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Minor League notebook

Ex-footballer tackling this sport nicely

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / August 5, 2011

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Had Brandon Jacobs stuck with football and accepted a scholarship to Auburn, he would have been a sophomore last season and might have played a key role on a team that won the BCS championship. An accomplished running back at Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., Jacobs could have been taking handoffs from Cam Newton.

Instead, he signed with the Red Sox, trading football fame for the tough climb through the minors.

“Best decision of my life,’’ Jacobs said. “I watched Auburn on television last year and had no regrets. Baseball is what makes me happy. It was the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make, and I know that I made the right one.’’

Jacobs is establishing himself as one of the organization’s best prospects, hitting .321 with a .925 OPS through 91 games for Single A Greenville. He has shown power (14 home runs) and speed (26 stolen bases).

Only 20, Jacobs is proving the Red Sox were wise to give him $750,000 to focus on baseball.

“It’s very encouraging,’’ said vice president of player development Mike Hazen. “Brandon has been one of the most consistent hitters in the organization. He’s put in a lot of hard work that is paying off.’’

It has been a methodical process for Jacobs, who stayed in extended spring training in 2010 before hitting a modest .242 at Lowell. But baseball was a game he was still learning.

“This year has definitely been more relaxed,’’ Jacobs said. “I have a better, more consistent approach at the plate and I can recognize pitches coming out of the hand now. I can get myself prepared early and take a good swing.’’

Jacobs has hit at least .315 in every month except May, when he hit .277, and has steadily improved his discipline at the plate. He had 20 walks in the first 57 games of the season and 19 in the 34 games that followed. His strikeouts have fallen off, too.

A good pull hitter out of high school, the righthanded-hitting Jacobs has focused on taking the ball to right-center, with good results.

“You don’t see a lot of young hitters ride out the highs and lows as well as he has,’’ Hazen said. “He has worked to minimize the lows and been able to pull himself out of the ruts and make the necessary adjustments. Even in batting practice, you can see the strides he has made. It has been great to see.’’

Jacobs had the athletic ability to react to pitches in high school and still produce at a high rate. As a professional, he has learned how to adjust to each situation depending on the pitcher and the count.

“Every team tries to pitch you a little differently,’’ he said. “I go up to the plate and I have a good idea of what I want to do and what I kind of pitch I want to hit. That has been the biggest thing I’ve done this year.’’

Playing in the South Atlantic League has been a bonus for Jacobs. His hometown is about two hours away, allowing his family to catch many of the games at Fluor Field.

“It has been like high school,’’ he said. “I look up in the stands and I see people I know. A lot of the away games are 90 minutes from my family, too. I love it.’’

Greenville has a good shot at making the playoffs, too.

“That would be a great way to end the season,’’ Jacobs said. “Physically, I’m ready for it. This is the most baseball I’ve ever played in my life, but I’ve learned how to take care of myself and do the things I need to do.

“My goal is to finish strong and keep doing what I’ve been doing. It has been a great experience, getting the first full season under my belt.’’

Doubront on the way back Felix Doubront has pitched only 65 1/3 innings this season, as he has been hampered by injuries, the latest a hamstring strain that landed him on the Pawtucket disabled list July 24. The lefthander is scheduled to make a rehab start for Lowell tomorrow, the next step on his way back. Because he is lefthanded and has major league experience, a strong finish to the minor league season could earn Doubront a September call-up. He appeared in three games for the Sox in April.

Pitching turn for the better Stolmy Pimentel was invited to major league spring training and started the season ranked as one of the organization’s best pitching prospects. But disaster followed for the 21-year-old righthander. He was 0-9 with a 9.12 ERA in 15 starts for Double A Portland. A demotion to Salem didn’t help at first, as he gave up nine earned runs in his first 4 1/3 innings. But Pimentel could end his troubled season on a high note: He has not allowed an earned run in his last three starts, a stretch of 12 innings. Pimentel was 0-12 before getting a win Wednesday.

Butler moves up Portland needed a catcher after Tim Federowicz was traded as part of the Erik Bedard deal. The choice was Salem’s Dan Butler, the former undrafted free agent. Butler, 25, hit .247 with a .767 OPS in Single A, fading after a hot start. But he was the Carolina League Player of the Week prior to his promotion . . . Portland starter Alex Wilson, who missed two starts with an elbow infection, returned to the rotation Tuesday, throwing four innings against Binghamton . . . Pawtucket’s Brandon Duckworth is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA since the International League All-Star break . . . The deadline for signing draft choices is Aug. 15. The Red Sox have work to do, having agreed to contracts with just three of their first 11 picks. Typically, deals are not made until just before the deadline, sometimes minutes before . . . Bryce Brentz, a first-round pick in 2010, has hit 25 home runs in Single A, starting his season at Greenville before hopping up to Salem.

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

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