BOSTON — A day after we saw No. 62 pitching for the Red Sox, Boston had players wearing Nos. 68 and 70 in the lineup.
Sounds like a spring training game.
But these were your Boston Red Sox in June. The defending World Series champions are making a run to get back into the race. They won their seventh straight game Sunday with five rookies in the lineup. Two made their Major League debut Sunday, while another played a position for the first time in his life.
Is this any way to contend?
“We’re tapping into organizational depth and guys are coming here ready to contribute,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said.
How exciting are the rookies? Jon Lester strikes out 12 over seven scoreless innings, and we want to talk about the kids.
Rubby De La Rosa (No. 62) came up from Pawtucket on Saturday and looked Lester-like with seven shutout innings. That followed Friday’s solid effort from new starter Brandon Workman (No. 67).
On Sunday, Brock Holt continued to look like he’s staying with Boston, tying a major-league record with four doubles while playing first base for the first time in his life.
Alex Hassan (68) and Garin Cecchini (70) now possess baseballs that they will someday show their grandchildren – representing their first hits in the major leagues. Hassan singled and scored a run. Cecchini double in a run.
Xander Bogaerts, 21, and Jackie Bradley Jr., 24, are the “old” rookies, having been here from Day 1. Bogaerts nearly hit a two-run homer (just foul, confirmed by a review) but is still batting .296. Bradley is still patrolling center field like a Gold Glover.
“Very cool that the Red Sox are investing in their young talent,” Cecchini said before the game.
Cecchini, 23, was not in the starting lineup and figured to be sent down after the game (which he was). That didn’t matter to him.
“It’s cliche, but I’m just trying to live this day,” he said. “It’s a big day for me and my family.
Cecchini’s parents, Glenn and Raissa, flew in Sunday, from Savannah, Georgia, where Gavin’s brother, Mets prospect Gavin, is playing.
Glenn and Raissa got to see Garin play because of Dustin Pedroia’s temper. Pedroia was ejected after the third inning for arguing about home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn’s wide strike zone – although it helped Lester.
Jonathan Herrera moved from third to second, and Cecchini took over at third.
In the fifth inning, Cecchini struck out in an eight-pitch at-bat, taking a borderline pitch outside for strike three.
“That’s the umpire’s strike zone. You have to make the adjustment,” Cecchini said. “Tried to make the adjustment (the next at-bat) and I kind of did.”
Cecchini drilled an outside fastball to the opposite field, bouncing an RBI double off the Green Monster.
“Unbelievable experience,” he said. “Dream come true. Kind of speechless right now.”
If the drama of the day got to the usually talkative Cecchini, it really stifled the quieter Hassan, 26, a native of Milton, Massachusetts.
“A lot of emotions. Tough to really put into words at this point. It happened really quickly,” Hassan said.
“Probably most fun I’ve ever had on a baseball field.”
Like Cecchini, Hassan is selective at the plate. He struck out looking at three pitches (two borderline) with the bases loaded in the first inning.
When Hassan came up in the third, he worked a full count and lined a single to center.
“My first thought was relief,” said Hassan, who finished the day 1 for 3 with a walk.
Holt was playing his 22nd game for the Red Sox this season. He has been at third base, filling in for the injured Will Middlebrooks. Now that shortstop Stephen Drew is joining the team, moving Bogaerts to third, Holt’s future was uncertain.
But Holt is batting .337 and manning the leadoff spot better than anyone.
“We’re finding ways to keep him in the lineup,” Farrell said. He’s had Holt fielding balls in the outfield during batting practice and, on Saturday night, informed Holt he was starting at first base Sunday morning.
How much experience did Holt have at first?
“It began at 10:30 this morning,” Holt said of his pregame workout with infield coach Brian Butterfield. Holt used Hassan’s first-base mitt.
Farrell said Holt “got a crash course” in playing the position. “We don’t feel it’s risky at all. He’s a good athlete and a good infielder.”
And with Mike Napoli on the disabled list at least until Sunday and Mike Carp going on the DL because of a broken foot, Holt could be the starter at first base this week.
Holt, 25, came to Boston after the 2012 season in the Pittsburgh trade that also brought reliever Joel Hanrahan. Holt has hit in the minors (.307 career average) and is performing in the majors.
“I have confidence in my ability and I think it’s showing,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bogaerts is becoming one of Boston’s leaders – with Farrell hinting that he may leadoff on days that Holt does not play. Bradley’s defense still makes him special, which explains why Boston can be patient with his offense (.204 average, with a .287 on-base percentage).
The kids are helping Boston make a move. Toss in a couple pitching gems (and let’s not forget the league-leading bullpen) and some veteran bats, and this Red Sox team can be a contender again.
“We’re going to stay hungry,” Holt said.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: