Bogaerts the answer to leadoff quandary?

April, 11, 2014
4/11/14
11:41
AM ET
NEW YORK -- A few quick hits from the Bronx, where the Red Sox send ace Jon Lester to the mound against CC Sabathia in the second game of the series, presumably with clean hearts and hands:

* A leading man for leadoff man: It has been suggested here since last winter that Farrell borrow a page from Jimy Williams and anoint his rookie shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, to take over the leadoff spot vacated by Jacoby Ellsbury, just as Williams put Nomar Garciaparra at the top of his lineup in 1997, after Williams said all spring he’d bat Garciaparra ninth to keep the pressure off him. The 23-year-old Garciaparra responded with 30 home runs, 98 RBIs and a .306/.342/.534/.875 slash line that earned him acclaim as the American League’s Rookie of the Year.

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Farrell has placed his faith in the high on-base performance of Daniel Nava at the top of his order, with an occasional platoon of Jonny Gomes, while suggesting that if Grady Sizemore’s physical progression allows it, Sizemore would eventually take over the top spot. Ten games is a woefully small sample size, and Farrell could be justified in exercising more patience, but so far the Sox have gotten less from the leadoff spot than any other spot in their lineup. Sox leadoff hitters are batting .158 (6-for-38) with one extra-base hit, a double, and four runs scored.

The 21-year-old Bogaerts, meanwhile, has shown the same comfort level he displayed in the postseason last October, coming out of the chute this season with a .314/.415/.371/.786 slash line. In addition to his 11 hits, which include two doubles, Bogaerts has drawn six walks, tying him for the team lead with Mike Napoli.

So far, Farrell has divided Bogaerts’ time among three spots in the order: fifth, sixth and seventh. It may be time to move him up. The Sox's offense has scored four or fewer runs six times in 10 games this season, and has been held to back-to-back games of four hits in the past two games. With the Yankees throwing left-hander Sabathia on Friday night, it might be useful to see if Bogaerts could jump-start the offense.

* A few more hits with runners in scoring position might help. Jackie Bradley Jr. is batting .556 (5-for-9) with RISP; the rest of the team has combined to bat .160 (12-for-75). Again, a small sample size. Dustin Pedroia, a career .293 hitter with RISP, including a .312 average last season, is 1-for-9 so far this season in those situations. That number will change.

* Boston's start offensively is not markedly different from the first 10 games of 2013. The Sox have scored 36 runs in 10 games this season; in 2013, the Sox had scored 48, but 13 of those came in a 13-0 blowout of the Blue Jays, a game in which they also hit six of their 12 home runs. The Sox have seven home runs so far this season. The team had a .259/.333/.432/.776 slash line through 10 games in 2013; it’s .264/.334/.372/.707 so far in 2014.

* Nava ended a stretch of five consecutive strikeouts with his first home run of the season Thursday off Yankees starter Michael Pineda for Boston's only run, but takes a .139 average (5-for-39) into Friday night's game. He had an eight-game stretch last June where he went 2-for-25 (.080), dropping his batting average 22 percentage points to a season-low .274, but then went on a tear, batting .432 (16-for-37) over his next 10 games en route to a .303 finish.

* Get a grip: If improving one’s grip was the sole purpose for pitchers to apply foreign substances on the baseball, then there wouldn’t be a rule against it. Pitchers would be free to lather their arms, necks, gloves, belts and hair with whatever gels, sunscreens, pine tar, Krazy Glue they cared to choose. But there is a pretty direct correlation between a better grip and a pitcher’s ability to manipulate a baseball, especially cutters and sinkers and sliders, pitches that generate a lot of spin and require good grips to do so.

Maybe it’s true Red Sox manager John Farrell, as he said, didn’t learn of the stuff Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda had on his hand Thursday night until it was too late, and Pineda had wiped his hand clean by the time Farrell could have made an issue of it. But it’s also likely that Farrell wasn’t about to initiate a round of nightly inspections demanded by the respective managers, Farrell and Joe Girardi, because he knows some of his pitchers do the same.

What made Pineda stand out Thursday, as Farrell noted after the game, was how “blatant” he was about it. Having it swabbed across the palm of his hand, instead of making at least a cursory attempt to conceal his intentions, is not how the game is played.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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