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Meet Shane Drohan, ‘A Regular Guy’ Having A Breakout Season


Red Sox

“I really don’t think anyone could have higher expectations than me.”

Shane Drohan is one of the Red Sox’s top pitching prospects. Matthew J. Lee/Globe team

“Put on some clothes and come into Eppy’s office.”

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Shane Drohan sat at his locker and wondered what pitching coach Sean Isaac’s request meant. His Portland Sea Dogs had just defeated the Somerset Patriots in a game in which he did not play. He spent this game cheering on his teammates like any other day off. Drohan had no significant role that day, so what could manager Chad Epperson want to say to him?

Drohan had no idea, but he did as he was told. He got dressed and headed to Epperson’s office. Once Drohan entered, Epperson looked him in the eyes and told him the news every Double-A player dreams of hearing.

“We’ll send you out,” Epperson told Drohan. “You’ve dominated here and it’s time.”

Epperson was right. Drohan torched hitters throughout the Eastern League in the six games he pitched as a Sea Dog. Batters routinely ended up at the plate whenever batters faced Drohan. He had a real knack for preventing any sort of base acquisition, as evidenced by his 1.38 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. These stats weren’t just for show either. They gave him five wins – including a league-leading four in April alone – without a single defeat. At this point, a quick promotion to Triple-A Worcester seemed inevitable. Double-A had become too easy for him.

As Drohan’s throwing stats got smaller and smaller, the hype around him only grew. He climbed the Red Sox prospect rankings to become one of the most highly touted players on the Boston farm. Baseball experts began to view him as one of the best pitching prospects the Red Sox had to offer, especially among his fellow lefties. All of a sudden, Drohan was receiving more attention than he had ever received in his life.

But with this praise comes enormous expectations from others. The pressure of living up to such high standards can overwhelm any player, no matter how talented. But will this pressure ever come to Drohan?

“I wouldn’t say that,” Drohan told Boston.com. “I really don’t think anyone could have higher expectations than me.”

Drohan considers himself a pretty normal guy. He likes sports, he doesn’t believe in superstitions and he is good at his chosen profession. Sure, he’s one of the best young pitchers in the world, but he doesn’t believe that sets him apart from the rest.

“I’m just a regular guy, like everyone else,” Drohan said. “(I) just have my talents in certain places in this world, like everyone has their talents.”

But even ordinary men have unique traits. And one of Drohan’s problems is his hyperfixation on baseball. Whether he plays it, watches it or studies it, Drohan never tires of baseball and lets himself be invaded by baseball.

“I’m just passionate about it,” Drohan said. “Kind of like, almost obsessed with it. It’s like something you always think about. You still watch baseball.

But this has not always been the case. Drohan’s favorite sport throughout his childhood was football, a love that encouraged him to pursue the quarterback position at Cardinal Newman High School in Florida in the 10th grade. At that point, baseball wasn’t even a thought on his mind. His father played in the Kansas City system, but the younger Drohan grew tired of playing in the outfield as a child and left the sport altogether after pitching his freshman year of high school.

But things would change during his first year of high school. After a growth spurt took Drohan from 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet 2 inches, one of his football teammates convinced him to return to the mound. He honored his friend’s request, but he did so with the same lack of enthusiasm for baseball that he had as a child. He was just going through the motions without any emotion.

“Back then, (I) would just walk onto the field like any other regular kid,” Drohan said, “I would tie my shoes and just go play.”

But halfway through that year, Drohan noticed that he was improving his game significantly. He was throwing the ball harder and his breaking balls were breaking very sharply. After that, he realized that baseball, not football, was his true calling.

“It really all came so naturally,” Drohan said. “It was just like, ‘Yeah, this is what I’m supposed to do.'”

The Philadelphia Phillies realized the same thing and therefore selected Drohan in the 23rd round of the 2017 MLB Draft, the year he graduated from high school. But Drohan refused to play for them, choosing instead to honor the commitment he had made to Florida State University. He pitched with the Seminoles for three years before waiting to hear his name called in the five-round 2020 MLB Draft.

And so he waited. And I waited. And I continued to wait. Four rounds had passed without a team selecting Drohan. And as the fifth and final round began to wind down, Drohan began to accept his fate. He thought his dream of playing professional baseball would have to be postponed for a year, and so he called his pitching coach at Florida State to tell him he would probably come back.

When the project was only a few steps away from its conclusion, Drohan heard his phone ring. This came from the Boston Red Sox, who said they wanted to select Drohan with their team’s fifth-round draft pick. Without any hesitation, Drohan gave them his answer.

“Yeah, let’s do it!”

Navigating the Red Sox minor league system wasn’t always easy for Drohan. Each league had different challenges and hitters. And once he successfully completed these challenges, he would be greeted by a whole new league of hitters who have already discovered all of his new skills.

This grueling process sums up the difficult work of a minor league pitcher, but that has never stopped Drohan from working hard to overcome every obstacle he faces.

“I’m going to show up every day and do the work that I know I need to do,” Drohan said, “Always looking for more things to do to get better.”

Drohan’s work has been recognized throughout the baseball world. He was named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week from April 10-16 while dominating in Portland, and he eventually won Pitcher of the Month a few weeks later. But the biggest honor Drohan has received thus far came after his promotion to Triple-A, when Worcester manager Chad Tracy and scouting director Brian Abraham told him he had been selected to represent Boston in the MLB Futures Game.

“It caught me off guard,” Drohan said. “But yeah, I was excited. I think the direct quote I said when they told me was, “Oh, hell yeah!” »

A calf cramp kept him from pitching in the match, but the initial selection was enough to excite Drohan. It meant all his hard work was paying off and the world was starting to believe what he had known since he started playing baseball again at age 17: he was good enough to play in the major leagues. and he would. stop at nothing to get there.

Such a goal is ambitious, especially for someone whose passion for baseball developed so late in childhood. But those are the only goals Drohan feels comfortable setting.

“That’s kind of what I think,” Drohan said. “I aim for the highest of goals.”

In due time, Drohan could end up achieving the highest goal a Red Sox prospect can have: playing at Fenway Park. But before manager Alex Cora calls his name, he wants to continue increasing his velocity by throwing harder and cleaning up his slider and cutter a little more.

Making these changes won’t be easy to achieve, but Drohan believes he’s up to the challenge. He believes the only way to get to the big leagues is to move forward, regardless of the obstacles that stand in his way. He knows he can one day be a major league player, and so can the Red Sox. That’s why Coach Isaac told him to suit up and report to Epperson’s office all those months ago.

“Every offseason I’ve spent with the Red Sox, we’ve made really good progress,” Drohan said. “So we’re just going to keep going.”



Boston

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