BRADENTON, Fla. — In four seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Brock Holt came to be good friends with Jeremy Farrell during minor league seasons played out in Florida and Pennsylvania.
Both were infielders drafted out of Division 1 colleges, Farrell in the eighth round in 2008 out of Virginia and Holt in the ninth round a year later out of Rice.
“Jeremy is a great guy,” said Holt. “I played with him for three years and we got to be good buddies. But I was never expecting what happened.”
John Farrell, Jeremy’s father, was named manager of the Red Sox in October. Two months later, Farrell was on the phone with Holt welcoming him to the team.
In a December trade for closer Joel Hanrahan, the Sox had also obtained Holt. They saw the 24-year-old middle infielder as having the versatility to play different positions at the major league level.
“He was very much part of the deal, not just an added person in it,” said Farrell. “We actively pursued to include him.”
Holt went 2 for 4 with a walk and two runs against his former team Thursday in a 16-6 victory for the Red Sox.
Holt is competing with Pedro Ciriaco for a spot on the bench. Ciriaco has the advantage because he is out of options and played well last season. But Holt is a lefthanded hitter, something the Red Sox could use. He also has an interesting skill set.
Holt hit .317 with a .381 on-base percentage for the Pirates in the minors. At 5 feet 10 inches and 180 pounds, he doesn’t have a lot of power, but he did have 31 doubles and six triples in 477 at-bats in 2012.
Holt hit .432 with a 1.013 OPS in 24 games for Triple A Indianapolis last year after an All-Star season with Altoona in the Eastern League. He earned a promotion to the Pirates in September and batted .292 (19 for 65) in 24 games.
“He’s a ballplayer, he loves it,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. “He’s hit at every level he’s been at. He can put the bat on the ball and his game awareness is good. He just needs a chance to play at the big league level.
“Brock wasn’t somebody we were happy about losing. He has a very good approach. He gave us a shot in the arm when he joined our club last year offensively. He hits the ball line to line and keeps the ball out of the air and uses the speed that he has.”
Holt has been caught stealing 29 times in 78 attempts in the minors, too low of a percentage. The Sox want to work on that and increase his defensive versatility to take advantage of his arm strength.
Holt was a shortstop and second baseman for the Pirates. The Sox had him taking ground balls at third base Wednesday and soon will introduce him to center field.
“I’ve never played outfield, but it’s something that I’m open to,” Holt said. “I feel like I’m a good enough athlete to be able to go to the outfield and play. If that’s the case then so be it. I’m excited about it.”
The Red Sox traded pitchers Mark Melancon and Stolmy Pimentel to the Pirates along with infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. Holt thought he had a secure place in Pittsburgh, but the Red Sox wanted him in the deal.
“I didn’t expect to get traded,” he said. “I had no idea my name was being tossed around.
“That just means the Red Sox wanted me over here and that’s a huge honor for me. I was surprised when they first told me. But once the shock kind of set in, I was excited about the new opportunity.”
When Farrell and then-assistant general manager Mike Hazen called, Holt was encouraged.
“They told me they really wanted me over here,” he said. “That made me feel good. I’m glad to be where I’m at right now.”
Because of his size and energetic style of play, Holt has often been compared to Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Many young players would deflect such talk. Holt embraces it.
“He’s been someone I’ve paid attention to for a while,” said Holt. “One of the things I was most excited about coming here was working with him. I’ve had a chance to do that almost every day.
“I’m taking ground balls with him and doing other stuff. I’m picking his brain a little bit. He’s fun to be around.
“He makes it fun out there and it’s only going to make me better working with a guy like him. He’s been really helpful.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.