Rafael Devers very well might be the third baseman of the future for the Boston Red Sox.
Whether the 21-year-old is the third baseman of the present, however, remains very much in doubt.
Devers, who currently is on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, has had an inconsistent sophomore season. He has a Major League Baseball-leading 21 errors, despite missing 35 games, and has just a .242 average and .719 OPS at the plate. Yes, his 16 home runs are encouraging, but there’s no debating that Devers has disappointed in the follow-up to his breakout rookie season.
Furthermore, Devers, who’s rehabbing with Triple-A Pawtucket, might be looking at a platoon situation when he returns to the big league club. Eduardo Nunez has filled in for Devers at third, and has hit .291 with three homers since his teammate went on the D.L. on July 29.
So, how does Red Sox manager Alex Cora feel about the looming position battle? Let’s just say he’s not afraid to call things as he sees them.
“Eduardo is swinging the bat well. He’s more direct to the ball. He’s putting on good at-bats,” Cora said Saturday, via WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “The luxury we have is we can play him at second, too. We can DH him when J.D. (Martinez) plays in the outfield. It’s another one of those good problems to have, I guess. We’ll see how it goes.
“One thing for sure, (Devers) needs to play better. We knew that. The whole season offensively he’s been up and down. Defensively he’s made his errors. He needs to be better and that’s the bottom line. We need to win ballgames and whoever is playing best is going to play.”
Make no mistake: That’s a challenge to the young Red Sox slugger.
As for whether Cora plans to deploy a platoon at the hot corner, the first-year skipper isn’t ready to tip his hand.
“Maybe, yeah. Maybe not,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Nunez’s resurgence couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only has it solidified an infield that now includes a suddenly red-hot Ian Kinsler at second base, but it also has allowed the Red Sox to be extra careful with Devers, who hit a two-run homer Saturday night for the PawSox.
Still, if Devers had been playing well before hitting the D.L., you can bet the Red Sox would be in more of a hurry to call him back up. That lack of urgency, coupled with Cora’s comments, should tell you all you need to know on how Boston currently feels about its young third baseman.