Adam Lau during happier times, trying on his cap during the Sea Dogs media day in April 2019. The right-handed reliever had his best pro season last year in Portland. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Every minor leaguer is out to prove himself. And when you’re a 37th-round draft pick, battling to be relevant, the odds are not in your favor.

Right-handed reliever Adam Lau, however, was becoming relevant. He put in his best season in the Boston Red Sox organization in 2019, striking out 62 in 51 2/3 innings with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.

Next step, Triple-A? Down the road, a chance at Fenway Park?

Who knows?

Lau, 25, has to wait, like everyone else for baseball to return from this godawful pandemic. Lau said he can’t worry about it.

“There’s no room for what-ifs,” Lau said from his parents’ house in Huntsville, Alabama. “I’m just making do with the situation and doing my best to stay ready for whatever the Red Sox and MLB decide is best for everyone.

“Looking forward to getting back into the season routine.”

For now, Lau and his wife, Kelly, have their RV parked at his parents’ house.

“Hanging out with family, training, and completing projects,” said Lau, who is always tinkering on the RV – an investment he and Kelly made 15 months ago to better deal with the nomad life of a minor leaguer. They stayed at an RV park in Wells last year.

“Just finishing up a renovation,” he said.

“For training, we’ve got a weight rack and dumbbells in my parents’ garage, so I’m able to follow the prescribed strength training,” Lau said. “For throwing, I’ve got a net and a bucket of baseballs.”

Kelly is a nurse at the local hospital in the PACU (post-anesthesia unit) – “so she has not had to deal with any (COVID-19 cases), thankfully.

“These are crazy times.”

The times weren’t crazy, but positive, last summer when Lau emerged as a reliable reliever in the Hadlock Field bullpen. He had a 2.77 ERA until his last appearance of the season on Sept. 1, when he gave up three runs in one inning, bumping his ERA to 3.31. That was still respectable, along with a 1.28 WHIP – his best mark since he was at the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 2015.

The Red Sox drafted Lau in the 37th round that year and enticed him with a $75,000 signing bonus – well above the normal rate for such a late-round pick. Still, 37th-rounders hardly have prospect status, and Lau had to work his way up.

“I’m still around,” he quipped.

Adam Lau, 25, had a career-high 62 strikeouts and a 3.31 ERA in 51 2/3 innings with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs in 2019. Ariana van den Akker/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Sea Dogs Manager Joe Oliver first saw Lau in 2016. Oliver managed advanced Class A Salem at the time, and Lau was called up from extended spring training to fill in temporarily.

“The guy came in, pitched in relief, picked up the win. He pitched a couple days later, picked up another win. Then I had to send him back to extended,” Oliver said.

“Then he came back up for another fill-in (assignment), and got the win again (on three hitless innings). He had not given up a run yet. He’s leading our team in wins and, here we are, having to send him back to extended again.”

The life of a non-prospect.

Lau persevered, reached Portland in 2018 and stood out in 2019. He features a low-90s fastball with a change-up and a pitch that has the characteristics of a slider, cutter and hard curveball – “It’s a hard-move ball. Grip it and rip it. If it gets swings and misses, that’s great,” said Lau, whose 62 strikeouts were a career high.

Something else happened while Lau was in Portland. He began seeing former teammates reach the big leagues, including the improbable case of Trevor Kelley, drafted only one round earlier than Lau (but with only a $1,000 signing bonus). Kelley was Lau’s teammate in Greenville, Salem and with the Sea Dogs in 2018. Kelley moved up to Pawtucket in 2019, then got called to Boston.

“We were also throwing partners,” Lau said. “To see TK make it to the show … That’s on my mind, for sure. It’s definitely a goal of mine.”

Kelley, who is now with the Phillies organization – after being designated for assignment by Boston last November – is one of a handful of unexpected call-ups to the Red Sox bullpen in recent years.

“Adam could be the next guy,” Oliver said. “Guys like him and Trevor Kelley have persevered. They’ve taken it as a personal challenge – where they were drafted, where they were slotted. And, you know what? You get quality big leaguers out of the back end of the draft. People come in with a purpose and a chip on their shoulder, trying to prove something.”

Lau is in that process of proving something – a process on hold, for now.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.