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Xander Bogaerts has no regrets about leaving Red Sox, even as Padres struggle to meet high expectations

Xander Bogaerts signed with the Padres as a free agent in December.Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — The smiling face of Xander Bogaerts looks out over 10th Avenue from a billboard hanging high up on the side of Petco Park, a bat resting on his shoulder.

Venture inside and you can purchase three different versions of his No. 2 Padres jersey. Sales have been brisk based on an unscientific postgame survey of passing fans taken from the patio at Social Tap, a sports bar with views of the ballpark.

“There’s a lot of excitement here,” said Bogaerts, the new shortstop in town after playing 10 seasons with the Red Sox. “At Fenway Park, they’re used to success and winning. They’re anxious for that here.”


That feeling — along with $280 million over 11 years — lured Bogaerts to the Padres. He’s now part of a lineup that includes Manny Machado, Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis Jr.

In an exclusive interview with the Globe before playing against his former team for the first time Friday night, Bogaerts said he has no regrets about leaving the Red Sox as a free agent. He sees that as management’s decision, not his.

“I talk to my guys there all the time, the players and coaches, almost every day,” he said. “That team will always be a part of me. But once I could meet with other teams, I saw what they thought of me. I really had no choice in the end.”

Bogaerts now wakes up with a view of boats bobbing in the Pacific Ocean through the window of his apartment on Coronado Island, a short drive from the ballpark.

“I can’t complain about that,” he said.

Xander Bogaerts (left) is now one of the faces of the Padres franchise, with his image on a billboard on Petco Park.Peter Abraham/Globe Staff

But true to his deliberate nature, Bogaerts decided to rent and get to know the area first before deciding where to buy a house.

“I definitely need a house,” he said. “I’m going to be here for a long time.”


His mother and siblings have taken turns making the trip from Aruba to visit.

“It’s been cool,” Bogaerts said. “I like having my family around. I don’t really have any buddies here yet. Obviously, I know everybody on the team. But the off-the-field stuff, that will come over time. I won’t rush it. That time will come.”

The on-the-field stuff has been more awkward. A team built to contend for a championship is 20-24 with losses in seven of its last eight games.

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The Padres, who have a $246 million payroll, were frequently and loudly booed in the final innings of a 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals Wednesday.

“I don’t blame them,” manager Bob Melvin said. “There’s a lot of expectations on us and we’re not performing right now.”

The seventh inning was typical of San Diego’s frustrating season.

Down by a run, the Padres loaded the bases with one out. Trent Grisham struck out looking against Aroldis Chapman. With Bogaerts on deck, Chapman threw a high fastball past catcher Salvador Perez.

Soto broke for the plate as the ball ricocheted off the backstop right back to Perez. Soto was out by 10 feet and heard it from the fans.

The Padres held a lengthy team meeting after the game, the doors to the clubhouse remaining closed for 31 minutes.

The Bob Marley classic “Three Little Birds” was playing on the sound system when reporters were allowed in. But the notion that every little thing’s gonna be all right with the Padres is grounded more in hope than reality at the moment.


“We have to clean a lot of stuff up and pay better attention to detail,” Bogaerts said. “I don’t have to say what it is. You can look at the games. I don’t fault the effort, but we have to be better.”

The Padres also learned Wednesday that they could be without Machado for the Red Sox series. He has missed the last two games with a small metacarpal fracture in his left hand.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Machado said when asked when he could return.

Bogaerts has reached base in 41 of 43 games and leads the Padres in runs (25) and hits (44). He also has played well defensively.

But he is 6 for 39 (.154) with runners in scoring position and his .805 OPS is well below the .845 he averaged during his last seven seasons in Boston.

Bogaerts had a .275 batting average and 6 home runs in his first 160 at-bats for the Padres.Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

“If you look at all-around, I’ve been good,” Bogaerts said. “But I started out really well, then left my swing in Mexico when we played there. It’s been a constant battle since. I went through that last year also.

“It’s like my mind wants to do one thing and my body does something else. That is really frustrating because my plan and my approach have been good.”

Has his contract created pressure?

“No. Not yet,” Bogaerts said. “It hasn’t. But I know I can play better.”


The Padres have yet to win a World Series and their last National League pennant was in 1998. Bogaerts grew up playing for a franchise now defined by its success. Here the story has yet to be written.

“They brought Bogey in here to put them over the top,” said Jake Peavy, the former Padres ace who played with Bogaerts in Boston. “He has that championship credibility, that leadership. They’re hungry to win there, from ownership on down.”

In a clubhouse with some high-maintenance personalities, Melvin saw Bogaerts as a perfect fit.

“Xander is fantastic,” he said. “He was in Boston for so long, but two days into spring training you feel like he’s been here for quite a while.

“Very impactful, hard-working, an elite player. He comes as advertised, and there aren’t many guys you can say that about.”

Melvin, who has managed four teams over 20 seasons, tends to let players dictate the relationship they want to have with him.

“From the day he had his press conference [in December], it was comfortable,” Melvin said. “He’s a true pro. One of the really unique people in the game.”

Bogaerts joked that he will try to bunt for a hit against Rafael Devers this weekend.

“It’s going to be fun for me to see them, not sad,” he said. “We all know this is a business. We have to beat them.

“When I played there, I thought I’d be there forever. But as you get older, as you grow up, life changes. Decisions are made that are out of your control. In the end, the relationships that you build are what matters.


“There ain’t no looking back now, I’ll tell you that.”

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