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Sea Dogs notebook: Manager Chad Epperson relishes giving players good news

Jun. 4—For Portland Sea Dogs Manager Chad Epperson, one of the highlights of his job is telling players they're moving up to Triple-A Worcester. Three recent promotions have been among the most favorite of Epperson's career.

Over the last week, the Red Sox promoted left-handed pitcher Zach Penrod, left fielder Matthew Lugo, and catcher/first baseman Mickey Gasper all from Portland to Worcester. For Penrod, moving on to Triple-A was the next step in what has been an improbable climb through the Red Sox minor league system since the team signed him from the Missoula PaddleHeads of the independent Pioneer League last summer.

In seven starts with the Sea Dogs, Penrod was 4-0 with a 2.80 earned run average, striking out 53 in 35 1/3 innings. Penrod made his first start for Worcester last Thursday, throwing four scoreless innings while his fastball touched 97 miles per hour.

"You pull for all the kids. Every path is different. (Penrod's) path, you get on board a little quicker and it was a great moment. Not only for myself to be able to tell him, but for him to get closer to his goal," Epperson said.

Normally, Epperson calls a player into his office to give him the good news. In the case of Lugo, Epperson made the announcement in front of the entire team following Sunday's game at Altoona. Lugo struggled last season in Portland before enjoying the best start of his career this spring, with 11 home runs, 35 RBI, and a .315 average in 43 games with the Sea Dogs.

"With Lugo, he's such a good teammates. Everybody loves him. I had to do it right out in front of everybody. After the game, I said I need everybody in the locker room real quick. It was really a good moment. Probably one of my better send-ups. Just knowing I've had the kid a couple years," Epperson said.

Gasper came to the Red Sox this season after spending the first five seasons of his career in the New York Yankees organization. A Merrimack, New Hampshire native, Gasper reached Triple-A Scranton last season. Gasper had four home runs and 22 RBI for the Sea Dogs.

"Mickey, he deserves it. He's done everything we've asked of him and hopefully he goes up there and continues," Epperson said.

THE RED SOX PROMOTED infielder Tyler Miller, outfielder/infielder Kristian Campbell and starting pitcher Luis Perales from High-A Greenville to fill the void left by Penrod, Lugo, and Gasper. The hard-throwing Perales, already on Boston's 40-man roster, made his Sea Dogs debut in Sunday's 10-4 win at Altoona, striking out seven over five innings while allowing one unearned run.

The No. 9 prospect in the Red Sox system according to MLB Pipeline, Perales is 2-2 with a 2.87 ERA this season, with 53 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings.

"Perales, that's the first time I've seen him. I'll tell you what, that's an explosive arm," Epperson said. "You lose Penrod, and you're thinking OK, then this young man steps in and we don't miss a beat from Penrod. He attacked the zone. He had his changeup, slider, everything in the mix. It was fun to watch."

Miller joined Portland in Altoona last week, hitting a home run and driving in three runs in his first six games with the Sea Dogs. Miller said Greenville Manager Iggy Suarez, who spent parts of four seasons as a player with the Sea Dogs from 2006-2009, was thrilled to give him the news that he was moving on.

"He asks how you're doing, and said 'You're services are no longer needed in Greenville. You're going up a level.' It's exciting, you know. You play every day and your goal is to get called up and eventually go to the majors. Little goals like (getting promoted to Double-A) that you accomplish make it worth while," Miller said.

AFTER STRUGGLING in back-to-back starts, Hunter Dobbins had his best start this year for the Sea Dogs in Friday's 8-6 win at Altoona, throwing seven scoreless innings in his longest outing of the season. This came after Dobbins allowed 11 runs over his previous two starts. Dobbins said he felt more comfortable at Altoona, and felt his sweeper, a slider without the tighter break, was his best pitch.

"It was right around 50% with that last start. It's definitely become a pretty big weapon with me. I can play it off my fastball really well. I think that's going to be a big part of my success going forward," Dobbins said.

Epperson said the key for Dobbins was getting ahead of hitters and attacking the strike zone. After walking eight over his previous two starts, Dobbins walked just one Friday.

"There was a different kind of feel to him on the mound. It's good to see and hopefully he continues to build on that," Epperson said.

OUT WITH A broken finger since May 11, Blaze Jordan could return to Portland's lineup next Thursday when the Sea Dogs play in Reading, Pennsylvania, Epperson said. Tuesday was the first day Jordan was cleared to resume baseball activities.

Center fielder Roman Anthony, who hasn't played since May 25 due to rib cage irritation, should be back in the lineup Wednesday night, Epperson said.

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