For as much as he studies, for all the mental notes he takes during an at-bat, for all the analyzing he does on the base paths, for all the surveying he does at shortstop, you could never tell that Deven Marrero makes it a point to keep things as light as possible.
“When I go out on the field, I like to make everybody feel loose,” Marrero said. “I joke around a lot. I just go out there and try to do the best I can for the team and how I did it is having fun with the guys and competing at the same time.”
Nothing’s off limits. Teammates know this.
“I just make fun of everybody,” Marrero said.
That includes 21-year-old pitching prodigy Henry Owens.
At 6 feet 7 inches, Owens stands like a light pole on the mound. But whenever Owens hops off it to cover first base on a ground ball, Owens hears it from Marrero.
“He makes it known that he knows I’m an athlete,” Owens said. “He lets me know in a smiling, condescending way.”
Since being promoted to Double A Portland from Salem last week, Marrero’s been quieter than usual.
Mostly, he said, it’s because he’s still getting used to his surroundings.
“I messed with all the guys in Salem,” Marrero said. “Here I can’t really mess around too much, I’m a rookie. But I’ll start opening up here pretty soon.”
When the Red Sox drafted Marrero in the first round last year, they saw his potential for becoming the complete package, impressive in the field, at the plate, and on the base paths.
In 64 games with Single A Lowell last season, he hit .268 with two homers, 24 RBIs, and 24 stolen bases. He played 85 games with Salem this year, hitting .256 with 21 RBIs and 21 steals before getting promoted. From what he’s seen so far, Portland manager Kevin Boles said Marrero has been everything they expected.
“From an offensive standpoint, he’s a guy who manages the strike zone,” Boles said. “He’s able to hit the ball to all fields, has a high frequency of contact and plays the short game. He’s a guy that looks like you can play the hit-and-run with, makes good decisions, sound decisions on the bases.
“Defensively, looks like he has real good actions at short. He has range to both sides, backhand and gloveside. Does a nice job on body control [on] plays coming in, shows arm strength. And he has instincts, he moves around with positioning as far as with the hitters, as far as the personnel on the mound. Seems like he’s a very intelligent player. He’s as advertised. He can play shortstop. He’s a true shortstop.”
Marrero has two cousins who have been through the same experience. Christian Marrero is an outfielder in the Braves farm system. Chris Marrero, a first baseman, is with the Nationals’ Triple A team and has major league experience.
“It’s good, man,” Marrero said. “It gives me an advantage over most kids who meet those players later on in their careers. Since I was little I had my cousins teaching me the game. They went through the process.
“To have those people on my side is good for me because they tell me everything that I have to do right and what it’s like to get to that ultimate dream.”
Then there’s his childhood best friend, Eric Hosmer, the face of the Royals’ resurgence.
In the offseason they share a home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that’s as much a Dave & Buster’s as it is a place of residence.
“We’ve got a Pac-Man machine, a pool table, a Ping-Pong table, basketball, a pool, a weight room,” Marrero said. “We’ve got everything at the house. I just wake up, get out of bed, go downstairs and have some fun.”
From age 9 to high school, Marrero and Hosmer played on the same team, parting ways when Hosmer was drafted by the Royals and Marrero decided to attend Arizona State.
But they remained close.
“He’s been a big-time mentor for me,” Marrero said. “He did a lot of things for me that I’ll never be able to pay back. Just a great guy and a great person. We talk every once in a while. I’ll send him a message every once in a while just joking around. I’ll text him if he makes a nice play or something like that.”
Knowing each other before baseball became their jobs makes it easier to keep things in perspective now. Enjoying the games is just as important as excelling in them.
“We’re always having a good time,” Marrero said. “We’re always messing around with each other, always asking for advice. We just kind of keep ourselves in check.”
Three to watch
Keith Couch, Portland: He became the first Sea Dogs pitcher since 2007 to throw a nine-inning complete game. The 23-year-old righthander scattered six hits and didn’t surrender a walk in a 2-1 win over Harrisburg last Sunday, and was named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week.
Luis Diaz, Salem: Going 6-0 with a 0.89 ERA in his last 10 starts with Greenville, Diaz was screaming to be promoted. He earned the call-up to high Single A Salem on Tuesday and earned the win in his first Carolina League start Thursday night against Myrtle Beach.
Nick Moore, Lowell: The 20-year-old third baseman rattled off an 11-game hit streak before it was ended Wednesday night in a 5-4 loss to Connecticut. He became the first Spinner with a double-digit hit streak since David Renfroe in 2010. In 39 at-bats during the streak, Moore had 12 hits and 15 strikeouts.
Tough break for Hassan
A fractured middle finger on his right hand has interrupted the summer for PawSox outfielder Alex Hassan. He was hurt Aug. 15 on a bunt attempt in a 4-2 win against Louisville. Before the injury, Hassan was hitting .315 with four homers and 27 RBIs, a big improvement over his .256 average last season. He also spent time on the disabled in April with a strained right calf . . . Jeremy Hazelbaker’s .261 batting average may be a little deceptive. The PawSox outfielder is hitting .320 with runners in scoring position, the second highest on the team, and has a team-high 25 multihit games. His 35 stolen bases lead the PawSox and rank fifth in the International League.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.