The tale of the utility men: Brock Holt, Jonathan Herrera key win over Rays

June 01, 2014 - 4:21 am
Brock Holt and Jonathan Herrera currently represent a redundancy on the Red Sox roster. Both are infielders who can play multiple positions, with an emphasis on the middle infield. Herrera beat out Holt during spring training for the right to ride the bench in the majors and fill in at shortstop, third and second base from time-to-time. With May coming to a close, the story has flipped. After coming back to the majors for his second stint in the big leagues, Holt is making a strong case to stay over Herrera after manning the leadoff spot for the Red Sox and producing at a high level. Herrera, on the other hand, had not made a start since May 11 before Saturday night's contest. But on Saturday, both players contributed in a big way in the Red Sox' 7-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. Holt and Herrera, representing the first and last hitter in the lineup respectively, knocked in three runs, scored three of their own and contributed five of the team's 11 hits. Holt delivered the signature performance, making a pair of dazzling defensive plays while going 2-for-5 on a night when he launched his first career big league homer as well as a swinging bunt on a hit-and-run. Herrera helped key three rallies, going 3-for-4 on a night where his signature moment was a safety squeeze to score Grady Sizemore. Despite their shared impact on Saturday night, Holt and Herrera are two players at different stages of their career. The former has not played more than 26 games at the major league level while the latter has played 76 games or more four times in his career. Since he arrived on May 17, Holt has played a major role in the team's every day lineup, establishing himself as the leader hitter in a short period of time. Regardless of where he hits in the order, Holt says his approach at the plate remains the same. "Just stick with what I was doing when I was in the bottom third of the order," Holt said. "Trying to get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it and not trying to change my approach because I'm hitting leadoff. Not trying to put too much pressure on myself and doing what I'm capable of doing." Herrera, on the other hand, has had to find ways to keep himself active during games when he does not play. On days he is not starting, Herrera goes through a routine to keep himself ready should the team call upon his number. "During the game, every inning, I go inside and throw and get warm and I take some swings off of the tee in the cage," Herrera said. "I prepare myself every single day during the game for nine innings, like I was in the game, telling my mind and my body to get ready for something happening. I don't want to get surprised." While as of late he has not had a lot of playing time, Herrera continues to come to the park and get to work on the things he does best: fielding and small ball. "I prepare myself everyday to come to the ballpark and do the littler things, bunt, take my regular ground balls and from third, second or short and just getting ready for something happening during the game," Herrera said. "Just be ready all of the time. That's part of my job." A.J. Pierzynski has been impressed by the readiness of both Holt and Herrera. "One thing about Brock is that he always seems to put a good at-bat on guys," Pierzynski said. "Lefty-righty, doesn't really seem to affect him either way, but he goes up there with a great, great approach and a great plan and he seems to know what he's doing and knows what he is looking for and he's a little, kind of call him a flea. Those guys are little fleas atop the order and they are table setters. If you are a flea, be a flea and he's great at being a little flea and he should take that with pride because that's what those guys do." Herrera has tried to help the team in any way possible. When the team was down in Tampa Bay and Pierzynski could not warm up the pitchers on a day where he was the designated hitter and David Ross was behind the plate, Herrera strapped on his own catcher's equipment and trotted his way out to the bullpen. Pierzynski has taken note of Herrera's versatility. "I definitely couldn't play shortstop and second but throw me out at third or first if I ever have a chance," Pierzynski said. "Anytime you move around, and especially for Herrera, who hasn't played a whole lot and for him to go out there and whenever we call on him, he seems to do a very serviceable job, if not better than that so it's amazing how talented those guys are to be able to not play and still be able to bounce around and do great things out there." Since stepping into the leadoff role, Holt has given the Red Sox lineup a jolt, hitting .298 with a .314 OBP, .426 slugging mark, a homer and three doubles. Holt came into the year trying to stay within himself and just have fun. "Last year, I put too much pressure on myself with my first year in the organization and kind of wanted to prove some things," Holt said. "This year, just came in with a little bit more confidence and just going out and playing hard and playing the game like I'm capable of doing and it's been working so far so hopefully we can just keep that going." Hererra has had to adjust from playing a lot in the National League, where double switches are commonplace. "It's definitely a little bit different than the National League," Herrera said. "You've got a little more chance to play, pretty much everyday when you are in the national league because a lot of double switching and everything. I feel good and I feel good about the work that I've been doing here and being a part of this team." Both Holt and Herrera take pride in making contributions to the team, whether they are flea-sized or not. "I enjoy to play every time I have the opportunity to play even just play defense," Herrera said. "When I have the chance to start a game, I feel great and happy about it. Those are the little things that they call right to me and when I'm in the game, something is going to happen to put the ball down and move the guy over so I feel happy about that."