The Boston Red Sox drafted second baseman Brett Netzer in the third round of the 2017 draft. He played a full season with the Portland Sea Dogs in 2019.

This summer, Netzer is not charging a ball on the infield grass. He’s mowing grass, and doing assorted landscaping chores in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I’m grateful,” Netzer said of the job.

Netzer, 24, has not washed out of baseball. He was expected back in Portland this past spring, with hopes of moving on to Triple-A. But Netzer, like so many minor leaguers, is in a holding pattern, with the minor league season canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Brett Netzer played a team high 130 games for the Sea Dogs last season played while batting .247. He is likely to be back in Portland for the 2021 season. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Those minor leaguers considered closest to the major leagues were added to team’s 60-man “player pools” – players like former and current Sea Dogs Bobby Dalbec, C.J. Chatham and Jarren Duran.

The rest are on their own – the only organized baseball being the early weeks of spring training, before the pandemic put everyone in lockdown.


“At the beginning of the quarantine, I actually was fortunate to acquire a Junior Hack Attack pitching machine in order to try to stay ready for the resumption of the season,” Netzer said of the advanced machine that offers various pitches from the right and left side.

“I was hopeful (the season would be played), but I didn’t really keep up with much of the talk about it. I just tried to stay ready until hearing something objective about the plan for the season.

“After a few months of training and eventually seeing the writing on the wall in regard to the minor league season being canceled, I decided I needed to get a job in order to stay busy and make some extra money.”

Longhorn Landscapes in Charlotte offered Netzer a job and he settled in, working away when he heard the season was officially canceled.

“I wasn’t shocked,” he said. “I thought it was very understandable under the circumstances of a global pandemic.

“A really big positive was being able to spend time with my family, which is a really big deal to me.”


Since being drafted out of UNC Charlotte, where he batted .351 over three seasons, Netzer has steadily moved up the system. He split time in Lowell and Greenville in 2017, then batted .270 for Salem the next year. Last season, Netzer led the Sea Dogs in games played (130) while batting .247. When Minor League Baseball resumes, a return to Portland is expected, where he hopes to improve on 2019 – thus, the high-end batting machine.

“I think the biomechanics of the swing are important,” he said. “I’ve really learned what movements my body struggles to get into, and figuring out why and how to make the necessary corrections, in order to get more consistent.”

In the field, the Red Sox may have Netzer occasionally play other positions (he played left field twice last year) to increase his versatility.

The Red Sox are crowded at second base, even with Dustin Pedroia unlikely to ever play again. Boston has Jose Peraza on a one-year contract, and he could be resigned. Then there are Michael Chavis, Tzu-Wei Lin and Jonathan Arauz, a Rule 5 draft pick who looks like he will stay with the major league team. Plus, Boston acquired touted second-base prospect Jeter Downs in the Mookie Betts trade. Downs is part of the 60-player pool.

For now, Netzer will simply focus on his game: “It might sound cliché, but I really try not to worry about things out of my control in general.”

Netzer should be bringing his game to Hadlock Field again in 2021. He hopes to have a refined approach at the plate. And now there are other skills he can bring … should the groundskeepers need a hand.


Red Sox pitching prospect Daniel McGrath is back in the United States after spending the early months of the pandemic in his native Australia. McGrath was 7-1 with a 1.68 ERA with the Sea Dogs last season. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

DANIEL McGRATH is another stranded minor leaguer. McGrath, the Australian left-hander who had a breakout year with the Sea Dogs in 2019 (7-1, 1.68 ERA), went back home when spring training was halted. He has since returned to the United States, to West Palm Beach, Florida, in late July.

“With Melbourne in Stage 4 lockdown, I needed to come back here and get work in,” McGrath said. “I’m at a great facility with a great program.”

He hopes to go home in a few months. For the past three years, McGrath has pitched for Melbourne in the Australian Baseball League, from November to February.

“I will be pitching in the ABL if it goes ahead,” he said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty with restrictions in Australia, but I’m hoping to be able to get some innings in.”

McGrath resigned with Boston last fall on a minor league contract. He should be a free agent again for the 2021 season, but that has never been clarified – with all the uncertainty this year with Minor League Baseball.

“I am a free agent at the end of this year, but I’m not sure it has been discussed properly within (Minor League Baseball),” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s discussed at a later date.”

OTHER MINOR LEAGUERS are getting a chance to play this season with independent league teams – while remaining affiliated with their organization. Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett said players can do that if they have permission from their major league club. Cole Sturgeon, a former Sea Dogs outfielder now in Triple-A, is playing for the Sugar Land Skeeters. The team also has players once in the organization – former Sea Dogs and Red Sox reliever Robby Scott and catcher Jake Romanski.

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