ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Brock Holt has passed many tests this year.
Every position he plays, another check mark is placed next to it, enhancing the “super-utility” role in which the team loves to use him.
But a funny thing happened on the way to 2015. Holt got to play a week’s worth of games at shortstop. And you know something? Maybe he’s a starting shortstop.
At least he put himself in position to be considered for the job, especially if certain factors occur such as Xander Bogaerts being better suited for third or Devin Marrero needing another half year at Triple A.
Infield coach Brian Butterfied was impressed with what he saw from Holt over the past week in Bogaerts’s absence. Bogaerts may have returned to action last night after sitting out the week on the concussion disabled list, but Holt’s consistency at shortstop was eye-opening.
What Butterfield saw was a guy who has a “plus arm” at shortstop. He said Holt is able to make all the throws from the hole, to his left or right, makes accurate throws off-balance and shows all of the ways a starting shortstop has to deliver the ball.
Butterfield said the coaches and management will meet soon to discuss players and the projections for next season, but he said he will have no qualms recommending Holt as a permanent player at shortstop.
Butterfield had high praise for the 26-year-old rookie, who has become a super utility mainstay and a leadoff hitter and may just have earned himself a permanent job.
“It’s amazing how things have turned out,” Holt said. “You always wonder what’s it going to take to stay in the big leagues. What do I have to do? And for any of us in this position you have frustration but you always believe in yourself. And that’s what I’ve done. I may not be as hot as I was earlier, but I feel I’m still putting together good at-bats and helping us win.”
That’s putting it in a humbling way.
If the truth be told, Holt, who has played more shortstop than any other position, favors the position over the others he’s played. It is there he feels most natural. It is there where the movements and the actions are second nature. And you could see that. He made the plays. Maybe he doesn’t have the greatest range, but his range is above average. He can play there.
What has to be frustrating for Holt is that at one point this season, the Red Sox sent him back to Pawtucket at a time when he was fairly hot at the plate because they felt Jonathan Herrera was a better option as a backup shortstop.
Here’s Holt, who has played shortstop his whole amateur career and some of his pro career, being told he’s not better than Herrera at short.
It was just another hurdle Holt found himself having to overcome.
The week at shortstop saw good chemistry between Holt and Dustin Pedroia in the middle of the field. It was a good window for the Red Sox to watch the interaction between the two. Holt made heady plays and had great awareness.
Holt started at third base Saturday night against the Rays, a position he feels is the hardest because of the quick reactions required. But Holt moved to second base in the bottom of the second when Pedroia left the game with an apparent head injury after Logan Forsythe slid into second with a raised elbow. And when asked whether he gets mentally or physically tired changing positions, Holt quickly responded, no.
After all, how else would a guy who’s had to fight for every bit of credibility all of his career respond to that question.
And so Holt keeps rolling along. He felt good about his week at shortstop, agreed that it was like riding a bike for him. He’s happy he got good reviews and acknowledged that if someone came up to him and told him he’d be the starting shortstop for the Boston Red Sox, he would be one happy man. He’s pretty happy now, anyway.
Heading into the offseason, the Red Sox have at least established that Holt is an option at shortstop, which is something they didn’t know previously. Now they can figure out the puzzle. They can decide whether to keep Bogaerts at shortstop or move him to third. If they move him to third that means Will Middlebrooks is left out. If they keep Bogaerts at shortstop, that could open third base for Holt or even Mookie Betts.
The Red Sox have not tried Betts at third. They know Holt can play there, but he doesn’t play it as well as he does the middle infield.
The easiest thing to do would be to keep Holt shifting around the field and allow manager John Farrell to create better matchups. The way next year’s lineup looks, David Ortiz and Holt are the only two lefthanded hitters if you consider that Daniel Nava may be dealt.
Whatever is decided on Holt, he should have a regular role in the outfield and infield and may continue to hold on to the leadoff spot even with Rusney Castillo’s arrival.
“I just want the chance to play everyday in the majors,” Holt said. “No matter where that is. I love the moving around and the challenge that brings. Just being in the big leagues and playing is enough for me. I have to play well no matter where I’m playing to stay here and I know that.”Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.