READING, Pa. — Remember the last time a hotshot 20-year-old-shortstop joined the Portland Sea Dogs?

Everyone was happy to see Hanley Ramirez in August 2004. Everyone but Kenny Perez.

“It’s a disappointment,” Perez said back then. Perez wasn’t begrudging Ramirez, just unhappy about moving from shortstop to second base.

Perez complained he always had been a shortstop, “but I have to play where they ask me to play.”

Now along comes Jose Iglesias, 20, the Cuban defector Boston signed to an $8.25 million contract last year. Iglesias figured to begin his first pro season in Class A, but after wowing the Red Sox brass in spring training, is with the Double-A Sea Dogs.

So what does that mean for Yamaico Navarro?

“I’ve changed,” Navarro said in his still-improving English.

When Navarro showed up in Portland last July, he was the latest shortstop prospect. When asked back then what other positions he played, Navarro said quickly: “I am a shortstop.”

It is indeed the glamour position of the infield, where the best players are put — until they are moved to make room for someone else.

Kenny Perez wasn’t the only player moved because of Hanley Ramirez. When the 2006 Sea Dogs season began, another middle infielder was pushed to second base. And things worked out for Dustin Pedroia.

But back to Navarro, 22, who signed with Boston as a 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic. Despite a .185 average in his brief sampling (39 games) with Portland last year, Navarro remains a prospect.

He’s at third base, which is a position that suits him, especially if his potential power is fulfilled. He’s a line-drive hitter who can put on a show in batting practice.

And he can play a solid third base. In only two games this season, he has handled the position with quick reflexes and very good range.

On Friday night, on a grounder to the hole, Navarro burst to his left, gloved it, spun around and fired a strike to first base.

“I like being a shortstop,” Navarro said. “They say you move to third base. I said OK. I’m happy. I’m playing.”


WHEN JOSH BECKETT signed his four-year extension, it gave the Red Sox four quality starters — Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey and Clay Buchholz — committed through 2014.

Plus there are two others signed beyond this year — Tim Wakefield (2011) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (2012).

But what if you’re a starting pitcher in the minors? It seems there’s no room at the top.

“You can’t think about that,” Sea Dogs starter Kyle Weiland said. “You’ve just got to go about your business every day. You can only control so much.

“What happens up there, you definitely can’t control. It’s not even worth thinking about.”

Weiland, 23, was a closer at Notre Dame, so it’s not a stretch to think the bullpen may be in his future with Boston.

But Felix Doubront always has been a starter. Still, he sees other pitchers who first got to the majors as a reliever.

“If I have to change (roles) to go up, it doesn’t matter,” Doubront said.

The same likely can be said for Michael Bowden, a former Sea Dogs starter now in Pawtucket.

And as Boston continues to develop pitchers, they will be used as trading chips, like Justin Masterson in the Victor Martinez deal with Cleveland.


SPEAKING OF MASTERSON, he had his first start Thursday, allowing four hits and one run over five innings in a no-decision. He struck out five.


IGGY SUAREZ will be remembered as one of the most popular Sea Dogs. He made a brief appearance in 2006, then played most of the next three seasons for Portland, a dependable infielder.

Suarez, who turns 29 next month, visited his old teammates Friday in Reading, Pa. Suarez drove over from New Jersey, where he’s preparing to train with the Somerset Patriots, based in Bridgewater, N.J.

The Patriots, managed by Sparky Lyle, are part of the independent Atlantic League. They give players like Suarez a chance to keep playing.

“The idea (of not playing) has always been in my head,” said Suarez, who wasn’t re-signed by the Red Sox. “As soon as my (winter) season ended in Puerto Rico, time went on and nothing was happening.

“Spring training was starting everywhere and I’m thinking ‘this window is closing fast.’

“Then I got a call from my agent (David Abramson of Portland) and this came up.”


OTHER PORTLAND ALUMNI who are elsewhere include catcher George Kottaras (’06). The Red Sox released him after this season and Milwaukee picked him up. He stuck with the Brewers as Gregg Zaun’s backup.

Reliever Chris Province (’09) was traded in the offseason to the Twins in the Boof Bonser deal. He will see his old teammates Monday as part of the New Britain Rock Cats’ bullpen.

Outfielder Brandon Moss (’05-06) has remained with the Pirates’ organization after being taken off the 40-man roster. He’s with Triple-A Indianapolis.


THE HOME OPENER Thursday at Hadlock Field will have a few celebrities on hand. Former New York Yankees manager (and Harpswell resident) Stump Merrill will throw out the first pitch. Jonathan Edwards, who frequents Portland often with intimate concerts, will sing the national anthem. Edwards is best known for his 1971 hit “Sunshine.”


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

[email protected]


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