Red Sox insist minor-league talent hasn't dried up

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Red Sox insist minor-league talent hasn't dried up

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- The December trade which yielded first baseman Adrian Gonzalez required the Red Sox to give up three of their top prospects, including, arguably, the organizaion's best position player prospect (Anthony Rizzo) and best pitching prospect (Casey Kelly).

But any suggestion that the deal wiped out the Red Sox' inventory of promising players was dismissed Wednesday by Mike Hazen, the team's director of player development.

"We still feel like we have a really strong farm system overall,'' said Hazen at the team's Rookie Development Program at Boston College, "even with the removal of three of our top prospects . . . Any time you lose players the caliber of Rizzo, Kelly and outfielder Reymond Fuentes, that's going to take a little bit of a hit. But we still feel like we have some really strong players who are going to come up the next couple of years.''

Hazen said the emergence of a handful of young players last year, including outfielder Ryan Kalish and lefty Felx Doubront, has created some depth for the major league team -- whether Kalish, Doubront and others begin the season in Boston, or return to Pawtucket.

As might be expected, the Sox entered what general manager Theo Epstein labeled a "fallow'' period last year, with the team having consistently promoted prospects for several years, only to find that the upper reaches of the system had been cleaned out.

But now, as part of a natural cycle, some of the better players in the lower minor leagues have progressed to Double A and above, re-stocking the highest levels of the systems.

Thanks to a willingness to spend (the Sox spent better than 10 million last summer signing draft picks) and take chances on players regarded as tough signs, the Sox still have depth.

Among the top prospects in the system: shortstop Jose Iglesias, right-hander Anthony Renaudo, catcher Ryan Lavarnway, lefty Drake Britton and infielders Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini.

Some, including Cecchini, were selected last June and have a number of years of development remaining. Iglesias, on the other hand, could make his major-league debut at some point during the 2011 season.

The core of team -- including Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard and Jacoby Ellsbury -- is homegrown, allowing Hazen and other officials and instructors to remind minor-leaguers that, despite their big-market status, the Red Sox still stress player development and aren't afraid to build from within the organization.

"The message is: If you're good enough to play, we will find a place for you to play on this roster,'' said Hazen. "It might not be on your time frame and it may not be on Day One. But if you're good enough, if you're going to impact this club over the course of 162 games, we need you. And you will find your way up here.

"It may be for two weeks. It may be for a month. But that's going to get you that opportunity to show what you can do. Really, that's all they can ask for and all we can ask -- that they be ready to take hold of that.''

Of course, it's possible that some may reach the big leagues without ever playing for the major league club -- as happened with Kelly, Rizzo and Fuentes.

"It's tough to make those phone calls sometimes,'' acknowledged Hazen, "to tell those guys they're going to go somewhere else -- especially the caliber of talent of those three players, who we really believed in. But that's part of the business, part of the job and we talk to the players about that as well. You're in Boston and sometimes we need to make a deal to get a player like Adrian Gonzalez and you may be put into that deal. You don't like to see it happen, but it is part of the business.

"And hopefully, in those types of situations, those guys are going to have a quicker opportunity (to get to the big leagues). So you do feel better about that for those kids.''

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

Weird umpire replay mistake helps Red Sox to record-tying 20 Ks

BOSTON -- New York’s mistake helped the Red Sox, and they weren’t playing the Yankees.

The Red Sox struck out 20 in a game for the third time in franchise history on Thursday night, and they were able to do so only after MLB’s replay team — based in Manhattan — gave Craig Kimbrel an extra batter to strike out in the ninth inning.

A 6-2 win over the Rangers featured 16 strikeouts for Red Sox pitching heading into the top of the ninth at Fenway Park. Kimbrel came on for a non-save situation because he had five days off previously.

There’s always that outside chance for a four-strikeout inning, and it happened. Even for a four-strikeout inning, however, this was bizarre.

The first batter, left-handed hitting Nomar Mazara, swung and missed at a back-foot breaking ball for strike three — a literal back-foot breaking ball, because it hit him in that foot after he whiffed on the pitch.

On a swing and a miss with a pitch that hits the batter, the ball should be dead. He should not have been able to reach first base. But the umpires didn’t catch the ball hitting Mazara, and instead saw it as a wild pitch. 

Sox manager John Farrell asked for a review and the umpires went for one, but came back empty-handed. The crew was told, erroneously, that the play could not be looked at and the batter was awarded first base.

“It was just a swinging strike three, ball that go away and he obviously reached first base,” crew chief Alfonso Marquez told pool reporter Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. “The only thing that I can tell you, and the only thing I will say is, this was a replay issue. New York will come out with a statement.”

You could say it worked out just fine. Kimbrel went on to strike out the next three, and got the Sox to 20 Ks.

Kimbrel and Tim Wakefield are the only Red Sox pitchers to fan four batters in a single inning. Wakefield did it in the ninth inning on Aug. 10, 1999. 

Kimbrel did it once before as well, when he was with the Braves on Sept. 26, 2012.

No one has struck out five in a major league inning, although Kimbrel has as good a chance as anyone.

“The guy strikes out the world,” Matt Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous. … His fastball is seemingly unhittable. Complement that with the breaking ball he’s got, which comes right off that same plane, when he’s commanding it like he is, the numbers kind of speak for themselves. It’s kind of ridiculous. It’s fun to watch.”

The Sox have struck out 20 in a nine-inning game three times since 1913. Roger Clemens' two 20-strikeout games are the other two.

Red Sox tie strikeout record in completing sweep of Rangers, 6-2

Red Sox tie strikeout record in completing sweep of Rangers, 6-2

BOSTON (AP) There's something about Boston Red Sox pitchers and 20-strikeout games.

There have been six major-league games with that many strikeouts and the Red Sox made the list for the third time, fanning that many Texas Rangers for a 6-2 victory Thursday night and a sweep of the three-game series.

Five Boston pitchers combined on the 20 strikeouts with starter Drew Pomeranz getting 11 in six innings and closer Craig Kimbrel getting four in the ninth when the leadoff batter reached on a wild pitch strike three. Boston's Roger Clemens twice reached 20 strikeouts by himself.

"His stuff is nasty. What he is doing right now I have never seen anything like that," Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes said of Kimbrel.

Kimbrel has retired 53 of the last 56 batters he has faced and right-handed hitters are on an 0-for-41 streak.

Xander Bogaerts and Deven Marrero hit their first home runs of the season helping Boston to its fourth straight win.

"A lot has been made about our home run totals or lack thereof," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Tonight was the first of what should be many more."

Pomeranz (4-3), who tied his career high with the 11 strikeouts, made it as far as six innings for the third time this season and beat Texas for the first time in nine career outings.

"Felt lost for a couple of starts and wasn't satisfied," said Pomeranz, who gave up four hits and walked one. "Tonight I felt more like last year."

Elvis Andrus homered and Nomar Mazara had two hits and an RBI for Texas, which has lost four of five overall and 15 of 21 on the road.

"The sweep is surprising," Andrus said. "But that's the beauty of baseball, I guess. You cannot take any team for granted. Even when you feel you're playing at your best, stuff like this can happen."

Andrew Benintendi and Mitch Moreland had RBI singles in the first inning as Boston got to Rangers starter Nick Martinez (1-3) early.

Bogaerts hit a two-run homer in the third to put Boston ahead 4-0. Despite finishing with 21 home runs last year, Bogaerts needed 46 games to connect for the first time this season.

"Good to get one over the wall and get it out of the way," Bogaerts said.

Mike Napoli struck out four times while Pete Kozma and Andrus went down three times each. Every Ranger starter struck out at least once.

"Pomeranz was throwing well," Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "Obviously their bullpen came in and threw well also and they played better than we did overall tonight."

Marrero homered in the eighth off Alex Claudio.

Martinez gave up four runs in five innings and is winless in four starts against Boston with a 6.46 ERA.

Andrus cut Boston's lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning with the homer, snapping an 0-for-9 drought.

Moreland tied his career high by driving in at least one run for the sixth straight game and extended his hitting streak to seven games, batting .393 in that stretch.

Boston swept Texas for the first time at Fenway Park since 2008. Since 2009, Texas has the best winning percentage at Fenway Park in the major leagues at .600.

STRIKING SUCCESS

Pomeranz recorded his 500th career strikeout when he whiffed Napoli for the final out of the fourth inning, his eighth of the game.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: 3B Adrian Beltre will play in extended spring training games in Arizona the next three days after being sidelined all season with a calf strain.

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia was removed from the game after five innings for precautionary reasons due to left knee pain. He is listed as day to day. ... LHP David Price will make his season debut Monday in Chicago against the White Sox despite surrendering six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings over his last two rehab starts. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval is 3 for 13 in four rehab games.

UP NEXT:

Rangers: Will send RHP A.J. Griffin (4-1) in the opener at Toronto.

Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (3-1) looks to win his fourth straight decision when they entertain Seattle on Friday.