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Why the World Baseball Classic was so important to Xander Bogaerts

03.20.13 at 10:17 am ET

FORT MYERS, Fla. ‘€“ It was just a few weeks, but Xander Bogaerts said Wednesday morning that he had never learned so much in such a little time as he did throughout his World Baseball Classic stint.

‘€œYeah, that was a lot of experience,’€ Bogaerts said, having returned to the Red Sox clubhouse after his Netherlands team was eliminated Monday. ‘€œIt was awesome.’€

Bogaerts explained there were a couple of reasons the WBC participation meant so much.

To begin with, the level of pitching took the 20-year-old infielder off guard. In seven games, Bogaerts went 5-for-19 (.263) with two doubles and three walks.

‘€œIt was better than I thought,’€ he said of the pitching. ‘€œIt’€™s the best of the best for all the countries, especially Japan. I saw a lot of off-speed pitches, which surprised me. I felt like late in the tournament I started recognizing them better.

‘€œYou would see all the fastballs here, and then there you would only see off-speed. You would barely see fastballs. It was crazy. Those Japanese teams weren’€™t throwing fastballs. You have to learn to hit.’€

Another positive Bogaerts took away from the experience was being around veteran players, such as Andruw Jones and Wladimir Balentien.

Their most poignant advice given to the youngster?

‘€œJust stay yourself,’€ Bogaerts said. ‘€œNo matter how many ups and downs you have, just stay yourself and have confidence in yourself. I started off slow, but guys still had confidence in me. I was surprised by that. That helped me get back on track.’€

Bogaerts will see a few more days in big league camp before being sent down to the minors, continuing to be exposed to life as a third baseman. Red Sox manager John Farrell did, make a point Tuesday, however, that the organization continues to view their top prospect as a shortstop.

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