Red Sox minor league roundup: Taking stock of Bryce Brentz; Jantzen Witte, Kendrick Perkins mashing in Greenville

May 11, 2014 - 6:13 am

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Saturday: TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-4 LOSS AT LOUISVILLE (REDS) (BOX) -- Outfielder Bryce Brentz broke an 0-for-26 skid by launching a three-run homer in the fourth inning against left-hander Jeff Francis. Though Brentz had been hitless in May, he'd maintained a .250 OBP thanks to seven walks. The 25-year-old appears to be amidst an evolution in his offensive approach as he makes a concerted effort to stay back and recognize pitches while forcing opposing pitchers into the strike zone. Though his average this year is down to .208 from the .264 mark he posted last year in Pawtucket, his OBP has gone up from .312 to .324 thanks to his 19 walks in 35 games -- a mark that is one shy of the number of free passes he totaled with Pawtucket in 82 games last year. His strikeout rate is also down slightly, from 24.6 to 22.5 this year. Brentz made it a goal to work deeper into counts, cut down and strikeouts and lay off pitches outside of the strike zone this winter in the Dominican, and though his stats there suggested a struggle, he believes that the concerted approach has paid off this year. "Last year I think it took me 10 games to get my first walk. This year I think I did it in my first game," observed Brentz. "I was happy with [my approach with] two strikes -- even if I got in a hole early, I was seeing more than three pitches, being a tougher out. That to me is the biggest thing I'm happiest with. ... It's just a matter of focus. The biggest thing in [the Dominican over the winter] was seeing a lot of pitches and getting comfortable with two strikes. I'm not a guy who's worked the count. Being down there, yeah I struggled, but getting to 0-2, I'd say, 'Yeah, I'm OK.' I feel more comfortable in the box." -- Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo struggled early but cruised late, allowing three runs in the second but not permitting any runs after that while allowing just one more hit in his final four frames. He finished the night having allowed three runs on four hits (two singles, two doubles) with three walks and three punchouts. While Ranaudo has only dominated in a pair of starts this year, he's recovered from a season-opening struggle in which he had a 6.14 ERA after three starts to post a 2.88 ERA in his last five starts. Though he's competing well in Triple-A, however, Ranaudo has endured struggles with the strike zone at different intervals this year, including his last two starts, in which he's walked seven and struck out five. The 24-year-old has failed to throw 60 percent of his pitches for strikes in three of his last four outings. -- Right-hander Alex Wilson had his worst game of the year, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks. He'd given up just one run in his first 13 appearances spanning 13 2/3 innings. One of the hits was a single by a right-handed hitter -- notable because Wilson had held opposing righties to a 2-for-28 mark (.071) prior to that. (Lefties are hitting .333 against him.) -- Infielder Ryan Roberts went 1-for-3 with a double and two walks. In nine games in May, he's hitting .345/.406/.517. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-5 LOSS VS. NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS) (BOX) -- Right-hander Michael Olmsted recorded all four of his outs by strikeout, reaching a season-high in punchouts for the year. His 1 1/3 shutout innings gave the 27-year-old a 0.68 ERA with 19 strikeouts and six walks in 13 1/3 innings. -- Right-hander Keith Couch matched a season-high by punching out seven. Though he matched a less glorious season-high by permitting four runs, he continued his streak of not permitting a homer this year. The 24-year-old has 33 strikeouts eight walks and no homers allowed in 38 2/3 innings. -- Shortstop Deven Marrero went 1-for-5 with a double, adding to a month in which he's been struggling to collect hits but has been showing extra-base power. He's hitting .182/.325/.424 this month, with four of his six hits having gone for extra bases. For the year, he's hitting .263/.360/.414. -- Feats of Mookie: Resting. Day off. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 11-3 LOSS VS. CAROLINA (INDIANS) (BOX) -- Left-hander Corey Littrell, who had averaged just under six innings and given up no more than three runs in his first six starts, was tagged for four runs in 2 2/3 innings, on a night when he couldn't find the strike zone. The 22-year-old, who entered the day with a promising 2.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio, issued six free passes and did not strike out anyone. His ERA ballooned from 2.20 to 3.06. -- Second baseman Reed Gragnani went 2-for-4 with a double, improving to .385/.469/.521. His .385 average is second in the minors to only Betts (.392), and his .469 OBP ranks ninth. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-5 WIN VS. WEST VIRGINIA (PIRATES) (BOX) -- Left fielder Kendrick Perkins had a monster game that represented the culmination of a monster four-game stretch. He went 3-for-4 with a homer and double, and in his last four games, he's 8-for-14 with two homers, a double and two walks. The 22-year-old, a 2010 sixth-rounder, is hitting .360/.433/.640 through seven games. -- First baseman Jantzen Witte reached base in all four plate appearances, collecting a double, walking twice and getting hit by a pitch. It took the 24th rounder six games to get on track, but after his 3-for-20 start, he's been on a tear, hitting .413/.509/.707 with 20 extra-base hits in 25 games. As an older player (24) who played four years in college at TCU, given his performance (which has ratified the spring training assessments of his hitting skill), if he can sustain a strong early performance, he profiles as a player who would be promoted early in the year in order to challenge him at a more age-appropriate level.