When Xander Bogaerts hit his third home run of the season, off Mark Buehrle in Thursday’s 7-2 loss to the Blue Jays, it seemed to carry with it a statement that maybe, just maybe, the young Aruban shortstop was not quite ready to surrender his job to Stephen Drew.
Bogaerts, who last year showed himself to be a precocious talent with extraordinary poise and plate discipline on the pressure-packed stage of the World Series, seemed to rediscover that approach as he homered for the second time in five games.
But was his solo shot a salvo?
“I’ve been hitting the ball hard, right at people,’’ Bogaerts said. “But it’s good to hit one where no one was at. It was a tough homestand for us right now.’’
It became tougher for Bogaerts when the Sox signed Drew to a prorated $14.1 million deal Wednesday. He was brought aboard ostensibly to help patch up an infield that had sprung some leaks after Bogaerts struggled to get a handle on shortstop and third baseman Will Middlebrooks was placed on the disabled list Monday with a fractured right index finger.
Although he initially expressed disappointment at the prospect of giving up the position to Drew, Bogaerts seemed to change his tune after Thursday’s loss.
“Yeah, he’s definitely a great player,’’ Bogaerts acknowledged. “We won the World Series with him last year and he’s definitely going to boost our team.’’
Was there, however, any awkwardness with both playing the same position, and dressing next to each other in the clubhouse?
“He’s a great player,’’ Bogaerts insisted. “He helped us win last year, so he’s a good addition to the team.’’
Said Drew, “I don’t think there will be [any awkwardness]. [Bogaerts is] a great player and it was just something that will help the team in the long run. It’s nothing new to him.
“I mean, you look at all of us and you’ve got the four guys who played out there together at the very end and did very well,’’ Drew said, also referring to second baseman Dustin Pedroia and first baseman Mike Napoli. “So, it’s only going to help this team.’’
But Drew’s presence in the clubhouse, while reassuring, did little to prevent the team from getting swept by the Blue Jays, suffering its seventh consecutive loss before heading out on five-game trip to Tampa Bay and Atlanta.
While the team packed its bags for Tampa, Drew prepared to head to Greenville, S.C., where he expected to begin work in the minor leagues once he cleared optional waivers Friday.
“I’m going to go get some [at-bats] down in Greenville and then back up here to Triple A [Pawtucket] to get some more ABs and just try to ready my legs for nine innings,’’ he said. “We’ll get comfortable there and just try to go from there.’’
Asked about a timetable, Drew shrugged. “I don’t know,’’ he said. “It’s just playing every day and seeing how I feel and then we’ll go from there. It’s about getting the reps I need and then we’ll adjust.’’
Until then, Bogaerts will continue as the shortstop, and hopefully continue his hot hitting.
“I’m just seeing the ball good and making some adjustments,’’ Bogaerts said of the last 10 games, in which he’s gone 14 for 37 with 3 doubles, a triple, 2 homers, 4 RBIs, and a pair of walks. “I feel like I’m hitting the ball right now, but we’re not winning . . . ’’ His voice trailed off.
“So, it’s frustrating.’’