- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- A few hours before the start of the Boston Red Sox's 6-0 win over the Kansas City Royals Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park, Brock Holt sat at his locker, with his feet up, his camouflage hat over his face as he was sleeping in his chair.
This is not his normal pregame routine, but it's understandable how tired he was with a day game after a night game. Plus, he has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Red Sox this season, and has helped the club win seven of its past eight games as it continues to push itself back toward contention in the AL East.
The extra bit of sleep apparently helped as Holt went 2-for-5 with a run scored and played solid defense at third base.
"That's the first time I've done that this season," Holt said with a smile. "I was down there in the cage and I came back up here and was like, 'Man, I've got to catch a little bit of shut-eye.' So I sat here and got comfortable and snoozed a little bit, a 10- to 15-minute power nap. Then I got myself a double espresso to wake me up. But, yeah, that doesn't happen too often."
Holt needed to be wide-eyed in his first at-bat, facing hard-throwing Royals starter Yordano Ventura. Holt led off the bottom of the first inning and sat 0-and-2 when Ventura delivered a 100-mph fastball. Holt turned on the pitch and drove a single to right field. He later scored in the inning, which proved to be the only run the Sox needed, as teammate Jon Lester worked eight shutout innings en route to the victory.
At a time when the Red Sox are doing everything they can to sneak their way out of the AL East basement, Holt's play continues to stand out.
With the exception of pitcher and catcher, he has played every position for the Red Sox this season. Holt has been like a jigsaw puzzle piece that manager John Farrell keeps moving around, and because of Holt's versatility, ability, athleticism and success, Farrell is not reluctant to move Holt from position to position in order to keep his hot bat at the top of the lineup.
After former Red Sox leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the New York Yankees last offseason, Farrell and his staff constructed a list of possible candidates to become Boston's new leadoff hitter.
Holt's name was not on that list.
Due to a slew of injuries early in the season, Holt was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket, and he has been invaluable ever since he arrived. He has batted in the leadoff spot the last 52 games and ranks first in the majors with 75 hits over that span. Overall, he's batting .326 in 64 games for the Red Sox and has hit safely in the last six games.
"It's been a lot of fun," Holt said of hitting leadoff. "When [Farrell] came to me and said, 'We want you to hit leadoff,' it was something I was excited about because it's what I've been doing my whole career. I did it in high school. I did it in college and coming up through the minor leagues, so it's something I'm used to. Regardless whether I'm in the 1-hole or 7-, 8-, 9-hole or whatever it may be, I'm not going to change my approach, the type of hitter I am. It's been a lot of fun to be the first guy up and get things started."
Holt has added a much-needed spark to the team. The 26-year-old has contributed at the plate and in the field. It's amazing he can accomplish so much, while playing so many different positions, including all three outfield positions, a role he had never played until this season.
"It's pretty amazing for a young guy that hasn't had a lot of big league experience to be able to play a bunch of positions," Red Sox third-base coach and infield instructor Brian Butterfield said. "He's intelligent. He's unselfish and he's very tough-minded, so we feel comfortable that he will know exactly what we're doing, whether we're playing him at short, third, second or first base, it doesn't matter, he's going to know where to be. This means a lot to him and we're really lucky to have him because he's really picked us up."
On Sunday, Holt was back at third base and showcased his defensive prowess.
With one out, one runner on and the Red Sox holding a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, the Royals' Brett Hayes hit a slow roller down the third-base line. Holt charged the ball, made a barehanded play and produced a strong throw for the out.
In the top of the sixth, with two runners on and two outs, the Royals' Billy Butler hit a hard grounder toward the hole to the left side. Holt took a quick step to his left, dove and snared the ball. He quickly got to his feet and made the throw to first baseman Mike Carp for the out.
"He makes a fine barehanded play on a slow roller, a dive to his glove side to take away an RBI base hit," Farrell said. "No matter where we put him defensively he's answered the call. Today with a couple of above-average plays for sure."
Despite playing so many different positions, Farrell tries to give Holt at least a day's notice to which position he'll be playing the next game.
"Now that I've kind of played multiple games at multiple positions, I come to the field ready to play, see where you're at [in the lineup] and get ready for that position that day," Holt said.
His locker resembles a glove display at a sporting goods store with all the different types of mitts, from an outfielder's glove, infielder's glove and first baseman's glove. He brings all three with him to the dugout each game. Since his arrival in Boston, Holt has been one of the most consistent players for the Red Sox, and if the club somehow makes a push in the second half of the season, it will need more of the same from him.
"There aren't a lot of guys out there that can do what he's doing right now," Butterfield said. "Again, he's a tough kid, very athletic and very intelligent."
Safe to say, Holt's not sleeping on the job.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg