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Benintendi Focused On Improvements — Not Hype — Heading Into Rookie Season

BOSTON (CBS) —  Andrew Benintendi always keeps things on an even keel. It served the Red Sox left fielder well over the offseason, and should continued to do so as he navigates through his rookie season in 2017.

As the Red Sox were working out a blockbuster deal for ace Chris Sale, the phenom wasn’t sure what to think. He was grabbing lunch with a former college teammate in St. Louis when his agent shot him a text, telling the 22-year-old that in the next two minutes, he’d know whether or not he’d been traded to the Chicago White Sox.

When those 120 seconds were over, he found out it was Yoan Moncada going to the Windy City as part of the deal and not him. He’s now excited that Sale, a dominant lefty that Boston will plug into the front of their rotation, is on his side and he won’t have to face him at the plate.

He’s also excited that the franchise showed such confidence in him, adamantly holding on to a player they view as their everyday left fielder for the future.

“It kind of shows what they expect from me and that they have belief in me. That gives me confidence that I can go out and play for this organization,” Benintendi said Monday down in Fort Myers, Florida.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said the team had no intention of trading their budding star during the offseason.

“We never came close to trading him in the wintertime,” Dombrowski told reporters on Monday. “He’s a very talented individual in many ways. The way I looked at it in that perspective, we were looking at him as a starter for our big league club. We look at him as being our left fielder this year. We had Moncada, who we liked a great deal, but we didn’t look at him the same way, where we had Benintendi penciled in to left field. Moncada, we thought, needed more time to develop.”

Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi arrives at the team's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Florida. (WBZ-TV)

Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi arrives at the team’s Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Florida. (WBZ-TV)

Bentintendi was impressive during his 34-game stint with the Red Sox following an early August call up from Double-A, just over a year after Boston drafted him seventh overall out of the University of Arkansas. He hit .295 with a solid .835 OPS, and went 3-for-9 with a homer in Boston’s ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. He also flashed some leather in the field, making one of the best catches of the season to rob a home run at Tropicana Park in St. Petersburg.

“Benintendi is an all-around player,” said Dombrowski. “He can hit, I think he has a beautiful swing and will hit with some power and drive the ball. I don’t know if he’ll be a big power guy, but he’ll hit with enough power. He’s a good defensive player and has good instincts on the bases. He is a drive guy with great makeup, so he has the capabilities to be a fine player for all those reasons. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to push himself and not take anything for granted.”

There’s little doubt that even with all the hype surrounding his stardom, Benintendi will keep pushing himself to get better. It’s simply part of his DNA. Now that he’s had a taste of life in the Major Leauges, he’s driven to be a player the Red Sox know they can rely on — even more so than they already do.

“I don’t think about it all. I think that’s for other people to look at,” he said of the hype. “It’s all talk. I still have to go out and play well, and that’s what it comes down to. I don’t pay attention to that and don’t let it get to me.

“That’s how I was raised. In high school and college I had success, but I didn’t let it get to my head,” he said. “My parents didn’t let it get to my head either. They’ve always kept me nice and even, and it taught me to never get too down or too excited.”

While others will talk about him as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate, he’s just excited and ready to start the process towards Opening Day.

“I don’t think about it at all,” he said of the Rookie of the Year chatter. “It’s a long year and anything can happen. You have to go out and do it.”

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