For the first time this year, Henry Owens has allowed four runs in back-to-back starts. (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Friday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 4-1 LOSS VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)
– While Deven Marrero could well end up emerging long term as the Red Sox shortstop, any idea that such a turn of events is imminent overlooks his offensive struggles in Pawtucket. Marrero went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts on Friday. He’s 0-for-13 with five punchouts in his last four games, and in 17 games since July 27, he’s hitting .131/.182/.230, with both his average and OBP the lowest in the International League during that time. The slump has dropped his Triple-A line to .235/.281/.324, a far cry from the .291/.371/.433 line he posted in Portland prior to his promotion.
It’s worth recalling that, a year ago, Marrero struggled after his mid-year promotion to Double-A, hitting .236/.321/.236 in 19 games. By the time he returned to Portland for the start of this year, he was ready to hold his own as a hitter. (His defense is considered a given, as he’s already an above-average big league defensive shortstop.) So, he’ll have to prove himself in similar fashion next year in Pawtucket to open the year. If he can do that, then depending on the Sox’ needs, Marrero could position himself for a midyear call-up. But for an organization that endured lineup vulnerability thanks in part to the struggles of players who were at a very early stage of their transitions to the big leagues, the idea of being patient with Marrero in Triple-A has obvious logic.
– Left-hander Henry Owens allowed four runs on six hits in six innings. It marked the first time all season that the 22-year-old has allowed three or more runs in back-to-back outings (he also permitted four in his previous start on Aug. 10). Though he permitted some hard contact in the form of a pair of homers, Owens did attack the strike zone in noteworthy fashion, throwing 60 of 84 pitches (71 percent) for strikes, getting 12 swings and misses, punching out seven and walking none. In three starts spanning 17 2/3 innings, Owens now has a 4.08 ERA with 21 punchouts and just five walks.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-1 WIN VS. RICHMOND (GIANTS)
– Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez submitted another dominant outing, his third straight since getting dealt from the Orioles to the Red Sox at the deadline, scattering eight hits (seven singles and a double) while permitting one run over six innings, walking none and punching out seven. Since he joined Portland, he has three straight outings of at least seven strikeouts, having totaled 23 (11.9 per nine innings) while walking four (2.1 per nine innings) and working to a 1.04 ERA.
The 21-year-old has stuff that ranks among the most impressive in the Sox’ starting pitching prospect pool. He sits at 93-94 mph with his fastball, dialing up or down anywhere from 90-97. He shows an above-average changeup and flashes a slider with the potential to be an above-average offering.
– Outfielder Keury De La Cruz continued one of the most impressive offensive stretches of his pro career, going 2-for-3 with a homer (his second in three games) and walk. In 13 August games, the 22-year-old is hitting .356/.434/.600 with seven extra-base hits and, perhaps most strikingly, seven walks, to boost his season line to .294/.323/.426 in 56 games. The walks are striking given that he didn’t walk once in July and had just three walks in his first two months of a season that didn’t start till June (the result of a season-opening stint on the DL).
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 3-2 WIN (11 INNINGS) VS. MYRTLE BEACH (RANGERS)
– Outfielder Manuel Margot went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in his Salem debut. For more on why Margot was in position for the promotion, see Friday’s roundup.
– Though he walked six, left-hander Cody Kukuk continued a stretch in which opponents simply haven’t been able to hit his stuff. For the fourth straight start, he allowed two hits, and for the ninth straight, the 21-year-old with a mid- to high-90s fastball, sometimes-wipeout slider and changeup limited his opponents to three or fewer runs. In eight starts since the start of July, he has a 1.98 ERA with opponents hitting .189 against him. He’s punched out 44 and walked 25 in 36 1/3 innings, resulting in a familiar refrain: His stuff is tremendous, and he’s typically his own worst enemy given his control struggles.
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 16-4 LOSS AT SAVANNAH (METS)
– Left-hander Trey Ball saw his string of five straight strong outings hit a pothole, as he got shelled for nine runs (five earned) on five hits, including two homers (the first time he’d been taken deep since July 11). Not only was he hittable in the strike zone, but he struggled to find it, as he matched a season high with four walks allowed and threw just 29 of 56 pitches (51.8 percent) for strikes — one of the worst strike percentages of the year for a pitcher who is typically well over 60 percent in his strike rate. His ERA jumped back over 5.00, reaching the 5.22 mark.
– Second baseman Wendell Rijo went 1-for-3 with a double and a pair of walks, improving to .258/.349/.429 with 39 extra-base hits in 99 games this year. To put that precocious performance in context: Rijo is one of five players who has been on the field for at least 25 games in his age 18 (or younger) season in the South Atlantic League this year. None of the others has an average above .243, an OBP above .299 or a slugging mark above .329. So, his performance suggests the offensive profile of a player who has a very advanced feel for hitting.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 5-0 WIN AT HUDSON VALLEY (RAYS)
– Right-hander Kevin McAvoy showed a dominant sinker, eliciting groundball outs from six of the 10 batters he faced while allowing one hit (a single) and one walk in three shutout innings. Of the balls put in play against him in his pro debut, the 2014 fourth-rounder has elicited groundballs on a staggering 71.4 percent of them.
– Outfielder Joseph Monge went 1-for-3 with a double. In 16 games since his promotion from the GCL, the 19-year-old is now hitting .283/.339/.340.
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: RAINED OUT VS. GCL TWINS
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 3-1 WIN VS. DSL MARINERS
– Right-hander Daniel Gonzalez continued his dominant season, logging six shutout innings in which he permitted two hits, walked none and punched out three to improve to 9-0 with a 2.35 ERA. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last three starts spanning 17 innings with 16 strikeouts and one walk.