Mullen's Minor League Notebook: November 13

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Mullen's Minor League Notebook: November 13

The Arizona Fall League wraps up its regular season on Thursday. Catcher Christian Vazquez has already finished up his AFL season and transferred to Manati of the Puerto Rican League. In 10 games with the Surprise Saguaros, Vazquez hit .257 with a home run and three RBI.

Right-handers Brock Huntzinger, Chris Martin, Ryan Pressly, Pete Ruiz, infielder Michael Almanzar, and outfielder Bryce Brentz are still with Surprise.

Brentz is batting .327 with two home runs, 11 RBI, a .397 on-base percentage, and .500 slugging percentage in 14 games. Almanzar is hitting just .186 with a .266 OBP and .214 SLG in 19 games.

Both appeared in the Rising Stars Game.

Several other players from the Sox organization are also playing in winter leagues, including left-hander Franklin Morales, who is on the roster of Leones del Caracas of the Venezuelan League but has not made an appearance yet.

In the Dominican League, right-handers Josh Fields and Tony Pena, Jr., who is a free agent, are with Aguilas Cibaenas, with Triple-A Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur. Former Sox slugger Manny Ramirez is expected to play for the Aguilas on Wednesday. Right-hander Stolmy Pimentel is with Estrellas de Oriente; right-hander Sandy Rosario and infielder Nate Spears are with Gigantes del Cibao; knuckleballer Steven Wright, catcher Matt Spring, and infielder Mauro Gomez are with Leones del Escogido (as is former Sox shortstop Julio Lugo); and catcher Dan Butler is with Toros del Este.

In the Mexican League, right-hander Marco Duarte is with Aguilas de Mexicali; and outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker is with Yaquis de Obregon.

In the Puerto Rican League infielder Ivan de Jesus is on the roster of Atenienses de Manati, along with Vazquez; right-handers Jose De La Torre and Anthony Ranaudo are pitching for Criollos de Caguas; right-hander Jeremy Kehrt is pitching for Indios de Mayaguez; and outfielder Henry Ramos is with Indios de Ponce.

In the Venezuelan League left-hander Ricardo Betancourt, right-hander Luis Diaz, and outfielder Ronald Bermudez are with Morales in Caracas; infielder Heiker Meneses is on the roster of Tiburones de La Guaira; and former Triple-A Pawtucket manager Buddy Bailey is managing Tigres de Aragua.

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

BOSTON — Tyler Thornburg’s gone for the season and there’s really no telling when the other set-up man the Sox expected to help in 2017, Carson Smith, will be back.

The Sox have already made inroads, if minor ones, in bolstering their third-base situation and rotation. Smith’s situation leaves a question of whether the Sox will need to pursue help in the bullpen as well.

There's not an easy answer to settle on at this point.

For one, the timetable with the right-hander Smith — whose shoulder has bothered him on the way back from Tommy John surgery — isn’t clear.

“He's in a no-throw [time] through the weekend,” Sox manager John Farrell said Friday afternoon at Fenway Park. “He'll be reevaluated on Monday to hopefully initiate a throwing program. He's responding favorably to the treatment. He continues to rehab as he's been. We have not closed the book in a sense on anything Carson can contribute this year.”

What does this year mean, though? Will they be able to know by July, by the trade deadline?

“Still too early to tell,” Farrell said. “We thought he was days from starting his rehab assignment after his last live BP session in New York [on June 6]. Unfortunately, that was put on hold for the time being. To get into any kind of timeframes, timetables, I don't know that any of us can predict that right now.”

The Sox relievers have done extraordinarily well without either Thornburg or Smith. Can that continue without reinforcements? The bullpen’s ERA entering Friday was 2.94, the second best mark in the majors. Its innings total, 217, was the second. lowest in the majors. 

So it’s not like the entire group is about to collapse from fatigue. But a guy like Joe Kelly, for example, isn’t someone the Sox want to use back to back.

It’s a young group and ultimately an inexperienced group. But Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already fallen into the trap of trading for premium set-up men twice, and that’s a dangerous road to pursue again. Perhaps a smaller trade makes more sense.

“Well, at this point, we’re open minded to help,” Dombrowski said when asked if he was targeting either third-base or relief help. “I’m not going to get into specifics at this time on what else we’re looking for. Keep an open mind on a lot of ways on which we can improve. We have guys coming back and both the spots, I think Carson Smith is very important to us and our bullpen has pitched great. The other day, we struggled but that was one of the few times we really struggled all year. 

“I think Carson still has a chance to come back and help us this year.”