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Xander Bogaerts on whether playing third has contributed to slump

06.12.14 at 9:38 am ET
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BALTIMORE — The reality is that hitting is difficult, players necessarily endure struggles and even the most scorching stretches can come to a sudden and crashing halt. There doesn’t need to be a cause for every slump beyond the fact that it’s a challenging sport.

Nonetheless, the timing of Xander Bogaerts’ first sustained struggle of the year offers at least an interesting coincidence. The 21-year-old went 0-for-4 on Wednesday night in the Red Sox‘ 6-0 loss to the Orioles. He is now 0-for-16 over his last four games.

He’s not alone, of course. The Red Sox as a whole have been in a desperate fight for runs. But in Bogaerts’ case, the stretch is a marked contrast to what preceded it.

Over a 14-game stretch at the end of May, Bogaerts hit .429 with a .492 OBP, .661 slugging mark, two homers and six walks. In 10 games in June, he’s hitting .163 with a .217 OBP and .349 slugging mark, walking just once and fanning 13 times.

But there’s a bit of an elephant in the room. The June slump (or at least the most recent nine games of it) coincides with Bogaerts’ move from shortstop to third base.

Disclaimers: Bogaerts’ first tough game in this stretch (an 0-for-5 showing) came on June 1, while he was still playing short. Moreover, in his first two games at third base, Bogaerts went 4-for-9 and slammed homers in back-to-back games. In his first five games at the position, he hit .318/.375/.682 (albeit with five strikeouts and no walks).

So, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Bogaerts’ offensive struggles do not have anything to do with a move to third base. So how does Bogaerts view the matter? Does he see a connection between his recent disappearance of hits and his position change?

“Good question,” he said with a small chuckle, and then paused to consider the possibility. “I don’t know. I was hitting good at short. But, I really don’t think so. It’s just a matter of maybe a bit more work over there at third. I’m not saying I lost my focus on hitting, but sometimes you tend to try to fix things more over there. It was something new to me this year, so I wanted to get it in as soon as possible and learn everything on the fly. But I don’t know. It’s a good question, but I don’t think so.”

Bogaerts said that he hasn’t seen pitchers making a significant adjustment to their plan of attack against him. Instead, he said that he simply hasn’t been able to pull the trigger to attack even when he’s recognized opportunities to drive the ball.

“I’m seeing great pitches. Just, sometimes your bat doesn’t want to come out. It’s a weird feeling to explain. Sometimes I go up there saying I’m going to hit the first pitch, he throws it right down the middle and I just don’t do anything with it. It’s OK. It’s part of the game,” said Bogaerts. “I’ve been getting so many good pitches. It’s just my bat — I’m losing my barrel. It’s just small stuff, but you can’t miss your pitches up here in the big leagues. But it’s all right. I’ll be fine.”

Bogaerts is showing considerable aptitude at third base. He made a pair of impressive defensive plays on Wednesday, one in which he ranged to his left, dove, and made a back hand flip of the ball from his knees to record a force at second, another on a swinging bunt where he barehanded the ball and fired to first.

“I’m getting the outs,” said Bogaerts. “If you can’t hit, you better get the outs. That’s always what I’ve been told.”

Yet while those defensive contributions have been tangible, the offense represents a more pressing issue — and one that Bogaerts suggested he will soon fix.

“I’m human,” said Bogaerts. “We all make mistakes. We all struggle. We all go through tough stretches. I’m going to be fine. Sit back, relax and enjoy. I’ll be fine.”

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