Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Why one man compared Matt Barnes to Justin Verlander

June 05, 2012 - 5:15 am
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Carlos Febles has spent six years as a coach and manager in the Red Sox' system. During that time, he's had an up-close view of nearly every Red Sox prospect who has entered the system, having spent time with the Lowell Spinners (2007 as a hitting coach, 2011 as manager), High-A Lancaster (2008) and High-A Salem (2009-10) before becoming the manager of the Single-A Greenville Drive this season. And so, it seemed fair to wonder whether Febles had ever seen a Red Sox pitching prospect with the stuff possessed by Matt Barnes, the right-hander who spent just five starts in Greenville before his dominance proved so singular that the Red Sox felt compelled to promote him to High-A Salem? "No. I think it'€™s not even close. He has a great fastball, a good changeup and a good curveball that he can throw for strikes any time. It'€™s hard to find a guy with that stuff," said Febles. "He'€™s in High-A. He can probably go to Double-A this year and I think he can be in the big leagues next season. He'€™s that good. He reminds me of [Tigers ace Justin Verlander], that mound presence where the game never speeds up on him. The game never speeds up for him. A guy'€™s on third base, he'€™s the same as with nobody on. He knows he can do it. He'€™s not afraid. He knows exactly what he needs to do." Barnes cruised through another dominant outing on Monday night in Salem, firing six shutout innings in which he allowed just four hits (all singles -- three on ground balls, one on a fly ball) while striking out three (matching a season low) and walking one. He needed just 82 pitches (54 strikes) to improve to 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA, 39 strikeouts and four walks since his promotion to High-A. On the year, between Greenville and Salem, he is 5-1 with a 1.04 ERA, 81 strikeouts and just eight walks in 60 2/3 innings. Barnes has now been pitching professional for two months, and he's close to demonstrating that he's outperforming a second level. He's allowed one or no earned runs while pitching six innings in five of his six outings. There haven't been many Red Sox pitchers in recent years to make it up to Double-A in their first full professional seasons (the last was Alex Wilson, who did so in 2010; before him, one has to go back to Justin Masterson in 2007). But then, as Febles noted, there haven't been many pro debuts by a Sox pitcher like the one that Barnes has made. TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: RAINED OUT AT LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES) -- Daisuke Matsuzaka will take the mound on Tuesday in Pawtucket (weather permitting) for his third start since receiving a cortisone injection. In his first two outings, he has a 0.87 ERA while having allowed three hits in 10 1/3 innings. DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: OFF DAY -- Bryce Brentz was named the Eastern League Player of the Week for May 28-June 3 after going 10-for-23 with two homers, three doubles, four runs batted in and two walks, good for a line of .435/.480/.826/1.306. During the week, he went 5-for-5 on May 31, his second five-hit game of the season, in the process becoming the first Portland player ever with multiple five-hit games in the same season. HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 10-1 WIN VS. WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX) (BOX) -- If there is a template for a best-case scenario for newly drafted Red Sox shortstop Deven Marrero, it would be Jackie Bradley Jr. The Sox grabbed Bradley with the No. 40 pick of the 2011 draft after his stats took a hit in his junior year prior to a wrist injury that wiped out a significant chunk of his season. The team remained convinced that his struggles as a junior were a blip, and that the track record he'd established in his first two years of college -- along with during his summer Team USA play -- was the better measure of a player who was an elite up-the-middle defender with a good offensive approach and the ability to hit the ball to all fields. It remains to be seen what happens with Marrero, but Bradley continues to justify the Red Sox' faith -- and then some. He went 4-for-5 with a double on Monday, giving him four games with at least four hits this season. In his last seven games, he's had two four-hit games, and he's hitting .556 (15-for-27) with eight doubles during the seven-game hitting streak, a run that includes a six-game stretch in which he's had at least one double in each contest. His stats for the year now look like those of a high school player against vastly inferior competition. Bradley is now hitting .387/.498/.586/1.084, and like Barnes, the question would appear to be when, not if, regarding his promotion to Portland. -- Travis Shaw continued his one-man Home Run Derby, going deep for the sixth time in 11 games on a night when he was 1-for-2 with three walks. During the stretch, he is hitting .333/.479/.889/1.368 with 15 RBI. Though he had just one homer in his first 39 games this year, he is now tied for seventh in the Carolina League with seven homers. SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: OFF DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 12-4 WIN VS. DSL METS (BOX) -- Center fielder Manuel Margot blasted a grand slam while going 1-for-3 with two walks and two stolen bases while also having two outfield assists in a spectacular five-tool game. That followed a debut on Saturday in which Margot -- a 17-year-old whom the Sox signed last summer to an $800,000 bonus -- had a homer and drove in six runs. In two games, he now has two homers and 10 RBI. To put that in some context, in the last two years, no Red Sox DSL player (including Xander Bogaerts in 2010) has hit more than three homers.