PawSox hurler Weiland showing promise

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PawSox hurler Weiland showing promise

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
PAWTUCKET, R.I. Entering his start Monday night at McCoy Stadium against the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox Triple-A affiliate, right-hander Kyle Weiland had given up more than two earned runs just once in his previous 11 starts. He entered the game second in the International League with 69 strikeouts in 63 innings, 12th with an ERA of 3.00, a WHIP of 1.23, and a strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 2.46, holding opponents to a .217 average.

But, it was an inhospitable welcome to Triple A for Weiland. Beginning the season with Pawtucket, Weiland lasted just three innings in his first start, April 8 against Rochester, giving up four runs, throwing 68 pitches.

The Red Sox third-round pick in the 2008 draft out of Notre Dame was a closer in college, who became a full-time starter two seasons ago. He has made steady progress through the Sox system, never spending more than a season at any level. As it is for many players or pitchers making the jump to Triple A for the first time, it was a learning experience for Weiland.

The game speed is just a little quicker. The adjustments are made a little quicker. The base runners react quicker. The managers react quicker, said PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler, who also had Weiland at Double-A Portland last season. Instead of a guy taking two or three pitches to run on a guy when hes slow, they're going next pitch, things like that. The hitters know what these guys are throwing. They watch in the dugout. So when they go to hit theyre ready to go. And hes stepped up also. Hes doing a better job working ahead in the count and finishing hitters off, pitching to contact, being able to pitch to hitters weaknesses and things like that. So hes just getting better every time out. Hes fun to watch.

Weiland wasted little time setting things right after that initial rough outing. Although he was roughed up Monday night, giving up four runs in 5 13 innings for the loss, in his second start, on April 14 in Syracuse, he went 4 23 innings, giving up one run with 10 strikeouts. In his last five starts entering Mondays game, he had posted a record of 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA, giving up five earned runs over a combined 28 innings, with 29 strikeouts.

Hes just learning how to pitch a little bit more, Beyeler said. Its just the reps. He went thru a stretch last year where he was really good for about six weeks. The stuff is there and now were seeing the stuff and hes starting to pitch and just learning how to pitch more effectively, more consistently, and really doing a good job at holding runners, just things like that. Hes starting to round those edges off, doing a real nice job.

For pitching coach Rich Sauveur, Weilands biggest step since last season has been his secondary pitches curveball, changeup, and now a slider.

His changeup has improved a lot, Sauveur said. And with his arm slot and the arm action he has on his fastball, if he can maintain a decent selling of the changeup with that arm slot and arm speed, its going to be a plus pitch. Ive seen some really good ones, and some not good ones. It can be a good pitch for him. It really can. His curveball, for me, is an out pitch. Its unbelievable. Lefties give up on it. Its a great pitch. So, were real proud of this guy. He just works real hard on what hes doing.

Weiland has added a cutter this season, which has served him well against left-handed hitters, who are hitting just .200 against him.

I was familiar with the cutter in college, said Weiland, who turns 25 in September. I didnt throw it much because I was a closer, and it wasnt necessary to have four pitches as a closer. So I rarely ever threw it. But I did know how to throw it and I would always mess around with it. So when I was starting I really thought that would be something I needed, something that would be a huge advantage, especially to lefties, because I didnt have anything going that way hard. Theyve seen enough sinkers and fastballs away. They can make adjustments. So it was a pitch I was familiar with but this year I got to put it into my everyday routine like every other pitch. Get out there and throw it a few times. Some days its there, some days its not. I dont try to beat myself up trying to find it because it is a work in progress. But its just like anything else. It takes constant work and effort to try to find consistency with it.

Sauveur likens Weilands ability to a former PawSox righty.

I believe this kid will pitch in the big leagues for a long time. I really do, Sauveur said. I know sometimes, to me, it sounds like maybe I say it a lot, but I remember saying it about right-hander Clay Buchholz. I remember saying, We know hes already pitched in the big leagues and we know hes going to have a great career. Its just a matter of when its going to start. Same thing with Weiland. Hes done a great job of progressing through the organization. He knows how to pitch. Hes a good listener. He studies what he does and he learns from his mistakes. Hes going to pitch in the big leagues and hes going to have a very successful career.

Those are the kind of words any minor leaguer longs to hear.

That feels good, Weiland said. To hear something like that when youve been working hard, and thats the ultimate goal, so that feels good. But at the same time, it doesnt change anything. I still got to get there, someway, somehow. The only way to do that is keep working hard, and go out there and see what happens. The only thing I can control is day five. I cant control anything else. So just do the best I can do.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

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Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

BOSTON - Brian Johnson had quite a turnaround in his second time on Fenway Park's mound.

Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The 26-year-old left-hander became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

"The last time I walked off the mound here was 2012 and I made two pitches," Johnson said. "Today I went nine innings. Today was pretty cool."

Johnson left Triple-A for a little over a month last season to get treatment for an anxiety issue.

"Obviously with some stuff that I've been gone through in my career, it's an awesome feeling" he said.

But despite the stellar outing, Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A after the game.

"That's the reality of the game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We had a chance to congratulate him and yet option him back to Pawtucket, with David Price coming here Monday."

Brought up from the minors for the start, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. His only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

"Their guy threw the ball over the plate. He threw strikes," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I won't take anything away from what he did, but we're not swinging the bat very well."

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

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Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

BOSTON - Brian Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. The 26-year-old left-hander's only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHPs Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, both on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, threw bullpen sessions. Hernandez said he "felt really good."... LHP James Paxton (strained forearm) is set to come off the DL and pitch at home Wednesday.

Red Sox: Pedroia was back at second base after getting Friday off to rest his sore left knee and not play on a wet field. He was hit by a pitch on the right forearm his first time up and went 1 for 3. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the DL with a sprained right knee, was expected to play nine innings Saturday night in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out that he could be activated next week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (1-2, 6.30 ERA) gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over four innings in a 10-1 loss Tuesday at Washington.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.35) has gone at least six innings in eight of nine starts.