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Red Sox Minor League Roundup: Chris Hernandez and Bryce Brentz do their thing

09.07.12 at 10:00 am ET
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The PawSox have never swept a playoff series in three games. They now have a chance to do so on the road on Friday, having gone up 2-0 in their best-of-five series against the Triple-A affiliate of the Yankees. Pawtucket is on the cusp of its first postseason series victory since 2003.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 3-2 WIN VS. SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES), UP 2-0 IN BEST-OF-FIVE PLAYOFF SERIES

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— Left-hander Chris Hernandez has never featured electrifying stuff. His fastball lives in the mid- to high-80s and he doesn’t generate big strikeout numbers. But he can pitch, and among members of the Red Sox’ draft class of 2010, he’s probably closer to the majors than anyone else whom the Sox took that year.

Hernandez delivered a somewhat typical performance on Thursday, tossing six innings in which he allowed just two runs on four hits (three singles and a double) while striking out five and walking two. He got nine swings and misses among his 96 pitches (53 strikes). He does not overpower opponents, but he consistently gets bad contact (as demonstrated by his eight outs via groundball on Thursday).

It was his fifth straight start in Pawtucket in which Hernandez pitched six innings while allowing three or fewer runs. He’s been consistent since a mid-year promotion to Triple-A (3.51 ERA, 6.5 strikeouts, 3.5 walks per nine, including Thursday), just as he was consistent in Double-A Portland earlier this year (3.13 ERA, 5.2 strikeouts per nine, 3.3 walks per nine) and just as he was consistent in High-A Salem in 2011 (3.26 ERA, 5.5 strikeouts per nine, 3.3 walks per nine).

His track record and makeup suggests that the 23-year-old can represent either a starting depth option or a left-handed reliever in the big leagues (lefties hit .216/.241/.275/.515 with 12 strikeouts, two walks and no homers against him during the regular season in Pawtucket, as opposed to the .269/.362/.426/.788 line with 18 strikeouts, 15 walks and four homers by right-handers) in the near future, perhaps as soon as 2013.

“He’s a bulldog. He goes out there, he thinks he’s the best pitcher in the game,” said Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye. “He knows his strengths and weaknesses and pitches to them. He’s going out there, he’s throwing a fastball that’s 86, 87, but he’s keeping it off the barrel. It’s not necessarily a swing-and-miss fastball, but you look down and it’s the fifth inning and he’s only given up three hits, maybe walked a guy, struck out a couple and only given up one run. He’s gotten you through the game or gotten you a quality start. He does that day-in, day-out.

“He’s going to will his way to the big leagues and hopefully stay there,” added Sawdaye of the 2010 seventh-rounder. “I wouldn’t be very surprised to see him pitching in the major leagues for a little while here. Nothing’s going to shock me with Chris. You can’t just look at what he throws up on the radar gun and think he’s not going to get to the major leagues. He knows how to pitch.”

Here’s a look at his five punchouts from Thursday:

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Bryce Brentz provided the offense for Pawtucket, delivering an RBI double to right-center and blooping an RBI single to right and then eventually coming around to score the game-winning run. Both of Brentz’s hits came against long-time big leaguer Ramon Ortiz (who is now 39!), a right-hander who held righties to a .215 average during the regular season. The fact that Brentz — a 2010 supplemental first-rounder — showed an effective all-fields approach against the veteran underscores the progress that he’s made in being able to compete against pitchers at the advanced levels of the minors.

The double came on a breaking ball off of the outside edge of the plate, and showed Brentz’s ability to generate considerable power even when staying back and putting a short swing on the ball. Here it is:

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At a time when the Red Sox have only one starting outfielder (Jacoby Ellsbury) under contract beyond this season and none signed beyond the 2013 campaign, Brentz has an opportunity to forge a role for himself. Ryan Kalish is the only other drafted-and-developed outfielder in Triple-A or above in the Sox system who projects as a potential everyday outfielder in the big leagues. If Brentz can continue to cement some of his strides in approach and show more of the power that he demonstrated in 2011 (when he slammed 30 homers in two levels of A-ball, before dipping to 17 homers in Double-A and Triple-A this year), he has a chance to make his way to the majors as a corner outfielder with the prototypical power of such a position.

Brentz is Rule 5 eligible after the 2013 season, so there’s a strong chance he gets at least a taste of the majors by the end of next year.

Scott Atchison made his second straight scoreless relief appearance, pitching 1 1/3 innings and allowing one single. He threw just 10 pitches, six strikes, and he erased the lone baserunner he allowed with a double play ball.

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