Justin Haley Looking to Build on 2014 Campaign With Sea Dogs

Justin Haley

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 tJustin Haley hings 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.

Sea Dogs Lose First Series of Season With Yankees’ Affiliate

Portland Sea Dogs

After winning their first series of the season against the New Britain Rock Cats, the Portland Sea Dogs dropped three of four games to the New York Yankees’ Double-A affiliate, Trenton Thunder, in their first match-up of the season.

Portland opened the four-game series with a 3-2 loss in extra innings on Thursday night at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, NJ, in front of a crowd of 6,495. The Sea Dogs trSea Dogsailed 1-0 until the top of the seventh, when left fielder Keury De La Cruz hit an inside-the-park-home run on a ball to left field. Trenton scored a run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at two runs a piece, and before the Thunder’s right fielder, Aaron Judge, drilled the first pitch he saw for a walk off home run in the bottom of the 10th.

Sea Dogs’ starter Mike Augliera earned his second loss of the season in the 7-0 loss on Friday night, tossing 6 1/3 innings while allowing three earned runs on six hits, bringing his ERA to 4.50 on the season. The Thunder tagged Portland reliever Kyle Martin for four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, putting the contest out of reach.

Mike McCarthy was able to earn the first and only win of the series for the Sea Dogs in Saturday’s contest, allowing no runs on two hits and two walks over five innings. Portland scored five times in the second inning to bust the game open, and added runs in the sixth and ninth innings to complete the 10-1 victory.

The Thunder tagged Sea Dogs’ starter William Cuevas for five runs over three innings on Sunday afternoon, bringing his record to 1-1 with a 6.75 ERA on the season. Portland relievers Jonathan Aro and Dyan Diaz continued their impressive start to the season, however, tossing a combined five innings of scoreless relief, bringing their ERA’s to 1.00 and 1.69, respectively.

The Sea Dogs open their next series on the road today, taking on the New Britain Rock Cats for a three-game set.

Portland Sea Dogs Win Home Opener Over Fightin Phils 4-2

Portland Sea Dogs

Jonathan Aro pitched three shutout innings in relief of Luis Diaz to earn the win and Keury De La Cruz got the scoring started with a 3-run home run in the bottom of the first inning, propelling the Portland Sea Dogs to a 4-2 Opening Day victory on Saturday against the Reading Fightin Phils.

After guaranteeing baseball would be played at Hadlock Field for Opening Day Portland Sea Dogson Thursday, April 9, the Portland Sea Dogs were forced to push back their home opener two days because of inclement weather. Fans who had tickets for the April 9 contest will receive two tickets for future games.

Sea Dogs’ third baseman, Mike Miller, led off the bottom of the first with a single to center field, and second baseman, Carlos Asuaje, followed with a nine pitch walk. After Henry Ramos popped out to Phil’s third baseman, Gustavo Pierre, Keury De La Cruz drilled a hanging breaking ball to right field for a three-run home run off Reading’s starter and MLB.com’s 38th ranked prospect, Aaron Nola.

Portland would add their fourth and final run of the contest in the bottom of the second inning. After first baseman, Jantzen Witte, drilled a two-out double to left field, Mike Miller hit a line drive single to left field to drive him in.

Boston’s 28th top prospect, according to SoxProspects.com, Luis Diaz, who turned 23 years old on April 9, got the start for Portland and performed well pitching four innings while allowing two runs on five hits and a walk. Jonathan Aro came out of the bullpen in relief and pitched three shutout innings, allowing a hit and a walk, while striking out one, en route to his first win of the season.

Due to the inclement weather postponing Thursday and Friday’s attempts to open the season, this game was played as part of a single admission double-header on Saturday, with both contests scheduled for seven innings. The Sea Dogs dropped the second game to Reading by a score of 9-0 to split the twinbill.

Henry Owens Dazzles Over Two Innings in 5-1 Sox Victory Over Rays

HENRY OWENS

Henry Owens, Boston’s number one pitching prospect according to SoxProspects.com, raised his stock even further Tuesday afternoon with two brilliant innings against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers.

Owens entered the game in the 6th inning, and immediately struck out the first batter he faced in Corey Brown. He followed that up with back-to-back fly balls to left fielder Bryce Brentz to end the frame.Henry Owens

The tall 22-year old southpaw then retired Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee to begin the seventh, before setting Steven Souza Jr. down on strikes to finish his afternoon after two perfect innings.

The improvement over last spring training, Owens’ first with the major league club, is already evident to Sox’ manager John Farrell.

“[His] poise. Confidence,” Farrell said in an interview with MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “His breaking ball to me this spring is a little tighter and a little more sharp than we saw a year ago. He’s starting to, I think, through physical maturity and gaining some weight and overall strength, develop a little better fastball velocity.”

The differential between his fastball and change up velocity has played a big part in Owen’s recent success.

“He flashed some good fastballs today,” Farrel told Browne. “His changeup is always going to be the signature pitch for him. The three pitches that he has have such definition that he can attack a guy multiple ways.”

Owens, who is listed at 6′ 7″, seems to possess all the physical tools one would want in a top of the rotation starter.

He is coming off a season in which he went 17-5 with a 2.94 ERA and 170 strikeouts over 26 appearances (all starts) between AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket. Owens also earned trips to both the mid-season and post-season All-Star games for the AA Eastern League, as well as winning their Pitcher of the Year award.

The Huntington Beach, CA native will have to prove himself against other top lefty pitching prospects Brian Johnson and Eduardo Rodriguez, but many within the Sox’ organization feel very highly about Owens, and believe he has the potential to be Boston’s ace of the future.

Brian Johnson Tosses Two Innings En Route to 6-3 Sox Victory

BRIAN JOHNSON

Former Sea Dog Brian Johnson helped contribute to the Red Sox 6-3 victory over the Mets at Tradition Field on Sunday, pitching two innings while allowing one run on three hits and a walk. The 24-year old southpaw struck out 2013 batting champion Michael Cuddyer on three straight pitches in the bottom of the fourth inning.

“He might not have garnered a lot of the same attention outside of the Red Sox, but we Brian Johnsonvalue him, and he’s a good pitcher,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell according to BostonHerald.com.

Johnson is coming off a stand out year in 2014, one that saw him win the Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award, as well as earn a runner-up finish to teammate Henry Owens in the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year voting.

In 25 starts between the Salem Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs, Johnson compiled a 13-3 record to go with a 2.13 ERA. During one stretch of last season, Johnson held opponents to two runs or less in 22 of 23 starts.

The key to  Johnson’s success was his ability to keep runners off the base paths, owning a miniscule 0.97 WHIP and holding opposing batters to just a .197 batting average, all while striking out 132 batters.

Johnson’s stellar 2014 campaign earned him an invite to Red Sox spring training this year, where he is working alongside two other top left-handed pitching prospects, Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez.

Instead of viewing the situation as a competition, however, Johnson has tried to learn as much as possible from his colleagues, all three of whom pitched in Portland at some point last season.

“You’re always taking notes in your head while you’re watching [them pitch] or charting the game or scouting the game as a player,” Johnson stated in an interview with SoxProspects.com.

All three lefties are presumably slated to begin the year at AAA Pawtucket, but with a lot of uncertainty surrounding Boston’s rotation, it would not be surprising to see one or more of these top young arms at the major league level at some point in 2015.