Futures at Fenway a homecoming for Portland’s Hassan

By Seth Lakso
Globe Correspondent / August 21, 2011

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Standing in the shadow of the Green Monster, Alex Hassan felt more at home than most minor leaguers.

The Portland Sea Dogs left fielder grew up in Milton and played for Boston College High School, just a few miles south of Fenway Park. Hassan also plays in front of a replica Green Monster at Portland’s Hadlock Field.

Yesterday’s Futures at Fenway Double A game between Portland and the Binghamton Mets was a homecoming for the 23-year-old Hassan, who hit a two-run home run to center field in the bottom of the eighth to pull the Sea Dogs even at 2 in a game they lost, 6-4, in 11 innings.

“Since I was a little kid, I’ve dreamt about playing here someday,’’ said Hassan. “I’m going to have to sit down and think [about where that home run] ranks on my list of accomplishments, but I’m sure it’s up there.’’

Ten family members and several friends made the trip to Fenway to see Hassan play.

“I was really excited for them to get the opportunity to come here and watch,’’ he said. “I don’t think they’ve seen me play all that often, so this was certainly a pretty unique experience.

“I grew up a big Sox fan. Me, my mom, and my dad used to come here probably six or seven times every summer.

“I can still remember sitting in the stands [in 2002] when [Oakland’s] Terrence Long reached into the bullpen to rob Manny Ramirez of a walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth.’’

The Sox selected Hassan in the 20th round of the 2009 draft after his junior season at Duke University. Hassan was an outfielder as well as the Blue Devils’ closer.

The Sox decided to have Hassan stick to the outfield, knowing they could convert him to a pitcher if needed.

It looks to be the right decision, as Hassan’s power right arm (he has reached 95 miles per hour with his fastball) has 11 assists this season.

After going 3 for 4 yesterday, Hassan is hitting .302 with 32 doubles, 11 home runs, and 59 RBIs in 112 games in Double A. He entered the game second in the Eastern League in on-base percentage at .416.

“He’s been terrific,’’ said Portland manager Kevin Boles. “Obviously this is a guy that has a lot of ability. With his makeup, the way he goes about his business in the clubhouse, the way he sets up his routines, he’s turned himself into a quality player.’’

“Personally, I’m not surprised by what everybody’s seeing,’’ said Sea Dogs hitting coach Dave Joppie.

“He’s a guy that profiles into our offensive philosophy to begin with. He’s an individual with excellent strike zone knowledge. He’ll go out and grind out at-bats and look for a good pitch to drive and more often than not he doesn’t miss that pitch.’’

Hassan made Binghamton’s pitchers work, seeing 20 pitches over five plate appearances (including an intentional walk).

“Last year he was a fourth outfielder at [Single A] Salem to start the year and he really had some struggles out in left field,’’ said Boles. “Now he’s showing you he’s got a lot to offer.’’

Hassan’s improvement on defense hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“He’s done an outstanding job for us in left field, playing balls off the wall, knowing situations, knowing what base to throw to to keep the double plays in order,’’ said Joppie.

In the fourth inning, Hassan adeptly played a ball off the Monster and kept the Mets’ Brahiam Maldonado to a single.

If Hassan’s power and defense continue to improve at this rate, a permanent stay at Fenway could be in the works.

In the second game of the Futures doubleheader, a player who started 25 games in left field at Fenway last season, Daniel Nava, provided the only offense for Triple A Pawtucket in a 3-1 loss to Syracuse with a home run to center field in the first inning.

Kyle Weiland, who made two starts for the big league team in July, took the loss. He allowed six hits and three runs over five-plus innings, walking four and striking out five. Jason Rice tossed three impressive innings in relief, surrendering just one hit while striking out four.

Three of the Red Sox’ top prospects - Ryan Kalish, Will Middlebrooks, and Jose Iglesias - went a combined 1 for 10. Pawtucket managed just six hits total.

The combined attendance for the games was 29,030.

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