BOSTON — Xander Bogaerts raised his eyebrows when he was asked whether he had watched the entire MLB All-Star game and Home Run Derby this week.
A self-described “baseball freak,” Bogaerts clearly thought the answer was obvious.
Yet the fact Bogaerts was glued to his TV throughout the festivities in Minnesota, which many veteran players assuredly were not, helps explain just why the Boston Red Sox feel the four-day break could be so beneficial for the struggling infielder. The 21-year-old eats, drinks and sleeps baseball, which is not always the best thing when his head is spinning at the plate.
“I had a good break, got a good rest and ready for the second half,” Bogaerts said Thursday following an optional workout at Fenway Park. “I think it’ll be big. I’m a baseball freak, so I always try to think a lot about baseball and study a lot, but probably (the last few days) will help me out, get away from baseball, the park and get it off my mind a little bit.”
For 28 games in May, Bogaerts hit at an All-Star level, batting .327 with a .407 on-base percentage. But he batted a much more pedestrian .134 since and recorded eight hits in his final 20 games before the break.
Quite a few players were in need of a rest, Red Sox manager John Farrell said, but particularly Bogaerts, given the playing load he’s carrying at such a young age.
“Xander’s been going at it pretty hard, not only in terms of what he’s been working on pregame but then with every focus to be brought into the game,” Farrell said. “He’s played pretty regularly, as well. We’ve given him a couple days here and there, but I think the break, mentally and physically, was needed for him — and quite frankly for a number of guys.”
Farrell and the Red Sox will start by working with Bogaerts to get into the “loaded” position of his swing earlier in the pitcher’s windup, which should help him recognize pitches better and adjust more easily if he is not speeding up his swing to catch up. Getting Bogaerts’ timing back is key to enabling him to use the whole field, Farrell said.
There is no shortage of tips coming Bogaerts’ way, though. A player who is struggling despite such obvious natural gifts is bound to get advice. It can be informational overload, but Bogaerts prefers receiving too much advice over the alternative.
“I think that’s good,” Bogaerts said. “You’re getting help from everyone. Everyone wants to help you. They want to see you back as the guy that you were. That’s very helpful, and I thank everybody that’s helping me so far.”