Don’t look for Pedro Ciriaco‘s name on any of the lists that rank the game’s top prospects. It is nowhere to be found. The 26-year-old infielder from the baseball hotbed of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic was so obscure in the Red Sox organization that he was assigned and still wears No. 77.
Perhaps you haven’t heard of Ciriaco – and if you have, maybe you don’t know how to pronounce his last name (Seer-EE-AHK-oh) – but the Red Sox are now keenly aware of his talents. So are the New York Yankees.
With a 4-for-4 performance in Boston’s 4-1 victory at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, Ciriaco is batting .517 (15-for-29) against the Yankees this year. Over the past 55 years, only Barry Bonds has a better career average (.533) against Boston’s heated rival with at least 25 plate appearances
Ciriaco has seven RBI, three doubles and nine runs in seven games against New York this season. He showcased his peskiness throughout Saturday night’s game. In the second inning, he grounded a single into left field and swiped second base. In the fifth, he lined a base hit and scored moments later on Nick Punto‘s double. Ciriaco reached on a bunt single in the seventh and then doubled in the top of the ninth.
The legend of Ciriaco is a story about an unheralded rookie who opened eyes with a .419 average only to be dispatched to Triple-A Pawtucket. Impressive, the Red Sox thought, but spring training numbers are often deceiving, especially from a minor league journeyman who had collected just 39 Major League at-bats in 31 games during two cups of coffee with Pittsburgh in 2010 and 2011.
Originally signed as an international free agent by the Diamondbacks in 2003, the versatile infielder was named to four All-Star teams as he climbed Arizona’s farm system. In 2010, he played for the World team in the Futures Game.
At the trade deadline in 2010, when he was at Triple-A Reno, Ciriaco was packaged with catcher Chris Snyder to Pittsburgh for D.J. Carrasco, Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby. He made his major league debut that season, going 3-for-6. He spent most of 2011 at Triple-A Indianapolis and batted .303 (10-for-33) in a short stint with the Pirates.
Boston signed Ciriaco to a minor league deal in the off-season, and he hit .301 with four home runs, 21 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 276 at-bats at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine penciled Ciriaco’s name in the Red Sox starting lineup against the Yankees on July 7. In the day-night doubleheader nightcap, he was 4-for-5 with two doubles, two runs and four RBI. He went 3-for-4 in the next game.
Ciriaco’s theatrics against the Yankees continued during Boston’s previous visit to Yankee Stadium. He knocked in the go-ahead run in back-to-back games, first on an RBI triple in the ninth inning on July 28 and then a run-scoring base hit in the 10th inning the following evening.
Overall, Ciriaco is batting .343 with eight stolen bases and a .831 OPS in 105 at-bats for the Red Sox.
Ciriaco’s surprising emergence as a viable Major Leaguer is a prime example of how seemingly anonymous signings in the off-season to provide depth at Triple-A are important. Sometimes, as Ciriaco has shown, those players will be useful for the Major League club.