ARLINGTON, Texas — That Bobby Dalbec hit 33 home runs and struck out 169 times for Triple A Worcester will not surprise even a casual observer of his career.
But did you know he stole 18 bases in 20 attempts and started games at four different positions, including 36 in right field and six at shortstop?
The player who rejoined the Red Sox last week is not the same one who was in the last group of cuts at the end of spring training. At 28, Dalbec has come to accept who he is on the field, flaws included.
If that leads to a role with the Red Sox other than the occasional cameo, great. If not, he’ll wait to see where the game takes him.
“I’m really, really figuring it out,” Dalbec said Tuesday before starting at first base against the Rangers and going 1 for 3 with a walk, a double, two runs scored, and two strikeouts in a 6-4 loss. “I’ve figured out what I have to do to be a consistent player.”
That can’t be easily defined. It’s a combination of physical and mental adjustments and how to connect those two, in addition to learning not to let the inherent frustration of the game carry into the next day.
“It’s a lot about confidence,” Dalbec said. “I can’t beat myself up.”
That Dalbec struck out in 34 percent of his plate appearances for the WooSox this season can’t be ignored. It was a Red Sox Triple A record.
“The swing and miss is still part of [his] game,” Sox manager Alex Cora said. “But I think everybody was happy with the way he was driving the ball.”
His .381 on-base percentage can’t be ignored, either. A player who gets on base and hits for power has value.
“That’s what they told me to work on,” Dalbec said. “The power is always going to come. But what can I do to stay in the lineup when I’m not doing that?
“Get on base, steal bases, do whatever I can do to help. The swing and miss, I get that. But I’ve been able to wedge that with a high walk percentage.”
To some degree, that is a product of Major League Baseball experimenting with automatic balls and strikes at the Triple A level, a process that narrowed the strike zone for much of the season and led to record-setting walk rates.
But Dalbec is convinced he’s taken steps forward.
“You have to do something different to get better,” he said. “You can do the same things over and over again. Last couple of years I wasn’t myself swing-wise and mechanics-wise. I’ve gotten that back.”
Dalbec also lost weight over the course of the season to improve his athleticism. His power did not suffer and he was the everyday right fielder in Worcester for the last month and a half.
It was his first time playing the outfield and he handled it well. Triple A manager Chad Tracy told Cora not to have any concerns putting Dalbec out there.
“Overall, he’s made a lot of improvements,” Cora said. “Especially with the mental part of the game . . . Talking to him, he’s a different guy.”
Dalbec was angry when he was demoted in spring training, believing he had done all he could to prove he belonged in the majors.
The Sox called him up in April, May, and again in June, but he had only 14 plate appearances over 10 games, hardly an opportunity.
Each time, he returned to Worcester and produced.
“Whatever decisions they make, that’s not something I can control,” Dalbec said. “Last year I just didn’t accept it and now I accept the decisions they make whether me, you, or anybody else thinks it’s right or wrong. That’s not for me to decide.
“I accepted where I was and had a great time with the guys down there. I learned from them and bounced ideas off them. I felt like we all got better.”
The Sox are searching for a new president of baseball operations, something that could lead to Dalbec being traded. He’s under team control through 2024 then will be out of options.
“I can’t put any value into that or stressing myself out over it,” Dalbec said. “Whatever happens, I’ll deal with that. We’ll see.”
With Rafael Devers at third base and Triston Casas at first, Dalbec doesn’t have an apparent fit on the roster. He’s only here now because Casas is on the injured list with bursitis in his right shoulder.
Is Dalbec a major league player?
“I do believe he is,” Cora said. “He’s a good defender; he hits the ball out of the ballpark.
“The strikeouts are always going to be part of it. But as long as he’s getting on base and swings at the right ones, he’ll be fine.”
This is Dalbec’s eighth season in pro ball. Through all the promotions, demotions, and frustration, the commitment hasn’t wavered.
“I’m not soft,” he said. “I want to play until the wheels fall off.”