Red Sox's Pimentel Regroups In High Class A

BOSTON—At first glance, it would appear difficult to characterize 2011 as something other than a disappointment for Stolmy Pimentel.

The righthander entered the year regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox system. He progressed steadily through the lower levels of the minors, despite being young for every level, holding his own at each stop through high Class A.

After being added to the 40-man roster last winter, Pimentel showed up for his first big league spring training in phenomenal shape. Signed out of the Dominican as a lanky 16-year-old in 2006, he'd filled out to 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, capable of reaching the mid-90s.

But his assignment to Double-A Portland was largely a disaster. The 21-year-old Pimentel went 0-9, 9.12 in 15 starts. Perhaps due to his ongoing growth, his mechanics had fallen out of whack. While his raw stuff seemingly remained intact, he kept leaving his fastball up in the zone, with poor results.

"Every year he comes in, he's a little bigger," farm director Mike Hazen said. "As a long-limbed, long-levered guy, it's probably going to take a little while for this guy to repeat his delivery consistently. It's been a challenge for him this year."

Boston elected to send Pimentel back to high Class A Salem in July to allow him to rebuild his confidence and mechanics. His first two appearances went poorly (9 runs in 41⁄3 innings), but in his next half-dozen starts, Pimentel went 3-2, 2.00 with 19 strikeouts and seven walks.

And there was evident development along with the improved results. The Red Sox saw an improved ability to leverage his fastball down, particularly out of the stretch. His velocity increased, touching as high as 97 mph. Improved mechanics allowed his changeup to re-emerge as a swing-and-miss pitch.

Plus, whereas Pimentel has struggled to spin a curveball consistently in the past, the Sox had him work on a slider that had shown solid early returns. "He throws it from a similar arm slot and hand position as his fastball, so it's easier for him to repeat it," said Hazen. "It still needs to develop, but we've seen flashes of a real power slider that comes right off his fastball."

Sox Yarns

• Ryan Westmoreland took live batting practice in August for the first time since having brain surgery in March 2010. He and the club have discussed having Westmoreland take an at-bat in a game this year.

• Felix Sanchez became the second low Class A Greenville outfielder in as many years to steal 50 bases in a season. Jeremy Hazelbaker did it in 2010.