PORTLAND, Maine — It wasn’t too long ago that Garin Cecchini was playing shortstop for Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La. It was 2010 and his season was cut short by a torn anterior cruciate ligament (knee).
Just three years later, he took a .346 average for the AA Portland Sea Dogs into Wednesday night’s game against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Cecchini, rated the number eight prospect among Red Sox prospects by MLB.com entering this season, has played in 21 games for the Sea Dogs after hitting .350 in 63 games for Salem in the Class A Carolina League. That earned him his promotion to AA.
He had hit .378 over his last 10 games for the Sea Dogs and his sixth-inning homer in the 5-1 loss on Tuesday night snapped the Sea Dogs’ string of 32 consecutive scoreless innings and 333 at-bats without a homer.
In his 21 games, he had seven doubles, two homers and nine RBIs. He had also drawn 16 walks to give him an impressive .457 on-base percentage.
He had 19 doubles, four triples and five homers among his 75 hits in Salem. He had 43 walks and 33 RBIs.
Last season, when he was with Greenville of the Class A South Atlantic League, he stole 51 bases in 57 attempts to lead the Boston Red Sox organization in steals. He was named the franchise’s Base Runner of the Year.
He has yet to steal a base in Portland as a sprained ankle has slowed him down. He attempted to steal once and was thrown out. He stole 15 in 22 attempts in Salem.
Cecchini said his approach to stealing bases is predicated on the pitcher.
“Every pitcher is different. Sometimes they’ll move their front shoulder first, another pitcher might move his back ankle [first],” said Cecchini. “Stealing a base is not about being fast, it’s about getting a good jump. That’s the biggest [key]. You also need to know what to do in certain situations.”
He said he sprained his ankle in Salem a month and a half ago and it has been “aching.
“I’ve been letting it heal. There’s no use trying to steal bases, hurting it [worse] and missing games,” said Cecchini.
He said once it heals, he’ll start stealing bases again.
After being a shortstop in high school, he has been a third baseman ever since he signed with the Red Sox after they drafted him in the fourth round in 2010.
Cecchini, who had signed a national letter-of-intent to attend Louisiana State University, received a signing bonus of $1,310,000 and made his pro debut for the (Low-A) Lowell Spinners on June 17, 2011.
He said signing with the Red Sox rather than attending LSU was the right decision.
“It was a chance to play my favorite sport and get paid for it. It’s my dream,” said Cecchini who enjoys being back in New England.
“It’s pretty cool to be back in the northeast,” said Cecchini, who turned 22 on April 20. “Portland’s a nice city and we get good crowds.. It’s pretty exciting to be up at this level. But I just keep taking things day-by-day, pitch-by-pitch.”
He said moving from shortstop to third base has been a big adjustment.
“The ball gets to you a lot quicker,” said Cecchini. “I’m still learning. It takes time to get good at something but time is on my side right now.”
He is constantly working on all aspects of his game “including the mental part.
“Defensive fundamentals…getting reads off the [opposing hitter’s] bat..base running….which pitches to hit, which pitches to lay off,” said Cecchini. “I’m trying to be consistent.”
Sea Dogs manager Kevin Boles told Soxprospects.com that he liked the lefthanded-hitting Cecchini’s “calmness in the [strike] zone.”
Boles added, “If he gets two strikes, he’s still fine. He doesn’t worry about getting behind in the count. He just manages his at-bats and guys who do that are usually your better hitters.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Cecchini played in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday at Citi Field in New York. It was for the top minor league prospects. He had an RBI double in two at-bats as the U.S. Team beat the World Team 4-2.
Pawtucket shortstop Xander Bogaerts and Sea Dogs pitcher Anthony Ranaudo were also in the game and told WEEI.com’s Alex Speier they were impressed with Cecchini.
“He’s been pretty unbelievable,” said Ranaudo. “He finds the barrel on his bat more consistently than other guys I’ve seen, especially at his age.”
“I always liked him as a hitter,” said Bogaerts, who was his teammate at the start of the 2011 season. “I knew he was going to become something good. He had something with his swing to the opposite field. It was something unique.”
“I like to spray the ball around,” said Cecchini.
Cecchini loves being in the Red Sox organization and praised the coaching he has received in the organization.
“I try to pick their brains,” said Cecchini, who has hit third in the lineup with the exception of one game in the leadoff spot.
He said his start with the Sea Dogs has been “cool” and he is confident he will play in the major leagues someday.
“But you have to stay humble. You have to keep working every day and try to get better. When you don’t, it all goes downhill,” said Cecchini whose younger brother Gavin, a shortstop, was selected by the New York Mets in the first round (12th overall) in the 2012 draft.