Monday, April 21, 2014
Sox hope Holt can spark leadoff spot
By Tony Lee
BOSTON -- The Red Sox will utilize their fifth different leadoff hitter in 20 games when third baseman Brock Holt gets the nod Monday against the Baltimore Orioles.
Holt is 4-for-10 with a triple, a walk and two RBIs in three games since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket, adding a spark to a lineup that has been dormant at times. The hope for the Red Sox is that he carries that spark to a leadoff role that has produced a .175 average (14-for-80) with just eight walks.
“He’s had very good at-bats, both lefties and righties,” manager John Farrell said. “We’ve had a number of different guys in that leadoff spot, I recognize that. I think the priority becomes keeping some continuity two through six, which we’ve been able to do with this alignment.”
Although the sample size is small, Holt has seen five pitches per plate appearance since his promotion.
“Throughout his minor league career he’s been a top-of-the-order hitter, so there’s no hesitancy putting him in that spot,” Farrell said. “In the short time that he’s been there he’s seen some pitches, he’s had some long at-bats.
“While we’re still searching for that one true guy in that spot, this is the next candidate,” he said.
Grady Sizemore, Daniel Nava, Dustin Pedroia and Jonny Gomes have previously batted leadoff for Boston.
The Sox will be facing Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen. Holt hit .204 with no extra-base hits in 93 at-bats against lefties in the minors last year, but that is of little consequence for a team that simply wants a pesky presence atop the order.
“It seems more just in the attitude in the box, there’s a relentlessness to the at-bats we’ve seen,” Farrell said of Holt. “A number of foul balls, the pitches he’s taking. He’s not expanded the strike zone so far and I think it’s more the mentality of the approach that stands out. I can’t say it’s anything fundamental that has been a major shift, but it’s the approach mentally that seems to be the difference.”
That approach is what the Sox fed off in 2013. Lately, with wins in four of their last five and several of the wins coming in grinding fashion, they have begun to rediscover that mindset.
“We’ve gone up against some very good pitching. We’ve run up some pitch counts, we’ve gotten into the bullpen, against Tillman the other night, against Sale in Chicago,” Farrell said. “And it’s that same consistent approach throughout the lineup that we’ve been able to use to our advantage. I can’t say it’s exactly like October when seemingly we were getting no-hit every night through five innings but found a way to get into the bullpen in that seventh- or eighth-inning range, but just putting up more consistent at-bats, tougher at-bats to drive that pitch count up.”