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Defense has made Bobby Dalbec double trouble for Red Sox

The Defensive Runs Saved metric ranks Bobby Dalbec as the worst regular first baseman in the majors this season, totaling minus-9 runs entering Wednesday's game.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

It’s been a year of adjustments for Bobby Dalbec.

His lack of production at the plate leaps to mind first. He singled in his only at-bat after entering Wednesday night’s loss to the Twins as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning and is hitting just .229 with a .282 on-base percentage. Dalbec has struck out 125 times in just 348 plate appearances, drawing just 18 walks — eight more than he had last season in 92 plate appearances.

Yet it’s not just at the plate where Dalbec has endured his share of woes. It’s at first base, too.

“It’s been a struggle,” manager Alex Cora said. “He’s been inconsistent. The one thing that I always knew, even from his days in college, was that he was a good defensive player at third base, and I thought the transition was going to be a lot better than we have seen. We’ve been working hard with him.”

Dalbec has had to play first, a new position, with Rafael Devers established at third. The belief heading into the season was that the sure-handed Dalbec would be able to make the transition smoothly, but the different angles at first have played a part in his lackluster performance.


Dalbec’s reactions at first aren’t quick, and he struggles to make plays going to his left. In the 5-2 loss to the Yankees last Wednesday, for example, an Anthony Rizzo grounder toward the first base line popped out of Dalbec’s glove, resulting in two runs.

It was called a hit, but was a play a first baseman should make.

Though he’s hitting .295 in August with three homers and a 1.006 OPS, Dalbec hasn’t filled Boston’s need for a first baseman. They are now attempting to plug Travis Shaw there while Kyle Schwarber still gets accustomed to first, but it’s made the defense weaker, at times.


Bobby Dalbec has struggled with his defense at times this season.Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

Schwarber has had to hit in the designated hitter’s spot when he’s not playing left in order to keep him off his feet. That means J.D. Martinez goes to left field, Alex Verdugo shifts to center, and Kiké Hernández to second base. While Verdugo is proficient enough in center, Hernández is their best option, and his move to the infield relegates Christian Arroyo, a plus glove, to a bench role.

All because the team has a gaping hole at first. Thus, the coaching staff continues to work with Dalbec.

“It’s one of those where we hope it gets better,” Cora said.

Cora said he hopes to get Schwarber at first base in Thursday’s series finale with the Twins. He has worked out at the position since being acquired at the deadline, but didn’t quite feel comfortable enough to play it in a real game yet.

“Kyle, he’s eager,” Cora said. “So most likely that’s the goal right now.”

Will Venable happy to be back

Following his positive COVID-19 test on Aug. 7 during the team’s most recent series with the Blue Jays, bench coach Will Venable was forced to quarantine in Canada for 10 days. “The first couple days you’re kind of bouncing off the walls and are ready to bust out,” Venable, back with the team, said. “But for the most part, the organization did a great job of making me comfortable. I was out at a Four Seasons suite. I was able to get food there. There was a trainer there to make sure I had everything that I needed.” Venable, who is vaccinated, said he only had mild symptoms. He said he saw it as a time to catch up on some advanced work, but also some shows, including a binge watch of Netflix thriller ‘Lupin.’ “Considering what this virus is doing to people, 10 days in Toronto is nothing compared to people losing their lives,” he said . . . Ryan Brasier will pitch again Thursday, after having tossed one scoreless frame for Portland on Tuesday.


Julian McWilliams can be reached at julian.mcwilliams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.