PORTLAND – It has been called the purgatory of the minor leagues: Extended spring training.

It is where young players wait for the rookie leagues to begin in June, and injured players wait to be healed. They play intrasquad games in the heat of Florida — and wait.

“It was rough being down there,” pitcher Anthony Ranaudo said. “I handled it as well as I could.”

Ranaudo, 22, the top pitching prospect for the Boston Red Sox, was finally released from Fort Myers last week, joining the Portland Sea Dogs.

Ranaudo was injured — kind of. He suffered a mild groin strain in the third week of March. By the end of spring training, he felt ready to pitch again. But the Red Sox did not want to mess around with their $2.5 million investment, which was Ranaudo’s signing bonus in 2010.

His rehab went along slowly.

“Everything was precautionary,” Ranaudo said.

When Ranaudo finally suited up in a Portland uniform, it was in Reading, Pa., last Tuesday.

He allowed one run in the first inning on a walk, two stolen bases and a sacrifice fly. He allowed only one hit through the first three innings before the fourth began with a home run, single and home run.

Ranaudo was done after four, allowing four runs on four hits and three walks, striking out two.

“I was pretty anxious to get out there and pretty excited,” he said. “I had to fight those emotions. You saw that with my command. I don’t remember the last time that I was not able to locate fastballs like that.”

Ranaudo is scheduled to pitch Monday in New Hampshire. His Hadlock debut should be at 1 p.m. Saturday in a game televised by NESN.

COULD MATT BARNES join Portland this year, giving the Sea Dogs the two best Boston pitching prospects? Barnes, who turns 22 on June 17, is in his initial pro season after being drafted in the first round last year out of the University of Connecticut.

In five starts for low Class A Greenville, Barnes was 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA in 262/3 innings, a 42/4 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a .130 opponents’ batting average.

Since being promoted to advanced Class A Salem, Barnes is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in three starts, with a 25/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 18 innings and a .175 opponents’ batting average.

Boston normally does not rush its pitchers drafted out of college. Jonathan Papelbon was 12-7 with a 2.64 ERA in his first full season in 2004, but made all of his 24 starts in advanced Class A.

OUTFIELDER JACKIE Bradley could be another fast call-up to Portland. Bradley, also a first-round pick last year from the University of South Carolina, played only 10 pro games last season before starting 2012 in Salem. In 35 games, he’s batting .367 with three home runs, a .485 on-base percentage and a .564 slugging percentage.

The Red Sox have rushed prospects before who are dominating at a level. After Dustin Pedroia was drafted in 2004, he played 12 games in low Class A (.400 average) and then 30 games in advanced Class A (.336). He began the 2005 season in Portland.

ANYONE NOTICE THAT Pawtucket shortstop Jose Iglesias is batting .433 (26 for 60) over the past 15 games, through Friday — improving his average to .283?

Iglesias, known for a great glove and a questionable bat, had an unusual game Friday, going 4 for 6, but with two errors.

JOSH BECKETT bobblehead dolls, which were not distributed May 8 because of a Sea Dogs rainout, will now be distributed June 6 to the first 1,000 fans through the Hadlock Field gates.

This will be the third time the Sea Dogs have given out a Beckett doll. Maybe the fourth one will include a golf club.

A PEANUT-FREE section will be featured at today’s Sea Dogs game. Peanuts will not be sold in the right-field pavilion, to give a break to those with peanut allergies. May, by the way, is National Allergy Awareness Month.

DANIEL NAVA got hot with the Boston Red Sox just over a week ago, right after Will Middlebrooks was becoming a rookie sensation. But Nava discouraged any similarities. “Middlebrooks?” he said. “He’s a stud.”

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

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Twitter: KevinThomasPPH