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Minor league notebook

Pitching decision due

Look for Cook to be in majors soon

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / April 27, 2012
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Aaron Cook will make his fifth minor league start for Pawtucket Saturday in Columbus, Ohio. And it could be his last, now that he appears poised for a promotion.

Cook has an opt-out clause in his contract that goes into effect May 1. The Red Sox have until then to add the 33-year-old righthander to their major league roster.

With the deadline Tuesday, it appears he will be pitching in the big leagues one way or another.

If it’s not for the Red Sox, he could wind up with the Yankees, who got a tough break when righthander Michael Pineda had to shut it down to undergo season-ending surgery for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

With 39-year-old Andy Pettitte still knocking off the rust in the minors after a yearlong hiatus, and with starters Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia off to slow starts, the Yankees would seem to be potential suitors for Cook’s services if he were to opt out and hit the open market.

“I’m just trying to prepare, because I have one more start down here, and whenever the time comes to make that decision, then the decision will be made,’’ Cook said Wednesday before the PawSox had their bid for a franchise-record 10 consecutive wins spoiled by the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, who overcame a 5-0 deficit to score an 8-6 victory at McCoy Stadium.

“That’s something I can’t worry about right now.’’

Is it his inclination to remain with the Red Sox?

“Well, yeah, that’s why I signed here,’’ said Cook, who was influenced by the presence of pitching coach Bob McClure, with whom he worked in the Rockies organization. “I want to be here, but like I said, there’s other factors that could lead me to decide whether or not I’ll be up there.’’

One factor could be his role with the Red Sox. Would he become the No. 5 starter, with Daniel Bard moving back to the bullpen? Or does the team have other plans for Cook?

“When the time comes that they make a decision or I make a decision, that’s when it’ll be made,’’ Cook said.

For now, Cook feels good about the work he has put in at Pawtucket, where in four starts he is 3-0 with a 1.33 earned run average in 27 innings. He has gone seven or more innings three times, and held opponents to a .219 batting average.

He also has seen his pitch count steadily rise, from 85 in his first start April 7 to 93 Monday.

“I feel like I’ve done well,’’ Cook said. “I got my inning count up, my pitch count up, and I’ve just continued to show I’m healthy.’’

There has been little mystery as to which pitch has been most effective in Cook’s repertoire.

“My sinker,’’ he said. “I’m a sinkerball pitcher and I’ve been able to go out and throw it on both sides of the plate, no matter what the count is. I’ve just continued to try and get ground ball outs. Playing as long as I’ve played, I know what I can control and what I can’t control.

“I don’t get caught up in things that I can’t control. Right now, what I can control is pitching down here and trying to help this team win and get ground ball outs.

“If the time comes where I get a phone call, I’ll worry about that, but there’s no sense in worrying about that stuff when there’s nothing you can do about it.’’

Hill is climbing

Lefthanded reliever Rich Hill, who underwent Tommy John surgery last June 9, should be close to making his way back to Boston. He threw a strong inning of 1-2-3 relief Wednesday against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with a pair of strikeouts.

“Rich Hill looked great,’’ said Red Sox senior adviser Jeremy Kapstein, who was on hand to observe the outing.

Hill has made eight rehab appearances among Single A Greenville, High A Salem, and Triple A Pawtucket, allowing two runs on five hits (including one home run) and a pair of walks to go along with 18 strikeouts in nine innings.

“I want to go out there and pitch with conviction,’’ said Hill. “The more times you can do that, the more times you’re going to be successful, I believe, in the long haul.

“You’re going to have good days and you’re going to have bad days, but as long as you continue to go out with that intent and that purpose, you’re going to have more successes than not.

“Every time I’ve gone out there, that’s been the attitude. It’s about building up the repetitions, back-to-back days like [Tuesday and Wednesday], how you feel the next day. Because, let’s face it, you’ve had major surgery and you just have to focus on the things you can control.

“The only things you can control are pitching to the best of your abilities and pitching with conviction.’’

Hits and misses

Will Middlebrooks looked to be having a big day Wednesday when he singled in his first at-bat and then drilled a two-run homer in the third. It gave him nine homers and 27 RBIs on the season, both team highs. The Pawtucket phenom, however, struck out in his last three at-bats, ending the game with a pair of runners on base who represented the tying runs . . . Before enjoying his first night off of the season, Salem shortstop Xander Bogaerts, one of the top prospects in the system, had hits in 10 of his last 11 games, including five extra-base hits in his last six games, tying him for Carolina League lead with seven doubles. Bogaerts reached base in 13 straight games, hitting .314 over that stretch.

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

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