August 14, 2013 at 9:47 PM
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Xander Bogaerts was pretty clearly locked in at the plate Wednesday afternoon at McCoy Stadium, rocketing a line drive knocked down by the wind in his first at-bat, then launching a long homer to left-center in his second one.
But when the top Red Sox prospect came to the plate for the third time against the Louisville Bats (CIN), he took a bit of a different approach: He showed bunt, initially.
“I was going to bunt, but then I said, ‘No, forget it,’” said Bogaerts, a smile breaking out across the 20-year-old's face following the Pawtucket Red Sox’ 6-5 win. “Maybe I was feeling good. I was going to bunt the whole way, but I don’t know, man. I always want to go bunt, but I seem to get frightened and change it. Maybe it’s one of those things.”
Indeed, getting a successful bunt down has been something Bogaerts has been working hard at of late. Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina said Bogaerts, the shortstop-and-sometimes-third-baseman who played his natural position Wednesday, gets to the stadium early for extra practice at the old art and is consistently asking questions about when the appropriate time is to lay one down.
According to DiSarcina, it’s all of Bogaerts’ own volition.
“He’s doing it on his own,” DiSarcina said. “He’s starting to figure out that if he does get called up, I think he knows he’s not going to be hitting two, three, four, five in that lineup. He’s going to be down in the order, and he’s going to bunt.
“He comes out early and he works on the bunting, and like we talk about with his defense — he needs reps and he needs to go out there and experience it. … He hasn’t had too many opportunities when he’s come up and had a chance to bunt, runners on first and second or something. He’s into it. He wants to get better. He knows he needs to do it.”
The sixth inning of Wednesday’s contest wasn’t exactly an ideal time for in-game practice, with one out and the bases empty, but it worked out all right for Bogaerts anyway. He lined a single to center for his second hit of the game.
Long-term, Bogaerts’ future certainly involves quite a bit more production than moving runners over — as his .882 OPS with Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket in 2013 indicates — and that facet of his game was on display earlier.
Bogaerts entered the day hitting .340 since Aug. 2, with at least one hit in seven straight games and nine of his last 11. Still, he went home Tuesday night, fresh off a 3-for-4 performance in a 5-1 win over the Bats, with a bad taste in his mouth.
None of his base knocks were well struck.
“Result-wise it was good, [three] hits, but I really wanted a line drive,” Bogaerts said. “I just wanted to barrel up one and make me feel better. And I did.”
That first line drive — the one that “really felt good,” as Bogaerts put it — resulted in a flyout double play in the first inning after Louisville left fielder Derrick Robinson tracked it down and doubled up Jackie Bradley Jr., who was off with the pitch.
Bats right-hander Chad Rogers wasn’t quite as luckily the second time around, even with the persistent wind still blowing in.
This time, Bogaerts smashed a 3-1 hanging slider to left-center field, clearing the fence with room to spare for a three-run home run. The blast went nearly 400 feet, and would have gone quite it a bit further if it didn’t have to pierce the gusts.
“His first at-bat was crushed, and it didn’t go anywhere,” DiSarcina said. “We were just thinking, ‘Oh my god, there’s no way. There’s no way anyone can hit a home run.’
“But his next at-bat, I had a great view of it,” he continued. “When it got over the dirt, it had a different gear, and that’s big league pop. That’s raw power. That’s what everyone’s excited for with Xander — the ability to hit a ball that far. I think if there was no wind it would have went up off the scoreboard somewhere. I don’t think you can hit a ball better than that. Really.
“It was like [it was] shot out of a gun.”
Photo credit: Xander Bogaerts by Kelly O’Connor.
Tim Healey is a staff writer for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.