It’s been an inconsistent season for the Red Sox, a roller-coaster ride that has seen the highs of a seven-game winning streak, the lows of a 10-game losing streak, and everything in between.
Everything, it seems, but clutch hits. Those have been hard to come by.
That’s what happens when you depend on young players to perform. The Summer of ’14 is all about on-the-job training for the Red Sox. Kids like Xander Bogaerts (21 years old) and Jackie Bradley, Jr. (24) are playing every day. Coming into the series vs. Minnesota, Bogaerts had played in all but three games this season. Bradley had played in all but six. Only David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia have played more games for the Sox.
Bogaerts has battled a recent slump and a bout with the flu. Yet he is still one of Boston’s top hitters this season with a .278 batting average and 68 hits. Both are second-best on the team. Not bad for a guy who would be the youngest player in the International League if he were still in the minors.
Instead, he’s facing the best pitching on the planet each night. He’ll develop into a better hitter because of it.
So will Bradley. He has shown signs of life recently, scoring four runs in the series against Cleveland. He’s been one of the most electric defensive outfielders in the game and has an arm that conjures up memories of Dwight Evans.
Sunday was his 100th major league game. Not bad for a guy who is younger than every outfielder in Triple-A Pawtucket.
Brock Holt leads the Sox with a .340 batting average, playing four positions for the big-league club. None of them is his original position. He’s a middle infielder who has settled into left field after stops at third, first and right. He has become the leadoff hitter the Sox have desperately been searching for since Jacoby Ellsbury donned pinstripes.
Holt celebrated his 26th birthday last week. He’s the third-youngest position player on the roster.
Holt had a chance to win the game on Sunday in the bottom of the ninth, but Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis made a great play at second to send the game into extra innings. The Indians won 3-2.
Red Sox starter Brandon Workman deserved better. He gave up two runs over six innings and has an ERA of 2.88.
He’s also two months shy of his 26th birthday. Rubby De La Rosa, who started Monday night’s game, is the only younger pitcher on the staff.
The Red Sox roster is usually filled with older players who arrived in Boston as either free agents or mature players who paid their dues with long internships in the minors. This year is different. After winning it all in the unexpected gift season of 2013, the Sox are giving the kids a chance to play. It’s a glimpse of the future. Youth excites, but it can disappoint at times. We’re living through both sides of that equation now.
The Sox began the week just 51/2 games out of an American League playoff berth. If they stay that close, General Manager Ben Cherington will undoubtedly add some help before the trade deadline.
He won’t give up his top young players to get it. As we’ve seen in glimpses this season, those young players have bright futures in Boston.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.