As he awaited the announcement of all-star finalists on Friday, Red Sox manager Alex Cora made the case for shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
“He’s one of the best shortstops in the league,” Cora said. “Offensively, he’s one of the best. We always talk about [Francisco] Lindor and [Carlos] Correa. This guy, year in and year out, he shows up every day. That’s the most important thing.”
Even though Bogaerts didn’t make the cut — Correa, Jorge Polanco, and Gleyber Torres were voted the three finalists — he enters the weekend having a career year with a .300/.392/.536 slash line, 14 home runs, and 49 RBIs. He leads the American League with 24 doubles. The seven-year veteran leads all qualified AL shortstops in runs (58), extra-base hits (38), on-base percentage, and RBIs.
“Everybody knows who he is,” Cora said. “Just the way he goes about his business and showing up every day, people appreciate that. Obviously the results, this guy, he’s playing a premium position at [6-1, 210]. He’s a big shortstop, he’s a strong shortstop and he keeps getting better. He’s not only a good defender, a good offensive player, he runs the bases well, he’s a smart individual and I’m lucky that he’s my shortstop.”
In the offseason, Bogaerts signed a six-year, $120 million extension and Cora said the security allowed him to play with new-found freedom.
“No doubt about it,” Cora said. “People might say look at the season and what he’s doing, but for him, that was good enough. It was great. Let’s put everything in perspective, it’s a lot of money, but I think for him, it was security and knowing that he was going to be here for a while in a place that he loves and people not only love him but respect him. I think it was a good business decision for everybody.”
Holt key contributor
A month into the season, Cora had a candid conversation with Brock Holt. The Sox were still navigating an uncertain situation with Dustin Pedroia trying to return from a knee injury. Holt was on the injured list with a scratched cornea. But Cora knew Holt would ultimately have to play a significant role in order for the Sox to succeed.
“We need you,” Cora said to Holt. “You’re very important to us.”
Holt missed 44 games, but since returning in May, he was hitting .371 with one homer and 13 RBIs in 18 games entering Friday.
“With everything that was going on with Pedey, his role was going to be bigger,” Cora said. “He’s been amazing. Very solid for us.”
Holt’s versatility has been crucial. Cora’s been able to play him in left and right field, first base, shortstop, and DH.
“We missed him the first month,” Cora said. “We did. That’s a guy that gives you a quality at-bat. He’s hitting in a spot that there’s going to be a lot of traffic in front of him and he makes contact. Defensively, he’s been solid. He’s a good base-runner. When he doesn’t play, he’s a weapon off the bench. We felt it the first month when he wasn’t there. He’s been great.”
As a utility man himself, Cora can respect what Holt brings. He even gave him the edge, head-to-head.
“He’s a better utility than I am,” Cora said. “He’s a better hitter, he’s a better player. I tell him all the time. He’s hitting sixth for us. Today he’s hitting fifth. There’s a reason for that. We like to make contact with men on second and third. Then those big boys are going to be on base and he will put a quality at-bat there.”
Wright in relief
As Steven Wright continues to work his way back from a knee injury and an 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, Cora reiterated that he still believed the best role for Wright would be out of the bullpen.
Wright can be activated on Tuesday.
“That’s a tough one because can he go deep into games because of the knee?” Cora said. “Baseball-wise, it makes sense but then medically it comes into play can he do that? Last year, we decided that the best way was to put him in the bullpen in shorter stints. It’s better for him.”
It’s been three years since Wright made the All-Star team as a starter, going 13-6 in 24 outings. Last season, he made just four starts in 20 appearances.
Eovaldi: wait and see
Nathan Eovaldi continued to work his way back into baseball activity, throwing catch from 90 feet on Friday. Cora said the team will see how he responds and continue to add to his workload . . . Rafael Devers was out of the lineup to start Friday night with a hamstring injury but Cora was hopeful he’d return Saturday. Devers did get the call as a pinch hitter in the eighth, and delivered a game-tying single to right. He was promptly removed for a pinch runner . . . Mitch Moreland (quad) was scheduled to take ground balls Friday, but wasn’t able to because of the wet weather . . . Rick Porcello will start Sunday in the series finale against the Blue Jays. Eduardo Rodriguez will pitch Monday against the White Sox. David Price will pitch Tuesday . . . Steve Pearce (back) was in the lineup for Triple A Pawtucket. He went 0 for 4 and struck out there times.