Sunday July 10, 2011 | 07:14 AM

Just over four months ago, while watching spring training games, I was talking to Red Sox minor league officials  trying to figure out the Sea Dogs rotation. I guessed right when throwing out names like Fife, Miller and Pimentel.

Kyle Weiland?

The reply was quick: No way.

The Red Sox had bigger plans for Weiland ... a quicker path to the big leagues, which begins today with his first major league start.

Weiland was 5-9 for the Sea Dogs in 2010 with a 4.42 ERA. Hardly staggering numbers. But the Red Sox like his stuff.

In 2009, Weiland was okay in advanced Class A (7-9, 3.46 ERA). But the Red Sox saw potential.

''At the end of the year, you look at his numbers and they compare with just about anybody in the Carolina League," Red Sox VP/Player Development Mike Hazen said at the Red Sox rookie camp in January of 2010. ''Hopefully, he can process that more ... that consistency of performance. Consistency to throw his curve for a strike a little more often; the consistency to throw his change-up for a strike a little bit more often.
''He's got a very heavy sinker that he gets a ton of ground balls with. But he can also strike guys out with his curveball.''

Consistency was always the issue with Weiland, as it is with every minor league pitcher.

Here is part of a game story from April of last year: 

On one side of the diamond were the visiting Binghamton Mets, the hottest-hitting team in the Eastern League.
On the other side was Kyle Weiland, 23, a young pitcher still in search of consistency.
It wasn't an ideal match-up for the Portland Sea Dogs.
Weiland showed the stuff that makes him a Boston Red Sox prospect, but he also got hit hard in what ended up as a 10-4 Mets victory Wednesday at Hadlock Field.
Weiland allowed eight runs on six hits and three walks over four innings. But he also struck out five.
''He didn't pitch too bad between the blasts, '' Sea Dogs Manager Arnie Beyeler said.
Weiland (0-2) was throwing strikes but sometimes left them over the plate too much ...

In 2010, despite his record and ERA, Weiland also had 120 strikeouts, and his opponents' batting average was .236.

He is leaving fewer fastballs over the plate this year. Before his call-up, Weiland was 8-6 in Pawtucket with a 3.00 ERA, and 99 strikeouts in 93 innings. Opponents are batting .206.

Weiland was a third-round draft pick in 2008 out of Notre Dame and received a signing bonus of about $320,000. He was a collegiate closer, finishing games for the Fighting Irish.

He projects to eventually become a reliever again. But he's pitching well as a starter, and the Red Sox could use one today.

 

About this Blog

Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

Follow his thoughts on the Boston Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs on Clearing the Bases

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