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Minor league notebook

Weiland going steady at Pawtucket

Consistency has keyed turnaround

Since clearing waivers, Hideki Okajima has allowed just one run in five games with Pawtucket. Since clearing waivers, Hideki Okajima has allowed just one run in five games with Pawtucket. (File/Bill Greene/The Boston Globe)
By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / June 10, 2011

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Kyle Weiland’s season at Pawtucket got off to a shaky start when he absorbed a 7-2 loss against Rochester April 8, allowing four earned runs on seven hits and a pair of walks. Since then, the 24-year-old righthander from Albuquerque seems to have turned things around, as he stands 5-4 with a 3.00 ERA.

So what triggered it?

“I would say consistency,’’ said Weiland, who was selected in the third round of the 2008 draft out of Notre Dame, where he was the school’s career saves leader with 25. “Each outing, I try to find that same area. I don’t want to be too high intensity-wise or too low intensity-wise.

“I find if I don’t have three pitches that night, I try to find two. So each outing it’s been a search to find consistency, and that’s where I feel I’ve improved a lot since last year.’’

Asked which pitch he relies upon to establish that consistency, Weiland replied, “Fastball, without a doubt. Everything works off the fastball. If you don’t have a good fastball, you’re not going to have any good off-speed [pitches].’’

Since his rocky start, Weiland has been close to dominant, particularly against lefties, developing a backdoor curveball as an effective out pitch.

“He’s a little more dominant with the fastball,’’ said Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler, who had Weiland in Double A Portland last season, where he held opponents to a .236 batting average, the best among all Sox farmhands with at least 75 innings, and finished second in the system with 120 strikeouts.

“But he’s really learned how to use that backdoor breaking ball against lefties very effectively. He’s got good command of his stuff and he’s been able to get ahead of the hitters.

“Sometimes he gets a little too cutter-happy as he’s learning that cutter. It’s a new pitch for him.

“When he trusts his stuff, he just comes right at guys and he gets ground-ball outs and he’s getting ahead, he’s really effective.’’

Weiland threw six shutout innings in an 8-0 win over Norfolk last Thursday, allowing five hits and a pair of walks while ringing up eight strikeouts.

“He’s just been that way the last few times out,’’ Beyeler said. “He’s fun to watch.’’

Weiland took a no-decision in his last outing, at Norfolk Tuesday night, allowing three runs (one earned) on just three hits over five innings. He walked three and struck out four, giving him the International League lead in strikeouts with 69 entering yesterday’s games.

“He’s just fun to throw out there because he just keeps getting better and better,’’ Beyeler said. “His record doesn’t indicate how well he’s pitched.

“It’s just been the command and the aggressiveness. He’s just learning how to sequence things a little bit and he’s learning how to read swings a little bit and he’s really come around the mental part of pitching.

“If you combine that with his stuff, and you kind of see what you get out of that, it’s pretty fun to watch, because we all know his stuff is there.’’

It’s the type of stuff that has Weiland on a course he hopes will lead him to Fenway Park.

“I would like to hope so, absolutely,’’ Weiland said. “But that’s another one of those things that’s not in my control. The only thing I can do is to continue to pitch here and do the best I can, and things will take care of themselves.’’

Miller in control Pawtucket lefthander Andrew Miller continues to benefit from his new pregame routine of pitching a simulated inning in the bullpen. He picked up a 6-3 win at Durham last Friday, allowing three runs on six hits and no walks while recording a season-high nine strikeouts. He was the tough-luck loser in a 3-0 defeat at Norfolk Wednesday after giving up one run on five hits, again with no walks. After walking 34 batters in his first 45 innings, Miller has not walked one in his last 15. He is 3-3 with a 2.54 ERA . . . A week after expressing his desire to move on, Hideki Okajima, who cleared waivers May 26 after being designated for assignment, has demonstrated that he has something left on his fastball. In his last five appearances, Okajima has allowed one run in seven innings, with no walks and nine strikeouts, picking up a win in relief May 31 against Norfolk at McCoy Stadium. On Tuesday, Okajima threw two innings in a 4-3 loss at Norfolk, retiring all six batters he faced, four by strikeout . . . Jose Iglesias currently leads shortstops in International League All-Star balloting, while Lars Anderson ranks second at first base. The game between the IL and Pacific Coast League All-Stars is July 13 in Salt Lake City.

Winning promotion In his second start with high Single A Salem Wednesday, righthander Anthony Ranaudo, the 39th overall pick in 2010 out of LSU, allowed just two hits against Lynchburg, the Carolina League’s top hitting team, in a 6-1 victory. Ranaudo, who struck out three and walked two in six scoreless innings, retired his first seven batters and seven of his final nine. He threw 63 pitches (42 for strikes) and had four innings in which he threw nine pitches or fewer. Ranaudo earned a promotion after starting out 4-1 with a 3.33 ERA at Greenville . . . Salem placed three players on the Carolina League All-Star team for the June 21 contest against the California League All-Stars in Modesto, Calif. They are catcher Dan Butler, who leads the Carolina League with 46 RBIs; first baseman Reynaldo Rodriguez, who is among the league leaders in average, RBIs, and doubles; and lefthander Chris Hernandez, who is 5-3 with a 2.52 ERA in 10 starts . . . Greenville placed three players on the Southern Division squad for the South Atlantic League All-Star Game June 21 in Salisbury, Md. Miles Head is the starter at first base and Brandon Jacobs will start in left field. Lefthander Manuel Rivera will be on the 11-man pitching staff. Outfielder Bryce Brentz and Ranaudo were also selected, but will not participate because of their promotions to Salem.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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