BOSTON — No, the Boston Red Sox never expected that Xander Bogaerts would struggle as much as he has this season, especially at the plate.
But no, they also aren’t ready to send him back to the minors to work out his problems.
One day after the Red Sox shipped light-hitting rookie center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. back to Triple-A to shorten his swing, general manager Ben Cherington reiterated that Bogaerts won’t follow. Instead, the Red Sox are committed to keeping Bogaerts in the majors as their everyday shortstop, even as his batting average dipped to .224 after he went 0-for-3 Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park.
“Every player’s different,” Cherington said before the Red Sox lost 4-3 to the Angels. “I can just tell you, in our minds, this is where [Bogaerts] needs to be. We want him to be our shortstop for the rest of this season and allow him to work through what he’s working through. Every player has different circumstances. We just feel this is where Xander needs to be right now.”
Tuesday marked the first anniversary of Bogaerts’ hotly anticipated call-up. At that time, he was the Red Sox’s most highly touted prospect since Nomar Garciaparra, and his cool-under-pressure performance in the playoffs and World Series only heightened expectations for his first full big league season.
Even Cherington expressed surprise at the 21-year-old’s inability to overcome challenges this season. Since June 7, the end of a 33-game hot streak in which Bogaerts batted .318 with a .385 on-base percentage and an .896 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, he is batting only .147 with almost inconceivable .183 OBP and .399 OPS.
At times he has seemed distracted. He recently lost track of the number of outs, and after striking out walked off the field as though the inning was over.
Through it all, though, the Red Sox’s faith wasn’t shaken. The organization still believes he will fulfill his potential of someday becoming an All-Star.
“It’s not uncommon for a young player — and a really talented young player like Xander — to go through struggles,” Cherington said. “Frankly, we did not expect him to go through struggles to this extent, because we’ve seen him be so good, including at the major league level (last October). Sure enough, it’s happened. He’s battling through that, and we’re trying to help him in any way we can. It hasn’t changed at all what we think of him or what we feel he’s going to be. He’s in the middle of some challenges right now that he’s trying to work through.
“I think there have been some days where things have happened that haven’t gone the way he wanted them to. He’s been able to consistently come in the next day with the exact same attitude and focus and work, and he’s been accountable. I don’t want to get into every last detail,” he added.
“We just feel that this is where he needs to be right now,” Cherington said. “We’re confident that no matter what happens the rest of the season, that the experience of being here will help him and … will provide a step forward as we go into next year.”