Mullen on the Minors: Couch adjust to changing role

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Mullen on the Minors: Couch adjust to changing role

In his July 25 outing for High-A Salem, Keith Couch made team history, throwing the franchises first-ever nine-inning complete game. That he allowed just one run on 10 hits with no walks and four strikeouts to earn the win over Myrtle Beach is just as impressive.

That was the first time I did nine since college, Couch said. So the fact that they let me do that and I was able to have a low pitch count to accomplish that was pretty cool. Its been about three years since my last nine inning game, so it was pretty cool to be out there for the start and end of the game.

Couch has served various roles for Salem this season, moving between the rotation and the bullpen. He has appeared in 23 games, making 17 starts, posting a record of 8-8 with a 3.76 ERA.

Hes a guy that I call a hybrid because hes a guy that can do everything for you, said Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker.

Hes a guy that just takes the ball. Hell go out and take the ball and give you some length and give you quality innings. He stays healthy, hes resilient and thats all you can ask for any type of manager or pitching coach. Thats the type of guy you love.

Couch, a 13th-round pick by the Red Sox out of Adelphi University in 2010, is in his third professional season. The righthander, who turns 23 in November, has advanced a level each season. He is in his first season in the High-A Carolina League.

For me, in the Carolina League the big adjustment and the one that I like the most is that its an eight-team league so youre only playing seven teams, Walker said. You face each team 20 times so they really get a good idea about you and get a good idea about them. So its really about making adjustments. The reason I love it so much here is because when these guys do make the major leagues theyre going to face teams 20 times a year in their division. So now they actually have to learn to see hitters and make adjustments when the hitters start to understand what they like to do. Theyve got to respond and make adjustments to the hitters. So it helps you become a better pitcher, a pitcher that is able to make adjustments.

The adjustments arent only on the field. Couch also had to learn to adjust with his changing roles. He began the season in the rotation, moved to the bullpen, and is now back to the rotation.

It wears on you emotionally a little bit, Couch said. But I just come to the conclusion that outs are outs and you still have to pitch and Im getting my innings. That was the biggest thing, just not letting it affect me mentally. A lot of people might look at it as a negative thing and really shut down and let it affect their season. But I just took it as another bump in the road and work with it. Im still pitching. Its not like I got sent home or released or anything.

Couch went through a difficult stretch in July, taking losses in four straight decisions before his complete-game win. In that stretch, he threw a combined 19 13 innings giving up 16 earned runs for a 7.45 ERA. Those kinds of stretches are all part of the learning process

The thing I like about Keith is hes very even-keeled, Walker said. He doesnt ride the high-low roller coaster that some guys do. He understands the game and he understands how hard it is to be a pitcher. When he has good games he doesnt get too excited and when he has some tough games he doesnt let it bury him. Hes able to ride that even keel, so I think having that mentality really helped him in that tough stretch.

Couch enters Thursday among the league leaders in wins, ERA, innings pitched, with 115, WHIP (1.32), and strikeouts (92). He offers this scouting report on himself:

I really consider myself more of a groundball guy. But strikeouts happen. My slider is my out pitch and Im able to use that effectively. So I guess I get a lot of swing and misses with it and a lot of strikeouts.

Id say I throw a lot of strikes, so a lot of guys swing early in the count. In that nine-inning game I gave up 10 hits but it was on first or second pitches and then the next guy Id get a groundball to get a double play on the first pitch also. So, I think thats the biggest thing is to try to get me early in the count.

While Salems season is winding down, there are still things Couch wants to work on this season that he can take into the offseason.

Me and Walker, weve been working on me staying on top of my fastball and driving through the zone and using my changeup more because my slider and curveball have been pretty effective this year and they got me a lot of strikeouts, he said. But these are the little things that will help me out at the next level.

In the offseason, Couch does some coaching at clinics and camps and helps his alma maters team. Its a role he says helps him with his own pitching.

Yeah, definitely, because things that I see on kids, mistakes that they make, I try to picture that on myself and my mechanics and try to relate that to my game, he said. So I think its a big help, definitely.

Couch has two former teammates also playing in the minor leagues. But left-handed reliever Joe Sambito may be the Adelphi alum most Red Sox fans know best.

He helped me out a lot in the draft process, Couch said of Sambito, who is now an agent. Because I was coming from college to not knowing the whole pro world, and no teams even talked to me coming out of high school. So, he was a big help.

Growing up in New York, Couch was, of course, a Yankees fan. He still goes to Yankee Stadium. Now, though, hes a fan of baseball in general, he said. That didnt stop his friends from ribbing him when the Sox picked him.

Yeah, they were all talking smack to me, he said. They were like, Were still not going to root for the Red Sox but well root for you. It was pretty cool.

But that will change if hes ever on the mound for the Sox in Yankee Stadium

Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

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Farrell: Sandoval could possibly return to Red Sox for postseason

Thought to be lost for the season after shoulder surgery this past spring, Pablo Sandoval could possibly return to the Red Sox for the postseason, Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Saturday.

Sandoval joined the team in St. Petersburg, where the Red Sox are playing the Tampa Bay Rays. Farrell said Sandoval had played in instructional league games in Florida and was "well ahead of schedule."

He could be an option to be activated if another player is injured. 

“One of the things I put in my mind that I have to work,” Sandoval told Boston Herald. “I learned a lot of things about this surgery so I had to work hard to be on the field as soon as possible.

“There are a lot of things I’ve been doing, working out, doing things so I can get better and better everyday.”

Sandoval, 30, is in the second year of a five-year, $95 contract. He lost his starting third base job to Travis Shaw in spring training and in April an MRI revealed he needed surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which was to have ended his season.

He appeared in only three games this season and hit .245 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 126 games in 2015. 

Saturday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Porcello goes for 22nd, Holt at 3B

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Saturday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Porcello goes for 22nd, Holt at 3B

Closing in on the A.L. East title, the Red Sox look to make it 10 wins in a row tonight when they play the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg.

Right hander Rick Porcello (21-4, 3.08 ERA) goes for his 22nd win for the Red Sox, opposed by Rays right-hander Matt Andriese (8-7, 4.41). Porcello is coming off a complete game victory in Baltimore.

The Red Sox began the day with a magic number of four to clinch the A.L. East with eight games to play. They could clinch a wild-card spot tonight with a victory and a Baltimore Orioles loss. 

Brock Holt starts at third base and Chris Young is in left field for Boston.

The lineups:

RED SOX
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Brock Holt 3B
Chris Young LF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
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Rick Porcello RHP 

RAYS
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller 1B
Corey Dickerson LF
Nick Franklin DH
Mikey Mahtook RF
Alexi Ramirez SS
Curt Casali C
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Matt Andriese RHP