The legend of Andrew Benintendi is growing by the day.
The 22-year-old outfielder has garnered a few local headlines with his play since getting promoted straight from Double-A Portland to the Boston Red Sox. But he burst into the national spotlight Monday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, making a ridiculous catch to rob Steven Souza Jr. of a sure home run in one of the best plays you’ll see this season.
Benintendi’s natural position is center field, so his stellar snag in left field might come as a surprise to some. But apparently the Red Sox rookie had been preparing for that moment since he was a young tot.
“I remember when I was a kid I would throw a tennis ball up over my couch and jump over it and catch it to practice,” Benintendi told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford after the Red Sox’s 6-2 win.
Tropicana Field’s left field wall is much less forgiving than a couch, but Benintendi did pick the perfect spot to rob a home run. On the other side of the low section of wall was a small table, which the young outfielder used to push himself back into the field of play and regain his balance.
“If (the table) wasn’t there I don’t know what would have happened,” Benintendi told Bradford.
Benintendi’s teammates certainly know what happened. In a game he started in center field — Jackie Bradley Jr. replaced Chris Young as a pinch runner in top of the eighth inning, then took over in center — Benintendi delivered the highlight of his very young career.
“That’s the best catch I’ve ever seen live,” Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes said, via The Providence Journal. “I just had my hands on my head, like, ‘Oh, my God, did he actually just catch that baseball?’ It was incredible.”
Let’s hit a few other notes from Red Sox-Rays:
— Mookie Betts, an extremely talented young outfielder in his own right, tallied a stolen base Monday night, moving him into the “20-20” club with 28 home runs and 20 steals. He joined a pretty selective group in the process.
— David Ortiz also joined elite company, reaching a pair of milestones in his 2-for-4 effort. He tied Hank Aaron for 10th on the all-time doubles list (624) and tied Bobby Doerr for the sixth-most hits in Red Sox history (2,402).
“They’re putting a lot of money into the tests and all of that stuff. We’ve seen a ton of it this year. I think we had seven straight days with, whether it was pee tests or blood tests. We’ve seen a lot of it. … But there’s still going to be guys that are going to do it.”
— Sandy Leon’s defense has been almost as impressive as his surprising offense this season. The Red Sox catcher gunned down another runner at second base Monday and now has thrown out 12 of 26 runners this season, a 46 percent success rate.
It’s obviously a small sample size, but for comparison, Buster Posey’s 44 percent caught stealing rate last season was the best in the National League.
— Steven Wright is close to ending his short stint on the disabled list.
The Red Sox knuckleballer, who injured his shoulder pinch-running Aug. 7, will throw an extended bullpen session Tuesday. If that goes well, he could make a start Friday against the Kansas City Royals.
“It feels normal,” Wright said before Monday’s game, via WEEI.com. “I’m just trying to get my release point back. If everything progresses the way it’s been, I see no reason why I wouldn’t be ready to pitch.”
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images