The Red Sox will host the Orioles on Sunday night looking to take a win from their divisional rivals by sending Jake Peavy to the mound against Ubaldo Jimenez.

Peavy is the only Red Sox starting pitcher without a win or loss, despite pitching well. In his three starts this season, Peavy has posted a 1.93 ERA and a 1.179 WHIP while striking out 20 and walking 10.

The 32-year-old’€™s last start came on April 15 against his former team, the White Sox. Peavy went six innings that day, giving up one run on a home run. The Red Sox lost the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, 2-1. The game was noted for being particularly cold, averaging around 40 degrees throughout.

“We battled through six, gave us a chance to win,”€ Peavy said after the game. “€œThat’s what I’m trying to do on my fifth day”

Peavy has made three starts against the Orioles, going 2-0 in those games. His first start against them came in 2007, when he pitched six innings and gave up three runs on six hits, striking out seven and walking two. It wouldn’t be until 2012 when Peavy faced the Orioles again, this time pitching seven innings and allowing one run on four hits. Both games were wins. His last start against the Orioles came in 2013 when he went seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits, striking out eight and walking one.

Jimenez has struggled in 2014, going 0-3 with a 7.31 ERA and a 2.063 WHIP. His last start came against the Blue Jays on April 13, when he went 5 1/3 innings and surrendered five runs on 10 hits and two home runs while walking two and striking out three.

The 30-year-old has struggled against the Red Sox in five career starts, going 1-3 with a 10.27 ERA. His worst game came last year when he only last 1 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs and five walks. Jimenez faced the Red Sox this year, his season debut on April 2, pitching six innings and allowing four runs on five hits and two home runs.

Orioles vs. Peavy (RHP)

J.J. Hardy (20 plate appearances): .059 AVG/.200 OBP/.118 SLG, 1 double, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

Delmon Young (15): .231/.333/.538, 1 double, 1 home run, 3 RBIs, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts

Nick Markakis (9): .375/.444/.375, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Nelson Cruz (8): .286/.375/.571, 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Adam Jones (6): .200/.333/.400, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Matt Wieters (6): .333/.333/.667, 2 doubles, 2 RBIs, 2 strikeouts

David Lough (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 RBI

Chris Davis has two strikeouts in five plate appearances vs. Peavy.

Steve Clevenger has two strikeouts in four plate appearances.

Ryan Flaherty, Steve Lombardozzi, Steve Pearce and Jonathan Schoop have not faced Peavy.

Red Sox vs. Jimenez (RHP)

A.J. Pierzynski (20): .200/.200/.450, 2 doubles, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 3 strikeouts

Jonny Gomes (17): .333/.412/.733, 2 home runs, 5 RBIs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (14): .538/.571/.615, 1 double, 4 RBIs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Daniel Nava (10): .375/.500/.750, 3 doubles, 3 RBIs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

David Ortiz (9): .143/.333/.571, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Mike Napoli (7): .571/.571/1.571, 1 double, 2 home runs, 3 RBIs

David Ross (3): .000/.333/.000, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Xander Bogaerts has a single and two walks in three plate appearances vs. Jimenez

Grady Sizemore has a strikeout in three plate appearances

Jackie Bradley, Mike Carp, Jonathan Herrera and Brock Holt have not faced Jimenez.

Blog Author: 
Arjuna Ramgopal
Mookie Betts leads all of the minors in batting average with a .453 mark. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

Mookie Betts leads all of the minors in batting average with a .453 mark. (John Corneau/Lowell Spinners)

Feats of Mookie: Defying superlatives.

Mookie Betts recovered from his two-game slump — a doubleheader on Friday in which he went 1-for-4 in both contests — by reasserting himself as an unstoppable force for Double-A Portland. The 21-year-old went 4-for-5, launching his second homer of the season in his final at-bat of the night, for his second four-hit game of the year and his sixth in his professional career (all of which have come in the last 12 months). In the process, he reclaimed the minor league lead in batting average (.453). He also leads the Eastern League in OBP (.492) and ranks third in slugging (.717).

Entering this season, there was some question as to whether Betts’ extraordinary breakout season of 2013 was real or a mirage. The contrast between his first two pro seasons — a 2012 campaign where he spent all year in Short-Season Lowell, hitting .267/.352/.307 with no homers and nine extra-base hits in 71 games, compared to a 2013 season where he tore through Single-A Greenville and earned a promotion to High-A Salem, getting better along the way en route to a combined .314/.417/.506 line with 15 homers, 55 extra-base hits and 38 steals in 127 games — created some pause about how highly he should be regarded in the Red Sox prospect rankings. Plenty of tools — bat speed, excellent plate discipline and hand-eye coordination, some power, quick-twitch athleticism that lent itself to both strong defensive range and great jumps as a baserunner — were on display, but it was hard to ignore the idea that his year might, just might, be a one-hit wonder that he might never match.

His start to the 2014 season, against a higher level of competition in Double-A, suggests that his performance of a year ago was no mere illusion. Obviously, his willingness to conjure a couple weeks of Nintendo numbers is unsustainable, particularly given his obscenely high batting average on balls in play (though it is worth noting that Betts may well be in possession of The Force, permitting him to bend the wills of weaker-minded opponents in a fashion that permits him to steer opposing defenders away from anything with which he makes contact and thus to sustain unusually high BABIPs). Nonetheless, the tools that proved so fascinating last year remain on full display this year, as Betts continues to show the ability to transform games in numerous ways.

And so, it is worth asking: Where does Betts rank right now among Red Sox prospects, at a time when he is laying waste to a league in which he is one of the youngest position players, someone who would be amidst his junior year of college had he not signed with the Sox out of high school?

Xander Bogaerts, the obvious top prospect in the Sox system, will soon have enough big league at-bats to graduate from prospect status. The same almost certainly is true of Jackie Bradley Jr. — though certainly, a case could now be made for Betts as a better prospect than Bradley, given that he appears to have the greater ability to hit for average and power, is the superior baserunner and seems a good candidate for at least comparable on-base numbers. (Bradley has an unquestioned defensive/positional advantage. It’s close between the two of them.)

Henry Owens and Betts are in a similar place as far as dominating older competition as 21-year-olds. Owens is probably still ahead of Betts based on a longer track record — though Betts is the player with the tools and athleticism to suggest even more upside. Given that Owens has sustained his dominance this year, it would be hard to suggest that Betts is the better prospect than him right now. But Betts’ performance over the last 12 months, since he began his assault on the game in Single-A Greenville last May, now has been sustained over enough time and across enough levels that he’s likely leapfrogged the other players who were ahead of him in the Sox’ prospect rankings entering the year (Allen Webster was No. 4 in Baseball America, Blake Swihart was No. 5 and Garin Cecchini was No. 6, with Betts checking in at No. 7) given the diversity of his skill set and what now appears to be a more established track record of translating tools into outrageous performance.

– Webster’s ongoing control struggles have reduced the likelihood that he’ll reach his considerable ceiling.

– Swihart has been outstanding in Portland, but there’s still a leap of projection faith with him that he’ll develop power and sustain high OBPs given that he has one homer, four extra-base hits and just one walk as compared to seven strikeouts so far.

– Betts has furthered his case as someone capable of hitting for average and getting on base at a Cecchini-like clip, while displaying superior power as well as defensive and baserunning skills and tools. A number of evaluators who saw Cecchini and Betts playing on the same team in the Arizona Fall League came away viewing Betts as the superior talent, but with some hesitancy based on track record; the track record argument is falling by the wayside, however, particularly given that Betts has been more dominant against Double-A competition as a 21-year-old this year than Cecchini — still an excellent prospect, by the way, and a virtual lock to be an everyday big leaguer — was as a 22-year-old last year.

Right now, Betts looks an awful lot like the best Red Sox position playing prospect once Bogaerts gets enough at-bats to move beyond prospect status, and if someone wanted to make the argument for him as the best prospect in the Red Sox system, the logic of such a position could not be dismissed outright.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 1-0 WIN (9 INNINGS), 3-2 LOSS (7 INNINGS) VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)

– Outfielder Shane Victorino went 0-for-3 in his first rehab start, fouling out to first, grounding out to third and flying out to left  before getting lifted after six innings. He did not have any defensive chances in right field. Victorino is slated to start again on Monday and Tuesday for Pawtucket before being reassessed as to his readiness to return to the majors.

– Right-hander Anthony Ranaudo turned in his best outing of the season, firing six shutout innings and permitting just two hits (both singles) and two walks while striking out five. He threw 62 of 92 pitches (67 percent) for strikes, working down in the zone with better velocity (93-95 mph) than he’d shown through his first three starts, through which he’d more often topped out at 93 mph (while sitting around 89-91) than sitting at that mark that characterized a baseline for most of his outings in 2013. The right-hander entered the day having allowed 14 runs (10 earned) in 14 1/3 innings; with his outing on Saturday, his ERA dropped from 6.28 to 4.35.

– Catcher Christian Vazquez had his second straight multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a double and delivering a ninth-inning walkoff single in the 1-0 victory in the first game. Vazquez is hitting .283/.320/.413 in 12 games. He also threw out yet another attempted base thief, and he’s caught seven of 12 would-be base stealers (58 percent).

– Right-hander Alex Wilson tossed a scoreless inning in the second game, and he has yet to permit a run in seven games (6 2/3 innings) this year. He’s punched out eight and walked five. Interestingly, whereas Wilson had been a four-seam/slider pitcher who generated primarily flyball contact prior to 2013, last year, in part because of how a thumb injury that ultimately required surgery impacted his grip of his four-seamer, he became more reliant on a two-seam fastball that allowed him to generate groundballs as never before. That’s carried over into this year for the 27-year-old, who has recorded 16 of his 20 outs this year by either strikeout or groundout.

– First baseman/outfielder Alex Hassan went 1-for-3 with his first homer of the season and a walk in the second game of the double header. The 26-year-old is posting a line that is largely in keeping with his Triple-A track record dating to 2012, hitting .271 with a .368 OBP and .424 slugging mark, showing reliable on-base skills with less consistent power. Right now, if a need were to arise for a right-handed hitting outfielder, Hassan might be the logical choice over a more highly regarded prospect such as Bryce Brentz based on the consistency and reliability of his offensive approach.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-1 WIN AT NEW BRITAIN (TWINS)

(BOX)

Blake Swihart continued to rake, going 2-for-4 (though with a pair of strikeouts) to improve his line to .349/.364/.512. The 22-year-old has gotten on base in all 11 of his games this year.

– Right-hander Mike Augliera, 23, tossed six shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out two and recording nine outs via groundball. While Saturday was his best outing of the young season, Augliera’s strike-throwing ability and willingness to pitch to contact and get groundballs has made him the most consistent provider of innings in Portland. He’s pitched at least six frames in each of his three starts so far.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 2-0 WIN AT WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX)

(BOX)

– A year ago, right-hander Justin Haley struggled to find the strike zone (5.3 walks per nine), resulting in considerable inconsistency in Single-A Greenville despite the fact that he featured strikeout-an-inning stuff and held opponents to a .219 average. Through three starts this year, Haley has been one of the more interesting performers in the Red Sox system with the 2012 sixth-rounder’s latest excellent outing — six shutout innings with six punchouts and one walk — adding to a strong start. Haley, 22, has a 2.57 ERA in three starts spanning 14 innings, with 14 strikeouts, just four walks and 33 of his 42 outs coming by groundball or strikeout.

Kevin Heller/Howdy Grosskloss Watch: Salem outfielder Kevin Heller went 1-for-3 with a double. The 24-year-old has reached in all 13 games, hitting .366/.480/.634 with nine extra-base hits in 13 games.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 3-3 SUSPENDED GAME (6 INNINGS) AT SAVANNAH (METS)

(BOX)

– Second baseman Wendell Rijo went 2-for-3 with a double. The 18-year-old is now carrying an impressive .333/.469/.513 line through 12 games (if one includes his stats from Saturday’s suspended contest, which is scheduled to be completed next month).

– Catcher Jake Romanski, 23, went 2-for-3, and he now has hit in all 11 games he’s played in this year. He also stole his third base in as many attempts. The San Diego State product is hitting .326/.380/.435 in the early going.

– Hard-throwing right-hander Mario Alcantara lasted just three innings, allowing three runs on five hits and five walks while striking out three. He has 13 walks and five strikeouts in 11 innings. He threw fewer than half his pitches (38 of 78) for strikes.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier
Xander Bogaerts. (AP)

Xander Bogaerts. (AP)

It was another first for Xander Bogaerts: a day off.

The Red Sox shortstop wasn’t in the lineup for the Red Sox’ 4-2 win over the Orioles Saturday afternoon. While it was an understandable respite, Bogaerts hinted at an ailment that might have finally pushed him to the bench.

“I felt fine. I was starting to swing the bat pretty good lately. The day off is just to get some rest and let my body recover,” he said. “I mean I got hit twice in Chicago.”

What Bogaerts was referring to were two separate occasions in Chicago, when he was plunked in both the left and right calves.

While he wouldn’t use the injuries as an excuse, the sore legs might have contributed to the shortstop’s defensive issues of late.

“I like to play every day. I really don’t like days off. But especially with those two hit by pitches, it’s been tough,” Bogaerts said. “Hopefully I’ll be in there tomorrow.

“I wouldn’t blame (defensive issues) on that, but a bit, a little bit. You get sore down there and your legs are your most important part. I should have reached some of the balls I would have reached if I had everything set.”

Bogaerts said of the two hit-by-pitches, the first, coming in the Red Sox’ series opener against the Whit Sox, was the worst, hitting just above his left ankle.

“Really during the game you don’t feel it that much,” he explained, “but after the game, that’s when it starts kick in.”

Offensively, Bogaerts has been one of the Red Sox’ most consistent performers, carrying a team-best .411 on-base percentage while claiming hits in all but five of his 17 games. Starting in his place Saturday was Jonathan Herrera, who came through in the seventh inning with a run-scoring bunt single.

“All the games are really important, especially with how we started so far,” he said. “We need to pick back up and get back on the right track. It’s good to watch the game and get a win.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

The moment spiced things up for a moment, but that was about it.

When both benches cleared in the Red Sox‘€™ 4-2 win over the Red Sox Saturday afternoon, it sent a buzz through the Fenway Park crowd. The game was still tied at the moment, Mike Carp was at first base with nobody out and David Ross was the hitter.

The moment spiced things up for a moment, but that was about it.

When both benches cleared in the Red Sox‘€™ 4-2 win over the Red Sox Saturday afternoon, it sent a buzz through the Fenway Park crowd. The game was still tied at the moment, Mike Carp was at first base with nobody out and David Ross was the hitter.

After three pitches from Bud Norris flew up and in to the Red Sox catcher ‘€“ who was attempting a sacrifice bunt on each offering — Ross took exception, yelling out at the Orioles pitcher. Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters and Ross proceeded to get in one another’€™s face, leading to the brouhaha.

But after the game, it was thought (at least in the Red Sox clubhouse) to be much to do about nothing.

“I think the guy at the time he kind of lost control of the strike zone a little bit. A couple pitches got away from him,” said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. “It’€™s a lot of adrenaline going on at the same time and my boy Rossy. He’€™s always a little hyper. The good thing is nothing happened we stayed right there. The situation could have gotten worse. It happens it’€™s part of the game.”

“There were three pitches that I think got away from Norris that ended up close to the head. I think that’€™s where the location of pitches that close up and in is where it might draw some reaction, which obviously it did,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “I’€™m not surprised we’€™re going to support and have each other’€™s back on the fight. Nothing really escalated from it but just a competitive moment. ”

“He’€™s just up in the zone more than usual for him,” Ross explained. ‘€œWhen you’€™re that good, it’€™s kind of getting picky but he’€™s really good, we’€™re glad he got the save, the more he gets out there the more comfortable he’€™ll be.”

Ross went on to explain why he had the continued reaction he did, getting in the face of Wieters.

“Yeah, I was telling him where I was at, and he was telling me where he was at,” the catcher said. ‘€œI definitely don’€™t think it was on purpose, just a natural reaction, three balls at my head. I probably shouldn’€™t have yelled at the pitcher.

He added, “I think I’€™m sensitive to balls around my dome after having two concussions last year and missing two months, that may have been part of it, I think looking back, I’€™m usually not a guy who does that too often but balls at my head ‘€“ plus it was tough to see, late in the ballgame with the shadows, I think all that stuff, trying to get down the bunt probably played into it. We’€™ll turn the page and get after them tomorrow and try to win.”

Ross would ultimately strikeout, but Brock Holt ended up picking the catcher up by launching a run-scoring triple into the right-center gap on the very next at-bat.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

It’s just been two games, but Brock Holt is certainly making his presence felt.

The newly-promoted third baseman followed up an impressive Friday night with the biggest hit of Saturday’s tilt between the Red Sox and Orioles at Fenway Park. Holt rifled a one-out triple into the right-center field gap in the seventh inning, scoring Mike Carp with the go-ahead run from second.

Brock Holt turned in quite a game Saturday afternoon. (AP)

Brock Holt turned in quite a game Saturday afternoon. (AP)

It’s just been two games, but Brock Holt is certainly making his presence felt.

The newly-promoted third baseman followed up an impressive Friday night with the biggest hit of Saturday’s tilt between the Red Sox and Orioles at Fenway Park. Holt rifled a one-out triple into the right-center field gap in the seventh inning, scoring Mike Carp with the go-ahead run from second.

Holt proceeded to race in for the Red Sox’ fourth run on a perfectly executed bunt single down the first base line, getting in under the tag of Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters.

The end result was a 4-2 win for the Red Sox.

Earlier in the seventh, there was some spice added to the day when the benches cleared after David Ross took exception with Orioles pitcher Bud Norris coming close to his head on three bunt attempts. Neither collection of players got near each other, with Ross ultimately striking out two pitches later. The next batter up, Holt, however, offered the ultimate payback for the Red Sox.

Felix Doubront bounced back and gave the Red Sox a solid start, allowing two runs on five hits over 6 2/3 innings. Doubront threw 106 pitches after tossing 33 in the first inning in the seven-strikeout, two-walk outing.

Here is what went right (and wrong) in the Red Sox’ eighth win of the season:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- The Red Sox knotted the game at 1-1 thanks in part to the Jonathan Schoop mishandling a grounder off the bat of Mike Napoli. If fielded cleanly, the Orioles might have been able to execute a 5-4-3, inning-ending double play. Instead, Dustin Pedroia — who drew his fourth walk in the last four games — came across to score.

-Holt continued to play stellar defense, this time charging and short-hopping a slow roller off the bat of Steve Lombardozzi to end the second inning.

- David Ortiz launched his third home run of the season in the fourth inning, giving the Red Sox a 2-1 lead. The blast curled around the right field foul pole and marked the designated hitter’s second hit of the day, having singled off the left field wall in the first.

- Pedroia reached base three times via a single, double and walk. It marked the third time this season the second baseman has reached that many occasions.

- The bullpen came through again for the Red Sox, with Junichi Tazawa holding the Orioles hitless through 1 1/3 innings and Koji Uehara picking up the save, striking out the side.

WHAT WENT WRONG

- Doubront allowed his first first-inning run of the season, giving up a two-out RBI single to Nelson Cruz, scoring Nick Markakis. After reaching via a leadoff singled, Doubront has allowed the leadoff hitter to face seven of 10 times.

- Doubront was cruising after the first until the sixth inning when the Orioles knotted the game at 2-2. Initially it appeared as though the lefty might escape his bases-loaded, two-out jam. But Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter was successful in his first challenge of the season, disputing Nelson Cruz initially being called out on a close play at first after his grounder down the third base line. It was the second RBI of the day for Cruz.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

It can be easy for pitching prospects to be forgotten in the lower levels of the Red Sox minor league system. After all, with a high-ceiling inventory of arms in Double-A and Triple-A, the line that has formed in front of those who remain in A-ball is long, creating the likelihood of a deliberate progression through the minors.

Garin Cecchini hit his first homer since last July on Friday. (Salem Red Sox)

Garin Cecchini hit his first homer since last July on Friday. (Salem Red Sox)

It can be easy for pitching prospects to be forgotten in the lower levels of the Red Sox minor league system. After all, with a high-ceiling inventory of arms in Double-A and Triple-A, the line that has formed in front of those who remain in A-ball is long, creating the likelihood of a deliberate progression through the minors.

Yet just because they are at a greater remove from the big leagues does not mean that such pitchers aren’t an important part of the Red Sox future. And perhaps no Red Sox pitcher in A-ball is more likely to embody that notion than left-hander Brian Johnson.

The 2012 first-round selection out of the University of Florida — where he was the best two-way player in the country (a power-hitting first baseman to accompany his mound work) — Johnson was often forgotten in his first full pro season of 2013, in no small part because he struggled out of the gate after his first professional offseason was spent recovering from a line drive to the face. He couldn’t follow a normal strength program, and so he struggled with stuff and results early in the year in Single-A Greenville before landing on the DL with shoulder tendinitis.

But when he came back, Johnson showed some of the more interesting raw materials in the Sox system. The left-hander saw his velocity bump up, topping out towards the end of the year at 94 and 95 mph, while mixing in a diverse array of secondary offerings — curve, slider, changeup. None of the pitches graded as better than average last year, but the Sox believe the curveball could play up, and his feel for pitching suggests the future possibility of adding more weapons, such as a cutter.

The 23-year-old was one of the more impressive performers in spring training games, and given that he came from an elite college program and demonstrated feel for pitching, there were those in the Sox system who believed that, despite the slow progression in his first full pro season (when he spent almost all of 2013 in Greenville, moving up to Salem only at the very end of the year for two starts), he had a chance to accelerate his development pace going forward, much as Brandon Workman did after spending all of his first full pro season of 2011 in Greenville.

Johnson started slowly this year, getting tons of swings and misses (20 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings) in his first three starts — with his changeup having emerged as an intriguing weapon at times — but permitting 11 runs (7.24 ERA). But on Friday, he was nothing short of brilliant, firing six perfect innings with five strikeouts and seven groundouts while showing the ability to throw off-speed and breaking stuff in any count for strikes and working efficiently.

He recorded seven swings and misses with his curveball, but more significant than the quality of any single pitch was the way that he executed with his arsenal. He threw strikes with all four pitches, and did an impressive job of attacking inside to open up the outer half of the plate for breaking stuff. And he pounded strike after strike, in a way that caught the attention of Winston-Salem.

“At one point, we had thrown 120 pitches, and their guy had thrown 45,” Winston-Salem manager Tommy Thompson noted to the Winston-Salem Journal.

There are a lot of believers in Johnson in the Red Sox organization. While evaluators from other organizations last year came away underwhelmed — mostly on the basis of starts early in the year, before his velocity crept up — and saw a potential back-of-the-rotation starter, he’s shown enough in terms of his raw materials — the possibility of working comfortably with 91-93 or even 94 mph velocity, with a curve or change that can get swings and misses, to suggest the possibility of a durable mid-rotation presence who has a chance to become a very important part of the Red Sox’ future.

Certainly, he’s further from the big leagues than pitchers like Workman and Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster and Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo, but there are times when it’s possible to imagine a future in which he *could* be more important than any of those pitchers. Friday’s 18-up, 18-down effort was one such moment.

A snapshot of the rest of the action in the Red Sox farm system on Friday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 7-3 LOSS VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

– Third baseman Garin Cecchini hit his first homer of the season and indeed his first homer since last July 16, ending a homerless drought of 58 games without going deep. Cecchini is comfortable with the idea of being a line drive hitter rather than a power hitter. The 22-year-old (who turns 23 on Sunday) has the size (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and strength to hit for power, and when the Red Sox drafted him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft (and gave him a first-round bonus), he was viewed as a potential middle-of-the-order power hitter coming out of high school. But Cecchini embraced the idea that going deep was not a primary goal.

“I remember people writing scouting reports saying I had so much power. I tell my teammates this all the time: In high school, that’s all I was trying to do was hit home runs,” said Cecchini. “I hit a home run in [a high school showcase in] the Metrodome, in the upper deck, and I’m just doing this: I’m trying to get linear movement and I’m trying to hit the ball 450 feet. And I did it. That’s the reason why people said I had some power coming out of high school, because in my BP’s, that’s all I tried to do was hit home runs.

“But you start facing 90 mph every single time’€¦ I can’t sleep at night striking out two times a day and hitting a rod off of Fenway Park‘s Green Monster,” he added. “I can sleep at night going 1-for-3 with two walks, two hard-hit balls right up the middle and no strikeouts. I can sleep like that. That’s just me. I can’t go to bed every night going all out, trying to hit home runs and hit 20 home runs but hit .160. That’s just me. I don’t think I help the team that way. That’s just me.”

There remains a chance that, like a Kevin Youkilis, Cecchini will eventually translate his advanced pitch recognition into the selective ability to drive the ball. But whereas a hitter with power but without the ability to hit for average or get on base has limited value, Cecchini’s offensive approach — which should yield high averages and OBPs — suggests that he’ll have considerable value as an everyday member of the lineup regardless of the development of his power.

Allen Webster continued to pitch with stuff that can’t be hit hard, but also continued his ongoing battle with the strike zone. The right-hander allowed four hits — all singles — in 5 1/3 innings, and he recorded seven outs via groundball (inspiring a pair of double plays), but he also walked four and hit a batter while striking out three. He has issued 12 walks (second most in the International League) in 20 innings of work, a rate of 5.4 per nine innings, and in contrast to a year ago, when he punched out more than a batter an inning, Webster has just 5.0 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.60 ERA. The difference between Webster working ahead or behind in the count is extreme — opponents are hitting .261/.292/.304 against him when behind in the count, and .316/.581/.737 when ahead in the count.

– With Cecchini playing third base every day and Ryan Lavarnway getting most of the starts at first base, versatile corner Brandon Snyder has been branching out and spending some time in left field. He made his fifth start in left on Friday, going 1-for-4 with a double. However, he also struck out three times, adding to an April where he’s punched out frequently. In 49 plate appearances, he has a .167/.265/.381 line with 15 punchouts. Five of his seven hits, however, have been for extra bases (three doubles, two homers).

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-4 WIN, 6-0 WIN AT NEW BRITAIN (TWINS)

(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)

– Left-hander Miguel Pena logged 4 2/3 innings, recording a mind-boggling 11 of his 14 outs via punchout over the course of 4 2/3 shutout innings in the second game of the double header. The 11 punchouts represented a career high; he had games of nine and eight punchouts in Single-A Greenville in 2012. Pena allowed two hits (a single and double) and walked one.

He’s not a power pitcher in the conventional sense, as he typically operates in the 90-92 mph range. However, the 23-year-old shows the ability to throw strikes with a four-pitch mix, and his ability to mix and locate can result in occasional surprises along the lines of his performance on Friday, when he exhibited the ability to dominate while working primarily with a well-spotted fastball that resulted in a whopping 20 swings and misses.

He’s not often discussed among Red Sox pitching prospects because he lacks the ceiling of other members of the organization, but Pena nonetheless possesses the on-the-mound fearlessness, strike-throwing ability and left-handedness that suggests a high likelihood of a future at some point in the big leagues. In three starts this year, he’s 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA, 16 strikeouts and five walks in 12 2/3 innings.

– First baseman Travis Shaw, who entered Friday in a season-long slump (4-for-35 with no extra-base hits in 10 games), broke out of the funk with a 4-for-4 game that included a homer. The 24-year-old doubled his hits total in the one contest.

– Catcher Blake Swihart followed a 1-for-4 first game of the double header (in which he caught) with a 2-for-4 performance that included his first homer of the year in the nightcap. The homer came against a left-handed pitcher, continuing a season in which the switch-hitting Swihart has — somewhat true to career form — done more damage batting right-handed. So far, he’s 9-for-17 with a double, triple and homer and seven runs batted in against lefties (.529/.529/.882), and just 4-for-22 with a double and one RBI against righties (.182/.217/.227). Still, even though he’s a natural right-handed hitter and despite those career splits, evaluators suggest that Swihart shows the approach, fluidity and bat control from both sides of the plate to be able to handle pitchers of both handedness.

– Feats of Mookie: Streaking, barely. Mookie Betts entered Friday having reached base multiple times in nine of his first 10 games of the year. But he reached just once in both ends of Friday’s doubleheader, going 1-for-4 with no walks in each contest. Still, dating to last season, he’s now reached base in 42 straight games.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 8-2 WIN AT WINSTON-SALEM (WHITE SOX)

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– Second baseman Reed Gragnani, 23, remained a hits machine in the early stages of his season. Since returning from a six-day absence due to injury, he’s had two straight 2-for-5 games. He’s now hitting .414/.469/.483 in seven games this year. He’s an astonishing 9-for-16 with three walks and just one strikeout with runners in scoring position, resulting in nine runs driven in over the course of just 32 plate appearances.

– Outfielder Kevin Heller went 0-for-3 but walked twice. His OBP now sits at .489, second in the Carolina League.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: RAINED OUT AT SAVANNAH (METS)

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

The Red Sox will head into the second game of their four-game series with the Orioles on Saturday when they send Felix Doubront to the mound against Bud Norris.

Doubront enters Saturday’€™s game after picking up his second consecutive loss of the season during a game against the Yankees on Sunday. The 26-year-old southpaw gave up three earned runs on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts during 6 2/3 innings on the mound. Two of those runs came on a two-run shot by Carlos Beltran during the third inning.

“He was good,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said of Doubront’€™s performance (via MLB.com). “When he throws the ball over the plate, he’€™s as good as anybody. I think, what, two of the walks scored. It just drives his pitch count up. It puts him in situations he shouldn’t be in. Other than that, he threw the ball well.”

Doubront’€™s lone win of the season came in his first start — a game against the Orioles on April 3. The lefty lasted 5 1/3 innings while giving up three earned runs on six hits with one walk and four strikeouts. Boston went on to win the game 4-3. In 10 career appearances against Baltimore, Doubront has gone 2-2 with a 4.61 ERA and a WHIP of 1.29.

Unlike Doubront, Norris comes into Saturday’€™s game after tossing a gem against the Blue Jays last Saturday. The 29-year-old scattered five hits with three walks and four strikeouts over seven scoreless innings in what ultimately was an extra-inning win for the Orioles.

Norris last faced off against the Red Sox on Aug. 28, 2013, in a game that featured a late-inning Boston comeback. Norris got a no-decision after he gave up one earned run on four hits and four walks over 5 1/3 innings. Norris also compiled seven strikeouts. Once Norris left the game, though, the Orioles bullpen gave up three runs in the seventh and eighth, leading to a 4-3 Red Sox win. Overall, Norris has made just three starts against Boston. During those outings, Norris has accumulated a 4.15 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP.

Orioles vs. Doubront (LHP)

Adam Jones (21 plate appearances): .106 AVG/.190 OBP/.105 SLG, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts

Chris Davis (20): .444/.500/.722, 2 doubles, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, 2 strikeouts

J.J. Hardy (20): .167/.250/.222, 1 double, 2 RBIs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts

Matt Wieters (19): .111/.158/.167, 1 double, 2 RBIs, 1 walks, 10 strikeouts

Nick Markakis (14): .462/.500/.462, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts

Nelson Cruz (10): .375/.500/.500. 1 double, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Steve Pearce (7): .000/.571/.000, 3 walks

Ryan Flaherty (6): .333/.333/.500, 1 double, 1 RBI, 2 strikeouts

Delmon Young (4): .500/.500/1.250, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 1 strikeout

Jonathan Schoop (3): .333/.333/.333, 1 strikeout

Steve Clevenger has one hit in one at-bat vs. Doubront.

Bud Norris

Bud Norris

Red Sox vs. Norris (RHP)

Jonathan Herrera (12): .111/.273/.111, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Ryan Roberts (11): .364/.364/.909, 1 double, 1 triple, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 4 strikeouts

Dustin Pedroia (9): .250/.667/.500, 1 double, 1 RBI, 5 walks

Jonny Gomes (6): .200/.333/.200, 1 RBI, 1 walk. 1 strikeout

Mike Napoli (6): .167/.167/.167, 4 strikeouts

Daniel Nava (6): .333/.333/.500, 1 double, 3 strikeouts

David Ortiz (6): .167/.167/.167, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Mike Carp (3): 1.000/1.000/1.500, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 walk

David Ross (3): .667/.667/1.667, 1 HR, 1 RBI

A.J. Pierzynski (2): .500/.500/.500, 1 strikeout

Xander Bogaerts is hitless in two at-bats vs. Norris.

Blog Author: 
Meredith Perri