Triple-A Pawtucket: Matt Barnes, RHP
The last time we checked in on Matt Barnes -- and it wasn't all that long ago -- the focus was on how he should be relieving now, because it's his most likely destination as a major-league pitcher, and also the way to get him to the bigs -- and the Red Sox specifically -- the quickest. Given Boston's needs in the bullpen, speed is of the essence, and now that the unreliable Edward Mujica has been designated for assignment, there is even a spot in the pen for Barnes.
The DFA coincides with the organization officially moving Barnes to Pawtucket's bullpen, too, so you can see how this playing out in real-time. Barnes was bumped from the Triple-A rotation and officially listed with the relievers on Pawtucket's lineup card on Thursday, which also happens to be an off day for the Red Sox. Boston could call up Barnes on Friday before their series begins in Toronto against the Blue Jays -- Barnes could head to Canada immediately following Thursday morning's PawSox game to catch up with the rest of the team -- and then Mujica's vacated spot would be filled.
Maybe Boston lets Barnes get used to relief in the minors for a bit first instead, but given the state of the big-league bullpen, there is almost no point in that. He's already had some successful relief work for the Sox, albeit limited, with 11 innings, a 3.27 ERA, and 4.5 times as many strikeouts as walks, so they might as well pop him in and see if he can keep doing that. Barely anyone else they've enlisted so far this season has been able to.
Photo credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Don't consider Barnes to the pen a failure in his development, either. He was billed as a possible mid-rotation arm who needed to master a third pitch and improve his command in order to get to that ceiling -- that last word is the key one. He didn't ever get either down, but it hasn't caused him to flame out into nothingness: Barnes now has a future as a potential impact reliever, and the Sox can afford to send him to that future because they have other starting pitching prospects to turn to. Maybe it's not the ideal career path, in terms of what you've imagined for him, but if Barnes fills a need and does so cheaply, without compromising the Red Sox elsewhere, then that's a developmental win.
Triple-A Pawtucket: Travis Shaw, 1B
Travis Shaw is in a bit of a rut, as the 25-year-old is having a difficult time in his second attempt against Triple-A pitching. He's batting .174/.234/.302 on the year and now has a 104-game line at Triple-A of .243/.302/.404. It's a little odd, too, as Shaw isn't striking out like he normally does -- he's punched out just 13 times in 98 plate appearances -- so you would assume he'd be hitting.
Some of this could just be bad luck, as Shaw's batting average on balls in play is only .181 -- last year for the PawSox, it was .312, and with one exception in his pro career it's been at or above the .300 range. There is also the concern that Shaw is maybe rushing things a bit and swinging at the wrong pitches, however. In the past, his problem was that he was too passive, but maybe now he's overcompensating for this a bit in the hopes of avoiding the same holes that tripped him up at Double-A.
Shaw might not be a successful big-league hitter, but he's definitely better than he's played to start this season. He'll likely figure things out soon and see his line even out a bit, but until then, his struggles do merit attention.
Double-A Portland: Mike Augliera, RHP
Augliera had a bit of a two-start disaster where he allowed 21 hits and 11 earned runs in eight innings of work, but he recovered respectably enough in his latest outing with five innings of one-run ball featuring more strikeouts than walks. It still wasn't a sexy affair by any means, with more than a baserunner per inning and it taking 90 pitches to get through five frames, but hey, baby steps.
Red Sox designate Edward Mujica for assignment
Edward Mujica has been designated for assignment, likely ending his disappointing tenure in Boston.
It's not all Augliera's fault, in the sense that he's a reliever if he's anything, but he is kind of stuck in this starting role because there just isn't anyone to take his place at Double-A. As promotions occur, maybe Augliera finally gets to move to the pen like fellow 2012 draftee and current teammate Pat Light did to begin the year. He doesn't have Light's ceiling or anything, but if Augliera and his control are to provide value anywhere, it'll be out of the bullpen, not in a rotation or even as a swingman.
High-A Salem: Kevin McAvoy, RHP
Kevin McAvoy is still a mix of optimism and ugliness, neither of which should surprise us. He has a 2.36 ERA over his five starts and 26-2/3 innings in 2015, but he has struck out just 14 batters and is walking almost seven per nine on the season. On the other hand, he's managed to get away with all of this because he is inducing grounders 70 percent of the time, and that matters. The walks are caused by his extreme tendency to go for grounders, and his goal for this season is going to be to sort out how to keep the latter up while shrinking the former.
McAvoy needs to learn to pitch down in the zone more efficiently, with more of his grounders-to-be coming in the strike zone instead of becoming balls when batters don't bite on them. They don't all need to be in the actual strike zone -- quality strikes just need to entice batters to swing -- but more would be a good thing. The good news is that McAvoy was just drafted in 2014, and he's 21, and his sinker seems to have some serious movement to it. Once he learns to harness it more efficiently, he'll deserve that shiny ERA.