Growing up in Venice, Fla., Nick Longhi was very familiar with baseball life on the Gulf Coast.
Drafted in the 30th round of the 2013 draft by the Red Born, Longhi got to start his pro career just 60 miles south of home in Fort Myers, playing 16 games for the Gulf Coast Red Sox as a fresh-faced 17-year-old.
As is the case with most young prospects his age, he was part of the team’s extended spring training program after the rest of the pack left for their assignments at the beginning of April.
Four months later, after battling the monotony and uncertainty of where he may end up, Longhi finally kicked off his 2014 campaign with the Lowell Spinners last Friday.
“It’s hard, it’s a grind,” said Longhi of life in extended spring training. “It’s Groundhog Day all over again, up every day at 6:30 a.m.
“The facilities down in Ft. Myers are great. Great town, great place to be around, especially because I used to play there all the time when I was younger. But as you get older you want to move and see some new places and do new things.”
A diehard Red Sox fan who was born in Springfield and moved to Florida at three months old, Longhi was ranked as the 69th best high school player and called “one of the best pure hitters in this year’s high school class” in the 2013 draft by Baseball America.
In the Gulf Coast he didn’t get the greatest opportunity to show off his stroke, clubbing eight hits, five of those for doubles.
He couldn’t wait to prove himself once he got to Lowell, going 3-for-4 in his Spinners debut.
In just five games with the Spinners, Longhi is just one hit away from last year’s total, having collected three doubles and a triple to go along with three RBIs and three runs scored.
“My first at-bat I was anxious and wanted to do too much,” Longhi recalled about finally getting into the box for Lowell. "Second pitch, I reminded myself I had job to do and hit a ground ball to the right side and moved [the runner] over.
“I’m happy to be here. I thought there was a possibility that I would be back in the Gulf Coast League, so I was stressing a little bit. This is better than I thought it was going to be. The fans are great and I’m loving it so far.”
Now, nearly 1,500 miles from home, Longhi’s journey to see and do new things is starting off in the right direction.
Tommy Layne – The PawSox reliever has not allowed a hit to a left-handed batter since May 19. On the season lefties are hitting.137 against Layne, having collected just seven hits.
Squeezing the system
Pawtucket (AAA) – After starting June with a loss, Anthony Ranaudo has settled in nicely over his last two starts. The 6-foot-7 right-hander yielded just six hits and one walk in earning wins over both Durham and Charlotte. Ranaudo struck out 11 and did not allow a run in those two starts, as he improved to 7-4 on the year.
Portland (AA) – Pitcher Mickey Pena was suspended 100 games for a third positive test of a banned substance. The left-hander, who was 2-2 with a 6.41 ERA in 13 starts for the Sea Dogs, had served a 50-game ban last season.
Salem (A+) – The Salem Sox finished the first half of the season with a 33-35 record, 11 games back of first place Myrtle Beach in the Southern Division. Last season, the club was 33-37 at the break, but went on to capture a playoff bid in the second half of the season before going on to win the Carolina League championship.
Greenville (A) – Teddy Stankiewicz, Boston’s 2013 second round selection, earned South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week honors following the best start of his career. Last Wednesday, the righty tossed seven scoreless frames against Charleston, allowing just two hits while striking out six. He improved to 5-4 on the season with the win, lowering his ERA to 3.71 through 12 starts.
Lowell (Short Season A) – Reliever Willie Ethington has collected both of Lowell’s wins on the young season and Carlos Pinales has picked up a save in both of those games.
Dominican (Rookie) – In a 16-7 win over the DSL Mariners last Friday, Red Sox center fielder Luis Alexander Basabe went 4-for-6 with seven RBIs, four runs, and a stolen base from the leadoff spot. He is 7-for-7 on stolen base attempts in 15 games.