May 5, 2013

On Baseball: Red Sox future is well-armed, a fearsome foursome at Hadlock

By Kevin Thomas
Staff Writer

BOSTON - Hadlock Field has featured its share of aces on the mound; pitchers with names like Jorge De La Rosa, Abe Alvarez, Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Felix Doubront and Junichi Tazawa.

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And there have been stellar rotations, like the 2005 group with Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, David Pauley and Kason Gabbard.

The 2010 rotation featured Doubront, Casey Kelly, Stephen Fife and Kyle Weiland.

But for talent and promise in Portland, the 2013 rotation may be the best bunch of arms the Red Sox have sent to Hadlock Field.

Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, Drake Britton and Matt Barnes.

They are all capable of dominating a game and they all have the major leagues in their future. All show off plus fastballs and developing change-ups, along with an assortment of breaking balls.

Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles has benefited from future major league pitchers on his team before. When he managed in the Twins' system, in Class A, he had Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey and Anthony Swarzak in 2005 and '06.

"But this rotation (in Portland) looks like it could be better," Boles said.

The fact that all four of these pitchers could be starters for the Red Sox is rare indeed.

"Look how hard it is to develop a No. 1, 2 or 3 starter," Boles said. "Not many guys have the mix or are wired to get 15 to 21 outs in a game."

And there is an obvious advantage to developing starters.

"Look at the cost of a No. 3 or 4 starter in the free-agent market," Boles said. "They are big money."

The two free agents on Boston's rotation are Ryan Dempster (two-year contract, $26.5 million) and John Lackey (five years, $82.5 million).

To sign Ranaudo, Workman, Britton and Barnes, Boston paid out $5.5 million in signing bonuses, but that is still a bargain if they reach their potential.

When any of the current foursome gets called up, they will be at the major league minimum ($490,000).

Or Boston could have still been paying Josh Beckett ($15.75 million this year), who is 0-4 for the Dodgers with a 5.24 ERA.

Here's a quick look at Portland's foursome:

Ranaudo, 23, drafted in sandwich round, 2011 ($2.5 million signing bonus). Once the Red Sox top pitching prospect, Ranaudo is rebounding from an injury-filled 2012. He is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA; 30 strikeouts/six walks in 27 innings.

Workman, 24, drafted in second round, 2010 ($800,000 signing bonus). Working in the shadows of higher-profile prospects, Workman's command is drawing attention. He is 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA (34 strikeouts/six walks in 292/3 innings). His cut fastball can be brilliant at times.

Britton, 23, drafted in 23rd round, 2007 ($700,000 signing bonus). Britton, a left-hander, may be the first to be promoted from Portland because this is his second year on the 40-man roster and he will be out of minor league options after next year. Britton is 2-2 with a 4.75 ERA (30 strikeouts/11 walks in 30 1/3 innings). Has been dominant at times; lost command at others.

Barnes, 22, drafted in first round, 2011 ($1.5 million signing bonus). Considered Boston's top pitching prospect, Barnes is the only one of the four who is new to Double-A this year. Barnes (2-1, 6.75 ERA) has had some clunkers, but also some lights-out performances. Has 27 strikeouts/eight walks in 20 innings.

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