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A student of the game

Wheaton graduate reaches Fenway

Playing baseball in the rain is a dirty job, but Red Sox Dustin Pedroia (left) and Adrian Gonzalez had to do it yesterday. Playing baseball in the rain is a dirty job, but Red Sox Dustin Pedroia (left) and Adrian Gonzalez had to do it yesterday. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / June 23, 2011

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Chris Denorfia graduated from Wheaton College in Norton in 2002, having hit .403 for the baseball team. He had the most at-bats, runs, hits, and stolen bases in school history and was named to the NCAA Division 3 All-America team.

But he thought his baseball career was over and pursued a summer job on the Cape.

“I was working for Hy-Line Cruises in Hyannis,’’ he said. “Then I found out I got drafted.’’

Denorfia’s summer job these days is playing outfield for the San Diego Padres. The 30-year-old has spent parts of six seasons in the majors and found a home in San Diego, hitting .280 over the last two years.

“It was certainly something I never expected,’’ Denorfia said before the Padres beat the Red Sox, 5-1, yesterday in a game ended by rain after 7 1/2 innings. “I went to Wheaton because it was a good school. Baseball was a secondary thing, really.’’

Denorfia grew up in Connecticut rooting for the Red Sox and had a chance to play in Fenway Park in a college all-star game. Until Tuesday, he had never played there professionally.

“Lots of family and friends in the stands,’’ he said. “It has been a great experience. I was looking forward to this series for a long time. It’s been great. A lot of my former college teammates have been here the last few days. It was everything I thought it would be.

“We used to come here every year. My mom’s family is from the North Shore. To be here playing is pretty amazing.’’

Denorfia left tickets yesterday for Wheaton coach Eric Podbelski, who started the program at the former women’s college in 1998. Denorfia is the only player from the program to get drafted.

“I might have been naive to the fact that I thought I had a chance,’’ he said. “It was in the back of my head that if I kept playing, I could get a chance. But when I graduated, I heard the real world knocking. My chances were slim.’’

Denorfia needed only three years in the minors before making his debut with the Reds. He has also played for Oakland.

“You never know what can happen,’’ he said. “It’s hard to get noticed when you play for a small school. But it can happen.’’

Beckett questionable Josh Beckett was scratched from his start Tuesday because of illness and rescheduled for Saturday in Pittsburgh. But now that is in danger, too.

“He’s really sick,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “We’re going to have to play this by ear.’’

The Sox are making contingency plans. Andrew Miller, who pitched Monday, threw a shorter bullpen session yesterday and will be available Saturday if needed.

“We don’t want to run [Beckett] out there the first day he’s OK,’’ Francona said. “Because we know him so well, we want him to have Day 2, Day 3, Day 4. So we’ll see how he responds.’’

Interleague dilemma The Sox open a nine-game interleague road trip tomorrow, which means nine games without a designated hitter. Francona seems determined to get David Ortiz into a few games as the first baseman and seems resigned to the idea of playing Adrian Gonzalez in right field.

He said he would study the pitching matchups today to figure out the timing. Gonzalez has been taking fly balls to prepare.

“He’s very willing to do it,’’ Francona said. “I don’t want David to go 11 days without playing. That’s not good for us or for him.’’

But Francona is concerned about Gonzalez getting injured in an unfamiliar position.

“I actually have some anxiety over this one,’’ he said. “I want to do what’s right. I have to figure out in my own head what is right.’’

Francona could play it safe and use Gonzalez off the bench for a few games. But he would prefer not to do that.

“Gonzy is, right now, as good a hitter as any hitter in the game,’’ he said.

Suffice it to say, Ortiz will not be patrolling the outfield.

“That’s not going to happen,’’ Francona said. “Have you seen David’s glove? It looks like he just took it out of the box.’’

Scutaro sits Marco Scutaro was scratched from the lineup after taking ill before the game. Drew Sutton replaced him and went 0 for 2 with an error. The hope is that Scutaro will be able to play tomorrow . . . Righthander Bobby Jenks, who is on the disabled list with a strained back, is making rapid progress. He threw 20 pitches in the bullpen Tuesday and is scheduled for a longer session today. “He is making really rapid steps the last three or four days, which is great,’’ Francona said. Once Jenks throws today, the Sox will decide what comes next. It could be a rehabilitation assignment.

Doctor will see you Jed Lowrie was in Los Angeles yesterday to get a second opinion on his left shoulder from Dr. Lewis Yocum. The Red Sox were waiting to hear the results . . . Gonzalez was 8 for 14 with five RBIs against his former team. He was 4 for 4 yesterday and is up to .359 on the season . . . Dustin Pedroia was 2 for 3 and is 19 of 45 (.422) in his last 12 games. That has him at .274 . . . Kevin Youkilis (2 for 4) is 19 for his last 51 and has boosted his average to .279.

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

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