Think of Florida cities and spring training towns like Fort Myers, Sarasota and Clearwater come to mind; or tourist spots like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

Chances are you’ve never been to Kutter Crawford’s hometown of Okeechobee – pronounced oh-kih-CHOH-bee – at the northern tip of the lake of the same name.

“It’s one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country,” Crawford said. There is good hunting, too. The population nears 6,000 in this berg, in southeast Florida, about 40 miles west of Port St. Lucie on the East Coast.

Okeechobee may not be a baseball town – “we don’t have the facilities they have on the coast and (bigger cities),” Crawford said. But the town did produce two pro baseball pitchers from the Crawford family. Older brother Jonathon Crawford was the Detroit Tigers’ first-round draft pick in 2013. Now in the Reds’ organization, he’s recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Kutter Crawford, 23, was a 16th-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2017, and joined the Portland Sea Dogs last week. In his Double-A debut last Sunday, Crawford threw a five-hitter over six innings against Reading, allowing one run and three walks, striking out four.

“I like it,” Sea Dogs pitching coach Paul Abbott said afterward. “He threw strikes and was aggressive with all his pitches.”


Crawford throws a curve and change-up, but his go-to pitches are a 92 mph fastball – touching 94 at times – and a cut fastball. With them, he struck out Phillies prime prospect Alec Bohm twice.

“He had good stuff working,” said Bohm. But not all the time. Bohm spoiled hopes for a shutout with a home run on a hanging curve in the sixth inning.

Crawford comes to the Red Sox via Okeechobee, Indian River Community College and one season at Florida Gulf Coast University, where he learned his cutter – with a C (Crawford said he does not know the origins of his first name. “I need to make up a cool story because everyone asks me”).

Boston chose three college pitchers before Crawford; only Tanner Houck has also reached Portland.

Crawford hoped to get here sooner. He worked out in the offseason – briefly with another former FGCU pitcher (Chris Sale) – and came to spring camp with high expectations.

“But I didn’t have the best spring training,” he said. “so my goal (changed) to get here by the All-Star break.”


Mission accomplished. Crawford recorded a 3.39 ERA with 77 strikeouts for Salem and was named to the Carolina All-Star Game. The Red Sox had him bypass the game, giving him time to drive to Portland.

Another step in the process, and a long way from Okeechobee.

TANNER HOUCK was scheduled to start Tuesday’s game, which was rained out. Houck will start one of the doubleheader games Wednesday, looking to improve on his 7-4 record, and 4.02 ERA (and 69 strikeouts in 69 innings). The ERA would be 3.35 without the opening clunker (seven runs, four innings). He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 11 of his 14 starts. The command of his fastball and slider remains solid, and Houck said the change-up continues to improve.

SHORTSTOP C.J. CHATHAM was batting .314 for Portland when he injured his hamstring on May 22. Since coming back June 16, Chatham shows no rust, hitting .333 in eight games, with four doubles and a homer. “If I have time off, I mentally work it out, especially on hitting. Timing has never been a problem,” Chatham said.

TREVOR KELLEY showed off his right-handed sidearm delivery over parts of the past two seasons in Portland. He’s been filthy in Triple-A Pawtucket with a 1.01 ERA and 1.07 WHIP (30 strikeouts/12 walks in 35 2/3 innings). Kelley was supposed to be weak against left-handed batters, but they’re hitting only .083 against him.

OUTFIELDER MARCUS Wilson, who the Red Sox received from Arizona in the Blake Swihart trade, is rebounding in advanced Class A Salem. Boston initially assigned Wilson, 22, to Portland, where he batted .161 in 19 games, with one home runs and 33 strikeouts. Demoted to Salem, he’s batting .341 in 29 games with seven homers (31 strikeouts).

TRISTON CASAS,19, continues his impressive adjustment to pro ball. Drafted in the first round out of high school last year, the corner infielder is batting .264. He ranks seventh in the South Atlantic League with an .851 OPS, and fifth in home runs (13). Remember, he started slow (.208 average and two homers in April).

THE LOWELL SPINNERS began their short season last month. The team is full of prospects and maybe none more exciting than center fielder Gilberto Jimenez, 18, from the Dominican Republic. In seven games, he’s batting .440/1.048 OPS with two doubles, a triple and two stolen bases. It is, as they say, a small sample.

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