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

Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz the oldest to hit 30 home runs in a season

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Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz the oldest to hit 30 home runs in a season

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES:

"It's one of those freak things. You don't plan on it happening, but it's one of those things. So we'll just see what the results say and move on from there.'' - Andrew Benintendi on his knee injury.

"That's kind of a routine 3-1 play. Unfortunately, it comes at a time when you've got two outs and a guy on the move. But that's a routine play.'' - John Farrell on the deciding play in which Heath Hembree couldn't hold onto the ball at first.

"I felt good. I felt strong.I felt good out there the whole game.'' - Rick Porcello, asked how he felt going back out for the eighth inning.

"I think everybody in the ballpark knew that that ball was leaving.'' - Porcello, on the hanging curveball to Evan Longoria.

 

NOTES:

* The loss snapped a five-game winning streak against the Rays for the Red Sox.

* Three of the four Red Sox walk-off losses this season have occurred because of errors.

* The homer by Evan Longoria was his first off Rick Porcello in 40 career at-bats.

* Rick Porcello has now pitched seven innings or more in six straight starts, the longest run for a Red Sox starter since John Lackey did it in 2013.

* David Ortiz is now the oldest player to ever hit 30 homers in a season

* Ortiz has now reached the 30-homer, 100-RBI level 10 times with the Red Sox, including the last four years in a row.

* The loss was the first of Heath Hembree's career, in his 67th major league appearance.

* Dustin Pedroia tied a career high with two stolen bases, the 12th time he's swiped two bases in the same game.

 

STARS:

1) Evan Longoria

The Rays were down to their final five outs when Longoria struck, hitting a game-tying homer off Rick Porcello.

2) Brad Miller

Miller's two-run double in the third enabled the Rays to stay close until Longoria's homer tied things up five innings later.

3) Rick Porcello

Porcello gave the Sox length and was brilliant in getting out of some early jams before settling in through the middle innings.

 

Shaughnessy: Everything Farrell does blows up in his face, particularly in 8th inning

Shaughnessy: Everything Farrell does blows up in his face, particularly in 8th inning

Dan Shaughnessy joins Sports Tonight to discuss Rick Porcello giving up a game-tying homerun in the 8th, and explains why John Farrell has been very unlucky with any decision he makes.

First impressions: Benintendi injured in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

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First impressions: Benintendi injured in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays:

 

The injury to Andrew Benintendi looked ominous.

Benintendi's left leg buckled as he tried to elude a tag on the bases in the seventh inning. He left the game with the help of two trainers, hobbling badly.

The Sox later announced that Benintendi suffered a left knee sprain, and will be further evaluated Thursday.

It's impossible to determine how serious the injury is. The prognosis could be anywhere from a few days, to, potentially, a season-ending issue.

Regardless, it's a blow to the Sox, who clearly have benefited from Benintendi's athleticism and energy in the three weeks since he's been promoted from Double A.

 

Rick Porcello is gobbling up innings in the second half.

Porcello gave the Sox 7 2/3 innings Wednesday night, allowing three runs. It marked the sixth straight start in which Porcello provided the Sox with a minimum of seven innings.

Through the end of June, Porcello had pitched seven or more innings just four times. Since the start of July, he's done it seven times -- and came within an out of doing it in another start.

Porcello also extended his streak of pitching at least five innings to 34 straight starts, dating back almost a calendar year to Aug. 26 of last year. Of those 34, he's pitched at least six in 31 of those.

In fact, Porcello leads the majors in innings pitched since that streak began.

 

David Ortiz continues to amaze

In the first inning, Ortiz walloped a pitch into the right field seats for his 30th homer, giving the Sox a 2-0 lead three batters into the game.

The homer was significant beyond that, too. With it, Ortiz reached two milestones -- 30 homers and 100 RBI for the season.

It marked the fourth straight season in which Ortiz has reached both, and it also marked the 10th time as a member of the Sox that he had hit both plateaus.

The homer also meant that Ortiz is now the oldest player - at 40 years, 280 days old -- to hit 30 homers in a season. And finally, it gave Ortiz 100 RBI seasons with the Sox, passing Ted Williams, with whom he had shared the record of nine.

And, remarkably, there's more than a month left in the season to add on to those achievements.