Red Sox notes: Plan in place for Shane Victorino while Brock Holt continues to shine

Mike Petraglia
July 20, 2014 - 9:30 am

Where would the Red Sox be without Brock Holt? That is certainly a fair and legitimate question to ask as the Red Sox approach the second half of the season and try to work their way back into a reasonable chance for the playoffs. The leadoff hitter has provided a vital anchor at the top of the batting order as the Red Sox searched desperately for a consistent leadoff hitter. He comes into Sunday hitting .325 with a .369 OBP and a .826 OPS. Holt has started all 63 games this season, batting leadoff in 52 of them. As the leadoff hitter, his number are nearly identical to his overall numbers, .326/.364/.825. Of course, he's been incredibly versatile in the field, playing seven of the nine positions while earning the name "Superman" from some Red Sox fans. The only two positions he hasn't tried yet are pitcher and catcher. On Sunday, he's starting at third as the Red Sox give Xander Bogaerts the day off against hard-throwing righty Yordano Ventura. "With Brock Holt moving around the field and going up against a right-hander in Ventura, we just wanted to get another left-handed bat in there," skipper John Farrell said. "We're probably at the point in the year where it's less of a concern than when he was playing right field for the first, or left field for the first time, or first base for the first time. There have been a lot of firsts this year. And the way he's handled each position defensively, now we're finding ways to keep his bat in the lineup and not reluctant to change the position by the day." What's truly remarkable is that, as late as early April, Holt wasn't even considered an option as a leadoff hitter to replace Jacoby Ellsbury. "He wasn't in the conversation, either in the offseason or as we got through camp but to the level in which he's hit at and performed at, and the consistency against left-handers and right-handers, it's been invaluable, the continuity he's created at the top of the lineup," Farrell said. The left-handed hitting Holt is actually hitting 20 points higher against lefties (.336) than righties (.316), a testament to his ability to hang in against southpaws. "I think when you see a guy be able to use the whole the field as much as he does and how he you see him handle left-handers, he can track the ball so deep into the zone that he doesn't overcommit early to breaking balls from left-handers that run away from him," Farrell said. "And because it is a compact swing, his pitch recognition can be a little better than others because he doesn't have to start the swing early in the flight of the pitch to home plate. "I think it's [just] a trait of really good hitters, regardless of the spot in the lineup. The more compact, the less you may get fooled on certain type of pitches. They're more difficult to pitch against because he has the ability to take a really good pitcher's pitch and fight it off and foul it off as he gets deeper into some counts and I think it's a direct reflection of why you see him hit at the average he is at currently and what he's done throughout his minor league career." Another player with a terrific compact swing is Mike Carp. However, unlike Holt, is not playing every day. He starts Sunday for Mike Napoli at first base as the Red Sox look to stock the lineup with left-handed bats. Carp is hitting 96 points higher against righties than lefties (.246 to .150) as he makes just his 19th start in 39 games. "It's a difficult role and guys that have had success in that role usually have low maintenance swings where it's a compact swing," Farrell said. "Jonny Gomes we talk a lot about. Mike Carp is the left-handed version of that. He's done a very good job of not being in a starting role or getting a bat over a three-to-seven-day span and you insert him, and he puts up a quality at-bat. You begin to empathize with the role they're in because he's going to go up against a guy today that throws in the high 90s and hasn't seen an at-bat since the All-Star break. It's a difficult spot but because of the way his swing is built that's why's he's able to thrive or perform better than maybe some other guys in that role. "I think guys appreciate not surprises and we do the best we can given there may be a day when a guy comes in and he would benefit from a day down and you make a change in the lineup that afternoon. But situations like [Saturday] night with Mike Carp or Stephen Drew or David Ross are all well aware of the plan going forward at least a day ahead of time." On Shane Victorino, Farrell said the team plans to give him at least one day off a week as he returns to action from his bad hamstring and back. "We'll schedule it," Farrell said. "We're in a four-out-of-five arrangement right now, with today being the fourth consecutive, with the two in Pawtucket. We've got to keep in mind that we're going to go a week straight of games played on astroturf. So that's going to have a different effect I would think, physically, on him, and we'll monitor that day-to-day." The Red Sox play four in Toronto followed by three at Tampa Bay before returning home for a homestand against the Jays and Yankees. As for resting Dustin Pedroia, who's started 95 of the first 98 games, Farrell says he will be more selective. "We know he doesn't like to come out of games," the manager said. "Coming off the four days we just had off, there might be a time as we get into the next two to three weeks where there might be a day in there. And Brock would be the guy we insert at second base. That Sunday prior to the break, we got Pedey off his feet for the last three innings, I think that's where we pick our spots with some rest, just at the end of a game to give him a little breather."