Red Sox minor league roundup: Rubby De La Rosa in a funk; Xander Bogaerts' outrageous month; a southpaw surplus; Blake Swihart's standout game behind the plate; Trey Ball debuts

July 30, 2013 - 8:00 am
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Monday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 9-1 LOSS VS. LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES) (BOX) -- Rubby De La Rosa, who posted a dazzling 0.84 ERA in May and June, continued his recent fall from grace. The 24-year-old was shelled for seven runs (six earned) on four hits (three homers), four walks and three strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings on Monday. In his last five starts, he's averaged just 3 2/3 innings, and he now has a 9.64 ERA with a jarring 8.2 walks per nine innings and more walks (17) than strikeouts (13). Opponents are battering him for a .315/.447/.548 line in that span. The right-hander continues to show arm strength and a power repertoire. That being the case, it is possible, suggested one talent evaluator, that he is dealing with a lack of focus and motivation while biding his time and waiting for a call-up to the majors. Of course, that presents a chicken-and-egg problem, since De La Rosa likely needs to show improved performance in Triple-A in order to position himself for a call-up back to the big leagues.  -- Xander Bogaerts extended his striking streak of consecutive games on base to 26, going 2-for-4 with a double. In that span, he is hitting .326 (12th in the International League) with a .439 OBP (3rd in the International League) and .528 slugging mark (10th), all at a time when he is the only 20-year-old at the level. Overall, in 41 games since his promotion from Double-A Portland last month, Bogaerts has a .279 average, .380 OBP and .483 slugging mark with eight homers and 14 extra-base hits. -- Left-hander Franklin Morales had a spectacular inning to start his rehab assignment, striking out the side in his inning of work while getting swings and misses on five of his 15 pitches. His presence in Pawtucket further underscores the fact that the Sox have a potential surplus from which to deal left-handers given the current presence of Craig Breslow, Drake Britton and Matt Thornton in the big leagues (not to mention Ryan Rowland-Smith, who was activated by Pawtucket on Monday after missing the last month due to an appendectomy, and carries a 1.03 ERA for the year). -- Right-hander Jose Contreras looks capable of offering the Red Sox an intriguing bullpen alternative should they not upgrade their relief corps via trade. The 41-year-old made his third straight scoreless, hitless appearance with Pawtucket since signing a minor league deal with the Sox, striking out a batter in the process. In three PawSox appearances, he's thrown 4 2/3 innings while punching out eight and walking three. One caveat: His usage has been spread out considerably, as he's had four days of rest between relief appearances. Still, his Triple-A numbers since a demotion by the Pirates from the big leagues verge on absurd. In 16 appearances (21 1/3 innings) with Triple-A Indianapolis and Pawtucket, Contreras has allowed just one earned run (0.42 ERA) while striking out 27, walking eight and holding opponents to a .149/.256/.164 line with one extra-base hit (a double) in 67 at-bats. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-2 WIN VS. HARRISBURG (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Right-hander Noe Ramirez notched his second save since being promoted to Portland and his second in as many appearances, going two innings and allowing just one walk while striking out two. Ramirez has allowed only two hits and two walks in his last nine innings (four appearances) and hasn't allowed a run after giving up runs in his first three outings with Portland. The 23-year-old righty is having a strong year while adapting to the bullpen in his second professional season, compiling a 2.26 ERA in 28 appearances between Salem and Portland with a 0.990 WHIP in 63 2/3 innings. -- Catcher Matt Spring's ninth home run of the season was the deciding factor for the Sea Dogs on Monday. Spring's nine longballs represent the second-highest total in any season in his career, second only to his 11 home runs in 2011. It was the third round-tripper in four games for Portland's 28-year-old back-up catcher, after he went 18 games without one. In 39 games this season, Spring is batting .236/.282/.500 with 19 extra-base hits. -- Right-hander Terry Doyle enjoyed one of his better starts in his time in Double-A, allowing only one run over five innings. However, Doyle was forced to pitch out of jams often, allowing eight hits and three walks, being forced to throw 96 pitches. Since being sent to Double-A from Pawtucket, Doyle has pitched to the tune of a 4.45 ERA in five starts, allowing 16 earned runs in 32 1/3 innings while allowing four home runs. The 27-year-old owns a 5.29 ERA and a 6-9 record in 23 appearances (16 starts) between the two clubs. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 5-2 LOSS AT POTOMAC (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Catcher Blake Swihart made contributions both at and behind the plate on Monday. He went 1-for-4 and hit safely in his fourth straight game, while he's put up a .357/.400/.464 line in his last seven. But more impressively, Swihart gunned down three runners, catching every runner the opposing team put in motion. Swihart has caught 38 percent of runners this season, the top mark in the Carolina League and an improvement over his 31 percent in 66 games last season for Greenville. -- Keury de la Cruz has cooled off considerably since batting .387 in June. He did have the only multi-hit effort of the day for Salem, going 2-for-4 with a run scored, but he's hitting .229/.310/.400 in his last nine contests, with a double, triple and a home run to his credit. The 21-year-old has displayed some interesting splits, batting an impressive .340 with a .902 OPS in 50 home games, while managing only a .230/.268/.340 line in 53 road games. The outfielder is now batting .283/.323/.427 in 103 games this season with a team-leading 29 doubles, while his 74 RBI are good for second in the Carolina League. -- After a six-game hitting streak, Henry Ramos has endured a tough stretch in the batter's box. With a double on Monday, he collected only his second his in his last eight games. Both of those hits went for two bases. However, in those eight games, the outfielder has managed to draw five walks (two were intentional), and he was hit by a pitch. The slump has brought the 21-year-old's line down to .261/.344/.433 on the season. Though he has driven in 47 runs on the season, Ramos has only one RBI in his last eight contests. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 3-1 WIN AT GREENSBORO (MARLINS) (BOX) -- Starter Justin Haley turned in a solid performance, allowing just three hits and a run over six innings, walking one, striking out two and earning his sixth victory of the season. Haley has been one of the most consistent members of Greenville's rotation, and has not allowed more than three earned runs in any outing since May 9. Since then, he's posted a 2.60 ERA in 13 starts, with opposing batters hitting just .225 against him. His weakness, however, has been the number of walks he's issued. On the season, the 22-year-old has issued a total of 65 walks. That's an average of 6.5 per nine innings, and with his 85 strikeouts, only a 1.31 strikeout-to-walk ratio. -- With one hit on Monday, Aneury Tavarez has a five-game hitting streak. However, he has only one hit in each of those games, and is hitting only .227 with a .217 OBP in the stretch. Tavarez, 21, has 13 hits in his last 14 games, and has not drawn a walk since July 10. The outfielder has drawn only 16 base-on-balls in 381 plate appearances. That means he's walking less than 5 percent of the time. However, he has struck out 105 times, a 28 percent rate. Tavarez has put up a .258/.292/.392 line in 93 games for Greenville. -- The Drive continue to get great offensive production out of 23-year-old Mario Martinez, who is 12-for-28 with seven RBI in his last six games. The third baseman is batting .309/.342/.446 with nine doubles, five home runs and 34 RBI in 44 games since joining the Red Sox organization. SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 3-2 LOSS AT VERMONT (ATHLETICS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Corey Littrell continued his impressive start to his professional career, going 2 2/3 innings and allowing a hit and two walks while striking out four. The 21-year-old has allowed only one run in five starts (10 1/3 innings), good for a 0.87 ERA. In those five starts, Littrell, who was drafted in the fifth round this year, has given up nine hits and six walks while striking out 11 batters. Although a very small sample size, Littrell has been dominant against righties, holding them to a .148/.258/.148 line in 27 at-bats, while lefties are hitting .357/.438/.357 in 14 at-bats against him. -- With two hits in three at-bats (both singles), second baseman Cleuluis Rondon is now hitting .350/.381/.400 over his last seven games, raising his line on the year to .277/.328/.353 through 36 games. The 19-year-old hasn't displayed much power this season, with only one extra-base hit in his last 10 games and a total of six on the season (four doubles, a triple and a home run). Despite the high average in his last 10 games, Rondon hasn't taken a walk since July 21, and has worked only one free pass in his last 14 contests while striking out 11 times. He's walked seven times on the season through 134 plate appearances. -- Pitcher-turned-outfielder Aaron King is enjoying a decent year at the plate in his first season as a position player, batting .270/.337/.360 after a 2-for-4 day on Monday. The 24-year-old has six extra-base hits in his 31 games in the Red Sox organization, driving in 12 runs and scoring 10 times. The two-hit day comes after a relatively long hitless drought, when King went five straight without a hit, reaching base only once with a walk. ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 5-3 WIN AT GCL RAYS (BOX) -- Left-hander Trey Ball, the Red Sox' 2013 first-rounder, made his pro debut on Monday. Working with a very limited pitch count, he faced five batters. The results: a grounder (E6), walk, strike out on a foul bunt attempt, fielder's choice out at the plate (the leadoff man had stolen third) and a double. So, Ball's pro debut saw him credited with 2/3 of an inning, allowing two runs (both unearned) with a hit, walk and strikeout. His fastball registered at 88-92 mph, with a slightly uneven performance that comes as little surprise given that a) it was his pro debut and b) it had been roughly two months since he'd pitched in a game. -- Second baseman Sean Coyle went 0-for-3 while getting hit by a pitch. Though he was removed from the game in the bottom of the seventh, half an inning after taking the HBP, his removal was not due to injury but rather a reflection of the fact that he's still working to rebuild stamina on his rehab assignment after spending nearly two months on the DL. His departure at that stage of the game was scheduled. -- Though he entered the game as Coyle's defensive replacement and had only one plate appearance, 17-year-old Wendell Rijo still managed to extend his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 16 by collecting an RBI single. He's hitting .325 with a .447 OBP (third in the GCL) and .434 slugging mark in 25 games in his pro debut, and .415/.508/.585 during his streak. DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 6-0 LOSS VS. DSL MARINERS (BOX) -- Javier Guerra went 2-for-2 with two singles on the day, and has now hit in three straight games (and two straight multi-hit games) after going hitless in five straight contests. The 17-year-old, who struggled mightily in his first month of the season, has since hit .270 with a .361 OBP in his last 18 games. Guerra has gone 18 straight games without an extra-base hit, however. He has six doubles in 135 at-bats, while the shortstop has drawn 26 walks and struck out 24 times in 39 games. -- Infielder Victor Acosta haD the only extra-base hit of the day for the DSL Sox, going 1-for-4 with a double, his ninth of the season. The 17-year-old, who primarily plays third base, is 8-for-23 in his last seven games and is batting .253/.326/.401 with five home runs and 25 RBI on the season.

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