PORTLAND, Maine — Finding out he would be inserted into the starting rotation for the first time in about five years actually came as a relief to Portland Sea Dogs pitcher Jarod Plummer.
The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Texan, who signed with Boston as a minor league free agent last November and was assigned to Portland during spring training, hasn’t been a fulltime starting pitcher in five years, but you wouldn’t know it from his statistics this season.
“I signed over here thinking, being a reliever the last four or five years, that’s what I’d be, but they asked me about putting me in a starting role and it’s worked out great,” said the 25-year-old righthander. “This is the most innings I’ve ever pitched this early on in a season in my entire pro career.”
Plummer is Portland’s No. 3 starter, which is appropriate since he’s third on the team in innings (94), starts (17), and wins (seven). He’s tied for second with 77 strikeouts.
“He’s a guy who just goes out there and battles and keeps getting better and better each time he goes out there,” said Portland manager Arnie Beyeler. “He’s getting stronger and moving into that starter mold. He’s got some good pitches and has a chance to be a very successful guy.”
Beyeler said Plummer’s durability and workhorse ability have been pleasant surprises.
“Especially early in the year. He really ate up some innings for us when we were scrapping with starters early in the year,” Beyeler explained. “We brought him back on four days’ rest one time and three days’ rest another and he really picked us up.
“He’s a big, durable guy who can give you innings and someone we don’t have to worry about durability issues with.”
Plummer (7-5) not only didn’t resist the switch, he had no discernable transition issues.
“I was talking to my parents about it and I feel like I haven’t thrown this many pitches since high school,” said Plummer. “Starting has given me an opportunity to throw more innings and give people more of a chance to see me. It’s been beneficial to me.”
Although he’s always been a pitcher, he’s had to alter his approach based on his role.
“It’s really all about being consistent, but being a bullpen guy, you can throw one or two pitches and just air it out,” he said. “Now I go out with a plan and take my time.”
Switching back to starting has allowed Plummer to develop and better utilize his entire pitching repertoire.
“His velocity’s pretty good and he has four pitches he can throw for strikes,” Beyeler said. “He has a split-fingered pitch, a breaking ball, a cutter and a slider, and all of them are pretty effective on both sides of the plate.”
Plummer’s main pitch is a forkball he’s been throwing since he was 14.
“I’d say it’s my signature pitch and what’s kept me around,” Plummer said. “I also developed a little two-seamer, a cutter, to throw along with my fastball and I’m getting more ground balls with it.”
While it’s fairly common for longtime starters to become relievers, it’s much less so to go the other way.
“Not usually, no. Most guys will start out as starters and then move into relief roles, but when he got over here, we had a fit for him here due to injuries and it’s worked out well for him,” Beyeler said. “He’s done a nice job.”
Plummer, who went 4-1 with three saves and a 4.19 ERA for Kansas City Double-A affiliate Northwest Arkansas last year, hopes the switch to starter is the start of a steady rise through the Red Sox minor league system.
“Obviously I want to be a major league starter, but having experience as a reliever helps too because teams see I can do both,” Plummer said. “In 2007, I had some saves  because I was a closer for awhile, so I’ve pretty much hit all the various roles I can.”