March 11, 2010

No panic as Sox wait for Anderson

— PORTLAND — Before the Portland Sea Dogs left on their last trip, Lars Anderson spent extra time with hitting coach Dave Joppie, going over video.

When the Sea Dogs returned home this week, Anderson talked with Victor Rodriguez and Bruce Crabbe, roving instructors for the Boston Red Sox.

Just how many voices are in Anderson's head?

''You mean besides my own voices?'' quipped Anderson.

Despite the attention given to Anderson, officials in the Red Sox organization aren't panicking over his slow start. Anderson, a first baseman, is batting .241 with five home runs and 23 RBI, but showed signs of breaking out Thursday at Hadlock Field. Anderson hit a double to drive in two runs in the fifth inning, and capped the Sea Dogs' eight-run eighth with a two-run homer.

''He's traditionally a slow starter,'' Sea Dogs Manager Arnie Beyeler said, ''but a dangerous guy as you can see today.''

Baseball America has listed Anderson as Boston's No. 1 prospect, but the Red Sox know the hype doesn't match the reality. Here are two reasons:

1. Anderson is only 21. The Red Sox can be patient. And if you really want to play armchair general manager, Anderson likely won't be eased into the majors until 2010, with hopes for a more prominent role in 2011, assuming Kevin Youkilis moves to third after Mike Lowell is done.

2. Nothing Anderson has done creates doubts.

''He has a gift,'' Joppie said. ''He's got great hands. He's got a great swing. He's got power to all fields.

''It's nothing mechanical with Lars and never has been. It's more of a mind-set at the plate and getting him to be more aggressive.''

Mike Hazen, the Red Sox director of player development, also has been in Portland this week, along with the regularly scheduled visits by Rodriguez, the roving hitting coach, and Crabbe, the fielding rover.

Hazen isn't fretting over Anderson's numbers.

''When he continues to get back into his rhythm and his approach, he's going to be fine,'' Hazen said. ''He had a little bit of a blip last year about the exact same time.''

Last year, Anderson slumped in May in advanced Class A, going 6 for 47 (.128) in the first half of the month.

Anderson rebounded to bat .317, get promoted to Portland in mid-July, then hit .316 with five home runs in 41 games.

That memory is with Anderson, who batted .293 last month but is .172 (10 for 58) in May.

''The last few weeks have been less than desired,'' Anderson said earlier in the week. ''But I recall last year doing the same thing in the beginning of May.

''It's tough not to worry about it. That (worry will) be there. The question is how to switch it from a defensive/reactive state of mind to a proactive/aggressive state of mind.''

Anderson isn't getting a lot of pitches to hit. Sure he would love a selection of fastballs, but pitchers know Anderson and what he can do.

''He's got a good reputation and pitchers aren't giving in to him,'' Beyeler said.

Anderson has noticed.

''Last year I faced lot of fastballs,'' Anderson said. ''This year is what everyone says about Double-A: They'll throw whatever pitch in any count. I've found myself in two-strike counts a fair amount of time.

''I'll still get a pitch to drive in each at-bat. Now it's my job to make the adjustment and drive that pitch.''

That's the aggression Joppie is talking about. Anderson showed a bit of it last week when he homered twice in a game in New Britain.

Joppie and Anderson expect more good at-bats to follow.

Hazen and his bosses are waiting, very patiently.

''Lars is going to get things rolling here,'' Hazen said, ''and we're going to forget all about this (slump). He's fine.''

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

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