Last year, when first baseman Travis Shaw came to bat in early April, all he could see was his terrible batting average flashed on the scoreboard.

So what was Shaw thinking this year in mid-April, when he saw his name on the scoreboard next to a .114 average with no home runs?

“I just kept with the approach,” Shaw said. “It’s a new year. I’m a new man.”

The old Travis Shaw would fret over those numbers and try too hard to compensate, getting out of his approach – patient at the plate and working counts.

Shaw finished last season batting .221 with 16 home runs.

This season? Since that .114 start, Shaw is batting .361 (30 for 83) with five home runs. He leads the team with 26 RBI and is second only to Mookie Betts in on-base percentage (.387).

“I knew it was early,” Shaw said of the slump. “I was having good at-bats, hitting the ball hard. Knew it would turn eventually. Ever since mid-April it’s been really good.”

Shaw worked with his father, former major league pitcher Jeff Shaw, briefly in the offseason, then played well in the Arizona Fall League (.361). The Red Sox invited him to major league camp, injecting another dose of confidence.

So another slow start was not going to slow Shaw this time.

Shaw, 24, first reached Portland at the end of the 2012 season. He keeps hitting and a move to Pawtucket could come soon. 

BRIAN JOHNSON just arrived in Portland, another pitching prospect in the Red Sox system. Johnson’s comeback from a frightening injury was profiled in this space Saturday. But his story about his college choice is also amazing.

Johnson and his sister, Brooke, grew up Florida State fans, their parents are Florida State alums and his father Billy played football for the Seminoles.

Their uncle, Joe Williams, was once the Florida State basketball coach.

“I was the biggest diehard Florida State fan growing up,” Brian Johnson said. “Watching Florida State games, I was bleeding garnet and gold.”

But Brooke chose to play softball with rival Florida. And then Brian chose the Gators.

“It was the right fit,” Johnson said.

The Gators wowed him in the recruiting process while Florida State showed some interest, “but not so much.”

DOWN IN SALEM, Virginia, where the Red Sox’s advanced Class A team is located, a little-known second baseman is batting .380 with a .468 on-base percentage.

Who expected that from Reed Gragnani, 23, a 21st-round draft pick last year out of the University of Virginia?

“He is one of the smartest baseball kids I’ve ever met,” Johnson said. “He just is always studying the game.

“He’ll come up to me between innings saying, ‘I saw you throw that pitch. What were you thinking and what did you see on his swing?’ He’s a second baseman and he’s thinking like a pitcher.” 

DERRICK GIBSON was an infielder drafted in the second round in 2008. Gibson is putting together his best numbers (.292) in Double-A, while also adding to his defensive repertoire – left field.

“They talked about me being able to play everywhere,” Gibson said. “Right around when the season began I got some work out there.”

Gibson has now played seven games in left. He’s getting used to the left-field wall behind him.

“The wall always feels like it’s right there,” Gibson said. “I caught a ball the other day. I felt like I was right on top of the wall. I turned around and I was 100 feet from it.” 

SEA DOGS merchandise continues to be a big seller. Minor League Baseball announced its top 25 clubs in merchandise sales and Portland was again on the list, although specific rankings weren’t announced.

In the 21 years that Minor League Baseball has compiled the top-25 list, only the Sea Dogs and Durham Bulls have made it every year. 

NOTES: While Sea Dogs reliever Michael Olmsted is dealing (0.75 ERA), his father is busy back home in California, running for Los Angeles County Sheriff. Bob Olmsted retired from the Sheriff’s Office three years ago and now wants the top job. … Former Sea Dogs and Red Sox pitcher Tommy Hottovy was recently released by the Cubs. Hottovy, 32, reportedly has a shoulder injury that he will be rehabbing this season. … Former Portland and Boston pitcher Dustin Richardson, who was traded to the Marlins in 2010 in the Andrew Miller deal, has signed with the Dodgers and is assigned to their Triple-A team. … Former Sea Dogs catcher Matt Treanor has retired after a nine-year major league career. Treanor, 38, was in Triple-A this season with the Indians.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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