Sox in no hurry to bring up top prospect Bogaerts
Boston's future shortstop 'tightening things up' at Triple-A Pawtucket
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Xander Bogaerts couldn't see.
He looked up at the July sun and searched for the baseball during a recent game, but instead found nothing. He scampered around the infield. Then he ducked for cover.
It was a lazy pop fly; a routine out for a shortstop, the captain of the infield. But Bogaerts wasn't the captain on this play. The ball dropped, runs eventually scored and Bogaerts got an earful from Triple-A Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina.
Bogaerts wasn't wearing sunglasses. He didn't even own a pair. Never really had a need for them, he figured.
"Oh man," Boegarts said Wednesday, covering his eyes when reminded of the play. "The manager… the manager…"
The manager wasn't happy. DiSarcina, who has been leading a Pawtucket staff that's grooming Boegarts to be the first franchise shortstop the Red Sox have put on the field since Nomar Garciaparra, took a rare moment to scold Boston's top-ranked prospect.
"That's not going to fly in the big leagues," DiSarcina said. "If there are eight infielders and you're the one infielder without sunglasses, and you can't catch a ball on a sunny day, that's unacceptable."
It's sometimes easy to forget that Boegarts is just 20. His age shows at times.
And with the departure of Jose Iglesias to the Tigers in the Jake Peavy trade, the Red Sox shipped away the one shortstop who might be blocking Bogaerts from beginning what the club hopes will be a long and productive career.
Bogaerts' ascension through the Minors has been at light-speed, not only reaching Triple-A with fewer than 320 games of experience, but instantly becoming one of the more feisty hitters in the International League, getting on base at a .381 clip with a swing that can find gaps in all fields.
He's recently been asked to play some third base, too, to expand his versatility in case the Red Sox decide he's ready to help them in their push for the postseason, as Stephen Drew is signed on to play shortstop.
"He's in the discussion," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "That doesn't suggest that his move or his recall or purchase of his contract is imminent. But he's doing a very good job and he's played third of late trying to get some exposure to there. We're just trying to cover everything that we can do in Pawtucket, if in fact he's the guy. Which right now he's not. That's just a normal preparation."
If the circumstances work out, Bogaerts could get a chance to play a prominent role for the 2013 Red Sox.
"Again, Xander is a very talented young player who is still developing. Obviously, very young for his level," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. "He's part of a group in Pawtucket that includes a number of guys that you think we'll probably need to rely on the rest of the year. I'm not going to single him out over anyone else. He's in Pawtucket. Again, once you get to Pawtucket, it's not about who the best prospect is. It's about who the best player is to come up here and help us win."
Until he gets his chance in the Majors, Bogaerts will focus on his job at Pawtucket, which he has done with professionalism and joy.
Bogaerts is the shortstop of the future, DiScarcina could easily confirm. For now, though, he's still a work in progress.
"He owns sunglasses now," DiSarcina said, laughing. "But that goes back to [the fact that] he hasn't played in college. And he's probably never lost a ball in the sun in his life. And the one time he does, everyone sees it. That's Xander Bogaerts. It's costly.
"For me, I played the position and I understand he's going to make mistakes. I don't address too many physical errors with him. Very rarely will I talk to him about a physical error. It's just the mental things or positioning. Or he'll ask about a double down the left-field line, 'Are you sure I'm supposed to be here?' He's always looking for the reassurance.
"When it comes to the physical errors -- throwing the balls into the stands -- that's not a big deal to me. Make them down here [in Pawtucket]. Try whatever you want to try down here. Iggy was great, too -- Iggy would try everything. As long as it's down here, no one really cares. When you go into Fenway Park and you start doing stuff you shouldn't be doing, that's when you get the slap on the wrist. I try to address the mental side rather than the physical things."
Bogaerts has thrived in Pawtucket the last week or so, when his name floated around in trade rumors, though he wasn't dealt before Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. DiSarcina thinks Bogaerts got a kick out of it, but he finds joy in just about anything.
"Xander is going to play baseball on the moon," the skipper said. "If you told him, 'You're going to play baseball on the moon, enjoy it,' he's going there. I don't think he really cares. I think his ultimate goal is to play in the big leagues and he's going to be a very good big leaguer. But he walked in [Wednesday] with a big smile on his face, asking if he's going to be in the lineup."
While his personality fits in everywhere, Bogaerts' defense at shortstop could still use some seasoning.
"It's progressing," DiSarcina said. "It's slow. It's not like leaps and bounds. He's done some good things in a short amount of time."
Bogaerts' positioning on the diamond, once an area of concern, has improved. He's taking better angles on ground balls, though he still finds himself too deep on balls up the middle, forcing a difficult turn-and-throw.
"It's just tightening things up," DiSarcina said.
Bogaerts thinks he's almost ready defensively. His time with the Red Sox could begin soon.
He'll be bringing sunglasses.