Make a list of current, longtime Red Sox players, and names like Wakefield, Varitek, Ortiz and Youkilis come to mind.

Then there are Delcarmen, Dusty Brown, Papelbon, Lester, Pedroia and Hottovy.


Tommy Hottovy, 28, the left-handed Sea Dogs reliever, has one of the longest tenures in the Boston organization. He was drafted in 2004, the same year as Dustin Pedroia.

Pedroia was taken in the second round, showed up in Portland the next year and became the Sox’s mainstay at second base two years later.

Hottovy, drafted in the fourth round out of Wichita State, first came to Portland at the end of the 2006 season. He made seven starts (4.17 ERA) and played a role in the Sea Dogs’ Eastern League championship run that year.

A lefty with command, it seemed Hottovy was just getting on track.

Instead, he was slowly going the wrong way. He struggled with forearm pain and had a 5.61 ERA with Portland in 2007.

After two starts in 2008, the pain intensified. More examinations followed and Hottovy underwent Tommy John elbow surgery. He began working his way back as a reliever last year, making 16 appearances for the Sea Dogs (3.46 ERA).

Now in 2010, on a young team, Hottovy feels like he is just getting started — again.

“I love the way I feel. The last time I could honestly say I felt good was the end of 2006,” Hottovy said. “Now I’m able to do things I haven’t been able to do in four years.”

Hottovy came out strong and had a 2.66 ERA on May 10.

“But I told myself, good or bad, I’m not going to look at my numbers,” he said.

The numbers were not so good in late May and early June as his ERA rose to 5.50. But Hottovy said his goal isn’t only lights-out performances in Double-A, but finding a way to be good enough for the majors.

“I’m working on some different arm angles,” he said. “I know if I’m going to be successful and make it to the big leagues, I’m going to have to consistently get left-handed hitters out.”

On June 4 at Hadlock Field, the Sea Dogs finished a previously suspended game with the Reading Phillies. Hottovy entered in the sixth inning. He gave up a home run but then pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings as Portland led, 7-5.

In the seventh inning with a runner on second base, Hottovy struck out Reading’s dangerous left-handed hitter, Domonic Brown. He showed Brown different angles and different pitches before freezing him with an over-the-top fastball.

But in the ninth, Hottovy allowed a leadoff walk. Then with two outs, he gave up a single to Brown, a walk, a two-run single and a three-run, walk-off home run by the left-handed Brian Stavisky.

“I left it over the plate,” said Hottovy, who has marched on from that meltdown.

One source of consolation has been frequent conversations and texts from Andrew Dobies, another lefty who came to Portland in 2006 with Hottovy. Dobies also has battled injuries and is coming back as a reliever. Boston traded him to the White Sox earlier this season and he is with Double-A Birmingham.

Despite this being his fifth season in Portland and his recent struggles, Hottovy said he feels renewed. Health has a lot to do with it, and the possibilities that go with it.

“It is a lot of work. You put in a lot of time and sometimes you lose sight on how fun it is,” Hottovy said. “I’m having a lot of fun.

“It’s tough when things aren’t going your way all the time, you’re not putting up the numbers people want to see, but I’m learning. Continuing to get better, continuing to get stronger. Just looking forward to my next outing.”

In Hottovy’s last outing on Thursday, he retired the six batters he faced, three by strikeout.

The promise is still there.

The Red Sox and Hottovy have decisions to make after the season, when Hottovy becomes a minor-league free agent.

Whether he’s with the Red Sox or not, Hottovy plans to keep pitching.

“I’m thankful for what I’ve been able to do with baseball and grateful I still have the ability to do it,” he said. “I’m going to do it as long as I can.”

He said he also is grateful for his “awesome and real supportive” wife of less than two years, Andrea. They are apart during the season, with Andrea working back home in Kansas City.

Hottovy will go home during next month’s All-Star break and then in the offseason, where he works as a marketing consultant for an online sporting goods store.

Hottovy hasn’t cashed any big-league baseball checks yet, but he is far from giving up.

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

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