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A primer on Milton native Alex Hassan as he gets his big league summons

05.30.14 at 3:35 pm ET
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With Red Sox catcher/first baseman Ryan Lavarnway on the disabled list after suffering a left wrist injury on Thursday night, the team summoned 26-year-old Alex Hassan to provide roster depth. Hassan offers the Sox a right-handed bat with an advanced feel for the strike zone and a long track record of being able to get on base with the ability to play both outfield corners as well as first base (a position to which he was introduced last year in Triple-A Pawtucket).

Hassan has struggled this year in Pawtucket, hitting .217 with a .318 OBP and .303 slugging mark, but the Sox have maintained for years that he represents a solid big league depth option based on the advancement and consistency of an offensive approach that has yielded a career minor league line of .285/.393/.426. The view of Hassan as someone with well above-average on-base skills led the team to add him to the 40-man roster after the 2012 season.

A few notes on Hassan:

– He was raised in Milton and attended BC High School before going to Duke for college.

– When the Sox drafted Hassan out of Duke in the 20th round of the 2009 draft, they did so as a pitcher. However, the two-way college player showed the team an impressive enough offensive approach in the Cape League that summer that they changed course and, by the time he signed, the team had committed to developing him as a position player.

– Despite his slump this year, his progression up the ladder has been remarkably steady. Hassan has posted an OBP of .378 or better at every level where he’s played.

– Hassan will wear No. 68.

– Hassan has a swing with numerous quirks. He features a fairly pronounced leg kick as a timing mechanism and there’s a lot of movement with his hands as he loads for a swing. A couple of years ago, in 2012, he struggled in Pawtucket while trying to cut down on both traits. But in 2013, he embraced the atypical nature of his swing and hit .338 with a .457 OBP and .471 slugging mark in an injury-shortened year. His explanation:

“Two years ago, I got the idea that I really needed to be short to the ball. Instead of loading back, I’d almost be waiting and then pushing to the ball. In theory, you want to be short to the ball because the ball is going very fast. But biomechanically, if you’re going to create the most force, the best way to do it is not from a dead stop,” he said. “I tried to lower my leg kick and be quieter with my hands. … In theory, if you get rid of that stuff, it will be easier. But for me, it’s not. I’m a really rhythmic hitter. I don’t even feel it. I just do it, it feels good and when I tried to eliminate it, it didn’t work.”

– This call-up has been a long time in coming for Hassan, who has been in big league spring training the last three years and on the 40-man roster since the end of 2012. But the outfielder suggested during spring training that he hasn’t lost sleep over when it will be his time in the majors, or if the Sox might remove him from the 40-man roster if in need of a spot.

“I feel confident in my abilities. The decision whether you’re ready to play in the big leagues or not, you kind of answer that through your play. In regards to the 40-man roster, I don’t give that much thought. The reason is a lot of it is out of my control,” said Hassan. “My focus has always been what I can do to become the best player I can be. If I do that, that stuff will take care of itself. I’ve seen guys who play GM, especially at the lower levels when they really don’t know what’s going on, talking about roster moves and where they should be at and this and that. It’s just a waste of time. It really is. It’s human nature. … But for me, mentally, it just bogs me down, so honestly, I just don’t think about it.”

Now, that patience is rewarded with his inaugural big league opportunity.

– From the Minor Details archive, a conversation with Hassan in 2012 that gives good insight into his keen mind for the game.

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