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Rob Refsnyder has given Red Sox all they could want in a sneaky-tough role

Appearing in 11 games since his callup from Worcester, Rob Refsnyder (left) is 12 for 29 with four doubles and a home run, getting time in both center and right field as well as designated hitter.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

CLEVELAND — Championship teams are defined by star players. Images of David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, and Dustin Pedroia flash when considering the best Red Sox teams of this century.

But those same teams also received jolts of energy during the course of a long season from supporting actors, be it Dave Roberts, Javier López, Mike Carp, or Steve Pearce.

There’s a lot of baseball to be played before we’ll know how the 2022 Red Sox will be remembered, but their roster already has several of those glue players.

Rob Refsnyder in particular. He was called up on June 10 and Alex Cora said at the time it wasn’t a temporary move. With Major League Baseball ready to enforce the rule limiting teams to 13 pitchers, the Sox wanted a reliable righthanded-hitting outfielder on their bench.


Refsnyder has appeared in 11 games and given the Sox 12 hits, seven runs, six RBIs, and three walks while striking out only four times in 29 at-bats.

Refsnyder, 31, is the first Sox player to reach base safely in his first 11 games since Daniel Nava in 2010. He’s also 3 for 3 with a walk as a pinch hitter.

“He understands that teams who win need guys who hit lefties and guys who play good defense and guys who come off the bench and put [up] good at-bats,” Cora said Saturday before the 4-2 victory over the Guardians.

“He controls the strike zone. We saw that the last few years.”

Refsnyder has further impressed the Sox with his willingness to learn more about the game in what is his 11th season in pro ball.

“The older you get, the more comfortable you get in the role I’ve been given,” he said. “Credit to the coaching staff for helping me stay ready. You can’t replicate a major league game but you can do little things so you’re as ready as you can be.”


Having a good at-bat coming off the bench is a skill not every player has.

“It’s tough” said Cora, a bench player during part of his career. “I had to do it a lot in the National League and it’s not easy.”

In an era when hitters are coached to be aggressive, Refsnyder is willing to work a long at-bat.

“I’ve gotten better at that over time,” he said. “When the opportunity arises, you have to be comfortable. Just have a competitive at-bat and don’t focus on the results. See some pitches for the guy on deck, be competitive. Just be a baseball player. Just fit into the culture that they have here.”

Refsnyder hit .306 with a .952 OPS in 42 games for Triple A Worcester before he was called up.

“That was tough, I’m sure,” Cora said. “But we knew at one point he would play for us.”

Refsnyder was drafted by the Yankees in 2012 and appeared in 94 games from 2015–17. He has since bounced to the Blue Jays, Cleveland, Rays, Diamondbacks, Reds, Rangers, and Twins organizations before signing a minor league deal with the Sox on Dec. 21.

Refsnyder sees a lot of similarities between the Yankees and Red Sox in terms of the fan bases and day-to-day focus on winning as opposed to development. There’s no next year in Boston or New York.

Would he rather be an everyday player with a lesser team or a role player on a contender?


“That’s a tough one. I just want to play good baseball,” Refsnyder said. “I saw these guys on TV last season and how much fun they were having during games. I wanted to be a part of that.”

Refsnyder was born in South Korea and adopted by a family in southern California when he was 5 months old. He learned baseball from his father, Clint, a former college player. He met his wife, Monica, while playing at the University of Arizona. She was an All-American swimmer.

His long-term goal is to stay in baseball once he’s done playing, ideally as a manager.

“Being one of those last guys on the roster, I see how much of an impact the manager can have,” Refsnyder said. “I’ve been part of situations where a staff can completely change a team, top to bottom.

“I’m not sure what my wife thinks about that. I’m sure she’d like to have a few normal years.”

Watching this series, with Cora matching moves with Terry Francona, is a graduate class for a would-be manager.

“Pretty special leadership on both sides,” Refsnyder said. “You can see why they’ve been successful. It’s very humbling.”

Cora understands how Refsnyder feels.

“When you go through the ups and downs, you learn. If that’s what he wants to do, he could do it. He’s a likable guy.”

For now, there are games to win. Refsnyder had three postseason at-bats with the Yankees in 2015 and he’s hungry for more.


Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.