Why is 2013 first-round pick Trey Ball is feeling better than ever? (Gail Oskin/Getty Images)

Red Sox Minor League Notebook: Never mind no-hitter, why 2013 first-round pick Trey Ball feels better than ever

Ryan Hannable
April 23, 2015 - 6:18 am
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Last Friday night was a big night for 2013 Red Sox first-round pick Trey Ball, as he threw six, no-hit innings with High-A Salem. Selected No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 draft, and with High-A Salem two and a half years later, some have questioned the pick. But the fact of the matter is Ball is just 20 years old. He was taken out of New Castle High School in New Castle, Indiana and until being drafted he wasn't just a pitcher -- he was a two-way player as a pitcher and an outfielder. Friday's performance showed the potential and talent he has, perhaps a glimpse into the future for what is to come. "Honestly everything was [working]," Ball said via phone this week. "I had good fastball command. My off-speed stuff was working good to keep them off balance. The defense was outstanding on Friday. It was a good game." The 6-foot-6 left-hander didn't allow a hit, while walking two and striking out five over the six innings against the Carolina Mudcats. It was Ball's third career no-hitter. He threw one in high school and one with his travel team during his high school years. Once drafted by the Red Sox Ball became exclusively a pitcher and learned "to pitch," instead of just being a "thrower." "I think I've learned how to call my own game," said Ball. "Learned how to actually throw all my pitches and all of them for strikes. Not just rely on my fastball. Instead of having one pitch, I now have three. I think that is the biggest difference so far." Ball wasn't putting up the best of numbers until the second half last season with Single-A Greenville. Ball'€™s first half of the season wasn't great with an ERA of 7.07 and allowing a .353 opponents batting average. Things started to click over his final 13 starts as his ERA dipped to 3.36 and his opponents batting average was down to .234. The lefty said the biggest difference was he started feeling comfortable with all three of his pitches -- fastball, curveball and changeup -- not just his fastball. "We spent most of last year working on that and I think it really started clicking towards the end of the second half," he said. "I came into the offseason feeling strong and just continued to work on them." With some players in the 2013 draft class knocking on the door of the majors -- led by Kris Bryant -- Ball said he doesn't pay any attention to that, rather players in the Red Sox organization and how he can learn from them. "I usually just watch the pitchers down in spring training and what they were doing like Henry Owens, Brian Johnson -- I watched them and learned from them and how they did things," he said. In his 2.5 seasons in the Red Sox organization Ball has a 6-12 record with a 4.72 ERA, but starting with his turnaround at the end of last season, things appear to be changing for the better, and a major reason for that is simply having more confidence. "Honestly, I do feel a little bit more confident than I did last year," said Ball. "Coming in, I'm feeling a lot more confident in all my pitches and that's really helped." JOHNSON CONTINUES TO DOMINATE In the Pawtucket rotation everyone is aware of Henry Owens and the potential he has, but sometimes lost in the shuffle is fellow left-hander Brian Johnson, who has put up even better numbers than Owens. Bursting onto the scene with Double-A Portland last year, Johnson went 10-2 with a 1.75 ERA over 20 starts. Even more impressive was with Portland he only had one game where he allowed more than two earned runs. The 2012 first-round pick out of the University of Florida got invited to major league spring training this past spring for the first time and has carried over his success last year with Portland to this year with Triple-A Pawtucket. Over his first three starts of the year Johnson is 2-1, but has an ERA of 0.56, allowing just one earned run in 16 innings, while striking out 18. "Just having confidence in myself," Johnson said a few weeks back of what changed for him over the last year or so. "Whatever [the catcher] puts down, having full confidence in that pitch and attacking the strike zone, not fearing contact." A major reason for Johnson's success is having a catcher he can count on. Having Blake Swihart move up to Triple-A along with Johnson will only continue to help the lefty. "Yeah, it's huge," he said. "You're not shaking off, you're not doing any of that stuff. Usually you're rolling. I think probably there were numerous amounts of games last year where I didn't shake Swihart off once. I had that pitch in my glove, that's the pitch I wanted to throw next and that's what he threw down. When you have that relationship, it makes the game a lot easier." PAWSOX PLAYERS INCREASING VERSATILITY Some players with Pawtucket will begin to get some action at some new positions, as a way to increase their versatility, thus increasing their potential value to the big league club. Shortstop Deven Marrero will begin taking grounders at second and third base. Third baseman Garin Cecchini has already seen some playing time at both first base and the outfield, and lastly second and third baseman Sean Coyle will also see some time in the outfield. "[Marrero] started to play a little second and third," Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Tampa on Wednesday. "[Sean] Coyle will get some action, as will [Garin] Cecchini, in the outfield at Pawtucket." With Mookie Betts' success as an outfielder after playing second base until this time last year, it shows a change in position can work out well for the player. MARGOT'S IMPRESSIVE STREAK Outfielder Manuel Margot as a pretty impressive streak going to open the 2015 season at the plate with High-A Salem -- he hasn't struck out (as of Thursday). Over 11 games and 42 at-bats he's yet to strike out, and not only he is not striking out, he's hitting the ball with some authority. Margot is hitting .357 with six of his 15 hits going for extra bases. The lifetime .289 minor league hitter could see a promotion to Double-A Portland before long. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JACKIE PawSox outfielder Jackie Bradley celebrated his 25th birthday on Sunday, and his teammates decorated his locker in a unique way.

3 STARS OF THE WEEK 1. Brian Johnson, LHP, Pawtucket -- For the second straight week Johnson is one of our stars. The 24-year-old left-hander threw seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits, while walking a batter and striking out five Monday against Buffalo -- a 1-0 PawSox win. With how Johnson has performed so far this season, as well as last season, it would appear if a member of the Red Sox rotation were to go down for a long period of time, Johnson would get the call up. 2. Jantzen Witte, 1B, Portland -- Not known to some in the organization, Witte has been on a tear of late. In his last 10 games the 6-foot-2 first baseman is hitting .368 with 13 RBI. A 2013 24th round pick spent last season splitting between Greenville and Salem, and batted .312 with an OPS of .879. 3. Mauricio Dubon, SS, Greenville -- The shortstop is off to a great start to the year, highlighted by his past 10 games where he's batted .372. In those 10 games he's had six multi-hit games, including his last two. He's also shown his speed on the bases, stealing four bases in the 10 games. A 2013 draft pick, hit .320 with the Lowell Spinners last year.