Portland Sea Dogs left-hander Matt Kent has a condition that most pitchers envy: a rubber arm.

“I can go out and throw every day,” said Kent, the day after tossing a season-high 110 pitches in Portland’s 8-4 victory over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Monday. “A lot of guys get really sore and they have to take a day or two, and I’m just like, ‘You know what? I feel about 85 percent – let’s keep going.’”

The reasons are a mystery, even to Kent.

“It could be the (preparation) and care I put into my body, it could be just how I’m built, (but) I can go out and do these things and repeat them over and over and over,” said the 6-foot, 180-pound Kent. “I can get (my arm) going really quick. I can go in the starting routine, or you call my name 15 seconds later and you can put me in the game.”

Portland Sea Dogs left-hander Matt Kent is 14-10 with a 3.39 ERA in 37 games at the Double-A level. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The rubber arm is working for the 26-year-old from Waco, Texas. In 10 appearances with Portland this season – six as the starter and four in relief – Kent is 3-2 record with a 2.68 ERA. Opponents are hitting .217 against him, and he has yet to surrender a home run in 50 1/3 innings.

Those are impressive numbers for a pitcher whose fastball rarely touches 88 mph. Instead of blowing away hitters, Kent relies on his arsenal of seven pitches—a fastball, curve, change-up, slider, cut fastball, and side-arm fastball and slider – to keep them off balance.


The catalog of pitches figure into what Kent called his “cerebral approach” on the mound.

“I’m going to look and find ways to exploit your weaknesses or use your strengths against you,” he said. “When it comes to powerful hitters, I can mix speeds or change locations, change arm angles,” said Kent. “If I didn’t have my mind, then I’m just up there throwing. I’m no longer pitching, I’m just throwing the ball towards the plate.”

Sea Dogs pitching coach Paul Abbott has taken note of Kent’s demeanor.

“He’s not the most imposing figure on the mound, but as a competitor he’s exactly what you want. He’s not gonna get beat in his mind,” Abbott said. “You’ll see him get in trouble and pitch his way out of it, because he never lets the situation get too large.”

The Boston Red Sox selected Kent in the 13th round of the 2015 amateur draft out of Texas A&M University. He reached Portland last season, and is 14-10 with a 3.39 ERA in 38 games at the Double-A level.

Living in New England has taken some getting used to, said Kent, whose twang and cowboy boots betray his roots.


“Barbecue and Mexican food are the two tough ones to find up here, but you can find great seafood,” he said. “Sometimes you have to acclimate to what the area’s going to give you.”

Finding success at the Triple-A level has been elusive. In two call-ups to Pawtucket (one last season, one in May), Kent is 0-4 with a 9.82 ERA in six starts. He has allowed seven home runs in 29 1/3 innings.

“I would go through with my approach and my scouting reports and had a great plan and I’d go and execute the plan, but then when the adjustments were made on the offensive side, I’d miss my opportunity to make my adjustments,” he said. “Before I could (adjust), there’s five runs on the board and (PawSox Manager) Billy McMillon is coming to get the ball from me.”

Kent especially struggled the third time through the opponent’s lineup, as hitters became more familiar with his delivery.

“He needed to understand what he has to do to stay a pitch ahead of (hitters) that third time around,” Abbott said. “For his style, to go up current, against the grain a little bit, hitters get better, get smarter, and he has to change.”

Kent is the third-oldest pitcher on the Sea Dogs’ roster – though you wouldn’t guess it from his youthful appearance. In 2018, he became eligible for the Rule 5 draftwhich takes place at Major League Baseball’s annual winter meetings in December and allows teams to acquire veteran prospects who are not protected on a major league 40-man roster. For older minor leaguers like Kent, the Rule 5 draft often represents their best shot to play in the big leagues.


“There are 29 others teams watching, and all you need is that one guy to really appreciate and see the value that he brings,” Abbott said.  “There are guys like Matt Kent pitching in the big leagues.”

Kent, who is single, has no intent of giving up on pro baseball anytime soon.

“I’ve always told people, I’m gonna make them kick me out the door, I’m not gonna walk out willing,” he said. “When someone from higher-ups says, ‘Hey, we don’t think it’s going to work anymore,’ then they can give me the boot out the door and I’ll move on to plan B.

“But until that happens, I come to work every day and have a great time doing it.”

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