Matt Barnes has a 1.96 ERA in his last four start. (Darrell Snow/Greenville Drive)
Right-hander Matt Barnes has now settled into a string of consistently solid starts with Double-A Portland. On Friday, he allowed three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and one walk in six innings on Friday. (Two of the runs came in his sixth and final inning.) Over his last four starts, he now has a 1.96 ERA with 28 strikeouts and seven walks in 23 innings.
On Friday, according to the Portland Press-Herald, he had his best velocity of the season, hitting 97 mph. Still, that comes as little surprise given that Barnes was comfortably in the mid-90s for most of his first professional season in 2012.
That being the case, his secondary stuff will always be the most significant aspect in determining the pace of his development and his ultimate projection. One evaluator who saw Barnes recently spoke highly of the progress that the right-hander has made with his changeup, which has developed at times into being his primary secondary offering. His curveball has been an effective pitch at times, but he’s made considerable strides in the ability to pull the string on a legitimate changeup since he started his pro career, giving him a pitch capable of keeping hitters from cheating on his powerful fastball.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-4 WIN VS. GWINNETT (BRAVES)
– Outfielder Bryce Brentz went 2-for-5 with a double and a three-run, walkoff homer with one out in the ninth. He’s starting to heat up, hitting for average, power and driving in runs in bunches. In his last nine games, Brentz is hitting .389/.421/.639 with two homers, five doubles and an RBI per game, bringing his line for the year to .280/.335/.510 with seven homers. He’s tied for fourth in the International League in RBIs with 29, thanks to a .328/.384/.612 line with runners on base (compared to a .237/.293/.421 line with the bases empty).
As Tim Britton of the Providence Journal recently noted, Brentz, 24, is trying to put his offseason gun accident behind him through his play. Though he still hears taunts from fans about the incident, he is trying to bring the focus to what he’s accomplishing on the field.
“Anytime something like that happens, your play is going to get the past behind you,” Brentz told Britton. “For anybody who’s ever done anything in baseball or had an offseason accident, their play is what makes people forget. It’s just bad that I put the organization through that situation, that the fans had to read about it.”
– Jackie Bradley Jr., 23, returned from a stint on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis and, serving as the designated hitter, went 1-for-3 with a triple, walk and hit by pitch. The walk was arguably his most impressive plate appearance of the night, an 11-pitch marathon against a left-handed reliever (Ryan Buchter) to lead off the ninth inning and set in motion a three-run, game-winning rally. It was Bradley’s first game in two weeks. He’s now hitting .304/.418/.391 in 12 Triple-A games this year.
– Ryan Rowland-Smith saw his streak of 10 straight appearances (spanning 20 2/3 innings) without permitting an earned run come to an end. He allowed one run on two hits while striking out one and walking none in three innings of work on Friday. The left-hander, who has been making multi-inning relief appearances typically on three or four days of rest, has a 0.71 ERA this year.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 6-3 LOSS VS. BINGHAMTON (METS)
– Michael Almanzar went deep for the second time in as many games, crushing his seventh homer of the year. He’s currently on pace to set career highs in every offensive category. His .302 average, .370 OBP and .525 slugging mark would all represent the best marks he’s achieved; in roughly a quarter of a season, he’s more than halfway to his career high of seven homers and nearly halfway to his career standard of 55 RBI. (Almanzar also made a pair of errors, giving the 22-year-old third baseman six miscues
– Outfielder Pete Hissey went 2-for-4 with a walk for the second time in as many games. The 23-year-old, a fourth-round pick by the Sox in 2008 who signed for a $1 million bonus, is hitting for average (.293) and getting on base (.378 OBP) while making an impact on the bases (9 steals in 12 attempts) in 23 games.
– Shortstop Xander Bogaerts had a tough day, going 0-for-4 with a pair of throwing errors. After committing just one error in his first 26 games this year, he now has three in his last six games.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 10-2 WIN VS. FREDERICK (ORIOLES)
– Garin Cecchini, back in the lineup after missing two days following a turned ankle, showed no ill effects of his time off. He went 3-for-4 with a double and a walk. It was his third game of at least three hits this year, and his fourth game in which he’s reached base at least four times. On the season, the 22-year-old’s numbers continue to astonish: a .378 average, .473 OBP, .669 slugging mark, 23 extra-base hits and 11 steals (in 15 attempts) over the course of 35 games.
– Second baseman Sean Coyle had his second straight multi-hit game, going 3-for-5 with a double. He’s now 5-for-9 in his last two contests after going 0-for-26 in his prior seven games. On the year, 16 of his 29 hits have been for extra bases.
– Outfielder Keury De La Cruz had his third straight multi-hit game, going 2-for-5 with a double. The 21-year-old is hitting .333/.350/.615 with two homers, three doubles and a walk over his last 10 games.
– Right-hander Kyle Stroup, 23, had a solid outing, tossing 5 1/3 innings in which he gave up six hits (five singles and a double) while striking out two, walking two and getting 10 groundball outs. After missing all of 2013, the big right-hander has gotten strong groundball rates while striking out 7.0 per nine innings and issuing 3.2 free passes per nine en route to a 3.78 ERA.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 7-6 WIN (11 INNINGS) VS. CHARLESTON (YANKEES)
– The daily Feats of Mookie: Mookie Betts went 3-for-5 with a double, walk and his eighth steal (in nine attempts). He now has a 12-game hitting streak during which he’s not only been one of the hottest hitters in the Sox system but one of the top contributors in the minors. He’s hitting .422 with a .527 OBP and a startling .800 slugging mark, with nine of his 19 hits during the run having been for extra bases. He’s also been successful on all four of his stolen base attempts during the spell. On the year, he’s now hitting .248/.406/.463. He’s performing at such an advanced level that one evaluator wondered, if Sean Coyle is promoted from Salem to Double-A Portland at some point this year, if the door would be open for Betts to advance to High-A. That would be unusually aggressive given that the second baseman is just 20, but the fact that someone from outside the organization viewed Betts so favorably speaks to the burgeoning second base depth in the Sox’ system.
– Right-hander Pat Light‘s struggles continued. The 2012 supplemental first-rounder was tagged for six runs (five earned) on seven hits in four innings while striking out two and walking four. In his last two starts, he’s lasted just 7 1/3 innings while allowing 14 runs (13 earned), giving up three homers, walking seven and striking out five. The 22-year-old is averaging fewer than four innings per start, with a 1-3 record and 8.28 ERA.