23-year old Justin Haley looked impressive in his six starts with the Portland Sea Dogs last season, going 3-2 with a 1.19 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings pitched. He earned a win in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs against the Binghamton Mets, firing six scoreless innings while allowing only five hits and a walk, striking out eight.
Although his time in Portland last season was brief, he was able to learn a few things from Red Sox top pitching prospects, Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez, that he’s looking to apply this season.
“Being able to watch guys go out and throw, go out and compete, keep their composure, I think that’s going to be the greatest thing I learned from some of the veteran guys.” he told Yawkey Way Report. “Just keeping your composure under pressure and being able to shrug off a bad outing, or maybe a bad inning, and go out there and dominate the next one.”
Although Portland was unable to advance out of the first round of the Eastern League playoffs last season, after winning a franchise-best 88 games and graduating 14 players to Triple-A Pawtucket, Haley attributed some of last year’s success to the Red Sox organization’s emphasis on player development and creating a winning atmosphere.
“Every guy in the clubhouse wants to win; win a championship every year and it boils down to winning every game, we go out there every night trying to win,” he said.
“It inspires me. We have a great organization. One that uses guys and really develops guys, I think is a big part of it. Being able to see yourself at that next level really helps, seeing guys be successful at that level, it helps you be able to focus and know that you can make it that far.”
Although inspired by the thought of pitching at the next level, Haley has not let that idea distract him from staying focused on the job at hand.
“Those thoughts don’t help me pitch. I am in the game of throwing strikes, that’s what I do, that’s what I stick to, and that’s what’s going to make me successful. Anything else is just noise.”
Currently ranked the 35th top prospect by SoxProspects.com, Haley has struggled in his first two starts for Portland this season. The Sacramento, CA native owns a 0-1 record with a 7.11 ERA while allowing a .333 opponent batting average. The Sea Dogs hope he can build on what he learned from Johnson and Rodriguez last season, shrugging off his less-than-stellar start and getting back to being the effective pitcher he has been in the past.