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MINOR LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Sizzling Petagine could cash in on futures option

This Thursday is an important date for the Red Sox and Roberto Petagine, who homered yet again for Pawtucket Tuesday, his 12th in his 133d at-bat (that's one every 11.1 at-bats).

A provision in Petagine's contract allows him to opt out of his deal with the Sox beginning June 30 and sign with a team in Japan if he is still in the minor leagues. He could command a financially enticing offer in Japan, where he cemented a legend as a power hitter over the preceding six seasons (a .317 average and 223 HRs).

The clause requires Petagine, a first baseman, to have a deal in place before he can leave the Sox organization. The Sox, meanwhile, could block any such deal by calling him up to Boston. But there's really no room for Petagine, what with John Olerud hitting .394 with a homer and six RBIs in 32 at-bats while playing an effortless first base as Kevin Millar's backup.

The Sox are shopping Petagine, who probably could help some team as a lefthanded bat off the bench. He's owned righthanded pitching with Pawtucket, hitting .366 (37 for 101) with 9 HRs and 23 RBIs going into last night. He was hitting just .237 (9 for 38) with 3 HRs and 8 RBIs vs. lefthanders.

Seeing stars

PawSox outfielder Chip Ambres learned Wednesday he will start in the International League All-Star Game July 13 in Sacramento. Ambres, who was batting .314 with 10 HRs and 43 RBIs in 64 games at the time of the announcement, will be the PawSox's lone All-Star. The club had sent three representatives to each of the last two IL All-Star Games.

Double A shortstop Hanley Ramírez and Single A Wilmington pitcher Aníbal Sánchez will represent the organization as members of the World team in the All-Star Game Futures Game next month in Detroit. Sea Dogs manager Todd Claus will be a coach with the US team.

Sánchez, who pitched for the Sox in the Hall of Fame Game in May, bears tracking. The Venezuelan is 5-1 with a 2.65 ERA, but the truly alluring numbers are these: 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings, and 4.42 strikeouts per walk. He's fanned 84 and walked 19 in 68 innings.

Last year, his inaugural pro season, the righthander fanned 101 in 76 innings with short-season Lowell. In November, Baseball America rated Sánchez the Sox's fifth-best prospect, ahead of Dustin Pedroia (sixth) and Kelly Shoppach (eighth).

The book on Sánchez, according to Sox general manager Theo Epstein: ''Electric fastball [90-95 miles per hour with life], plus command. Knows how to use his curveball and change, which are both solid average pitches. Dominates righthanded hitters."

But he's 21. So, he'll need time.

Quite a gesture

Anyone watching Tuesday's College World Series game featuring Arizona State may have noticed Pedroia's name scrawled on the cap of the Sun Devils coach. ''It was kind of cool they did that," Pedroia said by phone Wednesday. ''I didn't get a chance to go to Omaha [for the College World Series], but I was the leader of the team for three years. I've been talking to a lot of the guys." Pedroia, who homered that night for Portland, learned after the game that he'd been promoted to Pawtucket. At the time of his call-up, he was third in the Eastern League in on-base percentage (.409) and fifth in average (.324) and hits (83). Where does a California kid like Pedroia live when told to pack his bags and move for the foreseeable future? ''I played with [Pawtucket pitcher] Abe Alvarez during college," Pedroia said. ''He said he's got a room." . . . PawSox infielder Dave Berg matched Dave Stapleton's 1980 club record with a 19-game hitting streak . . . Going into Wednesday night, Shoppach was hitting just .129 (4 for 31) in eight games since the Red Sox optioned him back to Pawtucket . . . Portland and Pawtucket swapped backup catchers yesterday. Jeff Bailey moved up, Jim Buckley went down. Bailey, on Monday night, homered to knock in his 150th run with the Sea Dogs, the fifth player in team history to do so. The Sea Dogs' all-time RBI leader? Millar with 220 . . . PawSox public relations guru Bill Wanless points out that the team reached the midpoint of the season Wednesday with these results: 36-36 overall, 24-24 in night games, 12-12 in day games, 26-26 against righthanded starters, and 10-10 against lefthanders . . . Sox owner John W. Henry attended Lowell's season opener Tuesday at LeLacheur Park. ''What a great facility and community," Henry said in an e-mail. ''I wanted to be there for opening night. I follow all of the minor league box scores every day and I didn't know any of the players' faces except Luis Soto, whom I met in the Dominican Republic. I like to be able to put faces with stats somewhat." . . . Portland's Kason Gabbard fanned six straight batters in a game this week, becoming the first Sea Dogs pitcher to do so since Josh Beckett did it June 16, 2001.

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