June 15, 2013 at 9:00 AM
PAWTUCKET, R.I. - There were 8,976 eager fans at McCoy Stadium on Friday with high expectations for top prospect Xander Bogaerts, who was making his debut with Pawtucket in its doubleheader against the Buffalo Bisons after he was promoted to the club on Thursday.
He didn't disappoint.
Playing as the second youngest position player to ever don a PawSox uniform, Bogaerts finished the day 3 for 7 with a single, walk, two strikeouts, a stolen base, and a two-run home run that was inches away from clearing the entire stadium.
"Good," Bogaerts said when asked how he felt about his debut. "I just brought the same swing I had in Portland here."
"I just wanted to keep the same approach and not try to do too much because that can make you get into a funk. I've been hitting good lately, so I was just trying to do the same thing -- be patient. I was really patient today."
Bogaerts' patient approach, a key reason why he'd enjoyed success as of late in Portland, was on display from the get-go as the shortstop drew an eight-pitch walk in his first Triple-A plate appearance. He ended up seeing a total 29 pitches in his eight plate appearances on Friday and laid off tough pitches from Ricky Romero and Justin Germano, who were Buffalo's starters in game one and game two respectively.
"I thought his first at-bat was great," PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina said. "He wasn't jumpy. He wasn't trying to do too much. He's just a very mature hitter. It's fun to see him get out there and play."
DiSarcina is all too familiar with mature, precocious players. From 2010 to 2012, DiSarcina served as a minor-league coordinator and an assistant to the general manager for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It was there where he had the pleasure of seeing Mike Trout's major-league debut at age 19 and his subsequent AL MVP runner-up season when he was 20, Bogaerts' present age.
"I was around Mike Trout for a couple of years, and he was 19-years-old playing in the big leagues. So I know there are kids out there who are capable of [excelling in an advanced level at a young age]," DiSarcina said.
"Why and how? Who knows why and how?" continued DiSarcina, who pointed and looked up to the sky when asking, acknowledging the answer was beyond his knowledge. "Trout's done it. Bryce Harper's done it."
"The one thing I can compare -- having been around Trout for two years and being around Xander for brief time -- is confidence. They're not cocky. Mike was the same way. When you see him, he's not cocky. He's not arrogant. He's just confident in his abilities."
"I watched Xander tonight, he's natural. He's letting the game come to him and he's playing his game -- not trying to do too much. He has a confident level that's high and it's impressive. There are kids out there who can do it and those are the special ones."
Even though Friday's contests were played in a Triple-A setting, the two pitchers that opposed Bogaerts were a good test and a primer for what he'll see at the next level.
Romero and Germano have combined to pitch 1,123 innings in the major leagues. Romero, despite the recent struggles, was an All-Star in 2011 and earned at least 13 wins in each of his first three seasons in the majors while pitching in the AL East. Germano is the same guy who held the Yankees scoreless through 5 2/3 innings in his lone appearance with the Red Sox last season. Bogaerts realized he'd never seen pitchers with such pedigree before.
"It's just a few at-bats, but they spotted the location good," Bogaerts said. "They're better at doing that here [than in Double-A]."
Bogaerts' home run came on a high, 88-mph fastball from Germano, a pitch that certainly wasn't located to Germano's liking. It sounded like a no-doubter the moment it left the bat even Buffalo's left fielder Ricardo Nanita didn't bother to move an inch as the ball sailed over his head.
"Yeah, that went pretty far," Bogaerts said with a chuckle. "It was exciting. First day and that happened? It's awesome."
"He just absolutely crushed it," said DiSarcina, who noted the home run came on a designed hit-and-run. "You haven’t seen many 20-year-olds hit balls like that. The ball got real small real quick. It just exploded off his bat. He's special. There's no doubt. He's a special kid."
A special kid who's grounded and has just one goal now that's he's in Triple-A.
"Just play baseball, man."
Photo Credit: Xander Bogaerts by Kelly O'Connor.
Kevin Pereira is a Staff Writer for SoxProspects. Follow him on Twitter @kevinrpereira.