As the Red Sox try to sort out their pitching woes - which were evident in back-to-back losses to the Rangers by a combined score of 24-6 - it appears there might be some solutions developing down on the farm.
Pawtucket, which finished a four-game sweep at Syracuse Thursday, has a staff ERA of 2.45. The PawSox starters have allowed three runs or fewer in 12 of 15 games, and the team has allowed 42 runs, the fewest in the International League.
“Well, it’s a different game up there,’’ cautioned PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler. “We’re not facing the Rangers down here either. That’s a little different league up there with those guys.
“We’re facing maybe one or two caliber of those hitters a night on these teams we’re facing down here. Those guys are pretty good up there, so we’ve got to keep it in perspective.’’
Leading the way have been veterans Aaron Cook, 33, and Ross Ohlendorf, 29.
Cook (2-0) threw eight innings of two-hit ball in a 6-1 victory Wednesday, allowing one run and four walks. He lowered his ERA to 1.35 - second on the team behind 36-year-old righthander Brandon Duckworth (2-0, 1.32 ERA).
Ohlendorf is also 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA, holding batters to a .167 average.
“They’ve both been doing very well,’’ Beyeler said. “Those are veteran guys who have pitched in the big leagues before and they’re both healthy and getting stretched out and throwing the ball really well.
“Justin Germano followed suit right there with them.’’
Germano, a 29-year-old righthander, is 1-1 with a 2.12 ERA and has not allowed a walk in three starts covering 17 innings.
While the PawSox have benefited from their pitching depth, Beyeler is pragmatic about shipping arms to Boston.
“We do have some veteran pitchers down here,’’ he said. “But that said, there’s a reason - whatever it is, maybe we don’t have room, maybe we’ve got to hold onto some starting depth - those guys are down here and they’re not in the big leagues.’’
Cook and Ohlendorf started slowly because of shoulder issues and have been slowly strengthening their arms.
“I think maybe both those guys being injury guys, they wanted to see them throw and get some innings in and get some durability issues under their belt,’’ Beyeler said, regarding the plans for Cook and Ohlendorf.
“But, maybe by the same token, it was, ‘We’re going to need those guys down the road,’ because, as we know, it takes more than 25 guys to get through a season.’’
No. 1 with a bullet
There could be more pitching talent on the way in the form of Matt Barnes, the club’s No. 1 draft pick out of the University of Connecticut in 2011. Barnes, 21, has been dominating hitters at Single A Greenville.
Barnes threw five shutout innings while striking out nine in his professional debut April 8.
In three starts, he has yet to allow a run, allowing but six hits and two walks while striking out 25 in 16 innings.
Relief in sight
After Mark Melancon suffered an eighth-inning meltdown Tuesday in Boston - six batters, six runs, four hits, two walks, three homers - he was optioned to Pawtucket Wednesday and will join the team Friday.
What will Beyeler’s approach be in handling the shellshocked righthander?
“I just think the thing with him is that he needs to pitch and get some confidence back and get some innings under his belt and get some people out,’’ Beyeler said.
Melancon, 27, went 0-2 in four relief appearances for the big club this year, allowing 11 runs on 10 hits (five homers) in just two innings for a mind-boggling 49.50 ERA.
“With hitters and pitchers, confidence is such a big thing,’’ Beyeler said. “It’s tough to get confidence when the Rangers and the Yankees and the big teams we’ve been facing lately keep running bats out there at you.’’
PawSox third baseman Will Middlebrooks hasn’t lacked confidence, especially at the plate.
He continued to tear the cover off the ball Thursday at Syracuse, going 2 for 5 with a homer, 4 RBIs and 2 runs. His three-run homer in the third gave Pawtucket a 4-2 lead.
“He’s just doing such a good job of using the whole field to hit,’’ said Beyeler. “That’s what making him so dangerous.
“He hit a 3-and-0 fastball [Wednesday] that was a 2-iron shot off the batter’s eye in center field to tie the game up in the sixth inning. It was one of them balls that, when he hit it, nobody moved. His power is so easy.’’
In 14 games, Middlebrooks has 4 homers and 15 RBIs, and is hitting .368 with a 1.074 OPS.
Early and often
In his second game back after coming off the disabled list with a hamstring issue, Pawtucket second baseman Tony Thomas went 2 for 4 with a pair of homers in a 4-3 victory Monday at Syracuse, where he belted a solo homer in the third and a two-run shot in the fifth. “Tony got into that last year where he pounded the ball a little bit,’’ said Beyeler, referring to the grand slams Thomas hit last year in his first and 10th at-bats of the season. “He’s got some pop in his bat.’’ . . . After starting the season 0 for 13 with Pawtucket, left fielder Alex Hassan has hit .400 in his last five games (8 for 20) Thursday in Syracuse, the BC High product from Milton went 3 for 5 with three doubles . . . Outfielder Juan Carlos Linares was named Eastern League Player of the Week after he hit .415 (17 for 41) with 3 home runs and 8 RBIs for Double A Portland.