BOSTON — All of 22 years old and blessed with natural power, there’s no telling how many home runs Rafael Devers could hit some day. So I was surprised at his response when I asked him during spring training what statistical category he thought he could lead the league in at some point during his career.

“Batting average,” Devers said through interpreter Davison Perez.

Batting average? This from a guy who struck out once every 3.7 at bats and hit a paltry .240 last season. Why did he give that shocking answer?

“I want to be a complete player, so because of that, one of the things I want to win one day is the batting title,” Devers said.

You also have great power, I reminded Devers. So put the two together and one day maybe a Triple Crown?

“I try,” Devers said in English, then relied on Perez to translate the rest of his answer. “You never know. That’s something a lot of guys want to do. Obviously, Miguel Cabrera won one year. I think if I put a little bit of effort, I think I can do that.”

Here we are with one quarter of the season in the books, and through Sunday’s games, Devers led the American League with a .336 batting average. He also ranked fourth with a .408 on-base percentage, one spot behind teammate Mookie Betts. Devers had a .298 OBP last season.

He set out to make better contact this season. For him to show such immediate returns illustrates how much talent he has as a hitter. He struck out 3.8 times for every walk a year ago. This season, it’s 1.3 strikeouts per walk.

Devers hit just his third home run of the season Tuesday night after hitting 21 last season, but that’s hardly a concern.

“I know people are getting caught up in the home runs, but I think if he keeps dominating the strike zone the way he is, then that part of the game is going to happen,” Sox Manager Alex Cora said.

It’s human nature to put greater passion into working on something you’re really good at than on something that doesn’t come as naturally, so it’s not surprising that Devers’ glove isn’t coming along as fast as his bat.

He already has attained celebrity status.

“It changed my life a lot,” he said of winning the World Series. “Baseball is seen by a lot of people worldwide, and winning the World Series, there are a lot of people who recognize me now. (Back home in the Dominican Republic) a lot of people wouldn’t leave me alone. I’d go to restaurants and people would take pictures and want me to sign stuff for them.”

He wasn’t complaining.

“it’s always been one of my goals to win a World Series, and to do that makes me really excited,” he said.

Boston’s chances of returning to the World Series are looking a lot better these days as it draws closer to the Rays and Yankees.

The Red Sox are climbing the standings with $47 million worth of starting pitchers (Nathan Eovaldi and David Price) on the injured list and aren’t expected to join the post-draft trade derby (teams don’t have to surrender a draft choice by waiting) for free-agent starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel, a race that could include both the Rays and Yankees.

The Red Sox have baseball’s top payroll, but they’ve done more than buy their way to the top. Three-fourths of the infield and all three outfield spots are filled by players signed and developed by the Red Sox. That includes the reigning MVP, two Gold Glove winners and, not to be overlooked, the surprising AL leader in batting average.

BULLPEN SESSION FOR PRICE: Price (elbow soreness) will throw one more bullpen session. It likely will happen Wednesday at Fenway Park.

Manager Alex Cora said the Red Sox then will decide whether the lefty will start vs. the Astros on Saturday or next week in Toronto. Boston plays four games against the Blue Jays beginning Monday.

The Red Sox placed Price on the 10-day injured list May 6 because of elbow tendinitis. He threw his first bullpen Sunday since being placed on the IL.

He has a 3.75 ERA in six starts.

Eduardo Rodriguez will start Wednesday vs. the Rockies.

Meanwhile, Eovaldi threw again Tuesday.

The righty underwent right elbow arthroscopy and loose body removal April 23 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. The expectation was for him to make a full return within six weeks. He underwent the same procedure last March.

“Just baby steps,” Cora said. “Just playing catch, building up. I don’t know how many (throws) today, but he’s excited. We’ve got to be careful with him. Not slow him down but harness him.”


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