PORTLAND — The Portland Sea Dogs may have an unimpressive 28-40 record so far this season, but there is a reason the Boston Red Sox are especially interested in the goings-on at Hadlock Field.
Portland is where some of the most promising pitchers in the Boston organization are, and three will be on display when the Sea Dogs begin a brief, three-day home stand tonight at 7 p.m.
Anthony Ranaudo goes tonight, Chris Hernandez Wednesday and Drake Britton Thursday.
The Red Sox would love to develop more homegrown talent on the mound, in the fashion of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront and, until his recent demotion, Daniel Bard.
Factor homegrown pitchers against pricey free agents, and it’s easy to see the advantage of developing arms rather than buying them later.
Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey are costing the Red Sox $49.5 million this year (figuring in one-sixth of the posting fee for Dice-K). Beckett has four wins. Matsuzaka is 0-2 and Lackey is out for the year.
It is not a coincidence that, after choosing Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero in the first round of the 2012 draft, the next eight Boston picks were pitchers.
Ranaudo, 22, was the darling of Boston’s 2010 draft picks. This spring, Ranaudo was slowed by a strained groin muscle and he has not found his groove yet in six starts with the Sea Dogs (1-2, 6.51 ERA, 20 strikeouts/20 walks in 272/3 innings).
Hernandez, 23, also came from the 2010 draft and is following a solid 2011 season in Salem (3.18 ERA) with a better one in Portland (2.89). In 13 starts and 742/3 innings, he has 41 strikeouts/26 walks.
Britton, 23, looks to have recovered from a terrible 2011 in Salem (1-13, 6.91). Since his recent promotion to Portland, Britton has a 1.10 ERA in three starts.
IF MATT BARNES comes to Portland this season, the potential of this Sea Dogs rotation becomes even more magnified.
Barnes, who turned 22 two days ago, was the Red Sox’ first-round pick last year, out of the University of Connecticut. This is his first pro season.
After going 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA in Greenville, Barnes is 5-1 with a 1.37 ERA in eight starts with Salem (53 strikeouts/eight walks in 46 innings).
“He hasn’t had too much of an adjustment period to pro ball,” Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett said. “He’s routine-oriented, really consistent with his approach, and aggressive with all the things you look for.”
Could Barnes make the jump to Double-A in his first season?
“Nothing would be off the table by any means,” Crockett said.
OUTFIELDER JACKIE BRADLEY remains the most likely player to be promoted from Salem, among the everyday players.
Another high 2011 draft pick, Bradley, 22, is dominating the Carolina League with a .359 average and .480 on-base percentage.
PROMOTIONS FOR THE home stand this week at Hadlock Field include a Jacoby Ellsbury bobblehead doll give-away to the first 1,000 fans through the gate tonight, Jimmy Buffet night on Wednesday (beach towels to the first 1,000 fans), and fireworks after Thursday night’s game.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org