In the seventh inning of Monday night’s game in Oakland, the Boston Red Sox went back to the future, and they had to like what they saw.

Xander Bogaerts singled to right field.

Blake Swihart singled to right, with Bogaerts hustling to third.

Mookie Betts singled to center, scoring Bogaerts, with Swihart reaching third.

Then, when Dustin Pedroia hit a potential double-play grounder to the pitcher, Betts’ slide at second base ensured Oakland would get only one out, and Swihart scored.

Bogaerts, 22; Swihart, 23; and Betts, 22, are all homegrown Red Sox, having recently sharpened their skills at Hadlock Field. And you can include Pedroia in the mix, although his Sea Dogs days date back to 2005.

Monday’s winning pitcher was Matt Barnes, 24, who started for the Sea Dogs in 2013 but may be the power pitcher this Boston bullpen desperately needs. He won again in relief Thursday night in Seattle.

One of the outfielders finishing Monday’s game was Jackie Bradley Jr., 25, who should be given considerable time in right field, with Shane Victorino challenged to both remain healthy and hit right-handed pitching. Bradley has demonstrated his skills in center, but Fenway’s right field is also spacious.

While the Red Sox try to get a foothold in this 2015 season and climb back into contention, they are doing it, in part, with their player development. Boston’s minor league system is often praised but has rarely advanced so many young players to the majors.

Betts continues to perform well, although his numbers may not show it – a .228 batting average and .694 OPS through Friday.

He can impact a game with his base-running, fielding and even his power – like his two home runs May 5 in a 2-0 win over Tampa Bay.

Betts is hardly a finished product, a fact he is quick to remind everyone. The average and on-base percentage (.294) need to climb, and while he has made great strides since converting to the outfield, he still sometimes misjudges fly balls. But Betts has shown the ability to learn and improve.

Bogaerts, likewise, is a better player than before. Maybe expectations soared too high after he showed poise in the 2013 postseason, but at 22, Bogaerts is still younger than most Double-A players.

The obvious improvement in his game is in the field. Last year, he made 20 errors, including 10 in 99 games at shortstop.

This year, he’s made two errors in 32 starts. He shows a quicker first step to balls, which has increased his range.

At the plate, Bogaerts has a .265 average and .685 OPS this year compared with .240/.660 in 2014. And his plate discipline is better, with strikeouts in 16 percent of his at-bats (19 in 117 at-bats) compared with 26 percent in 2014 (138 in 538 at-bats).

Red Sox and Bogaerts believe he still has “another level” he can reach. Increased power – which should come with age – will fuel that.

Swihart is getting his major league baptism sooner than expected because of injuries, including the season-ending elbow trouble of Christian Vazquez, another prospect expected to make a difference.

Swihart is a potential standout as a switch-hitting batter, but he started out 2 for 22 before his two-hit game Monday and is batting .125 in nine games since his promotion.

He does not look overwhelmed at the plate, however, and there is no reason to believe he won’t adjust.

Defensively, Swihart has demonstrated the quickness and strong arm that Hadlock Field fans saw last year. The key ingredients – game-calling and framing pitches – are still being developed. Being in Boston now can only help that.

The knock on Bradley has been his hitting, but a fast start in Pawtucket (.343/.857) provided hope. He still has to prove that at the major league level, and he got another chance when he was called up to the Red Sox last Sunday.

Bradley is a better center fielder than Betts, but by putting Bradley in right, it allows Betts’ continued development while Bradley fills a hole created by Shane Victorino’s slow rebound back to form (assuming Victorino ever rebounds).

Great instincts and a strong arm are needed in right – especially at Fenway – and Bradley certainly has those.

The Red Sox bullpen did not have much in terms of flame-throwing strikeout guys. Barnes provides that. Yes he was groomed as a starter, but almost everybody is (think Jonathan Papelbon, Junichi Tazawa), and then their value rises in the pen. Barnes has allowed one run in four appearances over 61/3 innings. He gives Boston the bullpen boost it so desperately needs.

Another reason for Barnes’ move to the pen is other starting prospects ahead of him, including Steven Wright, who will get the start Sunday in Seattle. Then there are left-handers, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson (Henry Owens is too wild at the moment for any immediate consideration).

That is a lot of youth to depend on; although it’s obvious that Boston will go nowhere if the veterans don’t pick it up, beginning with the rotation.

But the young players can help. They traveled through Portland a year or two ago and are on the verge of making a difference. The Red Sox are counting on it.


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