 80 plate appearances (17.5 percent). -- Outfielder Juan Carlos Linares went 1-for-3 with a double and two walks. He's performed well since his demotion from Triple-A, hitting .273/.429/.455 in six games in Portland. -- Right-hander Pete Ruiz continued to post huge early-season strikeout numbers. He punched out five in two hitless, scoreless innings, and now has punched out 21 batters in 10 innings this year. He's walked seven. Opponents are hitting .171 against him. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-4 WIN (WALKOFF) VS. WILMINGTON (BOX) -- After missing a week due to a thumb injury, Sean Coyle returned to the lineup in impressive fashion, going 2-for-5 and launching a solo homer. Though he's played in just four of Salem's 18 games, Coyle still leads the team with four homers while featuring a robust .333/.391/.738 line. (If he had enough at-bats to qualify, he would be leading the Carolina League in slugging percentage.) The 21-year-old second baseman has collected multiple hits in five of 10 games and reached base multiple times in eight of 10 contests this year. -- Garin Cecchini, who played with Coyle on Team USA after his high school junior year, continued his own tremendous hot stretch. Cecchini went 2-for-3 with a double and two walks, and in his last six games, he's now hitting .429 with a .600 OBP (thanks to nine walks) and .810 slugging mark (two homers, two doubles). -- Brandon Jacobs went 1-for-3 with a double (against highly regarded Royals pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer, a right-hander who struck out 11 Salem hitters on Wednesday), a walk and a sacrifice fly. In the early stages of the 2013 season, seven of Jacobs' eight extra-base hits have come against right-handed pitchers -- an intriguing development given that he struggled to a .213/.280/.329 line against righties last year while handling lefties at a .394/.402/.702 clip. Thus far this year, the right-handed Jacobs is hitting .238/.333/.452 against righties but just .125/.300/.188 against left-handed pitchers. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 7-5 LOSS VS. LAKEWOOD (PHILLIES) (BOX) -- Diminutive second baseman Mookie Betts, who'd gone 0-for-11 in his prior three games and 1-for-25 in his prior seven, drilled his second homer off the year, launching one off the batter's eye in center field, as part of a 1-for-4 day that also featured a walk. Though Betts has struggled to a .158/.279/.281 line thus far, he's still demonstrated the ability to force pitchers into the strike zone and make contact, as evidence by his 10 walks and seven strikeouts to this point in the season. Those traits suggest the basis for potential on-base abilities by the fleet 5-foot-9, 156-pound Betts, a 2011 fifth-round selection by the Red Sox. -- Shortstop Jose Vinicio went 1-for-4 with a triple, his first extra-base hit in 11 games. The triple, as has been the case with all three of Vinicio's extra-base hits this year, came while batting left-handed against a right-handed pitchers. The switch-hitting 19-year-old is hitting .244/.306/.378 against righties and .059/.111/.059 against lefties. -- Though he gave up four earned runs for the third straight start, right-hander Francellis Montas had his best start since his 2013 debut in Greenville. He permitted hard contact, with four of the six hits he gave up going for extra bases, but after issuing six walks in 6 1/3 innings over his previous two starts, the hard-throwing 20-year-old punched out five and walked none. He threw 40 of 65 pitches (63 percent) for strikes. In 16 innings with Greenville this year, he's struck out 18 and walked six.