Williams Jerez was named Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the Boston Red Sox in 2015 and was added to the 40-man roster.

It seemed that Jerez, a reliever who finished last season with the Portland Sea Dogs, had a guaranteed ticket to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Nope. Jerez was one of the first players cut from major league spring training camp and was optioned to the Sea Dogs. (Players on the 40-man roster get sent to specific teams, while non-roster players are sent the vague entity of “minor league camp.”)

So why is Jerez being sent back to Double-A?

The answer is simple, really. Jerez is not ready for major league action, and Pawtucket is the doorstep to the major leagues.

Ben Crockett, Boston’s director of player development, explains:

“When you get to Triple-A, the prospect status becomes less important and you become more focused on major league depth, and whether a player can support the major league team.

“We’re always going to be bringing guys in from the outside to compete for those roles, as well as giving our guys opportunities to compete for those roles.

“It is probably the first time where there is less of an automatic graduation at that level.”

So, even if a player has earned that graduation, he may need to wait.

Jerez, a 23-year-old, 6-foot-4 left-hander, is an interesting story. A second-round draft pick as an outfielder in 2011, he was converted to a pitcher in 2014. With a fastball in the mid-90s, Jerez moved quickly up the minor league ladder last year, pitching in 22 games for Portland (3.65 ERA, 31 strikeouts, 17 walks in 37 innings).

Jerez could break out this season, but he will have to begin in Portland. Pawtucket’s bullpen features pitchers with more experience, including guys with major league time (Heath Hembree, Edwin Escobar, Noe Ramirez and Roman Mendez).

That’s also why Robby Scott may find his way back to Hadlock Field. Another left-handed reliever, Scott has pitched two seasons for the Sea Dogs, receiving a late-season promotion to Pawtucket last year.

But Scott, 26, is also a work in progress. Last year, the Red Sox made a change in his approach, having him use two different deliveries, depending on whether the hitter bats right or left. Scott previously had better numbers against right-handers; Boston liked that but also wanted Scott to be tough on lefties.

“As the year went on, I started feeling very comfortable with it, and had a lot of success with it,” Scott said. “But I’m still learning, and still tweaking things here and there.”

Scott knows the rosters at the upper levels of the minors are fluid, especially in Triple-A.

“It’s a revolving door, people coming in and out every day,” Scott said. “Pawtucket is an extension of the big league team. I saw it first-hand last year. It seems every day, somebody was going up and somebody was going down.”

So Jerez and Scott will likely begin 2016 with the Sea Dogs. But Pawtucket should be calling at some time.

SAM TRAVIS probably won’t be with the Sea Dogs in 2016, based on his spring training numbers.

There was some question whether he would return to Portland after playing 65 games with the Sea Dogs last year.

Travis, 22, is still in major league camp. In his first 15 spring games, he is batting .600 with two home runs and a 1.456 OPS (not counting two doubles against Boston College).

Looks like he’s heading to Pawtucket.

THE OTHER Travis is also doing well this spring. Former Sea Dogs first baseman Travis Shaw is batting .419 with a 1.132 OPS and two home runs. He also has impressed at first and third base. Manager John Ferrell told reporters Saturday that Shaw “could be competing for regular at-bats.”

Who’s at-bats would Shaw be taking? Well, Pablo Sandoval is batting .250 this spring with some off-and-on moments at third. Yes, spring stats mean nothing, but Sandoval has been trending down in his career, while Shaw is on the rise.

NOTES: Former Sea Dogs outfielder Bryce Brentz is in his third year on the 40-man roster. He has already been sent to Pawtucket after going 0 for 16 with 12 strikeouts. … Minor league teams began spring training games last week. Justin Haley threw three scoreless innings in the opener for Pawtucket – many players likely bound for Portland are on the Pawtucket roster until more major league cuts are made. It’s a good sign for Haley, who was 5-16 with a 5.15 ERA in 2015. He started showing improvement in the Arizona Fall League (0.64 ERA in four starts). … Prime pitching prospect Michael Kopech should be contending for a spot in the Sea Dogs’ rotation, but self-inflicted adversity keeps him back. Kopech, 19, missed 50 games last year after failing a drug test, and he broke his hand this spring in an altercation with his roommate. He had surgery and will miss six weeks.

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.