Celtics

Brentz eager for shot in Boston

874663.jpg

Brentz eager for shot in Boston

It was a long season for outfielder Bryce Brentz, the longest of his young career. Brentz, the Red Sox second pick (36th overall) in the first round (supplemental) in 2010 out of Middle Tennessee State, played a total of 154 games combined with Double-A Portland, Triple-A Pawtucket, including eight post-season games, and in the Arizona Fall League.

So, it didnt help when he was stranded in Ithaca, NY, for a couple of days earlier this week when his truck broke down on his way from Montreal, where he had left the vehicle after the regular season, to Tennessee, where he was hoping to make it in time for Thanksgiving.

Fortunately, everything worked out. The truck was repaired, and he made it home for the holiday dinner.

It was one of those years for Brentz.

In 122 games with Portland, he hit .296 with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, a .355 on-base percentage, and .478 slugging percentage for Portland, while playing 83 games in right field. He had a season-high 11-game hit streak in August, and recorded eight straight hits over two games in May. Brentz was twice named Eastern League player of the week, including Aug. 20-26, when he hit a league-best .536, going 15-for-28, with two home runs and a league-high 10 RBI, earning a late-season promotion to Pawtucket.

Although Brentz, who turns 24 on Dec. 30, struggled in his five regular-season games with the PawSox, going hitless until the final game of the season, he turned it on in the postseason, going 8-for-27 (.296), with two home runs, a double, a triple, and five RBI, as the PawSox won the International League title.

It was a great experience, Brentz said of his season. Learning, playing in Double A, especially Triple A, the fall league, facing some better talent, older smart pitchers. It was all about, for me, I had to learn discipline at the plate. Im a risk taker and Ive always been one, and when youre a risk taker things are going to happen. Youre going to strike out, maybe not walk as much. But thats just kind of who I am.

In three seasons, Brentz has struck out in 27.4 percent of his at-bats, including 28.8 percent in 2012, one-third of his at-bats with Pawtucket, 29.7 percent in Arizona. Hes working on his approach and his plate discipline.

I want to put myself in good position to take those risks, he said. So when I first got in the season, there was a lot of going up there just swinging from the hip, not really having an approach at the plate. So that was something that me and Portland and Arizona hitting coach Dave Joppie, we had to work on, gaining an approach and figuring out, Hey, you got to earn a fastball. Theyre not going to just give it to you. And I was able to do it. It was overall a good learning experience this year.

The mental adjustments at the plate are more of a challenge than the physical adjustments, Brentz said.

I believe the mental adjustment is always the toughest thing to do, he said. I dont have anything figured out, never will. But I know that if I just stick with the game plan, stick with my approach, let the at-bat take care of itself -- a lot of times I expand the zone because I expand my approach. Actually, its because of the fact that youre worried about this pitch or maybe youre concerned too much about one pitch instead of saying, 'Hey, its just not there. You dont have to swing at it.' The mental side is always tougher than the physical.

In 17 games in Arizona, Brentz hit .297 with two home runs, 11 RBI, and an .804 OPS, being named to the Rising Stars game.

Its a great league, Brentz said. The players obviously are really goodIt was a good experience. These guys are really good, great players. I had a lot of fun, and it was a good time.

Between Portland and Pawtucket Brentz played a combined 87 games in right field, one of several holes the Sox have to fill this offseason. It may not be long before he is playing the position for the major league team.

For me, I believe I share the same view as every guy whos in the minor leagues, whos on the cusp of being in the big leagues, we all look at those type of things, see what theyre doing, what the parent club is doing, Brentz said. For me, with that situation, I want to be there to help out. I hope Im one of the guys in the lineup for the Red Sox. Thats what Im looking forward to. But were all the same. And theyre going to do whats best for the team. Its not the Boston Bryce Brentzes or whatever. Its the Boston Red Sox. And theyre going to do what they have to do for their team, and hopefully Im the right guy that can help them out.

His goals for 2013 are simple.

Hopefully to be in Boston at some point, he said. Thatd be really nice, to start there and play. But it depends on how I do and how I develop and if Im ready for it, which I think I am. But actually thats the goal, is to be in Boston next year.

But, I really dont set number goals. I just want to be productive. Thats all I can ask for.

For now, hes looking forward to enjoying the rest of the offseason, being a normal 23 year old before he heads to Fort Myers for spring training. Hell visit with his family, take some hunting trips with his buddies. Hell be back training and in the weight room after Thanksgiving.

But its good to finally have some time off, he said. It was a very long season.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

stream-celtics-heat.jpg

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

usatsi_10375870.jpg

Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

The Boston Celtics remain a team whose collective talents are far more valuable than their individual abilities.

But there are going to be nights when someone has to shoulder a larger burden of the team in order to win. More often than not, that “one” will likely be No. 11, Kyrie Irving. 

We saw in Dallas what can happen when Irving feels he has little choice but to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. 

The Celtics were desperate for a spark against the Mavericks and found it in Irving, who scored 47 points in leading the Celtics to a come-from-behind 110-102 overtime win. 

It remains to be seen if the Celtics will require a similar Herculean effort tonight when they take the Miami Heat with a chance to extend their winning streak to 17 straight. 

This team isn’t one to dwell on success in the past, even if the past was just 24 hours ago. But there’s no getting around how what happened on Monday night might impact what we see against the Heat. 

Boston expended a tremendous amount of energy in rallying from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter at Dallas, the kind of effort that may be difficult to replicate against a Miami team that you can count on to play hard from the opening tip to the final horn. 

Irving’s performance was one of the rare instances this season when Boston clearly could not have won without their top scorer having a big game. 

“When we needed it most, he made big shot after big shot,” said Al Horford. “He had such good rhythm, I was thinking, ‘just let him keep it going.’ He just kept being aggressive, taking really good shots. He recognized he needed to be extra aggressive, especially at the end and score the ball for us.”

Scoring could potentially be at a premium against Miami which allows 102.5 points per game which ranks ninth in the league in fewest points allowed. Also, the Heat will test Boston’s perimeter defenders. Miami comes into tonight’s game averaging 11.1 made 3-pointers per game which ranks ninth in the NBA. 

The Heat are led by Goran Dragic who is averaging team highs in scoring (18.3 points) and assists (4.7) this season. 

These two squared off earlier this season in Miami with the Celtics coming away with a 96-90 win as Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum led the way with 24 and 20 points, respectively. In that game, the Heat were without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who will be in the lineup tonight as the Heat try to bounce back after losing three of its last four games.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE