Marrero shines on rainy day in Jupiter

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
9:23
PM ET
JUPITER, Fla. -- Well, that might help to explain a couple of things.

1) Why the Red Sox were not desperate to retain Stephen Drew.

2) Why, though they had to swallow hard before doing so, they were willing to trade Jose Iglesias and his magic glove.

The beauty of spring training is that you never know when or where the next coming-out party will be, and who will emerge from the shadows to declare themselves a major leaguer-in-waiting.

Last spring it was outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., grabbing us with the virtuosity of his all-around play in Fort Myers. In 2005, it was a cocky Class A reliever named Jonathan Papelbon, who responded to a teammate being hit by a pitch in Fort Lauderdale by buzzing slugger Sammy Sosa with a high, hard one.

And Thursday afternoon here in Roger Dean Stadium, with the Red Sox leaving nearly all of their regulars back in Fort Myers, 23-year-old shortstop Deven Marrero, who went to high school about 70 minutes away from here (American Heritage School in Plantation), became the latest Red Sox rookie to seize his moment.

[+] EnlargeMarrero
AP Photo/Mike JanesShortstop Devin Marrero (above, coaching first base in a spring training game last year) flashed impressive defensive ability against the Marlins.
Marrero did so with a fielding exhibition worthy of Cirque du Soleil, one in which he displayed spectacular range diving for a ball up the middle, showed off his aerodynamic capacity while completing a double play and handled everything else hit his way with soft hands and a strong arm.

"My gosh, he put on a display defensively," manager John Farrell said after a scoreless game between the Sox and Miami Marlins that was shortened to 7 2/3 innings by a late-afternoon deluge.

Farrell didn't bite on comparing Marrero to Iglesias, whose wizardry afield might have no precedent in Sox history.

"But you'd be hard-pressed to find a shortstop that's going to make better plays than that -- and four or five types of plays inside a given game," Farrell said. "He came into the draft with that carrying card, an elite defender, and he's showing that."

Left-handed reliever Drake Britton was the beneficiary of Marrero going airborne in the fifth, hurdling the onrushing Casey McGehee to make a strong relay while parallel to the earth.

"He's unbelievable out there," Britton said. "You saw the plays he made out there today. It's very, very comforting to have him behind you up the middle."

None of this comes as a revelation to general manager Ben Cherington, vice president Mike Hazen, scouting director Amiel Sawdaye, farm director Ben Crockett and the rest of the Sox baseball operations staff. There was a reason they drafted him out of Arizona State in the first round of the 2012 draft, and why last spring they made him the first position player since Scott Hatteberg in 1992 to be invited to big league camp after just one year of pro ball.

But even if it was just an exhibition game in March, Marrero's performance Thursday was just a public validation, at the big league level, of why the Sox value him the way they do.

"Defense is my thing," Marrero said. "I'm ready every pitch. Everything else just happens, it flows. Everything happens so quick, you just react."

The focus this spring in Sox camp has been on another shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, whose own coming-out party came not in spring training but in the World Series, with his uncommon maturity and poise, combined with extraordinary talent, marking him as a player on the cusp of stardom. But Marrero's presence raises some enticing possibilities for the future.

Will Marrero's defense lead the Sox to move Bogaerts to third to accommodate Marrero? Should third baseman Will Middlebrooks invest in a first baseman's glove? Could Marrero or Middlebrooks become a valuable chip in a high-stakes trade?

Marrero made just four errors in 407 chances at Class A Salem last season. As a comparison, 19-year-old Derek Jeter made 56 errors while playing in the same Carolina League. It's an apples-and-oranges thing, likening a polished college player like Marrero to Jeter when he was barely a year out of high school. Still, Marrero was rated as the best defensive player in the Sox system. He made just two more errors when he was promoted to Double-A Portland last August.

"I don't look ahead," Marrero said. "I like to think, just do my thing, let everything take care of itself. All that stuff is out of my hands. Xander is a great player. He's where he is for a reason. They trust him for a reason. He's an All-Star caliber player. I wish the best of luck for him and the Red Sox. I want them to win. That's what we're here for."

There is an easy response to any conjecture about Marrero's future: Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Marrero has just 650 professional at-bats, and while his career progression is only slightly behind that of another former ASU star, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, Marrero has work to do. Other than establishing himself as a base-stealing threat -- he stole 27 bases in 29 attempts in 2013 -- Marrero's offensive performance has been modest to date. His minor league slash line reads .258/.345/.338/.684.

Still, the early returns in camp have been encouraging: He had two hits Thursday, giving him four in his first eight spring at-bats. And remember, they said Iggy wouldn't hit, either.

"It's all about just the trust they have in young players," Marrero said. "Xander Bogaerts last year. Drake Britton. Brandon Workman. The trust they have in developing young players, minor league players. When they're ready to go to the big leagues, they know they will perform, because they know they will be ready.

"So when my time comes, my chance comes, I'll be ready for it. I'm just going to try my hardest every day, do what I can do, and let the rest take care of itself."

And one day, we might all remember a soggy March afternoon in Jupiter.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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