Mookie Betts was the Boston Red Sox’s best player the past several seasons in large because of his ability to impact the game offensively, defensively and on the bases.
Now, with Betts playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers in wake of an offseason trade, there’s an opportunity for someone else to emerge as the face of the Red Sox, and Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers are among the top candidates given their production, youth and overall potential for continued growth.
Both Red Sox stars again showcased their offensive talent Sunday night against the New York Yankees despite Boston suffering a third consecutive loss to its American League East rival. Bogaerts went 4-for-4 with two home runs, while Devers contributed two hits, including his first long ball of the 2020 season.
Still, an excellent defensive play by Devers in the fourth inning of Boston’s 9-7 defeat perhaps was the most encouraging aspect of the third baseman’s performance, for it provided another example of his evolving glovework.
Devers robbed Aaron Judge with an excellent diving stop ranging toward the third base line. He then popped up and fired a rocket across the diamond to barely beat the Yankees slugger, who initially was ruled safe but ultimately called out after the Red Sox challenged the play.
Upon Further Review:
Hot corner is hot. pic.twitter.com/dFxAc1ma4J
— Red Sox (@RedSox) August 3, 2020
Devers, who committed three errors in his first four regular-season games, has shaken off the rust more recently, making it fair to think he’s now on his way toward building on the defensive improvements he enjoyed last season after a mostly shaky 2017 and 2018 down at the hot corner.
?I continue to approach my defense the same way I?ve done from day one,? Devers said Sunday through translator Bryan Almonte, according to MassLive.com. ?Obviously I know critics will say I don?t have the best defense, but that?s something I work extremely hard on. I am out there early. I do everything I can to improve that. It?s part of the game. Errors are going to happen. Do I want to commit them? Of course not. But I know it?s a part of baseball.
“There?s a lot of ups and downs. But that?s something I do pride myself in is my defense. I just continue to go out there, put in the work and just play the game because that?s really what I?m focused on. I?m not trying to focus on anything else because like I?ve always told you guys, defense is really important to me. And that?s what I?m going to continue to do.?
Devers might never be known for his defense in the way that other star third basemen Anthony Rendon, Nolan Arenado and Matt Chapman are regarded. And that’s OK, because his bat could be special, something that makes any defensive shortcomings easier to absorb.
But it’s an area of Devers’ game that’s evidently top of mind as he continues to develop at age 23. With the appropriate outlook and steady improvement, Devers, like Bogaerts, only will enhance his current status as an MLB superstar-in-the-making on the left side of Boston’s infield.