Kevin Gray's On Baseball: Doyle gets the call, comes home
Doyle began the 2012 season with White Sox affiliate Triple-A Charlotte before accepting a more lucrative offer from the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Japan. The 26-year-old posted a 1-1 record as a Fukuoka starter but spent most of his time in Japan's minor leagues and instructional league. Last month, the team exercised a team option and declined to offer a contract for 2013.
Within days, Rochester native Allard Baird of the Red Sox contacted Doyle. Baird, vice president of player personnel, invited the Boston College graduate to a private workout at Fenway Park. The audition went well. Doyle inked a deal along with outfielder Mitch Maier, infielder Drew Sutton and pitchers Oscar Villarreal and Jose De La Torre.
"It's been an interesting trip to get back to New England," said Doyle, also a former Twins farmhand. "It was surprising to get that call. I wasn't expecting it to happen that quickly after Japan declined the option."
Doyle will compete for a spot on Boston's 25-man roster but, realistically, is a candidate for Triple-A Pawtucket or Double-A Portland. Last season, the 6-foot-4 righty went 6-3 with a 2.83 ERA in the International League before leaving for Japan. At that point, the Red Sox had already identified Doyle as a potential minor-league free agent down the road.
"We saw him a lot in Triple-A and in the Arizona Fall League," Jared Porter, Red Sox director of professional scouting, said. "We noticed his velocity (88-92-mph) has picked up a little bit, and he always throws strikes and has good stamina."
In 2011, Doyle went 8-10 with a 3.07 ERA in the minors, striking out 122 with only 33 walks. He has never pitched in the majors but has seen plenty of work at big-league spring training. In February, he'll report to Red Sox spring training at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla.
"I'm not going to beat myself with walks. I'll go out there and compete and make the hitters try to beat me," Doyle said. "I'm looking forward to this opportunity with the Red Sox. I'll go out there and battle and try to fit in wherever I can help the team."
Doyle said standing on a mound at Fenway - albeit in the bullpen - was an amazing experience. And it felt just right.
"Just walking out there on the field and playing catch to warm up was a thrill," said Doyle, who once spent a summer with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League. "I was in left field, and there was a tour going on above the Green Monster. All these people were looking down at me. It was a pretty cool feeling."
Doyle is thankful for the experience in Japan, though he probably wouldn't jump at the chance to return.
"I don't regret a minute. Just going over there and playing in a foreign country was a great experience. It was the first time I'd ever traveled internationally. I wish the baseball part had worked out a little better," he said. "There's definitely a culture shock. I'm a friendly guy. I talk to people all the time, but I couldn't really talk with anyone on the street there."
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MAVERICKS ON THE MOVE?: The Seacoast Mavericks of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League have been looking to move from Rochester to Portsmouth and play downtown at Leary Field. The Mavericks played six home games at Leary Field during the 2012 season, averaging almost 500 fans per game, according to a team official. The move to Portsmouth will likely be announced Monday at a 4 p.m. press conference at Demeters Steak House in Portsmouth.
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Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com. Twitter: @graymatter11.