PAWTUCKET — Other than Will Middlebrooks expressing confidence that he was able to put some nice swings on the ball and that his strained calf survived several demanding tests at third base, there’s not much to take away from Thursday’s matinee at McCoy Stadium.
Anthony Ranaudo struggled on the bump and Pawtucket’s bats went cold as Rochester ran away with an 8-1 victory. Middle-brooks concluded his three-game rehab stint with another hitless day, going 0-for-4. In 10 minor league at-bats, the third baseman failed to collect a single base knock.
Unlike his previous two outings with the PawSox, Middlebrooks felt encouraged with how the afternoon went for him at the plate. He got into favorable counts during each of final three at-bats, which resulted in Middlebrooks producing three of the most productive cuts witnessed during his tune-up stint.
Yet on a day when the wind was whipping around the ballpark, a fly ball had little chance of cutting through the gusty conditions. Middlebrooks saw his first two at-bats produce warning track shots that died in front of the right-field bullpen. His fourth and final turn featured a hard smash that Rochester third baseman Doug Bernier fielded cleanly.
“I saw some pitches and got good pitches to hit,” said Middlebrooks. “I was looking ‘two’ [on the ball Bernier picked].”
Defensively, Middlebrooks returned the favor when he dove to his left in the seventh inning to take away a surefire base hit by Chris Rahl.
“I had to push off hard a couple of times, but it felt good. I’m ready,” said Middlebrooks, who played all nine innings Thursday. “The last couple of days, it was chilly out there. The ground was hard and that kind of tested me a little bit.”
Middlebrooks planned to head straight to Fenway Park to find out what the next step would entail. He expected to be on the flight to Toronto with a strong possibility that he gets activated for Boston’s weekend series against the Blue Jays.
As for the calf strain that required a 15-day stint on the disabled list, Middlebrooks said that precautions have been taken so that such an ailment doesn’t become a nuisance.
“Where I had the problem was deep and behind my knee, so there’s not a whole lot of stretching you can do for it,” said Middlebrooks. “We’ve been doing some agility stuff and getting in the hot tub so you can warm it up a bit.”
The Red Wings collected 20 baserunners in the victory – 13 hits, six walks and two PawSox errors. Kris Johnson, who lost 13 games for Pawtucket in 2009 and again in 2010, allowed only three hits and recorded six strikeouts in six innings en route to picking up his second win.
At onetime, Johnson was seen as one of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox’ farm system. It’s a label that Ranaudo wears these days, though the right-hander has pitched to mixed results this season.
Counting Thursday’s three-inning cameo, Ranaudo has failed to provide six complete innings in four of his five starts. Against the Red Wings, he seemed to elevate his pitches in hopes that the hitters would bite. Displaying patience, Rochester drew four walks against Ranaudo, who labored through a 29-pitch, 15-strike first inning.
Having already spotted the Red Wings two runs, Ranaudo ran into trouble in the second inning as a double was sandwiched around two walks. He came back to strike out the next two batters to escape unharmed. Ranuado allowed an unearned run in the third inning after Bryce Brentz badly misplayed a ball in left field.
Ranaudo threw 71 pitches, 39 for strikes. Two of the three runs he allowed were earned to go along with four strikeouts.
“He just looked uncomfortable on the mound. His delivery didn’t sync up, but he tried to make adjustments,” noted Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles about Ranaudo.
Rochester broke the game open with a four-run fourth inning that was aided by a booted ball by Pawtucket second baseman Ryan Roberts. The only run the locals produced came on a bases-loaded walk drawn by Mike McCoy in the sixth inning.
Pawtucket managed just three hits and struck out 10 times.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03