USA Today Sports

Rafael Devers may be changing postseason conversation

Rob Bradford
September 23, 2018 - 6:56 am

A few days ago it appeared Rafael Devers' postseason existence was going to be of little importance. 

Eduardo Nunez was back from his knee ailment, playing well and locking down the starting third base spot heading into the playoffs. Devers? He was showing flashes, but with always that one step forward, one step back vibe.

Heading into the final week of the regular season the conversation seems to be changing at least a little bit.

Devers has taken advantage of the chance to fill the starting spot at third base after Nunez's hamstring injury, hitting home runs in back-to-back games in Cleveland. The power and production (even at times in the field) has offered a reminder as to what kind of difference a good version of the 21-year-old can make.

"He’s been, since he came back, like I said, he’s been very disciplined," Cora told reporters after his team's 5-4, 11-inning loss to the Indians. "That first at-bat, he chased a breaking ball down in the zone. You could see that he understands that for him to be successful, he has to stay in the zone. He’s doing a good job putting good at-bats. He’s doing it. Actually, right before the home run, he tried to go the other way on a fastball away and it was a foul ball, and he was able to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Then he hit a missile up the middle and those fricking guys in the middle making plays again. But he’s doing good. he’s doing good and we’re very happy with the progress."

The manager added in his postgame comments, "He’s been playing consistently. Obviously Eduardo’s hurt. But he’s been getting a lot of at-bats against lefties, righties. We’re comfortable with him. The more disciplined he is, the better he is. I do feel that he’s been able to slow down the game. there’s no anxiousness. He’s not anxious in the batter’s box. You can see that he’s in control and that’s anxious to see."

What Devers has been doing of late offers a reminder regarding his postseason production of a year ago.

In the two games American League Division Series at Fenway Park Devers collected two hits, a home run and walk in each, including his inside-the-park job in that final inning of the series. It made some believe the performance was a springboard to a seamless 2018. Obviously, that hasn't been the case. Inconsistency at the plate. Hamstring issues. And, of course, those 23 errors.

But could Devers be figuring this whole thing out at just the right time? There are some signs.

"The biggest thing about being in the big leagues is just being consistent," Devers told reporters through translator Daveson Perez. "That’s the main thing that I’ve learned this year is how to be more consistent and the way you do that is by making those adjustments knowing that pitchers are going to throw you the pitches in different spots and it’s on me to make those adjustments so that I can stay consistent.”

He added, "I’ve learned a lot from my teammates, from the coaches around me, just learning that every team is going to treat you differently wherever you go and I guess, I was naïve in thinking before, you just come to the park and you play ball. You realize pretty quickly that teams and pitchers are going to treat you differently everywhere you go. It’s just all a learning process."

Rick Porcello isn't exactly storming into the postseason. The Red Sox starter allowed four runs on eight hits over five innings, marking the sixth straight game he has failed to pitch at least six innings. (The length of this outing was a product of pitch management, with the righty totaling just 84 pitches.)

"He was OK," Cora told reporters. "Five innings, that was what we wanted. It doesn’t look great, obviously. He gave up four. I know he’s not happy about it. But there are bigger things here. His next one is kind of a full go so he can be ready for the playoffs."

"I feel fine," Porcello relayed to reporters. "Whether you throw 180, 190, 200, 210 innings, at this point you've got to find ways to get through it. I don't think anybody is going out there feeling like they did Opening Day. So that's part of pitching. That's part of pitching in the big leagues. It's a long season and you put in the work that you do in the offseason and throughout the course of the year to be prepared to be able to handle this at this point."

Porcello is slated to make his last regular season start Friday against the Yankees.