May 30, 2013 at 1:20 PM
In less than two years since he received a surprise call-up from extended spring training to Low A Greenville in June 2011, Portland shortstop Xander Bogaerts has used each trip to the plate to improve on that younger version of himself.
Those efforts have unequivocally paid off thus far. Bogaerts has appearances in the World Baseball Classic and MLB Futures Game under his belt, and at age 20, he is one of baseball's most dynamic prospects.
But this spring, two years of acclaim and praise couldn't shield Bogaerts from experiencing something each of his Portland teammates has at one point or another -- deep struggle and self-doubt.
A spot on the Netherlands WBC roster was an honor and a mark of distinction for the young shortstop, but Bogaerts saw his playing time (mostly at third base) diminish as the tournament went on. His limited playing time, combined with the sparse game schedule and heavy travel of the WBC, represented a new challenge for Bogaerts.
"I don't like days off," he said. "I like playing baseball, so the more games you play the better you get. The WBC, we didn't play every day like spring training, so it just took a little bit longer to get my timing back."
Photo credit: Xander Bogaerts by Kelly O'Connor.