Travis Shaw unseated $17 million third baseman Pablo Sandoval to win the starting job for the Boston Red Sox coming out of spring training.
“For right now to start the season this is what’s best for our team,” manager John Farrell said of the decision Thursday. Farrell said salary is not his concern when determining the best lineup for the Red Sox.
Shaw’s 2016 salary is the league minimum of $520,000.
Sandoval said the decision from Farrell was difficult but did say Farrell’s call was “the right decision to help the team win.”
Shaw, 25, has better range, Farrell repeated Thursday after meeting with both players.
“The more we exposed Travis to third base, the defense became really a deciding factor. In this case, you have to compare one-on-one,” Farrell said. “There’s overall better range, and Pablo’s well aware of this. We’re working on increasing that range.”
Increasing range isn’t simple, third-base coach Brian Butterfield explained.
“It’s hard. Running speed and quickness can be improved, but to a minimal degree. The things he may do in his set-up can help him get off the mark a little bit quicker,” Butterfield said. “A lot of that stuff is God-given. Panda’s a bigger body. He is what he is, and what we want him to be able to do is the balls he can get to and reach, you want him to be able to catch and be consistent with it.”
Sandoval, an eight-year veteran, signed as a big-ticket free agent before last season. He’ll be on the bench for opening day with outfielder Rusney Castillo, who was signed in 2014 out of Cuba and given a $72.5 million contract.
Shaw played in 47 of the final 48 games for the Red Sox under interim manager Torey Lovullo and got off to a brilliant start at the plate this spring.
The quality of his at-bats and avoiding strikeouts are credits to Shaw, whom teammates say carries himself like a 10-year veteran. He broke in last August, smacking a pair of home runs in a game twice in a two-week span that month.
With his strong throwing arm, defense has always been a plus for Shaw.
When and where the Red Sox work Sandoval into the lineup is to be determined. Hanley Ramirez will play more first base and David Ortiz owns the designated hitter role.
All Sandoval can do now is be ready.
“Get ready for everything. Be ready during the season to do my job out there,” he said. “I’m going to keep working every day. Keep thinking of things that can happen.”
The Red Sox open Monday afternoon against the Indians in Cleveland.