NEW YORK — When one watches Xander Bogaerts go 2 for 3 for the World team in the Futures Game and Garin Cecchini go 1 for 2 with an RBI for the US team and hit the ball hard twice, one wonders what the Red Sox are going to do with all of these third-base types.
Bogaerts started at shortstop and then moved to DH late in the game for the World team; Cecchini was a fifth-inning replacement at third and made his mark with two very good at-bats in the US team’s 4-2 win Sunday at Citi Field. The strong play of the Sox’ positional players overshadowed the poor outing by righty Anthony Ranaudo, who allowed two runs for Team USA in the fourth inning.
Bogaerts, who is playing at Pawtucket, is projected to move to third base, but the PawSox currently have Will Middlebrooks there. And when Stephen Drew comes back to play shortstop for the Red Sox, Jose Iglesias will move back to third, where he’s played very well.
Could we be seeing a throwback to the era of Wade Boggs, Tim Naehring, Steve Lyons, and Jeff Bagwell? The Sox traded Bagwell for Larry Andersen at the trading deadline in 1990 to shore up their bullpen. Bagwell, who had hit six homers in the minors to that point but hit .333 in his last season in New Britain, went on to a career that landed him 59.6 percent of the vote for the Hall of Fame last season.
Boggs made it to Cooperstown.
Lyons was traded to the White Sox in 1986 for Tom Seaver.
Naehring’s career was cut short by injuries.
So what will be the fate of this modern group of third-base types?
Middlebrooks had a strong rookie season but suffered from a major sophomore slump and is now back with the PawSox. While Middlebrooks is in Pawtucket, Bogaerts, a 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pounder, could be taking his place shortly.
Bogaerts’s agent, Scott Boras, has told Sox general manager Ben Cherington that Bogaerts should move to second base. Uh, but wait a minute, a guy named Dustin Pedroia is currently playing there.
Cherington said Boras’s suggestion has merit, but for the time being he 1) doesn’t want to move Middlebrooks to first base, figuring he has more value as a third baseman; 2) is not quite ready to move Bogaerts to third, though he did play one game there; and 3) will likely keep Cecchini at third base in Portland, since he’s the farthest away. But not that far.
“I think the competition is great,” Cecchini said. “I think it’s nice to have so many guys who can play third kind of competing against one another. I think it’s healthy. I think it’s great. It’s like when I played for USA against Cuba, we had something like seven shortstops on that team and Manny Machado wound up being the shortstop and [the others were] distributed to other positions. I played left field. If you’re a good player, they’ll find a spot for you.”
Cecchini is starting to remind people of Bagwell. He’s hitting .353 overall between Salem and Portland and has six home runs. The feeling is his power will come as he begins to develop loft with his swing.
Bogaerts is a pure hitter who will hit for power. Right now he feels he’s a shortstop.
“That’s the way I’m going about it,” Bogaerts said. “I’m a shortstop. That’s the position I love to play. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but for now that’s what I’m concentrating on.”
Bogaerts is a phone call away from the major leagues now that he’s at Triple A. The only question is what position will he ultimately play?
“Right now I’m a shortstop,” Bogaerts said, “and that’s what I enjoy playing.”
Asked about a move to third, he laughed. “That’s easy. I played one game and no chances,” he said.
Bogaerts is hitting .294 with 13 homers and 54 RBIs between Portland and Pawtucket.
He singled up the middle in his first at-bat Sunday hitting third but was caught stealing. He singled again in his second at-bat, off Ranaudo. After he struck out vs. Colorado prospect Eddie Butler on three pitches, he walked in his final plate appearance.
Cecchini doubled on a liner to right that scored Billy Hamilton with the fourth USA run.
As for Ranaudo, he has had a very good season, just not in All-Star games.
On July 10, he started the Eastern League All-Star game and allowed two walks before a three-run homer by Giants prospect Javier Herrera.
On a hot, humid day Sunday, Ranaudo allowed an upper-deck homer to Arismendy Alcantara, then allowed a single to Bogaerts. In all, the Freehold, N.J., native gave up two runs on two hits with two walks and a wild pitch. He got only two outs in the fourth before being yanked.
“I think I hit my spot on the home run and it was a good piece of hitting, but as far as after that, I didn’t do a good job throwing strikes and I didn’t have good fastball command,” Ranaudo said.
As far as facing Bogaerts, Ranaudo said, “It was pretty cool. I saw him on deck and he kind of smiled at me. He’s such a great hitter. He hit a fastball that ran across the middle.”
And watching his Portland teammate Cecchini, he said, “Even [the first ball he hit] deep to left-center he was making solid contact and then he pulls the ball down the line with a runner at second. He had a good day.”
Ranaudo, who is 8-2 with a 2.67 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 91 innings at Portland, is likely to move to Pawtucket later this month.
He said that while his day did not go the way he thought it would, “I had a good time and fun around here. I had a great time with it.”