Kutter Crawford is the other pitcher in the Red Sox organization from Florida Gulf Coast University.

And, like Chris Sale, Crawford spent 2020 rehabbing after Tommy John surgery.

The Red Sox hope Sale’s return is as effective as Crawford’s was on Saturday at Hadlock Field.

Crawford, a right-hander in his fourth season as a pro, tossed four scoreless innings for the Portland Sea Dogs in a 5-1 win over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats before a pandemic-reduced capacity crowd of 1,835.

It was a textbook performance by Crawford, who established his fastball early – pinpointing on the corners – and then mixed in curveballs and plenty of cut fastballs (yes, Kutter throws a pretty good cutter). He gave up three hits and no walks while striking out five.

“I really wanted to just attack with my fastball and get ahead of hitters,” said Crawford, who had 45 walks in 88 innings in 2019.

“One of my main focuses with rehab was to throw as many strikes as possible.”

Crawford also worked quickly. The game length was 2:39.

“Kutter’s (performance) was like I drew it up,” said Sea Dogs Manager Corey Wimberly, who managed Crawford in Class A two years ago.

“His first outing coming back from Tommy John … exciting to get a chance to see him out there doing his thing.”

The Sea Dogs (4-1) scored all their runs in the first three innings off Fisher Cats starter Maximo Castillo (0-1) as they extended their winning streak to four. The two teams will complete their six-game series at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Jeisson Rosario, Roldani Baldwin and Ryan Fitzgerald each had two hits, including a double and an RBI. First baseman Triston Casas knocked in a run with a groundout in an 0-for-4 day (three strikeouts).

Rosario, the center-field prospect who is off to a hot start (.417), left the game after the fourth inning. Wimberly said Rosario is fine and will be back in the lineup Sunday.

Denyi Reyes (1-0) piggy-backed Crawford and picked up the win with four impressive innings (three hits, one run, no walks, five strikeouts). Reyes, a former starter for the Sea Dogs, retired the first eight batters he faced before yielding three straight hits.

“Denyi looked confident out there, and that’s what we’re trying to get him to be,” Wimberly said. “He won’t light up the radar gun, but he can pitch.”

Crawford, 25, was on a four-inning limit as he comes back from Tommy John surgery in October 2019 (five months before Sale’s procedure).

“It’s a progression,” Crawford said. “Hopefully, I can go five next time.”

Crawford, a 16th-round draft pick in 2017, was working his way through the Red Sox system two years ago when he made his Sea Dogs debut on June 23. On July 4, Crawford beat the Fisher Cats, but that was his last effective start. He made two more brief appearances before getting shut down.

As it turned out, Crawford would have been unable to pitch in 2020 even if the minor league season wasn’t canceled.

“I got (the elbow) fixed – 2020 was a blessing in disguise for me,” Crawford said. “I made the most of it, dominated the rehab and put myself in the best position to come back.”

He was cleared to face hitters in February.

Crawford struck out three batters in the first inning. He also allowed a single, but retired the next 10 batters.

Rosario led off the first with a double and scored on the groundout by Casas.

Portland scored twice in the second and again in the third, paced by Baldwin (No. 7 hitter) and Fitzgerald (No. 8).

“We have some length in our lineup,” Wimberly said.

Minor league free agent Tyler Olsen, who has pitched in the majors with Seattle and Detroit, closed out the win with a scoreless ninth.


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