Why Mookie Betts is debuting in right field and Xander Bogaerts is sitting

June 29, 2014 - 3:22 pm
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NEW YORK -- At this time last week, Mookie Betts was playing center field in Pawtucket and the Red Sox were counting down days till Shane Victorino made his return to the big leagues in right field. The world has changed. When it became clear that Victorino would remain sidelined for some time, Betts was introduced to right field for the first time on Thursday. He played two nights there, got called up Saturday and now, a player who had spent his entire professional career in the infield until last month will make his big league debut in right field on Sunday night. Though Betts has seen considerably more time in center, the Sox felt comfortable with the idea of letting him debut at his newest position, keeping Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field behind John Lackey, a flyball pitcher. "As he'€™s handled each new position -- that being center field and as well as right field -- his athleticism has played," said Sox manager John Farrell. "Jackie has done an outstanding job in center field. As we outlined yesterday, we basically have five guys for four positions. There will be some rotation through center and right and the left side of the infield with (Betts, Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, Stephen Drew and Brock Holt), so today it'€™s Bogey who'€™s going to be the guy who'€™s out." The fact that Bogaerts is out reflects not just the crowd but also the fact that the young Red Sox infielder is amidst a search at the plate. Bogaerts is 18 games into the deepest offensive funk of his career. He's hitting .091 with a .129 OBP, .136 slugging mark, three walks and 19 strikeouts in his last 18 games spanning 70 plate appearances (including 0-for-10 with five strikeouts in his last three games). In that time, he's seen his line for the season go from a robust .299/.387/.452 to across-the-board season lows of .251/.331/.380. Given the depth of those struggles, the Sox wanted to give Bogaerts a day off to focus on some of the mechanical adjustments necessary to get him back to the elite form he was showing through early June. "His timing is off. We recognize that. There are some things that are tangibly different right now than when he was in a stretch where he was impacting the baseball with regularity," said Farrell. "That is being addressed in early work, it'€™s being addressed in regular [batting practice] and while it'€™s being accomplished more readily at that speed, game speed is where some of that reverting back is taking place. It'€™s not about talent or commitment to work it'€™s the execution at game speed. We'€™ve got to remain patient, keep working at it and that'€™s what we'€™re doing. "We were able to identify [the needed swing adjustments] through video and a subjective view from the dugout so these were things that were being talked about with him, shown on video and we'€™ll continue to work through." The slump began shortly after Bogaerts moved from shortstop to third base to accommodate the return of Stephen Drew. (It is worth noting that, in his first five games at third, Bogaerts hit .318 with a .375 OBP and .682 slugging mark.) But Farrell suggested that there's nothing to suggest that Bogaerts' struggle at the plate "has nothing to do with positions."

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