SAN FRANCISCO — I have seen Red Sox Future and its name is Xander Bogaerts.
Deftly handling questions from the media, enjoying his first day in the big leagues, Bogaerts sat in the first base dugout at AT&T Park just before 4 p.m. Monday.
Red Sox Future got the call to the majors while he was playing dominoes with his Triple A teammates Sunday night. We were all hoping Bogaerts would be in the lineup against Tim Lincecum for the first game of this road trip, but John Farrell went with Stephen Drew at short. Not very “sexy.” No wonder NESN’s ratings are flat (Friday night’s Red Sox-Yankee telecast was slammed by a preseason football game involving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Farrell said Bogaerts will start Tuesday against Giants righthander Ryan Vogelsong.
This is big; something along the lines of the first moon walk and/or the Beatles debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February of ’64. Seriously, Bogaerts’ first start could be an important event in Red Sox history; like Tony Conigliaro’s first game in 1964 at Yankee Stadium when he was only 19 years old. Maybe it’ll be like Dwight Evans’s debut in 1972 when Evans was 20 and the Sox were in a first-place dogfight with the Tigers.
We went through a phenom false alarm at the beginning of this season when Jackie Bradley Jr. came north with the “Please Don’t Hate Us” Sox. It was the start of Boston’s Redemption Tour back when everybody thought Boston would finish fourth or fifth in the American League East.
JBJ was all the rage in Florida. His work in Fort Myers had some of us changing the name of JetBlue Park to “JBJ Stadium.’’ Comparisons with Willie Mays were not considered over the top. Bradley was back in the minors by April 20, but the Sox have rebounded with a first-place summer, making the Nation content to put JBJ on the backburner until Jacoby Ellsbury leaves this winter.
Which brings us back to Red Sox Future, Xander Bogaerts.
He must be the real thing. Boston Baseball’s Hype Machine tends to inflate the potential of the prospects (go to microfilm and check out ambassador Gammons’s predictions for Juan Bustabad back in the early 1980s). There’s always someone who’s going to be the next great one. Remember Lars Anderson? Bogaerts is a 20-year-old flash who promises speed, power, and range at shortstop for the next 15 years.
This kid has to be the real thing. He is ranked as one of the top five prospects in all of baseball. He was the best player at the Futures Game at Citi Field during All-Star weekend last month. He is the most touted Red Sox everyday player since Jim Rice.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 185-pounder can play short or third and is the first big leaguer from Aruba since the much-loathed Sidney Ponson. He played for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. He played 60 games at Double A Portland this summer, then became the youngest player in the International League when he joined Pawtucket. Overall, he hit .297 with 15 homers and 67 RBIs in 116 minor league games this year. He turns 21 on Oct. 1, speaks English, Spanish, Dutch, and Papiamento. His twin brother, Jair, was traded to the Cubs in exchange for Theo Epstein. Bogaerts said he has no idea why his parents named him Xander (pronounced “Zander”, though often mistaken for “Xavier’’).
Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina gave Bogaerts the good news Sunday night and the kid got himself to Boston immediately. On the Monday morning charter to San Francisco, Bogaerts sat next to Daniel Nava and in front of Dustin Pedroia.
Ordinarily, there might have been some rookie hazing on a coast-to-coast big league charter. Pedroia still talks about Tim Wakefield ordering him to fetch beers when rookie Pedroia first flew with the Sox in 2007. But the sleepy Sox of 2013 were in no mood for high jinks after the hideous scheduling of Sunday and Monday (back-to-back nationally televised games in Boston and San Francisco?). Bogaerts no doubt was the most alert member of the traveling party.
“My schedule has been pretty hectic,’’ he said. “My phone battery’s been off. I’m definitely excited to be here. I’m just here to do whatever the Red Sox want me to do.’’
He doesn’t have any family out here for his debut.
“It’s pretty short notice,’’ he said. “I think it would be better for them to go in Boston if I’m still with the team.’’
How does he think he’ll feel when he steps into the batter’s box for the first time as a big leaguer?
“I’ll probably try to get a walk and not try to be too overly aggressive . . . Everyone says it’s still the same. It’s just baseball. The pitcher has to throw strikes. Hopefully, I’ll get up soon,’’ he said.
A 20-year-old guy in the big leagues is pretty handy with social media. Bogaerts knows what people are saying about him.
“It’s tough, especially when you have Twitter and Facebook,’’ he said. “They post everything on your wall. I can’t lie. You definitely see things on your wall, but you try not to think about it. You try to block it out as much as possible.’’
Yeesh. The only wall Tony C and Dewey had to worry about was the Green Monster. Now this. Bogaerts looks and sounds like a young man who can handle it. Welcome to the pennant race, kid.