PORTLAND – When shortstop Stephen Drew came to Portland on a rehab assignment, top prospect Xander Bogaerts moved from shortstop to designated hitter.
That moved squeezed Michael Almanzar out of the opening day lineup Thursday, but he has since played Friday (at third base) and Sunday (first base).
He may have to stay in the batting order for now. Almanzar hit two home runs Sunday and is batting .571 through two games.
His production was part of four home runs by the Sea Dogs at Hadlock Field, but Portland still lost to the Trenton Thunder, 9-7.
Shannon Wilkerson and Derrick Gibson also homered for the Sea Dogs.
Drew, who played short for all nine innings, went 0-for-4 with a walk. With Saturday’s game “frozen out,” Drew is expected to stay in Portland for Monday’s game and maybe through Tuesday (since the Red Sox are off that day).
Portland never led in Sunday’s game as Sea Dogs starter Kyle Kaminska allowed five runs on nine hits and a walk over five innings.
Kaminska, acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates last December, “made quality pitches,” according to Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles, “but he left some up, and that is a potent lineup. They found some holes.”
Reliever Daniel Bard replaced Kaminska in the sixth and put in a promising outing. He needed only eight pitches (seven strikes) to retire the side on a popup, strikeout and groundout.
“Attacking the zone, his delivery was real clean today,” Boles said.
“Hopefully a sign of good things to come.”
Portland rallied against Trenton, but the Thunder scored four more runs over two innings off new reliever Miguel Celestino.
With a 13 mph wind behind him, Almanzar, 22, crushed a ball over the center field wall in the fourth. He cleared the left field Monster in the eighth.
“He’s really worked hard on letting his swing work for him,” said hitting coach Rich Gedman, who also worked with Almanzar last season in advanced Class A Salem.
It was in Salem last year that Almanzar began to show his potential, batting .300 with 36 doubles and 12 home runs.
Almanzar, 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, signed with Boston as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. He received a $1.5-million signing bonus. But in his first four years as a pro, Almanzar batted .229 with a total of 21 home runs and 70 doubles. Then came his breakout season last year.
And he is certainly off to a good start this year.
“From a couple of years ago to now, he has completely matured,” said Boles, who managed Almanzar in 2009.
NOTES: The announced paid attendance was 4,092. Former Sea Dogs outfielder Alex Hassan was placed on Pawtucket’s disabled list with a strained calf. Pawtucket won Sunday with ex-Dogs Jeremy Hazelbaker (.353) getting two hits and Bryce Brentz (.368) hitting his fourth double. Former Portland pitcher Stolmy Pimentel, traded to Pittsburgh in the off-season, pitched six scoreless innings for Double-A Altoona, allowing two hits, striking out four. When the Sea Dogs postponed Saturday’s game, it was not just because of the cold and wind. Parts of the field were frozen.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: