By Kevin Thomas
PORTLAND - The infield prospects have filed through Hadlock Field in recent years, from Will Middlebrooks to Xavier Bogaerts and current third baseman Garin Cecchini.
Michael Almanzar, who plays both first and third base, remains an interesting player in the Red Sox organization.
Touted in 2007 as a gifted 16-year-old, the excitement may have cooled over Almanzar, now 22. But he still shows ability, like on Sunday when he had three hits, including a solo home run in the Portland Sea Dogs' 7-5 win over the Reading Fightin Phils before 5,590 at Hadlock.
Almanzar's 3-for-4 day included two RBI. Ryan Dent went 2 for 4, including a three-run homer. Cecchini and Shannon Wilkerson added RBI as Portland (48-52) won its second straight.
The Sea Dogs are still in fifth place in the Eastern League East Division, but only 31/2 games out of second place (and a playoff berth).
Last-place Reading dropped to 42-57.
Portland right-hander Mike McCarthy (1-3) picked up his first Double-A win in his eighth game (fourth start) with the Sea Dogs. McCarthy, a 14th-round draft pick in 2011, was promoted from Salem last month.
"Spot start, long relief, short relief. He does a lot of things well," Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said. "And he's been asked to do them all in a short amount of time.
"The best part is he's a strike thrower. There is no fear of contact. Did a nice job being efficient."
McCarthy used 92 pitches to finish six innings. He allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out two.
Two other new Sea Dogs pitchers finished it off.
Bobby Lanigan, signed this month as a minor league free agent after the Twins organization let him go, retired the four batters he faced (two by strikeout).
Then came in lefty Eric Niesen, a former Mets minor leaguer who was playing in the independent leagues before the Red Sox signed him this month. He picked up his first save, allowing one hit and one run and hitting one batter over 12/3 innings.
Almanzar's home run to left-center came in the second inning. Dent drilled the Hannaford sign above the left-field Monster in the fourth, giving Portland the lead for good, 4-3.
Almanzar completed a two-run fifth inning with an RBI single.
Almanzar got off to a solid start this season, making the Eastern League All-Star team. But from June 16 to July 15, his average dropped from .291 to .265.
"That's part of baseball. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad," Almanzar shrugged. "Now I'm ready to continue to play hard."
In his last five games, Almanzar is 9 for 18, raising his average to .277. He leads the team with 12 homers.
The Sea Dogs leave Monday for a four-game three-day series in New Britain, beginning with a 5 p.m doubleheader. The team returns to Hadlock Field Thursday to play Harrisburg.
NOTES: McCarthy did not join his teammates right away in the dugout. He hung around home plate as the Sea Dogs staff set up for the Sunday tradition of kids running around the bases. McCarthy stayed and gave a high five to every runner crossing the plate.
Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:
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