Baseball is not easy at any level or age, especially if you’re a 20-year-old playing in the major leagues. Which makes what Rafael Devers has done so far even more impressive.
The rookie Boston Red Sox third baseman has, more often than not, made the game look easy. Devers came highly touted as a hitter, and he’s lived up to that reputation. Aside from the occasional slump, he continues to display an impressive ability to drive the ball to all fields and hit for considerable power.
The only real mark against the Dominican Republic native upon his call-up was the glove. He’s not a bad fielder, but a learning curve was to be expected as he adjusted to the pace of big league games. His best defensive days still are ahead of him, we thought.
That might still be the case, but don’t sleep on what he’s done at the hot corner in the month-plus since he was promoted. Devers has been more than adequate at third base, and he made what might have been his finest play Monday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Red Sox, losers of their last four, trailed by one run in the fifth inning. Toronto loaded the bases with just one out and looked primed to chase Boston starter Drew Pomeranz with one swing of the bat.
Pomeranz induced a ground ball from Kevin Pillar, but the ball shot down the line and took a late, quick hop around the third base bag. Devers made the stop, saving at least two runs, but it looked like that’s all he’d be able to do. He was too far behind the bag to run to third, a throw to second was far from a guaranteed out, and there was almost no chance he’d be able to throw out the speedy Pillar across the diamond.
His only chance — a long one, at that — was to get Josh Donaldson at home. And he did.
It’s an incredible play for a few reasons.
First, look at where Devers fielded the ball.
No matter what, he had to make a long throw. And as you can see, Donaldson was nearly halfway home by the time Devers made the stab.
But that’s where things get really impressive. There was a split-second after Devers made the play where he quickly checked Donaldson and then made the heady decision to check in on Pillar, who was running to first.
Quickly, Devers realized he had no chance of getting Pillar, so he returned his attention to the only play he had: Donaldson at home. By this point, however, his momentum had carried him to the foul side of third base. It looked like catcher Christian Vazquez have been expecting a throw to that side of the plate. But if Devers tried to throw the ball around Donaldson from the foul-side of the line, he risked throwing the ball into Donaldson’s back.
The only chance Devers had was to throw back across his body around Donaldson to the fair side of the plate. In a fraction of a second, Devers decided not to throw to first but to go home, sneaking the ball around Donaldson and forcing Vazquez to adjust to the throw.
Of course, he made a perfect throw to the plate, getting Donaldson by the slimmest of margins — thanks in part to what also was a great play by Vazquez, who recognized Devers’ plan as it was happening and still was able to get himself in the best position to make the play and hold the plate.
Pomeranz got out of the inning unscathed, and the Red Sox went on to win 6-5.
All of that play happened in the span of 2 seconds. You need to have that type of decision-making ability to succeed at the highest level, and you also need to execute. For Devers to have the presence of mind to make that decision and make the play is just the latest reminder of how we could be looking at a star in the making.
Thumbnail photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images
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