BOSTON — Brock Holt is totally cool with stepping outside his comfort zone.
Holt played first base for the first time ever Sunday in the Red Sox’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. Holt said before the game he was looking forward to the challenge, especially since the move signifies the Red Sox’s growing confidence in the 25-year-old and their increasing desire to keep him in the lineup even when shortstop Stephen Drew joins the club.
“It means the world that they have enough confidence and trust in me to move me around and keep me in the lineup,” Holt said. “I’ll go out and do what I can to help the team.”
Holt has bounced around between second base, third base and shortstop in his career, but first base represents a foreign land. The former ninth-round pick wasn’t going to let them deter him from embracing the challenge, though. After all, how hard could it be?
“I think a ground ball is a ground ball. You still got to catch it,” Holt said. “Obviously, you’re not going to have to make the long throw across the diamond. Just put your body in front of it, knock it down and beat the guy to the base.”
Holt, who was informed Saturday that he would play first base in Sunday’s series finale, said the biggest learning curve involved getting used to holding runners on and coming off the base. Playing first base requires a lot of footwork, which is something Red Sox manager John Farrell alluded to before Sunday’s game.
“It’s more about just getting some reps prior to fielding a throw across the diamond,” Farrell said. “And that’s getting his bearings on where the bag is going to be as he’s making his way over there to anchor himself. So yeah, a little bit of a crash course, but he’s a good athlete and a good player.”
Holt borrowed teammate Alex Hassan’s first baseman’s mitt for Sunday’s game. Hassan, a pitcher-turned-outfielder, learned to play first base last season and even was able to pass on a few tips.
“Alex is always joking around,” Holt said. “He’s like, ‘Hey, if you need anything, just come ask me. Low base. Quiet hands. Quiet feet.’ Just messing around with me. It was funny.”
Holt also began taking fly balls during batting practice before Saturday’s game. He’s looking to get better reads on balls off the bat, and it’s entirely possible he could wind up seeing playing time in the outfield once Drew joins the team, likely Monday in Cleveland.
“We know that with Stephen Drew to come to us here relatively soon and the way Brock has solidified the leadoff spot and handled the bat, we’re finding ways to keep (Holt) on the field and keep his bat in the lineup,” Farrell said.
One thing we probably won’t see from Holt? Well, that would be pitching.
“My ball’s too straight,” Holt joked. “Junior college, I tried to convince my head coach that I could throw pretty good. I got on the mound, gave it my all, thought it was pretty good. He goes, ‘Want me to tell you what that was?’ I was like, ‘Sure, yeah, what was it?’ He goes, ’82 (mph).’”
Holt probably would develop a mean knuckleball if the Red Sox asked him to. But he’s got enough on his plate right now, and it’s clear he’s loving every minute of it.
Photo via Twitter/@redsoxordie