Pro baseball report

Productive May helps Portland Sea Dogs’ Bryce Brentz improve his Red Sox stock

Posted May 29, 2012, at 6:30 p.m.
Portland Sea Dogs outfielder and top prospect Bryce Brentz warms up before taking batting practice at Hadlock Field in Portland in April. Brentz is hitting .364 for the month of May.
Portland Sea Dogs outfielder and top prospect Bryce Brentz warms up before taking batting practice at Hadlock Field in Portland in April. Brentz is hitting .364 for the month of May. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — Bryce Brentz is having a memorable May.

The Portland Sea Dogs’ right fielder entered Tuesday night’s game against the Harrisburg (Pa.) Senators hitting .364 in the month of May.

Collecting eight straight hits on May 13 and 14 has helped him raise his average 34 points over the past 15 games to .290. He went 5-for-5 against Trenton on May 13, becoming just the 11th player in franchise history to do so.

He entered Tuesday’s opening game of the three-game set in Harrisburg with a three-game hitting streak (3-for-8).

The righthanded-hitting Brentz said he didn’t think 8-for-8 was possible.

“Four-for-four is hard enough,” said Brentz, who is considered the Red Sox’s No. 5 prospect overall and No. 1 outfield prospect by Baseball America. “It was just what I needed. My batting average was pretty low. It got me into good position. I’m going to stick with the plan and routine I need to keep this going.”

The plan and routine were missing from his game before the 8-for-8 accomplishment..

“Prior to that, I just went up there hacking,” said Brentz. “In this league, you can’t go up there without a plan or an approach. If you do, you’ll pay the consequences. That’s what happened to me early. I tried to do too much at the plate and when you do that, you get in trouble.”

His approach has been to “stay up the middle and to right center and react to everything else.”

“I’ve been able to stay on the baseball and find holes,” added Brentz. “I try to stay within myself. I sit back and let the ball come to me.”

Brentz is second on the team in multiple-hit games with 14. He has 10 two-hit games, two three-hit games, a four-hit game and a five-hit game.

“I love his offensive potential,” said Sea Dogs manager Kevin Boles. “He has a chance to be an impact bat. He has been more patient at the plate and has better strike zone management. He has maintained a gap-to-gap approach and has done a better job using the middle of the diamond. He looks comfortable at the plate and takes good swings.”

Boles also said Brentz is “very coachable.”

“He’s outstanding. He’s a bright kid and a hard worker,” said Boles.

Defensively, Brentz is considered a decent outfielder with a strong arm.

“He has a real nice package of tools and a lot of athletic ability,” said Boles.

The 23-year-old Brentz, who has five homers and 16 RBIs, is coming off an outstanding season in Class A ball. He was named the parent Boston Red Sox minor league Offensive Co-Player of the Year last season as he hit .306 with 30 homers, 25 doubles, four triples and 94 RBIs in 115 games between low Class-A Greenville and high Class-A Salem. He also scored 91 runs. He led all Red Sox minor leaguers in batting average, RBIs, runs, slugging percentage (.574) and total bases (263).

The 6-foot, 190-pound Brentz was second in homers.

He registered a Greenville franchise record with a 35-game on-base streak to start the season.

Brentz, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., said he has been seeing a regular dose of off-speed pitches lately, “but I’ve started to zone those up a little bit better.”

In some ways, it has been a year of discovery for Brentz.

“I’ve learned a lot about my swing, what pitches I can handle and which ones I can’t,” said Brentz, who also reads the situation to “determine what I’m going to see [for pitches].”

Brentz spent three years at Middle Tennessee State where he was an All-American after being named a freshman All-American.

He led the NCAA in hitting (.465), homers (28), slugging percentage (.930) and total bases (214) his sophomore year and was the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.

He played three years there before being selected in the first round of the supplemental draft by the Red Sox in 2010.

He said his time at Middle Tennessee State “were the best three years of my life. It was a great decision. I had a chance to play right away and I had a lot of fun there.”

He enjoys Portland.

“I love it here. The weather is nice now that it has warmed up. There’s a great atmosphere here. We have large crowds every night,” he said.

Portland popular among players

The Sea Dogs players share Brentz’s attitude about playing in Portland.

“The fan base is incredible,” said Sea Dogs outfielder Shannon Wilkerson. “The fans are really, really supportive.”

Most of the players live with host families.

“I hope these guys understand how good we have it here. Not every place is like this,” said pitcher Billy Buckner, who is not related to former Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner. “The host families take good care of us.”

“They open up their homes to strangers,” said pitcher Brock Huntzinger. “You don’t find that a lot. The people are nice. It’s a good city. ”

The players also said they enjoy playing in a field that replicates the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park including the Green Monster, the 37-foot-high left field wall.

“It’s good to get an idea how to play a ball off the wall,” said outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker. “It’s a great stadium. Everything is awesome.”

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