Aaron Cook Looking Sharp at Triple-A With Opt-Out Looming, Will Middlebrooks Swinging Hot Bat

Aaron Cook Looking Sharp at Triple-A With Opt-Out Looming, Will Middlebrooks Swinging Hot BatThings have not gone as planned for the Boston Red Sox, but down on the farm with the club’s Triple-A Pawtucket, there are plenty of things to be pleased about.

Perhaps most interestingly has been the work of veteran right-hander Aaron Cook, who was sent down at the end of spring training. With the big club’s pitching all over the place, Cook has been a rock for the PawSox.

He turned in his latest fine effort on Monday night at McCoy Stadium, shutting down the Durham Bulls with seven innings of one-run ball. The 33-year-old is now 3-0 on the young season with a sparkling 1.33 ERA. Obviously pitching in the International League is a lot different than the AL East, but Cook’s dominance is worth noting considering not only the struggles in Boston, but Cook also has an opt-out clause for May 1. 

The former Colorado hurler would be able to opt out of his deal on May 1 if he’s not moved to the big league roster. However, it’s not necessarily a certainty that he would do that. Cook was on WEEI on Tuesday afternoon to talk about his situation, and he revealed that he also has a separate June 1 opt-out clause. For it to get to that, however, Cook would also receive a bonus from the organization.

“It’s always in the back of your mind, but that’s something that you can’t control until it comes,” he said on Mutt and Merloni. “As of right now, I’m still down here, and I’m gonna do what I can to win my next start. Until then, I’m down here doing what I can.

“I have the May 1 opt-out, and if I stick around a little bit longer, I have a June 1 [clause], get a little extra bonus. There’s another buy-out, bonus, slash extra day in there so I don’t know how much discussion there would be.”

Cook, who is pleased with his improving velocity, said that he’d rather operate as a starter, but he does have some experience as a reliever. With that being said, he also hinted that he may have other options as a starter if it’s not in Boston. If that’s the case, an opt-out would seem more likely, especially if the Red Sox’ plans for him involve using him as anything but a starter at the big league level.

On the other side of the ball, third baseman Will Middlebrooks is on fire right now. The highly touted prospect blasted another home run on Monday night, his eighth of the young season. Monday night’s blast, a three-run shot, was absolutely unloaded on. See proof in the video below.

In Middlebrooks’ last 10 games, he has belted seven home runs to go along with 22 RBIs over the same stretch of time. It’s a small sample size, sure, but it seems like Middlebrooks is going to do all that he can to put the front office on notice.

Even with the early struggles of Kevin Youkilis, it’s probably way too early to start to call for Middlebrooks to assume the starting job in Boston. But if both players continue on anything resembling the pace they’re currently on, things will certainly get interesting.

Left-hander Andrew Miller also got some work in during the first game of the doubleheader in Pawtucket by working a scoreless seventh for the save. Miller now has 7 1/3 innings under his belt this season between Greenville and Pawtucket. His ERA is 4.91 thanks to a brutal four-run outing in just 1/3 of an inning on April 15. Other than that, though, it’s been smooth sailing for Miller, who is rehabbing a hamstring injury.

However, Miller is out of options, so that complicates his situation a little bit.    

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