FORT MYERS, Fla. — We interrupt the ongoing and well-publicized competition for the Boston Red Sox starting center-field job between Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. to take a look at the corners.
We know the starters – Shane Victorino in right, and Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava sharing time in left, with utilityman Mike Carp also available for duty in left.
For readily available depth in the minors, Boston has two former Sea Dogs who again will start the season in Pawtucket. And if they can stay healthy, one or both could find their way to Fenway Park.
Alex Hassan and Bryce Brentz, both 25, finally took part in a major league spring training camp. Both were invited to last year’s camp but missed out because of injury.
They offer different skills, Hassan his patient plate approach, Brentz his power. Hassan sports a career .401 on-base percentage in the minors, while Brentz hit 66 home runs in his past three seasons, including 17 in only 82 games with Pawtucket last season.
Both play either corner, although Hassan has spent more time in left, Brentz in right.
Hassan, who turns 26 on April 1, broke through with the Sea Dogs in 2011, batting .291 in 126 games with an 8.60 OPS (.404 on-base percentage and .456 slugging percentage). There were comparisons made to Kevin Youkilis in the way Hassan was selective at the plate and worked walks.
In 2012, the combination of injuries and too much tinkering with his stance dropped Hassan to .256 (.743 OPS) in 94 games in Pawtucket.
“In an ideal world, you’ll do everything well but that’s not the reality,” Hassan said. “There are some things I do well that I need to continue. I’ll certainly try to improve in other areas but I don’t want to lose who I am in the process.”
Boston showed confidence in Hassan and placed him on the 40-man roster before the 2013 season – a campaign begun with a broken foot. Hassan ended up spending two stints on the disabled list but still batted .311 (.891 OPS) in 55 games.
“It was an up-and-down year but I got through it,” Hassan said.
“I was pleased with the way I played once I got on the field. Ended on a high note.”
In his first taste of major league spring-training camp, Hassan got into 10 games this month and batted only .143 (3 for 21). He should get a larger sample size to prove himself in Pawtucket.
“I feel good. I feel confident,” he said.
Brentz is also confident. He remains a top prospect (16th on the Baseball America list of Boston players).
Brentz came to Portland in 2012 with a power hitter’s reputation (30 Class A home runs in 2011) and swatted 17 homers at Hadlock Field while batting .296 (.833 OPS). That OPS was due to Brentz’s slugging. He drew only 40 walks (to 130 strikeouts) that year.
Injuries limited Brentz to 82 games in Pawtucket last year. He hit .264 (.788 OPS) with 17 home runs.
“To play 80-something games and have the numbers I had, I was happy with it,” Brentz said. “A lot of people playing a full season didn’t have those.”
Boston put Brentz on the 40-man roster this past offseason. He came into camp and quickly showed his muscle, belting three home runs in nine games while batting .409. Manager John Farrell used words like “raw power” and “strong prospect” when talking up Brentz.
Brentz, like Hassan, has been sent down to minor league camp, although Brentz was called up the major league game Friday.
Brentz’s work ahead is to manage his at-bats better, i.e. incorporate a little of Hassan’s discipline.
“It’s gotten better,” Brentz said. “I’m drawing more walks.”
The Red Sox want a selective slugger. Home-grown power hitters are rare.
Brentz’s performance could mean he’s getting close to helping in Boston.
“This spring was really good, helping out with my confidence,” he said. “Now I have to carry that over (into the season).”
The Red Sox don’t have a lot of outfield depth in the system, but they have their corners covered if they need a little backup.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: