Saturday, April 19, 2014
By Kevin Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
PORTLAND - As the Portland Sea Dogs begin a nine-game, eight-day home stand Monday night at Hadlock Field, the Red Sox will take the day off, having reached their 50th win on Sunday.
It is only the fourth time in Red Sox history they've reached 50 wins before July.
Meanwhile, the Sea Dogs (41-38) sit in second place in the Eastern League East Division.
GARIN CECCHINI went 2 for 5 Sunday to continue his torrid start in Double-A. He is batting .364 with the Sea Dogs.
Cecchini will find out Monday if he's been selected to the Major League All-Stars Futures Game. Cecchini was one of five players vying for the final spot on the U.S. team -- with fans voting for the final player (a gimmick also used for the major league game).
The Red Sox gamble on Cecchini is paying off. Cecchini did not play his senior season in high school because of a knee injury. Fortunately for Boston, the Red Sox had already done their homework on Cecchini in the fall and spring of his junior season.
"We got the opportunity to scout him before he got hurt and he did really well," Boston assistant general manager Mike Hazen said. "One of our better evaluators, Mark Wasinger, was there and really liked him.
"Saw him again in the spring and we loved him. Then he got hurt. So we filed (the information) away."
The Red Sox kept that file on Cecchini and, in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, with their sixth pick (the 143rd overall), they got him.
HAZEN WAS IN PORTLAND last week and watched Anthony Ranaudo pitch, while gathering reports on other players, including fellow pitcher Drake Britton.
He liked the heat Ranaudo was bringing.
"The conviction with his fastball is way better from what it was," Hazen said, referring to Ranaudo's injury-plagued 2012.
"His ability to drive the fastball through the strike zone has been a difference for him The generation of swings and misses has been very impressive."
Britton also delivers a commanding fastball. But it was Britton's slider that has Hazen pleased.
"The development of that breaking ball that's helped him be more consistent," Hazen said.
"He keeps the batters off balance, off the fastball -- and it plays the (fastball) velocity up for him. He has more weapons."
SO WHY ARE BOTH Ranaudo and Britton still in Double-A? Ranaudo has been dominating (even though he gave up five runs Sunday, his ERA is still 2.68), and Britton is doing well, while in his second year on the 40-man roster.
The answer is depth.
Four of Pawtucket's regular starting five have been in the majors this year, including Allen Webster, who is with Boston now, filling in for the injured Clay Buchholz.
Then there is Alfredo Aceves, Rubby De La Rosa and Steven Wright. Brandon Workman was earlier promoted from Portland and has a 3.41 ERA. Chris Hernandez has been bouncing between the bullpen and the rotation.
In Portland, there is Britton and Ranaudo, knuckleball pitcher Charlie Haeger, who has 34 games of major league experience, touted prospect Matt Barnes, and Keith Couch.
There is certainly competition within the system.
"It's a good problem to have and we haven't had it in a while," Hazen said. "When we were really good (at player development), this was the problem we had. It's good to get back to it.
"These are the types of things we have to develop in order to be a consistent winner at the major league level again."
So, while fans are enjoying their stay in Portland, are Ranaudo and Britton stuck in Double-A all year?
"When guys are ready to go, we won't hold guys up because of the situation," Hazen said. "We'll figure out ways to get guys where they'll need to be."
JONATHAN DIAZ did not come up through the Red Sox system. Drafted by Toronto in 2006, he'd been in the Blue Jays organization until signing with Boston before this season.
He never reached the majors with Toronto. Diaz, who is married with three children, turned 28 in April. He had to wonder if he would ever make the big leagues -- and April did not help.
"I think I had four hits in April," Diaz said of his .095 batting average (4 for 42).
"Baseball is a hard sport and you just try to stay positive. You never know what's going to happen. I just tried to keep my work ethic up and play hard."
Those words should be posted in every minor league clubhouse. Diaz spoke them from the Boston Red Sox dugout on Saturday.
Diaz's batting came around, and with Boston needing an infielder on Saturday, Diaz got called up.
"It was an amazing feeling," Diaz said 90 minutes before the game. "You can imagine something you work for your whole life and get the opportunity to do it."
As opportunity would have it, he scored the winning run in a 5-4 victory the next day.
THE HOME STAND at Hadlock Field is filled with promotions: A pre-game concert by Motor Booty Affair (Monday), an appearance by Bernie Carbo at Tuesday's doubleheader, Civil War Night (Wednesday), fireworks (Thursday), Clay Buchholz bobbleheads (Friday), "Jersey Off Their Back" fundraiser (Saturday), Halloween at Hadlock (Sunday) and a noon weekday game (July 8).
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: