Over the last three weeks, Xander Bogaerts has traveled halfway across the globe, taken up a new position and laid it all on the line in a winner-take-all semifinal matchup.
In short: It wasn’t a typical March for the Boston Red Sox shortstop.
That’s because Bogaerts suited up for the Netherlands in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, becoming the only Red Sox player outside Dominican Republic native Fernando Abad to participate in the tournament. Bogaerts logged significant travel and playing time, too, starting all seven games for the Dutch — three in Seoul, three in Tokyo and one in Los Angeles.
The Netherlands’ deep WBC run ended in L.A. on Monday night with a heartbreaking, extra-innings loss to Puerto Rico in the semifinals. But that’s good news for Boston, as Bogaerts will return to big league club in one piece to get ready for Opening Day.
So, how did the 24-year-old Aruba native hack it? His stat line wasn’t exactly eye-popping: a .227 average (5-for-22) in seven games with five runs scored, two RBIs and a strikeout. But Bogaerts still found ways to contribute: He tripled in his first at-bat of the tourney, beat out an infield single to start a rally against Chinese Taipei and scored the game-tying run in the ninth inning against Japan.
Most notable, though, was Bogaerts’ performance in the field. Voluntarily switching to third base in the loaded Dutch infield, Bogaerts looked more or less like a natural, playing an error-free seven games while mixing in a pair of highlight-reel defensive plays.
It wasn’t a dominant tournament for Bogaerts by any means. But it was a chance for the 2016 All-Star to prepare for 2017 by playing meaningful baseball in high-leverage situations, and he held his own as a top-of-the-lineup starter.
Most importantly, Bogaerts emerged from the WBC unscathed, and he’ll have a full two weeks to rest up before he and the Red Sox hit the ground running on April 3.
Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images
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