Playing nine innings will refusing to waver in the belief that the Red Sox will participate in the 2014 postseason …
1. In his fledgling big-league career — which consists of 298 plate appearances at this point, last October’s spotlight-stealing formal introduction included — Xander Bogaerts has displayed, on multiple occasions, a knack for rising to the moment. He’s done it with patience (he walked six times in 34 plate appearances in October, a 100-plus pace over a full season), poise (last night’s winning hit off Craig Kimbrel is the freshest example) and power (what 20-year-old kid has the steel nerves and unwavering confidence to hit an opposite-field double off Max Scherzer in a crucial moment?). All of that considered, isn’t it foolish in retrospect to believe he’d be adversely affected beyond a day or two by the Red Sox’ decision to bring back Stephen Drew? If the kid ever gets rattled, he doesn’t stay rattled for long — and then, apparently, he plays better than ever. Since the Drew signing, he’s hitting .390 with a 1.042 OPS. As I tweeted last night, I can’t wait to see what his numbers look like at the end of June. It’s happening, people.
2. One more Bogaerts thought: Of those 298 plate appearances, I think last night’s at-bat against Kimbrel might just rank as the most impressive. As the ProJo’s Brian MacPherson reminded us this morning, it came with two strikes against arguably the game’s premier closer (Non-Uehara Division). Historically, when Kimbrel gets two strikes, it might as well be three — he’s held hitters to an .085 batting average in such situations in his career and, as MacPherson points out, an .039 average (2 for 51) and an .059 slugging percentage this season. If his success off Scherzer last year was the first bit of evidence, the hit off Kimbrel last night is the evidence that won the case: Bogaerts is capable of delivering against any pitcher in any situation, no matter how daunting.
3. Any room for me on the Brock Holt bandwagon? He’s a good stick — potentially an excellent one for a utility man — and while he hasn’t been that adept on getting on base during his limited big-league time, his .307 batting average and .372 OBP in the minors certainly suggest what we’ve seen the last week or so is legitimate. Funny thing is, the return of Stephen Drew probably helps his chances of sticking, since the only reason to keep Jonathan Herrera ahead of Holt is his ability to play short. With Drew and Bogaerts on the roster, that’s no longer necessary. Holt has helped, and I suspect he will continue to do so. Now, please, just don’t compare him to David Eckstein. Deal?
4. Had a guy sitting in front of me in the bleachers last night who kept yelling, “Two more weeks, Sizemore! Two more weeks!” I presume that means how much time Sizemore has left with the Red Sox, though I suppose it could also have other meanings, such as when this guy plans to show up on Sizemore’s doorstep adorned in nothing but tea cups. I hope that’s not the case — I should say, I hope neither scenario is the case. But regarding the baseball related one, I do hope Sizemore gets more time than that. Expectations got out of hand in spring training because he looked like the Grady Sizemore we remembered as one of the most dynamic players in the American League a half-decade ago. That led a lot of us underestimate how difficult and prolonged his return was going to be.
5. However — dramatic pause! — it has gone without saying, I think, that Sizemore’s pedigree bought him some time that players of less standard accomplishment would have received. To put it another way, had Sizemore been the player whose pro career began with the Chico
Bail Bondsmen Outlaws of the Golden League while Daniel Nava was the top-10 overall prospect who found stardom at 22 years old, let’s just say it would not have been Nava who got stuck looking for a place to stay in Pawtucket after being one of several hitters off to a slow start. The Red Sox’ desire to keep Sizemore around definitely affected Nava’s status, and that probably was not fair to him given how valuable he was against righthanded pitching a season ago.
6. Given that he he’s hitting .199/.286/.311 in roughly a half-season (86 games, 283 plate appearances in 2013-14) against big league pitching, sure, it’s fair to wonder whether Jackie Bradley Jr. will become the Mark Kotsay-type hitter (and all-around player) the Red Sox believe he will be. But as MassLive’s Jason Mastrodonato points out today, Bradley has had some offensive success this season — he actually leads the team with 14 hits with runners in scoring position this season. It’s a small clue to what he can become, and given his exceptional defense in center field, there should be no discussion about whether he should return to Pawtucket. Bat him ninth, watch him do his Garry Maddox thing in center, and give him time to make the proper adjustments at the plate.
7. The Red Sox should have Brian Daubach throw out the first pitch tonight before the opener of the series with the Rays. Then he can hang around to participate in the inevitable brawl, just like the old days when he was the designated (Devil) Rays punching bag during the teams’ various Pedro-instigated rumbles through the years.
8. You want random? I’ve got random for you, in the form of a question: Which current Red Sox player do you think would make the best broadcaster when his playing days are over. My pick: Jake Peavy. He’s thoughtful, articulate — his impromptu, heartfelt comments about the death of umpire Wally Bell during last year’s ALCS were beyond impressive — and is clearly passionate about the game. Has good pipes, too, with that slight southern drawl.
9. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball card:
Sometimes I almost forget that Rickey played here for a year. When the memory returns, I immediately wish he’d been here more than a year. Hell, he could probably help now.