FORT MYERS, Fla. — Garin Cecchini went through the first prolonged slump of his career, survived it, and then made his major league debut. He even got to play against Derek Jeter, one of his childhood idols.
The 23-year-old Red Sox third base prospect walked away from the 2014 season feeling confident about his future.
“I’ve never had a year I learned so much,” he said Tuesday. “I grew a lot as a player and learned how to handle adversity. To have a short stint in the majors and have a little success helps you going into the offseason.”
Then came the news in November that the Red Sox had signed third baseman Pablo Sandoval to a five-year, $95 million contract. Suddenly a 250-pound former World Series MVP was blocking Cecchini’s path to the majors.
“I take it as a positive for my career,” Cecchini said. “I get to hang out with a great player like that and work with him in spring training. That has to help me. It’s easy to say, ‘Where is my spot?’ but I can’t worry about that. You have to create your own opportunity.”
Cecchini played 26 games in left field for Triple A Pawtucket last season but the Red Sox haven’t told him their plans for this year. He has been preparing to play third base but knows a position change — or a trade — could be coming.
“You hear that kind of stuff. But I don’t look too much into it,” he said. “Now that I’ve had a little success in the big leagues, I have confidence in my ability and know what I can do. I know I can help the Red Sox win. I understand Pablo is in front of me but I hope I can do something to help.”
Cecchini hit .263 with a .712 OPS for Pawtucket last season. He batted .193 in June and July before rebounding with a strong August. That earned Cecchini a promotion to the majors.
Cecchini hit .258 with an .813 OPS in 36 plate appearances for the Sox. He collected four extra-base and four RBIs along the way and impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic. His defense, once a question, showed improvement.
“I had never struggled before,” he said. “But that was the best thing for me. Now I know that when I get to the big leagues and hit that little rut, I’ll know how to get out of it.”
Cecchini is looking forward to the March 8 game against the Mets across the state in Port St. Lucie. His brother, 21-year-old Gavin, will be in spring training with the Mets and the two could face each other as professionals for the first time.
His parents are planning to attend the game. Glenn Cecchini, who coached his sons at Barbe High in Lake Charles, La., will coach USA Baseball’s 18-and-under team this summer. Former big leaguer David Eckstein will be one of his assistants.
Barbe was 39-2 last season and named national champion.
Along with Cecchini, outfielder Mookie Betts, outfielder Bryce Brentz, infielder Sean Coyle, and lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez were among those arriving in camp and working out on the field.
Betts arrived in the afternoon, after the major leaguers had worked out. He quickly changed and joined the minor leaguers for their session.
Righthanders Rick Porcello and Matt Barnes threw in the bullpen. Barnes, who pitched five games in relief last September after working as a starter in Triple A, said the team told him to prepare as a starter in spring training. Porcello already has thrown twice off the mound since reporting.
Draft order set
James Shields signing with the Padres means the order of the June 8 amateur draft has been set. The Red Sox have the seventh overall selection then will not pick again until the fourth round, No. 81.
They forfeited their second- and third-round selections with the signing of qualified free agents Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.
Frates to be honored
The Sox will honor Pete Frates before their game against Boston College March 3 at JetBlue Park.
Players from both teams will wear No. 3, with BC wearing throwback jerseys from when Frates played for the Eagles and was their captain. The jerseys will be auctioned off after the game to benefit ALS research.
Frates, 30, has been battling ALS since 2012. The Red Sox and Major League Baseball have been active participants in his fundraising efforts to find a cure.
Frates’s family attended Game 2 of the World Series as special guests and Frates recently attended the New York BBWAA dinner in Manhattan to receive an award for his courage.