The Red Sox lineup is taking shape with difference-makers throughout the order. Since the call-up of rookie Michael Chavis, and with the steady excellence of Rafael Devers the past four weeks, the Red Sox have had a pair of hitters in the sixth and seventh slots who have helped to make the lineup a formidable one.
On April 19, the Red Sox were 7-13 (.350), averaging 4.2 runs per game. Since Chavis debuted April 20, the Sox have won at roughly twice that clip, (16-7, .696) while averaging 6.4 runs per game. The presence of Devers (.323/.397/.456) and Chavis (.296/.406/.580) in the bottom half of the order has been a significant element.
“Those two in the six and seven, that’s a big boost, a shot in the arm for the whole lineup and whole team,” said hitting coach Tim Hyers. “That’s huge when they keep that line moving.”
The latest evidence came Wednesday, when Devers was intentionally walked after a leadoff double by Xander Bogaerts in the bottom of the 10th inning. Chavis strode to the plate and ripped the first pitch from Rockies reliever Chad Bettis up the middle for the first walkoff hit of his big league career.
The sight of Chavis and Devers as teammates is a familiar one, yet the form that it’s taken over their professional lives has undergone considerable change.
The pairing started in 2014 in Fort Myers, Fla. Chavis, then 18, was moved to third base shortly after being taken by the Red Sox as their 2014 first-round pick, and Devers, then 17, was placed on a fast track in his first professional season, jumping from the Dominican Summer League to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League that June.
In 2015, before the vast majority of night games in Greenville, S.C., the locker mates deployed together at third base at 3 p.m., where they went through round after round of defensive drills with manager Darren Fenster and the Single A coaching staff.
“Oh my gosh,” remembered Chavis, “we were out there almost every day.”
They were preparing for a potential big league future that was to come on an undefined timetable and in uncertain form. Back then, they were splitting time at third base, typically alternating days between there and designated hitter while getting a day or two off every week.
In Greenville, Devers, then 18, stood out, hitting .288/.329/.443 with startling all-fields power. Chavis, then 19, struggled as an all-or-nothing hitter (.223/.277/.405 with 16 homers and a 30.6 percent strikeout rate) in his first full professional season. But his mammoth home runs suggested potential.
Having two well-regarded prospects at one position suggested that something eventually would have to give on the way to the majors — either a trade or a position change. But the mutual enthusiasm of Chavis and Devers for their work prevented awkwardness.
“A lot of people in that situation would see it more as a competition,” said Chavis. “Weirdly enough, for us, we never saw it as that. We always were genuinely trying to help each other, make each other better, and we had fun with it.”
The whistle-while-they-work outlook also proved helpful as the two established the routines that served as the groundwork for their professional advancement. Their upbeat approach reinforced at an early age the notion that preparation and routine were something to embrace rather than bemoan.
“I’ve been together with him since rookie ball,” Devers said through a translator. “I’ve seen how hard he works. I’m extremely proud of him. It’s the story of both of us. Hard work has allowed us both to get to this level.”
Their pairing in the big leagues — the fifth different level in which they’ve been teammates — has taken unexpected shape.
“I never thought he would play second,” confessed Devers.
Yet with his offensive development, Chavis forced a path to the big leagues at a position he’d almost never played. Fenster — who spent hundreds of hours hitting balls to Chavis at third and, later, at first base when he managed him in the Arizona Fall League (2017) and Double A Portland (2018) — sees work and maturation having allowed Chavis, now 23, to define a big league role at an unexpected spot on the diamond.
“It wasn’t always easy for the kid,” said Fenster, now the Red Sox’ minor league outfield coordinator. “It’s great to see him putting himself in a position where they’re finding spots to get him in the lineup.”
The renewed partnership on the diamond offers a chance to appreciate a path that has been long and winding, a notion that struck Chavis in Chicago earlier this month when he and Devers played against another former Greenville teammate.
“There was a moment where I was playing first base, [White Sox third baseman Yoan] Moncada was on first base with me, and I was looking across at Devers, and I was like, ‘We’re all here, man!’ ” said Chavis.
“Obviously it’s been nice having him up here, but it’s been helpful as well. Seeing Devers’s baby face in here just made me a little more comfortable that I had somebody I had played with and was comfortable with. It definitely helped the transition.”
Now, two players with a shared minor league past are very much part of the Red Sox’ present and future.