Commentary

Bogaerts should bring SS stability

Updated: February 24, 2014, 10:24 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- If you ask Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia how many shortstops he's played with during his major league career, he no doubt knows the answer.

During his eight seasons in Boston, Pedroia has not had a steady double-play partner for very long. In fact, he's played with nearly a dozen  shortstops, including Julio Lugo, Jed Lowrie, Nick Green, Alex Gonzalez, Alex Cora, Marco Scutaro, Mike Aviles, Jose Iglesias and Stephen Drew.

He can name them all.

"Yeah, it's been a lot -- shoot," he said. "It's been a lot."

[+] EnlargeXander Bogaerts
Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty ImagesThe Red Sox are counting on Xander Bogaerts to continue on the fast track to major league success.

It now appears the Red Sox will have a steady up-the-middle combination for a long time with Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts, who proved last season he can handle the job with both his glove and his bat.

"His ability is unbelievable," Pedroia said of Bogaerts. "He has the willingness to learn and get better every day. He wants to be great, too. He's working and his head is always on straight and he's going in the right direction, so it's going to be something special."

Pedroia, a Gold Glove, All-Star second baseman, has worked well with everyone he's played with on his right side, but the idea of finally having a stalwart there, potentially for the rest of his career, is satisfying.

"That's fun to have, and I haven't had that, yet. I mean, a couple of years here and there, but you build a relationship with the guy and you don't have to go into camp and get used to anybody. We put in the time and put in the work to try to be the best we can."

Red Sox manager John Farrell has been impressed with how Pedroia has handled playing with a different shortstop almost every season, but he's also looking forward to this combination.

"I think he's dealt with it as best as we could have ever hoped," Farrell said. "He's had good players play alongside of him, but, let's face it, the more repetition you get with a partner up the middle, you're going to have a better read in the nuances and being able to anticipate things at a greater rate, so we're looking forward to establish that continuity going forward."

On the field, Bogaerts is pretty impressive. ESPN.com's Keith Law ranked Bogaerts No. 2 in his top-20 impact prospects for 2014. With Bogaerts' ability and what he was able to accomplish on baseball's biggest stage last October, it's possible he could earn rookie of the year honors this season.

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Only four months removed from the World Series, Farrell is still impressed with Bogaerts' performance. He hit .296 with an .893 OPS in 12 postseason games. 

"Pretty remarkable when you consider the age and the limited number of at-bats, even on the professional level as a whole, but to do it on that stage and not show, at least outwardly, anxiety that might have been going on inside, but he can control it pretty well. He came up big for us and good players stand out in that way, and he's one of them," Farrell said.

Bogaerts, for his part, won't get ahead of himself.

"I'm just going to go out there and play the way I know how to play and, hopefully, good things happen," he said. "I always work hard in the offseason and in spring training. I always try to be as prepared as possible during the season and try to stay healthy."

Bogaerts spent the majority of the 2013 season honing his skills at both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. He was called up and made his major league debut on Aug. 20. He played 18 games, including 12 starts between shortstop and third base, and finished the regular season with a .250 batting average, one home run and five RBIs.

After he was inserted into the lineup as the club's third baseman for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers, Bogaerts played more like a veteran than a rookie and forced Farrell to keep him in the lineup until the Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

"Shoot, he's 20 years old and he's in the World Series and playing at the highest level," Pedroia said. "That's a huge advantage for him. That experience at that age is great."

It took a little while for it all to sink in during the offseason for Bogaerts.

[+] EnlargeXander Bogaerts
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsDustin Pedroia could finally have a long-term double-play partner in Xander Bogaerts.

"Not in the World Series. You don't have time to reflect on that because things pass by so quick," he said. "The offseason is the perfect time to reflect on how the season went. The World Series is just about, 'Focus on that game and try to win that game that night.' Things pass quick, man."

During the offseason, the Red Sox contemplated re-signing Drew, but now that camp is underway, Bogaerts is slated to be the Sox shortstop.

"I'm definitely at shortstop right now," he said. "Drew is still a free agent, so I don't know what's going with him, so, as of today, I'm still working out at shortstop only."

Because Drew was the starting shortstop last season and his defense was critical to the team's success, the organization thought it best to have Bogaerts start playing third base for the PawSox. Defensively, he proved to be sound at the hot corner, and that was evident by his play in the postseason. But he's a natural shortstop by trade and wants to remain at that position for his entire career.

"I love shortstop," Bogaerts said.

Bogaerts isn't afraid to admit that Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is his favorite player, so when Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees this offseason, Bogaerts asked if he could wear No. 2, and the team made it happen.

"I'm happy they gave me it," Bogaerts said. "[Jeter] was definitely my favorite player growing up."

Bogaerts had a 10-second conversation with Jeter during a game last season.

"I hit a double and I was at second, and he came over to the bag and I told him he was my favorite player," Bogaerts recalled. "He said, 'Thanks.'"

Like Jeter, Bogaerts is listed at 6-foot-3, which might be a bit generous for both players. The Sox rookie admitted he checked in at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds at his physical earlier this week. His 21-year-old frame will only continue to get stronger and bigger.

"I have no idea, but time will tell," Bogaerts said. "It's all about eating right and staying healthy and keep your body in a good position."

Bogaerts' emergence allowed the Red Sox to trade Iglesias to the Tigers at the deadline last July as part of a three-team deal that helped Boston acquire pitcher Jake Peavy from the White Sox.

When Iglesias was developing in the Red Sox system, Pedroia would encourage him but also joke around with him quite a bit. The veteran's relationship with Bogaerts is a little different now, perhaps more professional.

"I'm really quiet, so I guess that's why I haven't heard anything, yet," Bogaerts said with a smile. "He's been helpful, and I'm very thankful to have him on the team."

Bogaerts is an extremely gifted athlete. He grew up playing baseball, soccer, basketball and volleyball. He's a native of Aruba, and when he returned to the island during the offseason, he didn't realize how popular he became due to the World Series victory.

"Busy, man," he said. "It's not something that I'm used to. It was a very unique offseason. I was even surprised by how many people knew me. It doesn't matter where you go, people recognize you."

Bogaerts is no longer unrecognizable in Boston, too. And now, when Pedroia starts a double play, he could be feeding the ball to the same guy for a long time.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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