Adjustments Lead To Big Year For Red Sox's Brentz





BOSTON—After the Red Sox selected him as a sandwich pick in the 2010 draft, outfielder Bryce Brentz endured a struggle unlike any other in his baseball career. In his pro debut with short-season Lowell, he hit .198/.259/.340. He fell into a pattern where he felt like he was throwing away at-bats, often returning to the dugout feeling as if he'd been unprepared to hit. His confidence was shot. Brentz spent the offseason processing that disappointing debut, and resolved to improve upon it.

"Lowell was the best worst thing that ever happened to me," he said.

Even so, Brentz was measured in the bar that he set for himself in 2011.

"I wanted to hit .200 with like five home runs and 50 RBIs," he joked. "That would be an improvement on what I did before in Lowell."

Brentz came back and had a completely different season in 2011. The 22-year-old hit a homer in his first intrasquad at-bat of the spring, had a strong spring training and carried that into the season.

With confidence, he was able to control his effort level on his swing in a way that eluded him in 2010, letting his tremendous raw power play on a consistent basis. He switched from a guess hitter to preparing to drive fastballs and adjusting to breaking stuff, an approach that served him well.

Brentz, who stands 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, opened the year at low Class A Greenville, where he set a franchise record by reaching base in the first 36 games of the season. He hit .359/.414/.647 with 11 homers and 36 RBIs in 40 games.

He earned a promotion to high Class A Salem and got off to a quick start, hitting homers in his first two games. But he was hit by a pitch on the wrist and missed more than three weeks. After struggling initially to regain his timing, Brentz more than held his own. He hit .274/.336/.531 for Salem, finishing fifth in the league in homers with 19, despite playing just 75 games.

For the year, he hit .306/.365/.574 with 30 homers, joining Ryan Lavarnway (32) as the first Sox minor leaguers to clear 30 homers in a season since 2004.

"He was so locked in driving the ball. He's looking to kill the baseball," farm director Mike Hazen said. "But he had very well-managed at-bats."

Sox Yarns

• Third baseman Will Middlebrooks will work out at Athletes' Performance in the offseason after the Arizona Fall League.

• Outfielder Juan Carlos Linares, whose season ended on May 2 after he tore ligaments in his ankle, returned to action in the AFL.