John Farrell: ‘It’s time to throw [Xander Bogaerts] into the fire’
|10.17.13 at 5:50 pm ET|
DETROIT — The Red Sox have scored more than one run in just one inning this series. Their offense has been dormant, getting dominated by Tigers starters to the tune of a 1.00 ERA with 14.0 strikeouts per nine innings. Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks are a combined 2-for-23 with 11 strikeouts, turning what had been one of the Sox’ foremost strengths this year — a relentless one-through-nine lineup — into an afterthought.
It was time to make a change. It was time for Xander Bogaerts.
Bogaerts has batted just four times this postseason. He’s impressed in each of them, collecting two walks in the ALDS, working Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit to a full count before popping up to end Game 1 of the ALCS and then doubling to the opposite field against Benoit in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the ALCS. The Sox see a player whose approach suggests the ability to put a charge into the lineup.
“The one thing that Xander has shown in the brief opportunities that he has had is a consistent approach. It’s time to throw him into the fire,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “I think the overriding thing is the approach that we see. He seemingly doesn’t pull off of pitches. If a pitcher looks to attack him away, he doesn’t expand the zone. And even in the first at-bat against Benoit, I thought the most impressive take was the split that he took with two strikes. He didn’t offer at it. He shows the control, the emotional control, under the environment, and this is a unique environment right now as compared to the regular season.”
With both Drew and Middlebrooks struggling, it seemed fair to suggest that Bogaerts could have been inserted in place of either player on the left side of the infield. But the decision was made to have him start at third base in place of Middlebrooks due to what Farrell described as Drew’s relatively stronger approach offensively, and the fact that Drew is left-handed going against a tough righty in Tigers Game 5 starter Anibal Sanchez.
“Given the way the makeup of the other positions are with what we’ve got, didn’t want to go exclusively right-handed,” said Farrell. “I’m still seeing a consistent approach from Stephen, yet the results haven’t been there. But it’s not like he’s pulling off of pitches and becoming susceptible to any one thing.”
As for the decision to put Jonny Gomes back in the lineup over Daniel Nava, Farrell praised the left-fielder’s ability to produce good at-bats, even when facing tough right-handers. Given the energy that Farrell feels Gomes brings the Sox both at the plate, on the bases and in the field, he felt that it was the right move to turn to the veteran for Game 5.
“It shouldn’t be seen as a slight to Daniel in any way, but I just feel like we present differently when he’s in the lineup versus coming off the bench,” said Farrell.
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