Xander Bogaerts is not in the starting lineup for the homestand finale Wednesday against Reds right-hander Mike Leake. For Bogaerts, who has appeared in 31 of the Red Sox’ first 33 games, it is his first, day off since April 26 in Toronto.
Jonathan Herrera is at shortstop, batting ninth, in Bogaerts’ place. It is Herrera’s first game in the starting lineup since replacing Bogaerts on April 26.
The switch-hitting Herrera gives the Red Sox a chance to get another lefty bat against Leake.
“A day off and a chance to get another left-handed bat in the lineup,” manager John Farrell said. “Leake has been very tough on right-handers and I think as you see some other alignments in the lineup, that reflects that as well.
“If we were playing tomorrow, [Bogaerts would] be back in the lineup. Today was a chance to take advantage of some splits by the opposition and give Xander a day to kind of take things in.”
And while Bogaerts has been struggling lately – going 5-for-25 (.200) with one double, five walks and 11 strikeouts in his last seven games as his average dipped 10 points to .268, Farrell said it’s simply the match-up and not a need to give Bogaerts a break that has the young shortstop out of the starting lineup.
“I wouldn’t say mental breather,” Farrell said. “He expanded the strike zone I thought on one at-bat when we had the bases loaded. They’re giving him a heavy dose of breaking balls. I think it’s more just situational with the opposition, the opposing pitcher in Leake tonight, and really getting Herrera back in a game, which it’s been eight or nine days since he’s been in there.”
Bogaerts went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, responsible for leaving six runners on base in the Sox 12-inning win over the Reds on Wednesday. In the third inning, with one out and the bases loaded, he popped out. Bogaerts is batting just .125, going 4-for-32 with four RBIs and eight strikeouts with runners in scoring position, which may reflect a change in his plate approach in such situations.
“There may be a tendency to expand the strike zone at times with him,” Farrell said. “I think there’s more expansion of the strike zone, particularly up with a fastball and off the plate away with a breaking ball. And we’ve seen a selective patient approach with nobody on base, there might be more of tendency to swing the bat in those situations.”
As it is for any young player, there has been a lot with which the rookie has had to contend this season.
“I think there’s been a lot of opportunities that he’s growing from,” Farrell said. “It might not have all ended in a positive result. But I think you can put he and Jackie [Bradley] in a similar situation where there’s been some opportunities and exposure where it hasn’t always turned out in our favor. But we’re hopeful and we’re expecting that because of these challenges or these experiences, they're going to pay off dividends as we go deeper in the season.”
One of those situations is dealing with a better quality of pitches at the major league level.
“I wouldn’t limit it just to the quality of the off-speed,” Farrell said. “It’s also the execution and the location. I had a conversation with Jackie after the [Gerardo] Parra at-bat [a strikeout looking to open the ninth] and he said those pitches were unhittable. Well, they’re unhittable because they’re in spots in the strike zone that are well-executed, they’re quality pitches, and I can say without much reservation, I can say that those guys are facing things for the first time in those key moments in games that they haven’t faced in the minor league level. That’s part of the growing experience.”