BOSTON — The Red Sox are running out of challenges to throw Brock Holt’s way.
Holt, who has become a superutility leadoff hitter since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on May 17, saw his named penciled into right field for the first time in his professional career Saturday against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park. It’s yet another sign that Holt’s versatility and adaptability exceeds that of any player on the Red Sox’s roster and that Boston seemingly is comfortable using the 26-year-old in any situation imaginable.
“Throwing him in the outfield with really no lead-up or repetition at the minor league level prior to coming here,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said Saturday when asked if anything about Holt’s whirlwind season has surprised him. “And then quickly we saw some of the reads and routes he’s made, particularly over in Detroit. He makes another good running catch last night. It’s his ability to adapt to a new position as quick as he has — that’s the thing that’s been most surprising. But knowing who he is as a competitor and an athlete and his baseball intelligence, that’s not surprising. It’s just the ability to adapt so quick.”
Holt’s versatility has allowed Farrell to be flexible in how he approaches the rest of the Red Sox’s lineup. For instance, Holt was shifted over to right field Saturday without hesitation, enabling Jonny Gomes to remain at his more natural left field position.
“Brock is in right, large in part because Jonny’s played left field so well for us and wanted to keep that continuity with Jonny in left,” Farrell explained. “And even though we’ve moved Brock around some, I feel like we can take advantage of his speed and the added range in right field if it’s needed.”
Holt was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates before the 2013 season in the trade that brought reliever Joel Hanrahan to Boston. The Red Sox certainly felt the young infielder had value, but his potential obviously was very much untapped.
“If you look at his track record throughout the minor leagues, he’s always been a well-above average hitter, has always hit for a high average, primarily playing second base but (with) the athleticism, we felt like he could move around and be a utility type,” Farrell said. “He’s exceeded, I think, the versatility on the defensive side right now.”
In addition to being a defensive jack of all trades, Holt ranks first among American League rookies with a .331 average and .367 on-base percentage. His .337 average out of the leadoff spot ranks second in the majors behind the Toronto Blue Jays’ Melky Cabrera (.338).
Is there anything Holt can’t do?