EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 7, 2013

Brentz has put bizarre accident in the past

If not for gun accident, slugger might be talk of the town

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — Red Sox fans should pay close attention to Bryce Brentz.

This offseason, some considered 24-year-old outfielder the organization’s most big league-ready positional prospect.

But he accidentally shot himself in his left leg while cleaning his handgun in late January. The bullet went straight through his leg, coming out the other side.

So Brentz wasn’t able to participate in big league camp as originally expected. And while Brentz recovered, Jackie Bradley Jr. proved to be the organization’s most ready prospect.

Bradley already is making an impact in Boston while Brentz is in Pawtucket waiting for his turn.

Brentz, a right-handed hitter, hit 30 homers in Single-A during 2011, then 17 homers in Double-A Portland last year before a late-season promotion to Pawtucket.

“I can’t control who they call up and what they do,” Brentz said. “I’ve just got to play and see what happens. Hopefully, I play good enough where they do feel like, ‘Hey we do need to call him up.’”

Brentz received his fair share of media attention because of his gun accident.

“Once that calmed down, it was like a normal spring training besides a lot of jokes being thrown out,” Brentz said. “So we had a lot of fun. But everybody has kind of moved past it because I’m playing. Nothing’s changed.”

Some have compared Brentz’s power potential to Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks’. That remains to be seen. Another thing that remains to be seen is whether Brentz has an early power surge in Pawtucket like Middlebrooks did last year.

Brentz has worked on his plate approach the past two years. Once considered a free-swinger, he has become much more selective.

“I’ve calmed down a little bit but I’m still walking up to the plate trying to do damage, especially ahead in the count,” Brentz said. “I’m trying to swing at better pitches. It comes with a lot of trial and error and cleaning up some things in the strike zone.”

Brentz likes to keep it simple.

“I’m trying to do damage and if they don’t want to give me anything to hit, I’ll just take my walk,” he said. “With the progress I’ve been making, it’s been doing pretty good. I’ll keep trying to head in that direction.”

Home team BP

A Red Sox fan e-mailed me last week upset that Fenway Park doesn’t open 2 1/2 hours before games so fans can see Boston’s batting practice.

Gates open 1 1/2 hours before games Monday through Thursday and two hours before games Friday through Sunday, according to redsox.com. The Red Sox take BP from approximately 4:30 to 5:20 p.m. for 7 p.m. games. The visiting team follows at about 5:30 p.m.

Therefore, fans would be able to see the tail-end of Red Sox BP on Fridays and sometimes on Saturdays and Sundays. I write “sometimes” because the Sox sometimes skip Saturday or Sunday BP before an afternoon game when there was a night game the previous day.

I inquired with the team why fans can’t enter earlier and Jonathan Gilula, Executive Vice President/Business Affairs, e-mailed the following response:

“We have seen that season ticket-holders and members of Red Sox Nation are the fans who most often come early for batting practice. That’s why these fans can arrive 2 1/2 hours before the game and shag home runs on the Green Monster and bleachers. The rest of the fans have generally been arriving within the 1 1/2-hour window, hence this year all gates for all games other than Opening Day will open at that time. “We will continue to closely monitor the arrival times of fans and listen to their feedback.”

Webster’s velocity

I heard from one baseball writer that highly-touted Red Sox pitching prospect Allen Webster reached 99 mph on the radar gun in spring training.

This was not the first time, though.

“I’ve been up there once or twice before, last season,” Webster said.

Webster has tremendous sink on his fastball and a plus change-up.

He said he was told during spring training that his stuff is good enough that he doesn’t have to be so perfect.

“I don’t care what kind of stuff you have, you can’t pitch down the middle,” Webster said, laughing.

Opening Day ace

Clay Buchholz looked like the staff’s ace Wednesday vs. the Yankees. He earned the win in the second game this season, going 7.0 innings and allowing just one run on six hits and two walks while striking out four.

The right-hander threw 94 pitches. Here is his breakdown, according to Brooksbaseball.net: 34 four-seamers (90.7 mph average), 17 cutters (86.4 mph), 13 two-seamers (91.0), 13 curveballs (75.5), nine change-ups (78.9) and eight splitters (85.5). Buchholz, who had a better pace on the mound Wednesday than most of last year, has the best pure stuff of all the Sox starters. He has the potential to be the ace but has prove he can stay healthy.

Doyle’s day

Salem High grad Terry Doyle, who had a fine spring in Red Sox camp, will make his Pawtucket Red Sox debut today at Scranton.

He will be a part of a talented rotation that includes Webster, fireballer Rubby De La Rosa, knuckleballer Steven Wright and left-hander Chris Hernandez.

If all goes as planned, Doyle will make his McCoy Stadium debut against Rochester on Friday at 7:05 p.m. Parking is free and ticket and food prices are reasonable, unlike most big league stadiums. Top Red Sox pitching prospect Matt Barnes will make his Double-A debut at Portland today against Trenton at 1 p.m.

Strong finish, strong start

Texas’ Yu Darvish finished his first MLB regular season strong last year. From Aug. 12 on, he was 5-1 and all eight of his starts were quality starts.

He started this year by coming within one out of throwing a perfect game.

Baltimore’s Chris Davis finished last year with seven homers in his final seven games.

Entering Friday, he had homered in each of his three games this season.

Davis and the O’s will be in Boston tomorrow.