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Red Sox GM Ben Cherington explains re-signing Stephen Drew and team’s outlook for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks

05.21.14 at 3:58 pm ET
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Red Sox GM Ben Cherington just concluded a conference call to discuss the team’s decision to re-sign free agent shortstop Stephen Drew for the duration of 2014. Some quotes and highlights, with more to come:

On why this deal came together now:

With Stephen specifically, not until the last few days, really over the weekend. We’ve had, as you guys know, we have interest in trying to build as deep a roster and add as much depth to every part of the roster as we can. The infield, particularly the left side of the infield, was an area that we had been looking at adding to really for several months. We like the guys we have but in the interest of being as strong as we can and building as deep a roster as we can to get through the season, that’s been an area that we’ve had our eyes out even going back to the late part of the offseason through spring training. It had nothing to do with who was on the roster. It was just simply a matter of trying to build as deep a roster as we could. As we got into the season, that effort continued.There’s just not usually a lot of activity early in the season so we were out doing our due diligence scouting and whatnot. The Middlebrooks injury was another factor in this. Like I said before, our opinion of Stephen, our position on Stephen as a player, as a person, as a teammate never changed — didn’t change at all since the day after the season last year. It just so happened that now is the time where it was able to all come together and we were able to add a very good infielder to the team and we hope that we’ve made the team stronger.

On the team’s evaluation of Xander Bogaerts’ defense at shortstop, and the role that played in this decision:

We believe that Xander can play shortstop and play it well. We’ve seen even over the last two or three weeks his defense at shortstop stabilize. He’s certainly worked hard at it. I know he made a couple errors last night, but we believed last year in the offseason and spring training that he can play short. We still believe that. And this move with Stephen is not in any way about a lack of belief that Xander can play short. We’re just trying to make the team better. We’re just trying to strengthen the roster. The fact that Xander has the ability to play short and third allowed us to consider different options and different alternatives to do that. It just ended up being the one that to us made the most sense to pursue. As John referenced yesterday, initially, assuming Stephen is healthy and playing on the team, that would probably mean that Bogey would play some more third base. We’ll probably still see him play some short. Right now, we’re just focused on 2014 and trying to build the best team that we can and trying to get on a role. Bogey’s versatility is important in allowing us to do that, and certainly, he’s a very important player for us, more generally speaking. I think we’re starting to see the kind of offensive player he can be. He’s going to be a good player for us for a long time. Adding Stephen hopefully makes us a better team in the short term.

On what the re-signing of Drew — with the likely move of Bogaerts to be the team’s primary third baseman — means for Will Middlebrooks:

We’ve got to get him healthy first. We know that there’s going to be some time. We’re talking weeks, not days, to get him healthy, get him back playing. So that’s the first step. The way we see it, if Stephen Drew, Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks are all healthy and playing up to their capability, then we’ve got pretty good options on the left side of the infield. It makes us a better team. That would be the optimal scenario. But we’ve got to get Will healthy first. We know that when he’s healthy and doing the things he’s capable of, there aren’t many third basemen in the big leagues who can do what he does. We’re absolutely committed to helping him, and he’s committed to getting to that point. Along the way, we’re just trying to build the best team we can, and our hope certainly is that he’ll be a part of it.

Some other notes:

— Cherington said it would be “weeks not days” before Middlebrooks is ready to return.

— Asked if the Sox might expose Middlebrooks to a position other than third, Cherington said, “I guess you can never rule that out, but right now, our focus is on getting him healthy.”

— On whether Bogaerts might be subject to the same growing pains at shortstop in 2015 that he’s experienced in 2014: “We’re just focused on today and 2014.”

— On Grady Sizemore: “What we’re seeing is a guy who’s getting past the physical questions stage. There’s no longer any question whether he can play.” But, Cherington added, at some point, production matters. But, he concludes, “We’re optimistic about what he can do.”

— On having Mookie Betts play center field, Cherington said that the team viewed it as a “natural thing to do” to increase roster options and flexibility. He said it’s likely Betts will also see time in the outfield corners.

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