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SAN FRANCISCO -- Xander Bogaerts was so excited before his first major league game Tuesday that he didn't notice he put his red warm-up shirt on backward.
"[Mike] Napoli asked me, 'Are you nervous?'" Bogaerts said with a smile. "But I didn't even notice."
The Boston Red Sox don't care how their No. 1 prospect dresses as long as he finds his way to home plate.
|Xander Bogaerts reacts after striking out in his third at-bat.|
Bogaerts went 0-for-3 and stranded four runners in scoring position in a 3-2 loss. That was the bad.
The good came with a standout defensive play to end the fifth and strand a runner at third. Bogaerts charged a slow bouncer off the bat of Marco Scutaro and snapped a quick off-balance throw to get a diving Scutaro in a bang-bang play at first. Afterward, Scutaro banged his helmet to the ground in frustration as he sat on his knees.
"That was definitely a big play to make the game stay 2-1," Bogaerts said. "[I was thinking] just get an out. I saw him dive. It was a close play but I think I had him."
He thought nerves might get to him a little in his first big league game. But Bogaerts did have prior experience playing at AT&T Park during the World Baseball Classic in March.
"I didn't expect to be so relaxed," he said. "Maybe that's why the WBC had an effect. Playing in front of a big crowd. I would say that helped."
Bogaerts' debut was highly anticipated -- within the organization and among the fan base -- because of the hype surrounding the 20-year-old from Aruba. Bogaerts is ranked by ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law as the No. 3 prospect in the game; most analysts place him in the top 10.
Bogaerts said he couldn't wait to get on the field -- "Finally the moment has arrived" -- but he also said he benefited from watching Monday night's game from the bench. "Yesterday was good to watch, see guys, where to play them and stuff like that," he said.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said he took note of the rookie's poise in a big league environment.
"I think what's been most impressive, up to now, is not only what he's done at the minor league level, but the way he's handled [the media]," Farrell said. "Very genuinely, very naturally. I think that's how he goes about his work day to day. I think he's relaxed around this environment."Farrell had said Monday that he would use Bogaerts over the final month or so of the season primarily to give players days off and keep them fresh.
"We'll look to rotate him through at shortstop and third base, and we'll see where it takes us," he said.
That would seem to suggest Farrell doesn't see Bogaerts as an everyday player quite yet, though he added he wasn't going to pin himself on a specific number of days per week he'll play the rookie.
But he may well be back at it on Wednesday. The Giants made a pitching change and will start left-hander Barry Zito instead of the injured Chad Gaudin. The right-handed-hitting Bogaerts hit .298 with a .926 OPS against left-handers in Pawtucket, while starting shortstop Stephen Drew is hitting .193 in 114 at-bats against southpaws this season.
Veteran outfielder Jonny Gomes played alongside many of the game's top stars when they first broke into the big leagues, including Josh Hamilton, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. Gomes said he'll look at more than how Bogaerts carries himself on the field.
"The five tools, that's the last thing I look at," Gomes said. "Just respecting the game. Is he professional? [Is he] respecting the other vets? I think it's more my job, our job, to make him feel comfortable."
Joe Stiglich is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com