Sox prospect Hassan up for the challenges presented

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Sox prospect Hassan up for the challenges presented

BOSTON Underneath the bubble covering the Harvard football field during the Red Sox rookie development program last week, the hard plastic boot on Alex Hassans left foot raised a few eyebrows. Nothing to worry about, though. It was not related to the injury to his left leg that limited him to just 94 games last season, ending his season prematurely. The boot was just precautionary, after he fouled a ball off his left foot during a recent work out.

Hassan, an outfielder who added to the Sox 40-man roster earlier this offseason, was one of 11 prospects participating in last weeks mini camp. The program is designed for players whom the organization considers to be within 18 months of impacting the big league team. Along with workouts, its an immersion program to get the young players accustomed to the grind of big league life both on and off the field.

After his first invite to big league camp in 2012, Hassan hit .256 with seven home runs, 46 RBI, a .377 on-base percentage and .365 slugging percentage in his first full season for Triple-A Pawtucket. The move up was a challenge.

Last season was a great season for me mentally, said Hassan, the native of Milton, Mass., who was the Sox 20th-round pick out of Duke in 2009.

I went through a lot of challenges. Things I might not necessarily have gone through in my career. I think I was challenged in a lot of ways, both mentally and physically at the new level but I think I made a lot of good adjustments and learned some things that are really going to benefit me in the future.

Triple A was definitely a step up in experience level. Double A theres a lot of good stuff, guys on the way up. But Triple A is a lot of guys with experience and theyve been around a while and it really just challenged your approach. They're smart about how they pitch you and if they throw a ball its for a reason. Its not because they can't throw a strike. So it just really challenges your approach. That was a big thing for me, balancing when to be aggressive, when not, when to be selective, and my overall approach. But I think it really shaped my approach and helped make me a better player.

Hassan got off to a slow start last season, hitting .250 (16-for-64) in April and .230 (20-for-87) in May, before finding his stride and improving to .300 (24-for-80) in June and .304 (17-for-56) in July before the leg injury ended his season on Aug. 13.

I think he learned a lot about himself last year, said Ben Crockett, the Sox director of player development. Being invited to big league camp for the first time, there were a lot of firsts for him. In Triple A he talked about it to the group recently, he struggled early in the season and had to realize that struggling in April is the same as having two bad weeks in July. But when you look at the scoreboard and it says .083 its different than July when you drop 110 points.

Its just having to deal with some of the statistical side of things that really doesnt matter in the short term. Having to kind of deal with some of those things and he continues to progress and for him its about being aggressive and attacking pitches and improving on the defensive side.

Hassan has played all three outfield positions in his minor league career, but has far more games, 230, in left than in right (98) or center (14). He appeared in 60 games in left for the PawSox last season and 30 games in right.

After batting .291 with a .404 OBP and .456 SLG in 126 games for Double-A Portland in 2011, last season caused Hassan to take stock.

Its the nature of the game, he said. Its a game of failure. At certain times you do feel not as good as other times but I think you have a confidence about you. When things are going bad you dont feel great but theres still that confidence within that you know that I think Im a good player and even though Im struggling I think I can figure it out and I think this is helping me become a better player. So I think you have that perspective. Thats really important.

Hassan has been living in North Carolina this offseason where he can work out at his alma mater. Hell be back in big league camp this spring, hoping to build on what he learned there last year.

It was awesome, he said. Tremendous experience. Was able to see the ins and outs of how major leaguers go about their business. Its kind of s first-hand look at that and I think you can really learn a lot just by watching and listening and just seeing how they do it.

Hassan turns 25 on April 1, which is the major league Opening Day. But he will likely begin the season with Pawtucket again. Which is fine with him.

I think Im on a good development path I've been on throughout my whole career, he said. I've been moving up it seemed like a level each year and right now Im just focusing on being a better player. That stuff is really out of my control. The rest of the stuff, if I started worrying about that, it would just put more pressure on me. So I just kind of let that stuff take care of itself and Ill take care of what I can take care of.

Red Sox recall infielder Mike Miller, ship Cuevas back to PawSox

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Red Sox recall infielder Mike Miller, ship Cuevas back to PawSox

The Red Sox made another pitcher-for-infielder roster swap today, sending William Cuevas back to Pawtucket and bringing up Mike Miller as his replacement.

The Sox had summoned Cuevas from the PawSox over the weekend when they ran through their bullpen in Friday night's come-from-behind victory over Texas and he pitched twice against the Rangers, holding them to two hits over 2 2/3 scoreless innings on Saturday and Sunday. Deven Marrero had been shipped out when Cuevas arrived, leaving the Sox with only one backup infielder (Marco Hernandez).

Now they have two again, with Miller making his first trip to the major leagues. He's been primarily a second baseman for Pawtucket, though he's also seen action at short and third. Miller -- the team's ninth-round selection in the 2012 draft -- had a combined .251 average in 46 games for the PawSox and six games for Double-A Portland.

However, his stay with the Red Sox will likely be as short as Cuevas'. Brock Holt may soon be ready for reactivation, after having missed more than a month because of a concussion, and he could take Miller's roster spot when he returns.

Bogaerts taking aim at Red Sox and MLB hits records

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Bogaerts taking aim at Red Sox and MLB hits records

A change of scenery is a must for the Red Sox after the rough series in Texas, where they were lucky to walk away with one win.

The pitching staff's struggles were the most apparent, but Xander Bogaerts had arguably his worst series of the season -- 2-for-12 at the plate and two errors in the field.

Although Bogaerts now finds himself three points behind José Altuve (.347) for the American League batting lead, he still leads the major leagues with 108 hits. He has more hits than Daniel Murphy, who’s at .349 in the National League.

And despite his weekend struggles, the Boston shortstop is in position to make a run at history  -- the single-season hits record.

Bogaerts is already in a comfortable spot to break Wade Boggs’ Red Sox record of 240 hits, set in 1985. Through 74 games, Bogaerts has 10 more hits than the Hall-of-Famer had at that point in the season.

He's also ahead of the pace set in 2004 by Ichiro Suzuki, who established the MLB record for most hits in a season with 262 that year. Bogarts has five more hits than Ichiro had through 74 games.

There's no guarantee he'll reach 262, or anything close. Ichiro had a strong finishing kick in '04, batting .418 with 159 hits after his 74th game. In fact, in his final 74 games, he hit .433 with 141 hits. He's left challengers in the dust before: Altuve was equal to Ichiro's pace in 2014 -- both had 105 hits in their first 76 games -- but wound up with "only" 225 hits.

So, admittedly, Bogaerts is facing an uphill battle.

He does have a one advantage over Ichiro, though. In 2004, Suzuki -- still playing for the Mariners -- usually had Randy Winn hitting behind him. Although Winn was a respectable player, he doesn’t command the respect of the hitter who's usually behind Bogaerts: David Ortiz.

Opposing pitchers still don’t plan to attack Bogaerts, but it’d only be worse if pretty much anyone other than Ortiz was coming up next.

And there’s one last set of statistics to consider:

Suzuki finished 2004 with 80 games in which he had at least two hits. That’s 49.7 percent of the games he played in.

Bogaerts has done that 33 times -- 44.6 percent of his games. So he needs to string together some big games if he intends to make an improbable run at the 12-year-old record.

Improbable, yes.

But definitely not impossible.