The Red Sox had Monday off, their third off-day this season. It’s a much-needed day of rest for a team that has played 26 games in the first 28 days of the season, and spent one of those off-days being feted at the White House.
The confetti has long been swept away in the wake of last year’s championship. The ceremonies are over, and the grind of 2014 has replaced the magic of 2013. The Sox are still looking for an identity. One thing we know for sure is that this season’s ID will have a much younger birth date on it.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, no team in major league history has made the postseason with rookies playing more than 100 games at shortstop and center field. The Red Sox are hoping to be the first. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts and center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. have played in 24 of 26 games this season.
Only the indefatigable Dustin Pedroia has played in more.
Bogaerts and Bradley — the Baby B’s, if you will — are the poster children for the organization’s farm system, two prospects at the front of a bumper crop of talent working its way up the ranks. The Red Sox believed the two were ready for prime-time duty, which is why they allowed Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury to depart after being part of a championship team last season.
While the Yankees loaded up on big-money free agents, spending more than $400 million on veteran talent, the Sox opted to shift toward a young roster. With only 16 percent of the season in the books, the grades on the rookies are incomplete.
Bogaerts has been good offensively, which is what the Sox expected from the 21-year old from Aruba. His work on the defensive side has not been as impressive. Most metrics have him ranked near the bottom of the league in defensive range. His three errors are tied for most on the team.
The 23-year old Bradley, on the other hand, has been superb in the field. He gets good reads on the ball and tracks down fly balls with quick routes. Red Sox pitchers have lauded him for getting to balls that many wouldn’t catch. But he’s only hit .230, and missed a key moment in the seventh inning Sunday when he couldn’t get a runner home from third with one out. Instead he popped out and the one-run game soon got out of hand.
Rookies are often inconsistent. Performing against the best in the game, day in and day out, is one of the biggest adjustments for young players. The Sox knew they would ride some highs and lows with two young players at key positions.
“I think there’s a certain expectancy that some of that might take place,” said Manager John Farrell, “but what we do with it and how we respond to it is most important. That requires more individual conversation, and that took place.”
Farrell’s comments came on the heels of a loss to Baltimore that saw Bogaerts misfire on a sure double-play ball that led to the winning run. He was also thrown out to end an inning, getting caught between second and third.
“You’re taking guys that are gaining experience at the major-league level,” Farrell said, “which is going to be different than any minor-league setting that they’ve ever been involved in.”
That was evident again on Sunday when Bogaerts couldn’t get to a grounder that Drew would’ve gobbled up. It was part of a late-inning letdown that saw a 2-1 pitchers’ duel balloon into a 7-1 loss at Toronto. Yet Bogaerts was one of the few players to have success at the plate, with two hits.
Bogaerts and Bradley bring a lot of energy to a veteran clubhouse, and will be fun to watch in the years ahead. Yet there will be frustrating moments along the way. The success of this year’s team could hinge on whether or not they can minimize those moments.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.