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Brian Butterfield on The Bradfo Show: Xander Bogaerts ‘made great strides’ at short

05.22.14 at 1:59 pm ET
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Red Sox third base coach and infield instructor Brian Butterfield was a guest on The Bradfo Show podcast Wednesday to discuss the team’s infield issues. To hear the info, check the WEEI on demand page.

With Stephen Drew re-signing, Xander Bogaerts is headed to third base, something that initially left the 21-year-old surprised and dismayed. Butterfield said the ultimate result is that the team will be better.

“I love Stephen Drew and I love what he’€™s going to bring to us, and I love having Xander Bogaerts here. I think he gives us another element,” Butterfield said. “They’€™re baseball players. It’€™s early in the process. He’€™s 21 years old. If he moves to another position he’€™s still a good baseball player, and he’€™s still going to help the Boston Red Sox win games, so I’€™m excited for both guys.”

Butterfield has been working with Bogaerts to improve his shortstop defense, and he said there has been noticeable improvement.

“I think Bogie’€™s done a great job,” Butterfield said. “I know that there’€™s a lot of talk centered around such a tough position and a pivotal position on a championship-caliber club, but I think he’€™s further along than I thought he would be, he’€™s made great strides. He’€™s not there yet. He’€™s 21 years old, but he’€™s a good student, he’€™s got great aptitude, he wants to be a great player, and I’€™m very pleased with where he’€™s at. We’€™re trying to build the best team that we possibly can, and adding Stephen definitely makes us a better team. I think Bogie’€™s athletic, and I think he’€™s aware of things that are going on, that he’€™ll be able to make that transition to third base, and we’€™ll have Stephen at shortstop, and we’€™ll be better for it.”

Butterfield now is trying to prepare Bogaerts for the changes he’ll face at third.

“First and foremost, that pre-pitch. That ball gets on you a lot quicker when you’€™re at third base as opposed to shortstop, so he’€™s got to get used to playing at a lower — carrying his glove lower, getting into a wider stance and moving as quickly as he can from that wider stance,” Butterfield said. “He’€™s a big guy, as [Will] Middlebrooks is, too, so that’€™s an adjustment period just playing with a wider base and being able to accelerate off that wide base. But, he did it last year, and I think he’€™ll be able to do it again.”

Working in his favor, Bogaerts provided adequate defense playing third base for a brief stint in 2013 despite having limited time to learn the position.

“He showed great mental toughness,” Butterfield said. “There wasn’€™t really enough time to go over the finer points. Technically, mechanically he just fought it and willed his way to catch the ball, and that’€™s all we wanted him to do. Sometimes it didn’€™t look pretty, but first and foremost, the most important thing is to catch the ball. Your feet aren’€™t always going to be right, your glove’€™s not always going to be right, your head’€™s not always going to be right, but the bottom line is if you catch them and throw them, you’€™ve done your job, so I think that’€™s what he did last year. He fought through it and did a great job for us in crunch time.”

Drew made a name for himself with steady defense last season, enough to overcome his deficiencies at the plate.

“I think he was great during the season, and just getting a chance to see the difficult plays that he’€™s able to make and the way he attacks the ball — he attacks the ball more fearlessly than any shortstop I’€™ve ever watched,” Butterfield said. “Sometimes I go back and watch videos of our regular season last year and I’€™m amazed at some of the plays and the throwing slot that he achieves is just phenomenal. So, I’€™m a little bit biased, but I think he’€™s the best defensive shortstop in the American league. I’€™m really looking forward to seeing him go again.”

Drew came in with a reputation as a solid fielder, but he surprised many — including Butterfield — with just how good he was.

“I didn’€™t know that he was as good as what he showed last year. I thought he was just exceptional,” Butterfield said. “But I think everybody has a little bit of a different viewpoint on what a championship-caliber shortstop is. If you’€™re coming to the dance, or you’€™re interested in watching ESPN or watching highlight plays all the time, then Stephen’€™s not the shortstop that you want to watch. But if you want the ball secured in crunch time and big situations with a runner on third and two outs and attacking the ball fearlessly and know what we’€™re trying to do as a team defensive-wise, Stephen Drew’€™s your guy.”

Drew is expected to need more another week to be ready to be written in the lineup, although he appeared to be close to game shape when he arrived at the park Wednesday.

“We had a long talk [Wednesday] morning. He got here early, I got here early, and we were able to rehash some things and find out where he was physically, and he’€™s in great shape,” Butterfield said. “He was on a program that allowed him to take at least 80 ground balls a day without rest. So, I could see that [Wednesday] as I hit him ground balls, he didn’€™t need rest, he jumped back to his position and got a lot of reps. I’€™d say we had 30-35 ground balls [Wednesday], and it didn’€™t even look like he got tired.”

Read More: brian butterfield, Stephen Drew, xander bogaerts,
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