Red Sox's Hassan Carving Out Career As A Hitter

BOSTON—As a junior at Duke in 2009, Alex Hassan drew regular attention from scouts, but not one team suggested to the outfielder/closer that his future would be anywhere but on the mound. The Sox felt similarly when they took the righthander in the 20th round.

But he went to the Cape Cod League that summer and played the outfield. The Sox were sufficiently impressed with his athleticism and his plate approach that, when they signed him for $90,000, it was as a position player.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Hassan, who plays both corner outfield spots, has done nothing to dissuade the Sox of the wisdom of that choice. In 2009, he hit a combined .328/.375/.472 between short-season Lowell and low Class A Greenville. However, when Hassan got off to a poor start (.140 average, .507 OPS in April) while pushed to high Class A Salem in his first full pro season, he wondered about his future.

"I was talking to (catcher) Tim Federowicz," Hassan said. "I said, 'Hey, we're probably going to be throwing a bullpen one of these days, because I'm just not hitting very well.' Those thoughts definitely come into your head."

But from that point on, he enjoyed tremendous success. From May through the end of the year, he hit .308/.409/.488 with seven homers, and he showed steady improvement as the year progressed. Hassan, 23, carried those strong results into the start of the 2011 season with Double-A Portland, where he opened the year with a 12-game hitting streak while hitting .455/.537/.545.

He suggests that, with his attention no longer divided between pitching and hitting, he has made significant strides in his overall approach and understanding of his craft. That progress has helped him advance faster than any other position player the Sox took in the '09 draft.

And while he has a swing that features some moving parts (an open stance, a small leg kick, moving hands), he has been able to maintain a rhythm with it as a pro, and so the Sox have had to do little tinkering. Instead, they've been surprised and impressed by the rapid rise of a player they drafted as a pitcher.

"I'd be lying to you if I said we expected these sorts of results," farm director Mike Hazen said. "You would traditionally anticipate these types of players to be a little more raw. He's been anything but. He's fairly polished through this level."

Sox Yarns

• Outfielder Ryan Kalish injured his left shoulder while diving for a ball with Triple-A Pawtucket on April 21.

• Lefthander Felix Doubront, after spending just over a week in the big league bullpen, was sent back to Pawtucket to be stretched out as a starter for the season.