Red Sox's Bishop A Rare Breed

BOSTONThe history of players from New Zealand in professional baseball is short. Two natives of the country have gotten as far as Triple-A; not one has reached the majors.

That is in part a result of the fact that baseball is not widely played in New Zealand. However, the country does play plenty of fast-pitch softball, and the Red Sox identified and signed Te Wera "Beau" Bishop, a 17-year-old catcher, as an intriguing project with plenty of tools.

"My understanding is that he's one of the most exciting young softball prospects to come around in the last 20 years out of New Zealand," Boston general manager Theo Epstein said. "It's a pretty interesting opportunity for us and for him to see what happens."

Bishop, who signed for $60,000, was scouted for some time by Red Sox Pacific Rim scouting coordinator Jon Deeble, who resides in Australia. Deeble was impressed by Bishop's bat speed and his actions as a softball catcher.

The Sox saw a player with plenty of projectable talent, though for obvious reasons, he is extremely raw. For him to advance in the professional ranks, it will take a great deal of work by both the player and the development staff to help his transition to a new sport.

However, the Sox were impressed by the early glimpses of what might be possible for the catcher.

"We have been following Beau for a while now," Deeble wrote. "He is one of the best softballers in (New Zealand). He is a catcher with good arm strength and real good hands. He shows good raw power."

Bishop will report to spring training the first week of March and spend 2011 in extended spring training before going to Major League Baseball's Australian Baseball Academy later this year. The team is trying to measure expectations for the 17-year-old, even as they are eager to see what lies ahead for him.

"It is going to be a tough transition; we don't want to put any pressure on him," Deeble said. "We just want him to go out and play, show the skills he has. We need to be patient with him but he does have raw tools."

Sox Yarns

• The Red Sox plan to keep Oscar Tejeda at second base in 2011. While he played on the left side of the infield before that, the Sox feel that he responded well—both offensively and defensively—to the position switch.

• Lefthander Drake Britton suggested that "it looks like the leash is going to come off" with regards to his innings restrictions. After throwing 78 innings in 2010, he is projected to throw about 120 in 2011.