Red Sox minor league roundup: Steven Wright and Red Sox' depth equation; Dan Butler keeps mashing; Bryce Brentz struggling

September 12, 2013 - 6:47 am
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A brief look at the one game in the Red Sox farm system on Wednesday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 LOSS AT DURHAM (RAYS); TIED IN BEST-OF-FIVE GOVERNOR'S CUP SERIES, 1-1 (BOX) -- Steven Wright did not allow an earned run over his 6 2/3 innings, but three passed balls along with an error led to two unearned runs and a loss for the knuckleballer. Still, Wright continued to perform in a fashion that suggested the ability to throw his knuckleball for strikes (63 of 104 pitches; 61 percent) while generating enough movement not only to elude his catcher's mitt but also the barrels of opponents' bats. Wright allowed five hits (three singles, two doubles) in his 6 2/3 innings of work without permitting an earned run. He walked three and struck out six. He has yet to be charged with an earned run in 13 playoff innings. In 26 Triple-A starts this year (including both the regular season and playoffs), Wright now has a 3.15 ERA. He's been on a tremendous run since the beginning of July, with a 1.69 ERA in 12 starts for the PawSox. He has not permitted an earned run in eight of those outings, and he's yielded just one homer over the 74 2/3 innings encompassed by the stretch. Wright's lone big league start in that span went poorly, as he lasted just one inning in a contest where his knuckleball was active enough to produce three walks and four passed balls against the Astros on Aug. 6. Yet that struggle seems unlikely to alter the bigger picture view of what Wright has become. Wright, who turned 29 in August, represents precisely what the Sox considered a realistic possibility when they acquired him from the Indians at the July 31 trade deadline in 2012. He's shown the ability to log innings (he's up to 161 2/3 for the year between Triple-A and the majors) while performing well enough against both Triple-A opponents and, at times, big leaguers to suggest a pitcher who, with two options remaining, has become a viable depth option for the big league staff, whether as a spot starter or as a long reliever at times when the bullpen is taxed. His presence as a now-ready depth option permits the Sox latitude when it comes to the development of some of their top arms in Triple-A, whether pitchers like Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo or Matt Barnes. Rather than pressing one of those pitchers into a big league rotation spot if he is not ready, Wright has the experience and roster flexibility to step in as needed. In other words, though his status as a minor leaguer suggests that he is not a core member of the Red Sox roster, he nonetheless possesses considerable value for the organization going forward if he can continue to build upon the progress he's made since the start of 2012. And, of course, while some of his value comes in protecting both the Red Sox' major league rotation as well as the team's pitching prospect inventory, his own potential to make a mark at the big league level cannot be dismissed. Though 29, because he remains relatively new to life as a full-time knuckleballer, there remains upside to Wright. His performance in the upper levels of the minors over the last two years suggests that there is reason for intrigue with the practitioner of the unusual pitch. -- Catcher Dan Butler went 1-for-2 with a single while also getting hit by a pitch. The 26-year-old has reached base in all five playoff games in which he's appeared, going 5-for-16 with a double, a walk and a hit by pitch en route to a .313/.389/.375 line, following a regular season in which he hit .262/.350/.479 with 14 homers in 84 games. His offensive approach -- in which he mixes some power with a willingness to take walks and without striking out excessively -- in tandem with his impressive game management behind the plate suggests a player who is likely to find his way to a big league role in the coming seasons. -- Since going 3-for-8 with three extra-base hits in the first two games of the postseason, outfielder Bryce Brentz has gone 1-for-20 with eight strikeouts and no walks. He was 0-for-4 with a pair of punchouts on Wednesday.

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