BOSTON — Considering third baseman Will Middlebrooks will have a splint on his fractured right index finger for at least a week and will be sidelined indefinitely, the Boston Red Sox almost certainly will be on the lookout for help to bolster the left side of the infield.
However, they don’t plan to move shortstop Xander Bogaerts to third base, general manager Ben Cherington told the Boston Herald.
“We don’t have any reason to believe he can’t play short,” Cherington said. “You’ve got to keep going in the right direction, but he looks, to me anyway, a little more comfortable out there making the routine plays. And that’s all he needs to do.”
That seemingly would mean the Red Sox aren’t inclined to sign free agent shortstop Stephen Drew and move Bogaerts to third base.
Bogaerts has struggled at times defensively, but Cherington said the Red Sox likely will need to see him play the position for a full season at the major league level before making any determination on his future.
Cherington also noted that Bogaerts’ offensive numbers are above average for shortstops, even though he has not yet hit for the kind of power that the Red Sox expect. He hit his second homer of the season Saturday night, a line drive into the seats atop the Green Monster.
“Keep in mind, guys that play short in the big leagues, there’s still a range of defensive ability, and the acceptance of that range is going to be relative to other contributions,” Cherington told the Herald. “Even though Xander hasn’t really caught fire yet, he’s still one of the better offensive performers in the league at that position. So if you’re doing that, you don’t have to be (11-time Gold Glove winner) Omar Vizquel in order to be helping.”
Bogaerts replaced a slumping Middlebrooks at third base in the AL Championship Series and World Series last year, and hit .296 with two homers and six RBIs in 12 postseason games.
The Red Sox got the day off on Monday and are hoping the extra rest between home games can help them hit the reset button. The Red Sox will try to snap a four-game slide when they host the Toronto Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game series on Tuesday night.
The Blue Jays had a three-game winning streak come to an end with a 6-2 loss at Texas on Sunday but have won five of their last seven to climb a game above .500 at 23-22.
Boston totaled three runs while being swept by the Detroit Tigers over the weekend and the offense continues to struggle with runners in scoring position. The Red Sox performed better in that area while taking two of three in Toronto last month. The Blue Jays lead the American League in home runs but have been held to four or fewer runs in each of their last five games. Juan Francisco and Edwin Encarnacion each delivered a solo home run in Sunday’s loss and Jose Bautista highlighted Saturday’s win over Texas with a homer.
The pitching matchup features two left-handers: Toronto’s J.A. Happ (2-1, 3.57 ERA) vs. Boston’s Felix Doubront (2-3, 4.54).
Happ posted his longest start of the season on Thursday against Cleveland, allowing one run and six hits in six innings to pick up the win. The 31-year-old sandwiched two good starts around one terrible outing in which he lasted only 2 1/3 innings on May 10. Happ has made five appearances — four starts — against Boston in his career, going 1-2 with a 4.91 ERA.
Doubront snapped a six-start winless streak with his best outing of the season at Minnesota on Wednesday, holding the Twins to one run on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings. The Venezuela native has yet to pick up a win in five home starts this season but pitched well in a no decision at Boston on May 6. Doubront has surrendered 10 home runs in 45 career innings against the Blue Jays, including three to Bautista.
Right-handed pitcher Jake Peavy turned in his second consecutive subpar performance Sunday night. Peavy surrendered five runs on a season-high 11 hits over six innings while the loss against Detroit, which swept the three-game series against Boston. In his previous start, last Tuesday at Minnesota, Peavy gave up a season-high six runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings, his shortest outing of the year. He also has given up a homer in all nine starts this year.
“Everyone in here is frustrated. You get frustrated when you lose,” Peavy said. “Detroit’s as good as any team in baseball. You have to play flawless baseball to beat them, and obviously we didn’t do that in any game.”
DH David Ortiz saw his season-best, 10-game hitting streak snapped Sunday night when he went 0-for-2 with two walks, one of which was intentional. He will need to recover quickly if Boston hopes to rebound from its current four-game losing streak. There is a good chance he will, too. Ortiz is off to a blistering start this month, batting .452 with five homers, three doubles, eight RBIs and seven walks in his past 11 games.