Figuring out a way to keep Brock Holt’s bat in the lineup has been its own little triangular peg game for Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Over the past 12 games heading into Saturday’s contest against the Indians, Holt had hit .370 with six extra-base hits and six RBIs while spending six games at first base, five in left field, and one at third. He was 2 for 3 in the leadoff spot in the Sox’ 3-2 loss.
With Cleveland sending lefthander T.J. House to the mound, Farrell wanted Jonny Gomes in the lineup in the six-hole and in left field, which meant he had to yet again find a place for Holt.
That place was right field, another position Holt had never played in either his major league or minor league career.
“Brock is in right in large part because Jonny’s played left field so well here,” Farrell said. “And [we] wanted to keep that continuity with Jonny in left. Even though we’ve moved Brock around some, I feel like we can take advantage of his speed and maybe added range in right field if it’s needed.”
Holt made nice plays on balls in the outfield a week ago in Detroit, and Friday against Cleveland, and the way he’s handled parachuting into different defensive roles has given Farrell more than enough confidence in his ability to move around the diamond.
In the third inning on Saturday, he chased down Asdrubal Cabrera’s double to the right-field corner and got it back into Dustin Pedroia in time to cut down Cabrera trying to stretch it into a triple.
When Yan Gomes shot a fly ball toward the warning track in the fourth inning, Holt fought the sun to make the grab and end the inning.
Cabrera tested him again in the fifth inning, shooting a deep fly ball in front of the Red Sox bullpen, and he sprinted back to the track to haul it in.
“He’s done a very good job,” Farrell said. “He showed range. He went into right-center field for a couple of putouts. I think more importantly was the ball he cut down in the corner to keep them from scoring in the first. Typically, that ball gets by him, the guy’s going to score from first base. But he’s done a very good job wherever we’ve put him.”
Wherever Farrell’s moved him, Holt has taken on the challenge.
“I’m just kind of taking it day by day,” Holt said. “I’ve kind of been put into positions where I’m not comfortable with, but I try to look at it like a new challenge and just go out and have fun with it.”
Holt’s ability to adapt in a blink has impressed Farrell.
“Throwing him in the outfield with really no lead-up or repetition at the minor league level coming up here, and then quickly we saw some of the reads and routes he’s made . . . it’s his ability to adapt to a new position as quick as he has,” Farrell said. “That’s the thing that’s been most surprising. But knowing who he is as a competitor and an athlete and his baseball intelligence, that’s not surprising. It’s just the ability to adapt so quick.
“With the athleticism, we felt he could move around and be a utility type, but he’s exceeded the versatility I think on the defensive side right now.”
Green light for Drew
Shortstop Stephen Drew successfully went through more intense batting practice before Saturday’s game and will be available Sunday for the series finale with the Indians.
Farrell called it “the biggest test to date for him,” saying that if everything went well Drew would be available off the bench for Saturday’s game but if there were still lingering effects then he would have to undergo an MRI and the Sox would have to consider sending Drew to the disabled list.
“He came through today fine [with] the ramped-up intensity to the batting practice,” Farrell said. “He’ll be available tomorrow.”
Drew signed with the Sox on May 21, went through his minor league assignments without issue, then played in four games on the Red Sox’s road swing last week before the injury crept up, forcing him to miss the past five games.
Learning curve for rookie
After three turns through the rotation, Rubby De La Rosa is learning that it doesn’t take long for the book on him to make the rounds through the league.
In his first outing against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 31, he worked seven scoreless innings, notching eight strikeouts.
In his past two outings, he’s gone 5⅔innings both times, giving up four earned runs in both starts and taking the losses.
“The one thing that’s happened in three starts is that the word travels around the league quick,” Farrell said.
“So you see opposing team’s advanced scouting report play out in the hitters’ approach against him. And that’s when we talk about the learning and reading swings and getting a sense of what the team is trying to do to him.”
In a jam, De La Rosa will use his changeup as a crutch because it’s the pitch he’s most comfortable throwing, according to Farrell, even through his fastball is generally overpowering, and opposing hitters have started to sit on the changeup.
“He throws in the mid to upper 90s and even if they know it’s coming, it’s still a very difficult pitch to hit and we want him to trust that and set the tone rather than relying on his changeup,” Farrell said.
Getting comfortable trusting his fastball at this level will take time for De La Rosa, Farrell said.
“I think that’s a work in progress,” Farrell said. “He’ll show you very good command and location in the strike zone and there’s been times when that’s evaded him a little bit. [But] he’s got plenty of weapons to work with.
Napoli in the groove
Since coming off the disabled list, MikeNapoli hasn’t missed a beat, hitting .371 in the past seven games after going 1 for 3 on Saturday. He made a pair of quick-reaction plays on hard hit line drives in the first and second inning look easy, gloving them and then strolling into the dugout after ending the innings. In the sixth inning, he slid hard into second to break up a double play and ensure that the go-ahead run came across. “Mike’s a very good player,” Farrell said. “He’s one of our better base runners. . . . The walk that Junichi Tazawa issued to force in what ended up being the winning run for the Indians was the first he had given up in a bases-loaded situation in his career . . . The Red Sox are 13-11 against lefthanded starters . . . Jake Peavy’s ERA at Fenway Park is 4.23. His ERA on the road is 5.40 . . . Koji Uehara pitched a clean ninth inning with two strikeouts, running his scoreless streak to 18 straight appearances . . . David Ortiz’s first-inning double gave him 422 for his Sox career, tying him with Wade Boggs for fourth place on the club’s all-time list. He is six extra-base hits from 1,000.Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.