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Minor League notebook

Outfield shift working

Converted pitcher Hassan is making Sox look good

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 13, 2011

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For a player who was drafted as a pitcher, Alex Hassan is turning into an outfielder with a promising future for the Red Sox.

The Sox selected Hassan in the 20th round of the 2009 draft out of Duke. Scouts were impressed with his 95-mile-per-hour fastball and the 34 batters the 6-foot-3-inch righthander struck out in 26 1/3 innings as the Blue Devils’ closer.

Hassan, who grew up in Milton and starred at Boston College High School, intended to return to Duke for his senior year and joined up with Orleans in the Cape Cod League. He hit .289 with eight extra-base hits, making the league’s All-Star Game as an outfielder.

As the Red Sox monitored his progress, the decision was made to sign Hassan as an outfielder. He accepted a $90,000 bonus and reported to Lowell, where he hit .333 and earned a promotion to Greenville.

Hassan has been moving up the ladder and closer to home ever since.

“Starting in May last year, when he was with Salem, he has been coming on,’’ said Red Sox vice president of player development Mike Hazen. “It has definitely been good to see. Having Alex play the outfield was a good idea when you look at what he has accomplished.’’

After going 3 for 3 in Portland’s 10-9 loss to New Britain last night, Hassan is hitting .369 with 12 doubles, a home run, and 22 RBIs in 30 games in Double A. He entered the game second in the Eastern League in hitting and first with an on-base percentage of .450.

“He’s having a terrific season so far,’’ Hazen said. “Alex has a great knowledge of the strike zone and a good rhythm with his swing. There’s a lot of bat speed and he has always been able to hit for average.

“There is a jump in terms of the level of competition and the quality of the pitching when you get to the Eastern League, and he has handled that well.’’

Hassan has just 11 home runs in 581 at-bats since signing, and his future as a corner outfielder could hinge on how well his power develops. He turned 23 just last month, so there is time for that to be added to his game.

If Hassan continues to excel at Portland, he could earn a promotion to Pawtucket. With PawSox outfielder Juan Carlos Linares unlikely to return this season after undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left ankle, an opportunity could open up.

“As you move up, you have to deal with players ahead of you blocking the way,’’ Hazen said. “But if you perform, we’re not afraid to give you a chance. That’s our track record.’’

The Sox signed Hassan with the knowledge that he could always return to the mound if playing the outfield didn’t work out. But it has been two years since he last pitched, and a return to the mound does not appear to be in his future.

Kalish on the mend Pawtucket outfielder Ryan Kalish is scheduled to be examined by Red Sox medical director Tom Gill this afternoon. Kalish suffered a partially torn labrum in his left shoulder making a diving catch April 21. He has been shut down since.

The hope is that rest and rehabilitation will allow Kalish to avoid surgery and return to the field within a few weeks. He played catch from a short distance for the first time since the injury Tuesday and has been doing batting drills with his right arm.

“He’s making progress, he’s getting stronger, and there is less soreness,’’ Hazen said. “Those are good signs. He’s not pushing it but everything so far has been positive.’’

The injury is more problematic because Kalish throws lefthanded.

“As long as he continues to make progress, hopefully he won’t need surgery,’’ Hazen said.

Kalish, who played in 53 games for the Red Sox last season, is considered a strong candidate to replace J.D. Drew in right field next season. Drew is in the final year of his contract and is contemplating retirement.

Hello, Neuman Players sometimes receive temporary promotions to fill short-term needs. Such was the case for 21-year-old righthander Dennis Neuman last Sunday. Despite a 6.59 ERA in 10 appearances for low Single A Greenville, Neuman was assigned to Pawtucket to help a battered bullpen. He entered a game against Scranton with a one-run lead in the eighth inning and got six outs for the save. Neuman allowed only one hit. As Pawtucket broadcaster Dan Hoard pointed out, perhaps it wasn’t a surprise. Neuman starred for his native Curacao in the Little League World Series and two years ago helped the Netherlands upset the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

Hair ball The Portland pitching staff is having some fun for a good cause. “Mustache May’’ will raise money for the Maine Children’s Cancer Program and will culminate with a ceremony at Hadlock Field May 29. In addition to the pitchers, catchers Tim Federowicz, Ryan Lavarnway, and Will Vazquez are joining the mustache-growing promotion, along with infielder Ryan Dent, athletic trainers Paul Buchheit and Chris Jones, pitching coach Bob Kipper, radio broadcaster Mike Antonellis, and coach Mickey Jiang. Fans are pledging money for their favorite contestant and are being rewarded with free tickets, a photo session, and autographs. Go to seadogs.com for more information or call (207) 879-9500. The first 500 fans to enter the park May 29 will receive a fake mustache.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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