Here’s a look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Saturday.
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX (10-7): L, 7-4, vs. Lehigh Valley (Philles)
— Catcher Blake Swihart went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored, but was charged with a key throwing error in the fifth as he fielded a bunt and threw well wide of third base attempting to nab the lead runner; the ball went all the way into the outfield corner and two runs scored to give Lehigh Valley a 3-2 lead. The error Saturday was Swihart’s first of the season.
“He’s done well … blocking and receiving,” Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles said to the Pawtucket Times in regards to Swihart’s defense. “A little suspect when throwing to bases, but we’ve seen the arm strength before and know what he does. He’s been a little bit more assertive here as far as pitch selection and game calling.”
Swihart had singled and scored in the fourth on a homer by left fielder Justin Maxwell as the PawSox took a 2-1 lead. However, in seven games since his demotion Swihart is hitting just .179 (5-for-28) with a double and three walks.
“He’s struggling a little bit, but we believe he’ll be fine,” said Boles.
Boles also told the Times that Swihart began getting work this week playing left field under the tutelage of minor-league outfield instructor Billy McMillon.
“I don’t think it’s going to be too far off where he’s getting some activity out there,” said Boles.
— Aside from the Maxwell home run, Pawtucket was held to seven singles with three from second baseman Mike Miller (3-for-4, RBI). Center fielder Rusney Castillo saw his modest five-game hit streak end as he went 0-for-4 while batting in the cleanup spot. Through eight games in Triple-A since his demotion, the 28-year-old Castillo is 10-for-33 (.303) with a double, four runs, three RBIs and three steals.
Castillo told the Providence Journal that his main focus at the plate has been hitting breaking balls from right-handed pitchers, and he’s been working on the issue with PawSox hitting coach Rich Gedman.
“That’s the main focus with Rich,” Castillo said through an interpreter. “It’s just about being ready to hit it at any time. Mostly it’s about being able to make those adjustments, being ready to hit, and recognizing the breaking ball to be able to attack it.”
“We’ve seen him aggressive against the fastball,” Boles said. “We need to see a better pass, a better approach against the breaking ball. We’ve seen at times where, with two strikes, he’s been able to take the ball to right field — but sometimes there’s some length there with the swing and there’s some swing and miss on the breaking ball.”
Boles continued: “With him, it’s slowing things down. You’ve seen that the intensity can get ratcheted up quite a bit. He’s full-throttle. He’s got enough hand speed. He doesn’t need to cheat. When the effort level ticks up, that’s when he loses sight of the ball and tracking it and pulls off pitches.”
— RHP Keith Couch was called up from extended spring training to make the start, taking the loss (0-1, 5.14 ERA) with a final line of: 7 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO (92 pitches, 61 strikes). The two unearned runs in the fifth led to a five-run inning, as the Swihart error was followed with a double and two singles to plate three more runs for Lehigh Valley. Couch, 26, made 21 starts for Pawtucket last year and went 4-10 with a 6.10 ERA.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS (6-11): L, 6-0, and L, 2-1, at Hartford (Rockies)
— The Portland offense managed just one run in 14 innings of baseball at Hadlock Field (playing as the visitor with Hartford’s home ballpark not yet ready to open) in the standard seven-inning doubleheader format.
In Game 1, second baseman Wendell Rijo (Boston’s No. 18 prospect at MLB.com) had the lone extra-base hit with a first inning double; DH Tim Roberson was the lone Sea Dogs’ batter with multiple hits as Roberson went 2-for-3 with singles in the second and fourth.
In Game 2, center fielder Cole Sturgeon went 2-for-3 and scored a run in the seventh on an RBI single from right fielder Aneury Tavarez. However, Portland had just four hits in the nightcap with a Roberson double the only other extra-base hit.
“We’re not doing the little things,” manager Carlos Febles told the Portland Press Herald. “We’re not executing. We had chances but we’re not taking advantage of opportunities.”
Sturgeon, 24, has eight multi-hit games in his first 13 played this season (with two games played for Triple-A Pawtucket) and is slashing .352/.386/.519 with two triples, five doubles, and six runs scored. Selected by Boston in the 10th round of the 2014 draft out of Louisville, the 6-foot lefty stick struggled at the plate for much of 2015 but in August of last season surged in a 25-for-81 (.309) stretch with High-A Salem before a late-season promotion to Portland.
— The Game 1 loss (0-2, 5.73 ERA) went to RHP Heri Quevedo, as the 25-year-old Dominican native started with four scoreless innings but was pulled in the fifth after allowing three doubles and two singles.
“He just ran out of gas,” Febles said. “I should have had someone (warming) up sooner. That’s on me.”
LHP Williams Jerez (Boston’s No. 20 prospect at MLB.com) then entered and allowed a two-run double (with the runs charged to Quevedo) before striking out two to end the frame. Jerez would allow a run of his own in the sixth via a leadoff walk and a double. It was the fifth-straight multi-inning appearance by Jerez this season and he’s allowed runs in three of those five.
— Per the Press Herald, outfielder Henry Ramos (Boston’s No. 23 prospect at MLB.com) received good news (no extensive damage) on his injured knee and will begin baseball activities again soon.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX (10-7): L, 9-6, vs. Winston-Salem (White Sox)
— Second baseman Yoan Moncada (Boston’s No. 1 prospect at MLB.com) and center fielder Andrew Benintendi (Boston’s No. 3 prospect at MLB.com) extended their hitting streaks to 13 games, each going 2-for-5.
Moncada, 20, singled in the seventh and ninth, coming home to score on Benintendi’s single in the final frame. In 15 games played, Moncada is slashing .357/.486/.500 with no homers, two triples, four doubles, 14 walks, 14 runs, eight RBIs and 13 stolen bases; he has hit safely in all but one game this year and has reached base safely in all 15.
Benintendi, 21, doubled and scored in the third to go with his ninth inning RBI single, while also reaching in the seventh via error and stealing his fourth base of the season. Through 16 games, Benintendi is slashing .338/.397/.646 with no homers, six triples, eight doubles, 14 runs and 11 RBIs; he has hit safely in 14 of 16 games played.
— Hitting in-between (and often overshadowed by) Moncada and Benintendi in the lineup, shortstop Mauricio Dubon (Boston’s No. 12 prospect at MLB.com) continued his fine start at the plate as he singled and scored in the first to give himself hits in 14 of his first 16 games. Dubon is slashing .308/.387/.354 with a triple, double, seven runs, nine walks, and five RBIs.
— Catcher Ben Moore and first baseman Nick Longhi (Boston’s No. 17 prospect at MLB.com) each went 3-for-4, with Longhi driving in three runs and Moore launching his second homer in as many games.
Moore, 23, singled in the second and stole a base, doubled in the fourth, and hit a solo-homer in the seventh. Selected by Boston in the eighth round of the 2014 draft out of the University of Alabama, the 6-foot-1 Moore is off to a 10-for-32 (.313) start in nine games with two homers and two doubles.
Longhi, 20, singled home Dubon in the first, singled in Benintendi in the third, walked in the sixth, and then doubled home Benintendi again in the seventh. Selected by Boston in the 30th round of the 2013 draft out of high school in Florida, Longhi is slashing .292/.347/.369 through 16 games with five doubles; he has had multiple hits in five of his last eight games.
— LHP Matt Kent took the loss (1-1, 7.20 ERA) with a final line of: 5 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO (79 pitches, 52 strikes). Despite allowing seven hits in the first two innings, the 23-year-old Kent limited the damage to just two runs and put up zeroes in the third, fourth and fifth. In the sixth, however, all three batters faced reached and came in to score off righty reliever Adam Lau. Selected by Boston in the 13th round of the 2015 draft out of Texas A&M University, Kent had given up just five earned runs in his first three starts over 17 innings of work, getting promoted from Greenville after his second outing.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE (9-8): L, 7-3, vs. Columbia (Mets)
— RHP Anderson Espinoza (Boston’s No. 4 prospect at MLB.com) allowed just one run, but was pulled in the fourth inning of his no-decision start with a final line of: 3 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO (74 pitches, 43 strikes). The 18-year-old Espinoza has been held under 80 pitches in all of his starts this season, going five innings in each of his first three outings with pitch counts of: 63, 70, and 78.
On Saturday, the 6-foot Espinoza started strong with his first six pitches for strikes, whiffing the game’s opening batter on three straight fastballs and then inducing a ground out to short. He would walk two of the next three batters (including the leadoff batter in the second) on 3-2 pitches before recording back-to-back strikeouts via fastballs painted on the outside black of the plate.
Espinoza’s third inning was run-free, with just one single allowed, before a run crossed in the fourth via a walk, wild pitch (an overthrow that bounced at about 30 feet) and double. All three batters Espinoza faced in the fourth went to 3-2 counts, with the double bounced opposite-field just inside the first base bag (the batter was late on a fastball).
Signed by Boston during the 2014-15 international signing period for a $1.8 million bonus, Espinoza is now 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA on the season over four starts, with 20 strikeouts and five walks. Last year combined over 15 starts (the Dominican Summer League, rookie Gulf Coast League, and Greenville) Espinoza had a 1.23 ERA with 65 strikeouts to 14 walks in 58 1/3 innings.
— Third baseman Michael Chavis (Boston’s No. 10 prospect at MLB.com) got Greenville out to a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI double pulled down the third-base line as he turned on an 0-1 pitch. The 20-year-old Chavis then scored all the way from second base on a wild pitch that the catcher could not initially locate.
In the third, Chavis reached on a throwing error but was called out past the first-base bag as the umpire determined that he had made a turn toward second. Chavis then left the ballgame between innings, but it was initially unclear whether it was for injury precaution (he had gone down when making the sharp turn) or for a brief argument with the umpire.
Selected by Boston in the first round of the 2014 draft out of high school in Georgia, the 5-foot-10 Chavis is off to a 21-for-59 (.356) start at the plate with three homers, four doubles, 14 RBIs and 10 runs scored. He has hit safely in 12 of his 15 games played this year, with seven multi-hit games.
— Center fielder Luis Alexander Basabe (Boston’s No. 8 prospect at MLB.com) had the other Greenville RBI on the day, smashing a double off the right-field wall in the sixth to bring in left fielder Kyri Washington. Basabe, 19, was thrown out at third base trying to stretch the two-bagger into a triple. Finishing 1-for-3 with a walk, Basabe has surged in his last five games as he’s gone 10-for-27 (.370) with two homers and seven RBIs after hitting just .176 in his first nine.
Washington, 21, was also 1-for-3 with a walk and extended his hitting streak to seven games. On the season Washington is slashing .321/.345/.696 with five homers, two triples and two doubles.