Red Sox to promote top prospect Triston Casas, 2 others to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox are promoting top prospect Triston Casas to Triple-A Worcester for the final two weeks of the minor-league season, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Per Speier, right-handed pitching prospect Josh Wincowski and catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez will join Casas in Worcester, as all three had spent the entirety of the 2021 campaign with Double-A Portland, whose season concluded on Sunday.

Casas, 21, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 1 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He was originally selected by the Sox with the 26th overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft out of American Heritage High School (Plantation, Fla.).

After participating at the club’s alternate training site and fall instructional league last year, Casas opened the 2021 season with Portland and held his own there.

In 77 games with the Sea Dogs, the left-handed hitting first baseman slashed .284/.395/.484 (142 wRC+) to go along with 12 doubles, two triples, 13 home runs, 52 RBI, 57 runs scored, six stolen bases, 49 walks, and 63 strikeouts over 329 trips to the plate.

Back in July, Casas temporarily left the Sea Dogs to play for Team USA in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where he helped the United States win a silver medal while being named the tournament’s best first baseman.

While with Portland, Casas — who does not turn 22 until January — was the second-youngest qualifying regular in the Double-A Northeast, per Speier. The 6-foot-4, 252 pounder will undoubtedly become one of the youngest players at the Triple-A level as well.

In addition to Casas, the WooSox will also be adding a pitcher in the form of Winckowski, who the Red Sox acquired from the Mets as part of the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals back in February.

The 23-year-old, in his debut season with a new organization, posted a 4.14 ERA and 4.02 FIP with 88 strikeouts to 30 walks over 21 appearances (20 starts) spanning exactly 100 innings of work for the Sea Dogs. He was named Portland’s Pitcher of the Year earlier this month for his efforts.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, Winckowski — the No. 16 prospect in Boston’s farm system — “has shown a potential starter’s mix, with a major league-quality fastball (usually 94-96 mph), a slider and a changeup that has the potential to emerge as a solid third pitch.”

Winckowski, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 202 pounds, will once again be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, so the Sox would need to add the righty to their 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline in order to protect him from that.

Finally, we arrive at Hernandez, who the Red Sox acquired from the Rays alongside infield prospect Nick Sogard in exchange for right-hander Chris Mazza, left-hander Jeffrey Springs, and cash considerations in mid-February.

Hernandez, who turns 24 in November, is already on Boston’s 40-man roster and is primarily viewed as the No. 2 catching prospect in the organization behind only Connor Wong.

With the Sea Dogs this season, the 23-year-old backstop out of Colombia batted an impressive .280/.319/.506 (121 wRC+) with 26 doubles, one triple, 16 home runs, 53 RBI, 44 runs scored, 11 walks, and 70 strikeouts over 92 games and 357 plate appearances. He also threw out 28% of the runners who attempted to steal against him.

Following Monday’s series of moves, the WooSox’ roster just got a bit more crowded for the final stretch of their season, which is slated to end on October 3.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Jay Groome has struck out 19 of the first 39 batters he has faced since promotion to Double-A Portland

Red Sox pitching prospect Jay Groome has been on an absolute tear since his promotion to Double-A Portland, with his stellar outing on Sunday being the latest instance.

Matched up against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets affiliate) in his second start for Portland, Groome tossed six scoreless innings while scattering just two hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with nine strikeouts on the afternoon at Hadlock Field.

The left-hander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning before issuing back-to-back one-out singles to Antoine Duplantis and Ronny Mauricio to put runners at the corners, but he got out of it by retiring the final two batters he faced in order to preserve the shutout.

Of the 84 pitches Groome threw on Sunday, 61 went for strikes. Six of his nine punchouts were swinging strikeouts, while the other three were looking.

Groome, who turned 23 in late August, initially began the 2021 minor-league season at High-A Greenville, where he posted a 5.29 ERA and 4.00 xFIP over 18 starts (81 2/3 innings pitched) before earning a promotion to Portland earlier this month.

In his Sea Dogs debut, which came against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Groome fanned a season-high 10 batters while walking none over five solid, scoreless innings of work.

While he had to wait more than a week to make his next start for the Sea Dogs, the 23-year-old southpaw was yet again impressive on Sunday. In picking up nine strikeouts in his latest outing, Groome has now fanned 19 of the first 39 hitters he faced at the Double-A level.

It’s a small sample size, of course, but among Double-A Northeast pitchers who have thrown at least 11 innings this season, Groome ranks second among them in strikeout percentage (48.7%), third in walk percentage (2.6%), and third in xFIP (1.89), per FanGraphs.

The Red Sox originally selected Groome with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft out of Barnegat High School in New Jersey. He underwent Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2018 and was added to Boston’s 40-man roster last November in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft.

Listed at 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, Groome is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks fourth among pitchers in the organization.

Having to undergo Tommy John surgery forced Groome to become a different pitcher, but his ceiling is still relatively high.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, the lefty “has the raw materials of a left-handed starter, including a powerful build, a controlled, repeatable delivery and giant hands that allow him to manipulate the ball.”

Additionally, Groome operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 92-95 mph fastball that “has missed a ton of bats” this year, a curveball that “has been more of an average pitch” post-Tommy John, a recently-added slider, and a changeup.

According to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, “there’s a belief in the Red Sox organization [that Groome’s] slider has become his best secondary pitch, especially to left-handed hitters.”

(Picture of Jay Groome: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox promote top pitching prospect Jay Groome to Double-A Portland

The Red Sox have promoted top pitching prospect Jay Groome to Double-A Portland, per MiLB.com’s transaction wire.

Groome, 23, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect in the Sox’ farm system, ranking fourth among pitchers in the organization.

Boston originally selected the left-hander with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft out of Barnegat High School (N.J.) and later signed him for $3.65 million that July.

After an injury-riddled 2017 season, Groome underwent Tommy John surgery the following spring, resulting in him missing the entirety of 2018 and the majority of the 2019 campaign.

While the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Groome from pitching in any meaningful games last year, the New Jersey native still got work in at the Red Sox’ alternate training site and fall instructional league before being added to the club’s 40-man roster in November in order to receive protection from the Rule 5 Draft.

Invited to his first major-league camp earlier this spring, Groome opened the 2021 season at High-A Greenville and posted a 5.16 ERA and 4.13 FIP to go along with 75 strikeouts to 24 walks over 12 starts spanning 52 1/3 innings pitched through July 7.

At that time, Groome stepped away from the affiliate for the birth of his daughter and did not return until July 30. In six starts with the Drive since then, the lefty put up a 5.52 ERA and 4.76 FIP — as well as a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 33:8 — over 29 1/3 total innings of work.

Among High-A East pitchers with at least 80 innings under their belt this season, Groome ranks first in strikeouts per nine innings (11.9), first in strikeout rate (30.8%), and third in xFIP (3.97), per FanGraphs.

Despite some of those numbers being underwhelming, Groome has still earned himself a promotion to Portland and will make his highly-anticipated Sea Dogs debut as they face off against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Blue Jays affiliate) in Manchester on Saturday night.

Per his Baseball America scouring report, the 6-foot-6, 251 pound hurler operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 92-95 mph fastball that “has missed a ton of bats” this year, a curveball that “has been more of an average pitch” post-Tommy John, a recently-added slider, and a changeup.

As he prepares to make his first start at the Double-A level on Saturday night, Groome will don the No. 46 with the Sea Dogs.

UPDATE: Groome’s first start with Portland went well, as he scattered just two hits and zero walks to go along with a career-high 10 strikeouts over five innings of work. 53 of the 83 pitches he threw went for strikes.

(Picture of Jay Groome: Billie Weiss/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Chris Murphy allows just 1 hit and strikes out 7 over 7 scoreless innings in latest start for Double-A Portland

Red Sox pitching prospect Chris Murphy put together quite the outing for Double-A Portland at Hadlock Field on Tuesday night.

Matched up against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets affiliate) in what was his third start of the season for the Sea Dogs, Murphy kept the opposition off the scoreboard while scattering all of one hit and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts over seven dominating innings of work.

Early on, it did not appear as though Murphy was at his sharpest considering he allowed two of the first three batters he faced to reach base via a one-out single and walk.

After escaping that jam, however, the left-hander settled in and proceeded to mow the Rumble Ponies down in order on more than just one occasion.

From the beginning of the second inning on, Murphy retired all of the final 18 hitters who came to the plate against him in the process of stringing together those seven scoreless, one-hit frames.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (56 strikes), Murphy ended his night having induced eight groundouts and three fly outs.

He later made way for relievers Jose Disla and Tyler Olson, who both slammed the door on the Rumble Ponies in the eighth and ninth innings to secure an 11-0 shutout victory for the Sea Dogs.

Through his first three starts with Portland dating back to August 4, Murphy has posted a 2.12 ERA and 3.90 xFIP with 21 strikeouts and just five walks over 17 total innings pitched thus far.

The Red Sox originally selected the 23-year-old in the sixth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of San Diego. He was scouted by J.J. Altobelli and later signed with Boston for $200,000.

After beginning his professional career in Lowell that summer and only having the fall instructional league to fall back on last year on account of the COVID-19 pandemic-induced shutdown, Murphy opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville.

In 14 starts with the Drive, the California native put up a 4.21 ERA and less favorable 4.59 xFIP over the course of 68 1/3 innings pitched, but nevertheless earned a promotion to Portland on July 31.

In the three starts he has made with the Sea Dogs to this point, Murphy has proven to be more effective in regards to limiting traffic on the base paths. After averaging more than three walks per nine innings in Greenville, the lefty has trimmed that number down to 2.65 in Portland.

On top of that, Murphy has increased his strikeout rate since his promotion (28.3% to 32.3%) while also holding opposing hitters to a miniscule .183 batting average against.

As things stand at the moment, Murphy is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 11 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking fifth among pitchers in the organization.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the 6-foot-1, 175 pound hurler throws from a low three-quarters arm slot and operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 90-94 mph fastball that tops out at 96 mph, an 80-82 mph changeup, a 73-75 curveball with a 1-to-7 break, and an 80-84 mph slider.

As noted by SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Murphy’s fastball has touched 97-98 mph this season, while his other pitches have proven capable of inducing plenty of swings-and-misses.

That being said, Cundall did point out that the “key for [Murphy] going forward is refining [his] command.”

Murphy, who does not turn 24 until next June, does not become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft until December 2022, so there is still some time before the Red Sox need to make a decision in regards to adding him to their 40-man roster.

(Picture of Chris Murphy: Portland Sea Dogs)

Red Sox catching prospect Ronaldo Hernández has been red-hot at the plate for Double-A Portland

After a torrid month of July, Red Sox catching prospect Ronaldo Hernandez got his August off to a solid start for Double-A Portland on Sunday.

Though the Sea Dogs ultimately fell to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats by a final score of 7-6 at Hadlock Field, Hernandez certainly did his part to prevent that from happening.

Starting at designated hitter and batting out of the six-hole, the 23-year-old went 2-for-4 with a two-run home run and two runs scored on the afternoon.

The tw0-run homer, which came off Fisher Cats reliever Graham Spraker, was Hernandez’s 11th big fly of the year and it cut Portland’s deficit down to two runs at 7-5. Tanner Nishikoa followed with a solo shot of his own to make it a one-run game, but New Hampshire was ultimately able to hold and take the series finale in a close contest.

Hernandez’s two-hit outing raised his batting line on the season to a respectable .252/.296/.467 (103 wRC+) to go along with 12 doubles, 11 home runs, 25 RBI, 24 runs scored, eight strikeouts across 59 games (223 plate appearances) on the year.

The Red Sox originally acquired Hernandez — as well as infield prospect Nick Sogard — from the Rays back in February in exchange for relievers Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs as well as cash considerations.

Hernandez, who does not turn 24 until November, signed with Tampa Bay for $225,000 as an international free agent out of Colombia during the 2014 signing period.

After five years in the organization, the Rays added Hernandez to their 40-man roster in November 2019 in order to protect him from that winter’s Rule 5 Draft, though he did not play another game in their system after that (but spent time on the club’s taxi squad and postseason player pool) with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since he was a member of Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster at the time of the four-player trade from this past February, Hernandez immediately joined Boston’s 40-man roster and received an invite to major-league spring training as a result.

The right-handed hitting backstop was optioned to the Sox’ alternate training site in early March and later began the 2021 minor-league campaign with Portland.

Through his first several weeks as a member of the Sea Dogs, Hernandez — for the most part struggled — as he hit just .210/.248/.384 (67 wRC+) over 138 trips to the plate from the beginning of May until the end of June.

As soon as the calendar flipped to July, however, Hernandez seemed to turn a corner offensively, and it started with a three-hit performance against the Fisher Cats in Manchester on July 4.

Over the next four weeks, Hernandez simply lit it up at the plate. In five games between the Reading Fightin Phils from July 13-18, he amassed a total of eight hits while boasting an OPS of 1.318 thanks to putting together three multi-hit outings.

By the time the month of July came to a close over the weekend, not only had Hernandez not been traded, but he also posted a stellar .324/.378/.588 slash line (158 wRC+) in addition to clubbing four homers, driving in 13 runs, and scoring 11 of his own over his last 22 games and 68 plate appearances dating back to July 1.

Among Double-A Northeast catchers with at least 50 at-bats over the course of July, Hernandez ranked first in batting average, first in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, first in OPS, tied-first in hits (22), second in doubles (6), tied-second in home runs, and second in RBI.

On the other side of the ball, it appears as though Hernandez still has room to develop when it comes to what he does defensively. So far this season, the 6-foot-1, 237 pound backstop has committed six errors while allowing 10 passed balls to elude him while behind the plate. He has also thrown out 13 of 49 (26.5%) runners attempting to steal off him.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, “Hernandez has a plus arm behind the plate and moves well for a big catcher, but his receiving is fringe-average and needs to continue to improve.”

Regarded by Baseball America as the No. 13 prospect in Boston’s farm system — which ranks tops among catchers in the system, Hernandez is currently one of four backstops on the Sox’ 40-man roster alongside veterans like Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki and fellow prospect Connor Wong.

Given his standing on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, one has to wonder if Hernandez could be in line for a promotion to Triple-A Worcester before season’s end if he continues to produce at a consistent level.

Not only would promoting Hernandez to the WooSox give the Red Sox a chance to evaluate how the young backstop adjusts to a new level of competition and new pitching staff, it would also grant them the opportunity to see if Hernandez is worthy of his 40-man spot, or if it would be better suited for another prospect in need of protection from December’s Rule 5 Draft.

(Picture of Ronaldo Hernandez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox prospect Devlin Granberg lighting it up at the plate since promotion to Double-A Portland

Chris Sale understandably stole the headlines in Portland on Sunday afternoon, but it was Devlin Granberg who ultimately played the hero for the Sea Dogs in their 6-5 walk-off victory over the Harrisburg Senators at Hadlock Field.

As part of a 3-for-5 day at the plate, Granberg reached base on a fielding error in the third inning and ultimately came into score on a two-run home run off the bat of Tyreque Reed, laced an RBI single in the fifth that at the time gave the Sea Dogs a 5-3 lead, and came through with the hit of the game in the bottom of the 10th.

There, with no outs and the automatic runner at second base to begin each extra inning in a 5-5 contest, Granberg wasted no time in sending that runner home.

Matched up against Senators reliever Jhon Romero, the right-handed hitter ripped the game-winning single to right-center field that drove in Pedro Castellanos and sealed a 6-5 win for the Sea Dogs to mark their third straight walk-off victory.

In racking up three more hits on Sunday, Granberg bumped his batting line on the season with Portland up to an impressive .345/.363/.564.

Granberg, 25, was originally selected by the Red Sox in the sixth round of the 2018 amateur draft as a senior out of Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas.

The 6-foot-2, 225 pound first baseman/outfielder opened the 2021 minor-league season with High-A Greenville and tore the cover off the ball, slashing .326/.416/.642 (178 wRC+) to go along with seven doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 21 runs scored, 29 RBI, one stolen base, 12 walks, and 16 strikeouts over 27 games (113 plate appearances) for the Drive before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 16.

Sunday marked Granberg’s 28th game with the Sea Dogs, and the level of production the soon-to-be 26-year-old put up while in Greenville has hardly dropped off at all since he moved up the minor-league ladder.

As previously mentioned, the Hudson, Colo. native is now hitting .345/.363/.564 with seven doubles, one triple, five homers, 21 runs scored, 22 RBI, three stolen bases, three walks, and 22 strikeouts as a member of the Sea Dogs. In the month of July alone, he has posted a slash line of .370/.395/.616 and has hit four of his five home runs within the last 25 days.

To put it simply, Granberg is enjoying a breakout season of sorts in his second full year of pro ball. He may not be regarded as one of the top 30 or so prospects in Boston’s farm system, but he has caught the attention of some within the industry, such as FanGraphs‘ David Laurila.

In a conversation with Laurila earlier this month, Granberg delved into several aspects of his approach at the plate, including his unique swing that SoxProspects.com describes as short and compact as well as very direct to the ball.

“I’ve got one of the more interesting swings out there,” Granberg said. “It’s not very conventional. I would say it’s pretty rotational, yet not totally rotational. It’s kind of like those combo swings — not too crouched, maybe a little bit open, and then I stride into it. I’m trying to hit the ball middle/opposite field most of the time.”

Granberg, who turns 26 in early September, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter if he is not added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline.

(Picture of Devlin Granberg: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox’ Chris Sale punches out 9 over 3 2/3 innings in second rehab start for Double-A Portland; left-hander in line to start for Triple-A Worcester on July 31

Red Sox ace Chris Sale completed his third rehab start and his second for Double-A Portland at a sold-out Hadlock Field on Sunday afternoon.

Matched up against the Harrisburg Senators — the same team he faced on Tuesday — Sale yielded two earned runs on six hits, no walks, and one hit batsman to go along with nine strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings of work for the Sea Dogs.

The veteran left-hander was slated to pitch four or five frames depending on his pitch count, but a laborious third inning that required 28 pitches ultimately cut his day short.

After maneuvering his way around a two-out double in an otherwise clean first inning and striking out the side while stranding a runner in the second, Sale ran into a bit of trouble in the top half of the third.

There, he served up a leadoff home run to the Senators’ No. 9 hitter in Osvaldo Duarte before giving up a double and bunt single. Two straight punchouts brought the lefty to within one out of escaping the jam, but he plunked a batter to load the bases.

With two outs and the bases full in the third, Sale fanned Jackson Cluff on a swing-inducing slider to get out of the inning and then recorded the first two outs of the fourth before a two-out double marked the unofficial end of his outing.

In relief of Sale, Sea Dogs reliever Dominic LaBrutto allowed the lone runner he inherited to score on an RBI single, thus officially closing the book on Sale’s afternoon.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 64 (46 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler wound up retiring 11 of the 18 hitters he faced, as he hovered around 94-95 mph with his four-seam fastball and topped out at 96 mph with it while mixing in his slider and changeup as well.

For Sale, Sunday’s performance marked yet another milestone on his road back from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent nearly 16 months ago on March 30, 2020 — his 31st birthday.

In the time since undergoing that procedure to repair his UCL last spring, the 6-foot-6 southpaw has now made three rehab starts between the Florida Complex League Red Sox and Sea Dogs dating back to July 15. He has seen his pitch count rise from 39 to 49 to 64 in each of those outings.

Assuming he wakes up without issue Monday morning, Sale will be in line to make his next rehab start for Triple-A Worcester next Saturday, July 31, as the WooSox will be taking on the Buffalo Bisons at Polar Park.

There is a slight chance that could be Sale’s last minor-league start before he re-joins Boston’s major-league rotation, though Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush recently told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier that the club wants the seven-time All-Star to be at a point where he contribute five to six innings on 80 or so pitches every five days prior to him being activated off the injured list.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)

Red Sox promote prospects Kutter Crawford, Durbin Feltman, and Grant Williams from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have promoted a trio of prospects from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Worcester, the team announced Friday afternoon.

Pitching prospects Kutter Crawford and Durbin Feltman, as well as infield prospect Grant Williams, all received promotions from the Sea Dogs to the WooSox.

Crawford, 25, has put together a strong 2021 season for Portland after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019 and having bone spurs removed from his throwing elbow the following summer.

In 10 starts with the Sea Dogs, the right-hander posted a 3.30 ERA and 2.87 xFIP to go along with 64 strikeouts to just five walks over 46 1/3 innings of work. He most recently put together an outing in which he allowed two runs on seven walks, nine strikeouts, and zero walks in six innings against the Harrisburg Senators on Wednesday.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University, Crawford — who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds — will wear the No. 31 for the WooSox.

Feltman, 24, opened the 2021 campaign in Portland’s bullpen and put up ERA of 3.29 and xFIP of 3.63 in addition to 37 strikeouts and 10 walks over 22 relief appearances spanning 27 1/3 innings pitched.

The Texas-born right-hander this season has averaged 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.3 walks per nine innings, which coincides with his strikeout rate of 32.7% and his walk rate of 8.8%.

Listed at 6-foot and 207 pounds, Feltman was selected by Boston in the third round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University. He will wear the No. 28 while with Worcester.

Williams, 25, was promoted to the WooSox after seeing the majority of his playing time to start the season come in the middle infield for the Sea Dogs.

A former 10th round pick out of Kennesaw State (Ga.) in 2018, the left-handed hitter slashed .291/.326/.369 to go along with 10 doubles, two triples, 10 RBI, 31 runs scored, seven stolen bases, eight walks, and just 12 strikeouts over 52 games (193 plate appearances).

In those 52 games, Williams has played second base 47 times and shortstop seven times.

A native of Atlanta, Ga., Williams is listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds. He will wear the No. 5 for the WooSox.

All three of Crawford, Feltman, and Williams are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, meaning they would need to be added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline in order to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford putting together impressive season with Double-A Portland

Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford’s impressive 2021 season continued on Wednesday night.

Making his 10th start of the year for Double-A Portland, Crawford surrendered just two earned runs on seven hits and zero walks to go along with nine strikeouts over six quality innings of work against the Harrisburg Senators (Nationals affiliate) at Hadlock Field.

In putting together that strong of a performance, Crawford led the Sea Dogs to an 11-6 victory over the Senators, which extended their winning streak to 15 consecutive games.

Crawford, 25, now owns an ERA of 3.30, a FIP of 3.10, and an xFIP of 2.48 through 10 outings (46 1/3 innings pitched) with Portland so far this season. He missed most of June on the COVID-19 injured list, but in those 46 1/3 innings of work, the right-hander has walked a grand total of five batters while striking out 64 of them.

Among starters in the Double-A Northeast who have pitched at least 40 innings this year, Crawford came into play Thursday ranking fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (12.43), first in walks per nine innings (0.97), second in strikeout percentage (37.2%), first in walk percentage (2.9%), seventh in batting average against (.198), and first in WHIP (0.82), per FanGraphs.

The Red Sox originally selected the 6-foot-1, 192 pound hurler in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University, the same school Chris Sale attended.

In October 2019, Crawford underwent Tommy John surgery after experiencing discomfort in his throwing elbow throughout the season. He also had bone spurs removed from that very same elbow the following summer.

Since then, the Florida native has clearly returned to form to the point where he has been thoroughly impressive in Portland and could very well be on the verge of earning a promotion to Triple-A Worcester sooner rather than later if he keeps it up.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Crawford — who operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup — “projects as a future reliever due to overall lack of pure stuff and high-stress delivery.”

He is currently regarded by SoxProspects as the 52-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

One other thing to keep in mind is that Crawford can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter if he is not added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster by the November 20 deadline.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox’ Chris Sale set to make another rehab start for Double-A Portland on Sunday

Red Sox ace Chris Sale woke up Wednesday morning without issue and is in line to make his next rehab start this weekend, manager Alex Cora said Wednesday afternoon.

Sale, who is on the road back from Tommy John surgery, dominated in his rehab outing for Double-A Portland Tuesday night, striking out six and walking just one over 3 2/3 scoreless, no-hit innings against the Harrisburg Senators in front of a sold-out crowd at Hadlock Field.

It was Sale’s second rehab start of the month and his first in front of thousands of fans in nearly two years.

Of the 49 pitches the veteran left-hander threw on Tuesday, 34 went for strikes. He retired 10 of the 12 hitters he faced and topped out at 97-98 mph with his vaunted four-seam fastball while also mixing in his swing-inducing slider.

“He was a little bit off mechanics-wise early on,” Cora said of Sale prior to Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays in Buffalo. “That’s part of the progression. Now he’s pitching in front of fans. Obviously the competition is a little better. But he settled down and he was able to repeat his delivery. His slider was really good. The fastball obviously was up velocity-wise. Everybody is very happy with the way the outing went. Warming up, he was excited. He was a little bit off. But little by little, he was able to repeat it and he was great.”

This latest milestone for Sale comes nearly 17 months after he initially underwent Tommy John surgery on March 30, 2020 — his 31st birthday.

Since that time, the 32-year-old hurler has reached the point where he can now face live hitters in a competitive environment on a regular schedule.

After completing his start in Portland on Tuesday, Sale was to work out with the Sea Dogs on Wednesday and is now slated to start for them once again on regular rest in Sunday’s series finale against the Senators (July 25).

Though it is not yet clear when Sale could potentially make his return to the Red Sox’ starting rotation, one thing is for certain: the day in which the seven-time All-Star takes a big-league mound again is only getting closer and closer.

“Everybody’s excited with what we saw yesterday. I’m happier with the way he reacted today,” said Cora. “Hopefully, we keep progressing the way it should be and he’ll join us whenever he’s ready.”

(Picture of Chris Sale: Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)