Red Sox minor league roundup: Stephen Drew, Sean Coyle return; Garin Cecchini's streak ends; Joe Gunkel's unhittable start

May 24, 2014 - 6:32 am
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Friday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-0 LOSS AT SYRACUSE (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Daniel Nava went 1-for-4 with a double off of left-hander Aaron Laffey, his second extra-base hit against lefties in Triple-A. Nava is still exhibiting significant splits that suggest that if/when he returns to the big leagues, it will likely be in a platoon capacity. With Friday's double, he's hitting .231/.276/.308 with nine punchouts in 28 plate appearances (32 percent) against lefties, compared to a .263/.377/.439 line with punchouts in 17 percent of his 69 plate appearances. PROGRAMMING NOTE: Nava and Portland shortstop Deven Marrero will be the guests on WEEI's Down on the Farm, Sunday morning from 8:30-9 a.m. -- Left-hander Rich Hill turned in his most dominant outing of the year, contributing 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball in which he allowed one hit and struck out five. Hill had struggled in his prior two outings, allowing three runs in 2 1/3 innings, but his performance has been largely solid for Pawtucket, with 29 strikeouts and 11 walks in 25 innings, no homers allowed and a 3.24 ERA. -- Third baseman Garin Cecchini went 0-for-3, snapping a streak of 27 straight games in which he'd reached base. During that run, Cecchini hit .302/.413/.349. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 4-3 WIN (10 INNINGS) AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS) (BOX) -- Sean Coyle, in his first game since April 28 after more than three weeks on the DL due to a hamstring injury, went 2-for-5, with his day including a game-winning RBI double in the 10th. Coyle, who had been playing some second but mostly third in April (he served as DH on Friday), was off to a strong start, hitting .323/.382/.484 in his first 19 games. Manager Billy McMillon praised the work that the 22-year-old did while on the DL to ensure that he could hit the ground running upon his return. "He did a lot of work when he was hurt, tracking pitches, batting practice and stuff so it wasn'€™t that much of a stretch for him to jump right back in there,'€ McMillon told the Portland Press-Herald. -- Catcher Blake Swihart went 3-for-5, his second three-hit game of the year. Two of his three singles came against righties. Though Swihart has exhibited significant splits (.375/.412/.688 against lefties, .239/.263/.337 against righties) thus far this year, an American League scout who recently saw Swihart praised his approach and bat speed from both sides of the plate, suggesting that he looks like a true switch-hitter. -- First baseman Travis Shaw went 1-for-2 with three walks, boosting his OBP to .411 -- fifth in the Eastern League. In May, he's hitting .360 (fifth-best in the Eastern League) with a .455 OBP (second) and .674 slugging mark (fourth). -- Joining Shaw with a below-the-radar outrageous performance this month has been teammate Henry Ramos. The 22-year-old outfielder is hitting .410/.456/.566 in May after going 2-for-5 on Friday. In 23 games this month, he has 10 multi-hit games. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 8-2 WIN VS. POTOMAC (NATIONALS) (BOX) -- Right-hander Simon Mercedes threw a season-high (and career-high-matching) six innings, allowing one run on five hits (four singles and a double) while punching out four and walking two. In his four starts this year, the 22-year-old has a 2.89 ERA with 17 strikeouts and 10 walks in 18 2/3 innings. -- Infielder Jonathan Roof went 2-for-5 with a double to extend his hitting streak to nine games. Roof, 25, is hitting .406/.472/.688 during the stretch to improve to .303/.387/.455 for the season. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 2-0 WIN VS. AUGUSTA (GIANTS) (BOX) -- Stephen Drew went 1-for-2 with a single and a strikeout in his first game since the World Series. The shortstop also handled his work in the field without issue -- he caught a pop-up on the first play of the game and went on to handle three grounders and make a pair of catches, though he wasn't involved in any double play attempts. Drew -- who, by virtue of being optioned off the big league roster, will require a minor league stint of at least 10 days barring a DL stint for a player on the Red Sox 25-man roster -- said that he was pleased with how the game went. "It's just good to get back, to get back in the swing of things," Drew told the Greenville News. "The game comes back quick in your mind. It's just more or less getting back on your feet. Playing in game mode, that's the difference." -- Right-hander Joe Gunkel, making his first pro start, fired four hitless innings in which he allowed just one walk while punching out six. MiLB.com's GameDay credited him with seven swings and misses from his 45 pitches, consistent with the big swing-and-miss rates the right-hander with the funky low three-quarters release has been getting throughout this season. Gunkel, who had been working out of the bullpen but was a starter in college, now has a 1.29 ERA this year -- a slight improvement over the 1.35 mark he had in Lowell last year in his pro debut. In 28 innings this year, he's punched out 39 (12.5 per nine innings) and walked just six (1.9 per nine innings), and he's amidst a stretch of 15 straight innings without permitting an earned run. Opponents are hitting .143 against the 22-year-old, an 18th-round draft pick out of West Chester University last summer. The Sox plan to continue to let Gunkel work out of the rotation after progressively building up his innings in recent outings. -- Center fielder Manuel Margot went 0-for-2 but walked twice on Friday. He's been in a rut in May, hitting .183 with a .290 OBP and .283 slugging mark, but it has been noteworthy that even during his slump, the 19-year-old has shown an ability to control the strike zone. He has nine walks against 10 strikeouts this month, suggesting the presence of some of the "survival skills" that the Sox like to see from players amidst slumps to suggest the ability to make an impact even when not hitting. In Margot's case, if he can walk, his speed would permit him to remain an offensive weapon even when his hits aren't coming, while his center field defense would also suggest an asset.

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