By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox offense is in need of a jolt. A big one.
Boston was shut out 4-0 on Monday night in Seattle, bringing their run total to just 39 in 11 games since the All-Star break. They’ve lost three straight and six of their last 10, with their lead in the AL East down to 2.5 games with both the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees lurking.
In need of that jolt, the Red Sox are turning to 20-year-old phenom Rafael Devers, who was called up following a 3-2 loss to the Angels on Sunday. Devers has torn the cover off the ball at every level this season, most recently batting .400 in nine games with Pawtucket in Triple-A. That small sample was all the Boston brass needed to call Devers up to the bigs, hoping he can save what’s been a relative pit of despair at third.
After sitting Monday night, Devers is expected to make his Major League debut Tuesday night when the Boston bats will try to plate some runs against King Felix Hernandez. He’s expected to play third against righties and sit against tough lefties, but as we learned with Andrew Benintendi last season, those plans can quickly change.
Can Devers save the Red Sox offense? Those aren’t the expectations the team is placing on the youngster, because those are some crazy expectations to place on a 20-year-old getting his first taste of the majors. But they have to be hoping that his beautiful swing can indeed give them some production at the black hole that has been third base.
Whatever the internal expectations are for Devers, they’re sky-high among fans. Still, Boston’s top prospect isn’t feeling any added pressure.
“No pressure,” Devers told reporters in Seattle through a translator. “It’s the same baseball for me, and I’m just going to play with the same fun that I’ve always played it with. So, no pressure, but just take it one day at a time as if it’s the same baseball.”
Given his monster production in the minors this season, slashing .311/.377/.578 with 20 homers, 20 doubles and 60 RBI in 86 games between Portland and Pawtucket, Devers expected to get the call to the bigs at some point. He sees it as the next step towards becoming a superstar, but knows things are just going to get more difficult.
He sounds more than up to the challenge.
“For me, the work is never done,” he said. “I just want to learn how to be a superstar third baseman. Everyone tells me the only way to do that is through constant work, just like when you’re hitting you have to do constant work. They told me daily work at third base is going to make a difference, to make me the superstar I want to be.”
Red Sox president of baseball ops. Dave Dombrowski sees Devers as a “winning-type player” with a “championship bat” that the Red Sox can one day plug into the middle of their order. That day may not be for another couple of years, but he’s confident that Devers will help the club the rest of the way in 2017.
“He is a very exciting young player. I guess you can never tell if any player is ready until they come up here and do it, but I guess he’s prepared as any player can,” said Dombrowski. “He performed very well at Double-A for us all year long, offensively and defensively, and then he went to Triple-A, played a short time but hit the ball well fit in well with the older players. He didn’t seem overwhelmed by the circumstances, so we think he’s prepared to come up here and help us win ballgames.”
When Benintendi got the call up to Boston almost exactly one year ago (fittingly, also when the Sox were in Seattle), the team held a 1.5 game lead in the AL East. He missed some time with a leg injury, but hit .295 and his youthful injection into the lineup helped the Red Sox go 36-23 and take the division by four games.
While the Boston brass doesn’t want to put such lofty expectations on a 20-year-old, they’re counting on him to have a similar impact down the stretch.