Boston’s Bobby Dalbec will be hitting in the No. 9 spot for Boston, providing power at the bottom of the lineup. Winslow Townson/Associated Press

 

It might seem odd for the Red Sox to plan on using Bobby Dalbec, one of the most physically imposing players in baseball, as the No. 9 hitter.

Especially if you remember who has been hitting ninth for the Red Sox for the better part of the last decade: Jackie Bradley Jr.

But Bradley has actually been one of the game’s best nine-hole hitters. Since batting order position stats were first saved in 2002, he ranks second in MLB with 37 home runs from the No. 9 position. Only Brandon Inge (39) has more from the bottom of the order.

Of the 97 players with at least 500 at-bats as the No. 9 hitter since 2002, Bradley ranks fourth in OPS (.764).

“Hitting ninth is cool,” Dalbec said Wednesday. “I get to flip the lineup potentially, and just hand it off to the next guy.”

Red Sox Manager Alex Cora said he’s “trying something different” with Dalbec hitting ninth.

“Something that I envisioned throughout the offseason,” Cora said. “This is a great way of maximizing our lineup. You see the at-bats. Even Franchy (Cordero), in the short period of time, although it’s still spring training, you can see a conscious effort of making contact. It will be great for him if he makes contact. He can do damage.

“And then with Bobby, we will protect him. I think he’s protected in that spot. And if you are the opposition, there’s no breathing room with us. Christian (Vazquez) is one of the best offensive catchers the last two years in the big leagues and he’s going to be hitting seventh. Certain situations, he’ll hit higher. It’s just a good lineup. It’s a complete lineup. It just happens that our bottom guys, they hit for power.”

With six home runs this spring, Dalbec is tied with his teammate, Michael Chavis, and Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager for the MLB lead.

“It feels good,” Dalbec said. “I’m not gonna say hitting a home run ever feels bad, but yeah, it feels good. I’ve been more pleased with how my at-bats have gone.”

Dalbec hit .263 with eight homers in just 80 at-bats last year. Given his ability to hit homers to all fields, he’s certainly capable of leading the league in a full season.

“I try to enter deep in the zone and be on plane with the pitch as early as I can,” he said. “I’m comfortable getting deep because I know I can hit the ball hard the other way. I don’t feel like I have to sell out pull-side or get that extra giddy-up to do damage. Once I start getting in that groove where I start turning on pitches more and turning on heaters, that will kind of open up the field a little more.

“But if my default in my head is right-center, and I know I can do damage there, it makes hitting a lot less stressful.”

Boston pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura has had a strong spring training as he adjusts to playing and living in the United States. John Bazemore/Associated Press

RED SOX RELIEVER Hirokazu Sawamura of Japan retired all four batters he faced and struck out two in Boston’s 2-0 win over Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.

Each of Sawamura’s past two appearances have been scoreless. This marked his first outing without allowing at least one walk and at least one hit. He had allowed three hits and seven walks in his first three games.

Sawamura entered with two outs in the sixth and retired Tyler Nevin on a groundout to first.

“That was important,” Cora said about Sawamura entering during the sixth and then returning to pitch the seventh. “He’s going to have to do that during the season. You can tell he feels more comfortable.”

The right-handed reliever’s fastball and splitter always have been considered his two best pitches. He signed a two-year, $3 million contract with the Red Sox this past offseason. It includes an option for 2023. Escalators and bonuses could increase the deal to $7.65 million.

“There’s a lot of things he’s dealing with,” pitching coach Dave Bush said. “It’s a new place, a new league, new teammates, new culture, new baseball, different mound. There’s a lot of factors that come into play when international players come to the U.S. So we’re trying to encourage him just to get comfortable and go one step at a time. Each outing has been better than the previous one.”

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