Red Sox left-hander Henry Owens won his minor league-leading 13th game on Saturday. (AP)
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Saturday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-1 WIN VS. BUFFALO (BLUE JAYS)
– Third baseman Will Middlebrooks went 2-for-4 with a solo homer to center. It was nearly Middlebrooks’ second homer in as many days (he was robbed of a homer by a tremendous leaping catch on Friday).
For now, Middlebrooks will continue to enjoy steady playing time in Pawtucket. But with the crowd that the Sox have on the left side of their infield between the big leagues (Stephen Drew, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt) and Triple-A (Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Deven Marrero), teams are closely monitoring the situation to see if the Sox start dealing what seems like surplus inventory from their minor league prospect pool.
– DH Carlos Rivero reached base in all four plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with a homer and two walks. He is 8-for-12 with two walks in his last three games.
– Right-hander Brandon Workman tossed five shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks while punching out six. He struggled with his control at times (59 of 99 pitches for strikes — a 60 percent rate) but shut down his opponents by getting a handful of groundball outs to complement his six punchouts.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 10-3 WIN AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS)
– Left-hander Henry Owens tossed 6 1/3 innings in which he allowed an uncharacteristic nine hits (two triples, seven singles) and walked one but worked around the traffic to limit the damage to two runs. He punched out six. The outing marked the seventh time in nine outings that the 21-year-old (who turns 22 on Monday) pitched into the seventh inning.
Owens now has a 13-3 record (the most wins in the minors) and a 2.25 ERA in 18 starts this year. He’s been better than his competition in Double-A, and probably belongs in Triple-A. Yet even as he remains caught behind something of a bottleneck in Pawtucket, the Sox have been impressed to see Owens making positive developmental strides with pitch selection and execution that have allowed him to continue to improve even as he’s outperforming his level.
“I’m a big day-by-day game,” Owens explained. “You can always do something every single day to get a little bit better. I literally will have a hard time sleeping at night if I feel like I took a step back — if I had a rough outing, or if I had a rough side I’ll talk to [pitching coach Bob Kipper] or whoever caught me after to figure out what I can do better next time. Of course I’m eager to move up. I’m eager to get to the big leagues. But at the same time, there’s no timetable. I’m just excited to show up to the ballpark every day.”
– Catcher Blake Swihart went 2-for-5 with a three-run homer against highly regarded left-hander Daniel Norris. Swihart now has 11 homers this year, with seven of those coming against lefties. The 22-year-old switch-hitter has a .288/.328/.542 line against southpaws, compared to a .298/.360/.453 line against righties.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 6-1 LOSS VS. POTOMAC (NATIONALS)
– Right-hander Simon Mercedes allowed three runs on eight hits in five innings, pitching well in his first start back in Salem since landing on the DL in early June. The 22-year-old stumbled out of the gate, giving up a pair of groundball singles prior to a three-run homer, but he didn’t allow another run over the duration of his outing while striking out six, walking one and getting a number of groundballs. Mercedes did continue his struggles to control the running game, committing his sixth error of the year on an errant pickoff attempt.
– Jantzen Witte, 24, went 3-for-4 with three extra-base hits, clubbing two doubles and a triple. He has 12 extra-base hits in 26 games since his promotion, hitting .283/.339/.444 while walking nine times and striking out on just 12 occasions.
– Catcher Carson Blair went 0-for-4, ending his streak of consecutive games reaching base at 28.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 6-3 LOSS VS. ASHEVILLE (ROCKIES)
– Left-hander Trey Ball sailed through five shutout innings in just 57 pitches (42 strikes), allowing two hits while striking out four and walking none. The 20-year-old is having a strong month of July, having gone five innings while allowing one or no earned runs in three of four starts this month. After opponents tagged him at a .409 clip in April, a .382 mark in May and a .353 average in June, Ball has held hitters to a .171 average with 16 strikeouts and six walks in 19 innings this month en route to a 3.32 ERA. Reports on his ability to throw his curveball for strikes have been strong, something that has permitted his fastball to play up.
– Wendell Rijo went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk, adding to what has been his best month since April. He’s hitting .282/.370/.487 in July.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 5-4 LOSS AT AUBURN (NATIONALS)
– Right-hander Ty Buttrey, after tossing four no-hit innings in his first rehab outing with Lowell, allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits while punching out two and walking three.
– First baseman Sam Travis went 1-for-4, but his lone hit was a single with a pair of runners in scoring position, both of whom scored. The 2014 second-round pick is hitting .296/.331/.400 overall, but with runners in scoring position, he’s amassed a startling .436/.463/.615 line, with his 20 RBIs tied for 11th in the New York-Penn League.
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 10-1 WIN AT GCL TWINS
– Ryan Lavarnway, in the second game of his rehab assignment while working his way back from a broken hamate, went 1-for-2 with a walk while playing first base for four innings.
– Rafael Devers had his sixth multi-hit game in 11 contests since his promotion to the GCL, going 2-for-5 to improve his line to .400/.455/.700.
– Right-fielder Joseph Monge continues to be one of the more impressive performers at this stage of the GCL season. The 19-year-old went 2-for-5 to elevate his line to .309/.433/.527, including .361/.500/.583 in 11 games this month.
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY