Andrew Benintendi called his slump to start 2020 probably the worst of his career. Undoubtedly, it is.
Benintendi went 0 for 4 Friday with three strikeouts against the Blue Jays, dropping his batting average to .061 on the year. This was supposed to be a comeback season for Benintendi, who hit .266 with a whopping 140 strikeouts a year ago, but it has somehow been worse.
“It’s obviously not ideal,” Benintendi said Friday before the Sox’ 5-3 win against the Jays. “I think everything is amplified right now because of the 60-game season. I’m still working. Coming to the park excited, you know, maybe it’ll click and I’ll get things going.”
Benintendi was in the leadoff spot Friday, as he has been for seven of his nine starts, but manager Ron Roenicke said he can’t continue to bat there if his struggles continue.
“When he’s right, he’s an on-base player, and we need an on-base guy in that leadoff spot,” Roenicke said, “but that doesn’t mean we’re going to be stubborn and keep him there forever. I think whatever we can do to get him on his game the best we can, that’s what we’ll try to do.”
If Benintendi continues to struggle, it sounds as if Alex Verdugo would be the guy for the leadoff spot.Verdugo hit a pair of home runs Friday night.
“He would probably be the one guy in our lineup that makes a lot of sense,” Roenicke said. “When he’s swinging well, he looks like he’s very patient. It doesn’t seem to bother him, whether it’s a lefthander or righthander [on the mound]. We have talked about him.”
Benintendi always has tinkered with his stride, which can occasionally lead to his timing being off. But he said his recent struggles are because he’s dropping his hands at the plate.
Benintendi entered summer camp on a tear, but, obviously, there’s a difference between that and regular season pitching. He rejected the idea he’s pressing at the plate because of the shortened season.
“I’m searching for something or making changes that don’t necessarily need to be made, or maybe I’m overthinking things,” Benintendi said. “We’re facing these pitchers that we faced before, but I haven’t faced them since March or February. I’m trying to get back to what I was doing in summer camp.”
Godley gets Saturday start
Zack Godley didn’t change much after his start against the Yankees last week, where he lasted just 3⅓ innings and surrendered five earned runs. Godley said his struggles largely were a product of hitters putting good swings on good pitches.
“My pitching execution wasn’t all that bad,” said Godley. “I threw a lot of strikes. It was more pitch selection and not recognizing swings early enough to be able to make that adjustment. I just have to be better about that.”
Godley has a small sample size against Toronto, since prior to his short stint with the Blue Jays last season, he’d only pitched in the National League. He’s faced three current Toronto hitters more than once: Joe Panik (5-for-24), Travis Shaw (3-for-8), and Randal Grichuk (0-for-6). Godley worked a scoreless inning against the Jays in relief last season for Arizona.
The Sox are going to have to start getting some length out of their starters, particularly as they embark on a stretch of 17 games in as many days.
“As a starting pitcher, you’re always trying to do what you can to help the bullpen,” Godley said “Try to go as deep as you can into the game is what I’ve always tried to do, and that’s what I will continue to try to do.”
Eovaldi stays on schedule
The Sox will skip the fifth spot in the rotation Sunday and pitch Nate Eovaldi on his normal five days’ rest. Roenicke said somewhere, the Sox will give him the six days of rest they gave others with the two off days this week. Martin Perez will pitch either Monday or Tuesday against the Rays.