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June 27, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Khoury's return brings stability to Sea Dogs' lineup

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Sea Dogs fans not up on recent transactions may have been confused by a familiar face at the top of the Portland lineup over the past week. After being among the last players cut by the Red Sox in spring training, Ryan Khoury rejoined the organization on June 21, immediately stepping in as Portland’s starting shortstop and number two hitter. The Red Sox’ 12th-round pick in the 2006 draft has wasted no time making himself at home either, reaching base in all six games since he signed.

“He’s done a great job. He’s worked counts at the plate, seeing a lot of pitches. Defensively, he’s really strengthened the middle infield for us,” said Portland Manager Kevin Boles. “He’s made the plays. He’s a grinder, grinds out at-bats. He plays the game the right way. He’s a gamer. It’s good to have him back in our uniform.”

Khoury signed with the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League after being cut, a gig born out of a conversation with former Red Sox minor leaguer Zach Borowiak, now the bench/defense coach with the Grizzlies, while Khoury drove home from Ft. Myers.

“We talked about the release and everything,” Khoury said. “He just mentioned (the possibility of playing for the Grizzlies) to me, and I waited until the dust settled in about a week or two. The more I looked at it, it was just a good situation for me to go out to.”

Khoury dominated the Frontier League immediately. He reached base in all 26 games he played for the Grizzlies, recorded a hit in 23 games, and reached base at least twice 20 times. Needless to say, his .454 on-base percentage put him among the elite hitters in the league, ranking third-best. He hit .320 and slugged .524 while playing his trademark strong defense, leading Grizzlies manager Phil Warren to call Khoury “the best all around player we have ever seen” in the release on the Gateway website announcing Khoury’s return to the Red Sox.

Taking advantage of the opportunity to stay sharp at the plate should an opportunity back in affiliated ball arise, Khoury noticed that the indy leagues were not quite the same as what he was used to in professional baseball.

“It’s different,” he said. “It makes you appreciate the players and appreciate the way you get treated in affiliated ball. In Indy ball, they obviously don’t have a lot of money, so they try to skimp on things and save money.”

Meanwhile, an injury to Ryan Dent had left the Sea Dogs without a starting shortstop. Vlad Frias and Jon Hee had split time at short over 51 games, making 12 errors combined. However, the Sox decided to look outside the organization to fill Portland’s shortstop role, ultimately bringing a familiar face back into the fold.

“They told me what their need was. They wanted a guy to come in and play short, and they obviously knew me from the years past,” Khoury recalled of hearing from the Sox again. “It wasn’t a thing where they were just taking a shot on a guy, so they said they thought that I’d be perfect for what they needed and I was excited for the chance.”

In addition to his success at the plate, Khoury has solidified the team’s infield defense. Through six games, Khoury, who moved around the infield and even played a little outfield while first coming up through the minors, has 36 combined putouts and assists, to give him a range factor ((putouts + assists) / games played) of 6.00. Portland shortstops had a 4.27 range factor prior to Khoury’s signing, so in essence, he is making almost two more outs per game at that position than his predecessors.

In the end, Ryan Khoury’s return to the Sox is more than an old hand getting a reprieve from indy ball. For the Sea Dogs, who sport one of the minor leagues’ worst records at 25-47, it’s the addition of a player who can help bring some stability and provide an example for the club’s younger players both up the middle and at the top of the lineup.

“I always prided myself on being into the game both offensively and defensively the whole game, and just concentrating on doing whatever I can do to help the team,” Khoury said. “They had a need, so I came in and I’m trying to fill it for them the best I can.”