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Minor League notebook

Fuentes is an everyday player

Prospect adjusts to the pro game

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / July 31, 2009

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Reymond Fuentes had not expected this so soon. Not the batting average (.315) or the work. Those he had anticipated. It was the fan mail that surprised him.

Fuentes, the Red Sox’ first-round pick in June’s draft, is just 21 games into his professional career in the Gulf Coast League, yet the fans are already presenting themselves. Not many, but three or four pieces of mail with requests for pictures and autographs. That, he said, “is exciting.’’ So too is the visit of his parents this weekend, crucial for an 18-year-old who lists among the difficulties of his transition from high school to the pros that “sometimes I miss my family, but it’s part of the adjustment.’’

But for a player just entering the Sox organization, among the biggest changes is going from playing a couple of times a week to playing every day.

“Obviously everybody’s different, everyone’s from different backgrounds, playing experience,’’ said director of player development Mike Hazen. “It isn’t so much the talent level as it is the volume. For most guys, I would think this is the greatest jump in volume they’ve experienced. For the most part the guys that are drafted, it’s the playing every day, playing catch every day, taking batting practice every day.’’

Because of that, the Sox build in additional rest for players in their first professional season. Although players in Double A are expected to play every day, that’s not the case in Single A and below. Those players have more scheduled days off, so they don’t start to exhibit some of the signs of sudden overuse. As Hazen said, players can see their “bats slow down, legs get tired, their times get a little slower.’’ Sometimes with pitchers, true velocity isn’t seen until the following season.

For the 6-foot, 160-pound Fuentes, his focus is simply on playing, and on working in the weight room as he tries to improve his strength. Fuentes is a “very dynamic, toolsy outfielder. Can really run, can play defense, has a good short swing, line-drive swing right now. Has a very good feel for contact,’’ Hazen said. “Those types of players are really fun to watch, putting the ball in play and running, can make stuff happen on the bases.’’

In 21 games, Fuentes already has six steals, though he’s been caught four times. He called himself “very aggressive,’’ and has focused primarily in his first three weeks with the Gulf Coast League Sox on getting rest, as well as working on adding size in the weight room and dining room.

“Keep my numbers up,’’ he said of his plans. “Probably next year get called up or, if God helps me, this year. My main goal is to keep my numbers up. Every day you learn something new. Just work on everything: bunting, running, hitting, catching, throwing, your body in the weight room, getting stronger.’’

With the program
As Casey Kelly makes the transition from pitcher to position player, he will be on a slightly different program than the rest of his teammates at Single A Greenville, at least in terms of that right arm. “He is on a little bit more intricate shoulder program than the typical position player would be on,’’ Hazen said. “We’re dropping his throwing. He’s not going to take as much infield-outfield as everyone else. We’re just looking at reducing the overall volume on his arm. We want to see him play. He’s going to play some shortstop and DH some. In order for him to perform as a position player he’s got to take BP every day. We wouldn’t limit that at all.’’ So far, Kelly is 1 for 12 for the Drive . . . Hazen rated Junichi Tazawa the best fielding pitcher in the organization, though he added that Kelly might be competition for that title. With Tazawa having recently moved up to Triple A, Hazen said the righthander’s goals were to work on “attacking hitters, use of his fastball, just using his fundamental windup.’’ Tazawa pitched out of the stretch exclusively in spring training, as well as at the start of the season in Double A.

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