BOSTON — Usual No. 2 hitter Andrew Benintendi will have Wednesday night off, but Alex Cora has no reservations about putting Rafael Devers in that spot in the order.
Devers has hit second just once in his young career, which came in Sunday’s win over the Tampa Bay Rays. But he’ll have the opportunity to do so again as the Boston Red Sox take on the New York Yankees at Fenway Park.
It’s for good reason that Sox manager Alex Cora likes Devers in that role, and it’s not just because of the 21-year-old’s good run of form to start the season.
In fact, the reason is manifold.
“(Devers will) probably get more at-bats up there,” Cora said before Wednesday’s game. “The way Mookie (Betts is) getting on base, he’ll get less split-fingers, get a pitch up in the zone and he can do damage with it. But yeah, he’ll get one more at-bat.
“When Andrew’s not playing,” Cora continued, “You’ll see Devers in that spot because I feel like we can do damage right away.”
Not only has Devers already been doing damage in general, hitting .294 with one home run and 10 RBI, but he has been torching right-handed pitching. Devers has gone 9-for-28 (.321) this season against right-handers and has notched all five of his extra-base hits so far this season against them.
Perfect given the Yankees will roll out righty Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday, who Devers is 1-for-3 against in his career.
While with many players there is a noticeable difference in results based on where in the order they’re hitting, Devers seemingly is immune to that fear of getting shuffled around. That’s apparent given Devers usually hits sixth but already has hit in four other spots in the order so far this campaign.
For that reason, Cora doesn’t harp on a change in approach when he moves Devers up or down.
“With Rafael I don’t go into details,” Cora said. “He’s a guy whose approach isn’t going to change if he’s hitting second, fifth, sixth or eighth. He’s a guy who’s looking to do damage. And the quality of his at-bats from Day 1, they were very impressive. It’s a challenge for any pitcher … either Betts-Benintendi or Betts-Devers, you have to execute from the get-go.”
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