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Sadly, Meredith made a real grand entrance

His name isn't all that conventional, and neither was his path to the big leagues, but Cla Meredith is here, having joined the Red Sox yesterday as a situational righthander.

The 21-year-old Meredith entered a 2-2 game with two outs and a man on second in the seventh inning last night and walked Randy Winn and Adrian Beltre to load the bases, then gave up a grand slam to Richie Sexson. Meredith faced five batters and allowed two walks and two extra-base hits (a homer and a double) before getting Bret Boone to fly out to end the inning.

Meredith, who was drafted less than a year ago in the sixth round (185th overall) out of Virginia Commonwealth University, became just the second player in the 2004 draft to appear in the major leagues.

Before last night, he'd been nothing but lights out. He's made just 42 appearances in the Sox system, compiling a 2-2 record, 27 saves, and 0.76 ERA among low A Augusta, Single A Sarasota, Double A Portland, and Triple A Pawtucket. He posted a 2.20 ERA with Sarasota and did not allow a run in 31 combined innings at Augusta, Portland, and Pawtucket. He's given up just four runs in 47{dbcomma} innings in his minor league career.

Before last night he had yet to allow a run in 12 appearances (15 innings) with Portland and one appearance (one inning) with Pawtucket. He spent just three days with the PawSox.

"This kid's flying through the minor leagues," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "We think, we know, his makeup will allow him to come here."

A sinkerball pitcher, Meredith doesn't have an overpowering fastball -- he's generally between 86 and 88 miles per hour -- but gets plenty of ground ball outs.

"It's pretty unlikely Cla [pronounced Clay] is going to be up for the rest of the season," said general manager Theo Epstein. "During this stretch, without our full starting staff, he's someone Tito can really use to help us match up during the middle innings."

Asked when he wants to pitch again, Meredith said, "As soon as I can. I feel I owe it to myself, to these guys. I wanted to give a better impression than that."

To clear space for Meredith, the Sox designated reliever Blaine Neal for assignment. Neal, obtained March 22 from San Diego for outfielder Adam Hyzdu, pitched infrequently (eight innings in eight appearances), and found himself in some brutal situations when he did pitch.

Neal was summoned to pitch in Toronto early in the season with the bases loaded, gave up a single, then a grand slam to Gregg Zaun.

Recently, he went seven days between appearances, reappeared in Detroit, threw six straight balls, then surrendered a two-run homer to Carlos Pena.

"Blaine was getting used sporadically, which doesn't help," Francona said. "And he was having a tough time commanding the strike zone."

Back to the farm
To make room for Wade Miller, who was activated yesterday, the Sox optioned lefthander Lenny DiNardo back to Pawtucket. DiNardo, called up April 26, made two appearances. In 1{sbquo} innings, he surrendered two hits, struck out two, and did not allow a run. He will start today for the PawSox at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre . . . With a leadoff single in Game 1 and a leadoff double in Game 2, Johnny Damon extended his hitting streak to 14 games. His is the longest active streak in the American League and ties him with Baltimore's Brian Roberts and Chicago's Joe Crede for the league's longest streak this season . . . Mike Myers, who hadn't pitched in eight days, pitched two-thirds of an inning yesterday. Myers has a 0.00 ERA (0 runs, 3{sbquo} innings) in his eight appearances but is being hit at a .385 clip (5 for 13). Francona said he should be able to use Myers more often with Meredith onboard. "There were times when I was hesitant to use Myers, say, in the sixth inning, because if [the other team] made their move it was hard for us to have a move because I don't want to get [Matt] Mantei up," Francona said . . . Carlton Fisk, who was not in attendance for the home opener, attended last night's game.

Ring bearer
Tom Werner's ring tour made a stop in Anaheim, Calif., yesterday, when the Sox chairman presented Angels shortstop Orlando Cabrera with his World Series ring. "It was a short, private visit," Werner said in an e-mail. "Bill Stoneman [the GM] accompanied me, and Mike Scioscia stopped by. Orlando was knocked out by the ring and was very appreciative that we had delivered it in person." . . . Mark Bellhorn started at shortstop in the second game yesterday -- his second start at the position as a member of the Red Sox -- and made an error on the first ball hit to him. Bellhorn has played every position other than pitcher and catcher since breaking into the big leagues in 1997 . . . The Sox have been banged up, and that isn't changing. Edgar Renteria (bruised right index finger and nail) has now missed three straight games. Francona was hopeful that Renteria could play in the late game yesterday. That didn't happen because Renteria still has trouble gripping and throwing a baseball, Francona said. Manny Ramirez, meanwhile, took a Joel Pineiro fastball off his left thigh in the early game. Ramirez left the game in the fourth, when Jay Payton pinch hit for him. But Ramirez pinch hit for Trot Nixon in the seventh inning of the night game. Neither Ramirez or Renteria was available postgame. That brings us to Nixon, who left his feet to make a remarkable over-the-shoulder catch on a Sexson liner to right in the sixth inning last night. Nixon came up clutching the lower left side of his back. Nixon, who missed considerable time last season because of back and quad problems, claimed that he was unhurt . . . Each of David Ortiz's last seven hits are for extra bases . . . Greg Blosser, a former Sox No. 1 draft pick who played briefly with the team, was arrested in Bradenton, Fla., after he allegedly fired a gun during a fight with several people. Blosser, who was the Sox' No. 1 pick in 1989, was arrested Friday by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. He is charged with felony aggravated assault with a firearm and three counts of battery.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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