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Sanchez Is Smoking

BOSTON–The Red Sox intended 2003 to be a year of minor league seasoning for Freddy Sanchez.

But the way Sanchez has torn up Triple-A Pawtucket, he may find himself on a major league roster before season’s end.

Boston’s minor league player of the month for April, Sanchez got off to a blistering .403-5-21 start through 134 at-bats that at worst made him an attractive trade candidate should the Red Sox decide to upgrade their pitching.

But the way Sanchez has produced–he owned a 1.094 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage)–makes him the kind of player the new Red Sox regime intends to keep. An 11-game hitting streak only was stopped when he left a mid-May game after one at-bat with a left groin strain.

"He can look a little unorthodox out there," Pawtucket manager Buddy Bailey said. "But his results are always pretty. He gets it done."

A year after struggling with a mandate to improve his discipline, Sanchez has taken to the more patient approach preached by minor league hitting coordinator Orv Franchuk.

"I’m not swinging at the bad pitches I would have swung at a couple of years ago," said Sanchez, an 11th-round pick out of NAIA Oklahoma City in 2000. "The organization is high on on-base percentage, which is great. I had to learn not to take my aggressiveness away. I’d work hard to earn a 3-1 count, then take a fastball down the middle. If I earn it now, I’m going to swing and not take a walk."

Sanchez’ future in Boston may lie as a utility infielder. Bailey has made sure to give Sanchez equal reps at second base and shortstop. He has tried to group them in blocks of five or 10 for continuity.

The 25-year-old Sanchez hopes versatility gets him to the majors.

"The more doors that are open, the better," he said.

Sox Yarns

• The Red Sox demoted top prospect Hanley Ramirez from low Class A Augusta to the short-season Lowell roster after he made an obscene gesture in a game against South Georgia. Ramirez was hitting .255-2-14 through 98 at-bats before the demotion, which listed 10 games.

• The Red Sox signed former Boston College first baseman Sean McGowan after the Giants released the 1999 third-round draft pick.

• Previous organization reports: Jon Lester

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