The beginning of Edgar Renteria's Red Sox career gave rise to whispers.
Is this guy tough enough to play in a market like Boston? Should the Red Sox have kept Orlando Cabrera at shortstop?
But on a night when there was the typical chaos of a Yankees-Red Sox clash, Renteria showed his reliability by being the offensive hero in an 8-5 win over the Yankees.
Batting second in the order, Renteria went 2 for 4, knocked in three runs, hit a two-run homer off Randy Johnson in the third, and had the winning RBI on a double to right-center off setup man Tom Gordon in the eighth.
"We've known all along that Edgar is a great player," said manager Terry Francona. "When you sign a four-year deal and come to Boston, you're supposed to be a great player on Day 1. Edgar's smart enough. He didn't panic. Hopefully, we can get him on a roll because we need him. We know he's going to be good. He had a big impact on the game. That's going to happen a lot."
Renteria's slow start -- he entered the game batting .219 -- didn't bother his teammates, who constantly threw encouragement his way. The former Cardinals shortstop and Florida Marlins World Series hero has earned the respect of his mates with his quiet nature and team approach. And as bench coach Brad Mills said, "Nobody works harder on his game."
Renteria, who signed a four-year, $40 million deal Dec. 22, has worked nearly every day with hitting coach Ron Jackson, who suggested Renteria open his stance slightly so he can see pitches better. Renteria said he doesn't think he's changed his stance, but he did say he has changed his approach to being more patient. It's clear Renteria has been pressing, trying to impress his new teammates and fans.
"I try not to do too much but sometimes when you try to do too much, you start getting tight out there," said Renteria. "So I've just tried to relax and put the ball in play. It feels great [to hit a home run] because Randy is one of the best pitchers in baseball. He's tough, so you have to have a good at-bat against him. I got lucky that I got a ball I could hit and I hit it."
It came at a vulnerable time for Johnson, who isn't used to pitching in the cold, raw April conditions at Fenway. Johnson had allowed a two-run homer to Jay Payton in the second inning to put the Sox up, 2-0. In the third, Johnny Damon drew a walk, stole second, and scored when Renteria lifted an 0-and-1 fastball over the left-center field wall, making it 4-1. In the eighth, Renteria again knocked in Damon, who had singled to center. Renteria's scorching double hit low off the wall in left-center to break a 5-5 tie.
"I put a good swing on the ball," said Renteria, who went down to get a sinker. "I feel like I came through.
"It feels great because we won the game. That's all that matters. We took two out of three and I know everybody feels good about that."
Renteria, who improved his average to .250, said he hadn't felt as if he were pressing, but the people who know him best -- his family -- kept telling him he wasn't being himself.
"We're human, and maybe I don't think so, but my family -- they tell me I'm trying too hard," said Renteria. "They could see during the game what I was doing."
Trot Nixon said he never worried about the shortstop.
"In September, Edgar is going to be right where we think he should be with his numbers," said Nixon. "This guy has a proven track record. He's done the job year after year. This guy can play. He doesn't have to prove anything to us. We all heard of him and his reputation before he came in this locker room and he's lived up to it."