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Xander Bogaerts Will Focus on Shortstop for Boston Red Sox

February 12th, 2014 at 1:59 PM
By Ron Juckett

'Bogaerts and Bubble Gum' photo (c) 2013, Eric Kilby - license:

Boston Red Sox uber-prospect Xander Bogaerts will work exclusively at shortstop this Spring Training, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo.

His natural position, Bogaerts has played short through his quick minor league career, but he started at third base during the 2013 World Series over the slumping Will Middlebrooks and did a fine job.

Cafardo points out that the Red Sox do not want to overload Bogaerts working both at short and third. If you believe that, please go pick out your shiny new oceanfront property in Peoria.

Yes, Bogaerts is the front-runner to be the everyday shortstop. However, he would have been the everyday third baseman if Stephen Drew had re-signed with Boston. Instead, Bogaerts will have all of camp to settle into playing short on a big league basis as Middlebrooks will be on his right at third base.

If you thought there was an inkling that Drew would magically re-sign for a couple years now as everyone settles into Fort Myers, forget it (we think). The rumors of Drew and his agent, Scott Boras, asking the New York Mets for an opt-out clause after the first season of a two-year deal was the second dumbest decision Boras has made for his client this offseason.

If Drew lands a deal that pays around what he would have made if the shortstop had taken the $14.1 million qualifying offer the Red Sox made, consider a few hats to be eaten. Boston is moving on and they are comfortable moving forward with two kids on the left side of their infield.

With all the talk of the potential offense Bogaerts brings to the table, his defensive skills are on the average side for range with a decent arm. He is not going to be as good as Drew with the glove in 2014. We are not talking about as frustrating as watching Julio Lugo at short, but the Fenway Faithful are going to have to swallow hard a few times and be patient as Bogaerts grows into his defensive position.

As far as depth behind Bogaerts, Jonathan Herrera, who Boston traded for from the Colorado Rockies, will be the primary defensive backup. If Middlebrooks gets hurt, Bogaerts and Herrera could switch covering the left side of the infield as needed.

The anointing of Bogaerts and Middlebrooks as starters, even though that has been the assumption since mid-December, also signals that the Sox are comfortable with their plan of ensuring they are contenders five years from now more than they are repeating as champions this year.

Although Bogaerts probably does not need the vote of confidence starting Spring Training, this has to be a huge relief for Middlebrooks. Going into his second full season at third, Middlebrooks was going to be the odd man out if Drew returned. With a turbulent winter now over, the focus can be now on playing a solid third base and fully developing his batting stroke to match his potential power.

As the Red Sox start to focus on 2014, any distraction they can put to bed down in Florida will help them in the tall task of winning a second straight World Series.

Tags: Baseball, Boston, Boston Globe, Boston Red Sox, Fort Myers, MLB, Nick Cafardo, Spring Training, Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts

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