What Stephen Drew’s signing means for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks
|05.20.14 at 6:32 pm ET|
Even through shortstop Xander Bogaerts‘ defensive struggles and third baseman Will Middlebrooks‘ difficulties at the plate through the first six weeks of the season, the Red Sox did not stray away from the notion that the duo would continue to man the left side of the infield.
That notion held true until Middlebrooks landed on the disabled list for the second time this season with a broken right index finger. With Middlebrooks out for the near future, general manager Ben Cherington looked to upgrade the left side of the infield and generate more production from a position that has been a gaping hole for the lineup so far this season.
The deal with Drew has significant implications for both Bogaerts — who enters Tuesday hitting .269 with a .369 OBP, .379 slugging mark and two homers — and Middlebrooks (hitting .197/.305/.324 in 21 games), both of whom declined comment before Tuesday’s series opener against the Blue Jays.
“[Bogaerts] goes to third base and particularly against right-handed starters,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “It’s also going to depend upon who is on this team, what this roster looks like once Stephen comes back to us. That’s not to suggest any other moves, but we’ll put the best alignment on the field to win that night. I’m not going to say that exclusively against left-handed starters, it’ll be Xander at shortstop, but that is going to be dependent upon other personnel that is here as well.”
Farrell said that the team will make a decision about Middlebrooks once he gets healthy.
“Will’s case is unfortunate that he is on the disabled list with a broken finger and that is completely out of his control,” Farrell said. “We’ll work through it once he returns to us because there is going to be a need for a rehab assignment when he’s healthy so we don’t have an exact time frame on his return so with these moving parts, the best way to improve our team was to bring Stephen in.”
In regards to Bogaerts playing shortstop against left-handed pitchers, Farrell said he will make the decision when that time comes. Bogaerts — whose defensive performance and growing pains through the first six weeks was in line with the team’s expectations — will remain a possibility for shortstop with the reacquisition of Drew.
“We knew that there were things that we had to be aware of, whether that was range, positioning, learning the opposition and the swings and reading swings that took place,” Farrell said. “We still see Xander as a shortstop. That was explained very clearly to Xander. This shouldn’t take away in our mind what our long-term view of him is so Xander is still a very good looking player and a very good looking young shortstop.”
Bogaerts will take some time to get reacclimated to playing third base and will use the time before Drew is ready to play shortstop everyday to get used to playing the hot corner everyday. The team has not discussed moving either him or Middlebrooks to the outfield moving forward. The biggest adjustments that will come for Bogaerts when he moves to third base will be the adjustment in angles and different types of hops and ground balls, although the team believes that the 21-year-old can handle the change, particularly based on his work at that position last year — when he became the team’s everyday third baseman in the middle of the ALCS.
Farrell anticipates Middlebrooks playing a role for the team once he recovers from his broken finger.
“If there are alignments to take advantage of individual strengths, we’re going to do that,” Farrell said. “So, without getting too far ahead of myself, that’s the best I could tell you right now.”
Farrell believes that Bogaerts will not take his move over to third base as an indictment on his capabilities or future at shortstop. Farrell wants Bogaerts to have clarity in regards to what the team is thinking about his future long-term. David Ortiz, someone whom Bogaerts views as a mentor in the clubhouse, believes that Bogaerts will continue to get better, regardless of which position he plays.
“He’s got to keep playing,” Ortiz said. “No question about that. He’s gotta play one way or the other. That’s a question that you’ve got to ask to the manager. He’s the one that’s going to decide what to do, how you’re going to flip things around and do what he want to do at the time to win ballgames, but we definitely want to keep Bogaerts’ confidence and he’s going to keep on playing.”
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