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March 19. 2013 9:57PM

Kevin Gray's On Baseball: Expect Bogaerts in Portland

XANDER BOGAERTS, who reached the World Baseball Classic semifinals with the Netherlands, has returned to ho-hum big-league camp in Fort Myers. For Bogaerts, a 20-year-old prospect with the range of shortstop and home run power of a third baseman, the excitement level won't be the same until reaching the majors.

The Netherlands made an improbable run to the WBC semifinals, knocking off Cuba along the way, before falling to the Dominican Republic, 4-1, at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Monday. The drama and emotion of the WBC, culminating with Puerto Rico taking on the Dominican in Tuesday night's final, is a baseball experience that cannot be simulated.

Ex-Fisher Cats Moises Sierra and Ricardo Nanita, who played together for the 2011 Eastern League champions, have shared outfield time for the Dominicans. Sierra made a diving catch over the wall in left field for the play of the game against the Netherlands.

"This has been one of my greatest experiences. To be able to represent my country has been the best thing that's happened to me," said Sierra, who had 18 homers and 67 RBIs for Double-A New Hampshire in 2011.

Side-arming righty Leon Boyd, who pitched for the Fisher Cats in 2009, made five appearances (6-2/3 innings) in the WBC and gave up one run.

Bogaerts, rated as Boston's No. 1 prospect by MLB.com, went 5-for-19 in the WBC with a pair of doubles. The 6-foot-3 infielder, who grew up in Aruba, signed with the Red Sox for $510,000 in 2009. He'll likely spend most of the 2013 season with the Portland Sea Dogs. For now, Bogaerts will spend a few days in Fort Myers and play shortstop - and perhaps see action at third base - according to Red Sox manager John Farrell.

With less than two weeks remaining of spring training, players are beginning to receive their minor-league assignments to begin the season. Red Sox catching prospect Christian Vazquez, whose defensive skills have impressed, was optioned to Double-A Portland. Boston farmhand Drake Britton, who was arrested on charges of reckless driving, driving under the influence and property damage, also was optioned to Portland. Third baseman Kolbrin Vitek, Boston's No. 1 pick in 2010, has been targeted for Portland along with righty Matt Barnes, a first-round pick in 2011.

Who will be reporting to New Hampshire? Watch for Nashua products Kevin Nolan and K.C. Hobson this season. Nolan, of Nashua South, has nothing more to prove at Single-A Dunedin, where he batted .316 with 23 doubles, five triples and five homers last season. Hobson, who spent significant time in Nashua while his father, Butch, was managing the Nashua Pride, will likely begin the year at Dunedin and work for a midseason call-up to New Hampshire. Hobson batted .276 with 10 homers and 86 RBIs at low-A Lansing last season.

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GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE SEEDS: Salem High graduate Terry Doyle pitched the eighth and ninth inning for the Red Sox on Tuesday, taking the loss in an 8-7 slugfest at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. Doyle (1-1, 3.86 ERA) gave up two runs, including a solo homer by Danny Valencia in the ninth inning. Boston starter Ryan Dempster worked five innings, giving up six hits and three runs. He struck out one and issued two walks.

"I made a couple of mistakes ahead in the count, but I'm feeling better and better and I felt stronger today. Next time out, just get a little further. Things are coming together nice," Dempster said at MLB.com.

Tampa Bay outfielder Sam Fuld of Durham, sidelined for two weeks with hamstring tightness, looks to return to game action soon. Kennett High of Conway graduate Jeff Locke has made a strong case to earn a spot on Pittsburgh's 25-man roster. The lefty has made four starts and one relief appearance, going 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA.

Staff writer Kevin Gray covers pro baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His email address is kgray@unionleader.com.


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