FORT MYERS, Fla. — Bobby Dalbec hit 25 home runs and drove in 78 for a Red Sox team that won 92 games last season. There’s a lot of ability there for the coaching staff to work with.
So much so that the plan in spring training is to expose the first baseman to playing left field, and even get him some work at second base.
A 6-foot-4, 230-pound second baseman would be unusual. But if you can hit, a team will always find a place for you to play.
“The second base thing is real,” manager Alex Cora said Thursday. “We’ll move him around. The more versatile, the better.”
Dalbec pulled a two-run homer over the faux Green Monster at JetBlue Park in the first inning of Thursday’s 14-1 victory against the Twins in the Grapefruit League opener.
“Felt good. I’m more happy with how my timing was today than the result because I worked on that all offseason,” Dalbec said.
Dalbec was in danger of being demoted to Triple A in late July when his OPS dropped to .651. The Sox kept him in the majors, but traded for Kyle Schwarber to play first base.
Schwarber was injured at the time and Dalbec stayed on the field. He hit .288 with a 1.053 OPS the final two months.
“Competition is always a good thing,” Cora said. “It seems like he found his groove when we traded for Kyle. That’s part of this.”
Throughout his professional career, Dalbec struggled after moving up a level, then found a way to produce. This season will prove whether the adjustments made in August and September were a foundation.
Dalbec once focused largely on his swing mechanics. Big-league experience taught him that pitch recognition and timing matter equally. Specifically, Schwarber.
“He got me to realize it wasn’t about the swing, it’s about the other stuff,” Dalbec said. “Being slow and under control is more important than having a mechanically perfect swing every day.”
For Cora, that means finding a way to contribute even when your swing doesn’t feel perfect.
“He’s still learning; he’s still growing,” the manager said. “We expect him to have a good season for us.”
With pandemic protocols being relaxed, Sox players are all sharing the same clubhouse, meeting rooms, and other spaces for the first time since 2020. Rich Hill was allowed to have his son, Brice, visit the clubhouse.
“This is as normal as possible,” Cora said. “[Reporters] are here, having kids in the clubhouse. That means a lot to everybody. That’s what we missed . . . You can have meetings. You can talk to players. You can have fun.”
The Sox also were able to invite their alumni players back after they were told to stay away last year. Dwight Evans has been around the team this week. Jim Rice arrives soon, and Derek Lowe and David Ortiz are expected later this month.
The Sox want Lowe to work with some pitchers on their sinkers, something he helped Rick Porcello with a few years ago.
Luis Tiant and Carl Yastrzemski are not expected to be in camp.
Back in action
After only a few major leaguers played on Thursday, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers, and Christian Vázquez are scheduled to be in the lineup Friday against the Rays . . . Cora told Jarren Duran he would buy him dinner if he bunted the first pitch he saw for a single. Alas, the pitch was outside. The Sox are encouraging Duran to use his speed more this season . . . Righthander Bradley Blalock, a 32nd-round draft pick in 2019 who has since shown considerable promise, had Tommy John surgery and will miss the season. The 21-year-old had a 4.27 earned run average in 23 starts for Low A Salem last year . . . The Sox fortified their catching depth by signing Deivy Grullón to a minor league contract. Grullón, 26, has five games of major league experience, one of them with the Sox in 2020 . . . The Red Sox released minor league catcher Charlie Madden, then hired him as bullpen catcher. Madden, who last played in a minor league game in 2019, was essentially one of the bullpen catchers last season while on the taxi squad . . . There was a moment of silence before the game in memory of former Red Sox players Jim Corsi, Ike Delock, Jeremy Giambi, Julio Lugo, and Jerry Remy. There also were flowers placed in the NESN booth as a tribute to Remy.