Friday June 22, 2012 | 08:36 AM

After Ryan Kalish, Daniel Nava and (especially) Will Middlebrooks came through in a big way in the Red Sox 6-5 win Thursday night, I heard a commentator says that "the kids led Boston."

Seems that way, except that Nava is 29. Unlike Kalish, 24, and Middlebrooks, 23, who were both drafted out of high school, Nava finished college and then toiled in the independent leagues before the Red Sox signed him.

A "non-prospect," Nava then worked his way through the minors. Nava is batting .340 and is clearly the surprise of the 2012 season.

The emergence of Kalish and Middlebrooks was also unexpected, because Kalish hadn't played in a year because of injuries and Middlebrooks was no inexperienced. But here they are.

Middlebrooks is becoming a force, showcased by his 4-RBI night on Thursday, highlighted by a game-tying two-run homer in the 8th inning. It is becoming harder and harder to keep him out of the lineup.

Speaking of kids, Jackie Bradley made his Double-A debut on Thursday. He swung at the first itch he saw, lining a lead-off single to right field in the first inning. He finished the night 1-for-4 with a walk and stolen base.

Defensively, Bradley looks like he could play center field in the majors right now.

Bradley, drafted in 2011 out of the University of South Carolina, turned 22 last April.

Peter Hissey, drafted out of high school in 2008, turned 22 last January. Hissey has been so-so in Class A ball, and he got off to a slow start this season with a broken hand. But he displayed some promise on Thursday with a single, double and triple.

Only problem for Hissey will be playing time. The Sea Dogs currently have five outfielder -Hissey, top prospects Bradley and Bryce Brentz, Oscar Tejeda (who is on the 40-man roster) and Jeremy Hazelbaker (who is on a hot streak).

"We got a full outfield right now," Sea Dogs manager Kevin Boles said.

The Red Sox will have an even bigger "problem" with their outfield when Ryan Sweeney, Scott Podsednik, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford come off the DL.


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.

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