For Xander Bogaerts, some noteworthy firsts

August 28, 2013 - 7:56 pm

Until Wednesday, Xander Bogaerts had never started or hit in Fenway Park. Though he went 0-for-3, and saw a total of just four pitches, he swung at good pitches and stayed with an up-the-middle approach that suggested a degree of confidence and maturity in what he was doing. The 20-year-old felt little distress about being held hitless. He was robbed by Adam Jones on a diving, shoestring catch. ("I thought I had a hit on that one," he said.) He grounded into a fielder's choice. ("I really wanted that pitch," Bogaerts said after reviewing video. "I missed that one big time.")  Finally, with none out and a runner on second in the seventh inning, Bogaerts -- looking to advance the runner to third by hitting the ball to the right side -- lined out to second, getting the placement right on an inside fastball but failing to get the ball on the ground. "I hit a line drive, and just didn't do the job. But I always have my approach," Bogaerts said. Indeed, the fact that he stayed in the middle of the field in all three plate appearances points to a player who was under control, as did Bogaerts' work at third base, where he showed quickness in catching a couple of foul pop-ups by the plate while also tagging out Brian Roberts on a stolen base attempt in what proved a pivotal sequence of the game, one batter before Manny Machado launched a homer into orbit. In addition to those milestones, Bogaerts also confronted another first -- this one hardly the stuff of childhood dreams. In the bottom of the eighth, Bogaerts was replaced by pinch-hitter Mike Carp with two on and two out to face right-hander Tommy Hunter. "Hunter has been dominant against right-handed hitting," noted manager John Farrell, alluding to the reliever's .128/.180/.136 line against righties and .289/.316/.492 mark entering the game against lefties, "and I felt like that was the spot for Carp." The last time Bogaerts -- viewed as a future offensive star -- was replaced by a pinch-hitter? "Never, man," said Bogaerts. "Never. Never. "But this is the big leagues. It's not the minor leagues. Every game, it counts," he added. "Tommy Hunter, when I saw him come up, back in [extended spring training in 2011] I hit a home run off of him, so I was pretty confident. But back then, he wasn't throwing hard -- he was like 93, 94. Now he's throwing harder. I had confidence, but it was his decision and it paid off. It was a good decision by him. I was really fine with it." Indeed, Bogaerts had been alerted to the possibility that Carp might replace him, and so the moment did not catch him off guard. Instead, he was able to enjoy Carp's game-winning knock from the dugout. "I was good with it," said Bogaerts. "He got a hit and we won." While Bogaerts' contributions were not visible in the victory, his evident comfort on the field and understanding of game situations was nonetheless apparent. "There'€™s a calmness about him that he'€™s shown in a short period of time," said Farrell. "He plays the game with ease." Yet while he exuded a calmness and self-confidence, the top Red Sox prospect also did little to mask his excitement regarding his first start and at-bat at Fenway, with his mother, uncle, brother and sister all on hand from Aruba to see him. "Awesome. Awesome. I'm just thankful for every moment I get a chance to be on the field," said Bogaerts. "Who expected me to be here? Just enjoy every inning, every at-bat. Hopefully it's a few of many more to come."

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