Red Sox minor league roundup: Rich Hill's rehab, early power for Will Middlebrooks

April 11, 2012 - 5:32 am
Rich Hill is ready to take the next step in his rehab from Tommy John surgery, top prospect Will Middlebrooks is doing some early damage and a couple of pitchers left their outfielders in a state of utter boredom. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 8-0 WIN VS. LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES) -- A year ago, third baseman Will Middlebrooks had two extra-base hits (both homers) in 16 games and 60 plate appearances in Pawtucket following his late-season call-up from Portland. On Tuesday, in his fifth game of the season (and with 22 at-bats now under his belt), he collected his third extra-base hit (and first homer) of 2012, going 2-for-4 with a homer to right-center. -- Early in spring training, one Red Sox minor league instructor watched Mauro Gomez take batting practice. "He looks like Albert Pujols," he said, half-kidding, based on the first baseman's thick frame and the fact that the burly basher (listed at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds) blasted ball after ball over the chain-link fence and into some Florida wetland. In 18 at-bats, Gomez has hit the ground running, hitting .389 (7-for-18) with a .421 OBP, .778 slugging mark, 1.199 OPS and two homers. In 135 games with the Braves' Triple-A affiliate last year, Gomez hit .304 with a .356 OBP, .522 slugging mark, .878 OPS, 24 homers, 60 extra-base hits and a league-leading 264 total bases. -- Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf proved both effective and efficient, permitting just two hits and one walk in six shutout innings while striking out three and recording eight outs via grounder (including three double play balls). He needed just 63 pitches to earn the victory, in the process improving Pawtucket's ERA to a league-best 1.26. Ohlendorf told Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that he employed a cutter he learned during spring training from Josh Beckett into his pitch mix. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEADOGS: 7-1 WIN VS. TRENTON (YANKEES) -- The Sea Dogs ended their franchise-record five-game season-opening losing streak with a blowout win against the Trenton Thunder. -- Chris Balcom-Miller, the right-hander acquired from the Rockies in a trade for Manny Delcarmen in Aug. 2010, mowed through six innings, allowing one run on three hits and three walks while striking out three. All three of the hits he allowed were groundball singles, and 12 of the 18 outs Balcom-Miller recorded came on the ground, with three double-play grounders thrown into the mix. -- Juan Carlos Linares, who was assigned to Triple-A last year before a season-ending ankle injury, continues to rake while getting regular playing time in Double-A. He went 3-for-4 with a walk and a pair of doubles. He's now hitting .435 with a .519 OBP and .696 slugging mark in six games. -- The Sea Dogs have their home opener on Thursday at 6pm, with franchise founder Dan Burke to be honored. Worried it will be chilly? The first 1,000 fans to show up will get a free fleece. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 6-2 LOSS AT LYNCHBURG (BRAVES) -- Second baseman Sean Coyle went 0-4 with three strikeouts; he is now 2-for-18 (.111) with no walks and seven strikeouts in his first four games of the year. Teammate (and roommate) Brandon Jacobs went 1-for-4 and also had a hat trick of punchouts. He's 3-for-17 with no walks and six whiffs thus far this year. Both tore up Greenville last year, but are facing standard adjustment periods against more advanced pitching while moving up the ladder. -- Corner infielder Travis Shaw (who's played both first and third in the early stages of 2012) went 2-for-4 with his first professional triple. The left-handed swinger, drafted out of Kent State in the ninth round last year, impressed with his offensive approach during spring training, and has carried that into the start of the year, hitting .357/.438/.500/.938 in his first four games. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-3 WIN VS. HICKORY (RANGERS) -- Rich Hill made his second appearance with the Drive. After striking out the side on Saturday, he allowed a pair of singles (one of the line drive variety, another a ground ball) to start the game but then induced an RBI groundout and punched out a pair of batters, with both batters (one a right-hander, the other a left-hander) going down looking. Hill said after the outing that he will spend Wednesday in Greenville working out with the Drive before heading to Salem to continue his rehab assignment, just over 10 months after he underwent Tommy John surgery. -- Left-hander Miguel Pena tossed five shutout innings, allowing just two hits and no walks, and his 15 outs broke down as follows: 11 groundball outs, two strikeouts, two pickoffs, no fly balls. The 2011 sixth-rounder was 1-0 with a 2.35 ERA, 22 strikeouts and three walks in 15 1/3 innings in his pro debut with the Lowell Spinners last year. LINKS -- Red Sox hitting coordinator Victor Rodriguez knows a prospect when he hears one. He breaks down some of the top hitting prospects in the Red Sox system in the latest Minor Details podcast. He discusses Ryan Lavarnway, Middlebrooks, Bryce Brentz, Brandon Jacobs and Xander Bogaerts, among others. (And yes, that is shameless self-promotion.) -- Mike Ashmore of the Hunterdon County Democrat talked to power-hitting prospect Bryce Brentz about making stupid goals for the coming year. Interesting to hear Brentz suggest that the Red Sox have not taken away his aggressiveness as a hitter, but instead have worked to get him to hone it. Others (such as Josh Reddick) struggled with that message at times. -- Today's Cup of Coffee from