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Red Sox pregame notes: Revisiting a landmark in Xander Bogaerts’ career; some lineup decisions

05.16.14 at 6:58 pm ET
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The arrival of Xander Bogaerts on the biggest of stages came last October in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series.

Making just his second postseason start, Xander Bogaerts showed impressive plate discipline against the Cy Young winner. The 21-year-old doubled and drew two walks, and was the last batter that Scherzer would face in 2013, drawing a six-pitch walk in the bottom of the seventh and forcing Scherzer out of the game, setting the scene for Shane Victorino‘s series-clinching grand slam two batters later. Bogaerts saw a total of 19 pitches in just three plate appearances against Scherzer.

Now Bogaerts will get the chance to get a second look at the right-hander, this time with some regular major league playing time under his belt, at a time when he’s shown some of the same disciplined approach that caused so many talent evaluators to take notice last postseason.

“Regardless of the age, I think any guy that was able to lay off some of the pitches that he did against Scherzer was impressive, but Xander has always had a calmness about him, even in moments of postseason or on a heightened stage, and he’s still shown that this year with his overall approach,” manager John Farrell said of Bogaerts’ postseason plate appearances against Scherzer. “I can remember [Tigers catcher Alex] Avila receiving a few pitches and almost looking up at Xander with a little bit of awe about him, saying, ‘My gosh, that’s pretty impressive for a young guy to lay off some pretty tough pitches,’ and probably heightened with the setting. But I’d like to think we’re still seeing the same overall approach from Xander this year.”

Boagerts’ incredible performance in the spotlight last postseason may have set expectations high for his rematch against Scherzer. And though the shortstop’s plate discipline isn’t yet quite as refined in the majors as it was in the minor leagues (he’s striking out in about 23 percent of plate appearances), Farrell remains confident that Bogaerts’ approach hasn’t changed.

“I don’t think he’s expanded the strike zone all that much,” Farrell said. “There’s been, maybe, a higher number of strikeouts this year than maybe expected but he hasn’t changed all that much. The biggest difference from a year ago is that he came to the big leagues on a confident run being established at the minor league level. For a young player to get back to that state of confidence, for his first time at the major league level in the month of April, that’s more challenging. And those are some of the maturity things and experience things that we’re seeing through the first six or seven weeks of the season.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

David Ross is in the lineup for the second day in a row, the first time this season he’s started back-to-back contests. Farrell went with Ross due to the consistent track record he’s had with starter Jon Lester, despite A.J. Pierzynski‘s past success against Scherzer. Pierzynski is 11-for-33 with a double, triple, home run and seven RBIs in his career against the Tigers right-hander.

“This was a difficult decision, particularly with the performance he’s had against Scherzer, but also look at the way  Ross and  Lester have paired up and that has been consistent, that has been effective, and if this game goes the way you project between two very good starters, it should be a low-run game, so trying to preserve that battery between the two,” Farrell said.

Lester has posted a 3.47 ERA in 114 innings with Ross behind the plate, with a 2.45 mark this season when Ross is his batterymate. With Pierzynski catching, Lester has compiled a 3.86 ERA. Ross has caught six of Lester’s eight starts this season, including his last three.

— In the absence of Shane Victorino, who is having a MRI on his left knee, Farrell opted for Grady Sizemore in right field rather than shifting Jackie Bradley Jr. over.

“With the number of right-handers in this lineup, still, the number of balls and potential plays are going to be in center field, and Jackie’s done a very good job defensively in center,” Farrell explained.

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