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Though his team was ousted, and he went 2 for 16, Rafael Devers relished his time at the World Baseball Classic

Rafael Devers's Dominican Republic team went 2-2 and did not advance out of pool play.Megan Briggs/Getty

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Ordinarily, a less-than-dominant four-game stretch in mid-March would come and go with little fanfare, an easily overlooked part of the progression to the regular season. But for Rafael Devers, the World Baseball Classic imparted a jolt to the typically sleepy spring rhythms, and came with an unfamiliar air of scrutiny.

Devers went 2 for 16 without an extra-base hit while batting cleanup for the Dominican Republic, a performance that fell under a microscope in his homeland and even yielded suggestions that Devers should have been replaced by a pinch hitter in the final game against Puerto Rico, a 5-2 loss that resulted in his team’s surprising first-round exit.


Back in Red Sox camp Friday, Devers was unfazed by the criticism.

“Those things happen. That’s baseball,” Devers said through translator Carlos Villoria-Benitez. “For me, I’m confident about my ability and what I can do, the things that I can do on the field. I’m really calm. I’m not really thinking too much into it.

“It’s not like I went 2 for 16 and I forgot how to hit or anything like that. It just happened in that tournament. I still have the same confidence as before I left the camp.”

One of Rafael Devers's hits for the Dominican Republic was an RBI single on this swing against Nicaragua.Al Bello/Getty

What Devers took from the tournament was not a hit to his self-esteem but gratitude and joy for the chance to represent his country and participate in games that featured remarkable electricity. The intensity, Devers said, offered reminders of the 2018 World Series. Yet even then, he suggested, the Fall Classic was an imperfect comparison given the opportunity to represent his country.

Devers recalled a point when the crowd in Miami was so loud that he couldn’t hear teammates who were standing next to him in the dugout.

“That was a really beautiful moment for us as players, when you have so many people cheering for you and be as loud as they were. It was a very great experience,” said Devers. “The games are very, very intense, very motivational for me, and I feel happy to be able to represent my country.”


Despite his struggles, the tournament in a sense underscored how far Devers has come in the game. The fact that he was hitting cleanup on a squad that featured players on potential Hall of Fame trajectories — such as Juan Soto and Manny Machado — pointed to the Red Sox star’s growing status.

Yet the 26-year-old gave less thought to that notion than he did to the opportunity presented to learn from others. In particular, Devers took advantage of a chance to study Machado, a multi-time Gold Glove winner whose defensive excellence resulted in Devers serving as the designated hitter.

“Of course I learned a lot from Manny Machado. He’s one of the best third basemen if not the best third baseman right now in the game,” said Devers, who likewise relished spending time with Soto and Rhode Islander Jeremy Peña. “Just watching him going about his business and playing, you learn a lot. It was a very good moment for me.”

Rafael Devers enjoyed his time at the World Baseball Classic with teammates like Manny Machado (right).Eric Espada/Getty

Moreover, manager Alex Cora believed Devers had a chance to benefit from exposure to some of the veterans on the Dominican squad.

“Probably it was great, just sitting in the dugout and having guys like [Robinson] Canó and Nelson Cruz, because they didn’t play that much, just watching the game and talking about different pitchers,” said Cora. “He’s still a kid, he’s only 26, so it’s good he had that experience and hopefully it helps.”


Now back in Sox camp, Devers will have a chance to apply what he learned. He’s eager to get back on the field at third base to prepare for the season. He’s slated to play Saturday at JetBlue Park, work behind the scenes Sunday, then play in three straight games starting Monday.

His sights have pivoted from an international tournament to representing the Red Sox, with considerable responsibility now awaiting him as the team’s most recognizable star and long-term anchor. After he raced through drills Friday, he expressed excitement to be back in familiar surroundings.

“I’m ready to go,” he said. “And most importantly, I’m healthy and I can’t wait for the season to get started.”

Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.