Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Middlebrooks recalls Futures at Fenway; Iglesias still hot; Pimentel, Almanzar maturing

August 18, 2012 - 6:25 am
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It's a big day in the careers of a number of Red Sox prospects. The Futures at Fenway doubleheader takes place on Saturday, with the Lowell Spinners and Pawtucket Red Sox leaving behind their usual home parks to play at Fenway Park. It's a seminal moment in the careers of a number of the participants in those contests. Some will never again have the opportunity to play in a big league ballpark. For others, the day is a harbinger of what is to come. For Will Middlebrooks, it was the latter. In 2008, he'd mostly struggled through his first month and a half of pro ball. But on Aug. 9, while playing for Lowell, he delivered a walkoff single as part of a 3-for-6 day that also included a double that underscored a message that had been delivered by Lowell manager Gary DiSarcina about the young third baseman's potential. "I guess you could say that was a turning point. That's really where things started to click, where I said, 'I can do this,' " Middlebrooks said on Friday. Not every player who takes part in the game will have such a defining moment. But for all of the participants, the event will be something of a revelation, an experience unlike anything that most have ever before encountered. "Everyone's goal in the minor leagues is to make the big leagues. Part of that is to play in big league stadiums, historic stadiums like Fenway. Just to be able to come in, play in that venue with pretty big crowds -- that's different for a lot of guys," said Middlebrooks. "The thing that stands out the most is when you walk on the field, the structure of it. It's hard to explain. It just feels different. It smells different." PROGRAMMING NOTE: The next episode of "Down on the Farm" will feature Portland right-hander Brandon Workman and Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker to discuss the development of pitch mixes at the minor league level. The show airs on Sunday from 8:30-9 a.m. on WEEI 93.7 FM and WEEI.com. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 8-5 LOSS AT SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES) (BOX) -- Jose Iglesias continued his best stretch in Triple-A, going 2-for-4 with a walk. He's now hitting .317/.394/.397/.791 with five doubles and eight walks this month. The eight walks match his career-high for any month in his professional career. A case can be made that now is the right time for him to be called up to the majors. PawSox play-by-play man Aaron Goldsmith recently checked in with Iglesias and Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler about the shortstop's improved results. -- Juan Carlos Linares continued to mash, going 3-for-5 with a double and homer. Since the start of July, he's hitting .327/.347/.532/.879 with seven homers. -- Red Sox reliever Mark Prior was released on Friday in order to accommodate newly acquired reliever Pedro Beato. More on Prior here. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 0-0 GAME SUSPENDED (RAIN) AFTER 3 1/2 INNINGS VS. NEW BRITAIN (TWINS) (BOX) -- Though the game is not yet official, Stolmy Pimentel was outstanding in four no-hit innings, striking out four, walking one and and throwing 33 of 51 pitches for strikes. Pimentel has had some very bad outings in Double-A this year -- for instance, in his previous start, he allowed seven runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings -- but unlike his nightmarish 2011 season, he has been able to bounce back from such outings with a strong effort in his next turn on the mound. That suggests a pitcher who has an increased understanding of his stuff, his mechanics (something that proved a challenge last year, as Pimentel added considerable strength and velocity while filling out his 6-foot-5 frame) and the ability to make adjustments, all of which bodes well for the 22-year-old right-hander's future, in a fashion that exceeds the 4-6 record, 5.16 ERA, 6.5 strikeouts per nine or 3.4 walks per nine he's amassed this year. "Guys in this game are allowed to grow up. He'€™s doing just that. He'€™s growing up. He'€™s maturing not just physically but certainly fundamentally and mentally," Portland pitching coach Bob Kipper noted recently. "This is all in the wake of a pretty tough year last year. He was able to endure struggles and in time start to piece some things together. He'€™s been a very diligent worker '€“ he'€™s always been a very diligent worker '€“ and I just think that things are beginning to come to him in a way that makes sense. He'€™s finding a way to simplify his delivery. He has a couple triggers he'€™s aware of and that he works on daily. He'€™s becoming very comfortable with his new body and he has a delivery that works more efficiently to the extent that he creates not just stuff '€“ he'€™s always thrown hard '€“ it'€™s the quality of stuff. The ability to create angle and true finish and extension which leads to deception which leads to late life and action. It'€™s far improved this year over what it was last year. That'€™s a byproduct of hard work on his part. There'€™s a mental maturity in his game where, in his words, he doesn'€™t get crazy when things don'€™t go his way, when there'€™s an unfortunate result of a good pitch. He'€™s able to keep himself in the moment and make his game about his next pitch, being able to commit to a pitch." -- Rich Hill was scheduled to make a rehab appearance in Portland on Friday before heading to Pawtucket to continue his rehab. However, the suspension makes his next step slightly less clear, though with the Futures at Fenway taking place on Saturday (which will feature both the Lowell Spinners and PawSox at Fenway), there are plenty of options. Hill discussed his rehab with Sea Dogs play-by-play man Mike Antonellis. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 12-6 WIN VS. POTOMAC (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Michael Almanzar went 1-for-3 while blasting his 12th homer of the year and walking twice. His 31 walks for the year represent a new career high, in a year when Almanzar has shown drastic improvement from anything he's ever done before as a professional. He's hitting .300/.355/.466/.821, and he now has nine homers in 51 games since the All-Star break (compared to three in 62 games in the first half). With a number of his teammates having been promoted, the corner infielder is now batting third in the Salem lineup, a spot where the 21-year-old will be challenged to show whether his improvements this year represent a sustainable leap forward to give him some prospect status or a mirage for a player who was once viewed as one of the top power hitting prospects in the Sox system but who, until this year, had shown little to suggest an ability to live up to that potential. -- Brandon Jacobs went 1-for-3 with a double and two walks. The outfielder had been 0-for-20 in his previous six starts. -- Salem matched a franchise record with 11 extra-base hits. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 14-1 LOSS AT ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES) (BOX) -- Garin Cecchini went 1-for-4 with a double. In the second half, he's hitting .335/.420/.455/.875 (after earning an All-Star spot with a .288/.364/.413/.776 line in the first half). One interesting change that has played into his high OBP in the second half is improved command of the strike zone for a player who was already considered to have an advanced approach. In the first half, Cecchini walked 25 times (9.2 percent rate) and struck out 54 times (19.9 percent) in 272 plate appearances. In the second half, he's walked 24 times (12.4 percent) and struck out 27 times (14.0 percent) in 193 plate appearances. -- Second baseman Bryan Johns had the best pitching performance of the night for Greenville, allowing one run in one inning of mop-up work. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 6-2 WIN VS. ABERDEEN (ORIOLES) (BOX) -- William Cuevas continued his excellent season in Lowell, tossing 3 2/3 shutout innings in which he scattered three hits while striking out five and walking one. In his previous three seasons in the Sox system, he'd never struck out more than 6.8 per nine innings. This year, the 21-year-old right-hander -- thanks in part to some velocity gains -- is punching out 8.3 batters per nine innings en route to a 1.51 ERA that is third lowest in the New York-Penn League. -- Deven Marrero went 2-for-4 with a walk, and in his last five games, the 2012 first-rounder is 10-for-22 with a double and three walks. ROOKIE LEVEL GCL RED SOX: 5-1 WIN VS. GCL TWINS (BOX) -- Second-rounder Jamie Callahan (still just 17; he turns 18 next Friday) tossed a pair of scoreless, hitless innings while walking one and punching out two. He's now thrown four scoreless innings in his last two games. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 5-3 WIN VS. DSL RANGERS (BOX) -- Center fielder Manuel Margot continued his strong August with a 2-for-4 game to improve to 9-for-23 (.391) in his last five games. He's reached base in 11 straight contests. After slumping through a .214/.310/.306/.616 July, Margot is hitting .327/.418/.382/.800 in August. He has nine walks and just three strikeouts this month, giving him 32 free passes and 24 whiffs for the season.