Travis Shaw now has 19 homers in 2014. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Travis Shaw now has 19 homers in 2014. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Sunday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 WIN VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

– First baseman Travis Shaw launched a three-run homer as part of a 1-for-2 game in which he also walked. The 24-year-old is enjoying a standout month that has seen him show his characteristic pitch selection and plate discipline while driving pitches.

After walking just seven times with 41 strikeouts in his first 33 games with the PawSox following his promotion to Triple-A, Shaw has reached base in all 17 games in July while walking nearly as many times (10) as he’s struck out (11). Shaw is now hitting .302/.392/.540 with four homers among his seven extra-base hits this month. Notably, three of his four homers this month have been to the opposite field, an indicator of Shaw’s intriguing ability to stay back on the ball and drive it to the opposite field, traits that have convinced the Sox that he has a made-for-Fenway swing that could allow him to pepper the Green Monster.

Between Portland and Pawtucket, Shaw now has a .288/.365/.503 line with 19 homers — making him one of 24 players in all of minor league baseball to reach that home run total so far this year.

–  Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings, the ninth time in 12 outings he’s allowed one or no runs. He permitted just three hits (all for extra bases — two doubles and a solo homer) while walking three (his most walks in eight outings) and striking out four. He is tied for the International League lead in wins (11), ranks second in ERA (2.54), eighth in innings (113 1/3) and is tied for fifth in strikeouts.

Despite his across-the-board dominance in Triple-A, one potential hiccup worth noting is that Ranaudo ranks among the most extreme flyball pitchers in the International League, with three fly ball outs for every two groundouts, the second highest such rate among qualifying pitchers in the league. Though he’s allowed just six homers in Triple-A this year, that ratio suggests the possibility of vulnerability to the longball and/or extra-base hits in the big leagues.

– For the first time in his Triple-A career, Mookie Betts did not reach base, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout while playing center field in his first contest since being sent back down to Pawtucket.

Will Middlebrooks is hitting well, having gone 2-for-4 with a strikeout on Sunday. It was his second straight multi-hit game. Since returning from his wrist injury, Middlebrooks is 4-for-10 with a homer (and nearly a second, which was caught over the fence for a sac fly) and two strikeout in 11 plate appearances.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-2 LOSS (WALKOFF) AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

– Left-hander Brian Johnson tossed six innings in which he allowed just one unearned run. All six of the hits he allowed were singles. Johnson walked one and struck out three while lowering his ERA to 2.32, a mark that would rank second in the Eastern League to teammate Henry Owens if he had enough innings to qualify (something he will likely do before the end of the year, despite playing catchup following a first month of the season spent in Salem).

– Second baseman Sean Coyle, who had been 0-for-10 in his first three games back with Portland following the All-Star Futures Game and Eastern League All-Star Game, went 2-for-4, his first multi-hit contest in 10 games. His line for the season now stands at .325/.398/.558 with 11 homers and 31 extra-base hits in 68 games.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 3-2 LOSS VS. POTOMAC (NATIONALS)

(BOX)

– Left-hander Cody Kukuk appears to have moved beyond his struggles in Salem. He allowed one run on five hits in five innings while striking out five. It was the third time in his last four starts that he’s permitted one or no runs in five innings. His line in his last four starts: 1.59 ERA, 20 strikeouts, 8 walks in 17 innings. The 21-year-old’s line in his prior 11 starts after his May promotion to Salem: 8.33 ERA, 34 strikeouts, 37 walks in 35 2/3 innings.

Even during this strong stretch, there have been periods where Kukuk has lost the strike zone, but he’s showing an improved ability to limit his hiccups in recent outings. The trajectory of Kukuk’s time in Salem this year has some similarities to the path he followed a year ago in Greenville, when he walked 8.4 batters per nine innings in the first half of the year but improved to 5.6 walks per nine (cutting his walks by roughly one-third) in the second half.

When he throws strikes, the left-hander has potentially dominant stuff. He is on a deliberate player development path, but the upside — either a late-innings left-handed bullpen option with power stuff or even, in a shoot-the-moon scenario, a big league starter — remains considerable if he can apply his athleticism to harness his delivery.

– First baseman Jantzen Witte had his second straight multi-hit, multi-double game, going 2-for-4 with a pair of two-baggers. In 27 games since his promotion, the 24-year-old is now hitting .291/.345/.466 with 14 extra-base hits, of which 11 have been doubles. Between Greenville and Salem, Witte now has 35 doubles this year, most in all of minor league baseball.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 3-1 LOSS, 3-2 LOSS VS. ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES)

(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)

– Right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz had perhaps the most impressive outing of his career, allowing one run in 6 2/3 innings while giving up six hits (all singles), walking two and striking out a career-high nine. Of his 95 pitches, 65 were strikes (68 percent) and 15 elicited swings and misses, with eight of his nine punchouts coming via the whiff. In some ways, his control was even more impressive than those strike totals might indicate, as both walks came only when the 20-year-old appeared to tire at the end of his outing, as he missed the strike zone with eight of his final nine pitches with two outs in the seventh after having thrown 74 percent strikes prior to that stage of the contest.

In his first full season, Stankiewicz has rarely shown the sort of dominance that he exhibited on Sunday, working to a 4.30 ERA with 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings. But he has shown the ability to throw strikes and work both efficiently while giving relatively reliable innings totals. Sunday marked the eighth time in 18 starts that he’s thrown six or more innings (an impressive number for a young pitcher out of junior college), and he’s gone fewer than five innings just five times in his first full pro season. He’s walking just 2.2 batters per nine innings, and has given up two or fewer free passes in his last nine starts.

– Second baseman Wendell Rijo launched a pair of solo homers in the second game of the doubleheader, the first multi-homer game of his career. Rijo now has seven extra-base hits in 13 contests in July, within one of his season-high for any month this season. Though the 18-year-old has hit for higher average (.296 vs. 255) and posted a better OBP (.393 vs. .336) against lefties than he has righties, the right-handed hitting Rijo has produced all six of his homers against righties this year. For the year, he’s now hitting .265/.351/.423, unremarkable numbers in a vacuum but a strong showing given that he’s one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League.

– Middle infielder Hector Lorenzana a 37th-round selection out of the University of Oklahoma in this year’s draft, went 3-for-4 with a double and a walk in the doubleheader, his first games in Single-A after making his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 6-5 WIN AT AUBURN (NATIONALS)

(BOX)

Aaron Wilkerson, a right-hander whose contract was purchased by the Red Sox from the independent American Association on Friday, had an impressive minor league debut, tossing six innings in which he allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks while punching out seven. Wilkerson had made 16 starts for the Grand Prairie AirHogs dating to last year, recording a 3.02 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 40 walks in 95 1/3 innings. The 25-year-old was a first-team NAIA pitcher in 2011 as a senior at Cumberland University, when he went 12-0 with a 1.49 ERA and ran off an NAIA-record streak of 54 straight scoreless innings. He was 26-1 in two years at Cumberland, losing his first decision and then winning every subsequent one.

Nick Longhi, playing right field, went 2-for-5. The 18-year-old’s .324 average ranks fourth in the New York-Penn League. He’s hitting .324/.368/.435.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the Red Sox‘ outlook and the potential scenario of Jon Lester leaving Boston in free agency.

Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the Red Sox‘ outlook and the potential scenario of Jon Lester leaving Boston in free agency. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Red Sox have made it interesting of late, winning seven of their last eight games and possibly putting a temporary halt to talk of them adopting the role of “seller” in 2014.

When asked how many games the Sox would need to win over a 10-game span in order to get back in the race, Gammons said the division’s mediocrity limits the sense of urgency.

“I would say six or seven, just because the Orioles are on the West Coast and I don’t think they’re pulling away from anyone right now with their pitching problems. That temptation of always being within distance of first place, and it’s fortunate that they’re in the worst division in baseball, because if they were in the American League West, they would already be selling. But they’re not, they’re in the American League East, where Baltimore can go lose 15 out of 25 at any time and Toronto’s pitching isn’t that good.

“They actually can keep thinking, ‘We have a chance.’ I know this: Tampa Bay really thinks it has a chance. Now their pitching has come back together again, I talked to people in Seattle who thought they were very close to a deal for Ben Zobrist and they said the Rays pulled back the last couple of days because they want to take it right down to the last 48 hours before the deadline.”

Gammons said that the Red Sox have not entertained offers for Koji Uehara, but he noted that another member of the Red Sox bullpen has been getting a lot of attention from teams across the league.

“I talked to a general manager in the market for a closer yesterday who said when he talked to Ben [Cherington] that he seemed disinclined to even discuss it. That they think they’re going to bring [Uehara] back next year and build around him and let him go pitch the ninth inning again. … I was told that, by far, the player the they’ve had the most calls on is Andrew Miller. I find it really hard to not give him the [$6 million-$7 million] that it’s going to take [to re-sign him] because that’s what the premier seventh-, eighth-, ninth-inning guys get, and I think he’s really close to the point where he can close.”

Gammons said that the Red Sox could have avoided the entire drama surrounding contract negotiations with Lester if they offered him a much more reasonable offer than the initial four-year, $70 million proposal this spring.

‘I was told that [Lester] told teammates that when they met in March, if they offered him one dollar more than the six-year, $105 million that Homer Bailey got, he would take it,” Gammons said. “But they didn’t. The Red Sox maintain that what they started at — the four-year, $70 million [offer] — was a starting point. They’re not going to start at $110 million and then move upwards to Max Scherzer.”

Gammons said that if Lester makes it to free agency, expect for other teams to put down astronomically high offers on the table in an attempt to woo the lefty from Boston.

“I think at least go to $144 million, to the Max Scherzer offer,” Gammons said. “I’ve had two general managers yesterday say to me, ‘That’s going to probably happen.’ There’s a lot of money out there.”

While Gammons said that the Red Sox have possible replacements in case of Lester’s departure in the form of soon-to-be free agent James Shields and Phillies southpaw Cole Hamels as a trade candidate, he added that it’s unclear what Boston’s options are at this point due to the murky MLB trade market.

“I think they would go hard after Shields,” Gammons said. “I don’t think that they are saying right now, ‘This is what we’ll do,’ because the market is so uncertain. You don’t really know what the West Coast teams are going to do. … What is Texas going to do? What is San Francisco going to do? They’re teams with huge money that may go hard after another starting pitcher like Shields or Hamels or whatever.

“I don’t think you can just say, ‘Well, if we lose Lester, we’re going to go get Hamels.’ I think you have to say, ‘Well, here are four or five guys that we go after.’ I think what would really hurt them is if the Yankees decided, ‘OK, we’ll go all in on Lester. He’d be great in our ballpark because it’s a left-handed hitter’s ballpark.’ He would be the perfect solution for them.’

For more Red Sox news, go to the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Blog Author: 
Conor Ryan

TORONTO -- Winning the Cy Young Award in a contract year.

With contract negotiations hanging over his head, Jon Lester has kept his focus on the field, and the results are impressive. (AP)It wouldn't be historic, but it certainly would offer a powerful punctuation.



ROB BRADFORD

BIO | ARCHIVE | FULL COUNT BLOG


The Red Sox begin a four-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto on Monday night when they send John Lackey to the mound against Drew Hutchison.

After three straight subpar performances, Lackey (10-6, 3.79 ERA) finished strong in his final start before the All-Star break despite the added challenge of throwing to rookie catcher Christian Vazquez for the first time. He allowed just two runs and four hits but had a season-high five walks over six innings in the Sox’ 8-3 win over the Astros on July 11.

“There’s more on my shoulders as far as calling the game and that sort of thing,” Lackey said after the game. “I’m going to have to do some of that on my own, but as far as just catching the ball — and we all know the way he can throw the ball — [Vazquez] is a weapon back there, for sure.”

Despite being in the same division, Lackey hasn’t faced the Blue Jays since April 6, 2013. That start was his first since coming back from Tommy John surgery, which wiped out his 2012 season.

The right-hander pitched in pain for some of the start against the Blue Jays as well. Lackey left in the fifth inning that night with a biceps strain that sidelined him for another three weeks. He gave up two runs on five hits and had eight strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings but took the loss in the game.

Lackey is 5-8 with a 5.43 ERA in 20 career starts against Toronto.

Hutchison (6-8, 4.16 ERA) had a frustrating end to his first half of the season, finishing with two straight losses in which he failed to get out of the sixth inning. His loss against the Rays on July 12 was especially disappointing. Hutchison left the game with only three runs allowed but walked three batters in the sixth to surrender a run and load the bases before being pulled. 

All three baserunners scored and Hutchison was tagged for six runs on six hits and a season-high five walks in the Rays’ 10-3 rout.

“I faced five guys in that inning, got ahead of them all, walked three and gave up a two-strike hit. That’s just not going to get the job done,” Hutchison said after the game. “It’s embarrassing, that’s about all there is to say about it.”

The Red Sox may be the perfect team for Hutchison to turn things around against. The righty is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA is two career starts against the Sox. One of those wins came May 21 when he gave up one run, scattered six hits and had four strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings in a 6-4 Blue Jays win.

Drew Hutchison

Drew Hutchison

Red Sox vs. Hutchison (RHP)

David Ortiz (6 plate appearances): .000 AVG/.000 OBP/.000 SLG, 1 strikeout

Daniel Nava (4): .000/.250/.000, 1 walk

Xander Bogaerts (3): .667/.667/1.000, 1 double

Mike Carp (3): .500/.667/1.000, 1 double, 1 walk

Jonny Gomes (3): .000/.000/.000, 2 strikeouts

Mike Napoli (3): .000/.667/.000, 2 walks

Dustin Pedroia (3): .333/.333/.333

Brock Holt is hitless in two career plate appearances.

Blue Jays vs. Lackey (RHP)

Melky Cabrera (32 plate appearances): .323 AVG/.344 OBP/.419 SLG, 3 doubles, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Jose Bautista (28): .238/.429/.524, 2 HR, 3 RBIs, 7 walks, 5 strikeouts

Dan Johnson (26): .200/.385/.350, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 6 walks, 3 strikeouts

Dioner Navarro (20): .105/.100/.158, 1 double, 4 RBIs, 5 strikeouts

Jose Reyes (7): .500/.571/.500, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Erik Kratz (3): .500/.667/2.000, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Colby Rasmus struck out in both of his plate appearances.

Blog Author: 
Nick Canelas

David Ortiz has played in 2,064 games in his career, and so it qualifies as a surprise when he arrives at a first. But in this case, the milestone was hardly one for which he’ll be seeking out any mementos.

David Ortiz has played in 2,064 games in his career, and so it qualifies as a surprise when he arrives at a first. But in this case, the milestone was hardly one for which he’ll be seeking out any mementos.

David Ortiz went 1-for-13 during the three-game series against the Royals. (AP)

David Ortiz went 1-for-13 during the three-game series against the Royals. (AP)

On Sunday, Ortiz went 0-for-5, the 60th time in his career that he’s failed to reach base even once in a game in which he stepped to the plate five or more times. It was the 14th time that he had failed to reach base despite putting the ball in play in each of his at-bats. But the contest — which resulted in a 6-0 Red Sox win over the Royals — represented just the first time in his 17 big league seasons in which Ortiz grounded out every time he stepped into the box in a contest that saw him hit at least five times.

Thus concluded an odd start to the second segment of the season. Ortiz made contact in every trip to the plate during the three-game set — no walks, no strikeouts — but the contact he made was of an atypical sort. He went 1-for-13 in the three game series against the Royals, and made hard contact just twice — on a double to right and a flyout near the warning track in center. That aside, he had eight groundouts and three weak pop-ups.

“I think David’s in one of those little stretches right now, I think we witnessed one earlier in the season, he’s trying to get some things going. He’s been offering at some pitches early in the count, which might not be characteristic,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “But as he’s gone through these stretches, we’re confident he’ll be back as the hitter we know.”

Ortiz suggested that he hadn’t regained his timing at the plate following the four days of rest around the All-Star break (something to which he’s somewhat unaccustomed given his participation in nine of 10 years from 2004-13.

“I feel like that All-Star break, having those four days didn’t help me,” said Ortiz. “Physically they helped me, but timing-wise, I feel a little off.”

Of course, a case can be made that Ortiz’s struggle predates the All-Star break. After all, dating to May 16 (after Ortiz left Target Field following a series in which he destroyed the ball), the slugger is hitting .210 with a .317 OBP and .395 slugging mark (albeit with nine homers and an equal amount of walks (32) and strikeouts).

For much of June and early July, Ortiz’s struggles reverberated through a thumpless Red Sox lineup. For now, however, Ortiz is taking solace in the idea that the Sox managed to sweep the three-game series and score 13 runs (4.3 per game — unimpressive, but better than the team’s season-long average) despite his struggles.

“I haven’t done [anything] this series but we end up sweeping it. That’s good. That’s a good sign. Because you know I’ll be back,” said Ortiz. “My timing’s a little off. But I’m about to get hotter than Jamaica in the middle of August.”

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier
Joe C. talked to the Sox ace after he got his 10th W at Fenway.

[0:01:07] ... the doctor makes a great play there and -- you talk about black hole to. A lot of good that was a Stephen -- -- that's Ron -- made a great player earlier yeah -- Veronica ...
[0:03:50] ... enter continue to carry that into the wrong answer in the big road trip coming up with the two division rivals. Yeah yeah I mean this is this week's going to be huge especially you know ...
[0:04:56] ... who is now ten and seven getting the win here for the Red Sox the six shot out of the year by Red Sox pitching let's go back to Chris. ...





Joe C. talked to the Sox ace after he

[0:00:31] ... been very effective with all of your pitches you -- -- Unhittable curve balls today that they -- yet curve balls good. You come off the break. Bullpen was was that the curve ball. Just was able to -- it luckily if you. ...
[0:01:07] ... do but that they're accurate play there and -- you talk about black hole to. A lot of good that was a Stephen -- yeah that's progress made a great player earlier yeah yep Veronica into ...
[0:03:52] ... tomorrow answer in the big road trip coming up with that the division rivals. Yeah yeah I mean this is this week's going to be huge especially you know obviously we all know. What's coming at ...
[0:04:52] ... on both counts thanks so much for joining our guys thank you Jon Lester who is now ten and seven getting the win here for the Red Sox the six shot out of the year by ...






Things are getting at least a little interesting.

The Red Sox continued their most impressive surge of the season, winning for the seventh time in their last eight games, this time beating the Royals, 6-0, for a sweep of the teams’ three-game series.