February 24, 2013

ON BASEBALL: Bogaerts' position a question with Red Sox

Kevin Thomas Maine Sunday Telegram

Amidst the palm trees, humidity and traffic of southwest Florida, the Boston Red Sox conduct training camp. And those watching the players, while applying their sunscreen, are finding out what we here in the arctic north have already witnessed:

Xander Bogaerts is some kind of player.

Bogaerts, 20, who finished last season at shortstop with the Portland Sea Dogs, is impressing with his ability and maturity in his first major league spring camp.

"Exciting young player," Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters last week at the Red Sox camp in Fort Myers. "Regardless if he's standing at third or short, he's a presence in the box. Hard contact."

With Bogaerts, the discussion remains: "third or short." There is little question that Bogaerts will hit. He is a natural who has risen from the obscurity of youth baseball in Aruba to become a potential major league talent.

But what position will be play?

Bogaerts is 6-foot-3 and listed at 175 pounds. One thought is that he will eventually grow out of his position. But that is stereotype thinking, and there are others -- including Sea Dogs manager Kevin Boles -- who believe Bogaerts is just fine at shortstop, and will only get better.

Bogaerts has only played shortstop before this spring. He is playing a little third base in camp to prepare for the World Baseball Classic. He was scheduled to leave Saturday for Taiwan to join the Netherlands team. The Netherlands also have Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, so Bogaerts will either play third base or be the designated hitter.

What is interesting about the debate of Bogaerts' future position with the Red Sox is that Boston happens to have a young, budding third base star in Will Middlebrooks. What is the rush to move Bogaerts to third when Middlebrooks is already there?

In the eventual decision regarding Bogaerts' position in the majors, there is another key element to consider:

Jose Iglesias.

Hadlock Field fans have also seen Iglesias show off his major league talent, in 2010. Iglesias' fielding is, simply, the best available to the Red Sox. But Iglesias has yet to enjoy an injury-free year. And relatedly, his offense has yet to bloom.

But what if Iglesias' bat finally develops? Then Boston has a gifted shortstop (Iglesias), a power-hitting third baseman (Middlebrooks) and a player who could be better than both of them (Bogaerts).

Boston hopes to have such problem.

Maybe then we will be debating if Middlebrooks should switch to first?

* * *

A leftover note from Jerry Remy's visit to Portland last week: When an insightful third-grader from St. Brigid's School asked Remy who his favorite player was, Remy listed two: Pete Rose and Pedro Martinez.

Martinez is back in the Red Sox camp this year, as a consultant. His presence brings back memories for Remy.

"I just think he's the most electric pitcher I've ever seen in my time as a player and broadcaster," Remy said. "Every time he pitched it was an event. When you consider the era he pitched in, the steroid era, and the numbers he put up.

"There was just something about him. He was fun to watch. I couldn't wait every five days when he pitched."

* * *

The Sea Dogs Welcome Back Dinner has been scheduled for April 3 at 5:30 p.m. at the Portland Expo. Tickets for the event, which benefits the Opportunity Alliance, are on sale now. See the Sea Dogs wesbite (www.seadogs.com) for more information.


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