Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

We can stop worrying about Rafael Devers

Rob Bradford
September 09, 2017 - 11:05 am

Leaning on a 20-year-old in a pennant race is usually an uneasy proposition. And leading up to the last few days, that certainly seemed to be the case when it came to the Red Sox' reliance on Rafael Devers.

From Aug. 20 until Sept. 3, Devers had seemingly come back to reality, hitting .179 with a .460 OPS in 15 games. It was bound to happen at some point. It almost always does when it comes to rookies.

But this was a player, no matter his age or experience, the Red Sox were putting a ton of stock in heading into the regular season's crunch-time. So, the team inacted its usual approach in such situations -- a few days of rest and then hope for the best.

It seemed to have worked.

"I felt good before the rest, but now I feel even better. Thankfully things are going well," said Devers, who has come back to start the last two games, going 5-for-7 with a walk. "I was able to watch the game from a different vantage point and see how they pitch to the other lefties on the team, like [Mitch] Moreland and [Andrew] Benintendi. Other than that, it was just about going about my business regardless if I was in the lineup."

The strategy has worked before for the Red Sox, with Benintendi serving as another example of somebody who got a few days off before finding his batting stroke. Since a stretch of three days down at the beginning of August, the outfielder is hitting .295 with an .886 OPS and seven home runs.

Now, as far as the Red Sox are concerned, it's Devers' turn.

"I have," said Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis when asked if he's seen a difference in Devers since the brief rest. "The one thing with him is you don't wan to lose, or take away, his aggressiveness as a hitter. But watching him hit in the cage I think he's realized that maybe he was being a little too aggressive at the plate and that was causing him to not be on pitches he was before. The kid worked in the  couple of days off he had. He didn't relax. He didn't sit around. He came in the cage and swung, he listened, he worked on his swing and came out a couple of times for early batting practice. It paid off for him.

"He's 20 years old and it's good to have him up here because he's going to learn a lot up here. That's one of the things we pointed out to him, not to waste any time up here. You try and learn and you try and better yourself. The kid wants to be good. To me it's a joy, day in and day out, when he walks in the cage. He has a smile on his face. He comes into work and he listens and he tries to apply what you say, and it's paying off for him."

Most importantly, with three weeks to go in the regular season, Devers seems hungry for more. He is just four games shy of last season's total for games played (128), but understands there is potentially more than a month of action waiting for him. The third baseman doesn't seem to mind.

"I love this game. I love playing. It's what I've done since I was little," he said through translator Daveson Perez. "If they wanted me to play 365 days a year, and my body could handle playing that much, I would be out there playing because it's something where I play with my heart and I love to do it."

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