Red Sox's Britton Looks For Turnaround Year

FORT MYERS, FLA.—There is no sugarcoating the 2011 numbers for Drake Britton.

The 22-year-old lefthander entered the year with huge expectations after a strong performance (2-3, 2.97 with 78 strikeouts in 75 innings) with low Class A Greenville in 2010. But in 26 starts for high Class A Salem, he went 1-13, 6.91.

Yet the pitcher's talent and stuff—a mid-90s fastball, curveball, a power slider and a changeup that progressed in 2011—led the Red Sox to protect him from the Rule 5 draft and place him on the 40-man roster this winter. As such, Britton was able to spend the winter focused on what is in front of him as opposed to dwelling on last year.

"It was unbelievable. I wasn't expecting it," Britton said of getting added to the 40-man. "I was like, 'This is real. They still believe in me.' That's what kind of gave me the drive this offseason to work even harder, and to be like, 'You guys made the right choice. That wasn't me last year. I'm coming in prepared and ready to go.' "

Britton spent the offseason living with fellow Sox pitching prospect Anthony Ranaudo in Baton Rouge, La., where both worked out on the Louisiana State campus. There, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Britton not only got himself physically prepared for the 2012 season but also digested—and, he believes, put behind him—the mental struggles of last year.

Britton, a 23rd-round pick out of Tomball (Texas) High in 2007, suggested that his stuff was not an issue last year, which is backed up by his 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings. The issue, he said, was his command.

He walked 5.1 batters per nine innings, and was constantly mindful of wanting to avoid issuing free passes while on the mound. His fastball command, in particular, became a struggle.

"If I fell behind, I'd think, 'I can't walk him.' Then, I'd walk him. Then I'd think about the guy on first, what I should have done different, and I'd walk the next guy," Britton said.

If he can restore his fastball command and confidence, suggested Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker, Britton can transform the struggle of 2011 into a valuable foundation for future success.

"When he's consistent and on, he's not too far away for me," Walker said. "The stuff is there."

Sox Yarns

• Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine suggested that his initial impression was that shortstop Jose Iglesias has greater range than his former Mets shortstop, three-time Gold Glover Rey Ordonez.

• General manager Ben Cherington said that Ranaudo, the righthander who was one of Boston's sandwich-round picks in 2010, is likely to start the year in Double-A.