May 6, 2012

On Baseball: Injuries open door for a few Sea Dogs

PORTLAND - When the Portland Sea Dogs began to gather at the beginning of this season, the roster looked awfully crowded. Six outfielders and six infielders.

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Ronald Bermudez

2012 Minor League Headshot
click image to enlarge

Zach Gentile

Then came the attrition:

Injuries in Boston (Jacoby Ellsbury, then Jason Repko) led to call-ups from Pawtucket, and Sea Dogs infielder Jon Hee was needed to fill a vacancy in Triple-A.

Outfielder Peter Hissey was hit by a pitch and suffered a broken hand.

Infielder Heiker Meneses strained his shoulder and landed on the disabled list.

"Things have a way of working out. Things opened up," Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said. "Come out of spring training, and we're overloaded with personnel.

"All of a sudden, things start to thin out, and guys get their opportunities."

Two guys, in particular, are hoping to take advantage of the openings: outfielder Ronald Bermudez and newly arrived infielder Zach Gentile.

Bermudez, 23, began the season was the Sea Dogs but was ineligible to play. Officially, he was on the disabled list, but the disability was a bloated roster, not an injury.

It seemed strange that Bermudez was inactive after he spent 57 games in Triple-A last year, then moved down to Portland and hit .292.

But Bermudez, a man always with a smile, shrugged.

"Practice hard and stay positive," he said.

When Hissey was injured, Bermudez was activated on April 14 and went on a tear immediately. He has reached base in 13 of his first 15 game and is batting .327.

"He prepares as well as anybody," Red Sox minor league instructor Victor Rodriguez said.

Bermudez signed with the Red Sox as a 17-year-old out of Venezuela. He slowly moved up the system and started last season with advanced Class A Salem. But when Triple-A Pawtucket ran out of outfielders, Bermudez was called up on what was believed to be a temporary assignment.

Bermudez stayed through 57 games, batting a respectable .261 with three home runs, while playing a solid center field.

"I took advantage (of the opportunity)," Bermudez said.

This year he had to wait for his chance to play, and he has pounced on it.

"He has not had the normal string of development," Boles said. "Hard worker. Very intelligent. He knows how to play the game. It's been fun to watch him take hold of this opportunity."

GENTILE, LIKEWISE, was on the "phantom DL" in Salem to begin this season. When Meneses was injured on Saturday, Gentile was called up and activated.

Gentile (pronounced JEN-TILLY) has to claw out all the playing time he can, the result of being a 49th-round draft pick -- 1,477 overall -- in 2008, out of Western Michigan.

"Take advantage of your opportunities when you get them," Gentile said. "Don't let all the little things, like being on the DL or not playing everyday, get to your head."

Gentile went almost a month without seeing live pitching -- then he found out last Saturday that he was summoned to Portland.

Gentile's travels began at 5:30 a.m. Sunday. He flew from Roanoke, Va., to Charlotte, N.C., to Baltimore, to Portland. Gentile was dropped off at Hadlock Field at 12:15 p.m. -- 45 minutes before his first game of the season.

"My legs felt like they were still on the plane," Gentile said. "My mind was there, but my body was still catching up."

Gentile went 1 for 4 last Sunday while playing second base. He also played Wednesday, going 1 for 3 with a sacrifice bunt.

Gentile, 25, played in Class A the past three seasons -- two in Greenville, last year in Salem -- beginning each year as a backup and then earning more and more playing time. He batted .273 in 80 games last season.

At 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, with a nonstop style of play, Gentile reminds Red Sox and Sea Dogs fans of another second baseman who played here and is now in Boston.

"He's a scrappy little player," said Boles, who managed him in Greenville in 2009. "Plays hard every time he goes out there."

Staff writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

 

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