Teddy Stankiewicz had been through the draft process before. He had seen how things could malfunction after a player hears his name called.
Last year, when the Mets selected the 6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound righthander in the second round, it made sense to think things would go smoothly.
The Mets wanted him to sign for less than the $680,000 slotted for him as the 75th pick.
Stankiewicz didn’t see any reason why he should. Instead, he figured it would be in his best interest to enroll at Seminole State College in Oklahoma and test the draft waters again the next year.
After the Red Sox took Stankiewicz in the second round (45th pick) in June, the process went more smoothly. The sides agreed to a $1.1 million contract that depended on a physical that seemed like a formality.
The examination determined that Stankiewicz was born without a right pectoral muscle.
He had no clue.
There was no reason for him to notice it. His fastball topped out at 95 miles per hour. He racked up 70 strikeouts in nine starts for Seminole State. Scouts were picturing how his power would project as a professional.
Stankiewicz did his best not to let the news affect him.
“I kind of didn’t really know what it was honestly,” he said. “I mean, there’s no muscle. It’s kind of weird — to me at least. But it hasn’t inhibited me in any way at all. So I just do what I do. It hasn’t affected me so I didn’t ever think twice about it.
“It’s kind of one of those things where you’re like, ‘Oh, OK. I’ve got it. Big deal. Move on.’ ”
The revelation led the Sox to trim his bonus to $915,000 in July.
Having gone through draft complications before, Stankiewicz saw it as a blip.
“Every draft, some things are a little bumpy but that’s normal,” Stankiewicz said. “Overall, it went pretty well obviously.”
Stankiewicz has made seven starts for Single A Lowell, putting 13⅔ innings under his belt as he gets a feel for the professional level.
The early emphasis, he said, is on simple things such as throwing strikes, locating his pitches, letting his defense work for him, and occasionally going after a punchout.
“Honestly on the first year, they just let the first-year guys do what they do and they’ll learn from that year and then the next year they’ll critique them,” he said. “So I’m getting the feel for being here and stuff like that, which I’ve coped pretty well with so far. It’s going great so far so we’ll see how I do next year and we’ll progress next year.”
Being a power pitcher isn’t as important to him at the moment as it is to learn to hit his spots, Stankiewicz said.
“I have some natural power, but overall it’s location that’s going to get you to where you need to go,” he said. “If you can throw the ball hard but can’t throw strikes it’s not really going to help. The thing that they teach you in pro ball would be to throw strikes — even if you throw not as hard, throw strikes. So if you throw hard and throw strikes, you’ll be in the big leagues soon.”
That he was labeled a power pitcher without a muscle in his chest didn’t surprise him, he said, since he uses his entire body to generate power.
“You have to have that whip in your arm, that flexibility in your arm and that flexibility overall to be able to generate power to home, so everything in your body affects you one way or another,” Stankiewicz said. “I think that, in a way, that not having the right pec actually kind of helped me flexibility-wise because I don’t get as tight in my arm. So it has its benefits and its downside. But I think overall I managed to cope very well with not having it. So just move on it and have fun with the game.”
Three to watch
Mookie Betts, Salem: The 20-year-old second baseman was named Carolina League player of the week after his explosion last Friday against Myrtle Beach when he went 5 for 6 with two doubles, two homers, seven RBIs, and four runs.
He’s reached base in 26 straight games, hitting .396 with five homers and 26 RBIs.
Henry Owens, Portland: Since being called up to Double A, the 21-year-old lefty hasn’t missed a beat. On Tuesday he went 6⅔ innings, hanging up six K’s in the Sea Dogs’ 9-2 win at New Hampshire. In five starts with Portland he’s 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA and 38 strikeouts.
Manuel Margot, Lowell: The Spinners have been hanging on in the New York-Penn League and the 20-year-old center fielder has seemingly contributed to all 13 wins in August. In his last 10 games Margot is hitting .391 (18 of 46) with six extra-base hits, 10 RBIs, and a .417 on-base percentage.
Waiting for his turn
The Salem Sox are crossing their fingers that the rehabbing Clay Buchholz could land in their rotation just as they begin the Carolina League playoffs. Salem, which clinched the Southern Division Thursday, is slated to open the playoffs Sept. 4. With Buchholz pitching for Triple A Pawtucket Friday, his next turn would fall on Sept. 4. Pawtucket also could open the International League playoffs the same date. Red Sox manager John Farrell said the team hasn’t determined where Buchholz will pitch on that date . . . First baseman/designated hitter David Chester was named Single A Greenville’s player of the year after hitting .270 with 13 homers and 71 RBIs. He was promoted to Salem in July and is hitting .247 with three homers and 9 RBIs in 24 games . . . Two other Greenville call-ups have impacted Salem’s playoff push. Luis Diaz pitched six innings of two-run ball and picked up the win as Salem ran through Myrtle Beach, 10-3, Aug. 22. Two days later, Brian Johnson struck out five over six scoreless innings in a 4-2 win over Carolina . . . With Matt Barnes’s promotion to Pawtucket, all pitchers in Portland’s loaded rotation at the beginning of the season have moved on. Drake Britton and Brandon Workman are both on the big league roster. Anthony Ranaudo was called up to Pawtucket earlier this month. In 24 Double A starts, Barnes had his highs and lows. The high-water mark came July 20 when he struck out 10 over 7⅓ scoreless innings against Reading. But in his following six starts, he went 0-4 with a 3.26 ERA. Ranaudo landed on the Eastern League’s year-end team by going 8-4 with a 2.95 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 19 starts.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: Because of a reporting error, Stankiewicz was incorrectly referred to as a lefthander in a previous version.