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Minor League notebook

Some trouble at Double

Anderson believes it’s part of process

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / July 10, 2009
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PORTLAND, Maine - When Aaron Bates was called up to the Red Sox earlier this week, it may have caught some by surprise because he is not the first baseman who has drawn most of the hype in the organization. And so, while Bates was making his major league debut at Fenway Park Monday, Lars Anderson was monitoring the broadcast with the rest of his Sea Dog teammates.

“We were all gathered around the TV,’’ Sea Dogs manager Arnie Beyeler said. “And Lars was standing there listening to that. We just had some midseason meetings talking about things like that. Talking about, ‘You guys don’t know how close you are, and are you ready?’ ’’

While Bates, 25, came out of a college program, Anderson, 21, signed out of high school. So Anderson’s development continues, with struggles here and there in Double A, as he readies himself for a major league debut that seems inevitable.

Anderson, who is the most heralded first base prospect in the system, hasn’t maintained the pace he set last season, when he hit .317 with Lancaster and .316 with Portland. He has slowed to .260 in Double A with 8 homers and 41 RBIs, though the batting average is mainly the result of a May in which he hit just .194. That was sandwiched between a .293 April and a .298 June. Anderson doesn’t seemly overly concerned.

“I’m having fun with these guys,’’ he said. “I think we’ve grown as a team and for me individually I know that I’ve grown a lot. Both on and off the field, and some of that is painful. Whether we like it or not, I think 21 years of age is an interesting time. There’s a lot of searching and wanting and longing. That thirst can’t always be quenched in the timeframe that you necessarily want it to be.’’

For now, it’s more about maintaining a consistency with his approach, thoughts, and process, as Anderson puts it. He’s working on a “lack of trust in my own abilities. That’s always been there since I’ve played, but it’s something where I know I have the tools to be successful, day in, day out.’’

“I think he’s the same guy he was last year,’’ Beyeler said. “He’s the same hitter, he’s the same player. He just doesn’t get the hits that he got last year. The balls aren’t falling for him. He’s a presence now, and last year he was a young guy that nobody knew. Now with all the accolades and everything all winter, he’s the guy that people [say], ‘Hey, don’t beat us.’ So they’re pitching around him.’’

It’s not the first time Anderson has struggled with his confidence and aggressiveness. He has had crises of confidence at different points, most notably in Single A Greenville, and his desperation to figure out hitting was so noticeable that his mother wrote an e-mail to then-manager Gabe Kapler expressing her concerns.

But Anderson appears to be in a better frame of mind these days, understanding where he is and where he’s going, no matter what happens with the other first basemen in the system.

“Obviously, he’s played well and he deserves it, in my opinion,’’ Anderson said of Bates. “I think that’s probably something all of us saw, how he works and that he was somebody that we all want to strive to be like. So it helps us. We see him starting [in Boston]. He’s here probably less than a month ago. It’s hard not to feel that [it’s close]. But sometimes it feels far away, [like after an] 0 for 5 with a few punchouts.’’

Casey on the mound
Casey Kelly will appear as a pitcher at the Futures Game Sunday, but after that he will begin his transition to shortstop. He will head to Fort Myers, Fla., where he’ll join the Sox’ Gulf Coast League team to get into position player shape.

“We need to give him days off,’’ director of player development Mike Hazen said. “We need to let his arm recover. He was taking [batting practice] with [Single A] Salem, but just letting him get into that position player routine where he takes ground balls every day, where he takes BP every day, where he gets in games, runs the bases, all those things, slides. He hasn’t done any of those things, so we need to make sure that he does.’’

The Sox haven’t worked with someone switching from pitching to being a position player in the recent past, so they are creating a new formula for Kelly, the team’s first-round pick in 2008. He will continue either in short-season Single A Lowell or Greenville when his time in Fort Myers is finished. Kelly went 6-1 with a 1.12 ERA with Greenville, then went 1-4 with a 3.09 ERA for Salem. He pitched 95 innings, before reaching his cap.

All-Star closer
The numbers are impressive. And for another team, one without one of the best bullpens in the majors, that might earn a promotion. But for now, Fernando Cabrera remains the closer in Triple A Pawtucket, earning an All-Star Game nod. He has a 1.21 ERA over 37 1/3 innings, 36 strikeouts, and a .162 opponents’ batting average. That doesn’t mean that the 27-year-old might not get a shot in Boston this season, but there probably would have to be an injury or disappointing performance involved. “He’s got good stuff,’’ Hazen said. “He always has. When he was coming up through the Cleveland system, he always had very, very good stuff. He’s 92 to 94 [miles per hour] with a hard slider. I think in the role he’s in now with Pawtucket as the closer, one-inning stints every other day for the most part, he can be ultra-aggressive, not worry so much about command. Just trying to punch everybody out, really. He’s got major league experience, he’s got major league stuff, and he’s performing well. Those are really the three ingredients you need if an opportunity emerges [in Boston].’’

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