PORTLAND – Portland Sea Dogs right-hander Stephen Fife, 23, waited Friday to start his first game at Hadlock Field. But he will have to wait some more; the game was rained out.

In Harrisburg, Pa., super prospect Stephen Strasburg prepared for his first start for the Washington Nationals’ Double-A team.

And yes, there is a connection between the two.

While everyone knows about Strasburg, the top draft pick last year out of San Diego State, signing a record $15 million contract, Fife has been a solid prospect, just not as well known.

But were it not for Strasburg, fewer would have heard of Fife. And he would not have been a third-round draft choice by the Boston Red Sox in 2008.

“I was just a fringe prospect,” Fife said. “I didn’t have any draft history. Nobody saw me in high school. Nobody saw me in junior college. Nobody saw me my sophomore year as a reliever at Utah.

“Then things kind of just blew up all of a sudden.”

What happened that spring of 2008 was perfect timing. Fife, a junior starter for the University of Utah, was scheduled to start a Thursday night game at San Diego State against a sophomore named Strasburg.

Although Strasburg wasn’t eligible for the draft, scouts flocked to watch him.

“About 25 of the 30 teams were there,” Fife said. “Some brought two scouts, so there were about 40 scouts in the stands. And they had their (radar) guns.

“It was kind of funny. You get to your rocker step (in the windup) and all of a sudden everybody’s hands go up, kind of like the wave happening in a short, little section of the crowd.”

The guns confirmed how special Strasburg was.

“He sat 99 (mph) in the ninth and had topped at 103,” Fife said. “He threw a complete- game, three-hit shutout with 23 strikeouts. It was silly.

“That game, I was like 90, 91 (mph), topped at 95, and I felt like a Little Leaguer.”

Fife also kept his team in the game. Utah lost 1-0 on an unearned run.

The next day, Fife figured life would return to normal. But when he arrived at his locker, it was full of cards and letters from scouts.

Then the phone rang every night. Scouts and agents on the line.

“Pretty wild how fast it happened,” Fife said.

When the draft took place in June, Fife was the 85th overall player chosen. The Red Sox signed him for a reported $460,000.

Now all Fife had to do was perform as a pro. The Red Sox asked him to stop throwing his slider so he could simply concentrate on his fastball, curve and change-up.

Fife pitched in Lowell in 2008 and after starting 2009 with shoulder trouble, pitched for both low Class A Greenville and advanced Class A Salem last year. He demonstrated his command with 86 strikeouts in 88 innings, and only 14 walks.

But Fife thought he was behind in his development and believed he would have to compete for a spot in the Salem starting rotation again this spring.

Instead the Red Sox told Fife he had a chance to go to Double-A, and he earned a spot in Portland.

Fife hopes to make his Hadlock debut today if the weather cooperates.

He’s expected to be in the Sea Dogs’ rotation all year, so it will be interesting at the end of June when Harrisburg visits.

Maybe there will be a Strasburg-Fife rematch. One pitcher still gets all the publicity, but Fife is no longer an unknown. 

NOTE: Friday night’s rained- out game will be made up as part of a doubleheader at 1 p.m. May 22. 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]