BOSTON – He was sitting on a couch in the Red Sox clubhouse earlier this week, checking his phone for messages, when a reporter approached, wanting to ask a few questions. Xander Bogaerts smiled, stood, shook hands and hopped over to his locker. Soon the interview began in Spanish.
When it concluded, Bogaerts bounced around the clubhouse, occasionally stopping to watch a baseball game on one of the several flat screens.
Another reporter approached. Another interview. This one in English.
Bogaerts, 20, who began this season with the Portland Sea Dogs, is a wanted player since being called up to the major leagues Aug. 19 while the Red Sox were in San Francisco.
“Busy, busy, busy,” Bogaerts said of the early days of his major league career. Everyone wanted to talk to Xander.
Not that Bogaerts came out of nowhere. He is used to the hype, having been declared by Baseball America as Boston’s top prospect.
In other words, Bogaerts has plenty of experience with people telling him how good he is.
“Once the game starts, it’s just baseball,” Bogaerts said. “I try not to worry about it.”
Bogaerts worry? The kid is mature in how he handles all the hoopla, but he is also a kid, quick to laugh. He is in the pressure-packed world of major league baseball, with a team in a pennant race, and Bogaerts is having a blast.
“We might be more anxious for him than he is for himself in this setting just because of (his) inexperience,” Boston Manager John Farrell said.
Farrell got to know Bogaerts briefly during spring training (a time cut short for Bogaerts because he played for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic). Now Bogaerts is in a big league clubhouse for games that count.
“This environment and these games are much different than spring training,” Farrell said “To see the same temperament. To see the same ease he goes about things. The genuine confidence that’s there
“He’s a pretty special person.”
Farrell’s challenge is finding a place for Bogaerts to play. He is a shortstop who is also capable of playing third. But third baseman Will Middlebrooks has been on a roll since coming back from Pawtucket, and shortstop Stephen Drew is a veteran who is playing well.
But Bogaerts can provide a spark and energy, not to mention an explosive bat.
Bogaerts’ rise from Portland to Boston in a year brings to mind another top prospect who did the same thing.
Jacoby Ellsbury’s case was a little different, since he came out of a top college program (Oregon) and was 23 when the Red Sox summoned him in 2007. Ellsbury shined. He batted .353 and eventually replaced the slumping Coco Crisp in the lineup during the postseason. Ellsbury’s World Series numbers (7 for 16) made him an MVP candidate (it went to Mike Lowell instead).
Could Bogaerts do the same for the Red Sox? Through Friday, he had played in only six games and had just 12 at-bats (three hits).
One possible spot for Bogaerts is to play shortstop against left-handed pitching, since Drew is batting .198 against lefties. But Farrell said he will not use a strict platoon with Drew and Bogaerts.
Bogaerts has no complaints about his limited playing time so far.
“The more you play the better you get. But I have no problem being utility in the big leagues,” Bogaerts said. “I’m in the big leagues. I’m just enjoying the time, and seeing what the guys do.”
Bogaerts may have been disappointed on Wednesday when Farrell called on left-handed hitter Mike Carp to pinch hit for him in the eighth inning, against Orioles right-hander Tommy Hunter. But Carp delivered a winning RBI single.
“I have no problem with it,” Bogaerts said. “Here, it’s about winning games.”
Bogaerts knows his time will come. He can be patient.
“I’m just trying to learn from everyone,” he said. “When Stephen Drew plays, where he is positioning himself? When I’m really quiet is when I’m looking and focusing on stuff.”
Bogaerts also glances back to the minors. He asked about the Sea Dogs. He knows they were still contending for the playoffs, and that some of his former teammates are turning it on at the end. He mentioned Juan Carlos Linares and Christian Vazquez.
“I saw where Christian is swinging the bat (well). He’s bumped his average up a lot,” he said.
Maybe Bogaerts will get his chance to turn it on during this season’s final month. And maybe in October, too.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: