|Brock Holt makes (perhaps) catch of his life||07.21.14 at 11:03 pm ET|
TORONTO — It might have been the catch of the season. But was it the catch of Brock Holt‘s life?
“It’s up there, yeah. It’s up there,” said Holt of his fifth-inning grab of Dan Johnson‘s blast to the right-field wall during what resulted in a 14-1 Red Sox win over the Blue Jays. “That one was fun. That one fired me up a little bit. I didn’t think I was going to get to it, but got to it, made the jump, timed it pretty good, and I was able to come down with it. That was one of the better ones I’ve made. It was fun.”
Just recently introduced to right field, Holt navigated the line drive to right from the get-go. Racing back on the blast, the Sox outfielder leaped in the air just before the wall with his momentum taking him against the padding.
While at the height of his jump, Holt hauled in the ball while flying through the air, subsequently ramming into the Expedia.ca advertisement.
“That wall gave a little bit better than the cement wall in Fenway that I landed on a few weeks ago,” Holt said. “That’s the first time I’ve kind of crashed into one. But no trouble. Just dust yourself off, get up, throw the ball in, and get ready for the next one.”
Upon rising to his feet with the ball, Holt allowed himself a big smile before tossing it back in and looking up to the video scoreboard for a replay.
“Kind of can’t believe I caught that,” he said when asked his thought process when making the play. “[Dustin Pedroia] was laughing and smiling, so I gave him one back. That was a pretty fun catch for me, yeah.”
Also helping bring a smile to Holt’s face was another two-hit night, putting the leadoff hitter’s average at .328.
“He’s done such a great job,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Holt. “His instincts — this is a guy who has been an infielder his entire life and what he’s done in the outfield has been pretty remarkable given the few number of games played there. Then you move him to second base and he makes another play the other night where he’s done a great job, defensively and all the way around. A couple more hits tonight for him.”
|Red Sox lineup at Blue Jays: Shane Victorino sits, Brock Holt in right, Xander Bogaerts returns||at 3:28 pm ET|
The Red Sox will open their three-game set against the Blue Jays with four rookies in the lineup. Shane Victorino, after playing back-to-back games over the weekend (and four straight overall with the conclusion of his rehab assignment), will sit out, with Brock Holt heading to right field. He’ll flank Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, while Xander Bogaerts (after sitting on Sunday) will return to the lineup at third base, and Christian Vazquez will catch John Lackey.
For a look at how Lackey has fared against the Blue Jays and how Toronto starter Drew Hutchison has done against members of the Red Sox, click here. For comprehensive Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.
RED SOX LINEUP
Brock Holt, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, 1B
Daniel Nava, LF
Stephen Drew, SS
Xander Bogaerts, 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Christian Vazquez, C
John Lackey, RHP
|Red Sox notes: Plan in place for Shane Victorino while Brock Holt continues to shine||07.20.14 at 1:30 pm ET|
Where would the Red Sox be without Brock Holt?
That is certainly a fair and legitimate question to ask as the Red Sox approach the second half of the season and try to work their way back into a reasonable chance for the playoffs.
The leadoff hitter has provided a vital anchor at the top of the batting order as the Red Sox searched desperately for a consistent leadoff hitter. He comes into Sunday hitting .325 with a .369 OBP and a .826 OPS. Holt has started all 63 games this season, batting leadoff in 52 of them. As the leadoff hitter, his number are nearly identical to his overall numbers, .326/.364/.825.
Of course, he’s been incredibly versatile in the field, playing seven of the nine positions while earning the name “Superman” from some Red Sox fans. The only two positions he hasn’t tried yet are pitcher and catcher. On Sunday, he’s starting at third as the Red Sox give Xander Bogaerts the day off against hard-throwing righty Yordano Ventura.
“With Brock Holt moving around the field and going up against a right-hander in Ventura, we just wanted to get another left-handed bat in there,” skipper John Farrell said.
“We’re probably at the point in the year where it’s less of a concern than when he was playing right field for the first, or left field for the first time, or first base for the first time. There have been a lot of firsts this year. And the way he’s handled each position defensively, now we’re finding ways to keep his bat in the lineup and not reluctant to change the position by the day.”
What’s truly remarkable is that, as late as early April, Holt wasn’t even considered an option as a leadoff hitter to replace Jacoby Ellsbury.
“He wasn’t in the conversation, either in the offseason or as we got through camp but to the level in which he’s hit at and performed at, and the consistency against left-handers and right-handers, it’s been invaluable, the continuity he’s created at the top of the lineup,” Farrell said.
The left-handed hitting Holt is actually hitting 20 points higher against lefties (.336) than righties (.316), a testament to his ability to hang in against southpaws.
“I think when you see a guy be able to use the whole the field as much as he does and how he you see him handle left-handers, he can track the ball so deep into the zone that he doesn’t overcommit early to breaking balls from left-handers that run away from him,” Farrell said. “And because it is a compact swing, his pitch recognition can be a little better than others because he doesn’t have to start the swing early in the flight of the pitch to home plate.
“I think it’s [just] a trait of really good hitters, regardless of the spot in the lineup. The more compact, the less you may get fooled on certain type of pitches. They’re more difficult to pitch against because he has the ability to take a really good pitcher’s pitch and fight it off and foul it off as he gets deeper into some counts and I think it’s a direct reflection of why you see him hit at the average he is at currently and what he’s done throughout his minor league career.”
|Brock Holt again dons cape in Red Sox’ walkoff win||07.10.14 at 2:02 am ET|
It was baseball’s version of poetic justice.
Out of anyone to deliver the game-winning hit in Boston’s thrilling 5-4 comeback win over the White Sox Wednesday, it was only fitting that it was carried out by the player who has served as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise miserable campaign in 2014: Brock Holt.
With the game knotted at four runs apiece, Holt stepped into the batter’s box, looking to turn around an 0-for-4 showing and drive in an energized Daniel Nava anxiously holding at second base.
Facing a 1-2 count against White Sox reliever Javy Guerra, Holt delivered, sending a 95 mph fastball into right field, allowing Nava to cross the plate and complete a comeback that served as a refreshing reminder of the tenacious and resilient 2013 Red Sox squad.
It was the first walkoff hit of Holt’s major league career, as well as the first time that the 26-year-old infielder/outfielder drove in a go-ahead RBI in the eighth inning or later.
“Mookie [Betts] gets hits by the pitch, gets on base, Nava comes in — huge pinch-hit double, drives in the tying run, so my job was the easy one I guess,” Holt said. “I think Nava had the tough one. I got a fastball to hit and put a good swing on it and scorched it to get it into the outfield there and Nava scored.”
|Red Sox notes Friday: Shane Victorino starts to ‘ramp up’ while John Farrell considers Brock Holt for All-Star Game||07.04.14 at 12:41 pm ET|
“Everyone was here and there was certainly enough talk, even throughout the day [Thursday] as I reached out to a few guys that this was a possibility today,” Farrell said. “But everyone was here. Guys got their throwing in that needed to. It was a quick turnaround [home].”
Most immediate is what to do with the pitching staff. Farrell said Jon Lester will start Saturday, likely Game 1 of the day-night doubleheader in the afternoon, while John Lackey will get the nod in the night cap.
“We’re caught up,” Farrell said of his entire pitching staff. “We’ll stay on [schedule] for right now.”
With Lester starting on Saturday, he won’t be able to make the start on Wednesday against the White Sox at Fenway, meaning the Red Sox will have to find a spot starter, possibly Felix Doubront, but Farrell wasn’t ready to commit Friday morning.
“I haven’t even looked at who the candidates would be,” Farrell said. “We haven’t taken a look at everything. We’ll need an additional pitcher even if we choose to spot start someone. We’ll figure that out as we get through the weekend.”
The Red Sox and Orioles will each get an additional player for Game 2 Saturday night. Farrell said he hasn’t decided who that would be or at what position the club would choose to fill. The Orioles will actually go from 24 eligible players to 26 because they will get infielder Manny Machado back from his five-game suspension following Game 1.
Farrell also provided updates on several rehabbing players, including Will Middlebrooks (finger), Shane Victorino (hamstring, back) and Mike Carp (right foot).
“Will is with Pawtucket right now,” Farrell said. “With the weather [Thursday], there’s been some change. Mike Carp will join Portland today. He wasn’t able to get out on a flight [Thursday] night. Will is with Pawtucket in Syracuse.
Farrell said Middlebrooks is being held out of playing in the field as he and the organization continue to monitor his finger. The team would like to see Middlebrooks get some reps in the outfield as well as third base but that has been put on hold.
“Still DHing,” Farrell said. “While the throwing is improving, as are the reps at third base pre-game, we’re not at that point yet.”
Victorino took advantage of a wide open Fenway Park Friday morning during light rain to get in some intense rehab training, with trainer Rick Jameyson and physical therapist Dan Dyrek looking on. Victorino spent nearly 30 minutes backpedaling around the outfield warning track, jogging and then sprinting in right field.
“Shane’s baseball activities continue to ramp up, particularly with the running and agility work,” Farrell said.
Victorino has been out since May 24 and has played in just 21 games, batting .242 with one homer and 10 RBIs. He went on the DL with a hamstring injury before tweaking his back during rehab, causing a further setback.
|‘Game changers’ Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt, Mookie Betts bring youth, athleticism to Red Sox outfield||07.03.14 at 9:25 am ET|
A year ago, the Red Sox outfield was an area of strength for the club. Jacoby Ellsbury and veteran Shane Victorino provided not only solid offensive output but often stellar defense in right and center field while Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes held down the fort in left.
Things are different in 2014. The offensive struggles of Red Sox outfielders have been no secret, but the outfield alignment could feature three rookies, including two players who have a total of 53 games worth of outfield experience between them.
However, the inexperience of Jackie Bradley Jr., Brock Holt and Mookie Betts might not be a detriment to this Red Sox defense. In fact, the players bring some positives to the table.
“We feel like between Brock, Jackie and Mookie, when they play in the outfield we have three center fielders chasing the ball around,” said bench coach Torey Lovullo, alluding to the speed and athleticism of three. “They’re game changers. When those three guys are out there we feel like we have guys who can go chase the ball and execute a game plan as good as anybody.”
Defensive performance isn’t an easy thing to quantify, and there aren’t nearly as many statistics to analyze performance as there are for hitting and pitching. But the Red Sox outfield grades out pretty favorably when looking at the numbers. Prior to Wednesday night, the Red Sox actually ranked second in the majors in defensive runs saved for outfielders and third in ultimate zone rating (another defensive metric that attempts to quantify how many runs a fielder saved or gave up through their fielding performance). At least when it comes to those two metrics, the Red Sox outfield defense actually has been better this season than in 2013, when the outfield ranked fifth in DRS and eighth in UZR.
Bradley obviously deserves a lot of the credit for stabilizing the defense in the outfield. While his offensive performance has left something to be desired this season, he’s shown time and time again that his defense is major league ready and in fact makes him one of the better outfielders in the game. He’s saved about nine runs this season when going by DRS, which ties him for sixth amongst major league outfielders. Nava also has saved nine runs.
Not that the young outfielders have gone without making their share of mistakes. Betts, more so than Holt, has shown some vulnerabilities. On Wednesday night, the second baseman-turned-center fielder misplayed a ball off the wall in left-center when trying to back up Gomes. The ball bounced over his head and resulted in a triple.
“There are a lot of angles you have to take, so many different ways to go about getting balls. I had a couple of mishaps [Wednesday] but I’m still learning,” Betts said. “It’s more just getting used to this field because not all fields are like that. Some are just off the wall and in the gap and you go and get them but here, when they’re off the wall you have to play them at certain angles.”
|Red Sox minor league roundup: Of Sean Coyle, Russian dolls and the Red Sox prospect ceiling question||06.30.14 at 12:05 pm ET|
They are Russian dolls, but all roughly the same size, an assembly line of 5-foot-8-ish second basemen who are now fanning out across the field in recognition of the reality of the axis around whom they will rotate.
Dustin Pedroia started the movement, defying his stature to become Rookie of the Year, MVP and the cornerstone of the Red Sox, a player who is signed through 2021, in what will be his 16th year with the team. His presence, in turn, has transformed other players with their professional origins at second base into valuable contributors elsewhere.
Brock Holt has become a glove company’s poster boy in waiting (for the record, he possesses two infield gloves that are his own — one for games, one for pregame work — borrows Mike Napoli‘s glove when he plays first base and is using a glove conferred upon him by Alex Hassan when playing in the outfield). Mookie Betts moved from second base to center field a bit more than six weeks ago; he made his big league debut in right on Sunday night.
Next up: Sean Coyle?
Coyle is the smallest of the diminutive assembly line, yet he is clubbing the ball like a big man. At a time when Holt and Betts have flourished at an unexpected pace and to a somewhat unexpected degree, Coyle, too, is experiencing a fascinating breakout in 2014 in Double-A Portland — a level where he opened the year at third base in deference to Betts’ presence, but has moved back to second with his former teammate now having moved on.
On Sunday, Coyle went 3-for-4 with a double and triple as well as a walk while driving in five runs. His numbers are quickly reaching dizzying levels.
The 22-year-old — one year older than Betts, but still young for Double-A (if not inexperienced — he’s in his fourth full pro season) — is hitting .363 with a .444 OBP and .615 slugging mark, nine homers and 26 extra-base hits in 52 games. Those are better across-the-board hitting numbers than Betts (.355/.443/.551) posted in Double-A (though it bears mention that Betts is one year younger and graduated from the Sea Dogs before the thaw of Portland’s typically arctic early-season conditions; also noteworthy is that Betts’ plate discipline and pitch recognition were outrageously advanced, suggesting a higher probability of sustaining his performance across levels). Coyle is 12-for-12 in stolen base attempts, and defensively, he’s looked strong at both his primary professional position of second base and his new spot on the diamond at third.
With a few more plate appearances, Coyle (who spent time on the DL earlier this year with a hamstring injury) will qualify for the minor league leaderboards. If he qualified for them today, he’d be the full-season minor league leader in average while ranking seventh in OBP and fifth in slugging, his numbers ranking among the elite offensive prospects in the minors at an age that wouldn’t disqualify him from such consideration.
There is a chance that this is something of a mirage. After all, Coyle has shown dazzling flashes in the past, only to see them disappear with the soft afterglow of a lightning bug. Just last year, he exploded out of the gates with nine homers (most in the minors at the time) while hitting .324/.372/.789 through the first five weeks of the season, only to see his season get derailed by a succession of injuries that diminished his production (.241/.321/.513 with 14 homers in 48 games) and left him unable to advance out of Salem, where he spent a full year for the second straight season and fell behind Betts in the organizational pecking order. (In retrospect, no shame in falling behind Betts.) Read the rest of this entry »
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