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Bogaerts set to return to shortstop

8/1/2014

BOSTON -- On Friday night, Boston Red Sox rookie Xander Bogaerts will finally return to where he has wanted to be all along.

With shortstop Stephen Drew traded to the New York Yankees on Thursday afternoon, Bogaerts will move back to his natural position at short, the same spot he manned for the Red Sox on Opening Day earlier this year. The move will also allow Will Middlebrooks to be activated from the disabled list Friday to make his return at third base.

"I'm happy to be back," Middlebrooks told ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald. "I don't know what to expect. I'm just excited to be back here, playing baseball at Fenway."

Until Drew made his return to the majors with Boston on June 2, Bogaerts played every game at short. Although things occasionally weren't so smooth -- he made six errors in 54 games at the position -- the 21-year-old seemed to be making continued progress while holding the position down.

Then all that came to a sudden halt. Drew was activated, forcing Bogaerts to shift to third like he did upon his arrival to the big leagues in 2013.

Last year, Bogaerts understood the decision. Drew was entrenched at short and the team was on its way to a World Series title -- no drastic changes were going to be made. Bogaerts was just happy to play. This time around though, Bogaerts was the one who was supposed to be the team's everyday shortstop. Since that day, he hasn't played so much as an inning at the position.

"My heart is always at shortstop," Bogaerts said the day of Drew's re-signing. "I was just feeling so good over there but they made the decision they had to make."

With Drew's tenure now over, general manager Ben Cherington looked back on that decision.

"We signed Stephen Drew because we were trying to fill a need at a time that we were still trying to win and claw for wins," Cherington said. "In retrospect, that move didn't work out the way we wanted it to. Now this is an opportunity to move Bogey back and use the rest of the year to let him play."

As the team has maintained throughout Bogaerts' offensive struggles that have spanned most of June and July, no confidence has been lost in their rookie phenom. If anything, the team will hope the move back to shortstop will once again turn Bogaerts into the offensive spark he was earlier this season.

In his 53 games as a shortstop, Bogaerts slashed .296/.389/.427. His numbers dropped across the board to .182/.217/.300 in 44 games at third.

"He would tell you if he was sitting here that he's gone through some challenges this year," Cherington said. "We've all seen it. Nothing at all has changed in our opinion of him as a player. He's going to be a really good player for us for a long time."

That time could begin again on Friday, when manager John Farrell finally pencils Bogaerts back in at short. For his part, Middlebrooks said he is healthy and excited to prove himself the rest of this season. As a result, the Red Sox seem poised to give Bogaerts as much time as he needs do the same.

"We said last winter we believed he can play short for us -- that didn't change because we signed Stephen Drew despite the attention around it," Cherington said. "In the long run I don't worry about Xander Bogaerts because he's going to be good."

"He'll have to go back to shortstop and take ground balls there now. It looked like he was even getting more comfortable at short right before he moved to third so hopefully he'll just pick right up where he left off."