Red Sox Remain Confident In Brentz's Bat






BOSTON—The Red Sox drafted Bryce Brentz in the sandwich round in hopes of acquiring a hitter capable of delivering middle-of-the-order thunder. At Middle Tennessee State and with USA Baseball's college national team in 2009, he emerged as one of the top power hitters in the country, a player with an uncanny ability to put backspin on the ball, as well as an athletic outfielder with a strong arm (he also pitched) to boot.

At times, those abilities were apparent in Brentz's professional debut. But more frequently, he struggled while playing for short-season Lowell. Brentz hit .198/.259/.340 with 76 strikeouts and 21 walks in 262 at-bats.

"I got out of my approach a lot. I need to stay up the middle, swing at strikes," he said. "In college, I could be a bad-ball hitter and it didn't matter. I'd get hits. With wood, it doesn't happen. It's been a development process, but it's what I need."

The Red Sox typically downplay results—good or bad—by a player in his first summer after the draft. In particular, the team expects hitters to face a significant adjustment to playing every day, to learning to hit with wood and to facing better pitching.

Adding to the challenge of Brentz's transition was the team's efforts to fit him for contact lenses, something it does with roughly 25 percent of its prospects, farm director Mike Hazen estimated.

His vision was near 20/20, but the Sox wanted it closer to the major league average of 20/12. He tried the contacts, but couldn't get acclimated to them in the middle of the year, so he ended up abandoning them during the season. The team has worked this offseason to fit him for a pair, believing it could help him with pitch recognition and plate discipline.

Brentz showed flashes of his tools in Lowell, notably including an ability to drive the ball gap to gap. Now, in 2011, the Sox are hopeful he'll improve his consistency.

"He's always been that type of hitter that's been able to hit the ball off the right-center and left-center field walls and out of the park in those directions," Hazen said. "That's why we think the swing is going to play."

Sox Yarns

• The Red Sox signed 2003 No. 6 overall pick Ryan Harvey, a righthander, to a minor league deal. The former outfielder is transitioning to the mound after eight pro seasons.

• Boston promoted several of its minor league managers, moving Arnie Beyeler from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket, Kevin Boles from high Class A Salem to Portland and Bruce Crabbe from Lowell to Salem. Carlos Febles (Lowell) and George Lombard (Rookie-level Gulf Coast League) will make their managerial debuts, and Bill McMillon will return to Greenville.