BOSTON — Yoenis Cespedes had been with the Red Sox for less than 24 hours, and already people around the club were marveling at the damage he is capable of inflicting with his bat.
“It’s as much raw power as you’re going to find in the game,” manager John Farrell said. “His middle-of-the-order presence is something that we’ve needed to lengthen our our lineup.”
Cespedes did not quite make jaws drop in his Red Sox debut, but he did flash enough of the hitting potential that the team found so inviting to acquire him this week in a trade for Jon Lester. He singled to left field in his first at-bat and scored on a home run by Mike Napoli. Although he was hitless in his last three at-bats, he scraped the clouds with a high infield flyout against New York Yankees fireballer Dellin Betances in the seventh inning.
“I’ve only faced one pitcher like that to throw above 100 miles per hour, and that’s Aroldis Chapman,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I faced Betances once in New York earlier in the year. He wasn’t at that kind of velocity. I was hunting fastballs, but I just didn’t get that one.”
The toughest transition for Cespedes likely will not be at the plate but in the field. He manned left field on Saturday, but the Red Sox envision him as their everyday right fielder. It will probably be at least a “couple days,” Farrell said, before Cespedes can get enough work in to feel comfortable in Fenway Park’s challenging right field.
Cespedes, who has never played right field in the major leagues and played it only sparingly in his native Cuba, says he looks forward to the challenge.
“I haven’t really played much right field, but in my opinion, good outfielders should pride themselves on being able to play all three positions,” Cespedes said. “That’s what I’m going to do.”
Allen Craig, who turned his ankle in Friday’s game, sat out Saturday’s 6-4 loss to the Yankees. Farrell said that the plan all along was to have Daniel Nava play Saturday, however, and that there was not much concern over Craig’s ankle, which he has had chronic problems with over the past year-plus. … Junichi Tazawa will be the main eighth-inning option out of the bullpen from here on, which Farrell hopes will help the right-hander after a few shaky outings. … Jackie Bradley Jr. was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Saturday. He now has eight hits in 44 at-bats since the All-Star break after appearing to make strides toward the end of the second half. “Where he did such a good job leading up to the All-Star break closing down some of those holes, they’re starting to emerge a little bit,” Farrell said. … Shane Victorino, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday, will receive a second opinion on his hamstring next week in Los Angeles. … Catcher Dan Butler was called up from Pawtucket with David Ross heading to the DL.