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peter abraham | on baseball

Carlos Febles needed a pinch hitter in third base coach’s box

Bone spurs forced Red Sox third base coach Carlos Febles off the field.FILE/KATHY WILLENS/ASSOCIATED PRESS/Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Andy Barkett wears No. 58 for the Red Sox, not that you would have known that until a few weeks ago.

As assistant hitting coach, Barkett did most of his work behind the scenes, missing chunks of the game while he went over scouting reports with hitters or flipped them balls in the batting cage.

“There’s been times I’ve actually seen maybe 10 percent of the game,” Barkett said. “I was down in the cage, in my basement with the Fenway Park rats.”

That changed when third base coach Carlos Febles started hobbling around so badly on his injured right foot that he had to temporarily give up the job.


Enter the 46-year-old Barkett, who had coached third base for hundreds of games in the minor leagues with the Tigers, Marlins, and Pirates. He went from the shadows to one of the most scrutinized positions in Boston.

Nobody notices the third base coach until something goes wrong. Then everybody notices — and has an opinion.

When Brock Holt missed a stop sign from Barkett and was easily thrown out at the plate on June 10, Barkett reported to Fenway Park the next day to help out at a clinic for women fans.

“They asked me about that play right away,” Barkett said. “Red Sox fans are right on top of stuff. They really watch the game.”

Welcome to the Boston baseball experience.

“But it’s been great. It’s a tremendous experience. There’s nothing better as a coach, unless you’re the manager of the team, than coaching third base,” Barkett said. “You’re so involved in the game. There’s no other coaching position where the coach is involved in the play.”

What Barkett noticed immediately was how fast everything happened in the majors compared with the minors. A ball off the wall, a runner going first to third, and the throw coming in from the outfield was a blur at first.


“I was able to handle it, but it was flying,” Barkett said. “The first few days have been nerve-racking but I’ve gotten used to it.”

There’s a safety factor, too. When a righthanded hitter is up, Barkett will move down the line a bit. Mike Coolbaugh, a former minor league teammate, was killed in 2007 when he was struck in the head by a line drive coaching first base in a Double A game.

“You see a lot of rockets pulled that way,” Barkett said. “I try to be careful.”

Barkett has handled his new duties well, and when there have been mistakes, he’s learned from them.

It happened Sunday in Baltimore when Barkett sent Xander Bogaerts to the plate on a ball that barely got through the infield. The Orioles recovered and Bogaerts was caught in a rundown to end the inning.

“Too aggressive,” Barkett said.

But manager Alex Cora would prefer that to being tentative.

“Andy’s been great,” Cora said. “He’s made some good decisions and when he’s made bad ones, he’s taken ownership. He took right to it.”

Febles, who joined the coaching staff last season, has been dealing with bone spurs since his playing career, then came down with a case of gout. He tried to come back earlier this month for the series in New York against the Yankees but had to back off because of the pain in his foot.


“It was pretty bad,” Febles said. “I had trouble just walking.”

Febles and Barkett now meet before games and discuss different aspects of the opposing team, particularly the arm strength of the outfielders.

Febles then watches the game from the bench and offers feedback between innings.

Barkett also gets a lot of help from bench coach Ron Roenicke, who was the well-regarded third base coach of the Angels from 2000-05.

“The easy choice would have been to put Ron at third base. But I wanted to keep Ron with me,” Cora said. “He’s one of the best in the business coaching third but also one of the best in the business in the dugout.”

Febles is feeling better and hopes to return to third base when the team returns to Fenway Park on Friday.

“You have to be active coaching third base,” he said. “I can’t go back out there unless I can move around. You want to do the job as well as possible. I miss it a lot, but I’m helping with the defense and doing what I can.

“Andy has done such a great job, it’s been easier for me.”

Barkett has been in pro ball as a player or coach since 1995. This experience has reminded him to embrace opportunities as they come up.

“It gives me a lot of pride to know I can serve my hitters before the game then go out there and coach third base,” he said. “There’s not many guys who are doing that. It’s been a lot of fun. I’d love to be a third base coach or a manager in the majors someday.”


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