Tuesday night’s game against the Angels might have seemed like a curious time for Yoenis Cespedes to get a day off. After all, in 14 career games against Angels starter Jered Weaver, Cespedes had a .308/.357/.462 stat line, going 4 for 13 with two doubles and three RBIs.
But in the first five games of the current 11-game homestand, Cespedes was just 3 for 23 with a home run, four RBIs, no walks, and five strikeouts. He did have a pinch-hit single in the ninth of the 4-3 loss to the Angels.
Manager John Farrell said it’s nothing more than a day off for Cespedes. Not counting Aug. 1 — the day after the trade deadline deal that brought him from Oakland for lefthander Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes — when he traveled to join the Sox in Boston, this will be Cespedes’s first day out of the starting lineup.
He played all 19 innings of the Sox’ loss in Anaheim on Aug. 9, but came out of the game on Aug. 13 in Cincinnati after the seventh inning when he hurt his right hand and on Aug. 15 after the ninth inning of the Sox’ 10-inning loss to the Astros.
“Since getting inserted in the lineup he’s been on the field almost every inning,” Farrell said. “And today’s just a, maybe a repose to a day in which he needs a down day.”
Cespedes went 0 for 5 with an RBI and two strikeouts on Monday against the Angels. Since joining the Sox he is hitting just .219, going 14 for 64 with five extra-base hits — three home runs, a double, and a triple — with 11 strikeouts and just one walk. That is well below his .256 mark this season with the A’s, and his .260 career mark.
Cespedes’s aggressive approach does not fit the prototypical model of a Red Sox batter who works the count, drawing walks, driving up opponents’ pitch counts.
“With it will come some quick outs but at the same time the ability to impact the baseball is a result of the aggressiveness, as well,” Farrell said. “He hasn’t become more aggressive since coming over here. This is the player that we’re well aware of and we pursued him heavily. So, fully accepting of the style of player he is.
“I didn’t see the change in uniform or the change in organizations be a hindrance. Certainly there’s new faces, there’s new environment. But I thought he settled in relatively quick. The day off to me is more just seeing the last couple of days just looking like you know what you look like you could use a day.”
Since joining the Sox, Cespedes has primarily hit fourth, except for four games when he batted third with David Ortiz out of the lineup. Hitting between the patient Ortiz and Mike Napoli, Cespedes’s aggressive style is starkly different.
“You could say that if David’s going to be pitched selectively, then you want someone who’s going to be equal to that selectivity behind him,” Farrell said. “So he’s been accustomed to hitting in the four hole, we try to transition him in here with as much comfort as possible. That doesn’t mean that going forward there might be an alignment that flip-flops he and Nap; I’m not saying that’s going to be tomorrow. But we’ll take a look at every combination that’s available to us.”
How he will fit into the Sox’ long-term plans remains to be seen. He is under contract through 2015.
“We’re obviously glad he’s here,” said general manager Ben Cherington. “We’re getting to know him still. He’s getting comfortable here. We think he can make a big impact for us going into next year.”
The Sox had hoped to have Cespedes play some right field this season — he hadn’t played there since coming to the United States from Cuba in 2012. Instead, Cespedes will focus on left field, which in Fenway can be a challenge.
Coach Arnie Beyeler has been trying to work with Cespedes to get him more comfortable in front of the Monster.
“We’re just doing as much as we can with the time we have left this season,” Beyeler said.Maureen Mullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.