PORTLAND – When the Boston Red Sox learned Andrew Miller’s foot injury would require season-ending surgery, the loss was two-fold. Miller was not only an effective reliever, he was an effective left-handed reliever.
“You know how it is with lefties in this industry,” Portland Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said. “They’re craving for lefties.”
And if that left-hander can throw a fastball that reaches 95 mph, all the better.
Will Latimer is a little-known pitcher in a Red Sox organization full of prospects. He has such a fastball.
Latimer, whose fastball has improved along with his ERA, is attracting attention. And while Sea Dogs right-hander Anthony Ranaudo gets the start today in the Eastern League All-Star game, Latimer will be there, too.
“He has definitely put himself on the radar with that velocity ticking up,” Boles said.
Latimer is locating that 93-95 mph fastball better, along with a complimentary change-up. He has recorded a 2.18 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 15 walks in 33 innings.
Latimer, 27, was a 22nd-round draft pick out of Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado (Latimer is from Bayfield, in southwest Colorado).
Slowed by injury early, Latimer began moving up the chain in the Sox organization.
He recorded a 2.93 ERA in advanced Class A Salem in 2011, making the Carolina League All-Star game.
Latimer spent most of last season in Portland and saw his ERA rise to 4.81.
“Last year was a tough one, a learning process,” Latimer said. “When you get to Double-A the hitters have an idea of what they want to do. You have to be a smart pitcher out there and not just throw whatever.”
Latimer is now smarter and stronger.
“I think my stuff is a little bit better than last year. That doesn’t hurt,” Latimer said. “Just throwing a good fastball down in the zone. I’m able to throw a fastball in. And I’m just keeping my change-up down.”
The success is coming despite bone chips in Latimer’s elbow. He will have surgery in the offseason to clean it out.
This will be a big offseason for Latimer for other reasons. He will be a minor league free agent and can gauge the interest of the Red Sox against other teams.
“I’m trying not to think about it too much,” he said. “Just trying to get better every day and stay consistent.”
Latimer has another All-Star honor to hold onto.
LATIMER IS ONE of the five Sea Dogs who will appear Wednesday night at the All-Star game in New Britain, Conn. He and Ranaudo are the only Portland pitchers.
Drake Britton was named to the team before receiving a promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Christian Vazquez is scheduled to start at catcher. His backup in Portland, Matt Spring, is also one of the backups in the All-Star game. Michael Almanzar is on the team but it’s not known if he will play first or third base.
Almanzar also is scheduled to compete in the home run derby before the game.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at [email protected]