Travis Shaw has been taking notes.
With Brock Holt successfully playing all over the field, the Boston Red Sox have been open-minded about placing other players outside their comfort zones in an effort to enhance their versatility. Shaw is one player willing to experiment, even though his size and skill set might paint a different picture.
“A 6-foot-4, 235-pound utility (player),” Shaw joked over the weekend at the Red Sox’s Baseball Winter Weekend event at Foxwoods Resort Casino. “I’m going to go into spring training preparing to start, at whatever position that is. That’s the only way I know how to prepare. I’ll be prepared to start on Opening Day. If that opportunity comes, I’ll be ready. If not, then I’ll step in wherever they need me.”
Shaw is a corner infielder by trade. He’ll likely enter this season as Boston’s backup first baseman/third baseman, spelling Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and David Ortiz whenever any of the boppers needs a rest. It’s a role that should fit Shaw well, especially on the heels of his impressive second half in 2015.
But Shaw, who turns 26 in April, isn’t going to pigeonhole himself. He’s seen what Holt has accomplished based on his open-mindedness and so he, too, is interested in broadening his horizons. Shaw has been working out in the outfield dating back to last season.
“You see it in the big leagues all the time,” Shaw said. “(Kyle) Schwarber’s a catcher (for the Chicago Cubs) and he goes out and plays left field. When you see that, you see that there’s multiple ways to get onto the field and you don’t want to limit yourself to that one or two spots. So if you can play multiple spots, it’s only going to help.”
The Red Sox might not necessarily need Shaw to add a new wrinkle to his game. They already have plenty of outfield depth with Holt and Chris Young filling in behind Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo. Strange things can happen throughout the season, though, and having the ability to play the outfield in his back pocket will only help Shaw, and potentially the Red Sox, down the road.
“I’m pretty comfortable,” Shaw said of learning the outfield. “I was the one that kind of presented that to them last year, asked if I could go out there and start working out a little bit. They OK’d it and the games down in Pawtucket I felt fine. Granted, that’s not the Monster, but even when I was up in Boston working out there in BP with Arnie (Beyeler) when he was here, I was getting there.
“So I think with a little bit of time this spring training, and I’m going to work at that in spring training, I think I can get more comfortable.”
Shaw started three games in left field last season with Triple-A Pawtucket — his first taste of game action in the outfield — and is confident he can hold his own in either corner outfield spot. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare his versatility to Holt’s, seeing as how the latter has played every position besides pitcher and catcher, but both players have a similar mind set. It’s rooted in a team-first mentality.
“I’m very confident heading into this year,” said Shaw, who batted .270 with 13 home runs, 36 RBIs and an .813 OPS in 248 big league plate appearances in 2015. “I feel like I can help this team a lot in many different ways, at many different positions. Whatever they need me (to do), I’ll be ready to do.”
Spoken like a pro. Spoken like Holt.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images