Red Sox minor league roundup: When winning matters

September 14, 2014 - 6:22 am
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Typically, player development is individual. Ordinarily, the significance of wins and losses in the minor leagues are secondary to what happens to individual prospects as they work to move closer to the big leagues. In contrast to what happens at the highest level, a 4-for-4 is a bigger deal than a defeat. But there are exceptions. There are times when the idea of winning becomes primary, even for players for whom a Triple-A postseason run represented a two-week delay of a potential September call-up. On Saturday night, the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox followed their nail-chomping, 13-inning, 4-2 win over Durham in an elimination game with another victory, this one a wire-to-wire 4-1 win over Durham in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the Governor's Cup Finals. The victory marked Pawtucket's second International League championship in three years, an accomplishment that offered a reminder that the greatest achievements on the field are experienced collectively rather than individually, a notion made clear in the rush to the middle of the infield after right-hander Miguel Celestino's 95 mph fastball was popped up to center, where it settled into the glove of Rusney Castillo. This is what it is to care about winning in the minor leagues: Some player notes from the game: -- Right-hander Keith Couch, one of the most consistent starters in the Red Sox minor league system over the last four years, was dominant. In just the second Triple-A start of his career, and his first since a spot start with Pawtucket in 2013, he allowed just one hit (a single) and two walks (he also hit a batter) in 6 2/3 shutout innings while striking out four and recording 11 groundball outs. Though he missed time this year due to elbow soreness, Couch produced consistent excellence this year, going 9-2 with a 2.78 ERA with Double-A Portland and in Saturday's playoff start. He doesn't have outrageous stuff, but he pitches, with a two-seam fastball, slider and changeup that permit him to work efficiently and effectively. He gets lost in the shuffle of Red Sox starting pitching prospects because he doesn't have any wipeout pitches, but he understands his craft in a way that suggests he will find his way to a big league opportunity. And on Saturday, he produced a career highlight in earning his first Triple-A win. -- Ryan Lavarnway was behind the plate for Couch. Not only was he the signal-caller for the win, but he also went 2-for-4 with a homer to conclude a five-game series in which he was 10-for-22 with a homer, two doubles and two walks, good for a .455/.500/.682 line that earned the 27-year-old series MVP honors. -- Rusney Castillo went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a walk, concluding a solid Governor's Cup run in which he hit .278/.381/.389 with two doubles and three walks in four games. In 10 games with Sox minor league affiliates, the 27-year-old is hitting .297/.381/.405 with four doubles, five walks and seven strikeouts, with the reasonable strikeout total standing out for a player who had gone a year and a half without playing in competitive games, suggesting strong hand-eye coordination that could help ease his transition to the big leagues for next year. -- Third baseman Garin Cecchini concluded a season-ending stretch in which he looked like a doubles machine. The 23-year-old went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk. In eight postseason games, he's hitting .303/.333/.424.

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