Rafael Devers’ breakout 2019 season caught the attention of a Red Sox legend in a big way.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday down in Fort Myers, David Ortiz touched on all things Red Sox. When Devers became the topic of discussion, he offered high praise for the 23-year-old third basemen.
Ortiz shared that while he was recovering from surgery last summer, Devers’ at-bats became appointment viewing for him.
“I was sitting at home, so of course, I’m going to be watching games more than ever,” Ortiz said. “Now, to be honest, I understand why I have people coming to me and telling me, ‘Bro, I couldn’t wait for you to come to hit. I was always expecting something out of you.’ I have the same feeling about him.”
The former Red Sox great, who is an advisor with the team, lauded Devers’ advance approach at the dish, where he always made pitchers work and was never an easy out.
“I couldn’t wait for him to come to hit. Because if he gets himself out, he was fighting,” Ortiz said. “He was hitting a rocket at somebody. It was a pitcher making a nasty pitch on him. It was not a giveaway at-bat at all. I saw more than 250 at-bats coming out of him [last year], and I was saying, ‘Bro, I’m telling you this guy is on another level.”
Devers posted career-best marks across the board in 2019, hitting .311 with 32 homers and 115 RBI. He also led MLB with 54 doubles and 359 total bases, good enough for a 12th-place finish in AL MVP voting.
Ortiz said Devers doesn’t have to do anything different in 2020.
“I don’t need him to do more than what he did last year,” Ortiz said. “His numbers last year were sick… It seems like every day that guy was doing some damage. Every day.”
Devers arrived to Spring Training on Friday after celebrating the birth of his daughter, and when he was told by reporters what Ortiz had to say about him the day before, he was understandably elated.
“It’s great to hear that, especially from a legend like David Ortiz,” Devers said, via a translator. “He’s someone I watched growing up and obviously he’s someone I hold in high regard. Knowing that he’s watching me, I just try to pick his brain as much as I can. I know the knowledge that he has and passes down to me is very important to my growth.”
— Red Sox (@RedSox) February 21, 2020
Ortiz also revealed an interesting story from Devers’ rookie season. When the Red Sox traveled to Miami to play the Marlins that season, Ortiz asked Marlins CEO Derek Jeter who in the Red Sox lineup scares him the most. Jeter’s response?
“He said, ‘Devers.’ His first year,” Ortiz said. “And I totally agreed with him because he was fearless. That’s when you know that a hitter is going to be dangerous. So, what he did last year, it was not surprising to be honest with you. I saw that coming.”