Rafael Devers

Rafael Devers

A brief look at the action in the Red Sox minor league system on Friday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 WIN VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)

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– Right-hander Brandon Workman, making his first start since being sent back down to Triple-A on Sunday, had one of his best Triple-A outings of the year. He logged 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run on just three hits (two singles and a solo homer) while walking two and punching out six. Though 1-8 in the big leagues this year, Workman is 7-1 in Triple-A. One caveat: He’s shown the same vulnerability to the longball in Triple-A that he has in the big leagues, having allowed 1.5 homers per nine in Pawtucket this year. With the start, Workman has pushed his innings total up to 134 1/3 for the year, the third straight year that he’s worked at least 130 innings.

Ryan Lavarnway, back from the DL after missing eight days while recovering from a concussion incurred when taking a foul ball off the mask, slammed a two-run homer and double in his 2-for-3 return to the lineup. Though Lavarnway’s playing time has been fitful due to a host of injuries (setbacks in his recovery from a broken hamate, the concussion), he’s posted big numbers when in the lineup over the last five weeks, hitting .378/.525/.511 in 15 games since rejoining the PawSox following his hamate injury.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-2 WIN VS. HARRISBURG (NATIONALS)

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– Right-hander Mike Augliera scattered seven hits over six innings, allowing one run while not walking a batter (his eighth start this year without a free pass) and punching out four. In his last six starts dating to July 28, Augliera has a 1.83 ERA, with his season ERA dropping from 5.38 to 4.56 in that stretch.

– Outfielder Keury De La Cruz went 2-for-4 with a double, the second straight multi-hit game that included a two-bagger for the 22-year-old. In 24 games in August, De La Cruz is now hitting .356/.424/.586.

– Second baseman Sean Coyle went 1-for-4 and drove in a pair of runs, his first multi-RBI game since July 21.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 6-4 LOSS AT FREDERICK (ORIOLES)

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Jake Dahlstrand was perfect through four innings (with five strikeouts) and had a shutout through five before getting charged with four runs over his next inning-plus of work. Though the four runs represented the most the 22-year-old has allowed since his promotion to Salem, his six punchouts represented his best total with Salem. Dahlstrand has a 2.81 ERA with 21 strikeouts and eight walks in 32 innings in Salem following his 2.93 mark with Greenville this year.

– Shortstop Jose Vinicio, moved up from the ninth spot to the second spot in the lineup, went 3-for-5 with a double, giving the 21-year-old eight multi-hit games in his last 11 contests. In the process, the rail-thin shortstop has raised his average from .151/.192/.164 to .257/.283/.310.

– Corner infielder Jantzen Witte pushed back past .300 with a 3-for-5 game that included his 20th double in Salem and 44th of the season. The 24-year-old is now back up to .302/.346/.465 in Salem after hitting .330/.418/.554 in Greenville. His 44 doubles are tied for the fourth-most in the minors.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-1 WIN VS. LEXINGTON (ROYALS)

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– Steady Teddy Stankiewicz needed 6 2/3 innings to reach 140 in his first full professional season. He recorded seven innings in which he yielded one run on five hits while striking out three and walking none. The 20-year-old closed out his first full pro season with eight straight starts of six plus innings; he allowed one or no runs in five of those, lowering his ERA from 4.40 to 3.72.

While Stankiewicz rarely showed overpowering stuff in his first full year, he did display the ability to throw strikes with a four-pitch mix. He walked just 1.9 per nine innings. Though he punched out a modest 6.5 per nine innings, he rarely fell prey to big innings or short outings in part because he rarely beat himself. It remains to be seen if any of his pitches develops beyond a big league average grade — though his fastball registered as high as 97, it wasn’t a true swing-and-miss offering this year — his first year suggests the possibility of at least a back-end big league starter who can carry a significant innings load.

– First baseman Sam Travis went 1-for-3 with a triple and walk, giving him extra-base hits in four of his last five games. He’s hitting .277/.324/.500 with as many extra-base hits (14) as strikeouts since his promotion from Lowell to Greenville, while his 2:1 strikeout-to-walk rate (14-to-7) at the level suggests an ability to manage at-bats against more experienced competition.

– Second baseman Wendell Rijo went 0-for-4, making him 0-for-11 over his last three games. The 18-year-old’s impressive full-season debut thus now sees him with a .254/.348/.419 line.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 9-0 WIN VS. ABERDEEN (ORIOLES)

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Mauricio Dubon went 5-for-5 with a double, his third straight multi-hit game, boosting his average to .325 (second in the New York-Penn League) with a .344 OBP and .403 slugging mark. In 24 games in August, he’s hitting .402 — though with a .400 OBP (the product of one walk and 13 strikeouts) and a .460 slugging mark.

While his aggressive approach will raise questions about whether he’ll be vulnerable to pitchers with command as he moves up the ladder, and his 60.1 percent groundball rate in Lowell suggests that the BABIP gods had smiled in his favor, he has legitimate defensive tools to be a shortstop and the bat-to-ball skills to give him the potential to post the sorts of averages that can sustain low walks totals without a disastrous on-base percentage. In short, while there are very fair questions about his ultimate projection, the 20-year-old is a prospect at a premium position whose tools suggest that he is worth monitoring going forward.

– Right-hander Aaron Wilkerson, 25, continued to dominate in his affiliated debut. The former indy league pitcher, whom the Sox signed in July, tossed seven shutout innings in which he allowed just one hit, walked one and punched out nine. In his last four starts, he has a 0.32 ERA with 27 punchouts and four walks in 28 innings, giving him an ERA through 50 innings with the Sox of 1.62 with 9.7 strikeouts and 2.0 walks per nine. Of the 192 batters he faced, 45 percent of plate appearances ended in a strikeout or groundout.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 7-4 WIN AT GCL CARDINALS IN GCL SEMI-FINALS

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– Shortstop Javier Guerra went 3-for-6 with a homer while scoring two runs, his second straight game (including the regular season finale) in which he had three hits and a homer. The 18-year-old left-handed hitter has shown an impressive ability to maintain a smooth swing in which he doesn’t have to ratchet up his effort level to drive the ball. That skill, plus the tools to be an above-average defensive shortstop, point to a player who has a chance to be one of the Sox’ top position playing prospects if he maintains his progression as he reaches full-season ball. Guerra hit .269/.286/.408 with 20 extra-base hits in 51 regular season games in the GCL.

– Third baseman Rafael Devers went 1-for-3 with an opposite-field triple to left and two walks, showing an advanced approach and the ability to drive the ball that are highly unusual for a 17-year-old. The triple to left underscored an all-fields ability shown by Devers in his pro debut. According to MLBFarm.com, 20.6 percent of the left-handed hitter’s hits went to right, 16.3 percent to left and 15.3 percent went to center. Devers finished his first pro regular season with a .322/.402/.502 line between the DSL and GCL, including a .312/.374/.484 line after his promotion to the States.

Javier Rodriguez earned the win with five innings in which he allowed one run on three hits while punching out six without issuing a walk. That Rodriguez earned the win came as no surprise: The 19-year-old lefty went 8-0 with a 1.44 ERA in 10 appearances in the regular season. Both the five innings and six strikeouts matched season-highs for Rodriguez.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In an email exchange, Red Sox principal owner John Henry shed some light on the Red Sox’ aggressive bidding for Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo.

John Henry

John Henry

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In an email exchange, Red Sox principal owner John Henry shed some light on the Red Sox’ aggressive bidding for Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo.

When asked if the Red Sox missing out on White Sox slugger Jose Abreu by a mere $5 million when bidding for the first baseman last year led to surprisingly high offer of seven years, $72.5 million for Castillo, Henry wrote: “Yes, the financial aspects were impacted by coming close on Abreu. The White Sox did their homework.”

Abreu, who went on to sign a six-year, $68 million deal with Chicago, has 33 home runs with a major league-best .969 OPS.

In response to the question how much Henry familiarized himself with Castillo’s game, the owner wrote, “All evaluation was done by Ben and baseball ops,” (referencing Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington.)

Castillo is slated to play his first professional game for the Red Sox Gulf Coast League team Sunday in Fort Myers.

“He’€™s going to get his first game action on Sunday in Fort Myers and likely to be three innings,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell following his team’s 8-4 win over the Rays, Friday night. “We want him to go through another day of work tomorrow and that will set him up for his first activity on Sunday.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Mookie Betts is the one guy who is remaining true to the script.

Mookie Betts celebrates his second-inning grand slam, Friday night. (Getty Images)

Mookie Betts celebrates his second-inning grand slam, Friday night. (Getty Images)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Mookie Betts is the one guy who is remaining true to the script.

With the player many perceive as the starting center fielder for the 2015 Red Sox — Rusney Castillo — ready to make his professional debut a couple of hours away in Fort Myers, Sunday, the guy who is making a pretty powerful impression at the position continued pushing his stock upward, Friday night.

Betts one of the few highly-touted Sox youngsters to actually offer the kind of standout performances once expected of Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Will Middlebrooks and a cavalcade of young pitchers. The 21-year-old’s latest separator? A second-inning grand slam, making the outfielder the youngest Red Sox player to go deep with the bases loaded since a 20-year-old Tony Congliaro’s grand slam on Aug. 24, 1965.

(It was also Betts’ first grand slam as a professional.)

Just for good measure, Betts continued his ascension as a legitimate big league outfield by robbing Kevin Kiermaier of extra bases in the fifth inning with a leaping catch just before the center field wall.

The grand slam was the signature blow for the Red Sox in their 8-4 win over the Rays. It also played a key role in a pair of innings in which the visitors batted around  the order in the first two frames of a game for the first time since Aug. 14, 1962.

Coming into the series opener, Betts’ numbers since his most recent call-up weren’t electric, totaling a .242 batting average, .390 on-base percentage and .784 OPS. But what offered encouragement even before the grand slam was how his approach had remained consistent from when he tore through the minors.

Betts has been successful in all three of his stolen base attempts, while drawing two more walks than strikeouts (8-6). He has also shown an ability to make adjustments, going 4-for-10 with a walk when facing a pitcher for a third time in any one game.

If one Red Sox youngster was to be identified as giving off the impression of a viable major leaguer for ’15, it’s Betts.

Also of note …

- Daniel Nava stole third with the Red Sox carrying an 8-3 lead in the seventh inning. It was the same exact score (with the Rays winning) and inning Yunel Escobar executed such a steal on May 25, leading to a bench-clearing fracas between the teams.

- Starter Anthony Ranaudo was solid in his third major league start, allowing three runs on five hits, striking out four and walking three in six innings. He finished throwing 99 pitches. In 18 big league innings, the righty has given up nine runs, improving to 3-0.

- Yoenis Cespedes had two more RBI (along with a pair of hits) to give him 22 in 25 games with the Red Sox.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Xander Bogaerts is ready to return.

Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Xander Bogaerts is ready to return.

The Red Sox shortstop  – who had been placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list after being hit in the head with a Felix Hernandez change-up Aug. 22 —  is scheduled to return to the team’€™s starting lineup, Saturday.

“I really didn’€™t have too many symptoms,” Bogaerts said prior to Friday night’€™s game at Tropicana Field. “The only symptom I pretty much had was tiredness ‘€” like sleepy. Everything I did, I would just get sleepy. Maybe that’€™s because I wasn’€™t doing any baseball activities. Maybe it could have been the symptoms, too. The sleepiness is all I kind of got. No headaches, no anything like that.

“I took all my tests, I did pretty good. I didn’€™t have any problems with memory or focus, just a little bit of tiredness.”

Bogaerts said he adhered to doctor’€™s orders and refrained from much activity, letting the symptoms subside.

“Yeah, I just stayed at home and rested like the doctors said,” said Bogaerts, who wasn’€™t with the team during its series in Toronto. “I watched the games. That’€™s all I did. Obviously I couldn’€™t play or do any baseball activities, so I just tried to relax.”

Prior to his hiatus, Bogaerts was in the midst of a significant slump, having one hit in his last 23 at-bats. In 118 games this season, the shortstop is hitting .227 with a .627 OPS.

“Hopefully it benefits me,” he said of the time off. “I got some rest — rest that I needed. Ill try to finish the season strong.”

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford
Chris Archer

Chris Archer

With the Red Sox and Rays holding firm in the bottom two spots in the American League East, Friday’s game in St. Petersburg, Florida, holds little importance in terms of postseason implications. However, with Chris Archer on the mound for Tampa — opposite young Sox hurler Anthony Ranaudo — there could be some intensity to the series opener.

When Archer (8-6, 3.09 ERA) last faced the Sox on July 27, he surrendered a three-run home run to David Ortiz and lost the game 3-2. Afterward, Archer echoed then-teammate David Price‘s assertion that Ortiz “feels like he’s bigger than the game” because the slugger “pimped a home run off me.”

Ortiz, who is 5-for-12 against Archer, said the 25-year-old is “not the right guy to be saying that. I don’t think, you know, you’ve got two days in the league, you can’t be just [whining] and complaining about [expletive] like that.”

Archer has struggled again the Sox, going 1-3 with a 4.75 ERA in six career starts, but he’s pitched well of late. When he held the Blue Jays to one run over seven innings in his last outing Sunday, it was his eighth quality start in 10 appearances. He has a 1.40 ERA and 30 strikeouts over his last four appearances, encompassing 25 2/3 innings.

Ranaudo (2-0, 4.50) will be called up from Triple-A to pitch in Friday’s game. The 24-year-old last pitched in the majors Aug. 13, allowing four runs in six innings to the Reds.

On Tuesday Ranaudo was named the International League‘s Most Valuable Player. He is 14-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 24 starts for Pawtucket.

Red Sox vs. Archer (RHP)

Dustin Pedroia (17 plate appearances): .231/.353/.231, 2 RBIs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

David Ortiz (14): .417/.500/.667, 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

Mike Napoli (11): 100/.182/.100, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

Daniel Nava (11): .429/.636/.857, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts

Brock Holt (6): .167/.167/.333, 1 double, 1 strikeout

Will Middlebrooks (6): .000/.667/.000, 4 walks

Kelly Johnson (5): .250/.400/.500, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Christian Vazquez (3): 333/.333/.333

Rays vs. Ranaudo (RHP)

No Rays batters have faced Ranaudo.

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Left-hander Brian Johnson wrapped up his regular season with a 1.75 ERA in Double-A Portland. (365DigitalPhotography.com / Portland Sea Dogs)

Left-hander Brian Johnson wrapped up his regular season with a 1.75 ERA in Double-A Portland. (365DigitalPhotography.com / Portland Sea Dogs)

Left-hander Brian Johnson, in a five-inning tuneup outing for Double-A Portland before the start of the playoffs, was once again dominant, tossing five shutout innings in which he allowed two hits (both singles), didn’t walk anyone, struck out a batter and elicited 10 groundball outs. He retired 13 straight at one point.

The outing represented a continuation of a completely dominant five weeks. In his last six starts, Johnson has four outings of two or fewer hits allowed (three in which he’s given up just one hit) with a 0.67 ERA, 37 strikeouts, 10 walks and a staggering .093 batting average against.

Of course, those totals didn’t even represent that drastic a departure from the season for a pitcher whose 1.75 ERA is far and away the best in the Eastern League (the second-best mark is 2.55, with Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Henry Owens ranking third with a 2.60 mark).

Between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, Johnson went 13-3 with a 2.13 ERA, 8.3 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings. Perhaps more significantly, he’s logged 143 2/3 innings, up 69 percent from the 85 frames he was able to pitch in 2013 when he missed roughly two months with shoulder tendinitis, following an offseason where he couldn’t have a normal offseason conditioning program while rehabbing from a line drive off the face that prevented him from eating solids for months and from being able to work out for much of the winter.

But with a healthy winter this past offseason, the 23-year-old looked like the pitcher whom the Red Sox hoped to see when they drafted him in the first round in 2012. With health, he showed a consistent delivery that permitted him to thrive based on his feel for pitching and precise execution that was second to none in the organization. His changeup made considerable strides, to the point where he had a fairly complete mix (fastball, curve, change, sometimes a cutter/slider) that permitted him to attack every part of the strike zone, with dazzling results.

In his last 22 starts of the year between Salem and Portland, he permitted more than two earned runs just once. While Owens was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year and Anthony Ranaudo was named the International League Pitcher of the Year, Johnson had the best season of any pitcher in the Red Sox organization. He is WEEI.com’s 2014 Red Sox Pitching Prospect of the Year.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Johnson will join Down on the Farm on Sunday morning from 8:30-9 a.m. to take stock of his 2014 season. The program will also feature an interview with the Red Sox Prospect Player of the Year.

A brief look at rest of the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 8-5 WIN AT LEHIGH VALLEY (PHILLIES)

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Garin Cecchini: Streaking. Cecchini went 2-for-4 with a walk, giving his three straight multi-hit games. Over 18 games since August 9, he’s raised his batting average by 28 points (.236 to .264), his OBP by 29 points (.314 to .343) and his slugging mark by 48 points (.327 to .375).

Blake Swihart went 2-for-5 with a double, his fourth multi-hit game in 16 contests since his promotion to Pawtucket. He’s hitting .254/.277/.381 in Pawtucket.

– Despite permitting six baserunners (four hits, two walks) in just 1 2/3 innings, left-hander Drake Britton managed to navigate through his fourth straight scoreless appearance, his longest such stretch since he reeled off six straight scoreless appearances in April. The 25-year-old has lowered his ERA from 6.98 to 6.07 during the run.

– Left-hander Ryan Verdugo, pushed into a spot start with the Sox’ decision to call up Anthony Ranaudo to start Friday’s game, punched out eight (his most in 10 games with the PawSox, and his second highest total overall this year, surpassed only by the nine he struck out while still with the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate) while allowing three runs on six hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings. Verdugo is 2-1 with a 3.45 ERA and a hefty 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings since the PawSox acquired him. Lefties are hitting .185 against him with 11 punchouts in 31 plate appearances.

– Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. went 2-for-5 with a walk and two strikeouts. It was his second multi-hit game in three contests and his fourth in 11 games since being sent down, improving his line to .222/.250/.296.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 3-1 LOSS VS. READING (PHILLIES)

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– Corner outfielder Keury De La Cruz rebounded from a pair of hitless games by going 3-for-4, his ninth multi-hit game in August. He’s hitting .349/.421/.578 with four homers and seven doubles this month.

– Manager Billy McMillon was named the Eastern League Manager of the Year, the first time since 1996 that a Sea Dogs manager had been so honored. More of McMillon’s impressive managerial track record can be found here.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 10-3 LOSS AT FREDERICK (ORIOLES)

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– Left-hander Cody Kukuk once again proved unable to find the strike zone, allowing five runs on six hits and five walks in just 3 2/3 innings. He punched out three. Kukuk has five straight outings of at least four walks, and in 20 starts this year with Salem (after a promotion following five starts in Greenville), the 21-year-old with head-turning stuff is 4-7 with a 5.26 ERA, 10.0 strikeouts and 8.1 walks per nine innings. That’s roughly in line with a 2013 campaign in Greenville where Kukuk likewise showed swing-and-miss stuff (9.5 strikeouts per nine) but an inability to harness it (6.8 walks per nine). And so, for the second year running, he displays the greatest disparity between ceiling and floor of any pitcher in the Red Sox system.

– Outfielder Matty Johnson went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks. He has now reached base in 30 straight games. During that time, the speedy 26-year-old is hitting .365/.455/.522. For the year, in 127 games, he’s hitting .281/.380/.381.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 10-0 LOSS AT CHARLESTON (YANKEES)

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– In a dismal final note for what has been a surprisingly difficult year, right-hander Jamie Callahan recorded just two outs, allowing five runs on three hits and three walks, before getting lifted when his pitch count hit 40 (with just 19 of those pitches going for strikes). Callahan, who turned 20 on Sunday, wraps up his year with a 3-13 record, 6.96 ERA, 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings and 5.4 walks per nine, with opponents hitting .309 against him.

Callahan has two things working in his favor: Age (he was among the youngest starters in the South Atlantic League) and durability (he made all 25 of his starts). So, even though he’ll almost surely be in a position to repeat in Greenville next year, time remains, to some degree, on his side as he seeks to resurrect his prospect status.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 13-1 WIN VS. ABERDEEN (ORIOLES)

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– Left-hander Jake Drehoff was once again dominant, tossing six shutout innings in which he punched out a season-high eight and walked none. The 22-year-old has allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last six outings, with a 1.06 ERA in that span. In his last two outings, he has 13 innings without an earned run.

– Shortstop Mauricio Dubon went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and a walk, improving to .311/.331/.387 in 62 games this year. The 20-year-old is hitting .366/.365/.415 in August, though his hot stretch requires this asterisk: The walk he elicited on Thursday was his first of the month against 13 strikeouts.

– Third baseman Jordan Betts went 2-for-4 with a double, giving the strong third baseman with above-average power 27 extra-base hits in 60 games in his pro debut. The 22-year-old Duke product is hitting .274/.337/.482 in his pro debut, with his slugging mark ranking sixth in the New York-Penn League.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 8-5 WIN VS. GCL ORIOLES

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– First-rounder Michael Chavis went 2-for-4 with a double and a walk. In August, he’s hitting .372 (5th in the GCL) with a .430 OBP (6th in the GCL), .590 slugging mark (3rd) and 12 extra-base hits (tied for second). Chavis, who just turned 19, has performed as one of the best players in his league in his pro debut for the past month, thus balancing out a tough transition to pro ball in July and improving his overall line to .269/.347/.425.

Luis Alexander Basabe went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and two walks. Basabe, who turned 18 on Tuesday, has shown intriguing flashes of both an approach and the ability to drive the ball this year, both in the DSL (where he hit .284/.408/.480) and the GCL (.248/.328/.324) with both eye-catching athleticism and the ability to grow into more strength and power.

Blog Author: 
Alex Speier

Finding out Yoenis Cespedes' potential has to be a priority for the Red Sox. (AP)There has been plenty of talk about the newest Red Sox' mystery man, Rusney Castillo. Rightfully so.



ROB BRADFORD

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