DETROIT — This is not what the Red Sox intended, starting Xander Bogaerts at third base in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.
The 21-year-old has had four plate appearances in the postseason, all off the bench. He started only 12 of 36 games the Red Sox played after he was called up Aug. 19. The plan was for him to become a starter next season, not in the middle of the playoffs. This month was supposed to fall under the “good experience” category for him.
But postseason crises have a way of changing plans. The Red Sox were the best offensive team in the majors all season but are 24 of 129 (.186) in four games against the Tigers, with 10 runs. If Bogaerts can do anything — get a hit, draw a walk — it’ll be an upgrade.
Bogaerts will be the youngest player to start a postseason game for the Red Sox since a lefty pitcher named Babe Ruth in 1916. Ruth also was 21.
The easy comparison to draw is with Jacoby Ellsbury in 2007. Then a 23-year-old rookie, Ellsbury was a pinch runner and defensive replacement in the Division Series against Cleveland that season. But when Coco Crisp started to struggle, Terry Francona started Ellsbury in center field in Game 6. The Sox were down, 3-2, in the series.
Ellsbury went 1 for 5 with a run and an RBI in a 12-2 victory. The Red Sox didn’t lose again in the postseason, and he started every game, going 9 for 24 with seven runs, four doubles, four RBIs and a stolen base.
John Farrell was the pitching coach on that team and remembers the impact Ellsbury had. Surely he hopes Bogaerts can do the same.
The difference is that Ellsbury started 28 games in that regular season and had 127 plate appearances. Bogaerts had 50 plate appearances.
It’ll be interesting to see where this leads. Bogaerts could play his way into the lineup for the rest of the postseason and for years to come. The Red Sox see him as one of their cornerstones, a middle-of-the-order hitter they can build around.
Or maybe Will Middlebrooks is back at third base Saturday. In the postseason, managers often find that plans can change quickly.