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Minor League notebook

Hazelbaker, Lin take one step up

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / May 27, 2011

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The transactions may have merited only small print — if that — but it didn’t go unnoticed last week when the Red Sox made a series of moves, among them the promotion of outfielders Jeremy Hazelbaker from Single A Salem (Va.) to Double A Portland and Che-Hsuan Lin from Portland to Triple A Pawtucket.

“Both had done well at the Single A and Double A level of the minor leagues, and it was believed it was time to challenge them both by moving them up,’’ said Mike Hazen, Red Sox vice president of player development and amateur scouting. “Now we’ll get to see how they do at the next level.’’

So far so good.

In their first week, Lin, 22, and Hazelbaker, 23, hit a combined .412 (14 for 34) in nine games.

“It’s way too early to judge,’’ Hazen said. “But they both are off to good starts.’’

That was evident for Hazelbaker, who in his first five games went 7 for 16 (.389) with 6 runs, 6 walks, a pair of RBIs, and a pair of stolen bases, giving him 14 for the season.

“If you perform and they think you’re ready to move up in the organization, they’ll bring you up,’’ said Hazelbaker, who earned some notice as a base stealer with 63 thefts last season for the Greenville Drive, the most by a Sox farmhand since Gus Burgess had 68 in 1981.

“This is all about development and this is the biggest thing — it’s making that opportunity count.’’

Salem manager Bruce Crabbe had Hazelbaker batting leadoff and playing right field. Hazelbaker hit .279 there and had 26 runs and 12 stolen bases.

“He’s got life in that body,’’ Crabbe said. “There’s life in that bat and it’s explosion. It’s stuff that can impact immediately in a lot of ways when he hits the ballfield.’’

Portland manager Kevin Boles said Hazelbaker has all the tools.

“He’s got plus-speed, and he’s a plus-runner and we’re very excited to have him in our uniform, that’s for sure,’’ Boles said.

“There’s definitely a lot of tools to work with with this kid. He’s got great strike zone discipline, works the count, and, again, he’s got plus-bat speed.

“He’s an exciting guy.’’

As is Lin, who was the Red Sox Minor League Defensive Player of the Year last season patrolling center field for Portland. He batted .268 (37 for 138) with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 11 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases in 34 games with the Sea Dogs this season.

In Pawtucket, he will likely spend more time playing center field after Josh Reddick was called up to the big club.

“He’s probably the best young center fielder I’ve ever seen in the minor leagues,’’ said Boles, who managed Lin two years ago in Greenville. “He’s got plus-range, plus-arm strength, with accuracy, he moves around.

“His defense is so good I believe he could play defensively in the major leagues right now. That’s a bold statement and I understand it, but that’s not to disrespect the major leaguers, but he’s that type of center fielder. He has that kind of talent and tools.’’

Tazawa returns Junichi Tazawa, who was added to Salem’s roster May 16 as part of his rehab from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last April, will make his second rehab start today in the first game of a doubleheader vs. Frederick (Md.). Tazawa made his first rehab start last Friday at Winston-Salem, allowing 4 runs on 5 hits in 4 innings. He threw 69 pitches and allowed 2 walks but had 2 strikeouts, one of which was against Austin Yount, the nephew of Hall of Famer Robin Yount. It helped Tazawa extricate himself from a messy inning in which he had two on with no outs. “It’s hard to judge a kid when he’s come off Tommy John in his first start under the lights,’’ Crabbe said. “He competed very well. His stuff was, of course, not where it was from last year, obviously. But he threw four innings and he gave up four runs all in one inning, so he had three other innings where he didn’t give up a run. He threw strikes, for the most part and, you know, he really just got his feet wet. He’s still a little tentative as far as letting it go, which is understandable but it’s a natural progression.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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