Rubby De La Rosa now has a 1.08 ERA in three starts this year. (AP)
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Thursday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 2-1 WIN (11 INNINGS), 2-0 LOSS (7 INNINGS) AT ROCHESTER (TWINS)
(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)
– A case can be made that no one in the Red Sox minor league system has been more impressive to date than Rubby De La Rosa this season. The right-hander submitted his third straight dominant outing, permitting one run on four hits (two doubles, two singles) and one walk in six innings. He punched out five and walked just one, recorded seven outs on the ground (two on a double play) and threw 55 of 82 (67 percent) pitches for strikes.
While the stadium gun had him at 95-97 mph and touching 99, an evaluator had the right-hander at 90-96 mph, averaging 93, but with very good command. He also showed a good feel for his changeup in shutting down his opponents.
On the one hand, it’s only been a three-start stretch. On the other hand, the consistency that De La Rosa has shown from start to start is unlike anything that he’s shown since joining the Red Sox organization in the wake of the blockbuster trade between the Red Sox and Dodgers in August 2012.
While he was often the forgotten man among Red Sox pitching prospects this spring, with questions routinely asked about whether he was destined for the bullpen (a possibility treated almost as an inevitability in some quarters), De La Rosa has emerged as clearly the most impressive starter for Pawtucket in the early going. He’s completely shut down his opponents in each of his outings. Meanwhile, Anthony Ranaudo has been inconsistent in both results and velocity (topping out recently in the low-90s, below the 94 mph range where he often sat last year); Allen Webster has continued his battle with his control; Brandon Workman is still in the process of getting stretched out; and Matt Barnes has yet to make the trip north from Fort Myers.
Meanwhile, De La Rosa has been a groundball machine, recording 41 of his 50 outs via strikeout or groundball. He’s attacked the strike zone, punching out 14 and walking just three in 16 2/3 innings of work. He’s allowed no more than four hits in any of his outings, holding opponents to a line of .148/.190/.204; right-handers have a line of just .071/.100/.107 this season. He’s been pitch efficient, averaging 14.3 pitches per inning.
– Catcher Christian Vazquez had one of his best games in weeks, going 2-for-3 with an RBI double and a walk while also gunning down both runners who tried to steal in Game 1 of the double header. He’s now hitting .262 with a .304 OBP and .381 slugging mark, having bashed five doubles in 11 games. (His season-high for extra-base hits in a month in Double-A Portland last year was seven.) Defensively, he continues to be a force, having gunned down six of the 11 runners attempting to steal on him (55 percent).
– Garin Cecchini went 3-for-5 in the first game, recording his second three-hit game of the year in the first game, before going 0-for-3 in the second half of the double header. The 22-year-old is hitting .320/.370/.360.
– Left-hander Chris Hernandez scattered nine hits over a six-inning complete game in the nightcap, permitting two runs while walking one and striking out two. Last year, the 25-year-old issued 4.5 walks per nine innings in 102 1/3 innings in Triple-A; so far this year, in his first three outings, he’s trimmed that rate to just 2.2 walks per nine innings. Lefties are 3-for-17 against him, with a line of .176/.263/.176.
– The Red Sox have yet to set a date for right-hander Matt Barnes — in extended spring training building arm strength after shoulder discomfort slowed him at the start of the spring — to join the PawSox, but that time could come as soon as next week. Barnes is slated to make his next start (and potentially his last) in extended spring training on Saturday.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: RAINED OUT AT NEW BRITAIN
The rainout was the third straight for the Sea Dogs.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 10-2 WIN (10 INNINGS) AT CAROLINA (INDIANS)
– Catcher Carson Blair went 2-for-4 with a homer, a double and two walks. He’s been hitting the ball hard — with five of his seven hits going for extra bases — and taking plenty of walks (10 in 50 plate appearances) though the 24-year-old has also been striking out in bunches. He whiffed twice on Thursday, his fourth straight game with two strikeouts, and has 18 strikeouts in those 50 plate appearances.
– Left-hander Corey Littrell tossed six innings in which he showed good control (one walk, 49 of 72 pitches — 68 percent — for strikes) and elicited a number of groundball outs (10), but in which he also gave up his hardest contact of the young season. Littrell gave up a pair of homers, the first two he’s permitted in a pro career that now spans 47 2/3 innings. He struck out three and walked one, and now has 18 punchouts and six walks in 16 2/3 innings of work.
– Outfielder Kevin Heller went 1-for-5 with a double, bringing his line for the season to .400/.500/.686.
– Third baseman Mario Martinez went 4-for-5. It was his eighth professional four-hit game, four of which have come since he joined the Red Sox in the middle of last season.
– Right-hander Austin Maddox earned the win with three shutout innings of relief. In 10 innings, he has a 3.60 ERA with nine strikeouts and just one walk, continuing to display some of the strike-throwing aggressiveness that characterized him at the end of 2013 in Single-A Greenville after he was moved from the rotation to the bullpen. The 2012 third-rounder closed the year by allowing two walks in his final 22 innings, and didn’t give up an earned run in his last 15 1/3 innings of last year.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-0 WIN AT SAVANNAH (METS)
– Right-hander Teddy Stankiewicz had his best pro outing, firing six shutout innings in which he scattered three hits (all singles), walked none and struck out three while throwing 49 of 75 offerings for strikes (65 percent). It was the second straight scoreless start for the 20-year-old, who has permitted six hits in 11 innings over those two outings. The 6-foot-4 Stankiewicz displays good athleticism and excellent body control on the mound, something that allows him to repeat his delivery and throw strikes, evidenced by the fact that he’s walked just six in his first 34 2/3 pro innings (1.6 per nine innings). The Sox scouted him as a pitcher who possesses the ability to throw strikes right now with four average pitches (fastball, curveball, slider, change) — offering the projection of at least a durable back-end starter, with the possibility that if one of those offerings develops into an above-average pitch, he could emerge as something more than that.
– Right-hander Joe Gunkel punched out four and walked none in two scoreless innings, pounding the strike zone with 19 of his 25 pitches (76 percent). The 22-year-old now has 13 punchouts, two walks and a 1.80 ERA in 10 frames out of the bullpen this year.
– Second baseman Carlos Asuaje went 2-for-3 with a triple (his third already this year), a walk and a stolen base. The 22-year-old now has a line of .357/.438/.595 with seven extra-base hits in 11 games this year. Against righties, the left-handed hitting Asuaje — an 11th rounder last year out of Nova Southeastern University — is hitting .382/.462/.676.
– Shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin went 1-for-2 with a career-high three walks, matching another career-high (previously achieved twice) by reaching base four times. The diminutive 20-year-old is hitting .300/.412/.350 with nine walks and nine strikeouts through 11 games, showing the ability to hit for average and get on base that, in combination with his blazing speed and defense at short, led the Sox to sign him for $2.05 million in 2012. Given his speed and that he has been getting on base (he’s reached 19 times to date), however, it is somewhat surprising that Lin has attempted just two steals thus far this year (both of which resulted in success).