BOSTON — The Fenway Park home team clubhouse is always crowded this time of season, but 2010 offers an unusual look.
Walk in and glance at the names atop the lockers: Felix Doubront, Ryan Kalish, Yamaico Navarro, Robert Coello, Lars Anderson.
Close your eyes and think back to April in the Portland Sea Dogs’ clubhouse beyond the right-field wall at Hadlock Field.
All five players were there, starting the season in Portland.
Never has the Portland-to-Boston pipeline been so active.
“This is so awesome, having everyone here,” said Kalish, who arrived in Boston on July 31.
Add to those five the recent call-ups of other former Sea Dogs, such as outfielders Josh Reddick and Daniel Nava and pitchers Michael Bowden and Dustin Richardson, and this is truly a Hadlock reunion.
Of course, this injection of young players into the majors would not be necessary if the Red Sox had not been leveled by injuries (a first baseman, second baseman and two outfielders at last count) and a faulty bullpen, which has shed some of its veterans (Manny Delcarmen, Ramon Ramirez and, eventually, Hideki Okajima).
So, is this a tryout for the kids or a chance to help the team?
Kalish, Navarro and Anderson were in Monday’s lineup and the media blogs were cracking that Boston was raising a white flag. Then the Red Sox beat Tampa Bay 12-5, with Kalish clubbing a grand slam and Navarro adding a sacrifice fly.
None of the three were in Tuesday’s lineup against left-hander David Price, but they will be ready, as will Coello.
“I’m here to get in my innings and help this team win,” Coello said.
Coello made his major league debut Monday and it was forgettable. He retired only one of six batters, allowing three runs. But Boston already had a big lead, so no harm done.
“I didn’t pitch with my strengths,” said Coello. “I’ll definitely turn the page and be ready when I get the ball again.”
Coello could be an intriguing piece in a Boston bullpen that will be rebuilt in the offseason. Doubront and Bowden are the better-known prospects likely to eat up innings before Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon enter the game.
But Coello has 130 strikeouts in 107 innings in Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. That is second in the Red Sox organization to Jon Lester, who has 196 strikeouts in 182 innings.
Coello was drafted in 2004 by Cincinnati as a catcher, but was released in 2006. The Angels signed him, noticed his strong arm and asked him to pitch.
“I kind of just got on the mound and started throwing,” Coello said.
With a fastball, forkball, curveball and change-up, he did well in rookie ball that year (1.37 ERA), but the Angels gave up on him and Coello found himself in the independent leagues.
Boston signed him before the 2009 season. After spending that year in Class A, he began this season in Portland, but eventually entered the pipeline to Fenway.
“The whole season I’ve worked on becoming a major league pitcher,” he said. “Just waiting for the call.”
That call came last Saturday, a day before Anderson was informed of his promotion.
“I was all packed and ready to go home (to California),” Anderson said. “I had hopes of coming here, but I didn’t have a real feeling (if it would happen) one way or another.”
Anderson went 0 for 4 in his debut Monday. He said he wasn’t nervous: “Excited, but calm.”
Too much can be made of playing part time in September. The idea is to get these player acclimated to the majors. Bowden made his major league debut in 2008.
“Every time I come up, I feel more and more comfortable — with the guys and the routine, with (Manager Terry Francona) and (pitching coach) John Farrell,” Bowden said. “More and more relaxed, like I know what I’m doing and I should be here.”
Making it is one thing. Belonging is another.
Because of the wreck that is the bullpen, every arm will get a chance to contribute. The opportunity is there.
Kalish, Reddick and Nava may all be back in Pawtucket at the start of next season, assuming Boston keeps outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew and Darnell McDonald – although Kalish has made an impression that may hasten his return to Boston.
Navarro and Anderson are also likely headed back to Triple-A, with much competition for their infield spots, especially from two Sea Dogs: shortstop Jose Iglesias and first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
Not everyone will stay at Fenway, of course. Boston will not rebuild entirely with prospects. Some, like David Murphy, Brandon Moss and Justin Masterson before them, will leave in trades.
Other prospects will arrive at the Fenway doorstep next year. The pipeline from Portland will continue.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]