CLEVELAND — Masataka Yoshida has proven himself to be one of the better hitters in the game.
He entered Wednesday ranked fifth in batting average (.319), 10th in on-base percentage (.393), while owning the sixth-lowest strikeout rate (10.3 percent).
The adjustment to the big leagues from Nippon Professional Baseball was certainly overplayed, and Yoshida should be the leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year.
But not in Yoshida’s mind. The 29-year-old doesn’t see himself as a rookie given his track record in Japan.
“I am not interested in Rookie of the Year because I have done years in Japan already,” Yoshida said through a translator before the 5-2 loss to the Guardians, in which he went 1 for 4. “But it’s an honor.”
Simply put, Yoshida wants that award to go to someone a bit younger. Yoshida, a Japan Series Champion, four-time NPB All-Star, five-time Pacific League Best Nine Award winner (given to the best player at each position), two-time Pacific League batting champion, and World Baseball Classic champion after leading Japan past the US in this year’s final, has zero interest in being named Rookie of the Year.
“Compared to the other candidates that are in their 20s, I feel a little bit older,” Yoshida said.
Manager Alex Cora didn’t have a comparison for Yoshida, saying the closest might be the Marlins’ Luis Arraez, who is hitting .403.
Yoshida’s hitting prowess has allowed him to become a voice as he has become more acclimated to the team. He has offered players advice, including Jarren Duran, when they were struggling.
“He’s a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish, not only this year but the future,” Cora said.
Duvall on the verge
There’s a strong chance Adam Duvall (wrist fracture) will be reinstated Friday for the start of a three-game series against the Yankees in New York. That would likely mean less playing time for Duran, who was recalled from Triple A Worcester when Duvall was put on the injured list.
Though Duran has cooled off lately, batting just .189 with a .533 OPS in his last 26 games entering Wednesday, he has filled in admirably for Duvall, who was the team’s hottest player, hitting .455 with four homers in his first eight games with the Sox.
Duran, though, provided an instant spark after his recall. He has improved in center field and has raised his hands at the plate, allowing him to find the barrel more consistently.
As a result, Duran hit .404 with a 1.116 OPS in his first 18 big league games this season. Despite his recent downturn, the Sox recently designated outfielder Raimel Tapia for assignment. Cora intimated that the move was about the team’s faith in Duran.
Even though Duran’s playing time might take a hit, the Sox will still try to figure out a way to keep him in the mix.
“It’s something that we have to work with,” Cora said. “Of course, we’ve got to take care of [Duvall], too. He hasn’t played in a while. Just to throw him out there X amount of games in a row, that’s not going to work. So, we’ll find ways to get at-bats for Jarren.”
Recently, Cora has said that Kiké Hernández will see some more time in center field. Duran and Duvall are both capable of playing left, and Yoshida, a below-average defender, could get more reps at designated hitter depending on the day and matchup.
Duvall went 1 for 4 with a walk for Worcester on Wednesday.
Chris Murphy made his major league debut Wednesday, going 3⅓ innings, allowing two hits, striking out five, and yielding just a walk.
He became the second Red Sox in history to pitch 3⅓ scoreless innings of relief in his debut, joining Garrett Whitlock (April 4, 2021).
“Honestly, I blacked out a little bit and tried to take in the first few seconds. But I had a runner on base and honestly didn’t want him to score,” said Murphy.
The Red Sox’ starter for Thursday’s series finale will be lefthander Matt Dermody, who has a 4.50 ERA at Worcester and has 30 games of big league experience … Chris Sale (left shoulder inflammation) won’t undergo any further testing until next week, according to Cora … The Yankees-White Sox game Wednesday was postponed because of hazardous air quality in New York, the Red Sox’ next stop. The teams will play a traditional doubleheader Thursdaybeginning at 4:05 p.m. … Yu Chang (broken hamate bone) will play the rest of the week for Worcester. The shortstop went 2 for 3 with an RBI, stolen base, and a run on Wednesday.