PORTLAND — When Drake Britton pitched for the Portland Sea Dogs last summer, he seemed to turn his career around, firing his 95 mph fastball with confidence, and with an eye on pitching for the Boston Red Sox.
Britton, 23, has now put that career with the Red Sox in doubt.
According to media stories out of southwest Florida, Britton was arrested early Saturday morning for driving under the influence, reckless driving and property damage.
The stories, quoting the Lee County Sheriff’s report, stated that Britton was observed driving his Silverado pickup truck 111 mph in a 45 mph zone in Estero, a small city next to Fort Myers, where the Red Sox train.
With the sheriff’s officer in pursuit, Britton swerved between other moving vehicles, jumped a curb, knocked down a barbed-wire fence and continued down a dirt road before stopping at a wooded area, according to the sheriff’s report. He refused a breath test but the officer observed “slurred speech, bloodshot watery eyes and the strong odor of alcohol.”
Britton was arrested and taken to the Lee County Jail.
Britton was scheduled to pitch Sunday for the Red Sox in their exhibition game against the Yankees, but was scratched. On Monday, Britton and two other players were sent from the Red Sox camp to the minors camp, at the same Red Sox facility in Fort Myers.
Britton was assigned to the Sea Dogs, the team he finished the 2012 season with.
When reports of Britton’s arrest became public Tuesday, the Red Sox released a brief statement:
“This is a matter that the Red Sox take very seriously, and it is being addressed. The club will not make further comment on this matter.”
Later, Red Sox Manager John Farrell told espn.com/boston that “in this case with Drake we’re still gathering information and the facts of what transpired. Fortunately in this case, there was no one injured. But the bottom line is, it’s a very serious issue with us.”
Chris Cameron, Portland Sea Dogs assistant general manager and director of media relations, said “beyond what the Red Sox have said, we have no further comment.”
Britton came to Double-A Portland last June 1 as a touted left-handed pitching prospect who had struggled at advanced Class A Salem (6.91 ERA in 2011 and 5.80 in April and May of 2012).
But Britton turned it around with the Sea Dogs. He recorded a 3.72 ERA with Portland. When he made his last start of the 2012 season, he talked of his improvement.
“Ten times better,” Britton aid. “Being able to handle game situations and not letting things get out of control I’m able to have fun again.”
Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles praised Britton at the time: “This guy is definitely on a mission. He’s come a long way He’s a young guy with a bright future.”
Britton was taking part in his first major league spring training camp when he was arrested.
This is the second straight spring training that the Red Sox have had to deal with a DUI. Last March, veteran reliever Bobby Jenks was arrested for driving under the influence, destruction of personal property and leaving the scene of an accident.
Jenks was not likely to pitch for Boston last year after two back surgeries. He agreed with the Red Sox to have his contract terminated last July.
Britton is currently in minor league camp with Portland. The Sea Dogs are scheduled to begin exhibition games on March 13.